Updated: Defying regime, military and monarchy

11 08 2020

Some of the media seems flummoxed by the ongoing attacks on the regime and monarchy and are reverting to “form.”

Thai PBS, in reporting that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “feels uncomfortable with the rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus last night, during which some speakers touched on ‘sensitive issues*’,” promoted the story that the rally had “provoked widespread criticism of the University.”

Thammasat University appears to have panicked and has reportedly “offered an apology for the alleged transgression, which was blamed on non-student protesters.” It is said that “Dr. Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a vice rector of the university, said … he regretted any breaches of the law, allegedly committed by non-student protesters…”. We haven’t heard of any charges, so Prinya seems to have jumped the gun. He did say he had “attended the protest site from 7pm to 8pm … which he found to be orderly and peaceful.”

He added that he had later learned of alleged “breaches of the law” which he described as “some speakers had used some improper wording,” which it is claimed “provoked some public uproar.” From PPT’s survey of social media, the demonstration of 3,000 to 10,000 students (depending on source) also drew considerable public support.

Cod Satrusayang, in an opinion piece at Thai Enquirer sounds staggered that “[f]or the first time in my experience and perhaps the first time since the mid-70s, Thais were willing to address, confront and talks bout the institutions* that many had deemed too cherish and too sacred for so long.” We guess he might have missed the red shirt rallies in 2010. He says the large crowd of “students, workers, activists and everyday citizens cheered and applauded as leader after leader gave speech after speech about the need to transform the country into what could best be described as constitutional royalism.”

He makes some reasonable comments on why it has taken so long for a proper discussion of the monarchy and politics. But he then returns to form, sounding not that different from the military’s various claims of “plots,” claiming “cheerleaders [are] egging the students on to carry out their own grievances…”. He singles out Pavin Chachavalpongpun who “called in to talk about the monarchy and its role in Thai politics.” Cod seems to think that exiles have it easy and that they should be activists in Thailand. He seems to forget that several exiles have been  tortured, abducted, and murdered in exile and he neglects that going into exile is usually a last resort.

He goes further, declaring “what is wrong is cheerleading the students on, knowing full well how the Thai state has historically handled such situations, while not prepared to face any consequence of their own.” This is nonsense and potentially incites rightists and other royalists. And, we’d guess that most students involved would reject all notions that they are the dupes of others. In fact, that’s an ultra-royalist shibboleth. Perhaps Cod is pissed that it has been exiles who have, until now, been the only ones who could raise the very issues that the students now consider.

What was said at Thammasat. In an AP report at Khaosod that “[s]tudent leaders … delivered an unprecedented challenge to the country’s constitutional monarchy on Monday, strongly criticizing the king and demanding changes to lessen what they believe is its anti-democratic nature.” It states:

… the protest’s direction turned when a student went on stage, read out the 1932 proclamation that ended the absolute monarchy in what was then called Siam, and declared that in fact it lives on despite the country’s nominal status as a democracy.

A number of speakers then took the stage and detailed perceived problems with Thailand’s monarchy….

Many in the crowd cheered, clapped and flashed three-fingered salute that has been adopted by Thailand’s pro-democracy movement. Yet others in the audience appeared stunned by the content of the speeches.

The report notes that “[a]iring their grievances in direct language normally expressed in whispers, the speakers criticized the king’s wealth, his influence and the fact that he spends almost all his time in Germany, not Thailand.”** Arnon Nampa told the students: “We shouldn’t have to speak using symbols. Direct discussion is best. That’s what I think, so I choose to speak directly, out of respect to my own dignity, to that of the listeners and of the monarchy…”.

Demands were made:

… The rally ended with another leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, reading out a manifesto with a list of 10 demands for reforming the institution of the monarchy.

Among them were separation of the king’s personal wealth from the royal palace’s vast fortune held by the Crown Property Bureau; forbidding the monarchy from playing any role in politics or endorsing any military coups; abolishing the excessive glorification of the monarchy; and investigating the deaths of critics of the monarchy.

Reflecting on the trepidation of people like Cod, the AP report observes: “Such open defiance of the taboos around speaking ill of the monarchy will infuriate ultra-conservatives and the military, who are unlikely to let it go without a response.” All the more so when activists announced that “a new protest would be held on Wednesday — the Queen Mother’s birthday…”. The king is likely to be in town as well.

*Royalist terms for monarchy and, sometimes, the monarchy.

**The king is scheduled to return to Thailand tonight, for another visit of just a few hours.

Update: The rally planned for today (Wednesday) has been postponed. The special king’s TG taxpayer flight is due in Bangkok just before 8 am today. His daughter, Sirivannavari, has arrived after a delayed TG flight (scheduled as a repatriation flight) from Frankfurt; it hasn’t just been the king and queen swanning about in Europe.





Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.





Updated: Opposing the regime

19 07 2020

The big news from Thailand on the weekend was the student-led demonstrations against the military-backed royalist regime in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Ubolratchathani. The demonstrations coincided with actions in Germany, targeting Thailand’s absentee king.

For the events in Germany, see ACT4DEM and PIXELHelper.

There are many reports available. Here, we will just summarize some of these.

As usual, the Bangkok Post reported “hundreds” of demonstrators, whereas the videos and photos published elsewhere suggest much larger crowds than the Post seems to want people to believe.

The Nation identifies the organizers in Bangkok as the “Student Union of Thailand and the ‘Yaowashon Plod Ak — Free Youth’ group” who, “at Democracy Monument on Saturday evening” expressed “their opposition to what they call Thailand’s ‘deep-rooted dictatorial system’.” They called on “the Prayut Chan-o-cha government dissolve Parliament…” and a new constitution. They gave the regime a 14 day deadline for dissolving parliament. Thet also called for the regime to “stop intimidating people.” The Nation reckoned about 1,000 people, which also looks light.

The protest was meant to continue until Sunday morning. However, there were a couple of incidents, with one man slightly injured and a “disturbance … when people saw the authorities trying to take a couple of protesters away for investigation for allegedly undermining the [r]oyal [f]amily. Other protesters came to their rescue and prevented them from being taken away.”

Before midnight, protest leaders then “asked the protesters to disperse for their own safety. They also confirmed on the Free Youth Facebook page that they were all safe.”

Thai PBS reported:

… Chuthatip Sirikhan, president of the Union of Students of Thailand and one of the protest leaders, told the crowd that some “men in black”, with crew-cut hair, had tried to use black cloths to cover surveillance cameras around the Democracy Monument….

The protesters raised many issues of concern: intimidation and repression by the regime, the Constitutional Court’s attacks on political parties like Future Forward, the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the dragging of activist Tiwagorn Withiton to a Khon Khaen psychiatric hospital

AP reported “[s]everal thousand anti-government protesters” in Bangkok, calling the rally “the biggest of its kind since the government called a state of emergency in March…” over the virus. It notes that “[p]rotests against the government of former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had been drawing increasingly large crowds at the time, but tapered off quickly when several coronavirus clusters were confirmed and the emergency law was invoked.”

Thisrupt has a short video report from early in the rally.

Several hundred police were mobilized:

Police ringed the monument and set up barriers to try to prevent the protesters from occupying it. Police loudspeakers played a recording of the text of the emergency law in an apparent warning that they considered the gathering illegal.

Al Jazeera reports that there “were also some veiled public references at the protest to the powerful Thai monarchy, despite a law forbidding criticism of the king. Such references would once have been unthinkable.”

Some signs and speeches at Saturday’s protest made veiled references to the monarchy:

“This is our country, but whose home is in Germany?” said one of the student leaders on a small stage set up on the street.

King Vajiralongkorn has an estate in Germany, where he spends much of the year.

A protest sign read “Lost faith is definitely not a crime!!! #Thiwakorn”, in a reference to a separate protest in Thailand’s northeast on Friday in support of a man who was committed to a psychiatric hospital after he wore a T-shirt saying he had lost faith in the monarchy.

Another banner said “The People’s Party Isn’t Dead” – a reference to the political party whose revolution ended absolute royal rule in 1932.

It is no surprise that it is reported that “Thai security officers are keeping a close watch on the political activities of the Union of Thai Students…”.

Update: Prachatai has an excellent report on the Bangkok protest, with some excellent photos, including the actions of the police to disrupt the rally.





Updated: Army declares royalist rebels “democrats”

25 06 2020

The 24 June anniversary has come and gone. Acknowledging that there has been an insidious and creeping rollback of the 1932 revolution, led by the king, the murderous Royal Thai Army celebrated the 1933 royalist restorationist rebellion, effectively declaring war on 1932. In essence, the Royal Thai Army has finally returned to being the King’s Royal Army. It has declared full-scale war on 1932 and democratic government.

It did this, Khaosod reports, with a religious propaganda show for the royals and royalists who led the failed restorationist rebellion. This on the day that the very same Royal Army was actively preventing pro-democracy activists recognizing the 1932 revolution and the role of the people in opposing it and protecting the People’s Party revolution.

At Army headquarters, “monks held merit-making in memory of two rebel leaders Prince Boworadet and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram [Din Tharab].” While the report states that the “ceremony was … held in private and attended only by a few military officers, the Army released details.

Earlier, the two failed royalists had already been “honored” by the Royal Army with two rooms at the Army headquarters being emblazoned with their names: “The rooms were inaugurated in October by PM [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha and army chief [Gen] Apirat Kongsompong.”

The Royal Army released a statement, which we have loosely translated:

The Royal Thai Army merit-making ceremony for Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej [พล.อ. พระวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าบวรเดช] and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram [พ.อ.พระยาศรีสิทธิสงคราม], 24 June 2020

Today (24 June 2020) at 3:00 pm at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters Gen Nataphol Narkphanich [พล.อ. ณัฐพล นาคพาณิชย์], Deputy Commander in Chief of the Army presided over the dedication ceremony for Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and to make merit for Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram as a memorial to the virtue of these military officers who are loyal to the institution [monarchy] and who were also democratic soldiers.

1932 brought the change of government that is considered a major turning point in Thai history, moving from the absolute monarchy to a democratic system. The group of people who called themselves the People’s Party carried out a coup [รัฐประหาร] to bring down the monarchy. In 1933, the first rebellion [กบฏ] following the change of rule in 1932 occurred.  Led by Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram, it is known as the Boworadej Rebellion. They disagreed with the administration of Phaya Phahon [พระยาพหลฯ] which was dictatorial. They called on the government of Phraya Phahon to: preserve the monarchy; make the government more democratic by giving parliament more power and oversight; and prevent the People’s Party government from being a dictatorship. But, in the end, the rebellion was not successful with the government suppressing the rebels. The brave heroism of Gen His Serene Highness Boworadej and Col Phraya Sri Sitthisongkhram must be seen as and act of loyalty and as sacrifice for the royal family, protecting the monarchy. They truly intended for the nation to uphold democracy.

Public Relations Division Office of the Secretary
24 June 2020

The factual inaccuracies don’t really matter. What matters is rewriting history in the regime’s/king’s preferred manner. It is in the manner of making democracy equal Thai-style democracy with the king as head of state.

Readers might peruse some writings on the royalist rebellion here, here (with a video), here and here.

Update: There’s some really interesting stories in the media regarding activist responses to 24 June. These include: Prachatai reporting on “[r]epresentatives from the People’s Party for Freedom (PPF), the 24 June Democracy Movement and the Greater Rangsit Area Labour Union Group submitted a petition to the House of Representatives demanding that the government declare 24 June as Thai National Day and reserve 23-25 June for celebrations as previously designated by the People’s Party”; Prachatai also reporting “the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC) on Wednesday 24 June in remembering the 1932 People’s Party’s declaration and demanding amendments to the 2017 constitution”; Khaosod reporting on young activists: ““We believe that what the People’s Party did was correct…. Things that society told us aren’t always the truth;” and The Nation reporting on pro-democracy groups in the Northeast gathering to mark the 1932 revolution, where “Khon Kaen University students marched to the province’s Democracy Monument wearing white clothes and carrying mops and signs with the message ‘June 24, Siamese revolution, Clean democracy’, and ‘Will you excuse us? We’re practising to be democratic’.” In “Ubon Ratchathani, a ‘Run against Dictatorship’ at the Democracy Bridge was held to commemorate the turning point in Thai history…”. It is noted that the revolution was also marked in “Nakhon Ratchasima, Maha Sarakham, Surin, Sakon Nakhon, Udon Thani and Roi Et.”





Updated: Monarchists loading up

24 06 2020

With more mainstream calls to reconsider the lese majeste law, protests against the king in Germany continuing and a rare public expression of discontent in Thailand, we guess the powers that be are worried.

We also guess that 24 June’s importance in the mind of the monarch has also set the fear level rising among the generals who run the regime and their hangers-on. They have seen illuminations and other events that are evidence of rising anti-regime sentiment or, as they will fashion it, an anti-monarchist threat rising.

In fact, the commenorations are by activists but they are of people calling for democracy and constitutional change and are not in any way revolutionary:

“Eighty-eight years ago today around dawn, the People’s Party seized power and changed the system of governance to a democracy,” said Anon Nampa. Another protest was planned outside parliament.

Activists demanded amendments to the current constitution written by the junta that preceded the current coalition government.

“We want to use the revolt anniversary to make our point about the problematic nature of the current constitution drafted by the military,” said Anusorn Unno of the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution.

This is the significance of 1932 for today’s political activists. (In passing we must mention a hideously uninformed commentary on the 1932 revolution at the Thai Enquirer. It is evidence that today’s reporters and commentators are just too lazy to develop an understanding of the period by reading some of the truly excellent recent work using archival material.)

If the regime is under pressure from the absent king – which may help explain enforced disappearances – and it also worries about The Threat, then it should be no surprise at all when yet another “weapons cache plot” is miraculously uncovered to coincide exactly with 24 June.

The regime has repeatedly concocted these “plots” whenever the regime feels that political tensions are rising. We would usually say that no one believes them, but there are probably some hard-baked ultra-royalists who do think there are plotters out there, about to blow the smithereens out of the palace or the regime.

How high can they pile it?

This “plot” has Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s pudgy fingerprints all over it, and probably stage-managed by ISOC. So once again the toady police chief Gen Chakthip Chaijinda saying that a tip-off led “soldiers and border patrol police …[to seize] 33 war weapons, including M16, M79, and AK rifles from a house in Mae Sot district and arrest … two men for questioning.”

Giving the plot game away, Gen Chakthip declared that he “believed the weapons might be used for political movements to create a situation, citing intelligence from security agencies that found a certain group of people reportedly planned to create political chaos.” As a result of this concocted “intelligence,” he “ordered police in all areas, particularly in 10 provinces, to keep a close watch on political movements following the seizure of war weapons and ammunition…”.

No prizes for guessing which provinces! Of course, those where red shirts were previously strong: Khon Kaen, Phrae, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai were mentioned. And, the not-very-clever policeman directly linked the “plot” to “the 88th anniversary of the transformation to constitutional monarchy from absolute monarchy…”.

To add to The Fear, Deputy police spokesman, Pol Col Kissana Phattanacharoen, “said it is believed the seized weapons were intended to create havoc and the discovery comes amid intelligence reports about suspicious activities being planned by a certain group of people.” Usually it is only the military that creates havoc with war weapons, murdering and maiming citizens.

We think Thai PBS had the most appropriate note on this “plot” in its brief report:

Previous reports of weapons seizures in Mae Sot, and other districts bordering Myanmar, indicate that most of the arms are actually smuggled from Cambodia by arms traffickers, for sale at huge profits to Burmese rebel groups based along the porous border between Thailand and Myanmar.

They are right and we might suspect that the local military is engaged in this trade and with those gun runners.

The next act in the “plot” play is to parade some suspects who will have been tutored to incriminate the said political movements.

What is worrying in these inept shenanigans is that is may signal the intensification of repression, a loading up by the monarchists for more crazed political maneuvers. And this regime is not inept when it comes to blunt force, killing citizens and other forms of repression.

Update: A report at The Irrawaddy, translated from Burmese, has a perspective that demonstrates the buffalo manure peddled by the Army and police in Thailand:

A joint task force, including the Thai military and police, seized a large cache of Chinese-made weapons, which are believed to be destined for Myanmar, on Tuesday morning.

AK47 assault rifles, machine guns, anti-tank mines, grenades and ammunition were among the items seized in a joint raid on a house in Mae Tao in Mae Sot District on the Thai side of the border.

Two Thai nationals were arrested and six suspects from Myanmar were arrested at the Mae La refugee camp around 65 km from Mae Sot. Four are ethnic Karen and two are ethnic Rakhine.

“They are not the weapons currently used by the AA [Arakan Army]. The weapons manufactured by the Wa [United Wa State Army] and the KIA [Kachin Independence Army] are not up to much. They can’t fire on automatic. The seized weapons are original and Chinese-made,” a source from an ethnic armed organization based on the border told The Irrawaddy.

He said a black market has emerged in Mae Sot for weapons to meet the demand of armed groups in Myanmar. Individual dealers make huge profits in the business, the source added.

An AK47 costs around 100,000 baht (4.5 million kyats) and a machine gun costs approximately 300,000 baht (13.5 million kyats). The value of the seizures is around 30 million baht (1.35 billion kyats), according to the source.

“Usually weapons are smuggled to Indian rebels based on the border with Myanmar and the AA as they pay good prices,” he said. There are several rebel organizations in Assam and Meitei fighting the Indian government from bases along the border.





Remembering 1932 in 2020

24 06 2020

24 June 1932 is an important day in Thailand. The palace, royalists and military have persistently worked to erase it from the national historical memory.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We do so again today.

On that day in 1932, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

24 June is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country only to see their efforts repeatedly crushed by military and monarchy.

Lopburi vandalism 1

Clipped from Khaosod

For anti-democrats and royalists, 24 June is a day they want to expunge. It recalls a thirst for democracy and is the essence of anti-monarchism in Thailand. The king has been working with the junta-cum-post-junta-regime (of crooks and generals) to destroy memorials and monuments to 1932. History books have been changed. Properties previously removed from the monarchy have reverted to the present monarch.

democracy in ruins

24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely officially noticed, except for the purposes of repression and preventing people from acknowledging the day and its events.

If royalists remember 24 June for anything it is to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and declare that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and he supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime before abdicating.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty.

As we do each year, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2020 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

Pridi

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932





Another royalist warning

22 06 2020

In a note at The Nation, yet another of the co-ordinated warnings to young Thais is reported.

Chakthip (clipped from The Nation)

The junta-appointed national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda has “warned young people against taking political sides, saying they may be violating the Criminal Code’s sections 112 [lese majeste] and 116 [sedition].

He also warned that “Thai youngsters may be paying heed to information that violates the national security law or messages aired by political activists who are facing charges under the Computer Crimes Act.”

This repressive royalist rant has become increasingly strident as the absent king comes under pressure in Europe and is not missed in Thailand.

It also reflects an attempt by the regime to keep the lid on the anger over the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit and associated criticism of the monarch and regime.

The royalist rant also coincides with the run-up to the anniversary of the 1932 revolution that ended the absolute monarchy. This has resulted in lame efforts by the police and military to prevent any rally or sign of significance at the few monuments to the 1932 events that have escaped state vandals.

We know the king wants to wipe out all remaining memorials and memories of this event.

His minions have removed several monuments to 1932 and its promoters and he’s taken back several properties that had been removed from the monarchy after 1932.

As significant has been his rollback of post-1932 legal and constitutional measures that provided (limited) controls on the monarch’s economic and political power.

All this means that the king is likely to be paranoid that remembering 1932, especially by the young generation, amounts to anti-monarchism.





Updated: Preempting regime and king

20 06 2020

When we first posted on Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s apparent enforced disappearance, we understood that the rumors would be about assumptions regarding the king’s role. We suggested some caution:

Most observers would likely consider the criminals at work in this enforced disappearance are working for Thailand’s military and its regime. PPT’s guess would be that they work under orders from Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who has oversight of “national security.”

Whether Gen Prawit is acting on the orders of the vengeful king is likely to remain unknown, but the enforced disappearance does coincide with heightened protests in Germany about the truant king, which have been widely viewed in Thailand. The palace and regime probably see these protests as the result of cooperation between anti-monarchists and political activists.

Coincidences do not amount to facts. When it comes to the king, however, verifiable facts are hard to come by and circumstantial evidence and extrapolation are used in their place.

Yet it is a remarkable fact that so many Thais seem to have heard the rumors and concluded that the king is at work on these disappearances. This is evidenced by a sudden surge in social media support for Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome:

The twitter hashtag #saveโรม (#saveRome) began trending on Friday morning after rumours circulated online that powerful people within the Thai establishment were unhappy with the conduct of Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome.

Readers may recall that it was Rangsiman who poked the regime on the disappearance and on the lese majeste law. This brought a regime response and warnings along with claims about an anti-monarchy plot.

Thais on social media used the “saveRome” hashtag “to voice their encouragement and support for Rangisman Rome and also to criticize the establishment and the state for using violence and fear as intimidation tactics.” It was a preemptive strike based on fears and on rumors that Rome and several other activists were under threat.

This is a political strategy previously used. Back in 2019, as several Thai exiles were “disappeared,” members of the Faiyen band feared that they were being hunted by those responsible for the enforced disappearances and murders of fellow exiles. At the time, many observers assumed that Thai paramilitary forces were responsible for these extra-judicial actions.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

That so many fear the king is telling. That they believe that the regime is prepared to condone or engage in illegal acts for the king and to protect their regime is equally revealing.

These fears and assumptions are reasonable. After all, throughout his life, the king has displayed erratic behavior and disdain for symbols of the 1932 revolution is reasonably considered evidence of hatred of those who favor a monarchy limited by constitution and law. This fear is reinforced by the regime’s public statements since the 2014 coup and its efforts to “protect” the monarchy. Indeed, the regime has been actively promoting fear to enhance its repression.

Update: Interesting, PPT has received a letter that is sent to the Embassy for the Federal Republic of Germany in Thailand, pointing to Germany’s responsibility under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit. Appropriately, it notes that the facts are hard to come by but that the German government needs to ensure that the disappearance is not associated with actions taken in Germany.





Monarchy and (more) repression

16 06 2020

With repression being deepened, the prime minister who seized power in the 2014 military coup and who remains in power through military might, his junta’s constitution and rigged elections, has issued a stern warning about anti-monarchism.

Of course, it is no coincidence that this warning comes after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalaerm Satsaksit, the piling on of lese majeste-like computer crimes charges for young social media figure “Niranam_” and ongoing protests in Europe against the king.

With a minion when the king was once in Thailand

As in the past, the regime imagines a plot and a movement led by some unnamed anonymous puppet-master.

Gen Prayuth lamented that what he thinks are “violations” of the lese majeste law “had increased since its use ceased 2-3 years ago.” He reportedly said the king “has … instructed me personally over the past two to three years to refrain from the use of the Law…”. While we already knew this from the king-supporting Sulak Sivaraksa, this is, we think, the first time an official has acknowledged this instruction.

(As an aside, we want to emphasize that under the previous king, royalists defended him on lese majeste by saying he was powerless to do anything about the law. Vajiralongkorn showed what a pile of buffalo manure that excuse was.)

The unelected PM saw anti-monarchism as doubly troubling as he believed that the king, by not using Article 112, had shown “mercy,” and this was being “abused.”

Gen Prayuth called for “unity” by which he means that royalists must defend the monarchy: “Everyone who loves the nation, religion, and monarchy must come together.” Oddly, he warned about the danger of “violent revolutions.” And, Reflecting a broader royalist concern, he worried that “anti-monarchists may use the upcoming anniversary [24 June] of the 1932 democratic revolution to defame the monarchy.”

And he warned that people should “disregard any messages that aim to harbor hatred in the society.” He means anti-monarchism. He added a pointed remark that PPT thinks is a threat:

Those who are operating from abroad should think about what they should or shouldn’t do, where else could if they faced problems in that country? I feel pity as they are Thai citizens.

In what appears as a coordinated warning, the Watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “security officials” – that usually means the military – were already “investigating those involved” in this alleged anti-monarchist plot.

He was warning: “Once we get the list of names, we’ll prosecute them” using lese majeste-like laws including computer crimes and sedition.

Prayuth seemed to want Article 112 back, complaining that “[t]here were no such problems when Section 112 was in use,” which is actually buffalo manure. When the junta came to power, it repeatedly claimed republican plotting and used the lese majeste law more than any other regime, ever.

He went on to pile on lies and threats:

As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it’s not true. You must look behind [their motive] and see what they really want. … Why would you become their tool?

Targeting the young, he “urged people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to social media.” It is easy to see why the regime has targeted “Niranam_”. They are making an example of him as a way to (they hope) silence others.

There’s also a hint that the regime is coming under pressure from royalists and perhaps even the palace itself to do something about the protests in Europe and criticism from exiles:

Regarding exiled people in neighbouring countries and Europe, he said the government had already sent letters asking those countries to send them back to Thailand if they caused trouble. “But when they don’t send them back, what do you expect the government to do?”

It seems clear that enforced disappearance and torture and murder is one outcome of displeasure with these dissidents.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

One response to these warnings has been social media disdain for the regime and the generals. Another response came from former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich who called for the lese majeste law to be abolished: “they should get rid of this section of the criminal code as the MPs of the Move Forward Party have been saying in Parliament…”. For good measure, she also called for the Computer Crimes Act be amended.





Royalism trumps virus

27 03 2020

When it comes to the virus, the regime remains muddled and dopey. When it comes to pleasing the king, the regime is conducting business as usual.

Khaosod reports that the absent and silent king has “approved a name change for two military bases, ditching the names of two revolutionaries behind the 1932 democratic revolt.”

The “Phahol Pholphayuhasena Artillery Center and Fort Pibulsongkram in Lopburi province are hereby known as Fort Bhumibol and Fort Sirkit, respectively, after the names of King’s Vajiralongkorn’s parents.”

By his repeated actions, it is obvious that the king feels the need to roll back 1932. At the same time, he feels the need to build his legitimacy by drawing on the status of his dead father and ill mother.

The change was made “retroactively effective from December 2019.”