More on Buddhist politics

31 12 2016

As we stated in an earlier post, PPT is not following the grand wrangle over Buddhism all that closely. We did note that yellow shirts and the military junta hate Wat Dhammakaya because they associate it with Thaksin Shinawatra. And, we noted the Wat’s huge wealth. That wealth may be both a reason for criticism and a cause for some greed.

The Dhammakaya monks and their take on Buddhism have been contentious from the beginning. Really only founded in the late 1970s, by the boom times of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was attacked for distorting and commercializing Buddhism. There have been several scandals involving the group since then, with the origin of the events not always transparent.

Readers of the Bangkok Post will have noticed that the puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has pushed through an amendment to the “1992 Sangha Act to restore an old tradition in which the King reserves the right to name the supreme patriarch.” We think this is incorrect. First, the Act referred to is the 1962 Act, as amended in 1992, and we are not sure how much of a “tradition” exists.

As we understand it, the Sangha in Thailand has been subject to the regulations of the first Sangha Act (1902), the second (1941), and the current Sangha Act, enacted in 1962 and amended in 1992 (and now amended in 2016 by the military junta). The dates all have some political significance. The 1902 Act came when King Chulalongkorn was centralizing administration and creating a more absolutist monarchy. In 1941, war was approaching and Thailand was under a military regime. In 1962, General Sarit Thanarat was military despot and he reordered the Sangha to arrange it to parallel the military dictatorship. Sarit also wanted to ensure who became Supreme Patriarch, keeping out Phra Phimol Tham.

As an academic account has it:

Each of these Acts created a state-imposed organizational structure for the Sangha that paralleled the current forms of government: in 1902, Siam (Thailand) was still a monarchy, and the hierarchical, centralized Sangha as headed by a Supreme Patriach (Phra Maha David Yasasi 2006). In 1941, a decentralized structure was established that paralleled the democratic, Constitutional Monarchy in place [sic.] and in 1962, a top-down structure was reintroduced to match the autocratic government of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat (Sudhamani 980:74).

In 1992, following the 1991 coup led by General Suchinda Kraprayoon, the amendment was enacted to settle the power struggle over the appointment of a Supreme Patriarch. Some readers may recall the dispute over the use of this amended section when Thaksin sought to appoint an Acting Supreme Patriarch for the aged and ill Supreme Patriarch.

Now that section has been amended again, with an eye to Thaksin’s use of the amended section and to prevent the appointment of a new Supreme Patriarch considered too close to the hated Dhammakaya.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha was able to delay the appointment of Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, known as Somdet Chuang, after he was nominated by the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC), but he could not nominate his own Supreme Patriarch. The standoff had gone on for a year, and the junta managed to mount a range of investigations that have uncovered all kinds of alleged corruption to prevent the nomination going to the king.

"Voting" in the puppet NLA

“Voting” in the puppet NLA

As a way out, The Dictator decided to change the Act. The change means “the King selects and appoints a supreme patriarch while the prime minister countersigns the appointment.”

Clearly, The Dictator wants all of his nation, religion and monarchy ducks in a line.

Dutifully, and as reported in the Bangkok Post, the NLA puppets obeyed their master and “passed in three straight readings Thursday a bill to amend the 1992 Sangha Act…”. Reportedly, the NLA needed only 58 minutes to consider the changes and it “sailed through with 182 votes in favour and six abstentions.” The Post described the “shock passage of the amended law lifts conditions positioning … Somdet Chuang, as the sole candidate [for Supreme Patriarch].”

The monk said it is possible the amendment is intended to block Somdet Chuang from assuming the supreme patriarch’s post and warned the NLA to take responsibility for any complications that might follow.

Readers can find an academic’s attempt to understand some of this here. Yet the intent is crystalk clear and continues the “tradition” of military interference with the Sangha to ensure it knows its place as a loyal supporter of conservative politics and subservient to the military-monarchy state.

An election will not end the junta

19 02 2016

The military junta and especially The Dictator keep saying that there will be a 2017 election. Some in the Puea Thai Party are putting all their political eggs in the election basket. However, election or not, the military foxes are not about to let the chickens run the hen house.

Why Puea Thai and Thaksin Shinawatra think an election is going to change anything in the junta’s Thailand is anyone’s guess. The junta has been clear that it ain’t going anywhere. Just to make this crystal clear, as reported in the Bangkok Post, the military junta “has proposed that the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) prolong its tenure after the general election, which, if effective, could overrule the authority of an elected government.”Fox and chicken

The chickens can play at elections, but the foxes will be in charge.

The junta wants “a special set of rules during a transitional period to avoid plunging the country into another crisis.” THe CDC is asked to extend these special powers to “the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] and NCPO chief [The Dictator] after the election and after having a new elected government.”

Those powers will be “constitutional,” but if the referendum is rejected, the junta stays as well.

Even those who appreciate the military’s interventions and its murderous capacities are “alarmed,” including the hapless (anti)Democrat Party semi-leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. But no one listens much to him or his failed party.

More serious is Adul Khiewboriboon, who is chairman of a committee of relatives of the Black May 1992 victims, and said the “cabinet proposal is a clear indication that the military wants to be in control after the general election.” Of course! His point was to warn “that history could repeat itself, pointing to the Black May uprising in 1992, when huge protests erupted following the 1991 coup d’etat by Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon.” He says: “I am seeing a pattern…”. Yes, there is a pattern. The foxes are creatures of habit but also cunning.

This is only one of 16 changes demanded by the junta.

Remembering Meechai’s previous work

1 11 2015

Back on 15 May 1994, the Bangkok Post had a Sunday Perspective column regarding the constitutional developments during the time following the 1991 military coup that removed the elected government led by Chatichai Choonhavan.

Titled “A Fledgling Democratic Process at a Standstill,” (no hyperlinks available) it discusses the lack of progress on a new constitution following the May 1992 uprising against General Suchinda Kraprayoon and “other NPKC leaders, known collectively as Class 5 graduates of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, who intended to dominate Thai politics indefinitely.” The column continues:

MeechaiThe junta leaders appointed a committee headed by Meechai Ruchupan and Osoth Kosin to draft two constitutions with provisions for them to perpetuate and share political power with
their allies.

The 1991 constitutional draft was made the law of the land amid across-the-board protests….

“Should the Constitution be found imperfect or undesirable, it can be amended later, junta sources said. [as they said in 2007 as well]

The result of that constitutional process led by Meechai was the May 1992 uprising and massacre of civilians.

Following the May Uprising, there was more debate, and with Anand Punyarachun again an appointed premier, Meechai got into the act again, as a senator:

Senator Meechai Ruchupan, an expert in constitutional law, wasted no time proposing drafts he claimed to be democratic.

Although Meechai may be well-intentioned, the inquisitive media and the general public think otherwise.

The Meechai constitutional drafts were found to be the 1974 charter with some minor alterations. For example Article 169 reads:

“0n administrative affairs, the Cabinet members are individually accountable to the House of Representatives in matters pertaining to ministerial performance; However, they are held collectively accountable in matters pertaining to Cabinet policy.”

Compared to Senator Meechai’s proposed amendment:

“In administrative affairs, Cabinet members are to abide by dictates of the Constitution. They are to follow the guidelines as stated in Article 108. They are individually accountable to the
House of Representatives in ministerial matters and collectively accountable in matters pertaining to the general Cabinet policy.”

Naturally in a politics where royalists were seeking to dominate, Meechai’s regressive and anti-democratic proposals got support, in terms that seem very familiar today:

Senator Sompob [Hotrakit], lauding Sen Meechai’s initiative, said the proposed draft would prevent parliamentary dictatorship….

How was this to be engineered? Again, familiar territory. One proposal was for appointed senators:

… proposals were made for senators to come from diversified professions with the Royal appointments countersigned by either the chairman of the Privy Councillors or the Prime

At the time, a Democrat Party MP Preecha Suwannathat, said to be “a legal expert who graduated from Thammasat University in the same class as Senator Meechai” stated that “Senator Meechai goes back in time, invoking the obsolete 1968 constitution which allowed permanent officials to become actively involved in politics…”.  That charter was a military document drawn up by a regime that had, by that time, dictated for a decade, and would stay until 1973.

And so it went on. Readers will get the picture. Essentially, the proposals being concocted by Meechai and his hand-picked Constitution Drafting Committee are but the most recent in a long line of proposals, several of them coming from Meechai himself, to embed a constitution for the ruling elite based in the military-monarchy alliance. The difference this time is that Thailand’s constitutional future is in the hands of a military junta that is more determined to get its way.

Updated: Who are the cheats?

16 10 2015

Readers will become bored with PPT’s posts on the corruption and nepotism of the military dictatorship as representative of a deep and long history of military and bureaucratic corruption.

We emphasize this, not because civilian politicians have been squeaky clean, but because the dominant royalist narrative has been that only civilian politicians are corrupt.

It has been academic Thongchai Winichakul who has done most in detailing the concerted royalist effort to establish this royalist propaganda tale as a way of undermining democratic politics. In an academic article some years ago (also here), he wrote that:

since 1973 in particular, the monarchists have assumed the status of the superior realm in Thai politics that claims the high moral ground above politicians and normal politics. With distaste for electoral politics, and in tacit collaboration with the so-called people’s sector, activists and intellectuals, they have undermined electoral democracy in the name of “clean politics” versus the corruption of politicians.

This is a royalist ideology that underpinned military coups in 1991, 2006 and 2014.

One of the important spokespersons of this anti-democratic palace propaganda has been Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda. Despite his advanced age, has a regular speaking schedule that sees him banging out this ideology every six months or so.

His most recent outing is reported in the Bangkok Post. Unsurprisingly, as a supporter of the current military dictatorship, he proposes a “renewed effort to fight corruption, which he decried as Thailand’s number one enemy.”

We agree that corruption is a problem for the country, but it is not number one. Our view is that the number one enemy of Thailand and its people is a military that, in alliance with the monarchy, repeatedly and consistently crush democracy. Worse, the military regularly engages in actions that result in the murder of citizens. At the same time, the military is a deeply corrupt gang of thugs.

But back to Prem’s most recent bleating. His claims come at exactly the time that the military dictatorship has proposed extra-legal action against Yingluck Shinawatra over the so-called rice pledging scheme. Prem is adding his support to this move.

The Post goes on to claim that “academics and experts have praised the Prayut Chan-o-cha government for creating a wide array of measures to help reduce graft.” It cites “Pramon Suthiwong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, [as claiming] … there is a political will to tackle the issue of corruption, adding the government had placed the matter high on its agenda of items demanding attention.”

Pramon’s claim is odd for someone who heads an anti-corruption agency but ignores the unusual wealth of all the generals, admirals and police at the top of the dictatorship.

Why would a self-declared corruption fighter be deliberately blind to the corruption and nepotism that has marked every military regime since 1957? We are guessing, but we think it is that Pramon is politically partisan. For a start, he has a sinecure at the palace’s Siam Cement Group and a swathe of royal-linked companies. He’s served military regimes in the past, including in 2006 and now serves the military junta.

In other words, Pramon is one of Prem’s men, speaking highly of a bunch of dictators, who are also Prem’s men in the sense that this is the regime Prem prefers and these are the men Prem worked to have in place in the military and in government.

Of course, Prem has done nicely from his positions in government and in the private sector, where his royalism is rewarded. He provides essential links to the palace for a myriad of companies.

Prem does talk about the corruption of individuals. It may be a small matter for the fabulously wealthy, but we always wonder who pays his rent for the house he has simply never moved out of, or whether rent is paid at all. A small matter, perhaps, but indicative of double standards. Is free rent an individual corruption or just a reward for a loyal servant of the anti-democratic royal cabal?

Update: A recent example of alleged corruption in military purchases is reported at the Bangkok Post, involving jets. As far as PPT can determine, every military purchase from the GT200 to large ships involves corrupt payments.

Old men and old ideas

13 09 2015

A couple of days ago we again pointed out that Thailand is a country where very old men remain powerful and influential.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that aged legal expert Meechai Ruchupan has indeed been invited by The Dictator “to lead a new charter-drafting body that is expected to be formed by next week…”.

Meechai as a rabid royalist ideologue associated with the 2006 military coup and junta and with several anti-democratic movements, including the movement that sought to bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra elected government. He has been fully prepared to defend the lese majeste law, even making stuff up to support the draconian law.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha is said to be “interested in Mr Meechai” because of his experience “at the helm of legislative bodies, both as Senate chairman and chairman of a national legislative assembly…”.

In fact, this experience is telling. According to a brief entry at Wikipedia:

He was the acting Prime Minister of Thailand following a military takeover of the government that took place in February 1991. He served only seventeen days, from May 24, 1992 to June 10, 1992, and was succeeded by Anand Panyarachun. He had been appointed by Royal Command to take over after highly unpopular General Suchinda Kraprayoon resigned under public and state pressure.

Meechai served as President of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly of Thailand after the coup d’état in 2006. After another coup d’état in 2014, Meechai—as one of two civilians—was appointed as a member of the junta which calls itself the National Council for Peace and Order.

The picture of a royalist who serves the military is clear.

Prayuth thinks this is the right man to again serve the military-monarchy alliance as it represses popular will and seeks to cement its rule.

Others reportedly being sought for the military dictatorship’s “fix” of the political system include royalists and military backers like the conservative Sujit Boonbongkarn, former 2006 junta appointee Kanjanarat Leewiroj, Banthoon Sethasiroj, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra lawyer Banjerd Singkhaneti, who fronted the ultra-royalist and neo-fascist Sayam Prachapiwat, Preecha Watcharaphai, who worked with the 2006 military junta and former unelected senator and anti-Thaksin activist Surachai Liangboonlertchai, who once tried to use the Senate to bring down the elected government.

The picture is pretty clear: conservatives, royalists, yellow shirts, anti-Thaksin activists and military backers.

The pattern is also seen in a recent appointment to the Constitutional Court of yellow-shirted historian, 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, Nakarin Mektrairat.

This may all seem like more of the same under the military dictatorship. Yet it is clear that the junta and its supporters and backers have decided that Thailand requires more “reform.” This means a deeply conservative and royalist return to an authoritarian and intolerant past.

Giving ideology its name

25 05 2015

An editorial at the Bangkok Post on The Dictator begins:

Politicians are bad, politicians are corrupt, politicians are the roots of all the evils that branch out across the country — this is a mantra that has been repeated so often many assume it to be a universal truth.

PPT has also recently made comments on this mantra. A reader rightly suggests that we should acknowledge that this anti-democratic ideology has been identified and given a name.

In an academic article some years ago, Professor Thongchai Winichakul wrote that:

since 1973 in particular, the monarchists have assumed the status of the superior realm in Thai politics that claims the high moral ground above politicians and normal politics. With distaste for electoral politics, and in tacit collaboration with the so-called people’s sector, activists and intellectuals, they have undermined electoral democracy in the name of “clean politics” versus the corruption of politicians.

This is a royalist ideology that underpinned the 1991, 2006 and 2014 military putsches.

On May 1992, part II

18 05 2015

In part I, we posted on a speech by the notorious royalist poseur Bowornsak Uwanno, who misused the occasion of a remembrance of the military’s murder of democracy and murder of civilian in May 1992.

In another report at The Nation on a memorial event, it is stated that “politicians and political groups yesterday attended a memorial service to remember those who lost their lives in the Black May 1992 political uprising.” It seems to us that the military dictatorship tried to manage this event as it was attended by “representatives of the junta-appointed agencies known as the ‘Five Rivers’. They included Prime Minister’s Office Minister Panadda Diskul, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai, Ekachai Sriwilat[,] Prasarn Marukpitak and Rosana Tositrakul members of the [puppet] National Reform Council (NRC).”

Even if any of this lot had any reason to be there, it seems they have forgotten the meaning of 1992. All are rabid monarchists and pro-military flunkies. Rosana is a strident yellow shirt who has supported all anti-democrats since 2004. Surachai is one of Rosana’s allies in the anti-democratic Group of 40 Senators, mostly unelected after 2007, who are ultra-royalists and deeply yellow. So is Prasarn. Panadda is a devoted royalist, specialized in self-promotion and a dedicated restorationist, committed to dictatorship and absolutism. They insult the memory of the dead.

Amongst attendees, there were some with a real connection to the events in 1992, including “red-shirt co-leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Jatuporn Promphan and yellow-shirt co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee Pipop Thongchai.”

That the Democrat Party sent representatives is also insulting of those who died in 1992 for the Party was prepared to deal with the military then, if it got them close to power. Nothing much has changed.

The egregious Panadda said that the “incident” in May 1992 – he means the massacre of civilians – “showed the public’s will to achieve democracy.” It did, but to disgrace that resolve by linking it to The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, and to claim that this vandal of democracy “had recognised the people of Thailand’s wish to see real democracy in the country…” is disgusting.

Rosana is as bad, saying that May 1992 “occurred because all the heroic people wanted to see reform of the political system without any influence. They hoped that the election would lead to the development of a strong democracy and that it would not result in a coup.” She’s lost in a make-believe history and she manages to link an anti-military uprising to the 2006 and 2014 military putsches, which she enthusiastically supported.

For those wanting a useful summary of the events of the time, not least as an antidote for the tripe served up by military flunkies, this PDF, available for free download, is not a bad place to begin.

On May 1992, part I

18 05 2015

PPT is seldom dismayed by the manner in which history is constructed and reconstructed by Thailand’s political elite for its own purposes.

May 1992 – Black May – was a significant event in Thailand’s recent political history. Several dozen people were killed, a similar number “disappeared,” and hundreds were injured and arrested. These were almost all civilians who demonstrated against a military-backed attempt to monopolize electoral politics.

At The Nation it is reported that incorrigible puppet Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Borwornsak Uwanno “took the two major political camps to task for their portrayal of ‘distrust’, saying their action was a bad sign that political division and disparity would not be resolved easily.”

Well, who thought it was going to be easily resolved? Perhaps just political hirees like Bowornsak. The drafter of constitutions for military dictatorships says “Political leaders must project optimistic views…”.

Not uncommon to hear such nonsense from a political body for hire, but the truly galling thing is that he somehow thought that such comments were appropriate for “an event marking the 23rd anniversary of the May 1992 bloodshed on Rajdamnoen Road.” Bowornsak is aiding and abetting the military in embedding its political influence in his draft 2015 constitution! That is what happened when the military thugs took over in 1991, drafted a constitution the king urged on the country, and eventually led to the May 1992 uprising.

Borwornsak is a disgrace.

We were pleased to learn that Bowornsak’s poisonous speech was interrupted by “a group of four women calling themselves ‘maled prik’, or chili, held placards with the message ‘No to 2015 charter’; ‘No reconciliation with murder’; and ‘Leading legal expert hired to destroy democracy’.” They went on to read a “statement saying society before the May bloodshed in 1992 protested to amend the charter to block the military from rising to power and pushed for elected governments. They were cracked down on by the military, resulting in heavy casualties.”

The report notes that “No military officials stood trial following these incidents.”

They went on to call “on the current military-installed government to scrap the amnesty bills that pardoned those who seized control of the state on February 23, 1991 and put military officials linked to the May bloodshed on trial…. They called for an elected PM and Senate and for public participation in drafting the new charter.”

The report states that “None of the group was arrested after their demonstration but their placards were destroyed.”


King sighted

25 04 2015

As has become standard practice, the king has made an appearance at a time of rising conflict.

It is not possible to determine whether the king is at all aware of his or the country’s circumstances, and in a modern government, this should not matter. However, Thailand under the royalist military dictatorship is no modern state.

Khaosod reports that the king was wheeled out to “observe the Chao Praya River.” There has been no sign of the queen for a considerable time.

The debate over the draft constitution may be a reason for this sudden appearance, especially as the military dictatorship appears to be fumbling and the puppet assembly becoming factionalized. This pattern has been seen under previous military regimes. In 1991, the king intervened seeking to end debate on the draft constitution proposed by a military-backed regime, following a coup.

Rancid royalist politics

8 01 2015

In the recent past, when the elite has discussed its various constitutions, the sections dealing with the monarchy have been considered “controversial” in the sense that the notion of a constitutional monarchy is poorly developed in Thailand and the current reign has seen a determined effort to limit the constitutional constraints on the monarchy. If PPT’s collective memory is correct, the discussions of the sections dealing with the monarchy in the deliberation of the 1997 constitution were held in-camera.

When the military junta seized power in May 2014, it scrapped almost all of the 2007 constitution, with the significant exception of the sections on the monarchy.

As the military dictatorship considers its new constitution, the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee has so far said little about the monarchy. It has considered proposals about a number of changes to the political system, although the outcomes of these are anything but clear.

Yet, if a report at Khaosod is a good indication, rabid royalists are determined to have an even more powerful monarch, less constrained by the new constitution.

Retired commander of the Thai armed forces General Saiyud Kerdphol, long a buddy to the great political meddler and Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, “has urged drafters of the new constitution to allow … the King to intervene directly in politics…“.

The king has long intervened, and to give them their due, Khaosod points this out.

So this call is not for the standard intervention of the palace-monarchy conservative coalition, but for something more significant.

Saiyud wants the new constitution to define the “channels for the King to intervene” on the basis that he should “solve any political crisis in the country…”.

In fact, most political crises in the country, at least in the past few decades have been as a result of actions by the military, palace and royalists. Sure, there have been others, such as the red shirt risings of 2009 and 2010, but these have been responses to the interventions of these other groups of perennial meddlers. After all, it is the military, always with palace support or acquiescence, that conducted illegal coups in 1991, 2006 and 2014.

In the pickled world of old farts, political zombies, military jackasses and lumbering dinosaurs that Saiyud inhabits, his claim that he wants the king to be politically interventionist “in order to prevent further coups in Thailand” would make sense. However, no moderately sane person possessed of a few brain cells could possibly by this nonsense.old-farts-and-jackasses

According to this mad monarchist,

… the King should have the constitutional authority to exercise power “through the military, or the Statesman that he has appointed.” In Thailand, the honorary title of “Statesman” is currently held by Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the former unelected Prime Minister who is now serving as a top adviser to King Bhumibol.

There’s his elder military brother popping up in a role that Saiyud has promoted for Prem previously.

In Saiyud’s world, this “will help prevent more military coups in Thailand by allowing [the king] to solve political crises as soon they arise, thereby freeing the Thai military from ‘needing’ to intervene.”

The nonsense is that coups result when the palace wants to sort out its political problems and resolve its political fears. This would amount to a return to an absolute monarchy in all but name and would require that the king have control over all aspects of the coercive elements of the state.

Saiyud seems to not understand that monarchies went the way of the dodo because blood is not a trustworthy mechanism for choosing a political leader.