Doubling down

10 02 2015

The quiet struggle between the Thaksin Shinawatra clan and its supporters and the military dictatorship is heavily weighted in favor of the latter. After all, the military junta has lots of armed soldiers, control of the police and has plenty of overcrowded prisons. In addition, it has the courts, the puppet assemblies and so on.

There has been talk of a “deal” being negotiated between Thaksin and the junta. Yellow-shirted ideologues see bombs, student demonstrations and anti-monarchy activism as being the weapons of Thaksin and his clan. They might also see the military dictatorship’s increasing screwing down of red shirts and others as and example of the junta responding.

We could believe this. After all, Thaksin has been a skilled negotiator. That said, each “deal” that has been said to have been done in the past has ended badly for Thaksin. Think of the “deal” undone by the amnesty debacle.

In this context, the continuing attacks on the Thaksin clan seems to us at PPT to be more likely to be an example of the military seeking to expunge that group – something it was accused of failing to do following the 2006 putsch.

Khaosod reports that the politicized National Anti-Corruption Commission has decided it “will prosecute former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his deputies [former Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and ‘some more Cabinet members’] for authorizing a crackdown on Yellowshirt protesters in October 2008.”

On 7 October 2008 the Somchai government “ordered police to clear Yellowshirt [People’s Alliance for Democracy] protesters who were blocking the entrance to Parliament and calling on Somchai to resign. Two people were killed…”.

As far as PPT can recall, with the help of Wikipedia, only one protester died in the skirmishes between police and a violent PAD. The second “protester” blew himself up in a car bomb gone wrong. The “investigation” involved the use of GT200 magic wands by royalist forensic “scientist” Pornthip Rojanasunand, who simply decided that the woman killed was hit by a police tear gas canister.

But the point is to punish. A spokesperson for the NACC says that it has a ton of “evidence,” and “that the agency will prosecute Somchai and his deputies in the Supreme Court’s Division for Holders of Political Office,” charged with “abuse of power.”

The NACC is pushing this case “because the Office of Attorney-General declined to take the case…”.

The queen, when she was still politically active, attended the funeral of the victim and praised her.

What has the NACC done to investigate the murder of red shirts by the military in 2010?

In line with the doubling down on the Thaksin clan, The Bangkok Post reports that a request “by former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to travel abroad will take a long time to process…”. More pressure is applied to her after the ridiculous “impeachment.”

The junta says it “must be careful when considering her travel requests, to avoid affecting legal proceedings…”. Of course, all they are doing is squeezing her and her clan.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, appears to be promoting the doubling down. He wants to expunge popular politicians, probably so that his men and women can win any future “election.”

Secretive monarchists

1 05 2014

The Ad Hoc Committee on Studying and Monitoring Problems Concerning Law Enforcement and Measures for the Protection of the Royal Institution, chaired by Gen Lertrit Wechsawarn, is apparently a new “committee” formed by what the Bangkok Post refers to as a “group of ultra-royalist senators.”

The report says that the mostly unelected senators have “agreed to use social networking to protect the monarchy.”

This remarkable breakthrough in the struggle to prevent the decline and fall of the Thai monarchy came from a secret, “closed-door seminar Tuesday to brainstorm tactics at Government House.” Of course, secrecy is important for royalists because truth is dangerous and has to be kept from the public.

General Lertrit told journalists the aim of his secret cabal was “to build up a strong network of pro-monarchists” that would “create measures to counter those offending the royal institution…”.

Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai if citizens and the state performed their “duties well enough,” this would be a “starting point” to “ignite… the royal protection [movement]…”.

Reporters were thrown out after the opening speeches, “despite being invited, and given a handout about the group and its purposes.” That handout explained that:

the seminar was held because committee members had found that information and communication technology was being used improperly to insult the royal institution, and attempts were being made to link the monarchy to current political movements.

Perhaps they’ll close Princess Chulabhorn’s ludicrous Facebook page that has her supporting the anti-democrats.Chulabhorn

The unelected lot reckon that “a group of corrupt politicians has tried to discredit the royal institution.” It is clear they mean pro-Thaksin Shinawatra political parties that manage to win elections.

In fact, though, it was the 2006 coup and the stupidity and arrogance of the palace’s political manipulators did the discrediting.

This is for the king IV

6 02 2014

From a story at the Sydney Morning Herald:

Thaksin levelled the electrifying accusation that senior counsellors to the  King of Thailand had been complicit in allowing the coup, drawing the monarch’s name into the fray. In a country where the king is revered, and where you can be jailed for 15 years for criticising him, this was extraordinary. It was also true.

Much evidence supports the claim. And this brings us to one of the overarching factors in explaining Thailand’s democratic dyslexia. The monarchy ”had at best a mixed record supporting democracy, and hasn’t allowed a fully democratic political system to emerge,” says David Streckfuss, an American researcher based in Cambodia….

”Thailand has largely accommodated military interventionism, especially by accepting the defence of the monarchy as a justification for toppling elected governments,” writes Nicholas Farrelly, an… ANU expert on Thailand.

”Thailand’s elite and, to some extent, the public as well have deeply internalised the ultimate acceptability of coups. The test of this arrangement may come with the end of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign and the potential realignment of military influence in Thai society.”

That test is drawing near. The king is 86 and ailing. It will be a threshold moment for Thailand.

In a real constitutional monarchy, where the palace is guided by the law, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. The anti-democrats draw great strength from their belief that the monarchy is with them.

Why Thaksin is wrong

24 10 2013

At the Bangkok Post there is an interview with Thaksin Shinawatra who is headlined as having “expressed his support for the controversial amnesty bill…”. We think he is wrong and needs to reconsider his position. To begin, however, we want to say where he is right.

Support for an amnesty is right. There was nothing wrong with the original proposition that amnesty would be for rank-and-file protesters. Thailand has long suffered from state authorities murdering citizens – deemed opponents – with complete impunity. Ending that situation requires that state officials, the military brass and leaders of political movements be held responsible for their illegal actions.

We also think Thaksin is right to believe that most Thais would be happy for more political stability than has been the case since the military’s last coup in 2006. He’s right to speak of justice, forgiveness and peace.

But the version of the amnesty Thaksin supports does none of this. More likely, it will foment more conflict and will do neither Thaksin nor the country much good. It will, amongst other things, reinforce the notion that the state and its senior officials can act illegally with impunity.

Thaksin is wrong to say that Thailand “needs ‘resetting back to zero’ for the sake of future generations.”

We can’t help but mention that it was supporters of the 2006 coup who repeatedly talked of that illegal military action as resetting Thailand. No doubt the looney yellow shirts will also point out that the Khmer Rouge wanted a new beginning from Year Zero.

Thaksin is wrong to “insist… the amnesty push is not for himself, but to allow the country to move forward from political conflict…”. He’s wrong to talk about “justice” and “rule of law” when the proposal he supports undermines both.

His linking of amnesty with “entering the AEC [Asean Economic Community]…” is wrong as the two issues are simply unrelated.

Thaksin is wrong to speak of forgiving. He should consider those who don’t seek revenge but who want justice as a way of breaking the cycle of impunity.

If he really does “have no problem staying in foreign lands for another 10 years…” then he should be comfortable with an amnesty that seeks real justice. Such an amnesty would be a real historical breakthrough, and not just a resetting that is simply another cycle of impunity.

An omen

12 10 2013

A couple of days ago PPT posted on the faith of the opposition in astrologers and their predictions of the imminent demise of the Yingluck Shinawatra government. Then we also noted that faith in such soothsayers was not limited to the opposition. Even so, we wonder about the meaning of video below, sent to us by a reader, and apparently recent. In it, the aged  2006 coup plotter Prasong Soonsiri, now a schemer for and backer of the opposition, has a chair collapse under him. That must be some kind of ill omen!

Is the Thai monarchy in danger?

11 10 2013

That’s the headline for a story by Florian Decludt at the International Affairs Review, a web-based magazine produced graduate students from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

It begins with the usual nonsense about the king having “served as the sole guarantor of the country’s stability.” You really would think that graduate students would be able to read a bit more widely and finally discern that this claim is nothing more than palace propaganda. Graduate students may not have much influence, yet there is enough in the article to warrant a critical assessment.

The story told is about an “old and ailing” king and the implications of succession for the political order. If the alleged stabilizer is dying, what happens to the alleged stability? All a bit tortured really, for it depends on this fake idea that the king has stabilized politics rather than supported coups and authoritarian leaders who have a notion of stability that revolves around crackdowns, jailing opponents and maintaining the royalist political order.

Leaving this false premise aside for the moment, the article says that “[e]nsuring stability means that the succession process proceeds smoothly and that prominent figures such as Thaksin Shinawatra do not interfere with the process.”

This is an odd claim, and mainly heard from yellow shirts in Thailand who think Thaksin is somehow close to the prince, with rumors circulating that Thaksin funds the prince or once did. So while it is clear in law that the Crown Prince will succeed his father, the article notes the “unpopularity of current Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn,” as if this matters. The article goes so far as to state: “It is clear, however, that Vajiralongkorn is not fit to become King because of his unpopularity.”King, prince

To make the point clear, the article states: “Vajiralongkorn, unlike his father, does not enjoy the same prestige due to allegations of adultery and ties to criminal organizations.” It is hardly a state secret that the prince isn’t seen in the same way as his father, who has been the subject of massive, state-funded propaganda campaigns. The rest is rumor and ignores the king’s long association with the military, also long associated with illegalities in trade, on borders and in terms of state murder.

At the same time, this observation also buys into the palace line that the king has to be popular, with the implication that popularity is somehow akin to a people’s mandate. Of course, no monarchy works that way, as blood is the only critical measure. And male blood, with an heir, in place matters more than female blood and no possibility of an heir. So ignoring law and royal “tradition” in Thailand – at least for the 19th and 20th centuries – and elsewhere, relying on palace propaganda and rumor, the article then claims:

The Thai monarchy could circumvent this block by having King Rama IX disinherit Vajiralongkorn and designate Princess Sirindhorn as the heiress to the throne. This would follow the recommendations made by three prominent Thai political figures: former Prime Ministers General Prem Tinsulanonda and Anand Panyarachun, and Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila.

So this puts the claim about Thaksin interfering in a different perspective. Drawing on a famous Wikileaks cable, it becomes clear that it is actually the courtiers, as “prominent figures,” who could “interfere with the process.” The claim, often heard in red shirt circles as much as amongst yellow shirts, is that Privy Council President Prem will manipulate succession. The red shirts claim that Prem is an old interferer while the yellows seem to be hoping that he does intervene to ensure the jolly Sirindhorn may save the monarchy from Vajiralongkorn and thus maintain their feudal royalism.

2006 royalist coup

The military in the king’s yellow in 2006

Prem’s recent political game-playing – actively participating in coup planning in 2006 – was a political disaster for the monarchy and destabilized it more than any other event since 1976, when the monarchy intervened on the side of vicious rightists causing remarkable political damage. In the latter case, the monarchy intervened to protect its interests and seemed prepared to accept the damage. In 2006, it thought it was on a political winner, only to be seriously disappointed.

The article then states the royalist argument for Prem’s interference:

If the Crown Prince keeps his title, it is certain that the royal family’s standing will be weakened by Rama IX’s passing. In this situation, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration will attempt to secure more executive power at the expense of the King, and ensure the return of her brother, Thaksin.

Constitutionally, the king is meant to have little political role and the idea of wrestling “executive power” away from him is misguided. What the author appears to mean is that succession may mean that the monarchy is less able to intervene in political matters. For many, that would be an excellent development and may be the one thing that actually works to stabilize Thailand’s democracy.

The article then gets confused and lost, prophesying a military coup “in favor of Vajiralongkorn” that would seek “to topple Yingluck,” leading to “internal support to overthrow the monarchy.” If the prince is close to Thaksin, this argument seems illogical. Even so, the article then states that the end of the monarchy in Thailand “would have disastrous consequences for Thailand as a whole.” Why? Well, circular logic is employed:

Without the royals, the country would lack the unifying force that guarantees a certain level of stability, which has allowed the country to prosper despite numerous coups. King Rama IX’s prestige and influence is the sole reason why Thailand did not descend into civil war following Thaksin’s ouster in 2006.

That palace seems such a dysfunctional place that it is capable of bringing itself down. It was the palace’s intervention that led to the 2006 coup, which very nearly unraveled royalist power in Thailand.

Ignoring all of this, the article makes the following claim, which may well represent some of the parallel universe thinking that characterizes conservative elite thinking both in Thailand and the U.S.:

The only way to ensure the preservation of the status quo would be to coronate Princess Sirindhom. While it is likely that Vajiralongkorn will attempt to prevent this from happening, his widespread unpopularity will prevent him from taking the crown from his sister, forcing him to withdraw from political affairs. Princess Sirindhom’s relative popularity compared to her brother would also reduce the odds of the Yingluck administration’s attempts to secure more executive power. Such continuity in power is the best outcome for Thailand’s stability and therefore for US interests in the region.

Coups and their justification

11 07 2013

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that is about coups. This follows a recent op-ed that appeared to be a paean for a military coup. The editorial states: “Few nations have watched the Egyptian developments closer than Thailand.”

It adds that “… the overriding fact is that military force hovers over Thai politics and a coup always is possible within the next 24 hours.”

Noting the similarities between the recent Egyptian coup and that in Thailand in 2006, and observes:

One wishes Egypt well, but the truth is that the Thais who rooted on the coup forces of 2006 were as wrong as the military clique they lionised.

But then the Post seems to couch “wrong” in terms of the failure of the military junta in Thailand to manage the country rather than to condemn the military’s intervention. It says:

2006 coup

2006 royalist coup

The overthrow of the “Thaksin regime” was the easy part…. Within months, Gen Sonthi and accomplices proved they had no idea how to run and administer a country. While the government foundered at home and in foreign affairs, the junta hardened public opinion nationwide. Five years after the coup, and after dozens of Thais were killed in political violence, voters rejected the military and voted Thaksin allies back into power.

It is remarkable to PPT that the Post makes the following claim about Democrat Party leader and former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva who:

was quick off the mark to link the Egyptian army’s actions to Thailand. He came up with an impressive list of justifications for a military coup in this country _ government abuse of power, for example, or challenges to the judiciary.

It is, of course, expected that the military pawn should be outlining scenarios for yet another military coup, hoping that the military might again allow him to be prime minister. It is clear that this is not a democrat speaking.

The Post then declares: “A military coup never is legitimate.” Yet, again, this is couched in a kind of technocratic reasoning:

It [a coup] inevitably sinks the country economically, causes chaos to governance, and _ in the case of another coup in Thailand _ will bring both opprobrium and major economic and political sanctions from around the world.

We suggest that the Post should simply declare: A military coup never is legitimate and add a full stop and forget the justifications.