Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.





Cinema, politics, censorship

12 01 2022

We thought readers might be interested in The New Yorker’s piece on director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. It is a beautiful story about beautiful cinema, and which is only tangentially about politics. Here’s some clips on politics:

Apichatpong, from Wikipedia

“Uncle Boonmee,” like all of Weerasethakul’s films before “Memoria,” was shot in rural Isaan, in northeastern Thailand, the director’s childhood home. Although he was born in Bangkok, in 1970, he grew up in the provincial northern city of Khon Kaen, where his parents, Aroon and Suwat, both ethnically Chinese, worked as doctors. The area, as the scholar Lawrence Chua observes, is “a historically obstreperous place . . . the site of several anti-state rebellions,” which is still rebellious “due largely to its historical isolation, poverty, and lack of infrastructure.”

“I am from this region that is very looked down on from the center,” Weerasethakul told me. “So there is this feeling of—how do you call it?—that you’re like a second-class citizen or something.”

… Weerasethakul had been hitting a wall in Thailand for some time by then. In 2007, in a brilliant essay titled “The Folly and Future of Thai Cinema Under Military Dictatorship,” the director described how he had taken part in a seminar with members of the Ministry of Culture and other groups to discuss the content of Thailand’s new Film and Video Act, which would replace one that had been passed in 1930. Weerasethakul, who had just been told by the censorship board that he needed to cut four scenes from “Syndromes and a Century,” was, he wrote, “enthusiastic to read the draft of the new law, which was supposed to represent our new hope for freedom of artistic expression.” But that hope was soon dashed. Reading the new Film Act, Weerasethakul said, he came across “a number of issues” that disturbed him, including the stipulation that “filmmakers must not make films that undermine social order or moral decency, or that might have an impact on the security and pride of the nation.”

Following the 2014 military coup,

Disturbed by his government’s shaky situation, Weerasethakul felt that he needed to get away. When we met in Chicago, he told me that he was eager for a new challenge. “Partly because I’m getting older, coupled with the fact that Thailand has become a dictatorship,” he explained. “There’s many things I want to do in Thailand, but, at the same time, they won’t let me. Maybe it’s time to go somewhere.”…

“I can’t help but think that the gentleness and the smile is an evolution to survive under the oppressive regimes,” he told me. “Thailand always promotes itself as a sole country in the region that has never been colonized. But to me the people [have] been operating with fear, in full awareness of the power from above, central government, and even from the invisible forces like ghosts and karma. Living here is a complex compromise. Sometimes you don’t even notice that you do [a] particular action out of fear. You sometimes feel free[d] by the spell, the propaganda, and you are actually happy. But when you ask what you cannot do in this country, the list can be long. Sometimes I feel like I am an obedient dog.”

He’s back in Thailand.





Tenure trouble

4 01 2022

Bubbling away in the background of recent politics has been the very large question mark hanging over the regime’s plan to keep Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the premier’s seat for another 4 years following the next “election,” which the military-backed rulers think is already in the bag.

Yesterday the Bangkok Post had an editorial on the matter, observing that “a legal team [sic] from the House of Representatives claimed that he is entitled to serve as premier until 2027.”

That team reckons “Gen Prayut’s term technically began when his premiership received royal endorsement under the 2017 constitution on June 9, 2019.” They say this means his constitutionally-limited term could run another 4 years. How convenient!

This bunch “rejected the views of those who argue that Gen Prayut’s tenure began in 2014, when he took over in a coup as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order. Under this interpretation, his term would end in August this year.”

The 2017 constitution bars an individual from remaining in office for more than eight years: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term., regardless of whether the four-year terms are served back-to-back or not.”

The 2007 constitution simply stated: “The Prime Minister shall not serve in office more than eight years.”

There’s considerable guff in the editorial for it is perfectly clear that both constitutions limit the premiership to 8 years.

It seems likely that the question will go to the partisan Constitutional Court. Based on its previous capacity for fudging the constitution and supporting the regime, we can expect the coup master to be around until 2027.





Rolling back democracy from its birth III

15 12 2021

James Lovelock of UCA News also comments on Chuan Leekpai’s recent Constitution Day comments. While the headline “Thailand’s parlous state of democracy” – Thailand is no democracy – the article is worth considering.

He begins:

A call by a former prime minister of Thailand on his fellow citizens to have faith in the country’s democratic system has been met with ridicule among young Thais who have been demanding democratic reforms. And rightly so.

“Tell that to the military, courts and your PDRC-supporting friends and their earlier incarnations,” one commenter aptly noted, referring to the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, a rightist anti-democratic movement that staged raucous street protests in 2014 against a democratically elected government, precipitating a coup by the military the same year….

“The military dictatorship rammed through the current anti-democratic constitution by making it illegal to campaign against it,” one commenter pointed out apropos Chuan’s speech on Constitution Day. “Unelected Senate appointments by the military. Courts routinely disband any reform-minded party. What ‘democracy’ is he talking about?”

Other commentators have been equally sharp, noting that:

…. the current rulers of Thailand, a powerful group of army generals and business tycoons, have created a deeply undemocratic system, which makes it virtually impossible for liberal parties to gain power through elections.

For all of this military-backed regime’s failures, corruption and manipulation, most commentators think that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will continue on to become Thailand’s longest-serving prime minister. That royalist posterior polishers can float to the top proves that Thailand is no democracy.





Rolling back democracy from its birth II

14 12 2021

On the ironies of Constitution Day, PPT recommends consideration of an op-ed by Tim Newton at Thaiger. He begins with the report of Chuan Leekpai’s recent words on that day:

Words from the Thai Parliamentary president Chuan Leekpai urging, or willing, the Thai voters not to “become disheartened with the current state of Thai politics” and to have “confidence in the democratic system”.

From noom apicha

He rightly asks: “The democratic system?”

While some of the historical background is a bit scratchy, his observation that Chuan “must be secretly choking on the irony of his comments” is, we think, ignoring the way that people like Chuan buy into the whole palace propaganda version of Thai history. But Newton is right that “Thailand’s current constitution remains a blunt tool to keep the country’s military interests and a Bangkok ‘elite’ in power.” Chuan is part of that elite. Newton is too kind to Chuan, who also played a role in bringing on the 2014 coup.

The op-ed continues:

Whilst saying all the right things on a public holiday set aside to commemorate Thailand’s first constitutions, Chuan doesn’t need to look further than his parliament’s upper house of hand-picked Senators to realise that any true democracy in the Land of Smiles remains elusive.

Like the senators, the man who appointed them is unelected. He also trashed the previous constitution in an illegal coup and seized the premiership, which he continues to hold thanks to the senate, the military and the elite.





Further updated: Buffalo manure human rights

8 11 2021

The Thai Enquirer reports that the military-backed regime, headed by a coup plotter as unelected prime minister has made the absurd claim that “Thailand is ready to commit to promoting and protecting human rights in the country and abroad…”.

This regime, constructed on the military murder of scores of protesters in 2010, on the bodies located and still missing of those forcibly disappeared, and which has detained and jailed thousands, made this outrageous claim “ahead of the UN’s upcoming Third Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR)…”.

Ratchada Thanadirek, the regime’s deputy spokeswoman lied: “The government is committed to working with the international community to voluntarily declare its commitments, consider feedback and listen to proposals…”.

How high?

Ratchada built a pile of stinking buffalo poo, saying the “current administration is working to revise its laws to match the international human rights instruments, including anti-torture law, laws against inhumane punishments, and laws that protect against enforced disappearance.”

These are all crimes that this regime has engaged in, regularly. It is a false claim, it is a gross untruth. It is made as it continues to lock up protesters and jail people under Article 112, a draconian law that “protects” the monarchy from criticism and scrutiny and permits the jailing of political dissidents.

As the article explains:

The statement comes at a time when the Thai government is being criticized at home and abroad for its arbitrary arrest and detention of pro-democracy protesters.

Over a dozen student protesters have been arrested and denied bail for leading street protests against the Prayut Chan-ocha administration and calling for reform of Thailand’s conservative institutions.

Films, art exhibitions, and even nationally recognized artists have been punished and/or censored by the government for speaking in support of the demonstrators or on political issues….

The Prayut administration has implemented a Covid-related state of emergency protocol that bans large-scale gatherings. This emergency act has been used to detain, arrest, and crack down on unarmed protesters.

Built on murders, lies, deceit, rigged laws and elections, and repression, this is a corrupt regime.

Update 1: For something far more realistic and factual, try the CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) call for UN member states to raise serious concerns about Thailand’s civic freedoms.

Diplomats in training

Update 2: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been a useful tool for the regime. Populated by royalists, for decades it has polished royal posteriors, often with amazing contortions that make its people look like pretzels. The latest official contortionist is Nadhavathna Krishnamra, a Foreign Ministry representative speaking to the UN Human Rights Council.

Facing questions from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, among others, about those charged with lese majeste, including more than a dozen children, Nadhavathna defended lese majeste. It was asserted that the law “protects the monarch and therefore national security, and that royal insult cases were carefully handled.” Everyone knows this is buffalo manure. Nadhavathna trotted out more of the regime’s buffalo poo: “It reflects the culture and history of Thailand, where the monarchy is one of the main pillars of the nation, highly revered by the majority of Thai people…. Its existence is closely linked to safeguarding the key national institutions and national security.” Blah, blah, blah excrement.





Fanaticism and posterior buffing

18 10 2021

Remember when the police were considered politically unreliable? No more. Since the 2014 military coup, the junta and its successor regime have purged the police and made them ever more royalist and loyalist.

A Khaosod report shows how far this has gone, with some police rivaling the military in posterior polishing. It tells of the Samut Prakan City Police Station where some bright spark commander decided to promote himself by having the police on the beat “encourage local residents to attend the daily flag-raising ceremony alongside the officers…”.

The idea was “to instill a sense of patriotism,” with “each police officer on patrol duty was told to invite two residents they’re familiar with to join the National Flag raising ceremony at the police station.”

However, online critics pounced and the order was withdrawn.

Police spokesman Maj Yingyot Themchamnong “told reporters … that the station has since canceled its invitation, due to miscommunication,’ but did not elaborate.”

Yingyot insisted the program was created “to instill ‘love for the Nation, Religions, and Monarchy’.”

We suspect that the effort was right-wing fanaticism, posterior polishing of those above or both.





Official human rights nonsense

17 08 2021

Thanks to a reader for pointing out a recent op-ed by academic Mark S. Cogan at the Southeast Asia Globe.

“Thailand’s human rights narrative runs contrary to reality, even at the UN” has the following sub-header:

Despite cases of lèse-majesté piling up and pro-democracy protesters facing serious charges like sedition, Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review later this year will most likely be as inconsequential as previous UN human rights inspections.

Thailand is due to have its human rights record examined in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in n November. This is Thailand’s third UPR. Cogan states that:

Back in February, in preparation for this upcoming human rights review, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai gave remarks during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, noting that Thailand would “recommit to our common core values in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

He adds that Don’s perspective has little to do with human rights as practiced in the country. In fact:

[p]ublic statements on Thailand’s human rights contributions often boast about the kingdom’s accomplishments…. But these … often mask Thailand’s true record on the ground – a record stained by draconian measures to cripple individual freedom of expression, curb press freedom, and silence regime critics.

Don’s “remarks” were meant “to ensure that the narrative on human rights was crystal clear to the UN – there were no human rights challenges in Thailand…”.

He and other Thai diplomats have almost Pavlovian retorts to any challenges, pointing to the “perceived failure to understand what it means to be Thai, [a] … lack of familiarity with the situation on the ground, or the more nationalistic refrain that highlights Thailand’s unique status as a country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonised.”

Cogan recounts a meeting between Don and three UN officials after the 2014 coup where he went to great lengths “trying to ensure that the trio also understood Thai culture and tradition, the Foreign Minister paused and remarked: “Actually, in summary, Thailand has one of the best human rights records in all of Southeast Asia.” He then “corrected himself and said: ‘No, no, no, Thailand has the best human rights record in Asia’.”

Not even Don believes such nonsense.

Lese majeste is of especial concern. Cogan notes that:

… for its second cycle UPR in 2016, the Thai government compared its lèse majesté law (Article 112) as comparable to libel law for commoners, adding that it is “not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression or academic freedom” and it was implemented in “accordance with due legal process and those convicted are entitled to receive royal pardon”.

It is troubling to PPT that several human rights protectors and the media in Thailand now regularly refer to lese majeste as “royal defamation,” which seems to accept the authoritarians’ narrative. We say, call it by its name.

Lese majeste has seen hundreds locked up, including for Article 112 convictions that don’t even fit the law. As Cogan reminds us, “… Prawet Praphanukul, a human rights lawyer, [was]… locked up in prison after being held at the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok…”. He spent 16 months in prison on lese majeste and sedition charges and when he was finally sentenced, the lese majeste charge was simply not mentioned, probably because, at that time, the erratic king was trying to minimize political damage.

Famously, Prawet bravely rejected the royalist courts. When he appeared in court in 2017 he stunned the court by stating: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.” Prawet added that he would not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Clipped from Prachatai

More recently, Cogan reports, various UN experts were deeply alarmed over the harsh sentence of Anchan Preelerd, a 60-year old former Thai civil servant. She was given a 43-year sentence. In fact, she was sentenced to a mammoth 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because she finally agreed to plead guilty because she had already spent three years in prison pending her trial.

Yet the puppet-like Ministry of Foreign Affairs is straight-faced when it declares the lese majeste law is not “aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the exercise of academic freedom or debate about the monarchy as an institution.” It “went on to suggest once again that the law exists to “protect the dignity of royal families in a similar way a libel law does for any Thai citizen.” That’s buffalo manure, and every single Thai knows this.

Cogan concludes: “Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review, because of its predetermined narrative about its own human rights record, will most likely be as inconsequential as its previous UPR.” Sadly, he’s right. In the years since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s human rights situation has deteriorated into a dark age.





A pandemic of political repression

29 07 2021

Forget the thousands of ill people. What’s important, for the regime and its cops, is charging every political opponent.

The  Bangkok Post reports that Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) is on the hunt for “nine groups … facing prosecution for staging protests and ‘car mob’ rallies in defiance of the emergency law this month.” By “emergency law” it means the emergency decree, which in various forms and guises, has been operating almost continuously since the 2014 military coup.

The nine groups are:

the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration which held a rally on July 2; the Thai Mai Thon protests on July 3, 10, 11; the Prachachon Khon Thai rallies on July 3 and 10; the car mob rallies organised by red-shirt activist Sombat Boonngamanong on July 3 and 10…. The others are the Mok Luang Rim Nam group rally on July 3; the Bangkok Sandbox protest on July 6; the rally led by vocational students on July 9; the Free Youth gathering on July 18; and the protests engineered by the Mu Ban Thalufa on July 22 and 24…. [and] the …”Harley motorbike mob” on July 23 and 25.”

Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the MPB deputy commissioner, said a total of “172 protesters are facing charges under the decree in connection with protests in Bangkok.” But it isn’t just the emergency decree, with the protesters facing dozens of charges.

It seems the police have nothing better to do than to do legal battle with protestors.

The police are engaging in a myriad of legal contortions. For example, they have suddenly decided that honking horns is illegal. Really? In Bangkok? Yep, they reckon that “vehicles honked their horns, disturbing people nearby and other motorists. The rally participants are also accused of causing heavy traffic congestion.” Yes, again, that’s in Bangkok.

They are brazen in their twisting of law and spreading the virus of injustice in a pandemic of political repression.

 





Class, gender, protest

20 07 2021

Eurasia ReviewIf readers haven’t already seen them, we suggest reading to recent articles at Eurasia Review, considering aspects of class and gender in Thailand in an era of virus and political protest. They are relatively long articles, so we just preview them here.

Eurasia Review’s Murray Hunter observes:

Thailand’s class divisions have dramatically widened during the Covid-19 pandemic. With students returning to the streets in protest, even with tight crowd restrictions in place, after a three-month hiatus during the pandemic, the Prayuth Chan-ocha regime is faltering in public support and perceived competence to handle a dramatic linear increase in case numbers.

He adds that:

With the prime minister and his entourage seen not obeying rules to wear masks at all times during the opening of the Phuket “sandbox”, on July 1, a scheme to bring back foreign tourists to Thailand, the covid pandemic has become the symbol of a great class divide.

Unemployment, poverty and inequality have all increased. Double standards are common:

The Prayuth government has attempted to balance economic considerations and public health in making decisions about restrictions. Large manufacturing concerns have not been under any restrictions during the pandemic, even though small and service businesses have been restricted, with many ordered to close, last year for a number of months on end. Many provincial hotels were forced to shutdown for months, with many never reopening….

The escalating pandemic in Thailand has focused attention of the double standards applicable to the elite in society and the others. This has been very evident in the vaccine rollout. The elite and privileged have been able to secure a vaccination before many of the vulnerable in society. While people have been suffering, the grounds and infrastructure of the [king’s] grand palace complex in central Bangkok has been enlarged, to become a city within a city.

The result of all of this is that “Thailand is now in a much deeper era of class division, where the poor have become poorer, over the duration of the pandemic.”

The Eurasia Review’s other piece is on feminism and protest in Thailand, authored by Wichuta Teeratanabodee. She notes that the criticism of royalism “has set this group of protestors apart from its predecessors.” It is a “youth movement” and a “network of many groups — including feminists, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and environmental activists in addition to students.” Wichuta observes:

The conspicuous roles of young women in this ongoing wave of protests have put them in the spotlight…. Unlike in previous rallies, which were often led by males, women are now taking on leadership roles to call for democracy. Simultaneously, they have shared stories of women’s struggles in Thai society, focusing particularly on women’s status in politics — which has worsened markedly since the 2014 coup…. [F]eminists in the pro-democracy protests see themselves fighting a two-front war. On one front they demand democracy and an end to the current authoritarian regime, and on another, they fight for gender equality against fellow pro-democracy protestors who do not support feminist objectives….

Feminist and non-feminist protestors in today’s Thailand have a common enemy – the authoritarian regime, which — one prominent activist scholar contends —  has shown “no signs of …willingness to negotiate with democracy”….

We recommend both articles.








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