Making a cruel point

17 11 2016

student-6oct1The 6 October 1976 massacre was one of the Thai military’s periodic interventions in politics that saw many citizens murdered and arrested.

While the numbers killed total in the 40s for official counts, but perhaps 10 times this in reality.

This massacre was particularly brutal, with civilians being raped, burned alive, lynched, dismembered and tortured. It was conducted by police, military and rightist and royalist gangs that owed allegiance to the palace.

The ruling class cheered the end of a turbulent democracy that they had been unable to totally control.

The monarchy, fearful of communism, unions, students and socialists, thanked those who supported it by murdering and imprisoning those it identified as enemies.

The king spoke to his “subjects” about their duties to support his murderous regime – he had had his man Thanin Kraivixien, appointed premier. This event and the monarchy’s central role was defining of a brief reign of terror under Thanin’s regime, followed by a long period of military and military-backed governments, lasting through until 1988.6-october-1976

The full speech by the then king is reproduced in Prachatai and we reproduce it here, because of its callous support for authoritarianism and rejection of democratic politics.

The speech doesn’t mention these things directly, but everyone knew that the king was supporting those who massacred political opponents:

People of Thailand, thank you for expressing your kindness and cordiality to me, the Queen and all of our children. Thank you for your cooperation and support in all our activities which has given us much encouragement.

The Thai people have clearly expressed their wishes. With this, there is a common understanding and there is an opportunity to work together in order to fulfil our aspirations. Although there may be obstacles or challenges along the way, we can overcome them as long as we sincerely cooperate with one another. However, we should also understand that the country’s overall situation is not so promising.

I strongly wish that all of us could understand and see the reality of the situation in our country.

6-oct-1976Currently our country needs to be improved and developed to the highest level of efficiency so that we can fully optimise the use of resources on our land, as well as wholly benefit from the labour force and wisdom of all Thais. We must utilise them in order to swiftly advance our country and bring about prosperity in all dimensions.

For this purpose, we must urgently execute many development projects and implement them quickly and fruitfully. We cannot delay them for any reason otherwise we will lose out on any potential benefits and in this case it will be damaging.

We can contribute by being strongly determined to uphold the nation’s interest, forego personal interests and refrain from unnecessary disputes.

Those who hold duties and responsibilities must tend to them and successfully fulfil them to the best of their potential and with honesty, with compassion, compromise and goodwill. Our collective work will soon lead to success and a lasting development for our nation.beating_corpse-6-october_1976

I would like to invite the blessings of the Triple Gems and all things sacred to the Thai people to protect you all from danger and misfortune and to bestow upon you good health, inspiration, wisdom and unity, so that you can perform your duties in order to move our country forward while also maintaining our sovereignty and peace for the sake of our well-being and prosperity. I wish you all happiness and success in your endeavours throughout the New Year.

Why is this of interest now? Because the current royalist military junta has decided that every Thai must be reminded of its power for tyranny and repression, in the name of the monarchy. It has chosen to do this with a 9-minute anthem that all Thais will have to listen to and respect into the future. It is also a threat.





Remembering 6 October after 40 years

6 10 2016

40 years after the massacre at Thammasat University, and Thailand is again under a under the boot of a military dictatorship.

The 6 October 1976 attack on students and supporters by rightist and royalist vigilantes was supported and promoted by elements in the police, military and palace.

Each year we post on this day, remembering those who were murdered, burned alive, raped and beaten. Previous posts: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.6 Oct

This year, we link to just a few of the stories that have become available because it is the 40th anniversary of those tragic and brutal events:

The military dictatorship prefers that Thais do not remember such events.





Chinese flunkies or anti-democratic sloths?

5 10 2016

Thai authorities have detained and will or have deported Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong.

Prachatai reports that Wong was detained “at the request of the Chinese government” in the “early hours on 5 October 2016…”.

wongThe report states that Wong “was invited to the faculty of political science, Chulakongkorn university, to give a talk on new generation’s politics at an event commemorating 6 October [1976]…”.

Wong’s “political group” is said to have issued “a statement condemning the Thai authorities.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post also reports on Wong’s detention. The 19-year-old, “famed for his galvanising role in the city’s 2014 pro-democracy ‘umbrella movement’, “had apparently been held incommunicado by authorities. His group in Hong Kong says they have been unable to contact him for at least 10 hours.

Activists in Bangkok stated that Tourist Police stated that the detention followed “a written letter from the Chinese government to the Thai government concerning this person.”

As the Post points out, this is not the first time that the military dictatorship has appeared to be acting as the Chinese regime’s toadies. Thailand deported more than 100 Uighurs to an uncertain fate in China just over a year ago. The disappearance of Chinese dissidents and their reappearance in China and in custody suggests Thai collaboration with agents of the Chinese state.

The military regime is certainly willing to do Beijing’s bidding. At the same time, the junta is so anti-democratic that the idea of a democracy activist arriving in Bangkok to commemorate the 1976 slaughter of civilians that was prompted by rightists, royalists, palace and military is not likely to be appreciated. It is likely that in doing Beijing’s bidding the military dictatorship is also serving its own warped interests.





Liberal authoritarianism

25 03 2016

An aged former prime minister who served twice but was never elected seems like an unlikely source for advice on democracy. That he served a military junta and then was put in place by the king in an arguably unconstitutional move should add to considerable doubt about his credentials.

Anand

But this is the Teflon-coated patrician Anand Panyarachun, sometimes seen as one of Thailand’s “liberal” royalists. So it is that the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand decides to invite the old liberal royalist to give his views, yet again. Some journalists have tweeted and gone on social media making out that Anand is someone who must be taken seriously while posing with him in photos as if he is a celebrity.

The Straits Times refers to Anand as “Thailand’s elder statesman…. Today, he remains among a handful of people with the stature to be able to speak his mind even under a military government.”

What the article should probably have stated is that he is one of the few to be able to speak and not fear detention. Others speak their mind, but are harassed because they say things that are interpreted as critical of the junta. Anand is essentially a junta supporter. He supported both the 2006 and 2014 military-palace coups. He doesn’t say anything that is likely to get the junta steamed up.

The truth is that Anand is a royalist authoritarian who seeks to cloak his anti-democratic perspectives in a language of “transparency,” “anti-corruption,” “human rights” and a decidedly technocratic language for Western audiences is interpreted in Thailand as the code of a supporter of the anti-democrats.

Anand’s speech is reproduced at the Bangkok Post. Interestingly, the only persons cited in it are the king – ho hum – Gandhi and a rightist libertarian (rather than a liberal).

It is a Khaosod report that shows the anti-democrat authoritarian. Anand declared that “people [he means Western critics and the journalists he spoke to] should not see coups and their makers in black or white, adding that those in Thailand are different from those in Africa or Latin America.” He defended the “unique nature of [Thailand’s] military coups.”

Ignoring the military’s repeated use of war weapons against its own people, “Anand said coups in Thailand are bloodless and nonviolent…”. He went further:

They are not brutal and bloody,” Anand said of the 12 “successful” coups in the eight-decades of modern political history. “I am not proud of that, but the damage is relatively insignificant.”

We understand that he needs to dissemble in order to support the 2014 coup, but he does this by ignoring mass murder. He ignores 1976, the attempts by the military to stay in power in 1973 and 1992, and the more generalized use of deadly force against civilians, most recently in April and May 2010. This is crude elite justification of military rule and its murderous past.

FDIHe also went into liar mode when he said “the most recent coup that installed the military regime of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha in May 2014 hasn’t deterred foreign investment.” The real picture is in the graph.

If on looks at Board of Investment data, the declines following the coup are even sharper, as shown in the graphs from the Nikkei Asian Review.BOI

He defended the current junta:

At one point Anand was asked by a Singaporean journalist if the current military regime is capable of pushing for reform.

“Just because because they are a military government, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or always stupid,” he said.

Asked about democracy in Thailand, he said: “I’m not apologetic about the slow pace of the development of democracy.  I am sure I will not live to see it. I am 83.”

It is clear that the talk of human rights, rule of law, transparency and so on are not elements of a democratic Thailand but of a technocratic and authoritarian Thailand. When “liberal royalists” preach it is self-interested class warfare.

He even blames the “people” for the longevity of the military: “I think in a way that helps the present military regime to survive, because quite a number of people still give them credit for restoring peace and order.”

He does not blame his own class as the ones who cheer the military and benefit from its repressive power, again and again. He may not want a military regime for years to come, but he knows his class needs the military.





The last Thai king?

15 11 2015

A few days ago we linked to a PDF we have had at the site for several years. In the current circumstances, and with its resonances for the current period, we feel it appropriate to make the text of the 1978 document available without having to download a PDF that might get people into trouble in royalist Thailand. Here it is, as it appeared under the title listed above:King

When King Rama I, founder of Thailand’s present dynasty, laid the cornerstone for the Bangkok Palace, he had to choose between two dates for the ceremony. According to the royal astronomer, one date would assure the dynasty a long life — through nine kings — at the cost of widespread popular suffering, The other date promised the country’s people a peaceful and prosperous life, but it also carried the prediction that the dynasty would last for only a few kings. After due consideration, Rama I laid the palace cornerstone on the date which favored the longevity of the dynasty. Today’s King Bhumipol, who believes profoundly in the wisdom of astronomers, is the ninth king in the dynasty founded by Rama I. On August 17, 1976, an astronomer told King Bhumipol that he could prolong the life of the dynasty by killing 30,000 people, with September and October as auspicious months for the massacre. Although the death toll on October 6 was nowhere near 30,000, the savagery of the coup, much of it carried out by the royal-sponsored Village Scouts, was unprecedented in recent Thai history.

Frequently described as above politics and beloved by all Thais, the Royal Family actually has powerful economic reasons for opposing any radical changes in the status quo. In addition to owning vast areas of land – and collecting rent on them – the Royal Family is deeply involved in Thailand’s capitalist economy. It holds shares in leading banks – which are under royal patronage – and industries, including Firestone Rubber, and it enjoys special privileges in exporting the products of royal lands. The Crown Property Bureau is the richest organization in Thailand, and the King’s Personal Property Office accounts for the highest personal income in the country. All of this was threatened by the events of 1973-76, forcing the Royal Family to enter the political arena directly and forfeit its image of benign detachment.

Phoo Phaakpboom, The Present King and the Coup d’Etat (unpublished)





The dictatorship stumbling and bumbling

13 10 2015

In a recent post, we noted how the military dictatorship seems enamored of its weird version of history. In that perspective, the 1976 October massacre is a victory for monarchists and the May 1992 massacre is seen as some kind of political mistake. As we noted, Marx put it this way: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Appointing Meechai Ruchupan, a villain of 1991-2, as the chief constitution writer appears to support Marx’s contention. Farce becomes an absurdity when the junta and Meechai appoint the aged academic Tinnapan Nakata as chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly.

The Bangkok Post reports that not only is Tinnapan 81 years of age, but he was a “minister in the 1992 ‘Black May’ government has been named  over the protests of relatives of victims of the deadly street protests…”. He was a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office “during the brief, turbulent tenure of Suchinda Kraprayoon, who resigned after seven weeks in office following street protests in which 52 people officially were confirmed dead while hundreds went missing after soldiers opened fire on unarmed students and demonstrators.”

Naturally enough, relatives of Black May victims had protested Tinnapan’s appointment.

The junta is bumbling. Deliberately insulting the middle class who are associated with the protests against the Suchinda government is a political error. It isn’t a single fumble.

The Nation reports that the regime is after a middle-class NGO. The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) has been around for a considerable time, funded by so-called sin taxes. The Bangkok Post states that The Dictator “Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered authorities to look into … ThaiHealth … to ensure its funds are being spent to improve people’s health and promote the well-being of the general public.”

A junta audit panel reportedly “found ThaiHealth’s budget this year may not have been spent properly. The report found that more than half of the foundation’s funds went on financing political reform projects, election procedures and assessing the Thai political landscape, which were not related to health promotion.”

ThaiHealth has denied the allegations.

Whatever the situation with ThaiHealth’s funding, this represents another attack on the middle class that has emerged from the 1990s. If they junta continues down this path, its tenure is likely to face broader protest.





Silenced memories of 6 October

9 10 2015

After we posted on 6 October, remembering the terrible events at Thammasat University, when the military, police and rightist thugs massacred students in the name of protecting the monarchy, a reader sent us a link to a documentary we had not seen. We embed it below: