Military media

11 10 2021

A chilling report at Prachatai suggests that in October 2021 the military’s media is revamping itself for ultra-royalist, extreme rightist agitation, much as it did in 1975-76.

The military’s TV Channel 5 is hiring “four ultra-royalist hosts from Top News … [to] host 7 hours a day … from 3 January 2022.”

The hosts, Kanok Ratwongsakul, Teera Tanyapaibul, Santisuk Marongsri, and Sathaporn Kuasakul, claim they will be “delivering impartial and accurate reports.” That seems unlikely.

Channel 5 or the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station is a free-to-air television network owned by the Royal Thai Army, and was launched on 25 January 1958. It is not a particularly popular broadcaster, ranking about 18th in ratings, and one motivation for this rightist move is to increase the broadcaster’s popularity. Becoming bellicosely ultra-royalist is seen as a way to do this.

Lt Gen Rangsi Kitiyanasap, Managing Director of Channel 5, says that the new programming “will provide information that will end the public division and help Thailand out of the economic and health crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19…”. That is code for supporting regime and monarchy.

Lt Gen Rangsi babbled, channeling Fox News:

The goal of presenting news on Channel 5 will emphasize news which is the truth in all aspects, with in-depth detail, and importantly, which does not create division in society, and does not add fuel, but pulls firewood out of the fire. We will be a mainstream media outlet which will not judge who is wrong or right, but presents comprehensive information and lets the people decide….

The general claimed the new contract was with “GMC, with Chaiwat Techapaitoon as Chair of the Executive Board, [and] was a different legal entity from Top News Digital Media Co Ltd, which has Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham as its founder.” As Prachatai explains: “Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021.”

Military and military-backed media were notorious in the 1970s for their agitation against students and democracy advocates. Sound familiar? Back then, that media promoted the forces who assassinated activists and massacred students at Thammasat University.





1976 in the news

7 10 2021

The Bangkok Post reported on the memorial rally, but little more. On that memorial event it noted:

Little has changed in the 45 years since students and activists were massacred by the military and rightwing radicals at Thammasat University….

This point was made by speakers when activists and members of the victims’ families gathered on Wednesday at the memorial at Thammasat University….

The Thalufah group said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that they would never forget the events of Oct 6 1976, and said violent means were unacceptable nowdays.

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said students continued to fight for democracy 45 years later, with the country still divided with no political solution to the problem.

Despite the efforts of the state and especially the bureaucracy, military and monarchy, the events of 1976 have never been forgotten. The state’s success has been in preventing any meaningful investigation, covering up the events, and in providing impunity for the murderers who stalked the students at Thammasat and for several years after. Yet another effort is being made to rectify this, although the International Criminal Court is a high hurdle.

Kudos to Thai Examiner for its several reports on 6 October 1976. It did much better than most of the mainstream media. We are especially grateful for their interview with Sutham Saengprathum who was Secretary-General of the National Student Center of Thailand in 1976. As we recall it – correct us if our collective memory is faulty – Sutham was jailed as a political prisoner for a long period, and there was an international campaign for his release.

We especially like hearing from other students of the period as much of the “heavy lifting” on 1976 has been done in English by Thongchai Winichakul. See recent efforts here and here. Without other voices in English accounts, 1976 risks becoming Thongchai’s 1976. His major contribution is Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok, available from Library Genesis.

 





Remembering the 1976 massacre VI

6 10 2021

Be sure to visit the site documenting 1976.

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the final post from the past, from 2016:

Making a cruel point

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 the 1976 massacre V

5 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre.

Of course, as Thai Enquirer points out, the current government and the military want people to forget the events of 6 October. This regime is pathetic, trying to “use the Covid outbreak as an excuse to stop the October 6 Massacre remembrance ceremony.” Pathetic and evil. It has been “pressuring the university [Thammasat] to act to stop the ceremony.”

The university’s action, to block access to the monument that commemorates the event, has been roundly criticized by many people on social media and offline. It is a pathetic cowering for an institution whose students were massacred by right wing actors on October 6, 1976.

Here’s the fifth of our posts, from 2011:

Remembering 6 October 1976

PPT joins with others in remembering the terrible events of 6 October 1976.

An AP photo

We have mentioned this before: The BBC has a program in its Witness series on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Ajarn Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Ajarn Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey by following the links here.

PPT has Ajarn Puey’s famous “letter” that he wrote following the 1976 military coup and published as a pamphlet by The Union of Democratic Thais in the U.S. Our post from last year deserves attention again.

Prachatai has published a series of gruesome new photos from the horrific events.





Remembering the 1976 massacre IV

5 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the fourth, from 2015:

On 6 October 1976

The military massacre of 6 October 1976 should never be forgotten for its brutality in “protecting” the monarchy and using royalist gangs to murder.

Thai Rath Newspaper

Thai Rath Newspaper, from 2Bangkok.com

This picture is of a Thai Rath front page of events in Bangkok on 6 October 1976.

Readers are reminded of articles about this tragic event that we have on our site with permission from Critical Asian Studies. These articles are from the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars Special Supplement on “October 1976: The Coup in Thailand” as it appeared in Volume 9, Number 3, July-September 1977:

  • Cover, contents and introduction  to the Supplement by Jayne Werner (bcas_9-3-1977_cover_intro)
  • Puey Ungphakorn, “Violence and the Military Coup in Thailand” with an Introduction by David Millikin (bcas_9-3-1977_puey)
  • Ben Anderson, “Withdrawal Symptoms: Social and Cultural Aspects of the October 6 Coup” (bcas_9-3-1977_anderson)
  • E. Thadeus Flood, “The Vietnamese refugees in Thailand: Minority Manipulation in Counterinsurgency” (bcas_9-3-1977_flood)
  • Carl A. Trocki, “Boonsanong Punyodyana: Thai Socialist and Scholar, 1936-1976″ including an interview with Boonsanong from the Far Eastern Economic Review (bcas_9-3-1977_trocki)

Some of these links probably still work:

student-6oct1

 

Prachatai on photos of 6 October

The Guardian on a brutal Thai coup

Wikipedia on 6 October massacre

Pokpong Lawansiri on demystifying and remembering

Puey Ungpakorn on 6 October (opens a PDF)





Remembering the 1976 massacre III

5 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the third, from 2012:

Remembering the 6 October royalist massacre

2012

As we have pointed out several times in recent weeks, the royalist state is “protected” by the military and ultra-royalists. This task requires that these groups – most especially the military – repress and kill citizens seen as dissidents or an opposition.

In 1976, this protection of the monarchy saw murders in the monarchy’s name. The most dramatic and horrible event was the royalist-inspired attack on people – mostly students – damned as “disloyal.” This massacre at Thammasat University, probably killed more people than the dark events of April and May 2010, yet there has never been any state investigation nor anyone sent to trial. Impunity was the rule because the state’s troops and rightist gangs were doing the work of the royalist state. The main perpetrators of the massacre are claimed to be the Border Patrol Police who trained many of the rightist gangs in the name of the monarchy and with considerable U.S. funding. The BPP was and remains close to the royal family.

The regime that was put in place following the massacre and a coup was, like 2006, headed by a palace favorite. Thanin Kraivixien remains a Privy Counselor even today, considered “respected” because of that. Yet the fact is that his administration was one of the most right-wing, repressive and brutal regimes. Mercifully, after just a year, he was thrown out by another coup, led by General Kriangsak Chomanan, who was never forgiven by the palace for throwing out the its prime minister. Of course, this led to Kriangsak’s ouster, arranged to replace him with General Prem Tinsulanond, another palace favorite, who remains president of the Privy Council today. Just days after the bloodshed, the crown prince distributed awards to paramilitary personnel involved.

In other words, the massacre at Thammasat University was intimately linked to palace political machinations. Neither the palace nor the military has been far from the politics of the period since, and the massacres of Bangkok protesters seen in 1992 and 2010.

A major event was organized to remember this 1976 event. It is in Thai and can be found here. Prachatati released new pictures from the period last year, and the BBC has a 10-minute documentary worth accessing. So is Puey Ungpakorn’s account of the events around 6 October.





Remembering the 1976 massacre II

4 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the second, from 2020:

Remembering 6 October after 44 years 

44 years after the massacre at Thammasat University, Thailand remains under a under a military-backed regime, under an emergency decree and with a monarch who cut his political teeth in the aftermath of this terrible event.

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 in the palace. The then king was pleased with the outcome.

Each year we post on this day, remembering those who were murdered, burned alive, raped and beaten. 6 Oct

This year we link to just a few of the stories that are available:





Remembering the 1976 massacre I

3 10 2021

Over the next couple of days, PPT will reproduce some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the first, from 2017:

6 October and dictatorship

A few days ago PPT posted about the new website has been launched from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, to establish and maintain an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

On this day in 1976, royalists and rightists were mobilized with and by the police and military in a massacre of students and others they had decided were threats to the monarchy. With claims of lese majeste and communists at work, these “protectors” of the monarchy and royal family engaged in an orgy of violence, killing, injuring and arresting thousands.

For a radio program on the events, listen to the BBC’s Witness story on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Ajarn Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Prof Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey on the terrible events by following the links here.

The king and the royal family fully supported the massacre at Thammasat University.

In remembering this massacre in the name of the monarchy, we are reminded that the current military dictatorship bears many of the characteristics of the dictatorship that resulted from the murderous events of 6 October in 1976.

Thanin Kraivixien was a dedicated fascist judge who served the king. His government was established to turn back the political clock and established a 12 year plan to do this. Today, three years of military dictatorship is meant to be followed by 20 years of rewinding under military, royalist and rightist tutelage.

Mercifully, Thanin’s extreme authoritarianism only lasted a year but military-backed rule continued until 1988, first with General Kriangsak Chomanan as premier. He was replaced by the more reliable royalist posterior polisher, General Prem Tinsulanonda. After 1988, Prem retained considerable political influence and has repeatedly supported military coups. His support for the current dictatorship has been stated several times.

Update: The military remains exceptionally prickly about this event of 41 years ago. And justifiably so in that military fingerprints are all over one of Thailand’s worst massacres of civilians. So it is that Khaosod reports that a film about the event was prevented from being screened on the anniversary. By the Time It Gets Dark or ดาวคะนอง is a 2016 film directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong. It has has some very good reviews.

But the military censors weren’t interested in art. According to Khaosod, theatre owner Thida Plitpholkarnpim announced two hours before it was to show that the thugs had said no. She added: “Don’t ask for the reason…. They misunderstood the story of the film. They couldn’t even remember the name of [tonight’s] activity.”





Army impunity

24 01 2021

The impunity enjoyed by officials has a long history in Thailand but it is undeniable that it has expanded and deepened since the the 2006 military coup. Under the current regime there is essentially zero accountability for officials. Sure, there are occasional “crackdowns” and the odd prosecution, but the rule that officials can get away with stuff – even murder – holds.

In a Bangkok Post editorial, questions are raised about the Royal Thai Army, which celebrated “its strength and solidarity” on Armed Forces Day.

The editorial asks the public to “keep in mind that military officials still owe a few explanations on its pledge to reform, following several cases, including the Korat mass shooting last year that left a huge stain on its image.”

Clipped from Khaosod

It points out that on 8-9 February 2020, a disgruntled soldier “shot and killed 29 innocent people and wounded 57 others in Nakhon Ratchasima…”. The killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. Indeed, this corruption continues. The Post mentions an alleged “illegal allocation of over 70,000 rai of forest land in Nakhon Ratchasima for a real estate project involving senior army officers.”

Yes, the very same province as the mass shooting. The Post adds that there “have been no reports of an investigation, let alone progress and punishment of culprits.”

The Post then recalls the unexplained death of a military conscript – there’s been more than one case – and asks: “How can the RTA restore public trust when it is entrenched in scandals? Why should the public trust a force of armed men who can barely be transparent in their affairs?”

How many times have we heard such pleading. In fact, it is as many times as reform has been rejected by the military as the Army maintains it impunity and its control.

We should note that the Post editorial mistakenly states that the Korat shooting “is considered the deadliest mass shooting in the kingdom’s history.” This mistake reflects some big omissions.

The biggest is the murder of almost a hundred red shirts and bystanders in April and May 2010. Who has been held accountable? No one from the Army.

Who killed protesters in 1992? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters on 14 October 1973? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered people at Kru Se in 2004 and Tak Bai the same year? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

What about the enforced disappearances of activists and unexplained murder of civilians like Chaiyapoom Pasae? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

The list could go on and on and on.





Challenging monarchism I

27 10 2020

Pro-democracy protesters have dramatically changed Thailand’s political and cultural landscape.

One of the best examples is in newspaper reporting. Some outlets have gone full-on mad monarchist, but all are reporting on the monarchy as never before. It was only a few weeks ago that Thais relying on the mainstream media might easily have thought that the king and queen were living in Thailand. Almost no outlet ever mentioned much about the royals spending all their time in Germany and Switzerland.

That’s all changed.

These outlets have to report on events such as last evening’s march to the German Embassy in Bangkok. In reporting such events, the media find that they must say something about them. Sure, they still self-censor on the most radical statements and the students poking fun at the monarch and even purloining his recent statements to ultra-royalists as anti-monarchy memes. For example, when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the demand that he go, the Khana Ratsadon 2563 named the 26 October march to the German Embassy “Very Brave, Very Good,” with the note: “Because we can’t talk sense with the dog, we shall talk to the dog’s owner.” A huge banner read: “Reform the Monarchy.”

While not mainstream, like many other outlets, Thisrupt explained why the protesters were going to the German Embassy: “Today, Khana Ratsadon will march from Samyan Intersection to the German Embassy on Sathorn Road. Germany has been the residence of … King Rama 10 for many years. ”

The Nation reports: “Pro-democracy demonstrators submitted a letter to the German embassy in Bangkok on Monday asking its government to investigate whether HM the King is ruling from German soil.” The protesters stated; “The request is aimed at reinstating … the King to Thailand so the Palace is placed under the Constitution and Thailand can return to being a genuine constitutional monarchy…”.

A Thai PBS photo

Thai PBS reports: “Thousands of protesters ended their rally in front of the German Embassy on South Sathorn Road after submitting a letter addressed to the German government stressing their call for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign and demanding a probe into … the King’s frequent visits to Germany.”

Can anyone imagine such a reporting even a month ago?

Even anti-democrat ultra-royalists have had to acknowledge that the king they claim to revere prefers to spend his time living the high life in Germany. Their tiny rally at the German Embassy before the thousands of pro-democracy protesters showed up, begged the German government to ignore the “false information” about their usually absent king.

We don’t think the monarchy can recover from this. Of course, after its involvement in the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University, the monarchy took years to recover its ideological hegemony, mainly through military-backed government led by unelected premier and groveling royalist Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. In parliament, ultra-royalists like the reprehensible Paiboon Nititawan, an MP for the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, continue to wind the clock backwards, “accusing protesters of trying to overthrow the monarchy.”

Military supporters like Paiboon may want the extreme repression and bloodshed they’ll need to push the anti-royalist genie back into the bottle. We think the bottle is also broken.








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