Old farts and their lies

19 06 2018

Old fart is sometimes considered a pejorative term. In this case it certainly is meant that way.

Constitution drafter to several military and fascist regimes Meechai Ruchupan is an old fart. He’s a continual meddler on behalf of the past.

Recently he was forced to deny that the constitution he dutifully prepared the anti-democratic charter for the military dictatorship “was written with a goal of paving the way for a government of ‘national unity’ after the next general election.”

Meechai, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, then lied. Not just fibbed, but lied big time: “He declared that the junta’s constitution … was based on suggestions from public members.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Meechai must not be permitted to lie about the junta’s basic law.

The junta’s constitution was drawn up on the military dictatorship’s orders, based on anti-democratic ideology, written by the junta’s puppets and approved by the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly.

While the charter was approved in a referendum, this vote was neither free nor fair, with the dictatorship’s thugs preventing any campaign against it or any criticism.

The only major changes made were ordered by King Vajiralongkorn who took the opportunity to grab more power for himself, which the junta granted in secret sessions of the NLA.

Meechai lied again when he claimed it was impossible to scheme on an election outcome: “You can’t plot such a plan that is speculated…”.

That’s buffalo manure. The most basic reason for the2014 military coup was to ensure that pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties could never win another election. It plotted to do this by changing the electoral rules in ways that seek to ensure such an outcome.

Meechai’s lies were piled one on another as he declared that the junta’s Constitution was written to benefit of the public. The charter was drawn up to benefit the amart, the elite, royalists, anti-democrats and the military.

Meechai’s lies are a part of a process to prevent changes being made to the junta’s constitution should all of the above fail and an anti-junta regime somehow comes to power.





Get rid of the horrid monarchy law

2 05 2018

A Nation Editorial deserves attention as a call for reform of the despot’s political law of choice, the lese majeste law. It has been used brazenly to repress.

PPT has posted hundreds of times on the misuse of this law. It has been used in ways that are unconstitutional and unlawful. Persons have been convicted for what they did not say, for what they did not write. Some have been convicted for “crimes” against persons not covered by the law. Mothers and children have been convicted. Disabled and sick persons have received long sentences. Persons have been convicted on forced guilty pleas when they were not guilty. Sentences have been huge and the treatment of prisoners on lese majeste charges has been tortuous and unlawful. It has been used against political opponents and against some who have fallen out of favor in the palace itself.

The editorial states that “Somyot Pruksakasemsuk’s release after years in prison affords a chance to reflect on deeply unfair abuses of the law.” We could not agree more.

It says his “release from prison on Monday … should prompt the authorities to review the draconian lese majeste law, which was designed specifically to protect the monarchy but continues to be misused for political ends.”

Of course, it was “designed specifically” protect the military and politico-business elite. It protects a system and a configuration of power, not the monarchy on its own. The monarchy is the keystone for a repressive power structure that sucks wealth to those associated with the military-monarchy-tycoon elite or, as some say, the amart.

On the particular case, the editorial states that Somyos was jailed as a political opponent. It states that “[i]t was not and is not illegal to be aligned with the red shirt movement supporting former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his regimes’ policies. And it was unfair for Somyot to have been identified as anti-monarchy without evidence.”

It reminds us that Somyos was arrested and jailed by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime “as he was circulating a petition calling for Article 112 of the Penal Code – the lese majeste law – to be amended.” Indeed, Somyos was targeted because he opposed the very law that was used against him. The amart have a sense of purpose when opposing those who endanger the power structure.

The editorial states:

Article 112 is quite straightforward. It says anyone who defames insults or threatens the King, Queen, heir-apparent or regent shall be imprisoned for three to 15 years. The authorities’ case against Somyot was that he had published in his magazine two articles by Jit Pollachan, a pseudonym used by an exiled politician. The law was applied beyond its intended scope and meaning. The two articles merely mentioned the roles of the monarchy. There was no inherent insult to the monarchy.

Indeed, a majority of lese majeste cases fall into similar “misuses” of the law. But that’s the point. Lese majeste is designed to be used in these ways to protect the power structure.

It continues:

Thus, cases are often handled as though Thailand was still an absolute monarchy rather than a nation under the modern rule of law. People charged with lese majeste are routinely denied bail and held in pre-trial detention for months. Somyot was denied bail 16 times.

As the editor of a periodical, Somyot should have been protected by the Printing Act and the Constitution’s safeguards covering freedom of expression. But the Constitutional Court ruled in October 2012 that lese majeste breaches represented threats to national security and thus overrode any such protection.

When the editorial concludes by observing that “Somyot’s case should give all citizens pause for thought. Political reform is badly needed, and this unfair practice in particular has to be rolled back,” it makes a point that is very significant. It will scare the regime and those who benefit from this law.





The slow death of the amart’s judiciary

14 04 2018

PPT remains somewhat confused as to why the miltiary junta sorted out the judiciary’s luxury housing project on the side of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. Perhaps there are some hints in Wasant Techawongtham’s Bangkok Post op-ed.

The housing project “is said to be 98% completed at a cost of more than a billion baht.” The “project was ill-conceived. Some might even argue it was unlawful.”

He then acknowledges that the project “will certainly go down in the history books for setting a precedent that sent tremors through the establishment.” Why’s that? Shooting down dozens of demonstrators and jailing hundreds seems not to bother the “establishment,” sometimes known as the amart.

Apparently, it was “unrestrained public criticism of the judiciary” that was shaking the establishment to its (judicial) foundation. Wasant says that such criticism “was almost unheard of before this case exploded on social media.”

We are not sure that Wasant has been listening. What of all that talk of double standards? He wasn’t listening because he has the royalist position on judiciary. He says:

Courts are normally held in awe as judges are believed to perform their duties with the King’s authority. Any slight against a judge is taken to be a slight against the monarch.

Lawyers and laymen alike observe strict protocol when making comments about judicial decisions or conduct so as to avoid being cited for contempt of court….

The mountain is part of Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, which is also where the Bhubing Palace, the winter residence of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and family, is located.

Is this the reason for the junta’s rapid decision to solve this issue?

If these links are important how is it “the judiciary became the receptacle for the masses to vent their frustration and anger at all that has gone wrong under the regime — the lack of freedom, double standards, blatant inequality, cronyism, corruption and all those other social and economic ills affecting the majority of citizens.”

Yet Wasant is pretty sure the foundation of the establishment can be “saved”: “Despite widespread criticism, I believe the judiciary remains the most respected part of the bureaucracy.”

Think again. The umbilical cord from judiciary to establishment, monarchy and military dictatorship is one negative. But the politicized nature of the its “work” has undermined the judiciary.





Updated: Control and surveillance

25 12 2016

The puppet National Legislative Assembly’s dutiful passing of amendments to the computer crimes law came despite considerable opposition expressed in a giant petition.

The revised law expands the capacity of the military junta’s capacity to “protect” itself and the monarchy, there has been more opposition. Limited in so many ways by the junta’s repression, the opposition has involved hactivism, some brave demonstrations and more discussion.

A forum held today saw critics warning of the impacts of the law but also of the junta’s broader plans for greater control and surveillance.

Sarinee Achawanantakul of the Thai Netizen Network told the forum that several other draft bills, which will also be dutifully passed by the NLA, including the Cyber Security Bill and a radio frequency allocation bill, will expand the state’s control. Sarinee “said the government sector had an idea to control mainstream media.”

Its an important point.

The military dictatorship wants to control everything and oppress everyone. However, this is not new in any way. Rather, this is the “traditional” role of the “king’s servants.”

The civil and military bureaucracy has long allocated to itself the paternalist role, ensuring that the children-citizens are properly ordered. As with everything else the dictatorship does, this is rolling back the years and the political developments since 1992 that began to alter the relationship between the military-monarchy regime and its bureaucracy (amart) and the children-citizens (phrai).

Update: The Bangkok Post has an updated story on the forum.





Updated: Erasing 1932

24 06 2015

Pridi

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong. We do so again today.

In 2009 we noted that in recent years the anniversary of the event was barely noticed amongst the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries. More recently the determined royalist efforts to erase an event they consider horrendous for reducing royal powers and granting sovereignty to common people has made the anniversary less significant. Of course, for many years, the royalist aim has been to push the events of 1932 from the public agenda and to “forget” that the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy. To a certain extent, red shirts reclaimed the legacy of 1932 in opposing the amart, but this was short-lived.

Today, under the military dictatorship has decreed that the anniversary should not be “used” as a political act. In other words, the dinosaurs running “modern” Thailand prefer a feudal Thailand.

As we did in 2009, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

PPT has extracted and lightly edited this document from the excellent book Pridi on Pridi, translated by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, and published by Silkworm Books. It is available from the Pridi/Phoonsuk website.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932

Update: Prachatai has a series of reports regarding the 1932 anniversary, all worth reading: Anti-coup activists and the police, arresting an activist in hospital and remembering 1932 under surveillance.





The dictatorship’s boys

26 07 2014

Military dictatorships are usually dominated by older men with testosterone issues. They are publicly tough but forever insecure. They bark orders and appoint weak-kneed and spineless flunkies to do their biding. And so it is with the appointed, unelected, unrepresentative “Legislative Assembly” that the junta will appoint.

A report at The Nation seems to delight in teasing readers with a blatantly false headline: “NCPO may pick trusted allies.” The use of the word “may” suggests some doubt. Of course, the new interim constitution, secretly developed by a few supine lawyers who sell their skills to authoritarian murderers, makes it perfectly clear that the military junta is controlling everything. Of course, everyone with even a half a brain knows this is the case.

The report then explains that “the Legislative assembly likely to be packed with military officers, bureaucrats and those with close ties to the junta.” Who expected anything else?

The TJA executive meets on lese majeste

The junta’s preferred legislative assembly

Trakoon Meechai, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said: “The NLA will be dominated by people in the Armed Forces and bureaucrats. And there may be some former senators with close ties [to the National Council for Peace and Order, i.e. the military junta], as well as businessmen and academics who have worked with the NCPO…”. This is as clear as the relationship between fossil fuels and pollution, and the junta plans to pollute Thailand’s politics for decades to come.

The list of potential junta male groupies includes military types as well as Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former Bank of Thailand governor and failed finance minister for the last junta-installed government, who is such an expert cleanser of the lower alimentary canal that he will likely get another gig, the turncoat Somkid Jatusripitak and junta lawyer Wissanu Krea-ngam.

The hopelessly compromised boot polisher and royalist Brasso salesman Borwornsak Uwanno, secretary-general of the royalist King Prajadhipok’s Institute, will certainly be slithering about looking for a position as well, as can be seen in his speech to a “a seminar on national reform organised by the institute and the Defence Ministry.” No “reform” likely from that lot except the “reform” of politics to make it more regressive and more authoritarian.brasso

The ridiculously named Election Commission wants to “screen candidates for Parliament” for any future (unfree and unfair) election “to ensure that voters get to choose from those who are qualified and possess a good track record…”. Now who might judge “track records”? Presumably it will not exclude murderers from the military, corrupt royalist officials and similar supporters of the military junta. In addition, the EC wants “to review proposed policies before political parties use them during election campaigns to woo votes.”

Such proposals are nonsense, but if they came about – and anything is possible from this regime – voters will get a choice of candidates who fit a patrician view of politics. In other words, no choice at all. The military and EC proposes that it allow only “noble candidates for voters to select…”. We believe that they mean this almost literally, so that aristocrats will be filling seats in parliament. This would be a parliament of the amart.

Panitan Wattanayagorn is quoted and said to be a “political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn,” although we can find no evidence that he has engaged in any academic work as a political scientist. Rather, he holds a position in a Faculty of Political Science but usually sells himself to illegitimate governments.

He makes the puerile claim that “the problem with the country’s political system is that only one group of people has acquired power and previous charters have given them huge power but provided a weak checks and balances system.”Marbles

This is not only asinine, it is patently false. Anyone who followed the path of the Yingluck Shinawatra government knows that the Constitutional and Administrative Courts, the Election Commission, the National Human Rights Commission and the Senate operated to not just “check-and-balance” but to prevent that government from operating! Panitan seems to have been in the anti-democrat medicine cabinet for too long and to have swallowed too much of their anti-truth serum.

When he blathers about the new charter needing to exhibit “Thainess” and “the submission culture, the belief in seniority and military hierarchy,” you are tempted to think that he is picking up his marbles but then you realize that he is speaking his royalist, militarist and anti-democrat mind. He reckons Thais “favour totalitarianism;” Panitan does.

This is a truly revealing and fascinating report.

 





I want more!

22 06 2014

One of the major complaints made by red shirts in their campaigns for elections in the 2008 to 2010 period was that the amart was a powerful group that defended the status quo and refused to provide any political openings for those who wanted more representation of their interests.

pyramidThe amart was never particularly well defined. It was the elite, the royalist elite, the network monarchy, Sino-Thai tycoons and so on. When rhetorical push came to political push, sometimes the links between the (Sino-Thai) monarchy and Sino-Thai capitalists were made, and there were attacks on corporations such as the Bangkok Bank.

More recently, when Suthep Thaugsuban’s anti-democrats were on the streets, there were several articles that made connections between him, his movement and tycoons. While Suthep may have attacked nepotism and cronyism that he alleged were features of Thaksin Shinawatra’s clan, it is evident that Suthep was doing the work of big clans and networks that had greater longevity than Thaksin’s lot.

There have been various mappings of the group known as the Sino-Thai business class and its networks.

The Sino-Thai rich have long been required to demonstrate their political loyalty by writhing about at te feet of the royals, offering them buckets of money and swathes of land. The royalist Democrat Party also collects loot from the rich and is the tycoons’ preferred party, if they must endure party politics.

Of course, there are various measures of the huge troughs of money that accrue to the amart through its political and economic dominance. The obscene wealth of the royals has also been detailed as well as the huge handouts the monarchy gets from the taxpayer.

Charoen

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi

Until a recent report at the Bangkok Post, however, we had never seen a listing of landholdings. There, it is the alcohol tycoon Sirivadhanabhakdi family that is listed as owning the most land in Thailand, with 630,000 rai. PPT is never the best with calculations, but we think that’s nearly 101,000 hectares or about 1,000 square kilometers. One might be tempted to observe that that’s a small amount of Thailand’s land area, but it is about the size of the Hong Kong S.A.R.. The family has “a 12,000-rai plot in Cha-am, Phetchaburi province, and a 15,000 rai plot in Bang Ban, Ayutthaya province.”

That beer and whiskey family is followed by the telecoms, shopping mall and hotel-owning tycoons, the Chirathivat family, with 200,000 rai. That family held a prize “10,000-rai plot in Ayutthaya.”

The Crown Property Bureau is said to be fourth, with “just” 30,000 rai. That’s about the same as was reported in 2005. Given that a significant portion of this is in the highest value areas of Bangkok, the returns are pretty chunky.

The report states that there were just “837 individuals and juristic persons [that] had 1,000 rai or more…”. The vast bulk of landowners in Thailand own very small plots. Inequality in incomes is matched by vast inequalities in land ownership.