Targeting Move Forward

29 06 2022

The military-royalist regime rigged the 2019 election. As its political stocks plummet, the regime and its allies are continuing to work on yet another unlikely election victory.

While the Move Forward Party has been cleared of serious charges that might have led to its dissolution, there is still much effort going into a ban before the next election.

As Thai PBS reports, the Election Commission somewhat unexpectedly rejected former adviser to the Ombudsman Natthaporn Toprayoon’s fabricated complaint “accusing Move Forward of taking actions between August 2020 and January 2021 that were aimed at overthrowing Thailand’s rule of democracy with the King as head of state.”

According to the report, Natthaporn’s “petition outlined 10 actions by the party’s MPs and executives, including party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon, that he claimed had breached Articles 45 and 92 of the Political Parties Act, which prohibits political parties from encouraging or supporting anyone to create unrest, undermine social order or oppose the laws of the country.”

Natthaporn essentially accused Move Forward of anti-monarchism. He blasted “party MPs [for] using their positions to bail out arrested protesters accused of lese majeste or sedition” and he complained that “the party’s support for NGO iLaw’s draft bill to amend chapters in the Constitution regarding the monarchy and integrity of the Kingdom, as well as the party’s resolution seeking amendments to Article 112 of the Penal Code or the lese majeste law” were moves against feudalism the monarchy.

He was following up on his earlier successful petition that the Constitutional Court accepted, making monarchy reform treasonous.

The quite mad Natthaporn’s response to the complaint being ditched was to threaten “to sue the election commissioners and seek a ruling on whether their decision to dismiss the complaint was lawful.”

But there’s more to come:

Along with pressure from Natthaporn, Move Forward is also facing other complaints seeking its disbandment, including one filed by Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a politician from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party. In August last year, he filed a petition with the EC to disband Move Forward on grounds that its proposal to reduce the budget allocated to the crown for 2022 was a hostile act against the Thai democratic regime with King as head of state.





The 1932 spirit

27 06 2022

For those interested in the non-governmental response to the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution, there are a few stories to notice, with brief comments below.

Of course, the royalist government response is to ignore the event as if it never happened.

Thai Enquirer has a photo essay on the rally to celebrate the day. Some of the photos are quite something, and together they show how 1932 is intimately linked with contemporary struggles for democracy and monarchy reform. All of our photos here are clipped from Thai Enquirer.

Thai PBS reports on a seminar at Thammasat University’s Pridi Banomyong International College on 24 June, held “to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution.” Those attending and speaking included Sulak Sivaraksa and newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

Various groups organized activities and events on June 24 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the revolution which turned the country from absolute to constitutional monarchy. While academics and politicians discussed the future of Thai democracy at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus, youthful groups and activists gathered at Lan Khon Muang Townsquare, calling for the restoration of the revolutionary spirit, reform of the monarchy, abolish the lese majeste law, as well as make June 24 the National Day….

Thammasat University student activist Parit Chiwarak told Thai PBS World earlier that students and political activists had grouped together under the name of People’s Party 2020 a couple of years ago to carry on the revolutionary spirit. Their objective was to remove the gulf between Thai citizens and the established elite.

“One of the six principles laid out by the 1932 People’s Party is equality, which has never been achieved,” he said.

The report notes that in 1960,Thailand’s National Day was changed by the then military dictatorship, and in concert with the king, from 24 June to the then king’s birthday on 5 December. That change was just one part of the restoration of the monarchy that continues through the 20th century.

Monarchy reform and democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said in a phone interview that she and her associates continued to demand reforms to the monarchy, despite being prosecuted for lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

In another event, former red shirt leader and Puea Thai politician Nattawut Saikua, in a talk show hosted by the Pridi Banomyong Institute, “said the people’s movement which fought for democracy before and after the 1932 Revolution shared the same spirit — to have equality and democracy.” He added: “I do believe that such a fighting spirit has been transferred from generation to generation,” acknowledging that “red shirts admired and expressed their gratitude to both People’s Parties, in 1932 and 2020.”

There’s more in the article.

Meanwhile, at Khaosod, there’s an op-ed by Pravit Rojanaphruk, commenting on the long period of divisions between royalists and anti-royalists. He begins:

The 90th anniversary of June 24, 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy, was only celebrated by those who believe Thailand has yet to achieve genuine democracy and aspire for more freedom and rights.

Conspicuously absent were the government, including Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and royalist conservatives who did not observe the day and probably would rather forget that June 24, which falls on Friday this year, was not just arguably the most important day in modern Thai political history once a national day and a public holiday celebrated from 1938 to 1960….

For royalists who wish to see the monarchy … play a greater role in Thai society, to see the military continue to act as the state within a state, to limit the powers of politicians and the electorate whom they distrust, June 24, 1932 was a day of infamy….

Pravit notes that other countries “settled their differences through a bloody revolt.” He prefers a peaceful road to a democracy that provides for and accepts differences.

That’s all fine and good, but Pravit does not mention that the military has been all too willing to spill the blood of those who stand in their path and those who they consider challenge the monarchy and their Thai-style democracy. It has killed hundreds and jailed thousands.





Updated: 90 years after 1932

24 06 2022

On this day, like may others, PPT remembers 24 June 1932. On that day, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

The inspiration of 1932 for the monarchy reform movement of recent years is crystal clear.

The palace, royalists and military have worked long and hard to erase it from the national historical memory. Indeed, much of the 9th reign was about erasing this memory and Vajiralongkorn and his regime cronies have obliterated statues, changed names, and more in an effort to bury memory of a time when monarchy wasn’t paramount.

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 Banomyong. We have done it on most anniversaries since then. We won’t today, but readers can click the link above to see it.

That proclamation recalls the thirst for democracy that is the essence of today’s anti-monarchism.

The 24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely noticed in any official way. After all, democracy is the antithesis of the monarchy in Thailand.

This point is made by social critic and intellectual Sulak Sivaraksa in an interview with BenarNews. He states: “Before 1932, the monarch was above the law, and he was the only one. After the 1932 [revolution], everybody became equal, everybody was under the law, and that was the first victory…”.

But, looking back, Sulak is despondent: “In these 90 years, we are currently [at] the lowest point…”. He adds: “Gen. Prayuth [Chan-ocha] claims this is a democracy, but it’s a sham democracy…”.

He points to the military takeover in 1947 as an inflection point, where Thailand turned back towards monarchism: “the coup leader praised the monarch, who was until then still under the constitution. They turned the monarch to God-like and above the constitution because they thought only the monarch could fight against the communists…”.

Any hope Sulak has is with the young: “I’m only an old man, looking forward to young generations. I’ve seen young generations who are so brave to fight against dictatorship…. I hope that Thailand, while celebrating 100 years of democracy, will go forward and not backward as is happening nowadays.”

One of those associated with the contemporary monarchy reform movement is Arnon Nampa. He affirms that the 1932 revolution “was the beginning of the call for democracy and the start of the fight for democracy. It was precarious because those involved in the 1932 revolution risked their lives…”. Today it is Arnon and other activists and thousands of sympathizers  who “are willing, too, to risk losing their freedom or lives…” in the struggle for democracy and the reform of the monarchy.

Update: A reader writes about expanding authoritarianism in the West, noting examples of censorship of social media and harassing Julian Assange for showing the US state as murderers – and worries for his daughter’s future.





No equality, no freedom

10 06 2022

If readers haven’t seen it, the video story on an interview with Thai rapper Elevenfinger of Rap Against the Dictatorship at Aljazeera is worth watching:





International Anti-Monarchy Conference

2 06 2022

Republic is a membership-based British pressure group campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy and its replacement with a directly elected head of state.

On 4 June 2022, Republic is hosting the International Anti-Monarchy Conference online, to reach audiences and involve great speakers from around the world. The International Anti-Monarchy Conference coincides with Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee weekend in the UK. Republicans from around the world will be highlighting common issues and the reasons for an end to monarchy in favor of democratic republics. Speakers are from the UK, Commonwealth, Europe and Asia. Speakers for Thailand are Suda Rangkupan and Nanthida Rakwong.

The conference flyer states:

There is a growing momentum away from monarchies around the world. Movements across Europe and the Commonwealth in particular are growing and monarchies in places such as the UK, Netherlands and Spain are losing support. In the Caribbean there has been a seismic shift in the remaining Commonwealth realms to ditch the Crown and become republics. Australia is likely to revisit the question in the near future, which is likely to trigger others to do the same.

In Canada support for retaining the monarchy has fallen sharply in recent years, with support falling further when polls ask about King Charles. With Barbados already making the switch to a parliamentary republic and Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas and others announcing their intention to do so, the number of monarchies around the world is set to fall dramatically.

All this is likely to have an impact on other monarchies too. There is growing opposition to the Thai monarchy, which is far worse than anything Europeans have to tolerate, just as there is opposition to royal dictators in Africa and the Middle East.





Monarchy critic gets refugee status

28 05 2022

The New Zealand Herald reports that Sinchai Chaojaroenrat, 57, an independent scholar and author “critical of the Thai monarchy has been granted refugee status on the grounds that he could face serious harm if he returned to Thailand…”.

The report also states that “despite inconsistencies in his claims,Immigration New Zealand stated that Sinchai’s “fear of being persecuted is … considered to be well founded…. There is a real chance of Dr Sinchai being persecuted if he returns to Thailand now.”

It is reported that “Sinchai believes that he was targeted by people close to the royal family and faced a risk of being kidnapped, imprisoned assassinated by the Thai authorities for his views.”

Sinchai was born in Chon Buri and “believes strongly in secularism despite being raised as a Christian. His interest in politics began at high school and he became more politically involved when he studied political science at university.”

It is claimed that by 2013, his “Facebook page and over time attracted more than 200,000 followers.” In 2019, he was a vigorous media commentator. New Zealand authorities concluded that Sinchai’s criticisms “centred on the country being undemocratic and the fact that the King’s personal conduct consumed a lot of the national budget. He also posted about the King’s sexual misconduct as he had many mistresses…”. It added that: “He also critiqued that the monarchy was treated as demi-gods and believed this was an outdated and obsolete tradition and that it was degrading to the people of Thailand to have to bow down before them.” He criticized the king’s “volunteers – the 904 program – as part of a “strategy in merging the monarchy with every government agency.”

Sinchai received multiple warnings and threats before fleeing Thailand.

But he claimed that what followed was a direct message sent on Twitter by a follower who said her father was a high ranking general in the military who had been assigned to take action against him.

This was one of several claims made by Sinchai that INZ did not accept to be credible.

The authorities concluded: “Country information unequivocally demonstrates that those who are publicly critical of the monarchy in Thailand, including on social media, can be subject to criminal charges…”.

Sinchai says “he was extremely grateful to New Zealand for letting him stay here as a refugee” and states that he feels safer. He vows to continue his criticism.





Payback time

3 02 2022

Thailand’s military-backed regime has teamed up with authoritarians in neighboring countries for “security” operations. These have seen black ops that resulted in the disappearance, torture and/or murder of several anti-monarchy activists in Cambodia and Laos.

Such operations have a quid pro quo. Thailand has already returned several Cambodian activists for imprisonment by the Hun Sen regime. And now Laos is enjoying Thailand’s payback.

Khaosod recently reported that the  International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) had “expressed concerns about the safety of a Laotian asylum seeker who was arrested in Bangkok…”. It stated that “Keomanivong Khoukham, a member of pro-democracy Free Lao group, was apprehended despite the fact that he holds a UNHCR card…”.

FIDH reminded the world that “[t]his is not the first time they do it…. When fellow activist Od Sayavong disappeared in August 2019, the Thai police spokesman said he didn’t know about it, even though a missing person report had been filed at a local police station in Bangkok days earlier.”

That sounds like the story of Wanchalerm Satsaksit’s enforced disappearance in Cambodia. His case remains unresolved and the silence from both governments is deafening.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

At least Thailand’s police “acknowledged the arrest, which was made on Saturday [29 January]…”. They claim he was arrested for overstaying his visa. They also say he was not carrying a UNHCR card, although media outlets produced numerous images of it.

Khaosod explains:

Since Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum seekers are considered as illegal immigrants by the Thai authorities. They are subjected to arrests and deportation back to the countries they tried to escape.

Convenient.

Thai Newsroom followed up and cites Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch, who said the Lao activist “faces punishment should he return to Laos.”

Sunai also mentioned that the Thai government has deported refugees many times. The latest was the deportation of a Cambodian refugee late November with this leading to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issuing a statement expressing disappointment for again doing so.

UNHCR has several times requested/urged the Thia authorities “to refrain from deporting recognized refugees and to abide by its international obligations, particularly the principle of non-refoulement.”





Updated: On graduation boycotts

29 01 2022

The Guardian has taken notice of the boycotts of royals at graduation ceremonies: “a growing number of young Thais who are refusing to attend their graduation ceremonies because they are presided over by members of the royal family.”

The article cites one student who: “identified as ‘anti-royalist’ and [stated] that attending her graduation ceremony would have been ‘a waste of time’.” She added: “I don’t know why the royal family has anything to do with our graduation.”

Academic Paul Chambers suggests an answer: “The monarchy makes a great deal of money overseeing graduations so I doubt this practice will end any time soon…”.

Responding to royalists who want to punish students, a student observed: “They don’t know that people have already changed, that our culture has changed, so they just keep saying the same things that worked before, but it doesn’t work any more.”

Update: A reader correctly observes that while royals can make money from the graduation ceremonies, the real reason for royal involvement has been to establish and maintain ideological hegemony, particularly of the middle class.





Royalist regime fighting for the past

24 01 2022

While not a new revelation,

He explains:

Self-crowned

On a recent visit to a cinema in Bangkok, I was reminded of the dual role that movie theaters play in Thailand. One, of course, is to show films, local and foreign. The other is to reinforce in the audience a belief that their monarch serves as a unifying pillar in the Southeast Asian kingdom. That lesson plays out just before the main feature, when the screen in the darkened auditorium displays a message requesting the audience to stand as the strains of the king’s anthem fill the hall, accompanied by images of the king’s achievements….

The response of audiences — standing up for the anthem — was almost universal until the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in late 2016 ended a 70-year reign.

We think this is something of an overstatement. We recall that in the mid-1970s, when the royal stuff came on at the end of the film, many bolted for the exits to escape the hagiographic kitsch. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, audiences at movies and concerts often waited outside until the royal propaganda was finished and then rushed to their seats. But back to the story today:

But something quite different is now going on in cinemas….

[A]t Siam Paragon, a high-end mall in Bangkok’s upmarket shopping district…, [w]hen the familiar request to stand flashed across the screen to the strains of the royal anthem, only a middle-aged Thai couple stood up. The rest of the audience, which mostly consisted of younger Thais, sat impassively through the entire anthem as if it were perfectly normal.

… The display of silent defiance has gathered momentum in recent months; it has been noted by many Thais on social media and is discussed openly….

For the moment, the government appears at a loss on how to respond to this discreet but public challenge to the cinema reverence ritual. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the ex-army chief and former junta leader, has appealed to young people not to give in to peer pressure.

Yet, Thai cinemas have emerged as a new frontier for a generational zeitgeist. They have given a decisive answer to the question of whether or not to stand, something that seemed inconceivable just two years ago. From this perspective, Thai cinemas provide an inflection point in which the simple act of going to the movies becomes a political statement.

The royalist response to this anti-monarchism – or at least the rejection of the palace propaganda – is deepening. As they have for many years, it is the regime and the military are taking the lead.

Former red shirt, now paid turncoat, Seksakol/Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister attached to the Office of Prime Minister continues his boss’s conspiracy theory-inspired campaign against NGOs. Amnesty International is his main target. He claims – and it is a lie – that “NGOs that are supporting the three-hoof mob [he means the 3-finger salute] to destroy the country’s stability and abolish the royal institution…”. He means the monarchy.

He salivates over the AI target:

Amnesty International is an illicit organization that must be held accountable for its actions, and must be prosecuted to the fullest…. We should not give in to organizations that undermine national security.

Here, by national security, he means the monarchy. What did happen to his lese majeste charge? Oh, yes, he sold himself to the military rightists.

As in so many other places struggling with authoritarianism,

Seksakol’s gambit is typical of Thai ultra-royalist fringe politics. But as his position in the prime minister’s office attests, the fringe has migrated gradually to the center and the top of the Thai governing establishment since the military coup led by Prayut 2014. Facing a legitimacy deficit, Prayut’s current military-backed administration (direct military rule technically ended with the holding of a flawed election in 2019) has relied heavily on the blunt force of Thailand’s controversial lese majeste law, which outlaws any critical comment about the king or the monarchy, to silence critics and quash protests.

The regime is planning to stay. Forget all of the parliamentary realigning. This is about maintaining the political status quo well into the future through another rigged election. And just to help it along, the regime has extended its state of emergency. Thailand has been under this kind of draconian control for most of the period since the 2014 coup. This situation allows the military, police, ISOC and the judiciary to keep a lid on anti-royalism.

How it deals with the more passive rejection of the monarchy and the regime requires more propaganda, more surveillance and more repression. It means keeping Thailand in its past and rejecting the future. All in the name of the monarchy.





Repression for the royals

6 01 2022

Widespread anti-monarchism means the regime is deeply concerned.

So worried are the authorities that their twentieth century operational procedures for “protecting the royals are changing.

Prachatai reports that, after several protests against royals and a recent security breach, local cops are being forced to micro-manage every royal outing. In the past, King Vajiralongkorn has been vicious in dealing with officials he sees as having failed him.

In a backwater in Buriram, “a 17 year old student activist, was summoned to the Nong Ki police station … on 3 January to sign a paper affirming that he would not interfere with an upcoming royal procession of Princess Sirindhorn on 5 January.”

An AP Photo

The dumpy princess – always officially declared popular – “was planning to visit two Border Patrol Police Schools in the Lahansai and Pakham Districts on 5 January.  En route, the royal procession was scheduled to pass through Nong Ki District.”

Panicked, the local cops sprang into action. The young activist, Kantapat, says he wasn’t planning anything, but “received a phone call from a police officer on 2 January asking him not to stage any activity on 5 January.” He was called to the police station and forced “to sign a daily record and allow police to confirm his whereabouts via telephone at least twice a day during 3-5 January period.”

Plainclothes police reportedly followed and watched him at his home and at school.

The local cops have been harrassing Kantapat for a couple  of years, and they were clearly spooked by the royal visit and the possibility of face-losing protest.

The report notes that “[p]olice monitoring of activists in advance of royal visits has been frequent since the 2014 coup.” In recent days, this form of political repression has increased.








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