Fascists and their opponents

22 05 2019

On the fifth anniversary of the military’s coup where it through out yet another elected government, we at PPT want to point to a couple of stories that do a great job of remembering and noting the impacts of the military’s illegal action in 2014.

The first is a story at Khaosod, where five activists provide brief comments on their experiences. All have been arrested and some have been jailed under the military dictatorship and its junta. Some clips:

1. No Coup 2. Liberty 3. Democracy

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, recently released from prison on a manufactured lese majeste case, and facing more charges:

I saw. I fought. I lost. I was hurt. After five years fighting the junta and spending time in jail, I lost. Well, I didn’t lose. It’s just that we haven’t won yet. Some people are discouraged and disappointed. Others continue fighting.

Political activist Nutta Mahattana:

I underestimated the Thai people. Thais are more tolerant of military dictatorship than I expected.

Iconoclast activist Sombat Boonngamanong:

The most visible change in the past five years was how some people who fought for a certain strand of democracy were turned into mindless supporters of the military junta…. They saw the failure of the junta over the past five years, yet they are okay with it. It’s scary meeting these people….

Yaowalak Anuphan from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

Freedom of expression keeps sinking and more people censor themselves. The military has fully invaded civil society and injected its autocratic thinking into civilians.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal:

[W]e took democracy for granted. We thought it was something that could be restored quickly after it was gone. We thought military dictatorship wouldn’t last long. But people have become better at adapting to life under dictatorship…. At symposiums, people are now more wary when they speak. This change was rapid….

The second is an article by retired diplomat and Puea Thai Party member Pithaya Pookaman. We disagree with him that the “election” result shows that the junta and its puppet party are “popular.” But he identifies those who are junta supporters as a “new right.” While this is catchy, it is also misleading in that much of the “new right” is pretty much the same opposition that’s worked against electoral democracy for decades. Pithaya knows this, saying:

Broadly speaking, the New Right consists of an odd mix of ultra-conservatives, reactionaries, semi-fascists, pseudo-intellectuals, and even former leftists. It is the product of more than 80 years of political evolution and has been shaped by technological and economic advances, as well as social and demographic changes, and populism in modern Thai society…. This tug of war between the so-called liberals and conservatives dates back to 1932…. The conservative Thai oligarchy, which saw their traditional grip on power being eroded, have strongly resisted democratic developments up until today.

Thailand’s urban middle class has a unique tolerance of authoritarian rule, wholeheartedly embracing military coups with few moral scruples. Meanwhile, the reactionary and semi-fascist groups seem to have a romantic infatuation with anachronistic medieval political and social systems….

Their common hatred of Thaksin and his political machine has allowed the fate of these diverse groups to intertwine. It has also made them vulnerable to “Thaksin Derangement Syndrome”, which has spread among a conglomeration of former leftists, the urban middle class, pseudo-intellectuals, ultraconservatives, semi-fascists, militarists, and the elitist establishment, all of which can collectively be called the New Right.

A third story is important. “All They Could Do To Us: Courage in Dark Times from a Fighter (Not a Victim)” is an article by Metta Wongwat, translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. It is about Pornthip Munkhong, who was jailed on lese majeste for her role in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. Her new book, All They Could Do To Us (Aan Press, 2019) “is an account of imprisonment under Article 112 during the NCPO regime written in the voice of an artist. She tells her story and the stories of her fellow prisoners from every walk of life, and in so doing, leads readers into her life during her two years of imprisonment.”

She includes a message for those who hold politics close: “(Political struggle) is like boxing. The ring is theirs. The rules are theirs. The referees are theirs. You must be prepared.





The monarchy, military two-step

16 05 2019

Since the Cold War era, the relationship between the military and monarchy has been close, with predominance see-sawing between the two pillars of Thai authoritarianism. Several times, the military has murdered and massacred in the name of the monarchy. The monarch appreciated their work. The monarchy has long danced with dictators.

The current military dictatorship seized power to eject yet another pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party, in part to eradicate what it considered an unacceptable rise in republicanism. That republicanism was bred of the royal family’s support for royalist political movements and against the pro-Thaksin/pro-democracy forces.

At times it has been felt that King Vajiralongkorn is not particularly close to the ruling junta. We have no idea if that is true. What has been demonstrated is the junta’s loyalty to the king, publicly accepting demands made by the king and lauding him to the public. As far as we can discern, the king has gone along with the junta’s plans, even (effectively) campaigning for the junta’s party in the recent election.

That support from the king will be even more important in what might be a shaky politics after a new government is in place.

The-Dictator-hoping-to-be-reaffirmed-premier Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha demonstrated how the monarchy can be used politically to benefit the post-junta military-backed regime when he used the king’s name to reject criticism of the puppet Senate he selected and the king approved (we do not know if any were the king’s selection.)

Rejecting all (valid) criticism, Gen Prayuth thundered at journalists: “Remember this…. Anything that has been endorsed and considered by His Majesty has always already gone under scrutiny. That’s the most important thing.”

In other words, only the king can scrutinize the work of the junta and if he approves no mortal can criticize this.

While we do not expect that this threat will silence criticism of the completely compromised Senate, the use of the king’s name is suggestive of some very dark times ahead under a military-backed regime and a military-trained and aligned king who is building his own control of the Army.

That the king is used to silence critics of a Senate that is packed out with junta relatives, junta ministers, military officers and other junta flunkies suggests The Dictator and king are locked in goose-step.





Democrat Party going home?

6 04 2019

It’s likely a homecoming. Reports in both The Nation and Bangkok Post refer to meetings of the Democrat Party or a faction of it. In essence, the reports are of the anti-democrat, People’s Democratic Reform Committee, aligned members electing to return to the junta.

This should come as no surprise, especially as the red/pro-Thaksin versus yellow/junta/royalist divide has been reasserted by the latter group.

While several pundits reckoned the election marked the end of that divide, its muscular reassertion as a series of attacks on pro-democracy parties, now identified as, variously, left-wing, pro-Thaksin, foreign-influenced and anti-monarchy, has been intense.

Some 30 Democrat Party members, including some who were elected, has “voiced support for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue running the country in a government led by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), according to Thaworn Senneam.” The Nation reported that former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai attended part of the meeting.

The group included other PDRC stalwarts Chitpas Krisdakorn and Atavit Suwannapak­dee. This PDRC aligned group is now going to press the party executive to take the party back to its natural political location. That is, with the military, the junta and the anti-democrats.

This is a challenge for the party as disgruntled anti-democrats could easily act as cobras, threatening the existence of the party.





Updated: Cynical recycling

16 03 2019

We are sure readers recall when Thaksin Shinawatra was damned as a “populist.” And then there was Yingluck Shinawatra. When she campaigned in Thailand’s last completed election in 2011, she was also labeled a populist and was prosecuted for one of the policies she took to the electorate. Anti-populism has been a pillar of anti-Thaksinism.

When the military junta seized power, there is a plan to outlaw “populist” policies. That anti-populism soon became an embrace of the policies that the junta had previously damned. This turn to economic policies previously damned was an effort to claw back political ground from the Shinawatra clan, led by Thaksin turncoat Somkid Jatusripitak.

Not surprisingly, it was Somkid who was behind the manufacture of the Palang Pracharat Party as the junta’s devil party.

Now, desperate to gain the electoral traction it has been lacking, Palang Pracharath has released a range of so-called populist policies, apparently hurriedly concocted in recent days.

Increasing the minimum wage by a third, cutting income tax (including for the wealthiest), raising the graduate minimum wage 10% and waving their income tax for 5 years, loans and exemptions for businesses, and promised guaranteed minimum prices for six crops.

Remember Yingluck’s travails for her rice pledging policy?

Palang Pracharath deputy party leader Suvit Maesincee said “Pracha Rath state welfare cards would be given to more people, from 14.5 million low-income earners currently.” He added that “[d]ebt suspension will be allowed for village funds and more funds will be added.” And he promised a welfare state to “take care of children from womb to old age…”.

Can the junta/Palang Pracharath afford these promises when it is already running a substantial “fiscal deficit of 450 billion baht…”? The Bangkok Post notes that the regime has abandoned “plans to balance the budget within the next few years…”.

Sounding Thaksinesque, Palang Pracharath’s Uttama Savanayana declared: “Thais shall be rich in peace, happiness and hope…”.

Even more Thaksin-like were the measures proposed to  fund “Thais being rich.” The measures for making administration more efficient are exactly those used by Thaksin and Thai Rak Thai back in 2001-06.

Policy plagiarism has been a hallmark of the junta. It continues. The only “original” contribution by Palang Pracharath/junta is to promise “order.”

The Palang Pracharath/junta twin is banking on voters being “uneducate” and that by offering Thaksinesque policies that they can lure pro-Thaksin voters to support a failing junta party.

Update: Less than a day after his devil party released the policies discussed above, The Dictator has “issued a statement saying all governments must abide by financial discipline and good governance.” Maybe he should have thought about that several years ago before his own government began its vote-buying splurges. Or maybe before his party promised to extend the splurge further.





Tangling opponents in “law”

10 03 2019

The pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Thai Raksa Chart Party is gone. Dissolved for (stupidly) nominating a (non) princess, only to have the king decide – some say belatedly – the party was designed to support the pro-Thaksin vote under the junta’s rigged electoral system.

But the minority anti-Thaksin alliance of anti-democrats, military fascists and royalists is seeking to tangle all parties they view as pro-Thaksin or insufficiently loyal in law suits that could easily be used to overturn election results.

The Bangkok Post reports that Anat Chang-in, a lawyer based in Loei, is seeking to have the Puea Thai Party dissolved.

This follows the series of legal moves against the Future Forward Party. Just on Friday, as the party drew very large crowds at rallies, the junta “filed another complaint with computer crime police …[with] its webmaster … accused of uploading a video clip that the regime said contained false information that may undermine national security or frighten people under the Computer Crime Act and the Criminal Code.”

Buffalo manure, but the harassment is unending and it is clear that the junta has military stalking the party and its leaders. This complaint is against Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who simply observed that the law has been a political tool. Every one knows that is true. Indeed the harassment of Future Forard and every pro-Thaksin Party that has ever existed is evidence for the veracity of his observation.

Meanwhile, Lawyer Anat claims Puea Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan”misled people about her popularity and that of her party.” She is accused of mentioning the name of a person not running for the party. This is said to be an “offence is punishable under the 2018 MP election law.”

It seems pretty clear that the junta is piling up cases to use against any pro-Thaksin or pro-democracy party that does well in the election. Red cards and court cases could see elected MPs disqualified and parties disbanded. At present, what this use of allegedly legal cases ties the parties up in court and with the police.





Palace propaganda and the new reign

28 02 2019

As PPT has mentioned in several posts, when succession finally came, there were numerous commentators who had predicted a crisis and even an unraveling of the monarchy. Part of the “crisis” was that King Vajiralongkorn, because of his checkered past and odd personality could not have the same palace propaganda that had made his father’s benign, deified image, even when the reality of his reign was quite different.

The period since Vajiralongkorn came to the throne have shown that for all of his personal foibles and the great fear associated with his erratic and narcissistic behavior, for the palace propaganda machine, nothing much has changed. The monarch is promoted using familiar and what the palace (and junta) considers tried and true methods.

These comments are prompted by a Bangkok Post story that has the junta “urging the public to wear a yellow shirt bearing the royal emblem of … the King from April until July as part of nationwide celebrations of the royal coronation in May.”

This yellow shirt wearing gimmick was really only widely adopted around the time of the dead king’s 60th jubilee which coincided with agitation against Thaksin Shinawatra. Yellow shirts became a symbol of loyalty and was taken up by the People’s Alliance for Democracy as it marked its territory as monarchists.

Even some who were to become red shirts donned loyalist yellow shirts.

When the military coup came in 2006, the troops marked themselves as loyalists by using yellow ribbons.

More recently, we have seen the creation of “royal volunteers for the king,” all of them decked out a loyalist uniform associated with the current king.

It was Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, speaking “after a second meeting of the government’s committee responsible for handling procedures for the ceremony” who revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (The Dictators Office) “will issue a design prototype of the royal emblem for the yellow shirt.”

That design has already been approved by the king but the “committee is now waiting for a letter from the [Royal Householf B]ureau to confirm details of the design so it can be used as the official logo for the ceremony…”. Only that emblem will be permitted to be used.

That emblem will be reproduced in millions and will blanket the country and suffocate its people. Nothing much has changed. And, the events and displays of loyalty play into the junta’s political hands.





Law and the challenge for the Constitutional Court

21 02 2019

The fallout from Thaksin Shinawatra’s ill-fated attempt to have Ubolratana nominated as the Thai Raksa Chart Party prime ministerial candidate continues.

The Bangkok Post reports that the party’s defense before the Constitutional Court has three parts:

First, the party has no hidden agenda and its nomination received consent from Princess Ubolratana to stand as the TRC’s prime ministerial candidate.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Secondly, the party will show the term “hostile” does not cover the party’s actions. In their view, the term covers communism and rebellions under Section 113 of the Criminal Code.

Lastly, the EC’s complaint is unlawful because the agency failed to follow a due process by conducting a probe into the issue….

To understand the “charges,” it should be recalled that the puppet Election Commission unanimously and very rapidly decided to recommend the dissolution of Thai Raksa Chart based on “evidence” that included:

the Feb 8 royal announcement, the party’s letter notifying the person it proposed as the prime ministerial candidate and the party’s letter allowing Parliament to consider approving its candidate as PM.

In this context, Prachatai’s interview with Sawatree Suksri, a law lecturer with the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University “on the legal status of the Royal Command and its interpretation” is important reading.

She is adamant that the so-called Royal Command or Proclamation is not law, despite its use as such by the EC and anti-Thaksin forces. She states:

If anything is to become law, it has to follow the country’s legislative system. Thailand has a codified system of laws issued by the legislative branch, or the executive branch in the case of a royal ordinance, or the administration in cases of secondary laws where this is allowed by the fundamental laws. Because of this, the royal command is not a law, because it did not go through legislative procedures.

Sawatree adds: “the content of the Royal Command is not an order, but a recommendation.”

In other words, the use of King Vajirlongkorn’s royal proclamation on his elder sister is now a test of the judiciary. If the Constitutional Court acts appropriately and legally, it would reject the EC’s use of the king’s proclamation. If it stays true to it royalism, it will change the very meaning of law in Thailand, taking the country even further towards a neo-absolutist regime.