Updated: Missing in (in)action

26 05 2020

For military leaders, parliament is unimportant as it has little influence over what the government does. That was one of the understandings of the junta’s constitution. While they gave themselves seats in the unelected Senate, the military brass almost never show up.

iLaw is cited in the Bangkok Post as it reports that “the leaders of the three armed forces have the worst track records when it comes to Senate voting…”.

and are the least involved senators in the military-appointed Upper House.

Out of 145 votes called by the Senate, Navy chief Adm Luechai Ruddit, missed all but one vote. Missing all of 143 was Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, while retired and incumbent air force chiefs ACM Chaipruek Dissayasarin and ACM Manaat Wongwat missed a stellar 143 votes.

But, they still collect their Senate salaries as a nice top-up to their military salaries and all the other payments they receive from the meetings attended and boards they sit on.

Defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said “the issue had not been raised during the Defence Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. We guess that means everything is just fine and dandy. In any case, Lt Gen Kongcheep reckons his bosses “could explain for themselves if asked…”. We guess they’d rather be investing in EEC projects, getting kickbacks and shooting.

Update: Readers short of a good belly laugh can read Defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep’s hilarious “defense” of his bosses in the Bangkok Post. It seems military intelligence was brought to bear on the problem and the combined IQ of 22 came up with the biggest pile of buffalo manure seen for some time. We particularly liked the claim that whenever the top brass was not in parliament – and that was almost all the time – they watched it on television.

Brilliant! What bright spark thought of that completely moronic line! Promote him to general and give him a set of golf clubs and a bag of ill-gotten money.





Bovine military

23 05 2020

The military once delighted in comparing red shirt protesters to buffalo, implying they were stupid and led around by the nose. In fact, though, as two reports at The Nation demonstrate, it is the military brass that lacks intelligence and insight.

One report is pretty much standard fare for the military. In it, yet another dinosaur officer is wheeled out to “explain” that the Royal Thai Army can stand tall on its hind legs because of its role in “saving” the nation. General Chettha Thanajaro, a former Army chief and minister of defense under Thaksin Shinawatra “commented on the sixth anniversary of the 2014 coup.”

He lied that “political issues were not the Army’s responsibility” – that’s why military bosses have grabbed the prime ministership so often and for so long – and that the Army’s “duty” is the “protection of the country.” This role usually means defending the country’s borders not, as is the role of the Royal Thai Army in murdering citizens it considers threatening to monarchy and ruling class.

The aged general says:

The Army does not need to be polite [hadn’t noticed this trait] in taking political action because it has to prevent conflicts in the country…. I believe the Army must carry Thailand and when conflicts occur, it must intervene and leave when the country returns to peace.

Of course, this is nonsense, concocted by military types to justify never-ending authoritarianism and exploitation.

Naturally enough – the herd sticks together – he went on to praise current Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong for “doing a great job in national matters.”

Apirat defending his nation

Emphasizing a different perspective, Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit reminded Gen Apirat “of his promise to reform the armed forces within 90 days in the wake of the Korat shootout in February” that “claimed up to 20 lives.”

We wonder about the call for Apirat to take responsibility for the virus cluster at the Army’s boxing stadium.

For many Thais, protection from the Army is more salient that the Army’s self-appointed role as “protector.”





Updated: No one forgets 2010

19 05 2020

There’s a trend in academic work that emphasizes memory, memorialization and memory. As it has translated in Thailand, several very smart academics have argued that Thais have forgotten important events, including 1976 and 2010. And, there’s discussion of how to remember. As an example, see one of the several op-eds at the Thai Enquirer today.

We feel this is too academic and too detached from the reality of the almost two-month long Battle for Bangkok. No one who was involved has forgotten. Nor do they need “advice” on how to remember. But, it is a decade ago, and many of those talking of memory, forgetting and remembering were too young, too class-disconnected, too bookish or too coddled to be involved and therefore, it is their memories that are constructed, distorted or reoriented. For examples, see the other op-ed at the Thai Enquirer by reformed/reforming/rethinking/unreformed yellow shirts (here, here, here, and here). And, do look at the real effort that this newspaper put into trying to understand 2010 (here, here, here, and here). We don’t agree with everything that is said, but applaud the effort made.

The 19th of May 2010 marked the end of the red shirt struggles. April and May 2010 again revealed the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of today’s regime is born of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. These men, blood on their hands, remain at the center of yet another military-backed regime.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible. Unfortunately, while no one involved forgets, it is Jatuporn Promphan who captures the essence of “remembering” for those defeated by the military’s armed excess:

“The truth is that this is the deadliest fight for democracy in Thailand…. Over the past 10 years, the Redshirts have been living humbly because we know that there is no way for us to fight. We can only seek for justice, but it will not be delivered.”

Update: It was at Wat Pathum Wanaram that – according to the courts and eye witnesses – the military gunned down people, including medics, in a zone they had declared “safe.” Since those murders, the military has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence witnesses and silence campaigners. Of course, the military has a lot to hide. Sadly, the military has also used the virus to close the temple on the anniversary of its murderous assault.

 





Dogs of internal war

11 05 2020

The Economist has recently reflected on the military’s problems and the way it seems that average Thais are rejecting it.

Most of the article is behind a paywall, so we quote from it extensively in this post.

The article begins with a quote from Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Army commander, who spat out the complaint that “[e]ven military dogs are grateful to the army…” as he complained that the Thai people “should be overflowing with gratitude” to the Army, one of the country’s “sacred” institutions.

He seems to believe that Thais should be grateful for conscription, corruption and coups. Oh, yes, and those tens of thousands killed by the military in “protecting” the country’s ruling class over several decades.

Tongue in cheek, The Economist detects that “ordinary Thais do not seem to realise how lucky they are. Indeed, they have been showing signs of sacrilege.”

The report goes on to discuss conscription, observing that there is widespread unhappiness with this throwback enlistment and its associated modern-day slavery and its sadistic violence. It is noted that just 13% of “42,000 conscripts scheduled for discharge at the end of April have volunteered to stay on, despite the wilting economy,” adding: “So unpopular is conscription that a new party which promised to end it and seek other military reforms won the third most seats in last year’s [rigged] election.”

That would be Future Forward and the military’s regime got rid of it through their allies in the judiciary.

Rotten to the core

The report also discusses the “fuss about military spending is another sign of Thais’ diminishing regard for men in uniform.” Responding to rising protest, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime quickly moved to cut “military spending by 8%.” It had little choice, as the economy is in even deeper trouble now than it was at the beginning of the year.

Then there was the “biggest blow to the army’s standing came in February, when a soldier went on a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, killing 29 people.” It judges that the incident:

revealed the army’s incompetence (the killer obtained guns and ammunition by raiding a poorly guarded armoury), corruption (he seems to have been enraged after being cheated in a property deal involving relatives of a superior officer) and arrogance (it was criticism of the army’s response to the killings that prompted General Apirat to complain about ingratitude).

Soon after the massacre General Apirat pledged to reform military housing and root out corruption. … [Gen] Prayuth weighed in, too, promising to halve the number of generals—there are about 1,700 of them—and to trim the army overall. Thailand has some 560,000 soldiers and reservists. Britain, with a similar population and pretensions as a global power, has about 230,000.

Of course, nothing has happened and nothing much is likely to happen.

The report has some gaps. More could have been made of the virus hotspot at the Army’s boxing stadium, presided over by Gen Apirat, but the main item that should have been discussed is the military’s relationship with the king. It is this relationship that has sustained both military and monarchy. It is a relationship that is rotten to the core, has damaged the country and has made many generals and the king very wealthy.





King, virus and a propaganda war

3 05 2020

A new article at Deutsche Welle and variations elsewhere should cause royalists and the military-backed regime some angst.

Articles with stark headlines that will poke the royalist bear. These include: “Thailand’s king living in luxury quarantine while his country suffers” and “Thailand’s king a ‘disaster’ in the corona crisis.” By quoting opponents of the monarchy like Andrew MacGregor Marshall and Somsak Jeamteerasakul will increase the bear’s rage.

The DW article doesn’t have much that will be new for PPT’s readers, they do package some interesting material to show that the king is remote from Thailand and widely disliked. Marshall is quoted as describing Vajiralongkorn a “troubled, sadistic and authoritarian monarch…”. The article observes rising criticism of the monarch in Thailand:

Despite the risks [of lese majeste and other laws], a tweet from exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul circulated in Thai social media at the end of March, showing the king’s flight path to Germany and asking in Thai: “What do we need a king for?” It was quickly shared thousands of times and was a trending topic for weeks.

And for a long time, several popular memes have circulated. A particularly biting example uses HBO’s Game of Thrones: “We don’t go serving some shit king who’s only king because his father was.”

… Some users even went so far as to implicitly demand the abolition of the monarchy: “Honestly, I already want to have a president.”

Expounding on the symbiosis between monarchy and military the report states:

The unloved king needs the military and its government to secure his power. The military relies on the king, because it is easier to come to terms with a monarch ruling for life than with a constantly changing set of politicians and parties in a democratic system.

The royalists and regime have little to respond with, because the king is nowhere to be seen and his reputation is rubbish. So they have tried to burnish the king’s image by seeming to claim he’s in the country.

On social media there have been a few fake images of the king cleaning and sanitizing streets, seemingly with the Army. Officially, the military has published photos of the king and queen watching and helping Royal Guards making masks and other equipment. These photos are now available from the Daily Mail.

The report doesn’t make it clear that the photos are from the king’s 20 hour visit to Thailand in early April, implying that the king and queen are in Thailand: “The couple’s appearance at the regiment comes just a month after the King jetted off to Bavaria in Germany.”

Others have shown that the photos were old, using the date-stamps embedded in the photos, which was 6 April. After this was revealed, the photos released appear to have been edited for date.

The Daily Mail headline is “Thailand’s king and queen inspect PPE made by the military in front of groveling army chief – weeks after royal ‘self-isolated’ with 20 concubines at German hotel.” It mentions Gen Apirat Kongsompong again in the text:

King, queen and the groveling Army boss (clipped from the Daily Mail)

Pictures show an army chief grovelling on the floor as he bows down before the ruler. Others soldiers were also spotted crawling on their knees as the monarchs strolled around the regiment.

It is noted that the king’s “self-isolation in Germany was met with anger by thousands of Thai people…”.

Ardent royalists will try to believe everything and anything that is positive about the king and his dysfunctional family. But the king’s long absences raises important questions about legitimacy. More importantly, it remains to be seen how much longer the military will hold fast to and grovel before a monarch who is failing to do his job.





Royalist military failures

27 04 2020

There are an article and an op-ed that deserve attention because they speak the truth on Thailand’s military.

The first is by Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj at Thisrupt. and is on the topic of impunity, something PPT has posted on many times over the years.

This article refers to the “arrest,” interrogation, torture and then the murder of one of two brothers accused of drug dealing in Nakhon Phanom on 17 April. 33-year-old Yutthana Saisa died and 29-year-old Natthapong Saisa was badly beaten after being “taken into custody by a group of military men.”

Drug allegations are common in cases where the military murders civilians. Torture is commonly used to extract “confessions.”

At “Yutthana’s funeral, a military representative came to pay respect on behalf of the military and offered the family 10,000 baht.” Generous of them, huh? One life is valued at a paltry 10,000 baht. You can see why the military has a history of murdering civilians; it just does not value them. And, as this brazen bribery shows, the military brass is remarkably arrogant.

The military representative also offered further assistance and requested that the military have one night to host the funeral ceremony.” The military has admitted to the deaths and promised an “investigation.” It is likely that will go nowhere.

The question arises as to what the hell the murderous soldiers were doing when they involved themselves in civilian investigations. Well, of course, during the military junta and now since the virus “crisis,” Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha issued orders that “gives the military broad powers to conduct a search or arrest of people accused of drug-related offenses, without a warrant.” This has meant that, for almost six years, the military has official permission to essentially get away with murder.

Contemplating the military’s role, Zachary Abuza has an op-ed on Thailand’s military at BenarNews. He is a professor at the National War College and Georgetown University.

He summarizes recent history:

From Ugly Thailand

There’s shockingly little pushback to the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ self-serving actions. Coup d’etats in 2006 and 2014 were met with resignation. The electorate showed up to vote in referendums to approve army-drafted constitutions, accepting that it was the best they was going to get. Elections were rigged. Parties that won elections did not get to rule, other parties were dissolved. Military-backed governments have mishandled the economy, hampering growth.

The military continues to see its budgets rise, even as the economy underperforms, despite the absence of threats. The armed forces’ budget increased from 115 billion baht (U.S. $3.55 billion) in 2006 to 233 billion baht ($719 billion) in 2020, a 103-percent hike.

While the military lashes out at corrupt politicians, it doesn’t even begin to try to address the unexplained wealth of senior officers….

And so to the culture of impunity.

Thais are inured to conscription, though it is unpopular. The Army has defended conscription saying that it is essential for national security. Yet there is ubiquitous use of conscripts as house boys for officers. And the regularity of young soldiers dying from hazing has caused a public backlash.

Thais have put up with the unexplained death of insurgent suspects while in military detention, and the wrongful deaths of people the Army at first claimed to be suspected militants, but later acknowledged they were not. More recently a soldier tortured a suspected drug seller to death and beat his brother. The military, again in the spotlight, has announced that it may press charges.

It may, or it may not. Or the case might just slide away, as they usually do. As Abuja puts it:

Under immediate public pressure, the military always states its commitment to investigate these actions. But in time, the investigations grind to a halt, and charges are dropped. Even in the rare cases where security forces are charged with wrongdoing and convicted, they are invariably freed on appeals. The culture of military impunity is deep and grating.

He points out how things fade away. Remember the “most lethal mass shooting in Thai history, with 29 dead and nearly 60 wounded in Nakhon Ratchasima?”  As ever, “Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong would not take responsibility for the shooting, reinforcing the view that the military is beyond accountability.” Nor would he do anything tangible about the Army-owned boxing ring where a bout was held against official advice and a cluster of virus cases soon followed.

Clipped from Khaosod

It is, Abuja affirms, the “defense of the monarchy …[that is] the central justification for the military’s incessant meddling in politics.”

Indeed, most of the military brass has made it to the top by slithering to the monarchy and doing the crown’s bidding while enriching themselves.

The military leadership that extends high into civilian ranks is demonstrably hopeless and getting worse. It is also becoming more dangerous.





Thailand’s Kibosh

14 04 2020

It looks like King Vajiralongkorn is now a spirit that haunts Thailand. While most believe the king is not in-country, having returned to Switzerland and then, presumably, Germany, for the regime, it is as if he remains, a kind of phantom king.

Unelected Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha says that the king “has offered moral support to everybody joining efforts to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further in the country…”.

Kibosh, the powerful, evil and feared King of Ghosts (from https://boomerang-from-cartoon-network.fandom.com/wiki/Kibosh)

Gen Prayuth claims that “the King praised the government, authorities, health personnel, volunteers, the private sector and the public for their hard work and patience in the national fight against the coronavirus.”

A kind of Thai Kibosh, it is said that the missing king and his equally missing queen said they “stand ready to help to support their work…”. Standing ready overseas in a pleasure palace probably paid for by the taxpayer.

Presumably all of this propaganda banter took place when the two royals briefly visited Bangkok to celebrate the king’s dynasty. But the regime desperately wants to keep him in the minds of his “subjects.” Creating the mirage of a king in country is a feature of this regime, where ministers regularly do royalist prostration and bowing to a missing king.

For the feudal lord

Thus there has been much publicity of royal “donations” of ventilators to hospitals. We think it is unlikely that the king shelled out for these.

Likewise, the so-called royal volunteers have been sent out by the military, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong and regime to “donate” the usual “bags of dried food and necessities to more than 120,000 households [120,581 households in 623 communities] to alleviate economic hardship during the virus outbreak…”.

This is a bit of propaganda theater that has gone on for decades, where a bag of stuff is provided to poor people who must appear grateful, and in this reign, they also have to appear grateful by holding photos of the royal couple.

In the provinces, the bags are to be given to “the Somdej Phra Yupparaj hospitals for further distribution to local people…”.

These 21 hospitals “are operated by the Crown Prince Hospital Foundation” and were a part of the propaganda established for the then Crown Prince following the murderous events of 6 October 1976 as royalists attacked “communists” challenging the monarchy and its hegemony. The government-funded project was initiated in 1977 by rightist-royalist palace favorite Prime Minister Thanin Kraivixien. It was a wedding gift for his first marriage to his cousin.