With two updates: Monarchist madness reaches new heights

11 10 2019

Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has form as a royalist ideologue. On Friday, as Khaosod reports, he “stunned the nation with an 90-minute tirade on anti-government politicians and academics, in which he accused them of attempting to sabotage the country’s constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Khaosod

This is nonsensical, but we must assume that Gen Apirat believes his own rants.

Some readers will recall that it wasn’t that long ago, in February, when we observed that no one should trust the commander of the Royal Thai Army. At that time, Gen Apirat “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. That was a lie. Then in July, he doubled down, promising he would:

wash his hands of politics after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] is dissolved once the new cabinet is sworn in…. From then on, I won’t make political comments nor will I get involved with politics in any way. I’ll perform my duty strictly as a professional soldier….

That was also a lie.

The Army even lied about his speech, saying “Apirat’s speech … as being about the situation in Thailand’s deep south, home to a Muslim separatist insurgency.”

In Friday’s deranged rant, Gen Apirat’s “fiery rhetoric and even invocation of Communist threats in today’s news conference took many observers of the armed forces by surprise.” He lied that “the opposition’s campaign to amend the current constitution as a stealth attack on the monarchy.”

His concocted plot is a clear attack on the Future Forward Party and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. He targeted them as “communist politicians” and “extreme left” academics “who had studied abroad.”

Gen Apirat “showed a picture of Thanathorn and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, albeit with Thanathorn blacked out for an unknown reason. Apirat said he suspects that the pair might be colluding in some ways.” He criticized the young demonstrators in Hong Kong as he accused Thai politicians of colluding with communists.

Oddly, in an anti-communist tirade – for Gen Apirat, the Cold War-era battle hasn’t ended – his criticism of Wong and Thanathorn was joined by the regime in Beijing. Presumably Gen Apirat knows that China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. Even so, he supported the Beijing view, beloved of yellow conspiracy theorists and regime supporters in Thailand, that Hong Kong’s protesters were being supported and egged on by “outsiders.”

He babbled:

Joshua Wong has visited Thailand on several occasions. Who did he meet? What type of people did he meet? Did their meeting have a hidden agenda? What did they plot? Now, there is unrest in Hong Kong. A visit [by Thanathorn] can be viewed as giving encouragement and support….

Bemedaled like a North Korean general, Apirat then attacked the opposition parties as “selfish opportunists” and declared that they “cannot be trusted.” He warned “that politicians, academics and other intellectuals may ‘manipulate’ young people to stage protests like those in Hong Kong.”

Like a rabid dog, he went after academics: “He singled out those who had joined or sympathised with the communist movement in the 1970s, saying they had now become academics ‘teaching students wrong things’.”

“I’m not involved in politics. The army has stepped back now that there’s an elected government. But this is about national security. I will never let anyone separate the country,” he said.

His mad view is that something he calls a “hybrid warfare” that incorporates “methods such as online propaganda and more traditional violent means was already being employed in Thailand to destroy the nation.” He further concocted, claiming “politicians were linked to former communists who he said never gave up efforts to seize power…”.

AP expresses its own confusion on this plot:

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to because Thailand is not at war, the military and its allies are firmly in charge having run the country for the past five years, and a long-running insurgency is limited to the nation’s three southernmost provinces. Apirat’s comments appeared largely aimed at opposition politicians who campaigned on efforts to reform the military but have not advocated war or violence.

AP might have added that many former communists – all of them aged – support the military and its government.

As a staunch royalist, Gen Apirat “at least once Friday appeared to be in tears when speaking of King … Vajiralongkorn.” He claimed: “There is a group of communists who still have ideas to overthrow the monarchy, to turn Thailand to communism…”.

Clipped from Khaosod

Gen Apirat then pointedly made the connection between ant-communism, military and monarchy, saying the king “had helped soldiers fight against communist troops in … Loei province on Nov 5, 1976.” He went on:

“His Majesty was in the operation base, ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder by shoulder with brave soldiers.”

The royal institution had always protected the nation and battles went on for a long time before the Communist Party surrendered in 1988, Gen Apirat said.

Gen Apirat declared:

The royal institution, the military and people are inseparable. In the past, kings were on elephants surrounded by soldiers. Those soldiers were the people who sacrificed themselves in battles beside kings….

The general and his king (Clipped from the Bangkok Post)

Gen Apirat argued that it was the military that was “with the people.” He said: “They [the opposition parties] criticize the military as being an obstacle to democracy, when in fact we work for every Thai citizen.” That’s after they have repressed, jailed, tortured and murdered the Thai citizens who don’t agree with them.

The Economist observes:

In theory, Thailand’s army, having seized power in a coup in 2014, has returned to the barracks, after handing power back to politicians. But General Apirat apparently sees nothing inappropriate in railing against communists, student agitators and opposition MPs.

Meanwhile, The Nation quoted a critical academic:

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of Political Science at the Ubon Ratchathani University, said the Army chief was exaggerating the point and acting as if the military owns the Constitution and the country….

Titipol also suggested that Apirat was using tactics allowing the military to make political gains by exaggerating the idea of amending Section 1 and accused him of acting against the principles of freedom of expression guaranteed to the people by the Constitution. He said people should be allowed to voice their opinions constructively about the amendment of the charter, adding that the military does not own the Constitution or the country….

He also said that the Army and the government do not want to amend the charter because it allows the military to stay in power after the military-led coup in 2014….

“This charter largely protects the interests of the political establishment at the expense of the people,” he said.

Gen Apirat is a deranged and armed thug. That makes him dangerous, especially when linked to a fearsome monarch.

Update 1: Naturally enough – we had forgotten – Gen Apirat’s mad tirade came on the anniversary of the previous king’s death and as Vajiralongkorn flew back to Thailand from Germany. The newspapers and media are thus overflowing with propaganda for the monarchy, much of it being concocted stories about “great” achievements. Vajiralongkorn can bask in the reflected glory as his military second in command goes full on monarchy bananas.

Equally crazed is Chairith Yonpiam at the Bangkok Post who suggests that Future Forward must “learn the art of compromise.” In one of the most biased op-eds in the Post for quite some time, Chairith forgets that the 2014 coup came after the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, military and Democrat Party trashed parliament and ousted yet another elected government. He prefers to recall only the red shirt protests while neglecting to mention that the red shirts were slaughtered by the military, including the gun-toting Gen Apirat.

Apirat being “democratic”

And, Chairith goes full yellow saying that the current “political conflict involving the government and the opposition, with the FFP at the forefront, is a clash of ideologies with the former representing the conservative oligarchy and the latter brandishing the flag of liberalism.” That’s a line radical royalists have been peddling. He doubles down by questioning whether the judge in Yala who shot himself is part of “an attack on the judiciary.” He supports ISOC’s use f sedition charges against academics and FF politicians and is warning the party that they had better be careful. The implied threat being that they may end up floating in a river. Why is Chairith not demanding that the military “compromise”? Precisely because his “conservative oligarchy” requires the military’s threats, repression, torture and murder to stay in power.

Fortunately, a Post editorial is far more reasonable, observing that Gen Apirat’s chilling rant “should never have been given by any army chief…”, adding that “the military will not put an end to its meddling in politics.” It observes that “Gen Apirat did not provide a shred of credible evidence for his allegations.” The editorial concludes:

The army chief fails to understand that amending the charter is the job of parliamentarians with input from the public, not his.

Gen Apirat’s remarks yesterday failed to assure the public that he will steer clear of politics. Nevertheless, as the army commander, he must remain politically neutral and avoid orchestrating a political messaging strategy targeting particular groups of people. Gen Apirat will have a hard time convincing many people that he is not engaged in information warfare of his own.

There is zero chance that the Army commander will cease interfering in politics. He’s ambitious, not too bright and a threatening thug. That Future Forward has responded and criticized the thug in green will anger him and his supporters and the conflict will deepen.

Update 2: With the meddling king back in Thailand, things may get even messier. In one report it is stated that Anusorn Iamsa-ard of the opposition Puea Thai Party has said that:

Gen Prayut must set up a panel to look into the matter to assure the public that the government did not use the army as a political tool, and that the army was not trying to support the government so much so that it loses its neutrality….

Of course, Anusorn knows that the Army is not neutral and that the government is infected by military men now in suits and that the Senate has special seats for the military, which means it support the current regime.

The military is clearly frightened by Future Forward’s electoral showing, seeing this as a clear sign that the military are political dinosaurs doomed to repression if they are to maintain their grip on power. This is confirmed with loony complainer Srisuwan Janya petitioning the “National Anti-Corruption Commission to launch an ethics probe against FFP leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit after the Chinese embassy last Thursday issued a statement accusing a Thai politician of contacting a group involved in the protests in Hong Kong.” Exactly how and why he is doing this unsaid, but as a mad royalist, he knows who salts his rice.





Updated: 1931 moves closer

10 10 2019

A defining feature of recent royalism and especially of this king’s (still short) reign has been the rolling back of limits on the monarchy’s “prestige.” That has meant expunging the changes that made for a constitutional monarchy. It is clear to PPT that King Vajiralongkorn wants his reign to mark a return to the monarch’s economic and political power prior to the 1932 revolution.

The king has made it clear that he hates the limits on his power. He has demanded and got changes to the junta’s constitution – the changes made in secret – and taken full personal control of the monarchy’s treasure and made the Crown Property Bureau his own, expunging even the minor limits on what he could do with his property and huge wealth. Those limits were imposed after 1932 (and watered down under his father).

The king has grabbed land that he reckons belongs to his royal family and that was “lost” after 1932. New laws in 2018 gave the king enormous power to grab land.

The king has vastly expanded his political power by taking control of large police and Army units – up to regiment size – for his and his family’s “protection.” Most recently, this has involved the illegal use of emergency powers in the constitution.

At the same time, the obsessive–compulsive king has promoted retro-fashion that favors pre-1932 uniforms, haircuts and attire. Personally, he has promoted royal polygamy.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Why are we recounting all of this? One reason is because the king has, with the support of the military junta and now supported by the post-junta military-backed government, he’s gotten away with all of this with barely a peep of dissent. (Of course, dissenters are threatened, jailed, disappeared, tortured and murdered.)

Under this king there’s also been a concerted effort to expunge the symbols of 1932. It wasn’t that long ago that a monument to the defeat of the royalist restorationist rebellion in 1933.

Known as the Boworadej Rebellion, it was led by Prince Boworadej and supported by the anti-democratic King Prajadhipok.

The king, probably reflecting the influence of his grandmother’s and his mother’s family’s hatred of the 1932 People’s Party revolution, the king has demanded that the military adopt symbols of the pre-1932 royal family.

The most recent effort has involved the Army’s celebration of leaders of that rebellion – a coup – who engaged in treason and mutiny.

It is reported that:

two halls in the army’s museum are named after royalist rebels who attempted to overthrow an elected government eight decades ago.

Clipped from Khaosod

Prince Bovoradej and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram, who led the 1933 failed revolt, now grace the two rooms at the Royal Thai Army headquarters’ newly renovated museum, which honors illustrious figures in army history. The rooms were inaugurated today by none other than Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong.

The Army “said the naming was meant to honor the two men for their loyalty to the monarchy…”.

The Army has tried to downplay this move, but no one should be fooled. This is yet another nail in the coffin of the constitutional monarchy as the king pushes for a neo-feudal political arrangement.

A democracy activist, Abhisit Sapnaphapan wrote:

“This is a declaration that even though they did not succeed that day … their legacies are being continued today…. Welcome to the old regime of absolute monarchy.”

Another observed: “Thai people united and brought down Bovoradej’s revolt to defend their constitution, yet Tuu [Gen Prayuth] is naming a meeting room after Bovoradej…”.

It is late 2019 but 1931 seems just around the corner.

Update: Readers might find an interview with Pridi Phanomyong from 1977 of some interest. It has emerged from behind a paywall, here.





Updated: Torture, murder

25 08 2019

Back at the end of July, Prachatai reported that “Abdullah Isomuso, 32, was admitted to the intensive care unit of Pattani Hospital on 21 July after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp in Pattani.” At the hospital he was reportedly unresponsive.

He had been “detained under Martial Law on 20 July for suspected involvement in unknown insurgent activity, after a group of military officers searched his house in Sai Buri District…”.

Police were said to be “investigating,” and “went to the Inquiry Unit at the Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp to gather evidence.” However, as usual, “when they asked to see footage from the CCTV cameras inside the Inquiry Unit, officials at the camp said that all of the cameras were broken.”

It is “standard procedure” in cases where there are deaths in custody or alleged murders by the military for the military to claim the cameras are broken or even to conceal the evidence provided by CCTV.

Civil society groups “express[ed] concerns that Abdullah might have been subjected to torture while in detention.”

Meanwhile, those who came to visit Abdullah at the hospital were photographed by police.

Now, Abdullah has died, with the Bangkok Post reporting that this death resulted “from injuries sustained during an interrogation by security authorities.” That suggests that he was indeed tortured.

While “Col Pramote Prom-in, the spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command’s Region 4 Forward Command, on Sunday confirmed the death of Abdulloh and promised transparency in the inquiry into his fate,” this seems impossible. After all, there has almost never been a case of official torturers and murderers being seriously investigated or held to account.

The authorities operate with impunity.

Update: There’s been quite a media storm over this case. Worth considering are:





Never trust an Army boss II

7 07 2019

Back in February we observed that no one should ever trust the commander of the Royal Thai Army. At that time, Gen Apirat “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. That was a fabrication and a lie.

He’s at it again.

Army watcher and occasional propagator of its propaganda, the Bangkok Post’s Wassana Nanuam conveys a message from Gen Apirat that is another lie. The basic point of the first report (of two that seem essentially the same), is that Gen Apirat “will wash his hands of politics after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] is dissolved once the new cabinet is sworn in.” He states: “From then on, I won’t make political comments nor will I get involved with politics in any way. I’ll perform my duty strictly as a professional soldier…”.

But, that is just silly and deceitful. For one thing, the junta – of which he is secretary-general – has constitutionally created a senate spot for the Army boss. That is, for Gen Apirat. In other words, he is a part of the political process as structured and rigged by his junta.

He’s also deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command, which is scheduled to take over many of the junta’s roles when the junta dissolves. ISOC has been embedded in politics from the national to the local levels [clicking opens a PDF].

As an aside, but interestingly, he provided the clearest signal yet that the Army is to remain US-aligned. With the Army now more cashed-up than it has been in decades – thanks to the military junta doubling its budget – and with an authoritarian-friendly regime in the US, look for this relationship to strengthen further.

Perhaps the biggest issue in Thailand’s politics is the one seldom discussed in the media is the relationship between the Army and the monarch. This is one aspect of politics where the Army has played – and will continue to play – a major role. The junta used ISOC and the Army to squash the anti-monarchism that sent shivers through the palace and the royal-aligned ruling class. That fundamental aspect of politics is also the Army’s most fundamental task.

So never trust an Army boss and don’t believe Gen Apirat’s claims.





Impunity continues

31 03 2019

To leave “election” news for a while, PPT noticed a report in the Bangkok Post that gave an account of a recent court ruling from the south.

The Pattani provincial court ruled the deaths of four men, initially claimed to be “insurgents” and shot dead by police and military were legal.

The court proclaimed that “state authorities are not required to compensate the families of four men shot…”.As the report states,

A fact-finding committee, set up to look into the case, concluded in April 2015 that the four were not linked with the deep South insurgency. These findings prompted Lt Gen Prakarn Cholayuth, then 4th army region commander, to apologise for the incident.

Despite this, “the court ruled that the police and army officers who gunned down the four had acted lawfully and that their organisations would not be liable for the incident.”

The families can appeal, but this court’s decision again grants police and military with impunity when they murder citizens.





Army stuck in it past II

7 03 2019

Readers may vaguely remember Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s outrageous lie when he bizarrely “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. This untruth belched from the mouth of a man who is secretary-general for the junta and whose men are charged with harassing all political parties that are not pro-junta.

He was far more truthful when he recently “vowed to only support a government loyal to the monarchy.” The report gives the context:

Clipped from Khaosod

Kneeling before the statue of King Rama V – revered by the military as its founding father – Gen. Apirat and hundreds of his officers pledged to uphold the late king’s legacy and defend a government committed to protecting the royal family.

Designated a “special appointment” in the military’s daily bulletin, the first-of-its-kind ritual struck observers as an all-out offensive against junta opponents.

His creepy supplication before a memorial to a dead king was conducted with some 700 other senior officers.

The pledge by Gen Apirat and the other 700 officers pledged:

I shall uphold the royal majesty of the monarch, and the pride and dignity of the armed forces. I, as officials of the state, shall support a government committed to a democratic regime under His Majesty the King as head of state….

At the event, reporters were given Army pamphlets “campaigning against pledges by Seri Ruam Thai [Party] and other anti-junta parties [Future Forward and Puea Thai] to slash the size of the armed forces and abolish conscription.”

In other words, Gen Apirat is campaigning for the pro-junta parties, making it clear that if any party he dislikes forms a government, it can expect a coup to get rid of it.





Army generals and their servants

28 02 2019

Not unexpectedly, The Dictator-junta leader-former Army boss-self-appointed prime minister-prime ministerial candidate-Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his Army commanders are on the same page when it comes to protecting the military.

The Nation reports that Gen Prayuth, maybe speaking as prime minister, maybe as junta boss or maybe as Candidate Prayuth, has declared that like an industrial free trade estate, “investing in soldiers is important and expenditure on military affairs cannot be seen as a financial gain or loss.”

He’s responding to campaign speeches by several political parties stating that the military’s budget could be trimmed and military conscription ended.

The Dictator views the suggestions, coming from “Pheu Thai, Future Forward and Seri Ruamthai parties” as an attack on the military and part of an anti-military political push.

Not explaining how conscripts are trained and how mission-ready they are, Gen Prayuth declared: “The country can call troops out any time of the day for a mission. If you downsize the armed forces, who will help out in times of disaster?”

The general was campaigning/visiting “with several Cabinet members to the Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science and Technology and the Kamnoetvidya Science Academy in Rayong province to follow up on education progress during his government’s tenure.”

He wondered how Thailand’s borders could be “watched/protected” by a slimmed military.

Predictably, The Dictator was vigorously supported by the Defense Ministry which “leapt to the defence of military conscription, insisting there would be a shortfall of troops if only voluntary recruitment is adopted.”

Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Khongcheep Tantravanich said:

400,000-500,000 males are selected for conscription each year but just 100,000 are drafted. He said only 46% of eligible young men volunteer for service. Moreover, just under a third of all drafted men request to have their military service postponed, leaving 70,000 in service….

It isn’t entirely clear what contribution involuntary conscripts have on the size of the military. Adding together Wikipedia data, we find the total size of the military establishment is 326,000, although a Bangkok Post graphic suggests that there are just 127,000 in the Army, whereas the estimate at Wikipedia is 210,000. Another Wikipedia page has an estimate of 360,000 active personnel, 245,000 reservists and 94,000 paramilitaries for a total of almost 700,000.

What is even more opaque is the number of generals. Most estimates put this at around 1,700. Guess that those generals, when not golfing or gulping from the public trough, need the services of conscripts.

Even Lt Gen Kongcheep had to admit that the “conscripts end up running personal errands for generals…”. An senior Navy officer living close to one of the PPT lot regularly has 5-8 uniformed “sailors” running errands, cooking for his family at their apartment, washing their cars, cleaning the apartment, and so on. They are servants and slaves.

We doubt this pattern prepares conscripts for “going to war.”

Also important for the broader interests of the ruling class, Lt Gen Kongcheep states that the usually lower class “conscripts acquired discipline and good ideology during their time in service … so they will be quality citizens after they are discharged”. He means they are indoctrinated with notions of royalism and hierarchy sufficient for them to “go to war” with protesting citizens.

The vast majority of serving and retired generals and few in the ruling class want a professional military. They prefer a politicized military.

Ruling class ideologues and professional military posterior polishers like “Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, [who] said conscription is a patriotic Thai tradition.” That so-called tradition only goes back to the mid-1950s.