The Dictator on the military’s role

13 08 2015

For a few days we ignored The Dictator’s trip to Singapore for its 50th anniversary celebration, but a report at Singapore’s Today caused us to read a little about it.

That a military dictator like General Prayuth Chan-ocha praised Singapore for “unity” and “progress” is not much of a surprise given the great delight that regime gets when Chinese leaders praise the city-state.

Prayuth’s comments on Lee Kuan Yew are a little more interesting. After all, LKY once offered a positive view of Thaksin Shinawatra, and Thaksin was compared with LKY and once said he’d like his party to stay in power like the PAP had in Singapore.

Perhaps Prayuth is unaware of these matters.

However, in all of this, it was a small comment on the role of the Thai military that caught our attention. Prayuth stated:

Weapons are meant to keep the country safe … weapons are not meant for war, but meant to create cooperation.

If we understand “cooperation” to mean doing as the military dictatorship orders, then Prayuth is pretty much correct. The Thai military has only ever been used for the repression of its own citizens when they are identified as opponents of the ruling class.

Preserving royalism

2 08 2015

With the end of this reign upon it the Royal Thai Army – to give it the moniker it prefers – has a problem.

In an article at The Straits Times, academic Pitch Pongsawat is quoted as saying: “the King is still the living soul of the army. Protecting the King is protecting the nation.”

The modern Army, used to killing those civilians considered a threat to nation and monarchy (and military), will now have to “protect” an idea rather than an individual.

With the great stock of military and palace propaganda expended on promoting the current ailing and infirm monarch since about 1957 having been a backstop for the military’s political interventions and a keystone for the social, political and economic order, most of the barami has been personalized. What to do now to keep all that together with an unpopular successor who is unlikely to generate the same level of propaganda value for the Army and elite?

The successionist view is that the only obvious answer is to get rid of the prince and put a more popular princess on the throne. However, the military dictatorship seems pretty determined to continue with the crown prince and to focus more attention on the “institution.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has facilitated the prince’s nasty “divorce” from Srirasmi, jailing her relatives and associates and accepting her seeming house arrest for several months already. Prayuth has even replaced the prince in a rehearsal in the Bike for Mom propaganda exercise. The article asserts:

It is the first time the Crown Prince – who was in the news late last year for the purging of his then wife Srirasmi and her family – will be involved in such a mass public event that appears to be his personal project.

Perhaps the most significant symbol of this move to unpopular prince and to supporting the monarchy as institution is a park of giant bronze statues of seven of the country’s past kings in Hua Hin, reported at The Straits Times.

Hua Hin is interesting as a site as it was where the seventh king was engaged in his favorite activities, holidaying and golfing, when the absolute monarchy was kicked out.

That only seven are chosen may be symbolic of something else. Presumably the kings not chosen for this site are not considered worthy of such adulation.

The article explains that the “site of the pantheon of kings is built by the army on land allocated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” It is “an army initiative,” and is reported to cost $27 million, which is certainly an under-estimate of the land, statues and buildings involved.

Royalist and military ideologue Panitan Wattanayagorn is described as an “analyst” in this report. (At least, this time, PPT doesn’t have to correct the notion that he is an “academic.”) He comes up with the vacant but appropriately royalist statement that “In the past, there have always been activities to honour the monarchy, but this is a very particular, a very special gesture…”. He adds this adulation park “can be seen as an attempt to be more systematic in uniting people at a critical time…”.

Like his military sponsors, Panitan sees the current epoch as a dangerous one and seems to believe that the monarchy can “unite” people. He may be wrong, although we imagine the death of the king will achieve that for a period.

As was the case when the absolute monarchy was under threat and again when the present king came to the throne, the palace propaganda is about continuity over several centuries of disparate kingdoms from Sukhothai through Ayudhya to Bangkok:

The kings depicted are from different periods, in effect linking them to suggest a continuous, ancient history of Thai kings. The first statue to reach the site last week was of the 13th-century king Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai.

The military regime and the existing ruling class needs the monarchy for they have rejected more modern means of achieving legitimacy.

As a footnote, PPT wonders what the superstitious military leadership makes of the damage done to one of the statues as it was transported to the park. Surely it must be viewed as a dark omen?

A photo from The Straits Times

A photo from The Straits Times

Denying the undeniable

21 07 2015

Lies, untruths, fabrications, porkies, misrepresentation, deceit, distortion and falsification are all tools of the military dictatorship. Its spokespersons could not lie straight in bed.

It is no wonder that The Nation reports that a Major-General Sarayut Klinmahom, a director of the Army’s Judge Advocate Office, declared that “Nobody ordered the Army to seize political power…” on 2 May 2014. He was “testifying before the Criminal Court yesterday during a hearing of the Army’s libel case against Thaksin [Shinawatra].”

We believe that this case comes from Thaksin’s visit to Korea in May. Then, Thaksin told a South Korean media agency that last year’s military takeover was plotted by advisers to the king. He alleged that privy councilors helped engineer the anti-government protests that culminated in the coup that overthrew the Yingluck Shinawatra government. Thaksin stated:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

That’s a pretty reasonable account of the way things played out. At the same time, we are sure that the Army brass were also dead keen to oust Yingluck. Yet they have to lie about it in order to shore up the ridiculous lie that the palace isn’t involved in politics.

Hackers for the military dictatorship

19 07 2015

PPT, alerted by a reader, had just begun sifting through Wikileaks release of “one million searchable emails from the Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team (HT) on July 8” when the Bangkok Post published a story on the event with a few comments on the use of the Hacking Team by the military dictatorship.Wikileaks

The article states that:

The military and police struck deals as recently as December to allow them to use hacking software to monitor mobile phones and computers, raising concerns of privacy violations….

The Bangkok Post Sunday learned of the deals by sifting through hundreds of the company’s emails and documents, which name the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police as customers of its remote control systems (RCS), also known as Galileo and Da Vinci.

The Police are said to have purchased products worth €286,482  and the Army spent €360,000 in 2014. HT used intermediaries in Thailand. The Post story says this:

HT’s partners in Thailand include Israel-based Nice Systems and Thai firms Placing Value Co and Netsurplus Co. In September 2012, Nice Systems met with people from several branches of the Royal Thai Army, including intelligence units, to conduct product demonstrations. They were shown “several key functionalities Nice has to offer for this market, which is characterised by poor legislation and no LEA [law enforcement agency] or intelligence connectivity to telecom service providers”.

Placing Value eventually became HT’s main partner and correspondence between the two started in October 2012.

Other emails included the electronics company Samart and ISOC, DSI and “narcotics agencies” are also mentioned, along with “military intelligence.”

As expected, “Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree said he is not aware of the purchase.”

National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pithakwatchara is reported to have “slammed the use of spyware,” stating that it “is a violation of democratic principles…”. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that Thailand is not a democracy. At the same time, these deals began as far back as 2012 when the military was already working to undermine the elected government and was spying extensively on political opponents.

When the capacity of the software purchased is considered, it would be a reasonable guess that “national security” was dominated by spying on those thought to have attacked the monarchy.


Supporting anti-democrat political allies

12 07 2015

In another case indicating the uneasy relationship between the junta and its political allies of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the apology issued to PDRC and People’s Alliance for Democracy coordinator Supot Piriyakiatsakul stands out.

As PPT posted a week or so ago, Supot received Mafia-like threats from thugs organized as soldiers, who thought he was supporting the Dao Din students. Supot bleated about his support for The Dictator and the military dictatorship but referred to “an arrogant exercise of power…”.

This event has caused an apology from the Army to its “brother.” At a Korat Army base, “Col. Patikorn Eiamla-or, a senior commander of 21st Army District, said the incident was a misunderstanding.” He apologized: “I would like to apologize to you, brother…. I insist with my dignity as a soldier that I had no intention to use my power or duty to cause conflict in society.” The idea of the Army having anything like dignity and not wanting to cause conflict is a lie, of course. The Army is was obviously concerned about Supot’s organizing capacity but still needs political allies.

Supot’s response raises other questions. He opined: “”Even though I am a Thai of Chinese descent, my heart is dedicated to love for my country. I have been campaigning in politics since 2006 by choosing to stand on the side of the righteousness…. I have always supported the military in all their actions.”

The questions raised by this statement include the issue of ethnicity and why Supot raises it? Was he accused of disloyalty based on his ethnicity? Was there a supposed link to the Communist Party of Thailand that was being investigated and as trumpeted by a member of the Democrat Party? It is entirely within the realms of military possibility that Chinese ethnicity, links to former CPT and even counterinsurgency figures and political organizing in the northeast could be construed as a political threat. Yet the mad anti-democrat from the so-called Democrat Party seemed to be pointing a finger at Thaksin Shinawatra-linked “communists” rather than those linked with PAD or indeed to the Democrat Party itself. Yet the military is seldom used to or using political nuance.

The second question is perhaps not as controversial. Supot’s claim to have “always supported the military in all their actions” may not be entirely accurate, but it is telling of the relationship between anti-democrats and the men with all the guns. The evidence of military links with PAD and PDRC is not difficult to find.

With 4 updates: Army chief uses lese majeste against Thaksin

29 05 2015

In an earlier post, PPT commented on the likelihood of another lese majeste charge against former elected premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Khaosod reports that General Udomdej Sitabutr, the Army commander and a member of the military junta, “has charged former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with lese majeste for allegedly defaming the monarchy in a recent interview with a foreign news agency.”

Khaosod states:

Due to the severe application of Thailand’s lese majeste law, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for insulting the monarchy, Khaosod English is unable to publish Thakin’s comments in full.

As noted in our earlier post, Khaosod found it necessary to withdraw an earlier story on Thaksin’s speech.

An Army spokesman claimed the military has a “duty to protect the institutions of the Nation, Religion, and Monarchy…. Whenever someone insults any of the institutions, we have to take action, otherwise we may be guilty of dereliction of duty.”

That spokesman then went on to compare lese majeste with murder:

Thai People know that if they violate the laws, they will punished. If they still do it, it means that they intend to commit the crime, and they have to accept punishment. It’s like shooting someone dead. They have to answer for the crime, because they know it’s illegal.

At the same time the spokesman “warned Thai media agencies not to report the remarks Thaksin made in the interview.”

Khaosod also points out that the Army is a “staunch ally of the monarchy” and that it “has previously filed several lese majeste charges against members of the public.” The report mentions its charges against Darunee Charnchoensilpakul in 2008. She remains in prison. Also mentioned are Army charges against exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

Update 1: Meanwhile, the man who led the illegal 2014 military coup that overthrew the 2007 constitution and ousted an elected and legal government, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has seen the Criminal Court dismiss a lawsuit filed by activists who accused him “of high treason for staging a coup d’etat against an elected government one year ago.” Of course, Prayuth is guilty and has even admitted that he did wrong. That does not bother the judiciary because the military junta granted itself a legal amnesty “in the interim charter they enacted shortly after the military takeover.”

Update 2: The military junta is seriously ticked off with Thaksin and has decided that he needs to be punished. While a bunch of The Dictator’s minions have stated that there is nothing “political” in its attacks on Thaksin, this is clearly horse manure, and the existential threat against Thaksin is extended to his family and wealth in Thailand. In addition to passports and lese majeste, the regime has decided to remove Thaksin’s old police rank. It has also decided that Yingluck will not be able to use her passport. Clearly, the so-called deals are off until Thaksin “learns” to be silent on monarchy, palace, privy council and military.

Update 3: The punishment of Thaksin, his family and associates continues. The Bangkok Post reports that the “National Anti-Corruption Commission is working on a case against the former premier [Yingluck Shinawatra] and her then-foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and could have the investigation wrapped up next month…. In June, the NACC will meet to decide whether it will indict the pair or drop the case centred on abuse of authority.” Is this beginning to look like the same tactics used against Srirasmi?

Update 4: The Bangkok Post reports that Thaksin has not been charged with lese majeste but that police are investigating the case. That almost always results in a charge, so there is no real difference. The Army Chief says he’s sued Thaksin for insulting the military. The thin-skinned brass are easily insulted not least because they are used to being obeyed, not least because they have guns and power. We will have another post coming on these events within the next 24 hours.

Army Fools’ Day

28 05 2015

PPT read a report at Khaosod and checked the date. No, the 1st of April has passed, so we think the report is not an April Fools’ Day joke. Rather, we think it cause for adding an Army Fools’ Day every 27 May, for as long as Thailand suffers under a military junta.

The report states that that “[a]mbassadors from twelve countries are visiting Bangkok today as a part of the Foreign Ministry’s effort to form a new diplomatic bloc that promotes Thailand’s standing in the international community…”.

Spokesman Maj.-Gen. Weerachon Sukhonthapatipak stated that the bright sparks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs believe that by inviting (and paying for) so-called Friends of Thailand to visit Bangkok is about “creating a network of alliances for Thailand” that will “promote” Thailand’s military dictatorship at the United Nations.

Who are the Friends of Thailand? They represent “Antigua and Barbuda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Ghana, Kiribati, Hungary, Nauru, Vanuatu, and Cameroon.”

Significant powers with great influence? Hardly. Some are also on this list. Some might suggest that these are diplomats for hire.

Still, The Dictator and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha met with them to “explain” Thailand’s “period of national reforms” and said there would be “an election by September 2016.”

Weerachon later explained that “representatives from all twelve nations expressed support for Thailand’s military government.” Not just that, but they “spoke with one voice, that Thailand is a good place to live, and it is full of friendship…”.

Weerachon went on to propagandize that the diplomats “also gave moral support to the administration, which has clearly proven to them that it is working to benefit the Thai people and spread happiness. The diplomats unanimously agreed that in order to move the country forward, stability and national security have to come first, then other things will follow.”

Apparently, the “Friends of Thailand” were well-behaved and “did not ask any questions” about human rights.

Who was it who wrote the script for this nonsense? Yes, the junta-directed Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Who believes them? Why does it matter? How much did the junta pay for this “support”?


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