Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.





All used up

8 11 2018

When the royalist establishment deemed it crucial that it oppose elected governments, it supported the creation of “movements” with allegedly “charismatic” leaders, using “civil society” to bring down those governments. Backing them were royalists from business, including the giant conglomerates, and the military.

First there was Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy. It drew on considerable middle class discontent with Thaksin Shinawatra and his regime but was driven by royalist ideology.

After a series of false starts, the second great “movement” was the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by the royalist anti-democrats of the Democrat Party and fronted by Suthep Thaugsuban.

Of course, neither movement was able to bring down the elected governments. That required military coups in 2006 and 2014.

When they had done their work, the fact of their invention by the royalist strategists of the military, business and palace was seen in the manner in which the “movements” vaporized once their usefulness was over.

And, look at the leaders. Both had a capacity to mobilize supporters and this worried many in the military. At the same time, the military knew that it “deserved” to be on top and that the upstarts they created had to know their place.

Sondhi was targeted for what was either an assassination bid or a brutal warning to know his place. No one was ever charged, but it is interesting that the media at the time suggested that both Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda were considered “suspects” in the Sondhi shooting.

Suthep thought he was a “star” and “popular,” but the military put him in his place following the 2014 coup, having to enter the monkhood. While Suthep is back and campaigning for his Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) Party, it seems his “movement” has evaporated and his capacity for garnering the political limelight has been lost under the military junta. Interestingly, this return is a backflip and, according to one op-ed, not popular with his former PDRC supporters (and presumably its backers).

The op-ed continues: “… Suthep seems to have overestimated his popularity, thinking it could be on par with the backing he received from PDRC supporters during the time he led the street protests.” He was disappointed: “his recent jaunts in several areas to recruit members for the party have apparently received a cold response.” This caused “core PDRC supporter Arthit Ourairat … calling for Mr Suthep and other PDRC leaders who have joined ACT to stop their political activities.” Arthit might have poured money into the PDRC but is an ardent anti-democrat and probably is 100% behind The Dictator’s bid for extended power. Tellingly, the man who funded and funneled money to Suthep and PDRC reckons that “people ‘no longer believed them’.”

Anti-democrats want a military-dominated regime and Suthep’s usefulness, like Sondhi’s before him, is over. Suthep’s response will be interesting as his face, position and wealth depend on state links.





Updated: Suthep’s political party

2 06 2018

Readers will probably remember that the military junta was grateful to the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban for plowing the ground for its military coup in 2014 through his formation and manipulation of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Readers might also recall that the junta got agitated when Suthep claimed a role in planning the coup and that it was also concerned by Suthep’s capacity for political mobilization. They seem to have threatened him and sent him off to the monkhood.

Since then, Suthep has been careful in his political steps, clearly not wanting to become a target for military assassination, as was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Finally, though, a new political party has been formed as a political vehicle for Suthep and some of his PDRC colleagues. It is called Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT).

It keeps Suthep as a “member” while the frontman Anek Laothamatas is said to be a founder. He’s failed politician who took funds from corrupt politicians and also from the current junta. He was also with the deeply yellow Thailand Reform Institute that brought royalists and anti-democrats together at Rangsit University. Many appear associated with Suthep’s Party.

Anek has been with the Democrat Party, once worked for Thaksin Shinawatra and is a former Communist. For a time he paraded himself as an “academic.” That he now appears as a “Bhumibolist” should be no surprise for someone who can change his political spots as easily as he changes his ties to a clownish bow-tie for his media appearances.

Clarifications. We say he’s a Bhumibolist referring to a clipped image from The Nation, below, where he wears a Bhumibol election pin and has books on the dead king carefully arranged for the photo op. We say he’s fronting Suthep’s Party because that is what he calls it:

Suthep will be just an ordinary party member, with no executive position in the party and no positions in the future, according to Anek. He also said that having Suthep as a member, the ACT could be viewed as “Suthep’s party”.

Unlike other parties, ACT  “will not elect its leader and other party executives at its maiden meeting.” They will do it later, knowing that the junta’s “election” is months away. The party also needs 500 members and Anek says it is short of that.

Some 250 members will meet at their political alma mater, Rangsit University, owned by yellow-shirt moneybags Arthit Ourairat today:

In addition to Anek, those attending the meeting will be former Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, who headed the PDRC until its demise following the 2014 coup, Rangsit University deputy dean Suriyasai Katasila and former National Reform Assembly member Prasan Marukapitak, according to Thani Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and Suthep’s younger brother.

Suriyasai, Prasan and Thani are formerly key figures in the PDRC, which led massive street protests between November 2013 and May 2014 against the government led by the Pheu Thai Party. The rally culminated in a military coup in May 2014 that overthrew the administration.

Many were previously involved with the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Anek was generous to say that “he was going to resign from the current positions, before working at the new party.“ At present, Anek is still in the pay of the military dictatorship. He is “serving as chairman of the committee on political reform, which is part of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly, in addition to being a member and an adviser in other committees.” He gets a very handy income from the junta.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that, despite all of his previous statements that he had “left” politics, the former Democrat Party godfather Suthep is to be a “co-founder” of ACT. He’s fortunate the T in ACT doesn’t mean Truth.





With a major update: Anti-democrats in a flap

16 05 2016

As expected, following US Ambassador Glyn Davies responded to reporters questions that got the military junta’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in an angry spin late last week, the response of the increasingly anti-American rightist royalists and other anti-democrats was expected.

Sure enough, according to Prachatai, they have gone bonkers, raging against the US Ambassador rolling out the usual shrill nationalist messages calling for Davies to be expelled.

This huffing, puffing and manure-rolling is apparently because the Ambassador reiterated that the State Department had expressed concern about the junta’s terrible human rights record and its manufacturing a lese majeste case against Patnaree Chankij.

Arthit Ourairat declared “Davies’s action … despicable and lacked diplomatic manner. He suggested that Thai government should send him back to the US in order to protect Thai monarchy’s dignity…”. We are not sure how the monarchy’s dignity was harmed, but that matters little to ideologues like Arthit. He is a former Parliament Speaker, a PAD funder who regularly appeared on the anti-democrat stage, as well as being president and owner of Rangsit University, where he funds and maintains a den of anti-democrats.

Like the dopey royalist rant by Justice Minister General Paiboon Khumchaya, Arthit babbles about Thailand being “a country with an older and greater culture than the US, [that] should be able to teach the US that by sending such a bad manner person to be an Ambassador is an insult to our country.” He wants Davies made persona non grata and expelled.

Taking up the royalist-nationalist cudgel was Former deputy spokesperson of Democrat Party Mallika Boonmeetrakool, who has a history of histrionic and neo-Fascist outrages. She” posted an image of Davies on her Facebook with a message that read ‘Get Out’.” The post has been widely shared among yellow shirts.

PAD and PDRC ideologue Chirmsak Pinthong declared that “Davies would only worsen US-Thailand relation[s].” He also took up the latest nationalist fashion of declaring Thailand socially and culturally unique, requiring the lese majeste law.

How such a draconian law is civilized is not expressed. But, then, that’s not the point when racists and nationalists flap their deformed right wings.

Update: According to the Bangkok Post, the military junta is also in a flap. Uncoordinated, contradictory and concocting things, the junta seems driven by the rightist rage and by yellow-shirted social media.

As usual, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is erratic, idiosyncratic and reflects his incapacity to understand much outside his hierarchical world of military posterior polishing. As a dedicated yellow-shirt and social media follower, he demands: “Is Thailand a US colony?”

Again revealing his insular perspective, Prayuth bleats: “The ambassador likely based his comments on general US democratic principles and information he gleaned from media reports…”. We imagine that he says similar things about Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Spain and the UK, all of which expresed concerns about the junta and its repression at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

While not a complete record of the event, a video of the Davies and Don meeting with the press is here:





Yellow reform I

27 10 2014

Anti-democrats reject elected politicians and political parties as divisive and corrupt. This is an essential point of the royalist discourse that seeks to limit policy making to the great and the morally good.

Of course, any reasonable assessment indicates that the great are often fabulously corrupt and the morals of the good are usually flexible. The notion of rule by the morally good simply equates with those who slither about saying what great monarchists and loyalists they are. Nepotism and collusion are quite alright if you are of the right politics, as the military dictatorship has so relentlessly demonstrated.

This is why it is expected that a group of the junta’s handpicked National Reform Council (NRC) members led by academic Sungsidh Piriyarangsan should also launch its very own “civic group” which they have called the “Thailand Reform Institute” at Rangsit University.

Along with Chulalongkorn, Rangsit University is one of the centers of anti-democrat/PAD/yellow shirt academic activism. The university is owned by Arthit Ourairat. Arthit’s self-promoting profile is here.

The “new” group at Arthit’s university “was founded to act as a coordinating centre for movements of civic groups working in the areas of national reform and development as well as helping to build a democratic society…”.

Frankly, we do not believe them. We can accept that they might want “reform.” After all, that was the unspecified demand of the anti-democrats who are responsible for the military’s coup, which they repeatedly demanded. But democracy? That’s a stretch for this group.

For a start, the “institute” is as much about disseminating royalist propaganda as gathering “people’s opinions.” The idea that the “institute” would “monitor the government’s use of power” is a stretch too far. Then, the members of the “institute” are dedicated anti-democrats.*

Suriyasai Katasila, listed as “a lecturer at the College of Social Innovation and the Green Group leader, [who] was appointed the director of the newly formed group” by the Bangkok Post is actually a former PAD leader and speaker on the anti-democrat stage.

Other committee members include NRC members “Rosana Tositrakul, Anek Laothammathat, Niran Pitakwatchara of the National Human Rights Commission, Sirichai Mai-Ngam, chairman of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) labour union, former PAD leader Pipob Thongchai and academics from various disciplines.”

Rosana is a strident yellow shirt who has supported all anti-democrats since 2004. Most recently, she has opposed having different views on the NRC, so her participation in this “institute” is likely about exclusion rather than inclusion of opposing views.

Anek is one of the ideologues of anti-rural propaganda that denigrates voters as bought, duped and ignorant.

Sirichai heads the unions that have supported every anti-democrat action since 2004. His unions were the ones who went about disconnecting water and electricity at government departments during the anti-democrat protests earlier in the year. All the state enterprises are now controlled by the military.

Pipob is a political ally of Suriyasai and a former member of the PAD leadership.

Suriyasai defended the notion that “some committee members were also on the NRC because talks to establish the institute had taken place before the selection of NRC members. But this would not be a problem in terms of work…”. In fact, conflict of interest is nothing for the “good.” These anti-democrats have colluded for over a decade, so there’s no obstacle to their propaganda work.

*We don’t rule out the possibility that this ginger group could fall out with The Dictator when he begins to make compromises and angles for a longer-term military presence in politics (think of 1991-92). They also want to make sure that he and his junta stay “on track” for radical royalist “reform.”

 





PAD moneybags opposes elections

20 04 2010

The Bangkok Post (20 April 2010) neglects some important information – deliberately perhaps? – when they interview Arthit Ourairat. The Post says Arthit is “Rangsit University rector and former speaker of the House.” They neglect to say that he is one of the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s main financial backers and was one of their key speakers at its Sunday rally. He’s worth listening to in order to understand the right-wing perspective on current events.

Arthit sheets home the current conflict to the red shirts and Thaksin Shinawatra. This exceptionally wealthy businessman says the “crisis stems primarily from people’s insatiable greed.” Not his, of course, but the nasty guys. He says there are “four groups of people contributing to the conflict. They have different agendas, although they share the common aim of overthrowing the government.” Compare his 4 groups with the 5 identified by royalist Prawase Wasi or by royalist and anti-Thaksin campaigner and propagandist Chirmsak Pinthong in his civil war article from 28 December 2009.

For Arthit, the “first group is made up of convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters. Their ultimate aim is to seek an amnesty for Thaksin and to retrieve all of his assets seized by the state.” That has been the PAD and government chant. “The second group comprises radical leftists influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution and they hope to bring about a revolution in Thailand. They aim to abolish the current regime with the King as head of state.” Arthit presumably is railing against republican ideas such as liberty, equality and fraternity which are all hated by the ruling class. His “third group is made up of the poor majority of the country. They are exploited and unfairly treated and are led by the pro-Thaksin group into believing the present government serves only the elite and ignores the poor. This group wants to free itself from poverty and social injustice.” The 4th group is “comprised of soldiers who have broken ranks with the army to work for the pro-Thaksin elements. They expect more power and higher positions if they help Thaksin return to power.”

On the present government’s handling of the red shirts, Arthit wants it to do more, talking of winning the “hearts and minds” of the “grassroots” people and more anti-Thaksin propaganda. Like the government, Arthit thinks that all red shirts are simply misled because of their ignorance and lack of quality information. More rule of law against the protesters is another mantra.

A “dissolution of the House or the prime minister’s resignation” would not sort things out. Why? Because these are “short-term solutions.” An election would see “the old power clique led by Thaksin would return to power…”. It seems he accepts that the government would lose an election, so don’t have one until his side can win. If these Thaksin people came back to power, this would unleash “a new vicious circle with anti-Thaksin demonstrators back on the streets.” He means the people he funds and supports.

How to get “reform”? Arthit goes back to one of the initial PAD calls: use Article 7 of the constitution to get royal intervention “and waiving the invocation of some other sections of the charter…”. What does he mean here? Perhaps those requiring an election at the end of next year? This would allow the establishment of a “national assembly of ‘decent people’ made up of representatives of all sectors of society.” So PAD are back to this plan, where elections are seen as dangerous, so appoint people – by the king or some other undemocratic mechanism.Would this replace the current government?

This unelected assembly would then “work on the reform plan covering measures to eradicate poverty and improve access to education, among other things. The assembly must take urgent action to reform the agricultural sector and apply the welfare state concept to the country. These measures will present a long-term and sustainable solution to the problems.” Arthit says nothing about how long this unelected body would meet, how long it would stay.

This seems to be the plan for establishing a – let’s use the right term – dictatorship in Thailand. It would probably be built on the destruction of the red shirts. If people like Arthit get of the leash in Thailand, authoritarian principles will organize the country. The problem is that the Abhisit government is currently accepting of this position and is moving the process forward (a point PPT has made several times over the past year).