NUS Press doing the regime’s work

17 01 2021

Asia Sentinel has a story about NUS Press being ordered – that’s the implication – to bin a book after taking through a production process to printing. Of course, the book is about the Thai monarchy, the dead king, and King Vajiralongkorn, and it is edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. This censorship would be remarkable for a proper university press, but that is not what NUS Press is. It is a press run by a state-dominated university in an authoritarian state. Academic freedom is not something that the university or the press uphold.

Because Asia Sentinel is often blocked in Thailand, here’s the full story, with just a couple of edits, by John Berthelsen:

Singapore’s NUS Press Accused of Ditching Thai Anthology Under Pressure
Compendium of scholars discussing end of previous Thai king’s reign sent to Yale instead

More than 100 international academic figures have signed an open letter accusing Singapore’s National University Press of bending to political pressure and dropping the publication of a compendium of scholars analyzing the prospects for the end of the era of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.

Titled “Coup, King, Crisis,” the book was edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai dissident now in exile at Kyoto University in Japan and features writers including Paul Handley, the author or the acclaimed book “The King Never Smiles,” as well as Australian academic Kevin Hewison…. Other authors included Federico Ferrara, Claudio Sopranzetti, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Edoardo Siani, Paul Chambers, Sarah Bishop, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Krislert Samphantharak, Tyrell Haberkorn, David Streckfuss and Somchai Phatharathananunth.

The manuscript was later accepted and published by Yale University under Yale’s Southeast Asia Studies Monograph series. Singapore public universities and political research institutions, according to Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based rights NGO, “have direct government links that enable political influence and interference in hiring and firing. Recent faculty turnover at two major universities has increased concerns about political pressure. Self-censorship on Singapore-related topics is common among academics, who can face legal and career consequences for critical speech.’

Pavin, who composed the open letter, said Peter Schoppert, director of the NUS Press, and Tan Eng Chye, the NUS President of the decision to cancel the publishing contract in March 2020, but failed to give any explanation regarding the withdrawal, saying the decision “was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community.”

“It seems reasonable to assume that the NUS Press’s decision was due to political pressure,” Pavin wrote. “The unexplained and last-minute decision violates the fundamental principles of academic freedom. The reference to outside stakeholders indicates that individuals and/or interest groups outside of academia have the final say in the publication process. This makes a mockery of the independent peer-review process, calling into question the academic integrity of the press itself.”

Some of the authors, including Pavin himself, have had a stormy relationship with the Thai government. He recently complained that he was being followed by unknown figures in Japan. In fact, Thailand has reached well outside the country’s own borders to harass exiled dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch, which in its 2020 World Report said that “In recent years, dissidents who fled persecution in Thailand have faced enforced disappearance in neighboring countries. At least two Thai exiles in Laos, Wuthipong Kachathamakul and Itthipol Sukpaen, were forcibly disappeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2018, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatchan Boonphawal, and Kraidet Lueler were abducted and murdered in Laos. In May, authorities in Vietnam repatriated Chucheep Chivasut, Siam Theerawut, and Kritsana Thapthai to Thailand and the three men have since disappeared.

The manuscript was proposed to the NUS Press in October 2018 and went through what the protesting scholars called a “proper and vigorous peer review process, and all contributors revised their essay accordingly, and in a timely manner.”

On August 29, 2019, Pavin wrote, he signed a contract with the NUS Press on behalf of the contributors, completing the necessary steps to ensure meeting the publication deadline of Spring 2020. As the manuscript was about to go to press, Schoppert wrote to him saying: “It is with great regret that I have to inform you that NUS Press will not be proceeding with our publication of and distribution plans for ‘Coup, King, Crisis’ and would release a statement saying it was “not the sort of decision a university press takes lightly, but it was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community. We have informed the book editor, Assoc Prof Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and the contributors to the book, and released them from their obligations under our contract. We apologize for the late notice, and the inconvenience caused.”

Spurned by NUS, Pavin spent the intervening months trying to find a new home for the book. Although Schoppert wrote that although NUS wouldn’t print the book and that it was open to discussing “measures that can be taken to mitigate the impact” of the cancellation, Pavin didn’t bother to negotiate.

The decision on the part of the NUS Press to drop the project revealed the university’s “knowing sacrifice of legitimacy for expediency,” according to the open letter. “Its action exposes others not so well positioned to increased pressure from those who would undermine the foundations of an open society.”

Pavin publicly called for an international moratorium by scholars on all further manuscript reviewing for and submission to the NUS Press, which “has damaged and made a sham of the academic review and publication process “and asked colleagues to not send any new manuscripts to NUS Press.

The affront to critical, independent scholarship represented by NUS Press’s action on this manuscript “suggests that NUS is underserving of its current level of global ranking,” according to the letter, and “has caused reputational damage not just to the press itself but also to NUS.”

The letter and its signatories is available here, and is a PDF.

We may as well assume that the book, now published by Yale’s Southeast Asia Program, and available at Amazon, will be banned in Thailand.





Asia Sentinel on the king’s failures

2 04 2020

Often blocked in Thailand, Asia Sentinel has a summary of the recent travails of King Vajiralongkorn.

It begins with a note that the king “has come under unprecedented attack by young Thais who have taken to Twitter and Facebook to denounce him for his apparent disregard of his subjects during the Covid-19 crisis.”

In a sense, the king is caught in the backwash of palace propaganda. That disinformation has spent decades promoting the monarch and royal family as being concerned about “its people.” Critical analysis has shown that they have been more interested in increasing their wealth and political influence. When it comes to Vajiralongkorn, his penchants are naked women, property, money and power.

Being in Germany -where he’s spent most of his time over the past decade – Vajiralongkorn is being “heavily criticized for not caring about his subjects at home, for continuing to enjoy an indulgent life with a harem in a German hotel…”.

This criticism led to the “Why do we need a king?’ hashtag. As one critic puts it: “Today, cursing at the king seems normal.”

It has also led to some ham-fisted counter claims from mad royalists (probably prompted by the military) claiming the king is actually spending his nights in Bangkok swabbing the streets. Such laughable claims merely deepen the hatred of the king.

While the report states that an expatriate source says “[t]hese are new revelations [about the king] to millions of Thais,” that suggests the “expatriate” is disconnected from Thais; in fact, most Thais are aware that the king is erratic, obsessive-compulsive, lecherous and grasping. The recent revelations merely remind and reinforce that perspective.

The report is correct to observe that recent revelations and social media criticism “debunk the myths of divinity and sacredness of the [royal] family…”.

None of this stops the regime (along with its military and tycoon backers) – which depends on the monarch for whatever legitimacy it has – forking out a billion dollars a year on “protecting” and lauding the king and his strange family.





King, fear and feudalism

26 05 2017

A couple of recent articles that seek to comprehend the admittedly odd politics of contemporary Thailand deserve wide attention. We summarize and quote below.

The first is by Pavin Chachavalpongpun at the Washington Post. Pavin looks at the oddness that has emerged in the early months of this reign, with the military junta frantic to control the king’s image. He says “Thailand finds itself in the grip of a strange political fever.” It is a potentially deadly disease.

He notes that “there’s nothing particularly new about Thai officials displaying zealousness in their efforts to protect the image of the king.” But, there’s something different: “there is a palpable sense that the current government is reacting with much greater sensitivity in the case of the current king — far more so than at any other time in recent memory.”

Pavin continues to the widespread view that the “mysterious incident six weeks ago, when a modest memorial plaque suddenly disappeared from the sidewalk of the Royal Plaza in Bangkok” was on the king’s orders.

He continues, noting that “the removal of the plaque and the intense official reaction to any online questioning of King Vajiralongkorn’s image show that he [Vajiralongkorn] is beginning to exert his influence over the state.”

That’s scary enough, but its scarier still when Pavin says that the king “is clearly very serious about reintroducing royal absolutism, and not at all interested in defending democracy or free speech.”

That raises a question. Will the king’s “increasingly hard-line policies … reinforce support for the monarchy or ultimately contribute to its weakening.” We are betting the latter. But it could be very messy.

The second article is at Asia Sentinel. It pulls no punches, beginning with this:

Thailand, once known as the Land of Smiles, is a country today seemingly trapped in a perpetual nightmare, headed by a half-mad king determined to return the country to the era before … the last absolute monarch of the country after the military ended [royal] absolute power in 1932.  Nobody appears willing to stop him.

It continues on the king’s time in waiting:

The prince, now 64, is said to be regarded with loathing by many within royal circles for his associations with Chinese gangsters, his womanizing and his apparent refusal to adhere to royal rules, according to official US cables leaked in 2011 by the Wikileaks organization, verbatim copies of which were carried in Asia Sentinel.  He has repeatedly scandalized the nation despite the military’s desperate attempts to use the world’s most restrictive lèse-majesté laws to keep a public lid on his behavior.

Since becoming king, he has largely lived up to his ominous promise….

And there is talk of the king’s bizarre and macabre behavior and how the junta must support it and even condone it:

“For decades, the Thai Army has used the excuse of upholding the monarchy to justify their actions and deeds that have included feathering their own nests, suppressing people’s rights, and conducting multiple coups to hold on to power and retard progress towards democracy,” a western source said. “So now Prime Minister Prayuth [Chan-ocha] is hardly in a position to meaningfully oppose Rama 10’s power grab that takes the situation back to the pre-1932 coup era, when palace officials had no protection and were subject to the king’s every whim, or in the case of this latest monarch, every cruelty.”

So far, the source said, “most of the new king’s abuses have been inflicted upon his own entourage, but the fear is what happens after Rama IX’s funeral in October, when the memory of his father is laid to rest and the last restraints on his power are released?  Will he start inflicting abuses against perceived opponents or dissenters in the wider populace? Will he launch a campaign against those who he views as having slighted him in the past, since it is well known that he has a list of such people?…”.

Who will be willing to stop him?





Critic in fear for his life

23 04 2017

Asia Sentinel carries a report headlined “Thai Critic Faces Death Threat.” We guess that the story is blocked for many readers in Thailand, so while not reproducing the report in full, PPT posts the main points from it.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun has become one of the most implacable critics of the country’s ruling king, … Vajiralongkorn, and the junta that took over the country in a coup in 2014. Now that may have put his life in danger from the country’s erratic and violence-prone king.

The report reports the story that Pavin and two others have been “banned” by the junta, with anyone contacting them being threatened with jail.

… The junta has unsuccessfully attempted to persuade several governments to return Pavin to Thailand. He has lived in exile since the coup, mostly as an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Japan although he has traveled and lectured widely in the United States and Europe, often with royalist Thais attempting to shout him down. The government has also sought to persuade foreign governments to bar him from speaking.

… In recent days, Pavin has escalated his attacks with a series of articles published in Asia Sentinel, New Mandala, and Washington Post, charging that the new king is reigning “as a monarch whose authority is based on fear and cares little about those around him. In vivid and depressing language, Vajiralongkorn’s command structure, Pavin said, resembles those of Thai mafias, or chaophos.

After the article ran, Pavin learned from a number of credible sources that the new king would seek to “manage” him, which in Thai vernacular usually means he would seek to kill his critic.

“So the warning is credible given the credibility of the source,” Pavin told Asia Sentinel. “Someone may come after me in Japan, although my friend believes it will be difficult because of where I live. But they could attack me when I travel overseas, that would be more likely.

Asia Sentinel reminds readers that “several people who worked for or with the new king have met their deaths under mysterious circumstances.” It mentions deaths and disappearances, naming: Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha and Major General Pisitsak Saniwong na Ayutthaya, Suriyan Sujaritpalawong, former police spokesman Prawuth Thawornsiri and Police General Akrawut Limrat.

… Deep concerns about the new king’s behavior have circulated for years, and although the country’s severe lese majeste laws have kept them out of the local press, they have circulated widely….

Since he replaced his … father, the lese-majeste laws and the military’s campaign to build Vajiralongkorn’s royal presence into near-mystical status have become a kind of trap for the junta. His erratic and violent behavior are now unchecked….

It is believed that the king engineered the disappearance of [a] memorial plaque of 1932 revolution, since he hated the revolutionaries who abolished absolute monarchy 85 years ago. And now he wishes to revive royal absolutism….

Thailand has arrived at a critical juncture in which the head of state is ruling its subjects with fear. His yearning for absolute power seems to have been met with the military’s own wish, a country where politics is a game of the political elites. To consolidate their rule, events have shown both the monarchy and the military have resorted to brutal tactics to eliminate its critics….

 





Prince’s purge?

6 11 2015

As readers will know, the most recent palace-associated lese majeste purge has been murky and baffling for many, PPT included. Because there is so much censorship on the one hand and social media speculation on the other, it has been a guessing game.

Trying to make sense of this, a story at Asia Sentinel – Thailand’s Crown Prince Starts Another Purge – is likely to be big news for several claims it makes. Because of the powerful interests involved, the deaths of several caught up in the events and the lese majeste law, the article is written anonymously, simply tagged “Our Correspondent.” Asia Sentinel

Because Asia Sentinel is often blocked in Thailand, the story will circulate clandestinely and the military junta will try to prevent it getting out.

Some of the claims and points made deserve consideration. First, a bit like Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s widely read A Kingdom in Crisis, succession is cast in terms of ancient battles, with this opener:

As Thailand’s royal interregnum approaches, the country’s ruling class has been seized by what amounts almost to a reign of terror, with Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn apparently clearing out his enemies in a fashion that goes back to the installation of a long line of Rama kings.

This is scenario one. The article is undoubtedly correct in assessing that The Dictator, “Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha … appears to have accepted Vajiralongkorn as the next king and is seeking to manage the situation the best way he can.” Yet another scenario, not mentioned in the article, is that the military junta and perhaps even some Privy Council members are conducting the purge, cutting the prince off from his networks of support and loot, thus making him dependent on the junta, military and Privy Council (scenario two).

The article does lend some credence to second scenario when it observes that “Vajiralongkorn is so thoroughly detested in royal circles that efforts have been vainly made to sideline him for his associations with Chinese gangsters, his womanizing and his refusal to adhere to royal rules.” However as an unnamed source declares in the Asia Sentinel story, “There is no longer any doubt that the prince will become the king.” If that is so, then controlling his funds and advisers might make sense.

The widespread fear that surrounds the most recent purge is also noted. With the king not having been seen for some time, and rumors that he may have already passed, no one dares speculate for fear of jail or worse.

Describing the “four-times-married” 63 year-old prince as a “wastrel,” he “spends most of his time in Germany although he has made recent periodic trips back to Thailand to seek to rehabilitate his image, most principally through a series of bicycle rides in honor of his ailing parents.”

It is these bike rides that seem to be at the center of the current purge, with “a source in Bangkok” revealing that “the prince has become enraged over allegations that people in his entourage have apparently been profiting from the sale of ‘Bike for Mom’ and ‘Bike for Dad’ souvenir and promotional items.”

While other reports have mentioned CP tycoon Dhanin Chearavanont, this article claims that the purge follows complaints about “Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, better known as Mor Yong, the prince’s soothsayer, allegedly because he went to spirits [and Chang beer] tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, Thailand’s second-richest man, to ask for funds for the Bike for Dad event.” Such “asks” have been common and accepted in the past, so it isn’t clear what has gone on in this case, but “Charoen is said to have complained to Princess Sirindhorn, who told her brother in Germany.  That has blown up into a major incident with the arrest of the fortune teller and others.  Dozens of army and police officials are believed to be under fire.”

There’s a couple of things here. First, the link between the prince and his sister has sometimes been seen as distant and competitive, and this claim would not support that. Second, the scenario one claim made in the article seems difficult to fit with the terror and vengeance of the arrests and investigations. Sure, the “Prince is said to be trying to whitewash his image ahead of  the succession,” but skimming is the norm for those close to the palace. Why get flustered about it now? The story says: “He [the prince] is also said to be outraged that most of the people who have helped run his networks over recent decades have been skimming money from them too.” A source is quoted: “I have no idea why the prince would be so angry about this, because it’s standard for everybody to take their cut. But anyway, the prince is sending a message to everybody — don’t fuck with me ahead of the succession.”

Unless it is scenario two.

The story also directly refers to another social media event that has terrified local media:

In the latest purge, two top police officials have died mysteriously and a third has disappeared. Major General Phisitsak Seniwong Na Ayutthaya, the prince’s main bodyguard, died in mid-October.  Local media have been so terrified by the situation that they have hesitated to name Phisitsak in print. His family was told he had committed suicide by hanging himself with his shirt.

As is well-known, Police Major Prakrom Warunprapha, caught up in this latest purge also died while in military custody, with the military junta claiming he committed suicide by hanging himself. In the purge late last year, another police officer died when he fell, committed suicide or was pushed from a hospital window. Another senior police officer associated with the organizing of the biking events has “disappeared” and an army officer has gone into hiding across the border.

These deaths have been the subject of considerable conjecture, with some saying that the two most recent “suicides” are suspicious, not least because:

Sources in Bangkok say both were beaten and tortured. Instead of releasing the bodies to their families, as is the case for most Buddhist deaths to give time for making merit and preparing the bodies for the afterlife, the two were rushed to crematoriums and immediately burned.  The gossip in Bangkok is that officials wanted to hide the evidence of torture.

In a final nod to the rumors and speculation, the article states:

“What is interesting [and worrying] is that it’s not just the major players who are being caught up in the purge, even peripheral figures, such as former police spokesman Prawuth [Thawornsiri], are being targeted,”  a source said. “The prince is being egged on by his latest wife, who is encouraging this behavior. Presumably, this was a way of saving face and pretending he was not involved in the corruption. In fact, he was fully involved in it, just as he was with Srirasmi’s family’s shenanigans.”

Scenario one or two? Whatever is going on, it is murky, dirty, dangerous and, ultimately, threatening to the regime.





Me and my monarchy

10 10 2015

At the time that the draft constitution was ditched, several attempts to say why this was were made. One of those was by academic Kevin Hewison, at Asia Sentinel, where he claimed that it was fear driving the military junta:

… fears about a vote, especially in the northeastern region that still retains loyalty to long-ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the possibility of an unwelcome outcome clearly told them that the country has not seen sufficient “reform” for elections to reject the surrogate political parties associated the exiled former premier.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has now confirmed that assessment, with the Bangkok Post claiming that Prayuth issued a “strongly worded ‘message to the people’ …[that] attacked the previous government and Thaksin Shinawatra, while also urging the public to support the new constitution drafting process.”

The erratic tyrant stated that “anyone with bad intentions toward the monarchy” or who would “rob the country, hurt people or pressure the government or constitution writers” was unwelcome.

Presumably this means that we will find the junta dissolved and gone.

Yes, the dullard generals support the monarchy, but they do this while robbing the country, hurting people – indeed, murdering them – and pressuring the constitution writers to do the job for the military. By Prayuth’s statement they should be gone.

Of course, they won’t go. They are not men of honor or of their word. They are liars and bandits who wish to stay in control so that the royalist elite may profit and exploit.

Prayuth, like the rest of the elite in the palace, the Sino-Thai tycoons and Bangkok’s trembling middle class, blame Thaksin for everything, even if Prayuth can’t bring himself to use Thaksin’s name:

If that person had confessed and faced justice from the start, there would not have been problems… There would not be the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] today and people would not have died because of the unknown militants — and we all know who they support.

Prayuth proves he is a liar, again refusing to admit that the military murdered red shirt protesters.

Making it worse, and indicating why he was egged on by the palace for a second coup, Prayuth “accused the previous government of not being serious enough about preventing lese majeste, which he claimed flourished under former premier Yingluck Shinawatra.”

He explains why he wants to control the internet:

These people use technology to avoid being arrested, and support groups that create and disseminate false news aimed at undermining the credibility of the country.

We think The Dictator and the dullards who surround him do a pretty good job of undermining the country’s credibility without the help of anyone else.

Prayuth is obviously livid that the European Parliament has called out his military dictatorship.

The fearful general makes it clear that all must obey him and his cronies: “for reforms to be successful, the new constitution must be based on the guidelines laid down by the junta.”

This will not include “some democratic means, but not the kind with boundless freedom…”. That’s the finger bird for the European Parliament and for any democrats in Thailand.

Oddly, Prayuth then staggered like a drunken sailor into a critique of his previous charter writers, saying Borwornsak Uwanno didn’t “listen to all groups of people” and “listened only to the elite,” while “some people tried to distort the facts…”. We are numb. How could Borwornsak do other than listen to the elite? That was his assigned task.

But then we read:

In fact, there is not such group in Thailand. There is no elite, middle class or low class here. These terms are just rhetoric used by politicians seeking to drive a wedge in society for their own gain.

Some even accuse the NCPO and the government of abusing Section 112 [the lese majeste law] to destroy our opponents….

We want them [the people] to express their views through the channels provided by the CDC. They should not talk to the media because society will be confused about what is true and what isn’t.

The man is, frankly, deranged.

We wonder how much longer he can continue to dictate with such madness on display. The upper crust can seldom cope with insecurity and unpredictability.





Asia Sentinel on royal health

2 06 2015

Asia Sentinel has a post regarding the return to hospital by the king and queen. PPT had a short post on this recently.

The Asia Sentinel report is somewhat limited by the fact that it seems to rely on one source and has some broad claims that do not have any sources. That said, because the Royal Household Bureau is secretive, the guesses about what’s going on are to be expected.

Interestingly, the main claims of the report is that the king was helicoptered back to the hospital and that Sirindhorn is running the palace. Some social media posts by others claiming to have knowledge reject the former but are silent on the latter.

One thing that is clear is that mainstream media reporting of the return to hospital has been somewhat gloomy, suggesting a health crisis, which is the point of the Asia Sentinel report.





Who is in charge of the cookie jar?

24 08 2014

It is quite clear that the answer to this is that Thailand is now controlled by bunch of crooks.

A reader has pointed out an Asia Sentinel article from a couple of days ago, where its necessarily anonymous correspondent brings together some of the factual reports of the past few years that confirm the criminality of the military brass.

The report states that the military is a “bloated force with 1,400 generals now will seek to run the country…”. The report says that “is 400 more generals than the US Army has for a force three times as big.”

In 2010, it paid some $30 million for more than 1500 “bomb detection devices … sold by a discredited British company … [d]espite a warning from the US Embassy that the devices were ‘like a toy’…”.  It continued to use them for years after they were shown to be fake. They were used to convict the innocent of alleged crimes and were “apparently bought by a Thai general who is said to have profited enormously on the deal.” Naturally.

The report states that the “fact is that the Thai army …  is one of the most deeply corrupt militaries in Asia,” matters little, with the Anti-Corruption Commission ruling that:

the incoming junta members do not have to declare the assets they amassed before and after holding office.  That is in contradiction to the policy for elected officials before the coup. It is also going to be convenient for new executive boards for state-owned enterprises, whose new members are largely drawn from the military.

Having just “approved a US$75 billion master plan to upgrade the country’s transport infrastructure over the next eight years,” there’s little doubt that the “military’s historic role in procurement scandals,” the “chances for generals or lesser officers to take backhanders is inevitably going to grow,” for no one can oversee a military dictatorship.

Corruption in the military is “business as usual.” Enriched and bloated generals operate with impunity. The report explains:

It is just one of a long string of depressing procurement scandals that the Thai military has endured for decades, going clear back to the time in the 1980s and before when the army bought hundreds of armored personnel carriers from the Chinese that were so substandard that light showed through the welds holding the armor plate on, exposing the soldiers inside to the potential of death in the event they were hit by rocket fire. The wife of one of the army’s then-top generals was the agent for Chinese weapons dealers.  At one point the Thai air force bought Chinese jets with engines so substandard that the planes had to be towed to the flight line for takeoff and towed back on landing, because the engine life was so short, measured in hours.

One of the powers behind The Dictator is General Anupong Paojinda. He and Prayuth “signed off on a Bt350 million purchase of an advanced zeppelin which … has long been obsolete” and never flew operationally.

“This is the military that is going to be in charge of Thailand’s economy.” Corrupt and incompetent, the military is only “useful” for murdering its own citizens and protecting the interests of the palace-military ruling elite.





Updated: Busy day in Bangkok II: reform, rice, old kings, censorship and impunity

10 08 2013

As we noted in the first part of this post, it has been a busy few days in Bangkok, with more stories than PPT can possibly comment on, so we are now posting a second  combination of stories.

In another story that cites PPT, Asia Sentinel had a story a couple of days ago regarding the politics of amnesty. PPT is cited as an “NGO,” which is probably rather too much of a grand title for our small effort to shine a light on aspects of politics and political prisoners in Thailand. The story also seems to erroneously suggest that Thaksin Shinawatra put the 1997 constitution in place. Even so, it is true that: “Any time amnesty or constitutional reform looms, the protesters take to the streets. Pheu Thai leaders have been waiting for almost three years to attempt to push through a series of constitutional reforms…”. It would be even more accurate to notice that when the military junta’s 2007 constitution was put in place, all of the old conservatives said it could be changed by elected governments, and even made this an article of the constitution. Since then, this pledge has been shown to be a lie. In fact, then, elected governments have been waiting six years to make changes.

Also worth reading is Robert Amsterdam’s post on the Wat Pathum inquest findings. This note caught our attention:

Without truth there is no justice. And without justice there can be no real workable amnesty. Some might argue a de facto legal amnesty already exists for the extremist anti-democratic People’s Alliance for Democracy and the groups aligned with them, including Abhisit’s Democrat Party. Abhisit and his former deputy PM, Suthep Thaugsuban, have both been charged with the murder of civilian protesters in 2010, yet arrogantly strut around, even dismissing the court’s bail conditions, assured of their own impunity.

Prachatai has a post regarding censorship of books – an unofficial removal from sale – at Asia books. Of course, the books relate to the monarchy. But not the current king. These two books relate to past kings and the royalist response to the 1932 revolution. Prachatai says: “The books concern the history of the 1932 revolution and the controversial relationship between King Rama VI and his palace servants.” So why the “ban”? Asia Books withdrew the two academic titles reportedly for reasons of “political sensitivity” but declined to comment further. The book by Dr. Nattaphol Chaiching studies the “counter-revolution led by the royalists” following the 1932 revolution. Readers without Thai skills can get an idea about the book through the author’s chapter in Saying the Unsayable. The book was published by Fa Diaw Kan as part of its “Monarchy Studies Series.” The second book by Chanun Yodhong is about “Gentlemen-in-waiting”, and deals with the relationship between the gay King Vajiravudh and his palace flunkies. Prachatai states that the book “poses questions about King Rama VI and his projects such as the Boy Scouts and Vajiravudh College, a private boys-only boarding school he founded in 1910.” It is published by Matichon.

While on censorship, we feel compelled to add to the outcry about the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology’s continuing stupidity regarding Facebook posts and its use of the draconian Computer Crimes Act. Minister Anudith Nakornthap has lost his marbles if he thinks social media users should be charged and locked up for “sharing and clicking ‘Like’ on social media posts, since they could be deemed as damaging to the country’s security.” His view that “postings that are political in nature or meant to stir up public confusion might be in breach of the Internal Security Act and Computer Crime Act” is utter nonsense but clearly neanderthals can use the law to censor and stifle. Interestingly, the cyber-cops have declared the warning as a successful scare tactic. Update: Asked if clicking “like” is now against the law, Police Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, says: “It will be if you ‘like’ a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press ‘like’, it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible.” Officials like this are appallingly dull and through their dullard actions, dangerous to Thais and their rights to free speech.

PPT also wants to draw attention to a couple of posts at Bangkok Pundit. The first is not that different from what PPT said on the story/retracted Bangkok Post story on Anand Panyarachun. The second explains what happened, and comes from a source that we also had, but since Pundit has it posted, there’s no need for us to do the same.

Finally, we want to give a few lines to a report in The Economist, which identifies the rice policy as an economic millstone for the government. We agree, but then the politics of reducing the guaranteed price saw farmers protesting just a few weeks ago. An economic millstone is becoming a political millstone, and the government’s policy wonks need to find a way out.





Useless

11 06 2013

We missed an important article a few days ago, at Asia Sentinel, authored by human rights activist Pokpong Lawansiri, that details the sorry tale of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC).

Pokpong begins by noting:

NHRC head Amara Pongsapich and friend: opposing human rights

NHRC head Amara Pongsapich and friend: opposing human rights

During the administration of the then-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, … [the NHRC] was dubbed the most helpful and most relevant independent agency in the eyes of ordinary Thais. That is no longer true.

While Pokpong notes that, under Yingluck Shinawatra, the NHRC has become irrelevant, the process of de-fanging the NHRC has been a post-2006 coup phenomenon. This is because the military junta and the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime that gave the NHRC extra powers, they used it as a political tool and stacked it with political flunkies:

This explains why the former civil servants from the Royal Thai Police, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Drink Don’t Drive Foundation campaigner, and a businessman were selected instead of veteran human rights activists….

While the Constitution stresses explicitly that the commissioners need to have knowledge and experience in the field of human rights, the current batch do not know what are and what are not human rights….

The NHRC has repeatedly delayed the “publication of its fact-finding report on the April–May 2010 crackdown after 37 months have passed,” although no one expects such a report to be sincere or comprehensive.

Pokpong calls for “the Pheu Thai Party … to seriously consider the need to reform the NHRC.”

If the government did consider reform for the NHRC, it would need to demonstrate a serious concern for human rights. While Abhisit and the military royalists might have neutered it, a useless the Commission may well suit the current government.








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