Down the shute

4 03 2021

PPT doesn’t always post on rankings, but the Freedom House index struck us as telling of Thailand’s descent into a dark era. Freedom House’s report now ranks Thailand as Not Free. While one might dispute such indices, it is clear that the country now languishes with some sad companions in these “league tables,” looking far more authoritarian than democratic.

Freedom House’s report on Thailand begins:

Thailand’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that had performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.

It goes on

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Read it all here.





Updated: Going Chinese on Myanmar

1 02 2021

With a military coup in Myanmar, the military-backed and populated regime in Bangkok has responded as you would expect.

Despite bogus claims that the rigged 2019 election made the military junta somehow “democratic,” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has shown that the military mindset rules.

Gen Prawit declared that the coup, the democratically-elected government that won in a landslide, and the military detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of her party as an “internal affair.”

This response sounded very much like it might have come from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Naturally enough, Cambodia’s autocratic leader Hun Sen concurred that it was an “internal matter.”

Of course, Gen Prawit has been involved in at least two military coups in Thailand and he and other military bosses are close to Myanmar’s military.

The company the regime keeps shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.

Update: Prachatai reports: “As the Myanmar military seizes power, detains politicians and declares a 1-year state of emergency, the democratic opposition in Thailand condemns the putsch and holds a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok…”. In another Prachatai report, it is reported that “after Thais and Myanmarese staged a protest against the coup by the Myanmar military this afternoon, they were dispersed by the Royal Thai Police with shields and batons. 3 people were arrested.”

Thailand’s military-monarchy despots have become the protectors of authoritarian regimes.

 





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.





Political arrests III

9 08 2020

Yesterday, the big news was that the Criminal Court “approved bail for a lawyer and a student activist [Arnon Nampa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok] who were arrested on Friday on multiple charges including sedition in connection with their involvement in a recent anti-government rally.” Both men say they will fight the charges.

Clipped from The Nation

Interestingly, Arnon immediately taunted the military and regime, “saying that he would travel to Chiang Mai for a rally on Sunday as planned earlier. There, he said he would speak on the same topic he raised last Monday, when comments he made about the constitution and the monarchy touched on some highly sensitive matters.” That’s Postspeak, tiptoeing around the absent king (watch out for another flying visit of about 24 hours over the next week) and his gorging on the public purse and power grabs.

Equally significant was the gathering of “hundreds of their supporters … at the Skywalk across from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where they flashed three-finger salutes and chanted ‘We are not afraid‘.”

They seemed to be responding to Mike, who wrote to supporters saying:

Our arrests are a clear testimony that the dictators don’t want people to assemble…. If, having seen that, we still don’t fight, we’ll be enslaved by dictators and bullied by a judicial system that is not just. The time is up for fear. Let’s fight like brave people…. Let’s end it in our generation.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer referred to the regime’s political strategy against mounting student protests as “decapitation arrests,” meaning that it sought to remove or repress those it considers the protest leaders. Hence the arrest of Arnon and Panupong.

That report also quoted anonymous “sources inside the police, the government has made clear to the police leadership that the student movements should not be allowed to expand beyond its current size prompting the police to move against the student groups.” It cites political analyst Arun Saronchai as observing:

By removing the leadership, they want to see if the students can regroup quickly or whether the momentum will die. The government can litigate all these student leaders until the end of time…. However, it may backfire on them and galvanize the movement even more.

Police have been increasing their activities on university campuses: “security forces increasingly taking an interest in the student bodies that were becoming politically active.” As one academic explained: “They want names, they want numbers and they want to know who is leading the protests…”.

The Bangkok Post reports:

The pair were taken into custody by police armed with warrants on Friday afternoon. Samran Rat police have sought arrest warrants for 15 more demonstrators and were told to apprehend them all by Monday….

Police are also reported to be in the process of collecting evidence to seize 16 more people, bringing the total number of suspects from the July 18 rally to 31.

The Post’s reporting comes with a weasle-worded editorial headline: “Police need a slap on the wrist.” Seriously? What dope came up with that? The editor, it seems. The editorial itself is better, describing the arrests as “ill-thought, excessive.” It says the charges are “disproportionate given that the previous rallies — or flash mobs — in Bangkok and the provinces were peaceful…. [T]he alleged offence against the Emergency Decree is nonsensical.” It adds:

The heavy-handed approach by police is equal to a crackdown on political activism as well as freedom of expression, all civic rights endorsed in the 2017 constitution. Such a blatant act would make the country and the [Gen] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] administration subject to international criticism.

And, presumably domestic criticism? It concludes with the weasle-words:

Thailand cannot afford another political crisis, a factor that would see the country trapped in an economic abyss.

Last week, the premier even stressed the need for unity that will enable the nation to move forward. A suppression of activism would not bring the nation to that goal. An open talk between the government and the activists about how to avoid political crisis is necessary. Before that, the prime minister must give the police a slap on the wrist.

That’s the same police who are corrupt, gun-toting thugs who can’t follow a snail trail and repeatedly lie to the public. But, heck, the Post seems okay with all of that when the political order is under pressure. The Post has a habit of weak support for democracy and it seems it is a hard habit to shake.

Better to return to the Thai Enquirer report, where Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch observed the regime’s actions as amounting to a “total disregard for fundamental rights.” He said:

We have prominent human right lawyer and we have student activists facing sedition charges for peacefully holding a political rally to demand a democratic vote and good governance, this should not be a criminal offence…. If such peaceful actions are considered by the Thai authority to be criminally offensive, it would tell the world that Thailand is not a democratic state, it is a pariah authoritarian state to the core….

Of course, Thailand has not been democratic since the 2014 military coup. And the military and regime plan to keep it authoritarian.





Authoritarians and technocrats aligned

1 07 2020

One of the outcomes of the virus crisis around the world has been the rise of technocrats. They need to be watched as closely as the authoritarians, especially when their expertise is politicized. This is not just in Thailand; it is a global phenomenon.

Two examples will keep this post short. First, as a Bangkok Post points out, the medicos have developed big heads:

The Medical Council yesterday gave people a rather unpleasant surprise with its announcement detailing the obligations of patients seeking medical services….

Most important of all, the Medical Council is a professional body whose main missions are to register and regulate medical practitioners and maintain medical standards in the country.

In issuing the order, the council relied on the Medical Profession Act of 1982 which empowered it to “promote the studies, research, and professional practices in medicine” and “to assist, to advise, to disseminate and to educate the public and other organisations in matters concerning medicine and public health”.

The law does not seem to allow the council to “regulate” the public when it comes to medical services, however. That means the announcement’s status is questionable. Its content is also unclear and impractical.

The second case involves the authoritarian state and technocrats:

… all passengers boarding Bangkok’s MRT and BTS must check in and out via the Thailand Wins system. The new rule comes on the same day social distancing measures will be dropped and all seats made available.

In addition to recording their travel with the tracking app, commuters are asked to refrain from talking while riding the rails, the operators of both systems announced early this evening. The State Railway of Thailand has yet to announce that it will require the same aboard its Airport Rail Link system.

This means the regime can now track all of its Bangkok-based opponents more effectively, while hiding behind “medical advice.” The slippery slope is well lubricated and it is steep and deep.





Nepotism in Bangkok

11 04 2020

As we mentioned in a previous post, authoritarianism seems to be spreading faster than the virus. The latest diktat issued in Bangkok bans alcohol sales for 10 days.

On this, the Bangkok Post’s Ploenpote Atthakor says:

I, like many other people, am baffled about the latest move: How it can help the country, Bangkok in particular, fight the disease? Unfortunately, no one can explain this to me sensibly or rationally.

But the thing that caught PPT’s attention was that Capt Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, spokesman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), announced the ban at the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The spokesman, Capt Pongsakorn just happens to be the son of junta-appointed governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang.

It might be just another example of the nepotism that is so common in Thailand’s junta a post-junta regimes, but there should be questions asked. Or is nepotism now normalized?





Mad authoritarians

3 04 2020

Globally, we have seen authoritarianism expand at a pace never before seen. Many who are fearful of the virus approve of this and even demand more draconian measures.In many places, petty officials have grabbed opportunities to advance their power.

While we at PPT don’t often comment on what happens to foreigners in Thailand, a recent story at Khaosod revealed a mad authoritarianism at the notoriously hopeless Immigration Division of the police.

The dopes at Immigration, with nothing to do much now that the money tree at airports has been felled by the virus, are now looking for opportunities. But as a set of dullard authoritarians, they are bungling and threatening people’s health (and sanity).

A week or so ago, a strange report stated:

The Immigration Bureau (IB) is stepping up its crackdown on people who hoard medical supplies, engage in price gouging, and use bogus websites to solicit donations to help Covid-19 patients or hospitals.

It isn’t clear why the IB was doing this. Perhaps a money making venture by squeezing the small fry involved in such activities?

More to form is screwing foreigners. For some time, there have been criticisms of the IB for forcing foreigners to do all kinds of immigration activities during the virus outbreak. Other countries have ditched this in the interests of health, but not the dopes at Immigration. In Thailand, “overstayers” are being fined 500 baht a day.

Now, in a feat of unimaginable stupidity, the Immigration Bureau has decided that “[n]ine separate documents are now required for foreigners stranded in Thailand to extend their stay for up to 30 days…”.

Why? According to Immigration spokesman Pol Col Phakkhaphong Saiubon, the reason is “national security.” That’s an authoritarian’s best hiding place. This dill stated: “… national security is our utmost priority.”

Foreigners caught in Thailand and residents must now come up with “land deeds, rent contracts, and even selfies … with their accommodation…”. They also need the “TM7 application, copies of their passport, … applicant’s photos, … a certificate from their respective embassies, a copy of rent contract, document confirming their stay at the accommodation, a copy of landlord’s ID card and house registration, and a map showing the location of their residence.

What kind of police mind comes up with such ludicrous requirements in such times? Social distancing? Forget it.





Students rising III

29 02 2020

The student rebellion against the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continues, with rallies in many parts of the country.

As would be expected from a royalist and dictatorial regime camouflaged by a rigged election “victory,” the repression is ramping up.

As already mentioned in earlier posts, Gen Prayuth has warned students. In parliament, he “pointed out that some demonstrators were making other demands — some of which touched on the monarchy — in addition to pressing for more democracy.” Police followed up.

Prayuth also repeated a common royalist-conservative mantra: that the students are pawns of politicians. As an example of this buffalo manure, the Bangkok Post reports that “experts”- we can only see one and question the use of the word “expert” for him – who admonish the students, declaring that: “Students at anti-government rallies risk becoming a tool of politicians who are seeking ways to attack the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration…”.

They are falling in line with conspiracy theorists. For example, writing for a Russian outlet, a notorious foreign yellow shirted agitator declares the students – every one of them – as pawns of USA-loving politicians and Western plotters. Such claims are avidly consumed by yellow shirts, the military brass and the regime’s leaders.

The problem for the conspiracy theorists, Thai and foreign alike, is that the students have made up their own minds that they oppose authoritarianism and are actually dragging the politicians along. The extent of the rallies have surprised many, including the politicians. While there are antecedents and sparks, these student rallies represent and organic opposition to the regime.

Sadly, if the regime reacts as it has before to challenges – when it was the military junta – there will be more repression. If the military engages, expect arrests and the use of thugs against those identified as leaders of the protests.

More broadly, because there are rallies, we can probably expect criminal charges against the Future Forward leadership to be pursued.





Buffalo manure “democracy”

27 01 2020

A few days ago the Bangkok Post included a report that “Thailand was the biggest mover in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Democracy Index, rising 38 places in the global rankings…”. That was a surprise. More astounding though, The Economist Intelligence Unit considered that the military junta’s “conversion” of itself into a military-backed regime with a government manufactured out of what should have been an electoral defeat makes Thailand a “flawed democracy” rather than what was previously a “hybrid regime.”

PPT has been a collective fan of The Economist’s coverage of Thailand’s politics in recent years. However, this “ranking” suggests that its Intelligence Unit has lost its IQ.

How on earth does The Economist Intelligence Unit decide that: “The biggest score change in Asia occurred in Thailand, which finally held an election in March 2019, the first since the military coup in May 2014. Voters had a wide array of parties and candidates from which to choose, and this helped to restore some public confidence in the electoral process and the political system…”. It seems that the “election led to improvements in the scores across all five categories of the Democracy Index, but the sharpest increase was recorded for electoral process and pluralism.”

How on earth does The Economist Intelligence Unit decide that Thailand is a “flawed democracy”? It defines these in this manner:

These countries … have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.

This puts Thailand in the same category as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and Indonesia. This is nonsensical, but that’s what the “numbers” say to The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Thailand is a country where political repression is widespread, an election was rigged over several years, opposition parties were dissolved, the courts have been made political bodies, “independent agencies” made tools of the military-backed regime, activists are beaten, arrested, threatened, disappeared and murdered, the military has a parallel administration and operates outside the law and with impunity, the Senate was selected and appointed by the junta and operates for it…. Do we need to go on? And need we say that for four months of 2019, the country was a military dictatorship.

Thailand is no longer a “hybrid regime,”which The Economist Intelligence Unit defines as:

Elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious
weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies—in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically, there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.

That sounds like Thailand. More academically-based definitions seem to fit Thailand too, as summarized at Wikipedia:

A hybrid regime is a mixed type of political regime that arises on the basis of an authoritarian as a result of an incomplete democratic transition. Hybrid regimes combine autocratic features with democratic ones, they can simultaneously hold political repressions and regular elections. The term “hybrid regime” arises from a polymorphic view of political regimes that opposes the dichotomy of autocracy or democracy…

So we ask again, how on earth does The Economist Intelligence Unit come up with this stuff?

According to one account:

How did the EIU come up with a scoring system that is supposedly accurate to two decimal places? What it did has the semblance of rigor. It asked various experts to answer 60 questions and assigned each reply a numerical value, with the weighted average deciding the ranking. Who are these experts? Nobody knows.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has responded to such criticisms, but, in fact, still gives the unnamed experts 60 questions with a 3-point scoring system: 0, 0.5, 1. It also claims to use other measures:

A crucial, differentiating aspect of our measure is that, in addition to experts’ assessments, we use, where available, public-opinion surveys—mainly the World Values Survey. Indicators based on the surveys predominate heavily in the political participation and political culture categories, and a few are used in the civil liberties and functioning of government categories…. In addition to the World Values Survey, other sources that can be leveraged include the Eurobarometer surveys, Gallup polls, Asian Barometer, Latin American Barometer, Afrobarometer and national surveys. In the case of countries for which survey results are missing, survey results for similar countries and expert assessment are used to fill in gaps.

With all of this (pseudo-)science – such as the Asian Barometer – The Economist Intelligence Unit gave Thailand a score of 6.32.

PPT did the 60 questions (see the appendix to the report) and came up with a score of 4.50, which would have Thailand ranked closer to Pakistan, a so-called hybrid regime.

We’d suggest that The Economist Intelligence Unit might spend a little more time reading The Economist on Thailand’s democratic failure and efforts at re-feudalization.





Further updated: “The Threat” II

19 01 2020

Like some mid-20th Century Hollywood B-grade movie, The Threat emerges from the (authoritarian) political sludge to try to undermine and crush Thailand’s monarch and the monarchy. Yes, even when almost all the supporting actors are military and the regime is military-dominated and military-backed, The Threat is always there, eating away at authoritarian monarchism.

The Threat is most usually from those who oppose the military and its never-ending efforts to control politics. Under the current regime, where the military is in the hands of ultra-royalists and, in fact, where the king has a firmer hand on the military than at any time since 1932, “threats” are most often associated with Thaksin Shinawatra because of his electoral popularity in the first two decades of this century.

Royalist rightist Rientong

Anyone who attended the recent rally for the regime at Lumpini Park would have noticed the placards linking the Future Forward Party and its leaders to Thaksin. Also noticeable was the claim that FFP represented a threat to the monarchy and, ipso facto, the nation. These demonstrators for the regime and those who organized them consider FFP’s popularity and the urge for democratization to be a threat to the monarchy. We have no doubt that, scared witless by the red shirt rising of a few years ago and associated anti-monarchism, the palace and the royalists in government worry endlessly about how to turn the tide, especially among the younger generation.

Opposing The Threat involves not just all kinds of electoral cheating, constitution rigging and shoveling increased power to the king, but bellicose ultra-rightist thugs and expensive, taxpayer-funded displays of military power and loyalty to the king and throne.

On the rightists, the Bangkok Post has an unusual electronic headline (right) that seems to indicate that the recently unleashed royalist attack dog Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah was thinking he might be king. It turns out he was just thinking of following the regime and its opponents and organizing a run/walk not for the regime per se, but “a run to ‘save the king’…”. Yes, so great is The Threat from FFP, a party in opposition, that the barking Major General feels the need to “save the king.” He’s been told to reign that idea in for a while. But watch his space. Once unleashed rightist royalists become murderous thugs.

All of this agitation plays into the bizarrely concocted Illuminati “case” against FFP at the regime’s Constitutional Court. Somehow we don’t think that this “case” will be the end of FFP – even the hopelessly biased Constitutional Court and its mentors could not be this ridiculous, maybe, perhaps. Betting seems to be that the Court will dissolve FFP in another case, where the Court will miraculously define a loan as a donation to a political party. In the end, the plan is to do away with Thailand’s third most popular party.

For the displays, even in his so far short reign, King Vajiralongkorn has had plenty, and he’s not even in the country all that much. He’s also had the Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong doing his bidding and a bit of his own in also barking about The Threat. He’s sees FFP as a bunch of Commie rats.

Clipped from Khaosod

An AP report on the most recent (waste of taxpayer money) display of defending the king from The Threat came when the king, queen and the most senior of his children (from wife #1) Princess Bajrakitiyabha “presided over an oath-taking ceremony Saturday at an army base where almost 7,000 soldiers and police paraded to mark Armed Forces Day.”

The report notes that “Vajiralongkorn’s presence at the ceremony was unusual, as Thai monarchs have rarely, if ever, attended the occasion, even though the royal palace and the military are closely linked.” The regime – and presumably the palace – linked the parade to the king’s coronation last May.

As ever, the military brass groveled and frog-marched to show their willingness to face The Threat, declaring: “I pledge my life to honor and sustain the greatness of the king. I pledge my loyalty to Your Majesty and will serve and guard Your Majesty till the end of my life…”.

The monarchy, military and regime are making clear their intention to destroy upstarts who comprise the contemporary “threat.” The broader ruling class – which should be worried about this concentration of power – is probably willing to go along with it so long as the regime that maintains the ruling class’s wealth is maintained.

Update 1: Leaked documents appearing at Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s Facebook page suggest that the taxpayer has been hit with a bill of at least 340 million baht for the Army’s display for defending the king.

Update 2: For an example of how “The Threat” causes great fear among regime supporters, try former Bangkok Post Editor Veera Prateepchaikul’s most recent op-ed. Veera’s a hack, but writes op-ed’s essentially for the broad yellow group that supports the military-backed regime. He’s been running a campaign against FFP since they did so well in last year’s election, and he’s obviously very frightened that, should FFP do well and not be dissolved, electoral democracy might make a comeback. Veera and his ilk fear that.