A couple of corrections

26 03 2017

On a Sunday, as we read a few stories that continue to keep us glum about Thailand’s prospects for some political progress, as opposed to regression, we came across a couple of stories that appear to us to requires a little corrective attention.

The first is at Prachatai. Kornkritch Somjittranukit has a story on red shirt renegade Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee as public enemy no. 1 for the old guys running the military junta. A couple of things bothered us a bit. One was mention of the 2009 Pattaya events without noting the role played by the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban and his then new best friend Newin Chidchob who goaded and challenged red shirts with their own blue shirts, many of them being military and police in different clothes.

PDRC shooter

On the 2014 People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) seizure of the Lak Si District Office to prevent the 2 February election, mention is made of a “violent clash with Ko Tee and his supporters from Pathum Thani. The sound of gunfire came from both sides.” The latter is true but ignores something. After that event it was officially stated:

A police forensics director stated that his team’s investigation showed “39 shots have been fired from the position of PCAD protesters, and 3 shots from the direction of pro-election protesters.”

The second story is at the Bangkok Post. Editor Umesh Pandey briefly recounts the actions taken over the past few years as pro-Thaksin election winners were ditched, missing the important 2008 judicial coup. What bothered us was the headline, “Army needs to learn to be neutral.”

While the article doesn’t exactly amount that, the idea that the military could be neutral is baffling in the extreme. The military is now, after more than half a century of pro-monarchy and pro-elite military is firmly attached to the side of privilege, hierarchy, wealth and repression.

Manic Suthep says forget parliament, forget elections

15 06 2012

Suthep Thaugsuban was deputy premier under Abhisit Vejjajiva, and for much of the period of the military-backed Democrat Party government, he commanded the security apparatus that repressed, murdered and censored with gay abandon.

Suthep and friends

Suthep is a local godfather-like figure from the south and has been associated with yellow shirts and the notorious blue shirts who motivated violence in Pattaya in April 2009. Most recently, he has been agitating groups of ultra-royalists outside parliament. He is interviewed in the Bangkok Post and is, as usual, candid in his expression of his political views.

Suthep argues that the current extra-parliamentary “movement” he and other PADocrats are organizing to “thwart attempts to whitewash ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s wrongdoings and change administrative rules.”

He argues that politics has changed in recent years: “… it used to be fights against juntas and injustice and for more rights for people.” Funny, PPT doesn’t recall Suthep being involved in such struggles. We seem to recall that he was quite opposed to some of them.

But today, he says, the threat is from “[p]oliticians and political groups try to achieve absolute political power.” Yes, we recall Suthep being a member of the government hoisted into power by the military after the ousting of an elected government.

But we presume he means Thaksin and the fact that he keeps winning elections (or his parties do). Suthep hates the idea that elections produce results he doesn’t like, even if every election since 2000 has essentially rejected his own failed party.

Yes, when in power and premier, Thaksin was an arrogant sod who abused that power. But that does not justify the actions of the Democrat Party and its allies who have been involved in military coup, judicial coup, murder, mayhem, repression, censorship and so on.

Suthep’s view seems to be that the political rules (that his allies in the military wrote and embedded, should be chucked aside if he can’t get what he and his sponsors want.

His excuse for this is that Thaksin and his lot “want absolute power for political efficiency but that is against our belief in the constitutional monarchy. They want to gain absolute power by any means.” As far as PPT can tell, while we are not sure that Thaksin has evver come close to “absolute power,” his “any means” have, so far, mainly been through elections. We see no very convincing evidence that Thaksin is any less wedded to the absolute monarchy than Suthep himself.

Suthep then mumbles something quite untruthful when he says: “We oppose this [Thaksin and his lot] because all parties should participate in politics.” Of course, his party’s recent history is a rejection of this notion. Like the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Democrat Party shows no particular inclination for democracy unless it is “their democracy.” What was that about absolute power? What was that about having the military’s weaponry behind your party?

Then the manic Suthep adds a neat claim that he has made time and again with absolutely no evidence:

Meanwhile, former Communist Party members are moving to turn Thailand into a republic run by a single political party. This may go along with Thaksin’s intention. Both have joined forces and are threatening the Thai people and Thailand.

To be fair, we have to admit that while manic, Suthep is not mad, as this claim would suggest. Factually, there are as many former communists working with PAD, the Democrat Party and other ultra-royalists as with red shirts and Thaksin. Suthep’s deceits on this are long-standing and include the discredited anti-monarchy plot diagram.

He is simply craving the power he and his lot can’t get through parliament and elections. He admits this when asked: “Do you admit that you cannot carry on the fight in parliament?” His response: “I admit that.” In other words, parliament is to be ignored, parliament and the constitution are to be ignored.

Suthep also admits that the judiciary is his side’s strength:

Lack of control over the judiciary is their [Thaksin and allies] weak point because what they have done is against the law [sic.] and the judiciary can take action against them.

As far as we can tell, nothing that the current government has done is illegal. What Suthep means is that the judiciary can be used for yet another judicial coup because the royalist elite controls the judiciary.

Then he makes another admission that Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra should think about, for they risk being puppets for Suthep and his ultra-royalist buddies:

We do not want to overthrow the government. We will not mind if Pheu Thai wins another election and Ms Yingluck Shinawatra stays as prime minister for a new term. If the government, Pheu Thai and the red shirt network stop pushing for the “reconciliation bills” and trying to change the constitution to restructure the administrative system, we will stop our movement.

There you have it. Parliament doesn’t matter. Elections don’t matter. All that matters is that the royalist elite gets what they want, and they believe, with good reason, that they can get this from Yingluck and her government. All she has to do is bring the red shirts under control.

Updated: Newin, Japanese porn and Buriram politics

10 03 2012

Some time ago, PPT took to posting funny, odd or quirky posts related to politics on weekends. We haven’t done that for some time, but can’t resist it today.

The Wall Street Journal carries a rather odd story about Buriram’s political chameleon and champion vote buyer-cum-royalist-cum-football promoter Newin Chidchob. First some background and serious stuff.

Newin and Abhisit with their kit on

Newin is the politician who left the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra fold to have his allied politicians join the Army-brokered deal to hoist the Democrat Party to government and Abhisit Vejjajiva to the premiership in December 2008.

His supporters formed the Bhum Jai Thai Party that grabbed important ministerial posts under Abhisit and milked them for political, personal and financial gain. Newin’s blue shirts also played a significant role in instigating the initial violence that led to the red shirt’s Songkhran uprising. Newin also pioneered the contemporary mobilization of ultra-royalists through fostering a campaign that painted the crown as under threat.

Newin, whose 5-year political ban is coming to an end in May, has been concentrating his recent efforts on consolidating his control in his home province of Buriram after cracks appeared in the 2011 election. His promotion of football has been a big part of this effort.

Like many old-style and wealthy provincial politicians Newin has a thuggish nak leng/gangster chao phor character. Often arrogant, men of this ilk often do things that raise eyebrows and draw criticism.

Now to Newin’s latest “coup.” The WSJ claims that he “plans to import a team of Japanese adult video [porn] stars to liven up the Thai New Year celebrations in his hometown of Buriram.” He appears to believe that “having stars from Japan’s pornography industry dance and sing at Buriram’s celebrations” would be good for tourism.

Newin told “local television this week, … [that] the Japanese performers would not be any naughtier than local dancers…”. Newin said that celebrations of Songkhran were already raunchy in Thailand, so why not add the foreign porn stars. We doubt Newin will be getting naked in public.

It is one of those “huh?/”really?” stories from provincial Thailand that brings a chuckle but incredulity as well. As the report points out, it isn’t “clear why Mr. Newin is stirring up what he surely knows to be a hornet’s nest. He couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment.” The WSJ speculates on tourism and politics and embarrassing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra while she is in Japan, as well as simply getting attention.

The WSJ reckons this plan will cause Newin political damage. Somehow we doubt it. Newin wants crowds, and this wacky idea will do that for him.

Update: An eagle-eyed reader has pointed out that we missed an important connection for Newin, and not nearly so wacky as the Japanese porno link. This most serious link was reported a few days ago in Prachatai, referring to one of the thuggish twins Supot and Supat Silarat who were kind of jailed for bashing Nitirat activist Worachet Pakeerut.

Matichon reported on 6 March that, according to Somsak Puapan, Thanyaburi District Chief, in Nov 2010 Suphot registered a semi-automatic .45 pistol, which was distributed in a government officials’ welfare programme, using an identification card as a volunteer ranger attached to Ranger Taskforce 26 in Buriram province, issued by a colonel in May 2008 which expired in May 2010.

Suphat also used a similar identification card to register two semi-automatic 9mm pistols, a Beretta and an NZU 707 Glock, the latter distributed to officials of the Department of Provincial Administration.

Readers may recall that Newin has long mobilized “volunteer rangers” and some of these were said by some to be the core of the blue shirts. The idea that the twins could be Newin’s hired or “volunteer” thugs is highly likely.

Heat and the election

26 05 2011

There’s an old saying: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” PPT guesses that an Oxford-educated lad like Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva knows it. The problem he seems to have at present is that the politician is getting heat from a few red shirts when he makes appearances.

PPT would have thought that the limited heckling he’s getting is something that most politicians and experienced public speakers get used to and learn how to deal with. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Abhisit. The Bangkok Post reports that the Democrat Party leader has “criticised the EC [Election Commission] for failing to take action against red shirt supporters who obstructed his party’s campaigning.”

Abhisit is sort of showing his elite sensibilities when he complains that “his public appearances [have been] disturbed by red shirt supporters several times.” These days it seems that without blue shirts or military surrounding him, he feels uncomfortable in public and the hurly-burly of politics. We recognize that Abhisit came face to face with very hostile red shirts in 2009, and he continues to worry for his safety. At the same time, perhaps he forgets that people are ticked off at the killings of their relatives and friends.

The EC responded that parties that are linked to the use of threats in campaigning could face dissolution but also said that “trivial verbal abuse directed at candidates should not be deemed as an act of obstructing their campaigning.”

Maybe Abhisit just isn’t used to real campaigning when the government’s actions have created huge opposition. Killing people, throwing opponents in jail and censoring opposition media seems okay for him, but “trivial verbal abuse” is too much. The kitchen seems too hot!

Updated: Football and politics

13 08 2010

PPT realizes that the story has been widely reported, but we want to add some information to the story regarding the King Power-Asian Football Investments reported purchase of Football League club Leicester City. The Financial Times says this:

What is it about Thai billionaires and British football clubs?

First Thaksin Shinawatra – telecoms magnate turned prime minister turned international fugitive – bought Manchester City and now Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn, whose family owns duty free outlet King Power, has taken over Football League club Leicester City.

The continent is obsessed with football, and especially British football. Step into a taxi anywhere from Bali to Beijing and once nationality has been established, the conversation takes a familiar swerve: “That Wayne Rooney…”.

So who is Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn?

Raksriaksorn heads Asian Football Investments, a consortium that includes Milan Mandaric, who bought the club three years ago and is the son of Vichai Raksriaksorn, the politically well-connected founder of King Power. The company holds the lucrative monopoly on duty free sales in Thailand.

There is no formal word on how much the consortium paid, but the Thai media put the price tag at around Bt2bn.

In some ways the deal makes sense. King Power had already signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Leicester, and it is advertising that draws in the Asian dollars.

Thaksin, the billionaire-turned-political-exile, bought Manchester City in 2007, shortly after he lost the prime minister’s office in a military coup. He only owned the club for year before selling out to Abu Dhabi interests, who then humiliatingly dumped him as the club’s honorary chairman in 2009, saying that it was “inappropriate” to have a politician convicted of corruption in such a high-profile role.

Let’s hope there are no more own goals for Team Thailand.

PPT has commented briefly in the past about the links between Vichai Raksriaksorn and notorious Buriram godfather-politician, blue shirt benefactor and key coalition “member” Newin Chidchob. Let us reiterate some of the points made in earlier posts (by doing a bit of cut-and-pasting):

Back in September 2009, we commented on Police Lt-General Somyos Phumphanmuang taking over the investigation of the People’s Alliance for Democracy occupation of the airports.  Lt-General Somyos was said to be “close to Newin Chidchob, the de facto leader of Bhum Jai Thai Party, and Vichai Raksriaksorn, owner of King Power, which runs the ‘duty free’ outlet at airport.” Suvarnabhumi airport’s monopoly duty free operations – granted under Thaksin Shinawatra’s government – have been under scrutiny recently (try Googling “Suvarnabhumi scams”) and King Power’s Vichai Raksriaksorn has been ranked as one of Thailand’s richest by Forbes. Chang Noi mentioned him recently and King Power’s SEC listing is here.

Later, in February this year, PPT reported on how Newin had promoted his Phum Jai Thai Party as a monarchy-loving and monarchy-protecting party promising a Thaksin Shinawatra-like return to the good economic times. Newin appears regularly at royal-related events, promoting clumsy and obvious kinds of royal propaganda. But it is blue for his party and for the royal he seems to be most keen to support.

Related, Newin bought one of Thailand’s major league football teams. Newin is the chairman of Buri Rum-Provincial Electricity Authority FC having paid a considerable amount for it. Of course, its kit is blue. Its sponsors are Chang Beer and King Power.

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi is the owner of Chang. He is well known as one of Thailand’s wealthiest men but has been reasonably publicity shy. Lycos Retriever has some details. There’s also a chapter on him in Pasuk and Baker’s Thai Capital published in 2008. Family details are available here. He has good bureaucratic contacts through his liquor and beer businesses. Charoen has been a generous donor to royal activities. He is remarkably powerful and has huge cash flow, which makes him a valuable political ally.

The King Power link to Newin has been known for several years. Vichai Raksriaksorn has been one of Newin’s strongest supporters and he is wealthy, politically active and a big supporter of things royal. He is the one credited with having “plagiarized” the Lance Armstrong plastic bracelets in Thailand and made them Long live the king bracelets and raised a fortune that he handed over to the palace. Vichai’s background is not very clear. In 2007 he was ranked by Forbes as Thailand’s 21st wealthiest, worth about US$200 million. He’s much richer than that now. The best available account of King Power and its economic and political power is by Chang Noi. The airport monopoly also provides the huge cash flow that are a political asset.

Vichai almost single-handedly established and developed the rich person’s sport of polo in Thailand. You’d think this was little more than a hobby, but through his Thailand Polo Association, Vichai has been able to link to royals worldwide – they all seem to play this ostentatious sport – and this has added greatly to his credibility in Thailand’s high society. The Association is also populated by “advisers” who are generals in the police and military. Vichai loves teaming up for polo with Britain’s Princes Charles and William and being pictured with them in Hello magazine.

To follow some of these links, PPT suggests looking at the Thai-language edition of the U.K.’s Hello magazine which regularly highlights royals, the rich (Charoen’s son’s engagement and wedding was covered in an earlier issue) and polo. An earlier advertisement for a 20 February 2010 fund-raising polo game called the Queen’s Cup, for “ladies,” featured M.L. Piyapas Bhirombhakdi, lady-in-waiting to the queen.

So the purchase of Leicester City should probably be seen as part of a larger money-making venture that, if successful, might well enrich Vichai and his family, but is also sure to provide a link to Buriram and, inevitably, the sordid world of Newin’s politics.

Newin, monarchy and vigilantes

28 04 2010

The Nation (28 April 2010) reports that Newin Chidchob, the real leader of the Phum Jai Thai Party has expressed his desire “to spearhead a campaign to protect the monarchy and fight the red-shirt menace.”

He believes that if the authorities fail to protect the monarchy, then he is “ready to stand side by side with the people to protect His Majesty the King, the country’s most revered figure…”. Like so many other developments in recent weeks, this is eerily reminiscent of 1975-76 when there were calls for and state support to vigilante action against political opponents. Is this what blue shirt leader and provincial thug Newin is suggesting?

Newin considers it a “sacred duty to safeguard the monarchy and repel any attacks on the revered institution.” Yep, vigilantism.

The report says that Newin, “once the right-hand man of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, became a royalist after he was acquitted in a corruption case involving a rubber plantation last year.” Miraculous really…. or simply payback?

The report adds that: “Even though Newin has been banned from politics for five years, he continues to play an active role in the party and the government. He also chairs many committees to organise events and ceremonies in praise of the monarchy and gave birth to the blue-shirt movement to protect the Royal Family.”

Newin also attacked Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, saying “a news clip aired by Channel 3 last December was proof of Chavalit’s true colours. The clip highlighted Chavalit’s remarks given to former communists, outlining his thoughts on the monarchy…. In the clip, Chavalit pointed out similarities between the prevailing predicament and the 1932 revolution that grabbed power away from the monarch, he said, questioning whether Chavalit was hinting at the past to foreshadow his present movements.”

The murders that were committed in the name of the monarchy in 1976 should be warning enough that such calls are dangerous and essentially fascist in nature.

New: Land and protest

12 01 2010
The case of Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont and his land at Khao Yai Thiang is in all the media as the red shirts demonstrate at the site, claiming double standards.

General Surayud, however, is at the weekly Privy Council meeting in Bangkok. A source cited in The Nation (12 January 2010) says that “one of the topics on the agenda will be the ongoing rally by the red shirts at Khao Yai Thiang…”. Later Surayud is scheduled to “hold a press conference about a charity concert in Khao Yai. He was expected to talk about the land controversy [then]…”.

The number of red shirts at Khao Yai Thiang is many more than earlier estimates suggested would show up. PPT suggested “hundreds” showing up. By late afternoon on the 11th there were more than 5,000, with many more still getting to the area.

General Surayud has “said he was willing to comply with the law regarding his controversial land ownership and would follow the attorney general’s ruling that his residence encroaches on the forest reserve.” Red shirts ask why Surayud gets light treatment when villagers in area are charged.

In The Nation reports that General Surayud has said he “will not stand down as a Privy Council member despite pressure from the red shirts to do so…”. He is also reported to have said he would return the land “ if ordered by the Royal Forest Department to do so…”. So returning the land is not yet a done deal. And, the report also continues to report that Surayud “has done nothing wrong.”

The Bangkok Post (11 January 2010) cites red shirt leader Suporn Atthawong said that the “group’s supporters would not resort to violence or trespass into former prime minister Surayud’s residence during the rally…”. Police confirmed last night that “there was no violence or unrest…”. The rally is scheduled to end on Tuesday morning but may be extended or even move to Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban “said blue-shirt protesters would not gather to confront the red-shirts on Khao Yai Thiang.” PPT can only assume that Suthep can make this claim through his connections to Newin Chidchob and the blue shirts, as demonstrated last April in Pattaya.

Meanwhile, Royal Forest Department director-general Somchai Piansathaporn said “his agency would set up a joint committee with other government agencies to study possible solutions to the problems of forest encroachment.” They would report in 60 days. He denied double standards at Khao Yai Thiang, saying that the case of Surayud was different from villagers who had encroached on forest reserve land.

The Peua Thai Party has suggested that Surayud’s landholding was larger than reported. Different reports have varying sizes cited as his plot of land, ranging from 14 to 22 rai. The Party is also chasing down other Democrat Party MPs with illegal landholdings.

The Forestry Department inquiry looks set to cause a huge political headache and serious hardship for hundreds of thousands. Director-general Somchai said the inquiry committee would “suggest measures to be taken to get the [forest reserve] land back. The measures, if agreed on, would be applied to cases of illegal occupation of forest reserves throughout the country, involving about 45,000 people and more than 5 million rai of land…”.

However, according to the Bangkok Post (12 January 2009), with the ominous headline, “Govt wages war on squatters,” there are multiple areas involved in 30 provinces and this will impact 400,000 families. That’s 2-3 million people! Not only that, whole towns are built in these areas. PBS Television showed advertisements for land in some of these areas on the internet and on a huge billboard in Bangkok. Anyone visiting these areas knows that there are “land for sale” signs everywhere. This is going to be a huge political firestorm if it continues, consuming politicians on all sides but potentially harming a lot of little people as well.

This is not to say that the red shirts don’t have a point in challenging double standards. PPT is merely pointing out the potentially huge impacts, especially on villagers who were encouraged to settle these areas in the 1960s and 1970s.

Giles Ungpakorn on NGOs, ASEAN and cretinism

25 10 2009

Reproduced in full by PPT:

“Lobby Cretinism” of NGOs over the ASEAN Human Rights Commission

Giles Ungpakorn

The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) is made up of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Singapore, which all have authoritarian sates. It also includes the semi-democratic Malaysia, along with the Philippines and Indonesia, which are more or less democratic. Would anyone expect a gathering of government leaders from these countries to set up a genuine Human Rights Commission?

Apparently, some NGOs from the region did think so. They got snubbed. Not only did the governments decided to appoint the Human Rights Commissioners themselves, they also refused to meet with half the NGO delegates, and allowed only Dr Surichai Wangaeo of Chulalongkorn University to speak on behalf of the NGO delegation.

Who is Dr Surichai? He supported the 2006 military coup in Thailand and was an appointee to the military junta’s parliament. The Thai NGO team that was involved in so-called “civil society” discussions also included people who supported the military coup.

The Inaugural Ceremony of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights was kicked off by a speech from Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the present military installed government. Abhisit’s government has presided over some of the most draconian censorship seen in Thailand for 40 years, along with the use of an Internal Security law which curtails the right to peaceful protest. His government has imprisoned political opponents under the lese majeste law and it was also responsible for shooting pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok last April. In addition, Abhisit’s Democrat Party has set up a paramilitary Blue Shirt gang to commit acts of violence against government opponents. Yet in his speech, addressed to the King, who wasn’t actually present, he unashamedly said things like: “Human rights is an important component of our people’s lives, and it is important for the people-based community we plan to build.” For the members of civil society, he had this to say: “you should rest assured that you now have a new partner with whom to work.” These lies are no longer shocking, since Abhisit has lied about most of his government policies and about the use of lese majeste.

How could NGO activists go along with all this nonsense? Are they stupid or just plain dishonest opportunists? Or have they been blinded by their lack of politics?

The “lobby NGOs” like to claim that they represent “Civil Society”, despite never being elected by anyone. Some are even against elections and voting. They forget that Civil Society can only increase the democratic space and defend rights if it is organised into mass social movements, which act against authoritarian governments and elite vested interests. Instead of trying to talk to government leaders, it would be better to concentrate energy and resources in building such mass movements or supporting movements which already exist, such as the Red Shirts in Thailand and oppositional movements in other ASEAN countries.

Any Human Rights Commission worth its salt must be totally separate and independent from governments and must have the courage to condemn all violations of freedom. The Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong is one good example among many.

After the “collapse of Communism”, much of the NGO movement turned its back on “politics” and the primacy of mass movements and political parties in the 1980s. Instead they embraced “lobby politics” and/or Community Anarchism. Despite the apparent contradiction between lobby politics, which leads NGOs to cooperate with the state, and state-rejecting Community Anarchism, the two go together. This is because they reject any confrontation or competition with the state. Lobbyists cooperate with the state, while Community Anarchists hope to ignore it. They both reject building a big picture political analysis. That is why they can deliberately ignore the fact that most ASEAN countries are run by dictatorships.

Instead of building mass movements or political parties, the NGOs concentrated on single-issue campaigns as part of their attempt to avoid confrontation with the state. They prefer trying to gain invitations to enter the corridors of power, rather than getting rid of elite power. This method of working also dove-tails with grant applications from international funding bodies. It leads to a de-politicisation of the movement.

On Climate Change, the NGOs which met in Bangkok also ignored the fact that governments were unelected. They tried to suck-up to local governments by using a nationalist agenda to blame only the West for Climate Change. This lets local elites off the hook. It also makes alliance-building with movements in the West more difficult. Activists in Europe and the U.S.A. are well aware that Western nations should shoulder the majority of the burden, but the issue is how to tackle the profit-driven market system which destroys the planet and creates great inequalities.

ASEAN countries need to invest more in improving the lives of citizens. The rich need to be taxed and military budgets slashed in order to fund such projects. We need modern technology under real democratic control, in order to build solar power station, wind turbines, electrified public transport and efficient housing. On this important point, the NGOs meeting in Thailand were silent, preferring to suggest some kind of de-industrialisation along the lines of the King’s reactionary “Sufficiency Economy”.

The era of NGOs being radical forces in society is long over. For activists who wish to build a better society, the time has come to reassess the past and find a better alternative form of struggle. For those only interested in a career, just stay put and hope the funding doesn’t dry up.

Red shirts and Prem, Abhisit and red shirts

19 10 2009

Bangkok Post (19 October 2009: “UDD takes legal action against Prem”) reports that the UDD has “filed a libel complaint with the police against Privy Council president and Statesman Gen Prem Tinsulanonda for his comments about former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh joining the Puea Thai Party.” This relates to an earlier PPT post here.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva  has vowed that no red shirt will get anywhere near the ASEAN summit venue (The Nation, 19 October 2009: “No red shirts in Cha-am and Hua Hin : PM”). Abhisit made this promise while referring to events in Pattaya that led to the Songkhran Uprising. He blamed the red shirts for the violence there, forgetting that his deputy, Suthep Taugsuban and his defacto coalition deputy Newin Chidchob played a large role in this by mobilizing so-called blue shirts to attack red shirts.

Abhisit was responding to reports that one red shirt leader “wanted to submit a petition to Asean leaders scheduled to meet in Cha-am and Hua Hin.” Impossible he said.  Suthep responded by saying that the “government may deploy additional security officials to the summit venues.”

Given that the government has the ISA in place and more than 10,000 troops stationed at the ASEAN meeting sites, why is the Democrat Party so spooked? Whenever the red shirts rally, the government attempts to appear strong and in control. In fact, though, they appear frightened and it seems that the red shirts have learned how to pull the government’s strings so that they over-react.

Democrat Party government bias

9 10 2009

No surprises. The Democrat Party-led government yet again demonstrated its double standards by agreeing to the use of the Internal Security Act again for the ASEAN summit in Hua Hin. Aimed at the red shirts, the bias is clear in the recent rally by yellow shirts with not a peep from the government about the ISA.

The Bangkok Post reports (9 October 2009: “Isoc approves security plan for Asean summit”) that the Internal Security Operations Command approved a security plan for the ASEAN summit in Cha-am and Hua Hin this month. ISOC is chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

His committee agreed to a task force of 18,298 military, police and civic officials to be deployed “to ensure full control of the situation.”

According to the prime ministers acting spokesman, the hired academic Panitan Wattanayagorn, “The prime minister has directed security units to prevent any violence occurring during the regional meeting in order to boost confidence in Thailand within the international community…”.

International leaders and friends of Thailand should be asking why Abhisit feels the need for such actions and the use of thousands of security forces under the command of Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon for 16 days when the summit is in place for 3 days.

ISOC declared the red shirts were their target in using the ISA.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban clearly indicated the political nature of the ISA when he stated that the “government was prepared to invoke the ISA in the capital whenever there is a red-shirt gathering.”He added: “I am considering enforcing the security law in Bangkok from the middle of this month until the Asean summit is over.”

Update: Of course, as one of our readers reminds us, the last time there was an ASEAN summit that was disrupted – at the beginning of the Songkhran Uprising – it was in Pattaya in April, and the disruption began with provocation by the blue shirts led by Newin Chidchob and Deputy PM Suthep.

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