Looney Thailand

26 11 2012

Looney Tunes is an American cartoon series that has been running for years. It has had some zany characters ranging from Foghorn Leghorn to Elmer Fudd.

What has this got to do with Thailand? It seems to PPT that since the arrival and quick political demise of Pitak Siam – watch for the sequel, Saving Thailand II – the past couple of days have seen the emergence of crazy characters better suited to cartoon characterizations.

First, elite hero Korn Chatikavanij is reportedly making comments about the elected government and Hitler. As readers know, the Democrat Party is kind of fond of references to Hitler and Nazi salutes, but when Korn starts this stuff, he seems like Basil Fawlty in the Fawlty Towers episode on the Germans. Basil may be just a looney and not a Looney Tune, but the cartoon-like character can’t be denied for him or Korn.

Second, Boonlert Kaewprasit has resigned as leader of Pitak Siam, and the Bangkok Post says “he would have no hand in organising future political protests.” A relief to some, although such a cartoon-like character, prone to silly statements and outlandish claims might seem like a cross between Mr. Fudd and Yosemite Sam.

That he has had to deny accepting “money from fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to end the mass rally at the Royal Plaza on Saturday,” makes it clear how cartoon-like the ultra-royalists have become. Any time political things go badly for them they resort to the claim that Thaksin has bought, duped or hired.

Source: International News Photo and 2Bangkok.com

Cartoon characters are usually just silly and funny. Nobody believes Elmer or Sam are real but they are a bit of harmless fun. Boonlert and Korn are not harmless, and as senior figures are not meant to be comic figures of derision. Yet the elite in Thailand seems to have quite a lot in common with Monty Python’s upper class twits and with cartoon caricatures – think of the appearance of the royal family itself. Yet they remain dangerous for their great economic wealth, seemingly infinite capacity for political meddling and an almost genetic disposition against democratic forms of government.

Updated: Debriefing the failed anti-democrats

25 11 2012

The Pitak Siam rally fizzled, with only 10-20,000 showing up and suggesting that the use of the Internal Security Act was a political mistake. While some of the protesters turned almost immediately to violence, they had little support and the police were well-prepared.

The Nation has a partial timeline of events.

Also at The Nation is an account of protest leaders demanding confrontation by their supporters:

Claiming to be fighting for the monarchy, leaders of the Pitak Siam group twice told protesters to confront a police cordon and to try to break through it yesterday – the second time just before 2pm at the Misakawan Intersection near Government House.

“We’re doing this for our King, are we not?” asked a female protest leader through a loudspeaker on top of a truck just a stone’s throw from the Misakawan Intersection, where rows of police were standing. Many officers in the front row were wearing gas masks while holding transparent fibreglass anti-riot shields. “What about the police? They work for bad politicians!” the female leader said.

Leaders repeatedly urged supporters to push forward against the police:

many pushing and kicking the police shields, with some throwing fist-sized rocks and others hurling home-made fireworks. One protester pepper-sprayed a police officer in the front row. Hell broke loose as police hit back with batons and about half a dozen tear gas canisters were fired, sending everyone without gas masks, myself included, running away from the suffocating and acidic bite of the gas, which engulfed the intersection within seconds.

Old soldiers like Boonlert Kaewprasit repeatedly phoned military allies and urged protesters on by claiming that the military would come to their support.

Boonlert said he cancelled the rally “because the number of participants was smaller than expected. He blamed this on efforts by authorities and police to prevent many prospective protesters from taking part.” He added: “General Boonlert is already dead. I have lost to evil…”.

The evil he lost to was that he allowed himself to be a stooge for evil and anti-democractic royalists who hate elections, voters and democracy.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that “137 protesters of the Pitak Siam group arrested following clashes with police yesterday have been freed without charges, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) lawyer Puangthip Boonsanong said on Sunday.” One Pitak Siam detainee was “the driver of a six-wheel truck which broke through a police barrier at Makkhawan Rangsin bridge yesterday, wounding a number of police.” The truck driver remains in jail.

With 3 updates: Pitak Siam rallies

24 11 2012

Some early pictures of the Pitak Siam rally, together with the bizarre story of escaped snakes at a rally car park are available at Manager Online.

Update 1: It didn’t take long before Pitak Siam protesters got in the face of police, surging through barbed wire and being hit with tear gas. This made a mockery of the fake claims by the Pitak Siam leadership that there would be no violence, and if there was, the rally would end. Of course, that wasn’t what the dinosaur leadership wanted; they prefer confrontation and the police seemed willing to respond. Several protesters were arrested and several of them and police suffered minor injuries.

Dinosaur-in-chief General Boonlert Kaewprasit:

vowed to retaliate against the police for detaining a group of demonstrators. He threatened to storm the prime minister’s Government House office complex, a tactic used in the 2008 demonstrations by he yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy.

He claimed the police “broke the promise that will allow us to stage a peaceful rally” when the video shows the protesters breaking through. Boonlert blamed the police for “trying to lure us into violence…”. He added: “If the police don’t stop doing something like this, I may ask the military to help me.”

Reports: The Nation, Bangkok Post, AFP.

Video from 2Bangkok.com:

Update 2: By mid-afternoon, it is clear that Pitak Siam is seeking to mount a PAD-like effort to provoke violence and occupy areas in the city. Organizers have used claims of lese majeste to damn the Puea Thai government and enrage supporters. This was followed by further efforts to occupy areas of the city. For no other reason than to provoke police, royalist dunce Tul Sitthisomwong went on the warpath, leading protesters to occupy Makkhawan Rangsang Bridge. This effort saw more tear gas used by police against protesters.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat “ordered Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to prepare troops to assist police to keep law and order should police fail to control the situation…”. Prayuth was reported as ordering “the First Division, the Second Cavalry Division and the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Division to prepared 8 companies of troops each to provide reinforcements to police when asked to.”

Boonlert was reported as stating that the rally would continue, even as numbers remained lower than he hoped for.

Update 3: Reports of protesters preparing weapons emerge. PPT is not going to update this post further as both Bangkok Pundit and Siam Voices are live blogging (connect from our links above, right).

Updated: Fear, Pitak Siam and the ISA

22 11 2012

A reader has sent us this post, which PPT presents in full, as received:

Bangkok is preparing for the return of the infamous neo-fascist ultra-right group, Pitak Siam (Protecting Siam). From the police force to members of the general public, that name carries confusion and the hint of pandemonium. However this time the boundaries of politics have changed, Thailand saw Pitak Siam declaring their intent to forcibly remove the legitimately-elected Government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and installing a junta similar to the previous ruling tyrannical power of Myanmar.

The police chief, Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said the cabinet decided to impose the Internal Security Act (ISA) in three districts of Bangkok from November 22 until 30 after security agencies reported receiving information there could be attempts to raid government grounds and a plot to take Ms. Yingluck hostage. He said the ISA was effective in Dusit, Phra Nakhon and Pomprap Sattruphai districts, but gave assurances that the enforcement will not affect people’s daily lives. The Cabinet has decided to impose the ISA as proposed by the National Security Council (NSC), Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said on Thursday.

Coincidently the Constitution Court has decided not to accept for consideration three petitions asking it to order Pitak Siam to abandon its rally on November 24 because it was in direct violation of Section 68. The Court’s ruled that there was no evidence the organizers plan to illegally topple a democratic administration under the constitutional monarchy.

This is despite that Pitak Siam’s leader, Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, or known as Seh Ai, has said his goal was to remove Parliament, the Constitution and the institution of governance. People ponder upon the Court’s conclusion as such goal is subversive and undermines the principles of democracy.

 Section 68: No person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of the State under this Constitution or to acquire the power to rule the country by any means which is not in accordance with the modes provided in the Constitution. 

The Government has promised that the enforcement of the ISA is one of the preventive measures in order to ensure lives are not place in harm’s way and property will be protected, in accordance to law and order, and that all three districts are monitored for the larger majority who are in fact concerned about the objectives of Pitak Siam.

Various pro-democracy groups have expressed their support for the Government and the Constitution; some have even expressed apprehensions about Pitak Siam’s attempt at removing elected politicians with lies and a promise of a militarized leadership of Thailand. One had mentioned that people toppling a Government beyond the boundaries of the Constitution is treasonous.

The return to a non-democratic state of rule is not just a leap backward but also a removal of constitutional rights and liberty. Rather than utilizing available platforms for change and development, in which Pitak Siam has rejected, the rule of anarchy is used to champion not 10 million or one hundred thousand people but just the delusional goal of one retired military man.

Update: Reader’s may find the Yingluck statement regarding the government’s fears and the controversial use of the ISA in a translation of her speech to the nation.


20 11 2012

The massing of red shirts and the continuing public opposition to any overthrow of the elected government are telling. These demonstrations have caused Pitak Siam’s leadership and those backing it to back peddle on some of their more outrageous and Jurassic “plans.” Not that anyone should believe them.

The Bangkok Post says that Pitak Siam’s General Boonlert Kaewprasit has lied that his group “has never called for the country to be closed to outsiders but only wants to stop corrupt politicians…”. Of course, Boonlert made this statement of a freeze several times.

He now seems to be emphasizing that his dinosaur group is a “show of force against the government for turning a blind eye to acts of lese majeste, acting as a puppet of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and allowing corruption to become widespread without proper suppression.”

Boonlert is reacting to red shirt opposition and public opinion surveys that show massive public opposition to anti-democratic actions.

At the same time, Puea Thai Party talk about the use of the “Internal Security Act to control the rally” is  not particularly encouraging. Admittedly, the party is caught in difficult circumstances, but complaining of “some political groups or parties might use their canvassers to get more people to join the anti-government rally,” meaning the Democrat Party, and calling for dissolution is rather dramatic, even if a quid pro quo for the anti-democratic activities of the so-called Democrats and their backers.

Being cautious but sticking to the line used several times by both party and red shirts about lawful rallying is undoubtedly preferable. While the situation remains dangerous and unpredictable, the Puea Thai Party has massive support and this will (hopefully) see off the dinosaur revolt.


Red shirts and Pitak Siam

17 11 2012

The problem Pitak Siam poses for the Yingluck Shinawatra government and the failed Thaksin-Yingluck strategy means that it has again been red shirts that have had to “save the day,” at least for the moment.

The threat posed by Pitak Siam and military mutiny has seen red shirts mobilizing so that untoward actions can see a red shirt response. Red shirt leaders have stated that a coup will see a massive response. At the Bangkok Post we note that Pitak Siam’s dinosaur leader General Boonlert Kaewprasit and the other military-associated leaders of the “movement” are taking little steps to douse fires of potential violence. While they have been provocative towards them, they seem to recognize the determination of red shirts.

Old soldier Boonlert “insisted the rally would not be prolonged and said there would be no seizure of any government offices as some have feared. The protesters will stay at the rally site and about 1,000 security guards will be on duty to prevent any ‘third hand’ from taking the opportunity to incite violence…”. The usual “third hand” is his buddies in the military. He added: “If the anti-government protest turns violent, it would be immediately called off,” said Gen Boonlert.

Another of his old military men organizing Pitak Siam claimed that “various state enterprise labour unions have confirmed that they would also join the Nov 24 anti-government rally. In addition, representatives of students at Ramkhamhaeng and Phra Nakhon Rajabhat universities had told Pitak Siam that they would also turn out…”. Some of these groups have long-standing ties to the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Red shirts say “members would stay away from the Royal Plaza area. Instead, they will gather in Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Pathum Thani” on the day Pitak Siam rallies. Some may rally in Thonburi. Meanwhile, provincially-based red shirts are preparing to mobilize “if any untoward incidents take place.” This includes much of the north and northeast, with rallies planned in Chiang Mai, Udorn and other provinces.

The red shirt capacity to mobilize is an important deterrent for the old heads trying to destabilize and oust the government.

Updated: Freezing Thailand

16 11 2012

It is getting into the cool season in Thailand yet dinosaur politics is heating up. With spurring the Pitak Siam clone of previous royalist nags suddenly spurred into action – we recall talk of governments and jockeys in a previous incarnation –  and pencil pushers in the media into frothy fears of mayhem on the streets, the current face of the dinosaur mob, General Boonlert Kaewprasithas been calling for a coup and a freezing of Thailand in a kind of military-fascist isolation while Thailand gets its royalism in order (and probably gets through the looming succession crisis).

This Jurassic politics sees red shirt iconoclast Sombat Boonngamanong coming up with a smart response. According to the Bangkok Post, Sombat will use “flash mob” events “to poke fun at Pitak Siam leader Boonlert Kaewprasit and his pledge to ‘freeze the country’.”

Sombat said participants in his anti-political dinosaur campaign “would wear jackets, sweaters and wrap themselves in blankets to protect themselves from the chill of a Boonlert-style freeze” and then they would “go and get some ice-cream.”

Update: A reader points out that Sombat has a Facebook page for the campaign รวมพลังแช่แข็งประเทศไทย.

Updated: Prayuth on timing

13 11 2012

With Bangkok again becoming a hive of political activity as the suddenly-risen (but really resurrected) and well-funded Pitak Siam movement looks to its second rally to bring down the elected and popular government led by Yingluck Shinawatra, Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said that “active Army officers are prohibited from joining an anti-government rally later this month.”

Of course, “active” doesn’t mean that retired Army officers aren’t at the middle of the organizing by Pitak Siam. And some of these old soldiers continues to enjoy the benefits of having been senior brass, like Pitak Siam’s boss, General Boonlert Kaewprasit, who has soldiers guarding his house.

Why has Prayuth “instructed his subordinates to stay away from the rally? In his words, “I’ve told my subordinates that it’s not time for us to do anything. This is an affair of the people and they will campaign as it their right under a democratic system…”. While PPT can’t imagine that Prayuth has become a democrat (not the lower-case “d”), perhaps the point about “it’s not time” is the critical bit. Hardly a declaration of military disinterest in politics.

As one commentator at The Nation notes,

The Pitak Siam critique of the flaws of populism, such as the rice-pledging scheme, corruption, cronyism and ill-gotten gains amassed by government supporters, is nothing but a rehash of stories circulated by the People’s Alliance for Democracy before the 2006 coup to oust Thaksin [Shinawatra].

With Pitak Siam choosing the same Royal Plaza for its show, the link to February 2006 [PPT thinks the article gets the date wrong when it says 2005] is made, when “the PAD chose the plaza to kick off its street protests to remove Thaksin…”. Pitak Siam is little more than a reactivation of the royalist coalition of 2006 and 2008.

The comparisons are important for showing the links Pitak Siam has with the royalist coalition that destabilized elected governments in the past. Then it was the Army that sat and watched in 2006, waiting for the right time.

Update: Interestingly, red shirt activist Jatuporn Promphan has been cited at the Bangkok Post, saying many of the same things PPT made above. He also shows the trap that the government and red shirts find themselves in: “We don’t know how far things will go, but we will not underestimate them…. We know, if we go out and confront them, it will bring about a coup. If we don’t do anything, the government may be toppled by an undemocratic power…”. The Thaksin/Yingluck strategy of cooling politics has been quite successful but is unable to neutralize the royalists who see Thaksin as disloyal and a populist threat to their interests.

PAD joins in

11 11 2012

It is no surprise that the ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist bosses of the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy have urged supporters to join Pitak Siam on 24 November when it again stages an anti-government rally.

Co-leader Chamlong Srimuang stated: “Our country needs someone who is brave and dares to take action like us,” apparently referring to General Boonlert Kaewprasit. The grinning one went on to explain that “PAD leaders had consulted together and agreed to postpone yellow-shirt seminars in Kanchanaburi on November 24 and Phetchaburi on November 25” in order to encourage participation in the Pitak Siam rally.

Old soldiers Chaisit, Boonlert and Abhisit

11 11 2012

Old soldiers are in the news again.

General Chaisit Shinawatra, now an adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (see the family tree), has apparently decided to demonstrate the continuing splits in the military. He’s ticked off by General Boonlert Kaewprasit, a Class 1 graduate, who is goose-stepping about at the head of Pitak Siam.

Chaisit has mobilized some of his buddies from Pre-Cadet Academy Class 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 13  to protest against Pitak Siam and Boonlert’s repeated calls for the military to stage a coup.

It is interesting that other military types argues against a coup, saying that “if there was another coup, it would inflict untold damage to the economy and it would regress in comparison with other Asean countries.” They also call for the “next administration should be installed democratically…”.

Chaisit accused Boonlert of  “being used as a frontman for the elite.”

Of course, Boonlert is deaf on such calls, not least because he hates democracy. He and his buddies got together at General Surayud Chulanont’s Royal Turf Club. The privy councilor might deny support for Boonlert, but the racetrack remains the venue for Pitak Siam.

It was there that he and royalist Prasong Soonsiri met with “100 representatives of networks nationwide to discuss a mega-rally to be held for two days and one night on November 24.” They want 1 million to show up, but the real point is to create a royalist anti-government movement to match PAD in 2006 and in 2008.

The Democrat Party is already counting on clashes “between pro- and anti-government rallies” in their efforts to destabilize the political situation.

Speaking of the anti-democratic political party, the other “old soldier” in the news is Abhisit Vejjajiva. Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat says he’s ready to sign off on a “ministry committee’s decision to strip Abhisit of the rank and salary given to him when he worked as military lecturer.”

Abhisit is saying he is going to sue the minister, believing the decision to be “politically motivated.” Of course, Abhisit is correct.

PPT wants to see Abhisit face charges, not for this faking that is common for the the kids of the elite but for his politically motivated decisions related to murderous crackdowns on red shirt protesters.

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