With a major update: Remembering the 6 October 1976 attack

6 10 2013

The Bangkok Post reports:

A ceremony to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the October 6, 1976 bloodshed was held at the historic park at Thammasat University on Sunday morning.

Assoc Prof Udom Rathamarit, deputy rector of Thammasat University, presided over the opening of the ceremony which was attended by relatives of those who died in the incident and some leading political figures who were part of the then student movement for democracy.

Thai Rath Newspaper

Thai Rath Newspaper

A statement was read out in memory of the “heroes” who sacrificed both in the October 6 event and the October 14 student uprising which took place earlier in 1973.

To be honest, that seems a pretty scant report for one of modern Thailand’s most significant royalist-monarchy massacres of democracy protesters. Perhaps the royalist nature of the killing and burning of protesters at Thammasat is the reason for so much silence. Should any reader think the king and palace were anything other than rightists bent on pushing extremists for murderous action, read this post from a few months ago.

The murders of 1976 were in the monarchy’s name and supported by the palace. The most dramatic and horrible event was the royalist-inspired attack on people – mostly students – damned as “disloyal.” Just days after the bloodshed, the crown prince distributed awards to paramilitary personnel involved. The massacre at Thammasat University has never seen any state investigation. Impunity was the rule because the state’s troops and rightist gangs were doing the work of the royalist state. The main perpetrators of the massacre are claimed to be the Border Patrol Police who trained many of the rightist gangs in the name of the monarchy and with considerable U.S. funding. The BPP was (and remains) close to the royal family.

The regime that was put in place following the massacre and a coup was headed by a palace favorite. Thanin Kraivixien remains a Privy Counselor even today, considered “respected” because of that. Yet the fact is that his administration was one of the most right-wing, repressive and brutal regimes in Thailand’s modern history.

In other words, the massacre at Thammasat University was intimately linked to palace political machinations.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a longer article about one of the remembrances of 6 October. PPT was aware that there was a split between “Octobrists” with some now red shirt activists with another group having continued to support the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its political progeny. The Nation reports that the 14 October Foundation is now “seen as part of the yellow shirts, as it is under Dr Wichai Chokwiwat.”  The latter is quoted as complaining that “capitalists have played a bigger role in Thai politics.” He explains his perspective:

Since the … [14 October 1976] uprising, people have become more aware of their rights. They fought [for] elections. But elections…are not the answer … as the representatives do not aim to solve the country’s problems, [they aim] to maintain their power and benefits. This is…not a real democracy…”.

The yellow shirt disdain for elected representation is clear.

At the Bangkok Post, the red shirt-related group is discussed. It is led by human rights activist and red shirt Jaran Ditapichai, who proclaimed that the “protests [of 1973-76] had paved the way for greater freedom of speech and assembly.”

Two recently released lese majeste convicts attended. Surachai Danwattananusorn was only released from prison last Friday but attended. Also there was Tanthawut Taweewarodomkul, released a couple of months ago. He praised the October Generation: “Without the courage and contributions of the October Generation, nobody else would have fought for democracy in subsequent years…”.

Writer Watt Wallayangkoon observed that “the victories earned by the … “October Generation” were short-lived and were counteracted by ultra-royalist elements and a fear of communism within wider society.” He added that  “The red-shirt struggle [for democracy] is not yet finished…”.





Cold War, CIA, universities

13 01 2013

Earlier in the week, PPT posted a comment by a U.S. operative on the manner in which the Americans helped re-make the monarchy in the teeth of the Cold War. We still haven’t been through all the more than 900 pages of reminiscences that download in one document, and there’s a lot of interesting material.

We felt the following might interest some of our readers, especially given the links between the royal family and the Border Patrol Police, “hill tribes” and many of the other people and interests listed in the account.

These comments are from James L. Woods, who was with the Research Analysis Division, Department of Defense in Bangkok from 1964 to 1967 and then was Advisor, ARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency] Unit, Bangkok in 1969-1973. with annotations and bold by PPT:

…[I]n the fall of ‘64 I was in Thailand, probably working on a Long-range Assistance Strategy, and found an old management intern friend out there, Lee Huff, running a little office for the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and we got together. He said, “I’ve just been called. They told me I’m going to be posted back to Washington rather abruptly. We’re looking for a replacement. Would you be interested?” I said, “What are you doing?” He explained that this was a special project – Project AGILE – under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency…. In Thailand it was still operating out of a hotel downtown and at the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering on the Chulalongkorn University campus, with a very small staff under Marine Colonel Tom Brundage…. Lee was running the social-behavioral science research program and asked if I would be interested….

…[W]e worked closely with them [the CIA] in the field, because they were operating out of AID/USOM, running the Border Patrol Police program, and also they were very interested in general in the issues of internal security and they had their advisors in many of the same agencies that we had ours…. We also did some work for something called CSOC, which was a Thai organization, the Communist Suppression Operations Command, run by General Saiyud Kerdphon, and there were a number of CIA advisors over there operating for the most part out of the embassy. We were all part of the country team and the ARPA field unit in Thailand was a U.S. component of that…. The U.S. approach was that this was a counterinsurgency-oriented program. Thailand was the laboratory for the soft side and Vietnam was the laboratory for the hard side or things that go boom. So in Vietnam – I would go over there from time to time, and they would come over to Thailand from time to time to escape Vietnam mainly – they were doing a lot of systems work – village information system, hamlet evaluation system, territorial forces evaluation system. They were doing stuff trying to evaluate how was the war going, for MACV. They were also doing ordnance testing; the Armalite rifle which developed into the AR-15, which developed into the M16…. On our side we were doing studies and analyses and systems research and a good bit of electronic research including remote sensing, trail sensors, testing different kinds of mobility equipment and communications equipment…. Our office – the Research and Analysis Division – was in charge of social and behavioral and systems research, and we worked for the most part through contractors. We brought in rather sizable teams from RAND, RAC – Research Analysis Corporation … – Stanford Research Institute, Cornell Aerolab, BMI, AIR – you name it, we had it – and a lot of individual scholars on contract.

We built some systems and libraries, which were turned over to the Thai, which hopefully they have found useful –for example, the Thailand Information Center with a gazillion documents. Everything useful that had ever been written about Thailand that we could find in the scholarly community was in there. We turned that over to a Thai university actually. Our hill tribes data base, we turned that over to another Thai institution, the Tribal Research Center, in Chiang Mai. The Village Information System, we turned over to a Thai ministry, although it was still very much in an embryonic state…. [PPT: Readers might find this related article of some interest, although the extent of U.S. involvement is not discussed in any detail.]

… [T]hey have Border Patrol Police, which was very much a U.S.-funded program, a lot of it. The CIA provided a lot of the equipment and guidance and so on, but the Thais have kept it up….

After going back to the U.S. and completing a course at Cornell University, with the doyens of Southeast Asian Studies there – George McT. Kahin is mentioned – Woods returned to Thailand:

I went back to the ARPA field unit, or research center, but I was posted immediately to Chiang Mai University in the north for a year as advisor to the dean, which sounds odd but we knew the dean from his previous position in Bangkok and he was trying to establish an expanded research program on northern Thailand, especially the tribal minorities problem. There was a Tribal Research Center, which the Thai government was attempting to operate, co-located at the university, and so my job was trying to build a tribal research program in the north working out of the university….

Much of their [RTG] information came from the Thai Border Patrol Police who were posted to the outermost fringes of the kingdom and were basically a CIA project or at least were getting support and training through the CIA part of USOM…. We were also sponsoring basic ethnographies by a number of anthropologists, European and American, at the time, again trying to collect in-depth ethnographic understanding of several selected lesser known tribal groups. So that’s how I spent a rather odd year as the advisor to the dean of the faculty of social sciences at Chiang Mai University….

This, of course, eventually came to the attention of the American Anthropological Association and some others and got them greatly excited. It’s cited in a book which was published some years later called Anthropology Goes to War featuring me as one of the devils they identify as corrupting the practice of anthropology….Anthropology Goes to War

Before the war went bad and became greatly unpopular, we had the leading American anthropologists on Southeast Asia on the consultant payroll and they were hard at work, and some of them stayed at work. Dr. Gerry Hickey – an expert on the Montagnards of Vietnam – worked with us throughout the war….

… We had Dr. Ladd Thomas, Northern Illinois University. Now, Ladd, I recall, was a political scientist, and he reported that students invaded his office and threw his furniture and books out the window….  The same thing was going on all over. We had a couple of very senior professors out in California, David Wilson, political scientist, and Herb Phillips, anthropologist, and they had been cutting-edge scholars on Thailand. Herb capitulated. David basically got up on his feet and told all his student and faculty critics to go to hell; they could think what they wanted but they weren’t going to interfere with his right to speak out. But Herb went over; Herb gave up.

Project Camelot is also mentioned. On the impact of this work, Woods says: “So I would say to the extent there was an impact, it was over on the counterinsurgency side where the CIA was very much involved as well and USOM with the USAID development programs…”.





CNN, the royalist trap and the propaganda time warp

5 12 2011

CNN is highlighting Thailand this week. It may as well be a paid advertisement for the monarchy and country as Thailand falls for the royalist propaganda trap that has captured so many foreign journalists in the past.

The centerpiece of the series of reports is advertised as a CNN exclusive interview with Princess Sirindhorn as she visits the rural “royal children.” Normally, at this time of the year, and with the king’s 7th cycle anniversary birthday, we would expect something on the king, but he hasn’t been active in rural areas for a very long time. So the birthday advertising this year features the seemingly ever-jovial Sirindhorn.

Readers can watch the report themselves, and as they do, consider some of these points. The report is said to come from the unknown “Nakhorn” province (hopefully CNN at least finishes the name of the province). It is a report stuck in a time warp. CNN gives us the new royal propaganda, which is the same of the old stuff. It could be from National Geographic in the 1970s.

The first is that the headline comment is plagiarized from that usually reserved for the king: “Revered in Thailand, Princess Maha Chakri Sirinidhorn uses her status to improve education in deprived communities.” Of course, there is no evidence in the report that Sirindhorn is really “doing” this. Like all royal projects, the Border Patrol Police schools cannot fail, get special attention and plenty of money spent on them. The report seems to think this a virtue.

The report misleads by implying that this all comes from the princess. In fact, these projects owe a great deal to the Thai taxpayer.

The headline itself is just syrupy: “Thailand’s Angel Princess,” where the hapless reporter fails to note that “Prathep” or “angel” is a part of the princess’ title. Nor does reporter Paula Hancocks ask why it is that the monarchy works on schools with the BPP. Later, there is no question raised as to why the princess is in an Army uniform and surrounded by fawning Army officers.

Of course, they can’t do a real story and explain the long link between the BPP, and we could never expect CNN to recall that the BPP were the royalist murderers of October 1976. Likewise, we couldn’t expect CNN to report the close links between the Army and monarchy that has buttressed both and worked against democratization, even resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries as recently as May 2010.

Even the good works completed by the team of doctors and dentists raises several questions, the most basic of which is: is it even necessary in modern Thailand or is this kind of charity an artifact of a previous era, maintained for propaganda purposes?

Perhaps most striking in this throwback propaganda is the claim that the princess is the one who has made education and health care a right for the children in the report. Of course, this is nonsense. The right to health care and education has been established for some time, in the policies of several governments and funded by the taxpayer. This amounts to a denigration of the work done by hundreds of others.

When it comes to the section of the report on floods, the report claims “she [Sirindhorn] has been directly involved in helping the country’s efforts.” Perhaps, but think of all the others that have done so much more. Why the royal posterior polishing?

With Anand Panyarachun’s new book and this CNN report it becomes clear that there is yet another major attempt to rehabilitate the monarchy’s image. While this recognizes the damage done to the monarchy in recent years – mainly by loopy royalists – it is startling that the means chosen is no different from last decade, the one before that or even before that. There seems little attempt to update the message or the medium. Sirindhorn may well be the most popular face of the monarchy at present, but the message hasn’t changed.

But really, shouldn’t CNN be better than this?





Updated: Wikileaks, human rights and the military

30 08 2011

In the most recent batch of Wikileaks cables released over the past few days, two in particular caught our attention. Both are related to human rights in Thailand. After all of the events in the South and long records of human rights violations by the military, police and Border Patrol Police, PPT just finds these cables startling for the light they throw on the U.S.’s lack of official concern for human rights. Of course, we have read Chomsky, so we know, but we never cease to be amazed when we see the “system” at work:

The first cable is about human rights screening for Exercise Balance Torch which was to be held from 11 April to 3 June 2005.

As authorized per Ref A, U.S. Embassy Bangkok verifies that the Department of State possesses no credible information of gross violations of human rights by any of the Thai units listed in Para 2, as of this date. Embassy Bangkok’s Political Officer Robert J. Clarke is the verifying officer for the Department of State.

… Selected units are:

ROYAL THAI BORDER PATROL POLICE (BPP)

– 4th Region BPP Headquarters Combat Patrol Unit

– 4th Region BPP Headquarters Sub-Division

– BPP Region IV Headquarters, Songkhla

– BPP Battalion, Sub-Division 41, Region IV, Chomphon

– BPP Battalion, Sub-Division 42, Region IV, Nakhon Si Thammarat

– 4th BPP Sub-Division 43

– BPP Battalion, Sub-Division 44, Region IV, Yala

– BPP Training Battalion, Sub-Division 8, Region IV, Nakhon Si Thammarat

– BPP Training Battalion, Sub-Division 9, Region IV, Songkhla

PROVISIONAL NARCOTICS SUPPRESSION BUREAU

– NSB Division 1, Sub-Division 5 – Surat Thani, Phuket, Songkhla, Narathiwat

– NSB Division 2, Sub-Division 5 – Chompun, Krabi, Hat Yai

OFFICE OF NARCOTICS CONTROL BOARD (ONCB)

– Regional Narcotics Control Center (South)

ROYAL THAI MARINE POLICE (RTMP)

– Royal Thai Marine Police, Sub-Division 3, Surat Thani

– Royal Thai Marine Police, Sub-Division 4, Songkhla

– Royal Thai Marine Police, Sub-Division 5, Phuket

BOYCE

The second cable also relates to Exercise Balance Torch.

JUSMAGTHAI has requested that the Embassy/State Department complete human rights vetting for units that have been selected to participate in Exercise Balance Torch (BT) 05-2 from 11 April – 3 June 2005. To meet internal DOD advance deployment deadlines, they have requested that the review of human rights reports and files be completed no later than eight weeks prior to the exercise, if possible.

… The Embassy possesses no credible evidence that any of the units listed below in paragraph four have committed gross violations of human rights. The Embassy has important information, contained in paragraph 5, about one of the units. Please advise whether the Department has any relevant information on the units listed in paragraph four below.

… Participants in the Exercise are as follows:

ROYAL THAI ARMY UNITS

Special Warfare Command, 1st Special Forces Division, 1st Special Forces Regiment – (approx. 20 personnel)

1st Army Area, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Infantry Regiment (approx. 440 personnel)

2nd Army Area, 3rd Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Regiment (approx. 220 personnel)

4th Army Area, 5th Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Regiment (approx. 220 personnel)

ROYAL THAI NAVY

HQ, Special Warfare Group (approx. 50 personnel)

¶5. Thai media reports indicated that members of the 25th Infantry Regiment were involved in the April 28, 2004 assault upon militants holding the Krue Sae Mosque in Pattani Province. 32 militants who had occupied the mosque and who were part of a series of regional attacks against Thai Government institutions and murders of Thai officials were killed by Thai special forces who stormed and retook the mosque. An independent commission was set up by the Royal Thai Government to investigate the incident and concluded that excessive force was used in retaking the mosque. The investigation did not/not name the 25th Infantry Division as having committed human rights violations. MG Surapun Wongthai, G-3 for the Royal Thai Army, has assured JUSMAGTHAI that no members of the 25th Infantry Division have been implicated, or are expected to be implicated, with excesses associated with retaking the mosque. Post notes that an added feature of the training these units will receive in this exercise is an expanded human rights training course. Embassy Bangkok Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke is the verifying officer for the Embassy/Department of State.

BOYCE

Not one human rights violation to be found amongst this group of police and military!

Well, at least one action in the South is mentioned (and then defended and ticked off)…. We might add that, by 2010, many of these units had been involved in several more events that call into question their human rights records, in the South and in violently putting down protesters in 2009 and 2010.

Update: And if readers thought that more serious vetting might have been taking place, see this cable:

¶1. (U) DOD (OSD/POLICY), per Ref A, has requested that the Embassy/State Department complete further human rights vetting for the 25th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, 4th Army Area, a unit that has been selected to participate in Exercise Balance Torch (BT) 05-2 scheduled from 11 April – 3 June 2005.

¶2. (U) The Embassy has reviewed its previous vetting (Ref C) on the 25th Infantry Regiment, and made additional inquiries of an academic and an NGO that monitor human rights abuses involving security forces in Thailand. The Embassy possesses no credible evidence that the 25th Infantry Regiment or its personnel have committed gross violations of human rights. Please advise whether the Department has any relevant information on this unit.

¶3. (U) Embassy Bangkok Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke  is the verifying officer for the Embassy/Department of State.

BOYCE

The stated vetting includes: media reports, a Thai government report that has already been seen as a whitewash, one academic and one NGO, with the latter two only completed as a follow-up. Not even Tak Bai and the War on Drugs are considered. Remarkably shoddy work, perhaps deliberately so give the U.S.’s long engagement with the main human rights abusers in Thailand – the military and the police.





Updated: The army and Yingluck

20 08 2011

If readers haven’t seen it, the article in Asia Times Online by John Cole and Steve Sciaccitano is worth a look. The authors are introduced as having “spent several years in Thailand while on active duty with the US Army. Both were trained as Foreign Area Officers specializing in Southeast Asia and graduated from the Royal Thai Army’s Command and General Staff College. They are now retired and the views expressed here are their own.” There views are likely to reflect some inside knowledge and connections.

It is a long article, so PPT isn’t about to summarize it here. Rather, we wish to highlight a few points.

The article makes the all-too-obvious point that new Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s cabinet selections had to be sensitive to the poor relationship between it and current Army boss, royalist and Democrat Party-supporting General Prayuth Chan-ocha as well as other military leaders and factions:

The two most important cabinet appointments … are that of deputy prime minister for security, retired police General Kowit Wattana, and the minister of defense, retired army General Yuthasak Sasiprapha. The selection of Kowit and Yuthasak reflects very careful political consideration, and undoubtedly indicates a desire by the new government not only to appoint trusted allies to critical posts, but also not to threaten overtly either the military establishment or royal palace.

The authors seem to think that despite all of the discussion about watermelon soldiers and different political affiliations for the military and police that:

many observers of Thai politics, including much of the international media, tend to overestimate greatly the seeming monolithic nature of the Thai military. The false impression is often given that Thai military and police officers are more or less unified in their views and goals….

The story then discusses the patronage system and different loyalties associated with different classes in academies. They add that: “[l]oyalty to the monarchy has been a given…”.

PPT isn’t so sure. Loyalty to the monarchy has really only been established since the 1960s. Even then, loyalty was not to be taken for granted. Indeed, one of the major tasks of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda from his time as prime minister has been to ensure that palace favorites were in the senior military positions.

Looking at affiliations and loyalties, the article notes Kowit’s career as a “graduate of both the AFPS [Armed Forces Prep School] and the Police Academy” and in the Border Patrol Police (BPP), stating that “the BPP has always been under the operational control of the Thai military…”. The author’s add that “the royal family was and is still the major benefactor and patron of the BPP,” with “[v]irtually every BPP senior officer, as well as most of its rising stars, were in the BPP’s early days all personally well-known to members of the royal family.”

Continuing the royal connection, Kowit attended the “Royal Thai Army Command and General Staff College (Class 56). This was the same staff college class attended by Crown Price Vajiralongkorn…”.

Finally it is noted that, for a short time, Kowit was a somewhat reluctant member of the 2006 junta.

The 74 year-old Yuthasak should probably be out to pasture but has been recalled to face the challenge of the Army’s relationship with the new government. He is said to have:

… graduated from the CRMA [Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy] (Class 8 ) and exemplifies what might be called the traditional elite side of the Royal Thai Army (RTA). He is married to one of the three daughters of the late national leader [and, PPT points out, one of the “three tyrants” thrown out of Thailand in 1973] Field Marshal Praphat Charusatien and is the son of a famous three-star army general.

His career was associated with the “Bangkok-based 1st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division (King’s Guard), then the most prestigious unit in the RTA and the choice assignment for sons of generals and important politicians.” He’s close to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh but not to Prem, the palace or the current Army leadership.

Even so, he appears to have respect as a military man who is senior to the current batch of leaders.

The article assumes that conflict with the military will always be a threat to the Yingluck government, noting especially that

… the members of AFPS Class 24 and their supporters throughout the Thai military have neither forgotten nor forgiven the killing of their classmate Colonel Romklao Thuwatham … during the army’s suppression of pro-Thaksin protests on April 10, 2010. Romklao’s death was an important factor in strengthening and unifying the Thai officer corps before the final May crackdown on protesters, a development not fully appreciated by most in the media.

The first big test of the relationship is the military reshuffle, “which will become effective on October 1” but already being considered. Another test will be:

the procurement of new weapons and equipment by the various military services. The new government’s likely decision to reemphasize the existing system that centralizes the process for all equipment and weapons acquisitions at the ministry of defense and the defense council will likely be strongly resisted…. While in recent years the principle of centralized procurements has been well-established, the reality has been that only under Thaksin was the procedure strictly implemented and adhered to, with the prime minister having the final say…. Following Thaksin’s 2006 removal, the process lapsed into a structure without an effective government veto. Individual commanders-in-chief of the three armed services were almost always able to push through their preferred deals – with sometimes disastrous results.

Other  potential sticking points are mentioned. PPT just wonders how long Prayuth can hold his tongue reasonably in check; he’s known for flying off the handle. The article is worth reading.

Update: Although looking at the issue more broadly and with a quite different ideological perspective, this article at World Socialist Web Site is worth reading too. PPT noted this comment:

In her first speech as prime minister, Yingluck called on Thais to rally around King Bhumibol Adulyadej and declared that he would serve as her “guiding light”. This public kowtowing to the monarchy is aimed at appeasing staunch royalists, including those in the military high command, who have accused Thaksin and particularly the pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” protest organisation, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), of disrespect for the king.





Ji on the military and red shirt enemies

25 10 2010

We post Ji Ungpakorn’s latest message, with illustrations from PPT’s library. See also PPT’s related posts here and here.

Military claims that the Red Shirts are the main enemy

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Army boss General Prayut Chan-ocha maintains that the Military’s top priority is to repress the Red Shirt pro-democracy movement and defend the Monarchy. Recently he said that “everyone is obligated, in an act of loyalty, to root out certain individuals from offending the country’s revered institution because without the Monarchy, we may live but things will never be the same…”. The truth is that without the Monarchy the military would not know how to legitimise its brutality.

Prayut’s views are supported by the General Wantip Wongwai, head of the 3rd army, who says that there is a serious republican movement headed by Jakrapop Pencare and myself. The army will go into villages and tell the truth about the army and the Monarchy to the people!!

Mainstream accounts of Thai society and politics always include the cliché that “the King is loved and respected by all Thais”. This may have had some truth at certain periods in history, yet it over looks the constant changes in public opinion and the severe repression, especially the use of the lèse majesté law, and also the manic propaganda associated with the ideology of the Monarchy. Today there are people serving up to 18 years in prison for merely criticising the Monarchy, yet despite this repression there is now a serious republican mood among millions of citizens. The King is openly verbally insulted and criticised in public, especially when demonstrations take place. The reason for this is that since 2006, the Military and the conservatives have systematically destroyed the democratic rights of millions of people who voted for Thai Rak Thai, using the excuse that they were “protecting the Monarchy”. The King also remained silent when the Military gunned down pro-democracy demonstrators in April and May 2010 and the Queen has openly supported the fascist PAD and the actions of the army.

It is ironic that the majority of, both the opponents and supporters of the Monarchy, believe today that Thailand is run by the King in some kind of Absolute Monarchy system. For most Red Shirt republicans, the King is the root of all evil and has ordered military coups and dominated politics for his own benefit. For most royalists, the King is an Absolute Monarch, a Constitutional Monarch and a “god” all at the same time! Reason does not come into the royalist thinking. This is partial convergence of belief is achieved by imposing and socialising the view among the population that the King is an all powerful god who is to be loved and feared. Today millions of Red Shirts have started to hate the King, but they still fear his power. Yet, the King’s power is a myth, created for ideological purposes by the ruling class, especially the Military.

An AP photo from the Telegraph: Protesters surround the coffins which will be used for the bodies of their comrades killed in clashes with troops.

If we are to understand the role of the King in Thai society, we have to understand the double act performed by the Military and the King. For ruling classes to achieve hegemony in most modern societies, they require both coercion and legitimacy. The Military and their bureaucratic allies have their armed might to stage coups and manipulate political society. The King symbolises the conservative ideology which gives legitimacy to the authoritarian actions of the Military and their allies. It is a double act of “power” and “ideological legitimacy”. In this double act the weak-willed King has no real power, but he is a willing participant.

The Military has intervened in politics and society since the 1932 revolution against the Absolute Monarchy. This is because the revolutionary Peoples Party led by Pridi Panomyong relied too much on the Military rather than building a mass party to stage the revolution. Yet it is also a cliché to just state the number of coup d’états that have taken place in order to say that Thailand is plagued by coups. The power of the Military is not unlimited and it relies on the ideology of the Monarchy and an alliance with businessmen, civilian technocrats and corrupt politicians in order to supplement its violent means of coercion.

At important moments in history, the power of the Military has been significantly reduced or kept at bay by social movements and popular uprisings. The post 1973 and1992 periods are good examples. It would be more accurate to state that the Military is an important centre of power among many. Other elite centres include big business, political bosses and high ranking bureaucrats. What is unique about the Military, however, is its weaponry and decisive ability to topple governments through coup d’états. The Military has a monopoly on the means of violent coercion which it has been prepared to use by gunning down unarmed protestors in the streets. The latest example was in April and May 2010 when over 90 people died. Previously, the Military shot unarmed protestors in 1973, 1992, 2004 and 2009 and in 1976 the Border Patrol Police, a paramilitary police force created to fight the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), was used, along with fascist mobs, in order to murder and brutalise students in Bangkok.

Because the Military has always had a problem with trying to legitimise its actions by quoting “Democracy”, it has relied heavily upon using the Monarchy to shore-up its legitimacy. At the same time, the Military also needed to promote the Monarchy. This process was initiated in the 1960s. Today the Military always claim that they are “protecting the Monarchy” and that “they are the servants of the King and Queen”. We see the generals in photo poses, supposedly taking orders from royalty. Yet it is the generals who are really in charge of the Palace. The Palace willingly cooperates in this arrangement, gaining much wealth and prestige. Claiming legitimacy from the Monarchy is a way to make the population afraid of criticising the Military and all the elites, and the draconian lèse majesté law is in place to back this up.





Further updated: Matichon publishes a list of detainees

9 06 2010

A few hours ago, Matichon/มติชน newspaper published a list of detainees currently being held or recently held and released in Thailand. No source is listed, but the categories used are worth examining. Detainees are being held at:

  • Border Patrol Police Region 1, Pathumthani (11 total: 5 released, 6 still under detention)
  • Naret Camp, Petchburi (14 total: 1 released, 13 still under detention)
  • Adisorn Camp, Saraburi (4 total: 1 released, 1 dead, 2 still under detention)

Matichon notes that there are an additional 50 people being pursued for arrest, and 37 people who have been accused of alleged crimes of terrorism.

See the list here: 9 June 2010, “เปิด รายชื่อผู้ต้องหาถูกคุมตัว 29 ราย 50 คนถูกขึ้นบัญชีตามไล่ล่า 37รายเจอข้อหาหนักคดี”ก่อการร้าย””

PPT remains gravely concerned about the conditions of detainees. PPT is also concerned that this list does not represent the full number of those being detained in Thailand — earlier reports indicate that many more were pursued. In addition, what about areas outside of Bangkok? Are there individuals being held in the many other provinces under emergency rule.

Update: As PPT suspected, the number of those detained is much higher than reported in Matichon. The Bangkok Post has reported that the “identity of 422 people arrested in connection with the red shirt protests has now been made public.”

The burden is on the Thai government to immediately justify these detentions.