2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.





Archaic laws and feudal laws

29 09 2017

A report at the Bangkok Post caught PPT’s attention. It began with this: “Thailand needs to amend restrictive laws and regulations to achieve its road map for national reform and its vision of Thailand 4.0…”.

It wasn’t the Thailand 4.0 that got our attention, although we would like to know what Thailand 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 were.

Rather, it was the notion that “restrictive laws and regulations” are to be perused. The story even mentioned “archaic” laws, so we wondered, just for a moment, if feudal laws like lese majeste were up for consideration. After all, this is a law that dates to the absolute monarchy, and its “updates” have simply made it more deeply feudal. It is also a law that is highly restrictive of free speech, free thinking and, indeed, the collective mind of the Thai people, who must always self-censor and ensure that they do not leave themselves open to suggestions of not showing sufficient “respect.”

We were even gobsmacked to read that “Kobsak Phutrakul, a member of the government’s economic reform committee, said legal reforms are necessary to embrace what authorities have dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, noting the country has an undue share of anachronistic regulations.”

But that moment of reflection and hope passed very quickly. Of course, lese majeste is thought so critical to the edifice that is the ruling class that no change can be contemplated for fear that the whole structure will be undermined and will crumble and fall.

It turns out that the junta’s legal minions are only looking at laws and regulations that “pose as obstacles because the economic environment has changed.” A new committee headed by none other than lawyer for hire Bowornsak Uwanno will take eight months “revising those laws that handicap businesses.” Bowornsak will at least be in a job. And just think of all those opportunities for business flow-ons, directorships and so forth.

Borwornsak reckons “graft and corruption in part stems from these restrictive laws.” Solving corruption, he says, means “abolish[ing] the laws that impose unnecessary restrictions,” and which business must get around. Tell that to all those unusually wealthy colleagues of Bowornsak who sit on junta assemblies and committees and declare wealth far beyond that which might come from their real positions as police and military officers. Their unusual wealth comes from commissions and from sitting near the top of a hierarchy that suck ill-gotten gains to the top.

We also can’t help wondering if business is even worried by such laws. Thailand’s richest barely blink as they speed past laws and regulations and continue to pile up vast fortunes.





2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.





Abolish KPI

9 07 2017

It is not often that PPT agrees with the anti-democrats of the puppet National Reform Steering Assembly. But on their criticism of the hopeless and historically challenged King Prajadhipok’s Institute (KPI), we (almost) agree.

A report at the Nation says that the KPI “has been accused of promoting networking among participants of its many courses that attract the political and business elite, as well as senior bureaucrats and other important people from many circles.”

In fact, that’s documented in chapter 5 of the 2016 book Unequal Thailand [readers may finds bits of it at Google books].

One of the numerous committees at the NRSA “has called for a review of the KPI’s roles and duties, as well as a reform of its courses.”

Seree Suwanpanont, the chairman of the NRSA’s political reform committee, “said that despite its many years of existence, the KPI had failed to help improve the standard of Thai politics.”

We agree with this observation. Some time ago, PPT observed that the then constitution manager for the military dictatorship, Bowornsak Uwanno  headed up the KPI, a front organization for “Thai-style” (non-)democracy.

One may peruse the revised KPI fairy tale history to learn that the royalist construction of “parliamentary democracy with the King as the head of state” came into existence in 1932 rather than when royalist and military ideologues hit on this mangled description in recent years. One might also note that under the misapprehension that the deposed king “granted” political change rather than having it forced on him and a coterie of princes.

In fact, since we wrote that, KPI has removed the last bit. Perhaps they read us?

Most significantly, KPI is claimed to have been “established specifically to promote democracy…”. In fact, it was established by royalists to subvert democracy, and Bowornsak is the perfect and trustworthy patron of that subversion of democratic and electoral politics.

That neither Bowornsak nor his royalist organization have done anything to promote  democracy is shown by the linking of the last absolute monarch with the Institute. If it were even necessary, Bowornsak was reported in The Nation in a manner that made this crystal clear.

Instead of “reforming” the KPI, abolish it.





Updated: An update on the RR case and its “reporting”

10 03 2017

A couple of days ago we posted on the floundering Rolls Royce corruption investigation. We noted that the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) was thinking that a subcommittee to investigate allegations of bribery was the way to go. Committees in Thailand usually mean that someone wants an investigation buried.

But, behold! In The Nation yesterday we read that a subcommittee had been formed and that it did something. The headline was: “Thaksin’s ex-ministers to be questioned over Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.” And there was a photo concocted by The Nation.

We read on as the “journalists” and “editors” came up with this:

The anti-graft agency will interrogate former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit and his ex-deputy Vichet Kasemthongsri as part of its ongoing investigation into the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal.

Sansern Poljieak, secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said on Thursday that its nine commissioners have set up a subcommittee to probe individuals involved in the purchase of seven Rolls-Royce engines for Thai Airways International aircraft between 2004 and 2005.

Hold on, just those two years? Didn’t the allegations go back to the very early 1990s?

Well, yes, and The Nation unhelpfully states:

A total of 26 people were found to be involved with the purchase, including Suriya, Vichet, 15 board members of Thai Airways at the time, and nine members of the national airline’s long-term investment subcommittee….

But who? Not a word. What we are told is that the “NACC had found that Rolls-Royce was unfairly favoured in the bidding for THAI’s aircraft engines between 2004 and 2005.”

Again, just those two years? What is going on?

We guess a couple of things. First, if something must be done about this corruption, make sure that it is mainly about political enemies. Second, The Nation has been vigorously anti-Thaksin for many years, and this is just one way of using the (military) boot to further that. Two of 26 are singled out and named.

It may not be “false news,” but it is remarkably unprofessional.

When we turned to a story in the Bangkok Post, we learned more. The NACC did provide names and The Nation just decided to be politicized in its reporting.

The Post is a little more professional in its reporting, indicating that the 26 names are simply lists of all the “names of ministers, all board directors and all members of the long-term investment subcommittee of THAI at the time.” It is a shopping list and not a list of those investigated. One of those listed is already deceased!

The others listed by the NACC are:

…15 are former THAI directors led by Thanong Bidaya, former chairman; Srisook Chandrangsu, vice-chairman (deceased); and Somchainuek Engtrakul, vice-chairman.

The remaining board directors are ACM Kongsak Wanthana, Chai-Anan Samudavanija, Thirachai Vutthitham, Thatchai Sumit, Borwornsak Uwanno, Chartsiri Sophonpanich, Vichit Suraphongchai, Viroj Nualkhair, Pol Gen Sant Sarutanon, Prof Dr Suchai Charoen Rattanakul, Olarn Chaipravat and Kanok Abhiradee.

The others are former members of THAI’s subcommittee on long-term investments led by Mr Thanong as adviser, Srisook as chairman (deceased) and Mr Kanok as vice-chairman.

The other former members of the subcommittee are Kobchai Sriwilas, Tassani Suthas Na Ayutthaya, Suthep Suebsantiwong, Kaweephan Ruangpaka, Fg Off Veerachai Sripa, Wg Cdr Supachai Limpisawat, Fg Off Chinavut Naratesenee, Charnchai Singtoroj and Sangngern Pornpaibulsathit.

There’s some interesting names there, including a scion of one of Bangkok’s wealthiest families (Chartsri of the Bangkok Bank), yellow-shirt ideologue Chai-Anan, multiple charter drafter and dedicated royalist Bowornsak, and several others of the “great” and the “good.”

Now why didn’t The Nation think to mention them or include them in a Photoshopped photo?

But there’s more. The Post also reports:

Notably, the list is limited to those linked to the purchases of Rolls-Royce engines and spare engines during 2004-05. They do not include those involved in the two rounds of purchases made earlier in 1991-92 and 1992-97 identified by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) report on the Rolls-Royce case.

The Nation seemed to miss that point. The question is why is that the NACC seems uninterested in the others? We don’t think one needs to have the intellect of Einstein to hazard a guess.

Update: So maybe The Nation wasn’t so unprofessional…. We maybe owe them an apology, for a Khaosod story throws a third spin on the reporting. That report states:

Of the 31 ministerial officials who served during the years Rolls-Royce said it paid bribes to Thai officials, only two were implicated Friday following seven weeks of investigation by the national anti-graft agency.

And the two were, it says, the two former Thaksin era ministers.

The report states: “The graft agency said there’s not enough evidence linking the other 29 high-ranking officials to the graft, which spanned 13 years.”

That would be remarkable! As the report states: “Those two [the ministers implicated], as it turned out, served under former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the leader of a political dynasty the current military government has sought to dismantle.” Yep, remarkable!

But then the report backtracks and says more evidence is being sought on the others named (in the Bangkok Post report above).

And, by the way, the NACC claims to still have nothing from Britain’s SFO, so the “implications” seem drawn without the necessary evidence.

At this point it can’t be just PPT that is getting confused, but maybe that’s the point of the manner the NACC conducts its (political) work.





Academic boycott I

29 05 2016

Thongchai Winichakul has a post at New Mandala asking questions about three academic conferences to be held in Thailand in 2017 and using the word “boycott.” Clipped from his post, these are:

  • The 13th International Conference on Thai Studies (ICTS), hosted by Chiang Mai University, 15-18 July 2017 (deadlines for proposals: 30 August 2016 for panels, and 30 November 2016 for individual papers);
  • The 10th International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), hosted by Chiang Mai University, 20-23 July 2017 (deadline for proposals: 10 October 2016);
  • The 2nd Conference for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia, by the Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia (SEASIA), hosted by Chulalongkorn University.

Thongchai Winichakul

Similar questions were raised in 2007 regarding the 2008 ICTS at Thammasat University. (Reading the responses to that post are enlightening of the darkness that haunts academia, both local and international.)

There is no academic freedom in Thailand. Calls have been made for academic freedom, but the military dictatorship brooks no interference in its reactionary work. The few activist students and academics are continually threatened by the junta and in the “suspect” areas of the country, the military actively police campuses. Several Thai academics have been forced to flee the country and yet their families are still harassed. The control of all universities in the country is effectively in the hands of royalist academics and administrators.

Given all of this evidence, it is reprehensible that the 10th International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) and the 2nd Conference for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia should decide to hold their events in Thailand well after the 2014 military coup and when Thailand is the only military dictatorship in the world. After all, the debate that took place in the International Studies Association in 2014 and 2015 saw its ISA Global South Caucus Conference removed from Chulalongkorn University and Thailand (see here, here and here). Yes, sigh, they moved it to another state where academic freedom is restricted, but at least they were not meeting under a military dictatorship.

Academics are a broad and usually pretty divided and politically weak “group.” In many ways, the “group” is if representative of anything, reflecting a broader set of interests in society, often connecting with the powers-that-be.

Think of Thailand, where academics have tended to consider themselves a part of the bureaucratic section of the elite. Thai academics have a history of sucking up to and supporting military regimes and salivating over positions with governments that provide money and prestige. When General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected prime minister, he surrounded himself with prominent professors keen to promote “semi-democracy,” military and monarchy. In more recent times, royalist academics have donned yellow shirts and supported all kinds of fascist ideas. Others serve the military dictatorship, including Panitan Wattanayagorn and Bowornsak Uwanno.

Academics are also lacking in political intestinal fortitude.

Think of Singapore, which has some of the world’s top-ranked universities, but where academics almost never challenge the status quo. If they do, they are quickly punished.

Nothing much came of the call to boycott ICTS in 2008. One of the commentators on the boycott opposed it, saying: “These days you have to be Swiss and drunk and in possession of a spray can to be charged with les [sic.] majeste. Most academics do not fit this profile, at least during working hours.” How wrong that was, then and since.

The opposition to the ICTS was “bought off” by special offers. As New Mandala’s Andrew Walker stated then:

At the time I was substantially in agreement with the call for a boycott. But subsequent events have persuaded me to attend. The key events have been the organisation of a series of panels in which the Thai monarchy will be subject to concerted academic scrutiny. As far as I know this public scrutiny is a first for Thailand (if not the world).

This is something like the call made by Thongchai in his New Mandala post. He suggests that “[a]nother approach to support our colleagues in Thailand is to make these events as vibrant, academically rigorous and critical as possible, to help push the boundaries of debate further.”

That was the “compromise” in 2008. Not much came of that brief and controlled moment of “freedom.” Academics are always suckers for such political maneuvers. Yes, there were some papers on the monarchy, but the academic environment has deteriorated remarkably since. The political environment in Thailand is far worse than in 2008.

Should there be a boycott? Absolutely. Will there be an organized boycott? No. Will some academics boycott. Yes. Some of this will be enforced as several academics, including some Thai academics living overseas, are effectively banned from Thailand and fear arrest if they attend a conference.





Updated: Constitutional mayhem

24 02 2016

The alliance that was the anti-democrats with the military is coming undone. They are unpicking the alliance themselves as they are unable to agree on what “reform” means and how it will be handled if there is ever an elected government. The draft constitution is the source of the dissension, even if it is already a mess.

That the meaning of “reform” is debated is no surprise given that it has gone from political slogan to the military’s club for beating the country into its preferred shape, and is now being institutionalized.

As happened in 1992, when the military expresses its desire to hold onto power for ever and ever, some of those who think the boys in green are there just to see off those threatening the social order, get the fidgets. The elite and trembling middle class realizes that it may have to put up with these thugs and to keep paying them off with positions and power.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the junta’s demand that there be a “special set of rules to allow the military-led government to maintain security during the transition to civilian rule [and after] is likely to be rejected by charter drafters…”.

Frankly, we doubt that the junta will give way or that the Constitution Drafting Committee would develop a backbone. However, the idea of dissension and a rejection of the junta, from within, is worthy of note.

Described as “an ex-leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee” and as a “[f]ormer Democrat MP,” Thaworn Senniam said the “CDC will not include the cabinet proposal in the charter.” He said: “We can’t return to ‘half-democracy’.”

Thaworn has little conception of democracy, but his dissension is worth noting.

More significantly, the old fascist war horse “Sqn Ldr Prasong Soonsiri … is warning the military government against making any moves that reflects a desire to stay in power.” He remembers 1992. Anyway, he says, if the military doesn’t like something after an election it can easily intervene.

As expected, The Dictator is unimpressed.

The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “affirmed the country needs a special mechanism to advance reforms during a five-year transitional period.” That “mechanism” is meant to guide government and is presumably replacing the unofficial and behind the scenes mechanism known as the Privy Council. (Post-Prem/post-present king, it can’t be trusted.)

It seems the junta is also pressing for an unelected senate. This is a favorite of the military as they get to hold many of the seats and have veto powers over government. In this instance “it would ensure the junta will have at least 200 senators supporting the junta after an election…”.

As it has been from the beginning, the junta seeks a throwback semi-democracy combined with an institutionalization of measures to replace the monarchy’s political interventionism.

Update: Former PADster, PRDCer and Democrat Party Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has joined the splits from the junta. In a story at Matichon, he has slammed the military junta. Among other things, he digs at The Dictator, saying he wants to stay another five years after two years of failed administration. He says there have been no substantial accomplishments. He says there is no good reason for them to stay.

The dictatorship is being challenged. How will the erratic boss respond?