Further updated: Authoritarian darkness

16 04 2021

Thailand’s royalist authoritarianism and the desire to “cleanse” the nation of anti-monarchists appears to have taken a significant turn as the regime targets an American academic it considers has fomented political activism in the northeast.

From New Mandala

Thai Enquirer, Bangkok Post, and Prachatai report that David Streckfuss, who worked for Khon Kaen University, CIEE: Council On International Educational Exchange, and with regional news outlet The Isaan Record, has had his work-permit with KKU revoked on 19 March, which means his tenure in Thailand is tenuous as his visa is also revoked.

It is reported that Streckfuss had “been with the university for the past 27 years before his work permit was terminated.”

Prachatai states that the “decision reportedly came after police visited the University President and Faculty Dean, after Streckfuss participated in a workshop which partly involved decentralization.”

Hathairat Phaholtap, the editor of the The Isaan Record, confirmed the work permit cancellation and stated that it came “after Streckfuss attended a workshop about the preservation and development of the local Isaan identity which was held at a Khon Kaen hotel on 12-14 February.”

The police reportedly told the university that this meant Streckfuss was “involve[d] with local politics…”.

According to the Bangkok Post, where Streckfuss has been an author, he has “published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He is also the author of Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté, published by Routledge Press, in 2011… [and] has a PhD in Southeast Asian history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” His recent academic work has been on censorship and self-censorship.

One of his roles since 1994 has been has been as director for CIEE Programs in Thailand, facilitating college students study abroad experiences in Thailand. In this he “works with the program’s administration and programs managers to oversee student health, safety, and welfare as well as all issues related to academics, services, projects, administration, and finance.”

Over the years, Streckfuss has spoken at various seminars, including with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. This action against a high-profile academic, and someone who might be described as a “friend” of Thailand, suggests either a bureaucratic miscalculation or, more likely, a further deepening of the regime’s repressive authoritarianism.

Update 1: A couple of reports in the media suggest that there’s some dissembling going on about this case. The Bangkok Post reports that Pol Maj Gen Kritsada Kanchana-alongkon, a commissioner at the Immigration Division 4 in Khon Kaen has gone all Sgt Schultz, saying: “The local immigration authorities didn’t know why the university terminated Mr Streckfuss’ contract…”.

Thai PBS reports multiple denials (one of which contradicts Pol Maj Gen Kritsada):

Immigration Police and Khon Kaen University have denied that the termination of the employment contract, work permit and visa of David Streckfuss are related to his political activism in Thailand.

Khon Kaen University’s International Affairs Division also denied allegations of police pressure, telling ThaiPBS World that the termination was due to his failure to fulfill his duty regarding student exchange programs.

Making matters worse for itself, KKU now states: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he allegedly failed to arrange student exchange programs, leading to the contract termination.” So, they say that students couldn’t come, so Streckfuss must go….

Update 2: Khaosod states that the Khon Kaen Immigration Office has “deferred the decision to extend the work permit and visa…”. An official stated: “This has nothing to do with politics and David is not a prohibited person under the immigration act. Therefore, there should be no problem with his visa application process.”

KKU continues to maintain that there was no official pressure applied – Streckfuss says there was – and says it sacked him for circumstances created by the virus:

The longtime expat worked as the director of the exchange student program at Khon Kaen University for the past 27 years before he was given a one-month notice of termination in February for “not being able to do assigned work.” He believed the decision was politically charged, an allegation denied by his former employer.

“No police or any other state officials have met with the rector or the dean,” Khon Kaen University rector Charnchai Pangthongviriyakul said Saturday. “The faculty saw that there has been no progress in his work, so it decided to notify him of contract termination.”

Even if this was the case, it marks KKU as an uncaring employer, not averse to taking decisions that destroy lives.





Royalists and censorship

13 04 2021

One of the traits of royalism in Thailand is the way in which all manner of royalists, from officials to the mad  monarchists, seek to destroy those they see as opponents.

About a month ago we mentioned the “case” being mounted by academic royalists to censor the work of historian Nattaphol Chai­ching, a campaign that had been waged by yellow shirts since 2018. That royalist assault has been recently paired with a ridiculous (except in royalist Thailand) defamation case by minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, against Nattaphol and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky), seeking to protect the honor of a long dead relative.

We would have hoped that such a malicious set of actions by mad monarchists would have faded away. It hasn’t, with a report at University World News suggesting that the royalist stronghold at Chulalongkorn University is seriously pursuing the claims against Nattaphol.Nattapoll

The royalists clearly see Nattaphol’s book’s and their “popularity and influence as a threat…”. As a result, they”have targeted the author, calling for his PhD to be revoked.” The royalist witch hunt is led by yellow-shirted political “philosopher” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn at Chulalongkorn University.

The university, “who owns the copyright to the PhD thesis, set up an investigation committee in February ostensibly to review its academic integrity,” after earlier “effectively bann[ing] the thesis by barring public access to it, claiming at the time that it contained errors based on some pieces of evidence used.” As far as we can tell, the “errors” are one mis-attribution to a newspaper article.

With the “investigation” now proceeding, mostly in secret, the university could revoke Nattaphol’s degree or take “other disciplinary action under research misconduct rules.”

The report cites Ek Patarathanakul, assistant to the president for corporate communications at Chulalongkorn University, and an interview with BBC Thai on 26 March where Ek claimed “Chulalongkorn University would uphold the ‘academic perspective’ in examining the issue.” He added: “we have to use universal principles [of academic integrity] in reviewing this case…”.

As we know, in Thailand, “principles” and standards are easily manipulated, and the university’s political track record is royalist and shaky (for an example, see our series of articles Pathetic royalist “university” in 2017 that begins here).





Preparing for book burning

22 03 2021

Thailand’s regime continues to push the country down into the abyss of a dark authoritarianism.

Thai PBS reports that police “raided the anti-establishment Fah Diew Kan printing house and seized many copies of a book called “The Monarchy and Thai Society”, which police claim were intended for distribution to protesters at Sanam Luang on Saturday evening.”

Some of the books do appear to have been distributed. The book is The book is a “compilation of the speeches about the monarchy given by Arnon Nampa, … currently … detained, with others, at the Bangkok remand prison on lèse majesté charges.”

Police seized a large number of copies, promising to “carefully check the book for any content which is deemed insulting or critical of the monarchy.”

We have no doubt that the police will locate something in the book they consider lese majeste and this may lead to even more arrests.

 





Royalist academic unfreedom

19 03 2021

Dr Nattapol with his books. The photo, supplied by Same Sky Books, is clipped from New Mandala

Just over a week ago, PPT post Clown royalists and the monarchist laundry where we began with a story from the Bangkok Post about minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, “taking legal action and seeking damages of 50 million baht from writer Nattapol Chai­ching and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky) for alleged slander.”

That story is taken up at New Mandala, where Thongchai Winichakul and Tyrell Haberkorn detail the silliness and nastiness associated with this case. It particularly highlights the role of royalist troll Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, who operates like a fascist cheerleader, seeking to further diminish the already severely curtailed academic freedom (and pretty much every other freedom) in Thailand.

We urge readers to consider the New Mandala piece in its entirety.





NUS Press doing the regime’s work

17 01 2021

Asia Sentinel has a story about NUS Press being ordered – that’s the implication – to bin a book after taking through a production process to printing. Of course, the book is about the Thai monarchy, the dead king, and King Vajiralongkorn, and it is edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. This censorship would be remarkable for a proper university press, but that is not what NUS Press is. It is a press run by a state-dominated university in an authoritarian state. Academic freedom is not something that the university or the press uphold.

Because Asia Sentinel is often blocked in Thailand, here’s the full story, with just a couple of edits, by John Berthelsen:

Singapore’s NUS Press Accused of Ditching Thai Anthology Under Pressure
Compendium of scholars discussing end of previous Thai king’s reign sent to Yale instead

More than 100 international academic figures have signed an open letter accusing Singapore’s National University Press of bending to political pressure and dropping the publication of a compendium of scholars analyzing the prospects for the end of the era of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.

Titled “Coup, King, Crisis,” the book was edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai dissident now in exile at Kyoto University in Japan and features writers including Paul Handley, the author or the acclaimed book “The King Never Smiles,” as well as Australian academic Kevin Hewison…. Other authors included Federico Ferrara, Claudio Sopranzetti, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Edoardo Siani, Paul Chambers, Sarah Bishop, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Krislert Samphantharak, Tyrell Haberkorn, David Streckfuss and Somchai Phatharathananunth.

The manuscript was later accepted and published by Yale University under Yale’s Southeast Asia Studies Monograph series. Singapore public universities and political research institutions, according to Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based rights NGO, “have direct government links that enable political influence and interference in hiring and firing. Recent faculty turnover at two major universities has increased concerns about political pressure. Self-censorship on Singapore-related topics is common among academics, who can face legal and career consequences for critical speech.’

Pavin, who composed the open letter, said Peter Schoppert, director of the NUS Press, and Tan Eng Chye, the NUS President of the decision to cancel the publishing contract in March 2020, but failed to give any explanation regarding the withdrawal, saying the decision “was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community.”

“It seems reasonable to assume that the NUS Press’s decision was due to political pressure,” Pavin wrote. “The unexplained and last-minute decision violates the fundamental principles of academic freedom. The reference to outside stakeholders indicates that individuals and/or interest groups outside of academia have the final say in the publication process. This makes a mockery of the independent peer-review process, calling into question the academic integrity of the press itself.”

Some of the authors, including Pavin himself, have had a stormy relationship with the Thai government. He recently complained that he was being followed by unknown figures in Japan. In fact, Thailand has reached well outside the country’s own borders to harass exiled dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch, which in its 2020 World Report said that “In recent years, dissidents who fled persecution in Thailand have faced enforced disappearance in neighboring countries. At least two Thai exiles in Laos, Wuthipong Kachathamakul and Itthipol Sukpaen, were forcibly disappeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2018, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatchan Boonphawal, and Kraidet Lueler were abducted and murdered in Laos. In May, authorities in Vietnam repatriated Chucheep Chivasut, Siam Theerawut, and Kritsana Thapthai to Thailand and the three men have since disappeared.

The manuscript was proposed to the NUS Press in October 2018 and went through what the protesting scholars called a “proper and vigorous peer review process, and all contributors revised their essay accordingly, and in a timely manner.”

On August 29, 2019, Pavin wrote, he signed a contract with the NUS Press on behalf of the contributors, completing the necessary steps to ensure meeting the publication deadline of Spring 2020. As the manuscript was about to go to press, Schoppert wrote to him saying: “It is with great regret that I have to inform you that NUS Press will not be proceeding with our publication of and distribution plans for ‘Coup, King, Crisis’ and would release a statement saying it was “not the sort of decision a university press takes lightly, but it was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community. We have informed the book editor, Assoc Prof Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and the contributors to the book, and released them from their obligations under our contract. We apologize for the late notice, and the inconvenience caused.”

Spurned by NUS, Pavin spent the intervening months trying to find a new home for the book. Although Schoppert wrote that although NUS wouldn’t print the book and that it was open to discussing “measures that can be taken to mitigate the impact” of the cancellation, Pavin didn’t bother to negotiate.

The decision on the part of the NUS Press to drop the project revealed the university’s “knowing sacrifice of legitimacy for expediency,” according to the open letter. “Its action exposes others not so well positioned to increased pressure from those who would undermine the foundations of an open society.”

Pavin publicly called for an international moratorium by scholars on all further manuscript reviewing for and submission to the NUS Press, which “has damaged and made a sham of the academic review and publication process “and asked colleagues to not send any new manuscripts to NUS Press.

The affront to critical, independent scholarship represented by NUS Press’s action on this manuscript “suggests that NUS is underserving of its current level of global ranking,” according to the letter, and “has caused reputational damage not just to the press itself but also to NUS.”

The letter and its signatories is available here, and is a PDF.

We may as well assume that the book, now published by Yale’s Southeast Asia Program, and available at Amazon, will be banned in Thailand.





Maintaining the monarchy’s secrets

12 12 2020

As lese majeste charges pile up, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta – one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee men – seems to think that the best way to douse the flames of anti-monarchism is to cut off sources of information.

That’s about what we’d expect from a rightist with a track record of censorship for the monarchy. His last effort was against Pornhub, where Buddhipongse declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knew he was talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former, and that the clip of her near naked was the reason for the ban.

This month, Buddhipongse is seeking to censor critics of the monarchy and those who provide information on the monarchy that the regime and palace would prefer remained secret.

DES claims to have sent “evidence” to police and to be seeking “legal action against social media platforms that fail to remove URLs deemed inappropriate.” The PDRC minister said “the ministry has asked the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to take action against a total of 496 URLs which violated the Computer Crime Act and security laws between Oct 13 and Dec 4.”

Marshall

Of these, “284 URLs are on Facebook, 81 on YouTube, 130 on Twitter, and the rest on other platforms,” with DES identifying “19 account owners — 15 on Facebook and four on Twitter…”.

The ministry is after “Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who faces 74 court orders to block 120 URLs; Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who faces 50 court orders to block 66 URLs, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who faces 194 court orders to block 439 URLs.” This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Pavin

Um, that’s already 631 URLs…. Something is wrong with the numbers, but let’s just say that the regime reckons these social media activists are lighting the fire under the protesters, so dousing them, they mistakenly think, will put out the anti-monarchism. In a sense, to mix metaphors, the DES and the regime are trying to put the horses back in the barn after thousands of them have bolted.

This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Somsak

The ministry’s public cyber vigilantes are continuing to report anything and everything. Last month alone, these royalist screenwatchers reported, via the “Volunteers Keep an Eye Online” webpage, 11,914 URLs. Of these, even the ministry could only deem 826 of them “illegal” while the pliant courts found 756 were to be blocked. The ministry and police must be inundated with work for the monarchy.

Buddhipongse is furious that the social media platforms don’t follow his orders, with Facebook blocking 98 of the 487 links he wanted blocked. Twitter removed 8 of 81 URLs. YouTube is far more pliant, blocking all 137 links the ministry flagged.

It is deeply concerning that these social media giants take seriously court orders from a judiciary that is a tool of the regime in political cases and on the monarchy’s poor PR. All the same, the information and the monarchy’s secrets are out there, and the regime will not be able to sweep it away.





With 3 updates: The Dictator’s response I

21 10 2020

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, is tone deaf. So hard of political hearing that he’s doubling down against the students and other protesters, seemingly prepared to risk clashes and extreme violence.

Voice TV has been defiant on the court ordered shutdown. But Gen Prayuth has ordered state authorities to crackdown hard, especially on anti-monarchy statements and images, stating: “We are duty-bound to protect the country and eliminate ill-intentioned actions aimed at creating chaos and conflict in the country…”. He’s talking about the monarchy.

In a piece of good news, and in an act that goes against the judiciary’s pro-authoritarian bent, the Criminal Court on Wednesday “repealed a government order to close down a TV channel [Voice TV] who’s been broadcasting live coverage of the student-led protests…”.

Voice TV “representatives argued to the court that the shutdown order breached the constitutional protection of media freedom…. The argument was accepted by the court, who noted that the order did not cite any clear wrongdoing.”

But other parts of the judicial system acted against democracy. Many will have seen reports that several of those arrested had been bailed. Not so fast. A Bangkok Post report states:

Two protest leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, were taken to the Criminal Court on Wednesday as Bangkok police pressed charges against them for their part in an anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Sept 19.

Samran Rat police took the two pro-democracy activists from the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Pathum Thani province to the court, ariving around 10.50am on Wednesday.

The two Thammasat University students were released on bail by Thanyaburi court on Tuesday afternoon, before police took them to the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Khlong Luang district.

Mr Parit and Ms Panusaya were also wanted on arrest warrants from other police stations for their roles in anti-government rallies in Bangkok and other provinces.

In other words, the police and regime can continue to keep them on political ice.

More than this, the arrest continue, even in the fake case of “royal endangerment.” Suranat Paenprasert, a coordinator for children’s welfare and anti-drug advocacy group “Active Youth,” was charged with Article 110 of the Criminal Codes, which bans committing acts of violence against the Queen or [h]er [l]iberty.” It is a fit up, but the regime want to raise the temperature of ultra-royalists, while removing activists.

Meanwhile, the royalists are getting organized, with support from the state. Seeing the students and other protesters as “misled” and “duped” – terms also use when denigrating red shirts – Warong Dechgitvigrom warned of “the plot”: “pro-democracy protesters’ demands were not legitimate, especially those concerning the monarchy.” And, he added that there were hidden backers: “group leaders did not want to show themselves to avoid legal action.”

Helping him out, “Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin yesterday spoke about his Facebook post urging people in Chon Buri to exercise their power to protect the monarchy.” That’s a call to action and probably arms.

The state is now actively engaged in mobilizing royalists. The Bangkok Post reports:

Crowds estimated to number in the tens of thousands led by local administrators gathered in several in provinces on Wednesday in a show of loyalty to the royal institution.

The royalist demonstrations, staged in response to recent calls by some student protesters for reform of the monarchy, took place in provinces including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Lampang, Nan, Narathiwat and Songkhla….

Similar gatherings were planned in provinces before the end of this month.

Bangkok Post: An estimated 20,000 yellow-clad people march in Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat on Wednesday morning to show their loyalty to the royal institution. (Photo by Waedao Harai). The Post always downplays and vastly underestimates the size of student rallies.

The states involvement is a dangerous turn of events and The Dictator seems to be digging in. We are not sure that can save him. How desperate can he become?

Update 1: The Bangkok Post appears to be aiding the regime. One of its latest “stories” is about continuing protests and the ultra-royalist marches mentioned above. It reports that “authorities are worried about possible clashes between the two groups in the future.” Again, the post goes full ultra by not pointing out that it is the authorities who are mobilizing the royalists. Indeed, many of those who marched were in civil service uniforms! The Post, by playing dumb, is aiding and abetting any violence that the state unleashes.

Update 2: The Nation makes it clear that the royalists were mainly officials.

Update 3: Social media reports that the first attacks on protesters by yellow shirted royalists took place at Ramkhamhaeng University around 5-6pm today.





With 3 updates: Voice TV shut down (but not quite)

20 10 2020

While not unexpected, the regime has decided to shut down media broadcasting about and in support of the demonstrators. The first victim is Voice TV.

The government claims “a court backed its order to close down ‘all platforms’ of … [Voice] TV channel…”. Ministry of Digital Economy and Society Deputy Permanent Secretary Putchong Ntethaisong “said Voice TV must now shut down all of its broadcasts, whether on air or social media, due to violations of the emergency decree.”

He added that “the court is also deliberating on the shutdown order for three other media sites: The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai.”

Putchong went on to accuse “Voice TV and three other media agencies of spreading information that could cause unrest in the country, which is banned under the Severe State of Emergency imposed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha…”. Of course, by “spreading information,” the regime means news that for several nights via YouTube has been a largely uninterrupted and without much editorial comment.

The regime does not want people to see what’s happening. Worse, it could be that it wants to prevent the broadcast of any further state crackdown.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes The Dictator:

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Prayut said that a much-reported gag order on some news agencies were to prevent the spread of “fake news” which has exacerbated the conflict within the country.

Prayut said the order was necessary to maintain peace.

“Any agency that has to be shut down will be shut down as according to the continuous police procedures and I am not violating anyone’s rights,” he said.

“My job is to prevent any harm done on the country and to stop the efforts to incite unrest and create a rift within the society,” he said.

Of course, he’s lying. There’s been no “fake news” that we have seen, except from the likes of Nation TV. And, he’s violating everyone’s rights to protect himself, the king and his regime.

Update 2: Voice TV continues to broadcast, vowing to defy the military-backed regime.

Update 3: The broadcaster continued last evening, with several live broadcasts from spots where protesters congregated. In one of these, a vigorous statement of commitment to the promotion of democracy was a message to the regime.





The regime goes lower II

20 10 2020

Dozens arrested – although it may be a lot more – and with protest rallies continuing, the regime is dipping ever lower into its dictatorial bag of repression tactics and dirty tricks.

As one experienced reporter had it:

Busy day for the Thai Ministry of Censorship [Ministry of Digital Economy and Society]. 300,000 bits of online content deemed threatening to nat[ional] security (monarchy mostly), Telegram app ordered blocked, 4 news organisations threatened with suspension and a publishing house raided. What next?

That’s an excellent question.

There have been some developments over the last 12 or so hours.

The regime has just released some of those held, but not those seen as long-term anti-monarchists. We would expect the released activists to further strengthen the anti-regime protests.

Panupong Jadnok was “detained for 12 days for sedition and altering a historic site.” The sedition charge seems to be a lese majeste charge in disguise and is “related to his participation in the September 19 protest…. The second charge was related to his role in the installing of the 2020 coup memorial plaque in Sanam Luang on September 20.”

But it is the response to repression that is most interesting.

Following the regime’s decision to investigate the Standard, the Reporter, Prachathai, and Voice TV, the editorial board of Thai Enquirer published the following statement:

Journalism is not a crime, censorship is not an option.

That the government of Prayut Chan-ocha would choose to censor free and digital media at a time of national emergency is indicative of the type of government that it actually is. Whether that censorship is in whole or in part, both are unacceptable to a free and fair society.

Instead of dialogue, opening up discussion and press, the government has chosen to embrace its authoritarian roots and censor, shutdown, and intimidate journalists working to present the news.

The government of Prayut Chan-ocha should, instead of censoring the press, read the content of new and digital media to understand the grievances and viewpoints of the people it claims to represent.

The Thai Enquirer calls on the government to rescind the gag order immediately and to engage in dialogue with the press, the opposition and the people.

Even the Bangkok Post seems to have found something resembling a spine, observing:

It seems this government is blind to the fact that truth can no longer be distorted nor narratives crafted by those in the seats of power. Blocked websites can be accessed by alternate means and social media transcends geographical boundaries.

Its efforts at censorship may ultimately be a bigger blight on its reputation than the already disseminated content it futilely hopes to redact.

The Post urges discussions between “student leaders” and the regime. PPT doesn’t think that there’s much point talking with a regime that includes heroin smugglers and corrupt and murderous generals, has engaged in enforced disappearances and a myriad of human rights abuses is worth talking with. It is a regime that came to power via a coup, changed laws to suit itself, came up with a rigged constitution and arranged a rigged election and rigged parliament. Talking with this regime is unlikely to be anything other than a waste of air.





Updated: The regime goes lower I

19 10 2020

It is widely reported that the regime is trying to censor news and even withdraw or block content that is about the pro-democracy uprising. See, for example, The Isaan Record. However, some of these reports have been removed. We are not sure what this means.

The censorship is aimed at media that have rallied behind the protesters and some that livestream the protests. This includes Voice TV, The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai. There is also a move to block the protesters official social media pages.

Such desperate and oafish moves are likely to fail, incite more protests and may be defied.

Update: There are now social media reports that the regime is sending out police to collect “dangerous” publications, including some academic works on the 1932 revolution. How low will it go?