Doing the monarchy’s propaganda I

29 07 2022

There’s a lot of palace propaganda about at present. We guess that most foreigners will rely on news outlets like the Bangkok Post, which has been around since 1946. To be around that long makes it a newspaper of record but also suggests a capacity for keeping on side with the elite. Indeed, its owners and board are of the ruling class.

Royal birthdays are usually regurgitation worthy times. The story on the king – “HM” – sorting everything out and responsible for everything good in government is pretty horrendous. Who knew or believes that “Royally initiated projects have played a vital role in elevating the lives of Thais and providing a cushion during difficult times”? Who knew or believes that the king has a “long list of royal achievements”? The “evidence” for this is a series of unbelievable claims.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on says that his ministry “follows the King’s guidance” – who knew or believes the king had any knowledge of agriculture?

The ministry’s claims that there were 1,601 royally initiated projects “implemented and completed in the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years” and another “543 projects … carried out in the 2021 fiscal year.” This seems quite unbelievable. Are there any projects other than royally initiated ones? Or is everything the ministry does labeled royal?

This is followed by claims that the Royal Irrigation Department has “3,402 projects which have been implemented, 3,333 are complete and 69 are under construction.” We wonder that if this is true, how many do anything useful?

Purveying palace propaganda is not just about producing vomit-inducing “stories.” Indeed, it means leaving out much. Of course, there’s long been self-censorship on the monarchy. Part of that has to do with fear of the lese majeste law, but it also has to do with shoring up the ruling class and the royalist ideology that cements that class together.

As part of this process of bending the news – and eliminating some of it – has meant the Bangkok Post has more or less stopped reporting on lese majeste. We did a quick search of the Post online for the past three months and found essentially no reporting of the young protesters who are calling for monarchy reform (there was one story on bail for one of them). Other than that, there was one story on Chadchart Sittipunt’s comment on lese majeste, several stories on the Lazada lese majeste case because it involved celebrities, and a couple of stories on the mad 112 case against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The vast majority of 112 cases don’t get a mention.

We could be forgiven for thinking that the mainstream media is working for the palace. Certainly, by not reporting the travesties of injustice against the young protesters the Post is not serving its readers.





The 1932 spirit

27 06 2022

For those interested in the non-governmental response to the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution, there are a few stories to notice, with brief comments below.

Of course, the royalist government response is to ignore the event as if it never happened.

Thai Enquirer has a photo essay on the rally to celebrate the day. Some of the photos are quite something, and together they show how 1932 is intimately linked with contemporary struggles for democracy and monarchy reform. All of our photos here are clipped from Thai Enquirer.

Thai PBS reports on a seminar at Thammasat University’s Pridi Banomyong International College on 24 June, held “to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution.” Those attending and speaking included Sulak Sivaraksa and newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

Various groups organized activities and events on June 24 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the revolution which turned the country from absolute to constitutional monarchy. While academics and politicians discussed the future of Thai democracy at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus, youthful groups and activists gathered at Lan Khon Muang Townsquare, calling for the restoration of the revolutionary spirit, reform of the monarchy, abolish the lese majeste law, as well as make June 24 the National Day….

Thammasat University student activist Parit Chiwarak told Thai PBS World earlier that students and political activists had grouped together under the name of People’s Party 2020 a couple of years ago to carry on the revolutionary spirit. Their objective was to remove the gulf between Thai citizens and the established elite.

“One of the six principles laid out by the 1932 People’s Party is equality, which has never been achieved,” he said.

The report notes that in 1960,Thailand’s National Day was changed by the then military dictatorship, and in concert with the king, from 24 June to the then king’s birthday on 5 December. That change was just one part of the restoration of the monarchy that continues through the 20th century.

Monarchy reform and democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said in a phone interview that she and her associates continued to demand reforms to the monarchy, despite being prosecuted for lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

In another event, former red shirt leader and Puea Thai politician Nattawut Saikua, in a talk show hosted by the Pridi Banomyong Institute, “said the people’s movement which fought for democracy before and after the 1932 Revolution shared the same spirit — to have equality and democracy.” He added: “I do believe that such a fighting spirit has been transferred from generation to generation,” acknowledging that “red shirts admired and expressed their gratitude to both People’s Parties, in 1932 and 2020.”

There’s more in the article.

Meanwhile, at Khaosod, there’s an op-ed by Pravit Rojanaphruk, commenting on the long period of divisions between royalists and anti-royalists. He begins:

The 90th anniversary of June 24, 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy, was only celebrated by those who believe Thailand has yet to achieve genuine democracy and aspire for more freedom and rights.

Conspicuously absent were the government, including Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and royalist conservatives who did not observe the day and probably would rather forget that June 24, which falls on Friday this year, was not just arguably the most important day in modern Thai political history once a national day and a public holiday celebrated from 1938 to 1960….

For royalists who wish to see the monarchy … play a greater role in Thai society, to see the military continue to act as the state within a state, to limit the powers of politicians and the electorate whom they distrust, June 24, 1932 was a day of infamy….

Pravit notes that other countries “settled their differences through a bloody revolt.” He prefers a peaceful road to a democracy that provides for and accepts differences.

That’s all fine and good, but Pravit does not mention that the military has been all too willing to spill the blood of those who stand in their path and those who they consider challenge the monarchy and their Thai-style democracy. It has killed hundreds and jailed thousands.





Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.








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