Regime vs. students

20 10 2021

Over the past 18 months, political conflict has revolved around students opposing the regime and its royalist supporters. The student challenge has waned, in part because of the virus, but also because of the regime’s repression strategy, which has included virus emergency provisions used mostly for political purposes.

Much of the repression has been delegated to the purged police. Of course, the military has also been involved and continues to provide its backing for the regime and monarchy.

Political repression has extended from the streets to universities and to the judicial system. The latter has made heavy use of laws on lese majeste, sedition, computer crimes, public health mandates, and some charges dredged from a feudal Thailand.  For example, in a case from a year ago, several protesters were accused of violating Article 110 of the Criminal Code, which has to do with attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir.  Those charged face 16-20 years’ imprisonment, making this an even more serious crime than lese majeste.

Of course, not one of those charged attempted any violence. But the repression of using the law hangs on, as one of them, Bunkueanun Paothong, explained in a recent op-ed.

In universities, administered by royalists doing the bidding of the regime, struggles continue. Prachatai reports on the royalists at Chiang Mai University where students from the Media Arts and Design Department in the Faculty of Fine Arts have been prevented from showing their final arts projects allegedly because “some pieces deal with social and political themes.” The censorious and fearful royalist Faculty administrators even locked students out of buildings. Some students and their parents are worried that the kids will not be allowed to graduate.

Such actions are common at universities across the country. Thasnai Sethaseree, an artist and Faculty of Fine Arts lecturer observed:

What happened during the past week is a common occurrence in Chiang Mai University, but the people who are affected have never spoken out…. Things like this happen in Chiang Mai University every day. This case like a volcano that will make the lava in other places erupt….

Back in Bangkok, where working class kids are facing off against police, Talugas protesters continue to be pushed into prisons. Thalugas, is causing a royalist stir:

Soldiers will step in to handle political protests only when the situation is considered a rebellion or a riot, Defence Forces chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat said on Tuesday.

He said the announcement by the Thalu Gas group, now renamed the People’s Revolutionary Alliance (PRA), about aiming to overthrow the constitutional monarchy was a lawful expression of the group’s opinion.

The responsibility of the police is to ensure law and order, he said. So if the group were to act in any way that threatens Thailand’s sovereignty, it would then be time for the military to take action, he said.

While the statement that issuing an anti-monarchist statement is legal might bring some relief, the military defines the monarchy as a matter of “national security,” suggesting that the general’s statement is really a threat. Indeed, the police are already “investigating” a “Facebook page operated by the Thalu Gas group over content related to the monarchy…”.

The police admit they cannot eliminate anti-monarchism. The plan seems to be to silence it with thousands of legal charges and the jailing of hundreds.

The struggle continues.





Artist faces another 112 charge

10 10 2021

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “Chiang Mai University student and performance artist Withaya Khlangnin is facing another royal defamation charge [they mean lese majeste] for staging a performance in front of the university on 1 May 2021 to demand the release of detained activists.”

At this rally, Withaya poured red paint over himself, and climbed onto a Chiang Mai University sign that featured the near compulsory photo of King Vajiralongkorn.

Clipped from Prachatai

TLHR reports that police have decided that Withaya’s performance contravenes Article 112. This is because it allegedly:

involved climbing onto the university sign, above which was a portrait of the King and a sign saying “Long live the King.” Withaya also poured red paint all over himself, which the police said was unsightly, and spilled paint over the university sign and the image of the King. The police also said that the gestures Withaya used during the performance, such as standing with a paint bucket over his head, and lying down with one foot pointing up at the portrait of the king, was disrespectful.

Withaya heard the charge at Phuping Rajanivej Police Station on 5 October 2021, “dressed as Luffy from the Japanese manga One Piece, and staged a short performance before going to meet the inquiry officer.”

He “was released after his meeting with the inquiry officer. He has to report to the police again in 12 days, and has to submit further testimony in 20 days.”

According to Prachatai, Withaya is already facing two Article 112 charges.





Further updated: Cultural monarchism

25 10 2020

With demonstrators again coming together in a “leaderless rally,” they answered King Vajiralongkorn’s declaration of political war. They are not afraid.

That notion of not being afraid has been taken up by at least one journalist. In an op-ed at The Guardian, Pravit Rojanaphruk has supported the demonstrators and he is right to observe that the target of their rallies is now the king and the overbearing monarchy. More importantly, he is, as far as we can tell, the first journalist to ditch the malarkey about the dead king being universally loved and revered. He is critical, stating:

Young Thai protesters want to make sure that if there is yet another coup attempt, King Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the throne after his popular father, King Bhumibol, died in October 2016, will not endorse it – as his late father did many times by putting his signature to orders effectively legitimising a coup. On average, Thailand has experienced one military coup every seven years since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Clearly, any last remaining hope they had was demolished when the king mingled with ultra-royalists and fascists.

It cannot be doubted that the recent protests have opened space for critical discussion of the monarchy. In our view, the space currently available is the widest since the 1940s. That it has taken so long for this space to be re-opened means that uprooting establishment monarchism is a huge task. Military, schools, art, architecture, religion, administration, areas of science and engineering, and popular culture are just some of the areas that have been distorted and crippled by the influence of staid and backward-looking monarchism.

In Chiang Mai, some have begun to push back against decades of taxpayer funded palace propaganda. A Twitter campaign calls “for students, staff, alumni and the general public to support a removal of the art display installed on the side of an exterior wall at its Faculty of Architecture” that is pure palace propaganda.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that the yellow-shirted administration at Chiang Mai University had had top publicly reject “a bid to remove the Sculpture of Light, an art display bearing the likeness of … King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”. (As usual, we have had to delete words that are royalist trip from this quote.)

The administrators went full-on royalist saying the dead king “was highly revered by students and staff.” Clearly not by all. It is evident that many will come to view the origin of the current problems as lying in the previous reign and the king’s right-wing, pro-military stance.

Getting ever more royalist, the administrators groveled, declaring how “indescribably grateful” they were for the dead king’s “contributions to the country…”. Do they mean military dictatorship? Further, they declared they “would not permit any act to be undertaken within its compound which degraded the honour of the late king in any way.”

Those calling for the propaganda to be removed said “some people were concerned about public space being allocated to art displays and everyone was entitled to express opinions over how the space should be used.” They called for political neutrality at the university and a return of space to the people.

Update 1: There’s more on challenging royalist culturalism at Thai PBS and at Thisrupt.

Update 2: Another account of how royalist culturalism is being challenged may be found at The Nation.





Students, EC and censorship

30 03 2019

It has been widely reported that university students have begun a campaign to impeach the bungling, opaque and puppet Election Commission over its mishandling of the 24 March “election.” The universities involved were reportedly: Chulalongkorn, Thammasat (Rangsit campus), King Mongkut Institute of Technology (Thon Buri campus), Kasetsart (Bang Khen campus), Chiang Mai, Naresuan, Burapha, Prince of Songkla (Pattani campus) and Rajabhat Rachanakharin.

Channeling 1957, the Chulalongkorn University Student Council demanded “an explanation from the EC about widespread allegations of irregularities.” Meanwhile, the Thammasat University Student Union released a “statement saying that commission officials must be investigated because their sloppy procedures resulted in ambiguous election results…”.

Following up on the Army’s apparent support for the EC, the junta’s Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam, poured ice water on the student’s demands for impeachment, saying the “process would be long as the [junta’s handpicked] Senate is required by law to forward the case to the [junta’s puppet] National Anti-Corruption Commission.” And, even if malfeasance is found by the NACC, it is the senate that decides whether to remove the EC officials.

In other words, Wissanu thumbed his nose at the students, essentially saying, expend your energy, but fat chance that anything will happen.

And then the usual dirty tricks began, manifested as repression.

Students at Kasetsart “were barred by the university from campaigning and collecting signatures from other students,” and uniformed and plainclothes police and the university’s security guards photographed the students before forcing them to campaign off campus. In fact, they were forced to move twice.

Kasetsart’s rector Jongrak Watcharinrat either lied or is non compos mentis that “he did not know about the incident and insisted that students have the right to hold any campaign on the campus as long as it’s not against the law.” We know he is in one of these states because the “university issued an announcement prohibiting any unauthorized activities from taking place on university grounds, and university officials told the students that the university cannot get involved in politics.”

Not only did the university and police thugs make the students move, but they reportedly “stopped some students from signing the petition…”.

One might have “hoped” that this was a case of one deep yellow set of anti-democrat administrators acting to protect the junta. Sadly, though, it appears that this is a junta-directed campaign against the anti-EC students, with Prachatai stating:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that Chiang Mai University has also prohibited students from campaigning, claiming that the students did not ask for permission to use the space, and at Khon Kaen University, students said that police officers came to observe the campaign and questioned them. There was also a report that university officials also came to tell the students that the Faculty of Law did not allow them to use the space.

The whole election process, always bogus and rigged, is now being “validated” as a fraud by the actions of the junta and its thugs. But did anyone expect anything else from this regime?





Limiting academic freedom II

9 09 2018

A couple of weeks ago, PPT posted on the lackadaisical discussion of academic freedom in Thailand from an Australian-based historian. That blasé account was purportedly about the charging of the principal organizer and several others involved with the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies held at Chiang Mai University in 2017.

Interestingly, as a reader informs us, the Association for Asian Studies has now announced in an email to members that its next AAS-in-Asia conference will be held in Bangkok on July 1-4, 2019. In part, the announcement says:

The AAS-in Asia conferences offer opportunities for Asia-based scholars to interact with each other and their international colleagues. AAS is partnering with a five-university coalition of organizers led by Thammasat University; the other members of the coalition are Chiang Mai, Chulalongkorn, Kasetsart, and Mahidol Universities. In terms of travel, tourism, and obtaining necessary visa documents, Bangkok is known as an easily accessible hub in Southeast Asia.

It then goes on to discuss controversy.

At its most recent AAS-in-Asia, held in Delhi, India, before the event began it became clear that there were major issues of academic freedom, with the President of the AAS writing to members stating that the:

Government of India, while granting political clearance to the conference (a requirement under Indian law), has refused to issue conference visas to citizens of Pakistan or even to persons of Pakistani origin. The officers of the AAS (that means, currently, Katherine Bowie, Past President; Laurel Kendall, Past Past President; Prasenjit Duara, Vice President; and me, President) and all the members of the AAS Board of Directors abhor the exclusion of Pakistani scholars from the conference.

Abhorred, but went ahead, stating: “we believe our course of action is the right one under the circumstances, despite the heated objections that it has generated.”

Remarkably, the AAS has now chosen Thailand, ruled by a military junta. This time it is explained that the AAS:

is encountering challenges in determining venues for international academic conferences, ranging from finding host institutions with faculty and staff willing to take on the significant workload involved in organizing a conference with some 1,000 attendees, to facing the risk of becoming ensnared in the politics of governments in the countries in which the host institutions are located. The U.S. government itself has issued new regulations regarding visa applications from citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Although Thais remain hopeful that their country will have elections (current news reports are suggesting the possibility of early 2019), Thailand currently is ruled by a military junta. Nonetheless, our host partners affirm that holding the AAS-in-Asia conference in Thailand provides support for free academic inquiry in their country. In this spirit, the AAS Board of Directors voted in October 2017 to hold the 2019 AAS-in-Asia conference in partnership with this coalition of Thai universities.

The partners are Chiang Mai, Chulalongkorn, Kasetsart, and Mahidol Universities, none of which have recently been at the forefront of the promotion of academic freedom. To take one example, Chulalongkorn has several times prevented students from protesting (here and here). Several academics, including from Thammasat and Chulalongkorn have had to flee Thailand for fear of arrest for their academic writings that caused lese majeste charges. Others have been threatened by university administrations, assaulted on campus and attacked by the military.

That there may be a rigged “election” will not immediately change the repressive atmosphere that regularly sees military personnel in uniform patrolling university campuses and “inviting” students and academics to military bases for “attitude adjustment” session. There’s also massive censorship of online media and the domestic news media is not free from interference.

In addition, under the military government, films, discussions, seminars and more, related to Thailand and other countries, have been suppressed.

Even if there is a change of government following the junta’s rigged “election,” there are major topics of interest to academics working on Thailand and probably Myanmar, Cambodia, China and Vietnam that will be frowned upon. There will also be an effort to censor and self-censor discussion of anything to do with the monarchy and the military that is not laudatory.

Thailand seems a rather poor choice. But, as the AAS makes clear, visas will be relatively easy to get. Well, at least for those who are not already blacklisted or who face arrest in Thailand.





Further updated: Serving authoritarians and other scoundrels

26 04 2018

Only a few days ago we posted on how the military dictatorship has proven itself to have the right attitudes and ideology for dealing with other authoritarian regimes. Most especially, Thailand’s military regime has felt most comfortable in dealing with military leaders in those countries. That’s also been true of its dealing with the military in Myanmar, where bonds have been formed with another nasty military leadership.

And what nasty military types want, they get, whether Thai thugs or the military in Myanmar. A recent report, worth reading in full at The Irrawaddy, refers to “a launch event for a new report warning of a humanitarian crisis in Karen State and detailing ongoing human right abuses against local people there by the Tatmadaw [the army],” being shut down by the commander of “Thailand’s 3rd Army based in Phitsanulok, who received a letter from the Myanmar military attaché, Brigadier-General Khin Zaw…”.

The report states that:

The Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) had planned to launch its report, “The Nightmare Returns: Karen Hopes for Peace and Stability Dashed by Burma Army Actions,” at an event in Chiang Mai. The event was to include a documentary film screening, photo exhibition and two panel discussions in order to raise support for more than 2,400 Karen who have been displaced by the resumption last month of operations by the Myanmar military in northern Mutraw (Papun) district of Karen State.

It was to be at Chiang Mai University’s Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development. However, “CMU … canceled its booking at the venue. The event was moved, but had to be canceled on Wednesday morning when police showed up at the second venue.”

The Center’s director Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaputti said “the center agreed to the request [for the censorship], which was passed on by the head [rector] of the CMU.” He added that: “This is the first time an RCSD-hosted event has been blocked by officials,” and he described this as an “intervention against academic freedom.”

Of course, academic freedom has been strangled under the military junta. Embracing a military infamous for its human rights abuses seems all too normal for Thailand’s military dictatorship.

Update 1: Yet another example of how low the junta is prepared to go in supporting other authoritarians and seeking to capture republicans is revealed in the Cambodian media.

Update 2: Prachatai reports on the release of the Cambodian detainee mentioned in the report at Update 1.





Junta repression deepens VI

22 08 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship seems to be in a panic. As we recently posted, some of this seems to be caused by Yingluck Shinawatra’s upcoming verdict. But there’s more going on.

The Criminal Court has “sentenced Watana Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai Party figure and former commerce minister, to one month in prison, suspended for one year, and fined him 500 baht for contempt of court after broadcasting via Facebook Live at the court.” He was also ordered to “delete the clip from his Facebook page.”

The report at the Bangkok Post states that the “sentence was handed down while he was waiting for the court’s decision on whether to detain him on charges of inciting public chaos, breaching Section 116 of the Criminal Code.” It adds that that “charge is in connection with a case involving the removal of a memorial plaque commemorating the 1932 Siamese Revolution.”

A charge related to the plaque is quite bizarre given that the state has not acknowledged that the plaque was stolen or officially removed. Yet complaining about this historical vandalism is considered sedition. That the removal coincided with the royalist ceremonies associated with the junta’s faux constitution is evidence of official efforts to blot out anything not royalist or military in political life and memory.

Watana points out that:

…[T]he Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on Monday submitted a request to detain the politician from Aug 21-Sept 1. Mr Watana was awaiting the ruling on that matter when he started filming in the court.

Earlier at the police station, Mr Watana acknowledged the charge of importing false information into a computer system in violation of the Computer Crime Act after he posted content relating to the plaque’s replacement on his Facebook page.

He was temporarily released on 200,000-baht bail for both charges.

He said it was not common for TCSD investigators to summon someone again after the person has already acknowledged the charges again him.

Mr Watana also said the detention request is intended to hinder him from giving moral support to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court this Friday.

Then there are those academics and others who attended and organized the International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University. They have reported to police and been fingerprinted while denying charges brought against them.

Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University, met Chang Phuak police with Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai and Thiramon Bua-ngam after the summons had been issued for them on Aug 11, almost a month after the four-day 13th International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University ended on July 18.

They face charges of assembling of more than four for political activities, which is prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order.

As with the fit-ups of Pravit Rojanaphruk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Chayan is being fitted up. He had nothing much to do with those protesting the military’s surveillance of conference attendees. The other four are also being fitted up as there were others who held the signs and appeared in photos, and these persons have not been summoned by the police.





Further updated: Protesting ICTS charges

18 08 2017

Sent by a reader:

Statement by participants at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies on the Summons and accusations against fellow participants

We the undersigned express our alarm and dismay at the Summons issued by Col Suebsakul Buarawong, deputy commander of the 33rd Military Circle in Chiang Mai, to Dr Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam. They are accused of violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief’s Order No.3/2015, Thailand’s military regime’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons. Conviction on the charges issued against these five scholars carries a potential six months in prison.

The International Conference on Thai Studies is the main international scholarly forum for presentation and discussion of research on Thailand. It has been held every three years since 1981, hosted by universities in Thailand, Australia, China, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. In July 2017 the conference was hosted by Chiang Mai University and achieved a record turnout of 1224 participants. The conference was a resounding success. It was marred only by the intimidating presence of uniformed and non-uniformed security personnel.

The intimidating presence of security personnel at ICTS13 and more generally at scholarly events is in direct contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. It also contravenes the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Thailand has also signed, and which guarantees academic freedom.

We call on the military government of Thailand to:

  1. Immediately withdraw the summons and implied charges against Dr Chayan
    Vaddhanaphuti, Ms Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Mr Chaipong Samnieng, Mr
    Nontawat Machai, and Mr Thiramon Bua-ngam.
  2. Cease forthwith the intimidation of academics and students in their conduct of
    scholarly teaching, research, public discussion and debate, on- and off-campus.
  3. Cease the restriction of free and open discussion on pressing issues of concern to the
    wider Thai public, in line with Thailand’s international commitments.

Dated Friday 18 August
Signed by 291 ICTS13 participants

(ไทย version and Signatories to the Statement can be downloaded as PDFs.)

Update 1: A reader has sent us another statement by academics on the summoning of Thai academics and students from the ICTS by junta thugs. This one is an international effort. But to do what, we are unsure. It weakly expresses concern about the events and it is unclear who it is addressed to. Pussy-footing around the military dictatorship seems all academics are able to do, fearing for themselves and perhaps Thai colleagues.

Update 2: Another petition signed by more than 400 academics worldwide has been posted at New Mandala. It is a little stronger, expressing “alarm and dismay.”





Opposing junta repression and censorship

25 09 2014

The censorship and repression of the military dictatorship is suffocating for many.

Opposing it is difficult and often requires considerable courage.

At Khaosod and also at The Nation, it is reported that some brave academics have opposed the military junta’s ban on any discussion it considers to be about “politics.” Artists are joining protests.

The aged General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is the junta’s Minister of Defense, has been threatening academics who had the temerity to oppose the junta’s censorship.censorship-1

Those academics were condemning “the arrest of three student activists and four professors at Thammasat University for organising a panel on the ‘Demise of Foreign Dictators’ on 18 September.” Prawit responded, demanding that academics “toe the line.”

Khaosod reports that Prach Panchakunathorn, a Chulalongkorn University philosophy lecturer, has “lashed out” at Prawit and the junta’s smothering of academic freedom. Prach stated:

Academics never crossed any line. It’s the military who crossed the line by arresting lecturers and students inside the premises of the university…. We cannot accept that.

Referring to intimidation, Prach stated that “the military has no right to require academics seek permission before organising a public discussion.”

Another academic, Hara Shintaro, from the Prince of Songkhla University, called the junta’s actions “irrational.”

The NCPO  banned all forms of political activity and public protest after seizing power in late May. Violators have been sent to face trials in military court and five anti-coup protesters have been given suspended jail sentences.

Last week, the military also “forced academics at Chiang Mai University to cancel a discussion scheduled for Thursday, titled ‘Happiness and Reconciliation Under 2014 Interim Charter’.” Somchai Preechasilpakul, a law lecturer at Chiang Mai University, pointed out the obvious: “academic freedom is an important issue.”

Some activists have take to social media and others to public protest, wearing box metal cans (beeps) or woven baskets on their heads, said to “embody a Thai idiom for feeling shameful.”

They also pointed at royalist university administrators who joined anti-democrats and who now work for the junta and express shame about this. Somchai pointed out that they have no legitimacy.

Another academic has said, at The Nation, that he and his colleagues would “continue to try and organise a political talk” despite the junta’s restrictions. This came after the military cancelled a third talk, “on shame and the right to freedom of speech slated for yesterday [at Chiang Mai University, which] had to be abruptly called off after a local Army officer contacted the organisers.”

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that another social media campaign against censorship and lese majeste repression is involving some in the arts. Using “The Song of Commoners,” they are calling “for the release of two theatre artists Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkong” accused of lese majeste and for the release of other political prisoners.

The two accused of lese majeste were involved in the play called Jaosao Mapa (The Wolf Bride), the first rime that a “theatre production has been accused violating lese majeste.”

Some artists feel that their space and creativity as been “trespassed on.” The reaction against The Wolf Bride saw ultra-royalists baying for charges to be laid. The attention of such monarchist fascists is unsettling for some artists. One stated: “Frankly, I don’t feel safe to communicate because I don’t know how my work will be interpreted…. This [lese majeste] law is dangerous to everyone…. If someone interprets your intention the wrong way, that’s the end of you.” Another said, “I’m afraid, but I’m also interested in the challenge of how to handle this topic in my work…”.





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…”.








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