A few other things

12 08 2018

While the junta is busy censoring us, they might find some of these things of interest, several supplied by readers:

1. A couple of doctoral dissertations: Claudio Sopranzetti’s “Owners of the map” is available as a free download from Harvard, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11169780; and Sinae Hyun, Indigenizing the Cold War : nation-building by the Border Patrol Police of Thailand, 1945-1980.

2. Readers may find this site of interest: Music of Thai Freedom. Songs from the Thai Pro-Democracy Movement Translated for the English-Speaking World.

3. National Security Archive has accessed 16 documents on Thailand Black Site and (now CIA director) Gina Haspel describing extended sessions of physical violence and waterboarding; CIA cables detail contract psychologists working for Haspel. It is disturbing stuff.





Protecting the king

9 04 2018

It seems that the king needs extra and special protection. That’s the gist of a story at the Bangkok Post that details “advanced anti-terrorism training course” for 60 police officers.

That number is “double that of past years” and that’s why we say extra protection. That this is special protection is seen in the rather odd notion that the king’s protection requires “advanced anti-terrorism training.”

This year is also said to be “special” because usually it involves just 30 officers from the Border Patrol Police. The latter have a long connection to the monarchy (opens a PDF) that began when the US’s CIA began pouring money into this unit and the rest of the police force in the early 1950s.

The additions for this year included the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), which “is to set up a new unit whose main duty is to ensure security for … the [k]ing and members of the royal family as well as other important persons.” It is added that those who “come from the CIB [Central Investigation Bureau] will be selected into a team to ensure security for … the [k]ing…”.

The training takes place at the CIA’s old lair for the BPP at Naresuan Camp near one of the royal family’s palaces in Cha-Am. The training is said to have been “updated recently based on an Israeli training module.”

The “CSD will [also] receive an extra budget of more than 200 million baht to cover the cost of purchasing new and high-tech weapons…”.

The taxpayer money spent on the world’s wealthiest monarchy continues to expand.





Junta learning from China

31 10 2017

Over the years, there have been efforts to suggest that various Thai leaders in politics and the economy have turned to China in part for reasons of ethnic loyalty. Certainly, several Thai leaders have been of Chinese extraction and some Sino-Thai tycoons at CP and the Bangkok Bank (to name just two) have been early and long active in “giving back.”

But what does this mean in practice, especially when China’s economic rise has been noticeable for decades and its political sway has been increasing for some time? And, consider that almost all of Thailand’s wealthiest, including the dead king, were Sino-Thai. Chineseness has seldom been a hot political issue since Phibun’s time and a period when the OSS/CIA were worried about the “overseas Chinese” as a “fifth column” for Chinese communism.

The most recent effort we can recall was by Sondhi Limthongkul, in some accounts claimed to be China-born and the son of a Kuomintang general. Back in the days when the People’s Alliance for Democracy – dominated by Sino-Thais of the Bangkok middle class – declared that they too were loyal to the nation (and the monarchy).

When we look at the current military dictatorship, for some time shunned by the U.S. and by some major countries in Europe, the draw of China became important. While on a well-worn path, where China was already a major trading partner, the significance of China rose substantially for the regime as it sought to arm and boost the economy. But one of the attractions does seem to be, as one academic has it, mutual authoritarianism.

But we don’t think we have ever seen such an enthusiastic embrace as that provided by the junta’s 4th generation Sino-Thai Wissanu Krea-ngam in an interview with the official Xinhua news agency on the day the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China concluded.

Speaking of the amendment to the CPC Constitution that made “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era a new component of the party’s guide for action,” Wissanu was enthusiastic, declaring:

Xi’s thought makes “Chinese characteristics” more prominent, the Thai deputy prime minister said.

He praised China for being very good at accomplishing its goals efficiently as can be proved by the anti-corruption campaign that started five years ago.

He said he believes that the new goals set at the 19th CPC National Congress will be accomplished as before.

“The Chinese set long-term goals and ask people to do it together. That is something we can learn from, as we are also working on a 20-year national strategy to guide the development of Thailand,” Wissanu said.

“It is just magical that we have consistent policies or strategies as China put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. We have Thailand 4.0 and ASEAN … has ASEAN Connectivity,” Wissanu said, adding that China and Thailand can still find a lot of aspects to cooperate in the future.

Maybe he’s just noticing economic opportunities? But those have been evident for decades. Wissanu seems attracted by the Chinese model of marrying authoritarianism with markets. That seems pretty close to the junta’s aims.

 





The interventionist king

15 02 2017

Some time ago, PPT posted on the trove of documents released online by the CIA that can be searched and downloaded online.

In that post we also mentioned one document about General Sarit Thanarat’s 1957 military coup and the king’s alleged involvement, at least as far as the Americans were concerned.

A reader has now sent us another document, from the same source, saying more about this. Here’s the document in full, as a PDF. And we have a couple of clips below. The first from earlier in the document:

king-and-coupAnd then this, reflecting on the palace’s involvement:

king-and-coup1





CIA documents released and accessible

22 01 2017

The automatic declassification provisions of US Executive Order 13526 (formerly EO 12958, as amended) require the declassification of non-exempt historically valuable records 25 years or older. At the CIA this meant that it maintains a program operating out of the CIA Declassification Center to review records under the purview of EO 13526 before they reach their automatic declassification deadline.

Since 2000, if one visited the National Archives College Park, Maryland in the USA, the CIA had installed and maintained an electronic full-text searchable system named CREST (the CIA Records Search Tool), with about 11 million pages of data.

However, in January 2017, the CIA published the records of the CREST collection online, and they can be searched and downloaded online.

Helpfully, Andrew MacGregor Marshall has done a bit of a search through the material and provided his initial impressions, especially searching for material related to the monarchy and posted. Readers will surely find this of interest

One document we at PPT found of considerable importance is in regard to General Sarit Thanarat’s 1957 military coup. A few pages into the report, it provides what we think is a first-hand corroboration of the king’s involvement. It has always been known that the young king found Sarit a father figure and supported him, as Sarit supported him and the monarchy. This document says something more:

king-and-1957-copyHe did not become disillusioned with Sarit or the military and the military-monarchy political partnership was born. That the king played “an active role in the events leading to and subsequent to the army coup” is a revelation that blows another hole in the palace’s now shredded propaganda that the king was “above politics.”

Not mentioned by Marshall in this particular post is another document PPT found interesting for its resonances with recent events:

khuang-1khuang-2Khuang was a founder of the Democrat Party in 1946, which was then, and is now, a royalist party of anti-democrats. After the shooting death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, it was Khuang and the Democrat Party that accused Pridi Phanomyong of having been a mastermind of the king’s death, leading to Pridi’s exile until his death. The palace and royals hated Pridi for his role in the 1932 revolution and they never forgave him.

However, it is the phrase that Thailand “would never be secure until Pridi and his chief followers were eliminated” that caught our attention. We guess that similar words have passed around the yellow-shirted cabals and we would assume that General Prem Tinsulanonda and the 2014 coup leaders said very similar things with Thaksin Shinawatra now the mortal enemy of their royalist Thailand.





The military’s blacksite

30 12 2015

Some time ago, when two lese majeste detainees – Prakrom Warunprapha and Suriyan Sujaritpalawong – died in custody, PPT asked about the origin and nature of the detention site, inside a Bangkok military base.

In a Prachatai report, at the time, Gen Paiboon Kumchaya, the Minister of “Justice,” denies any responsibility for the site or for the deaths. He argued that “the remand facility in the 11th Army Division is not a ‘military prison’, but a normal remand facility runs by the Department of Corrections.”

PPT added: We do not think that “normal” is in any way the right description of this military facility housing a makeshift prison (or is it Detention Site Green?).

At last, more attention is being given to this dark and deadly detention facility that the regime is expanding.

The Bangkok Post reports on the site using information from lawyers. It says it is a “new” detention center, although we remain unconvinced by this. If it is new, it appears developed following learning from the CIA’s covert prison sites.

For example, when “lawyer Winyat Chatmontree was allowed to meet his client in detention at a Bangkok army base, Pratin Chankate shuffled in blindfolded and shackled by military guards.” Former Border Patrol Police officer Pratin is accused of being involved in the mysterious “Khon Kaen model” plot to perhaps assassinate someone, somewhere. He was transferred to the military detention site from police custody, apparently deemed a threat to national security. Winyat’s client was “taken away after five minutes by soldiers…”.

Lawyers who work with the “detainees say they are routinely denied access to their clients and, in some cases, have themselves been subject to intimidation.”

Winyat says that in most cases: “The military is running most of the process, from interrogation to building cases…. Then they hand it over to police to continue what they started.”

The military dictatorship claims that the detention center at the 11th Army Circle base “is necessary for the efficient investigation of major threats to the kingdom.” In fact, it seems more likely that it is a convenient place for the milder forms of “enhanced interrogation” and for extracting “confessions.” Indeed, it seems that all inmates either confess or die in custody.

Human rights groups say the facility is designed to keep “suspects under army control as they are railroaded through a system of military courts…”.

The facility, “established within the military base under a decree issued on Sept 11 … [t]hat means detainees can be held there for up to three months.”

Sunai Phasuk, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, declares: “It’s fair to call this facility a ‘black site’ of the Thai military…”





Royalist “constitutionalism”

16 03 2014

As PPT has posted before, there is support for the anti-democratic movement from various scholars connected to royalists and Thailand’s right since the days of the CIA’s involvement in the U.S.’s support for anti-communist and authoritarian regimes fronted by the military. The royalists have regularly wheeled out the relatively unknown American Stephen B. Young to support the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-democratic movement and to promote palace-inspired and conservative royalist ideas regarding politics and forms of “Thai-style democracy.”

We have previously mentioned Young as a commentator who heads up his own organization, the Caux Round Table, which is about shameless self-promotion. While the royalists like to say Young is a “scholar,” this is a misrepresentation. His major publication appears to have close connections to CIA-funded operations. His other publications are his own rants published in pretty meaningless places or self-published as a result of royalist support for their talking head.

A reader sent us a long version of yet another “paper” that Young has produced on the royalist “vision” for Thailand, and we were content to ignore it and let it disappear without trace. However, the conservative Bangkok Post has seen fit to publish a shortened version, so we are pushed to comment. In his longer paper, not only does the author spell “constitutionalism” incorrectly, but is listed as “Stephen B. Young, Esq.” as if from the 19th century. Both seem appropriate for that paper, which is a travesty of uniformed nonsense about Locke, Rousseau and constitutionalism.Young

For more and better information on these 17th and 18th century philosophers and their impact on constitutionalism, try here, here, and here. A bit of searching produces many papers that are learned and which contradict Young’s sometimes bizarre interpretations of Locke and Rousseau in this longer piece. So odd is his interpretations of Thailand’s history are impossible to briefly characterize here. What is more significant is Young’s remarkable confusion in his call for conservative reform.

Young’s basic point is that Locke’s approach to constitutionalism is a kind of perfect liberalism, while Rousseau’s is more radical and leads to authoritarianism. He argues that Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts are the inheritors of Rousseau’s alleged authoritarianism via the People’s Party, 1932, Pridi Phanomyong and Plaek Phibulsonggram. Indeed, Young makes the claim that Rousseau’s thought is the basis of all totalitarianism, and notion that has been refuted time and again since the early 19th century:

These interpretations, based on the concepts of the “total surrender” of individual rights (“l’aliéna-tion totale”) and of the absolute sovereignty of the state over all its members, draw conclusions from the Contrat social that are fundamentally opposed to the intentions of its author. Indeed, for Rousseau, liberty was the most precious of possessions, a gift which nature has made to men. They can no more be deprived of it rightfully than they can be deprived of life itself; nor can they be permitted to divest themselves of it for any price whatsoever. The social pact should not be interpreted as abrogating, in effect, a right which Rousseau declared inalienable and inseparable from the essential character of man.

Based on false premises, Young proceeds to make a nonsense of Thailand’s modern history. His interpretation of Locke and Rousseau is a manipulation to make a political point that resonates with palace and royalists. His selective use of quotes from these two philosophers is banal. PPT could be just as selective and note that Locke was “a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company. In addition, he participated in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina while Shaftesbury’s secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves.” Hardly liberal, but also an unduly narrow interpretation.

His claim that “Thailand now needs sustainable constitutionalism harmonising with its Buddhist culture of seeking the equilibrium of the middle path between extremes and aligning with the rule of law” is a plagiarism of much earlier conservative ideas about constitutionalism that were developed in the early 1960s by Kukrit Pramoj (opens a PDF) and other royalists as elements of military-backed monarchism.

Firmly based in this conservative tradition, both Western and Thai, Young wants to provide a way forward for Thailand. He begins with an interpretation that Locke’s writings allow a popularly-elected government to be disposed of if it is believed to threaten liberty or property. Young chooses to interpret this as meaning:

“Thaksin’s manoeuvres to concentrate power in his hand by means of bringing elected officials under his personal sway caused his government to lose its legitimacy under Locke’s constitutional system. So, under that system, by seizing too much power Thaksin forfeited his authority and the people of Thailand were within their rights to withdraw allegiance from him and his ministers and seek to replace his government with one more faithful to upholding the public trust.

Young does not explain how this interpretation can be applied in circumstances where pro-Thaksin governments have been elected in every single national election since 2001. His claim that “the people of Thailand” could rise up against the elected government is simply an acceptance of anti-democrat propaganda. Other anti-democrats and royalists have avoided this philosophical gap by simply rejected elections.

Young, however, demonstrating his confusion and lack of imagination by arguing for more elections and a political system that looks a lot like the U.S. presidential system:

The executive branch of the national government should be removed from direct dependence on the National Assembly. The chief administrative officer of the cabinet of ministers should be directly elected by the people for — say — a three-year term of office. The election of the chief administrative officer would be held in years when the House of Representatives is not elected.

His other suggestions on decentralization, police, the judiciary (which he acknowledges is politicized), impeachment, and House and Senate are essentially American. Fixed term legislatures may or may not be relevant for Thailand, but certainly limit the very Lockean interpretation of threats to liberty and property he claims are the base of his “constitutionalism.”

He then suggests a path forward for Thailand current political stand-off that has no basis in law or constitution.

PPT takes all of this a a sign that the royalists have been very confused and challenged by the Yingluck Shinawatra’s seeming ability to hold out against the old threat of military coup and the newer threat from judicial coup (at least for the moment). It seems that the old men who have always believed they have the answers for Thailand are flummoxed.