Remembering 1976: After the massacre I

5 10 2022

The second publication we are posting as a way of recalling the terrible events of 6 October 1976, we provide the first of two publications from the period that assess the immediate political outcomes of the massacre. The book is Andrew Turton, Jonathan Fast and Malcolm Caldwell eds (1978) Thailand Roots of Conflict.

The book’s table of contents is:

  • Thailand and Imperialist Strategy in the 1980s by Malcolm Caldwell
  • The Socio-Economic Formation of Modern Thailand by David Elliott
  • ‘Cycles’ of Class Struggle in Thailand by Peter F. Bell
  • Causes and Consequences of the October ’76 Coup by Marian Mallet (Kraisak Choonhavan)
  • The Current Situation in the Thai Countryside by Andrew Turton
  • History and Policy of the Communist Party of Thailand by Patrice de Beer
  • Appendix 1: A brief introduction to the history of the Communist Party of Thailand (1942-1977)
  • Appendix 2: Life in the Thai liberated zones by Chontira Satayawatana
  • Appendix 3: Statement in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Thailand by Mitr Samanand, First Secretary-General of the CPT
  • Appendix 4: Interview with the President of the northern region, Peasants Federation of Thailand — September 1976
  • Appendix 5: The war in southern Thailand by Ruang Kao


Monarchy propaganda as fake news

25 01 2022

The Bangkok Post has published palace propaganda. We know they have little choice in the matter, but we also guess the tycoons who run the paper also love this kind of fake news.

As we write this post, the story has become inaccessible. It remains a searchable story at the Post, and might come back, but there’s also an excerpt here.

With King Vajiralongkorn turning 70 later this year, the military is busy not just crushing opposition to the monarch and regime, but is promoting him and link between monarchy and military.

Reminiscent of elements of then Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s royalist rant in 2019, the Post article promotes the martial monarch.

It reports that the Royal Thai Army “will upgrade Ban Mak Khaeng Thed Phrakiat Park in Loei,” building a “sculpture of the King, and open[ing] a museum to portray the historical moment when the King, who was Crown Prince at the time, fought alongside troops against communist rebels in Ban Mak Khaeng…”.

Such a propaganda effort promotes monarch, monarchy, military and the bond between monarch and military.

The park was first constructed “by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) of Loei to mark the battlefield in which [Vajiralongkorn]… joined soldiers in fighting Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) insurgents in tambon Kok Sathon of Dan Sai district” in 1976.

As the Post story notes, the “1970s was the height of the Cold War, when communist revolutions toppled governments and monarchies in Laos and Cambodia and when relations between the Thai monarchy and military were reshaped by dramatic and rapid shifts in domestic politics.” The best example of that relationship was the royalist massacre of students on 6 October 1976.

Vajiralongkorn had hurriedly returned from counterinsurgency training in Australia to be there for the massacre and he took up arms with the military to fight the battle against those identified as opponents of the military and monarchy.

The Post reports that: “On Nov 5, 1976, King Rama X, who was [a] … captain at that time, received a direct order from … King Bhumibol Adulyadej … to contain the situation [the anti-CPT fight in Loei].”

A myth in training

Lt Gen Chanvit Attatheerapong, director of the Army Tourism Promotion Agency – who knew there was such a thing – declared: “As a soldier, when the king had fought alongside army troops, it was a moment of incomparable rejoicing for us soldiers. And he [the king] is courageous…”.

It is important to both king and military to create stories of the king-as-soldier in a period when the ruling elite is reliant on  the military-backed regime.

The propaganda is myth-making as “villagers, police and soldiers who witnessed the events tell the magnificent story of the bravery of … the King.” From a soldier taking part in a fire fight, the then crown prince is re-made as a hero:

Pol Lt Suvin Viriyawat, a 69-year-old retired police officer, said the CTP insurgents had nearly managed to surround and cut off a police stronghold….

However, they never thought His Majesty the King would arrive to support his troops. Due to the mountainous area, the chopper could not land, so His Majesty the King suddenly hopped down with his seven royal guards onto the heated battlefield. “His Majesty the King said he was just a soldier, no need to be formal, just carry out our duties. He was so kind to us and ate alongside us too,” said Pol Lt Suvin.

“If His Majesty didn’t show up, around 20 survivors of the 48 might not be alive as we were surrounded with limited supplies for eight days. It was like we were drowning and His Majesty pulled us up. We survived because of him,” he said.

With such embellished stories, ISOC and the Army want to display the martial king, the brave soldiers and the people as one. Such propaganda is believed to be critical for the maintenance of the ruling elite. And, it blots out the critical role played by royals and royalists in the murder of civilians.

Monarchy reform reaction

6 08 2021

Following the recent call to re-emphasize monarchy reform, the official royalist reaction has been quick. As usual, the royalists have run to their allies in the military.

Jakkapong Klinkaew led his group of royalists to submit “a petition to Army Chief Gen. Narongpan Jitkaewtae … asking the military to step in to protect the monarchy from threats posed by anti-establishment elements.”

The so-called Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy is frightened by a proposed protest “by the anti-establishment Free Youth movement, for this Saturday at the Democracy Monument, after which the protesters intend to march to the Grand Palace.”

The royalists “want all security agencies to protect the monarchy against threats from the anti-monarchy protesters.” Of course, the Grand Palace has not been the real royal residence for decades, although King Ananda Mahidol was killed there in 1946.

Madness is a royalist syndrome, displayed by Warong Dechgitvigrom, a leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee. He reckons that those planning the rally “might want to spread COVID-19, which he described as ‘biological weapon’, and then to put the blame on the government and the monarchy.”

Such insanity might be ignored but we suspect that other ultra-royalists harbor such nonsensical beliefs or, more likely, are happy to purvey such fake news.

Warong thinks the time is coming for decisive action to destroy anti-monarchists, saying they should wait until the “situation is right and, at that moment, everything will change and it will not end the way it was.”

The ultra-royalists have support from former state officials. For example, Nanthiwat Samart, “former deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency,”

questioned the motives of the Free Youth movement in urging people to march to the Grand Palace on August 7th, which marks the day, 56 years ago, when the then outlawed Communist Party of Thailand launched its first armed rebellion against the Thai state.

He said that the Grand Palace is the official residence of the King [but is not used as a residence], and houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which are highly respected by the Thai people.

Nanthiwat demanded that the the protesters not be allowed “to desecrate the Grand Palace,” calling on the authorities to “protect this sacred venue.”

Defense Forces chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat has issued a decree that “bans all gatherings that risk spreading Covid-19 and are in violation of the emergency decree.” Violators are threatened with two years in prison.

Police have already become more aggressive and dangerous, and this pattern is likely to continue.

Military in business

26 06 2020

PPT has had a couple of posts on the military’s business and commercial interests in the eastern region, associated with the EEC. We think it odd that the military is partnering with foreign investors or making squillions on “its” land by leasing it out.

In line with this oddity of military-as-business, it is reported that the Defence Ministry:

plans to invite foreign business people to invest in Thailand’s first defence industrial estate in Kanchanaburi under the public-private partnership model, as the government seeks to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign weapons imports and position Thailand as a global arms dealer.

The business “model” seems odd and so does the aspiration to become a “global arms dealer.”

This particular business venture is “to be developed on 3,000 rai of military-owned land in Bo Phloi district…”. Anyone checked the land titles?

On that land, the Defense Ministry “plans to build infrastructure and facilities on 1,034 rai during the first phase,” with military-owned arms and battery factories being relocated to the zone. Who knew that there “are 37 arms factories nationwide”? We only knew of one….

Under the junta, the defense was a targeted industry.

While not exactly in the same category, PPT found another story that offers the military another business opportunity. The Bangkok Post reports that a “former base of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) is being developed as a new tourist spot” in Phatthalung. The report identifies:

Ban Khao Kaew was one of the many jungle bases in the South used by the CPT to wage guerilla war against the government from the 1960s until the early 1990s, when the party was disbanded.

We wondered if the military couldn’t show tourists how they murdered possibly hundreds of alleged “communists” in Phatthalung. Initially, “communist suspects arrested by soldiers were normally shot by the roadside.”

Then, military brass came up with the “red drum” technique, which was “introduced to eliminate any possible evidence” of the murders they carried out. In the red drums, the people the Army “disappeared,” were “clubbed to a point of semi-consciousness before being dumped in gasoline-filled, used oil drums and burnt alive…”.

Thai tourists certainly need to know the barbarity of their military.

Updated: Suthep’s political party

2 06 2018

Readers will probably remember that the military junta was grateful to the Democrat Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban for plowing the ground for its military coup in 2014 through his formation and manipulation of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Readers might also recall that the junta got agitated when Suthep claimed a role in planning the coup and that it was also concerned by Suthep’s capacity for political mobilization. They seem to have threatened him and sent him off to the monkhood.

Since then, Suthep has been careful in his political steps, clearly not wanting to become a target for military assassination, as was yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Finally, though, a new political party has been formed as a political vehicle for Suthep and some of his PDRC colleagues. It is called Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT).

It keeps Suthep as a “member” while the frontman Anek Laothamatas is said to be a founder. He’s failed politician who took funds from corrupt politicians and also from the current junta. He was also with the deeply yellow Thailand Reform Institute that brought royalists and anti-democrats together at Rangsit University. Many appear associated with Suthep’s Party.

Anek has been with the Democrat Party, once worked for Thaksin Shinawatra and is a former Communist. For a time he paraded himself as an “academic.” That he now appears as a “Bhumibolist” should be no surprise for someone who can change his political spots as easily as he changes his ties to a clownish bow-tie for his media appearances.

Clarifications. We say he’s a Bhumibolist referring to a clipped image from The Nation, below, where he wears a Bhumibol election pin and has books on the dead king carefully arranged for the photo op. We say he’s fronting Suthep’s Party because that is what he calls it:

Suthep will be just an ordinary party member, with no executive position in the party and no positions in the future, according to Anek. He also said that having Suthep as a member, the ACT could be viewed as “Suthep’s party”.

Unlike other parties, ACT  “will not elect its leader and other party executives at its maiden meeting.” They will do it later, knowing that the junta’s “election” is months away. The party also needs 500 members and Anek says it is short of that.

Some 250 members will meet at their political alma mater, Rangsit University, owned by yellow-shirt moneybags Arthit Ourairat today:

In addition to Anek, those attending the meeting will be former Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, who headed the PDRC until its demise following the 2014 coup, Rangsit University deputy dean Suriyasai Katasila and former National Reform Assembly member Prasan Marukapitak, according to Thani Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and Suthep’s younger brother.

Suriyasai, Prasan and Thani are formerly key figures in the PDRC, which led massive street protests between November 2013 and May 2014 against the government led by the Pheu Thai Party. The rally culminated in a military coup in May 2014 that overthrew the administration.

Many were previously involved with the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Anek was generous to say that “he was going to resign from the current positions, before working at the new party.“ At present, Anek is still in the pay of the military dictatorship. He is “serving as chairman of the committee on political reform, which is part of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly, in addition to being a member and an adviser in other committees.” He gets a very handy income from the junta.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that, despite all of his previous statements that he had “left” politics, the former Democrat Party godfather Suthep is to be a “co-founder” of ACT. He’s fortunate the T in ACT doesn’t mean Truth.

No CPT allowed

19 03 2018

No, it isn’t the 1970s, but the thought of a new Communist Party of Thailand is scary for the “authorities.”

Election Commission deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmeehas “rejected new party pre-registration for the Communist Party of Thailand, citing that it was unconstitutional and undemocratic…”.

Obviously, in the late 2010s, this rationalization for 1970s-like fear and loathing, is simply nonsense.

The notion that it is “undemocratic” for the CPT to “pre-register” as a party to compete in the junta’s “election” is simply a reinforcement that it is a junta-organized and managed “election” that is undemocratic.

Looking after the family’s interests III

22 04 2016

One of the unfortunate consequences of the junta running down and keeping him in custody for a couple of days has been that attention has been diverted from the ruling family’s nepotism (see here, here and here).

Fortunately, Supalak Ganjanakhundee at The Nation has an op-ed that makes some excellent points.

He begins: “Those Thais who still believe in the junta’s pledge of national reform obviously haven’t been heeding the words of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, his brother Preecha or the draft charter.”

Well, it might depend how one defines “national reform.” Supalak has a middle-class notion of reforming for the better in mind. Well, it might depend how one defines “better.” There’s undoubtedly a group of anti-democrats who appreciate the military dictatorship’s regressive and repressive regime, and they may even consider it “reform.”

But, we get Supalak’s point.

As he puts it: “Prayut, his clan and his crew have embarked on a mission to re-establish a … polity of patron-client bonds and nepotism.” He sees that as a problem with the “deeper structures of culture and society,” essentially unchanged since 1932. We don’t agree, but we do get the point. Culture is not unchanging, and Thai culture has changed substantially over the decades. It is the structures that matter, and these have been sites of struggle. The victors have become the elite and they now defend their decrepit system tooth and nail – or should we say with baht and bullet.

This is why there is some truth in the claim that while “the Thai people have indeed elected governments, … the country has in the main continued to be run by a bureaucracy and a feudal elite.”

It isn’t true, however, that “[p]olitical struggle before the 1973 uprising mostly comprised power plays among the elite.” Think of students, workers and peasant leaders being murdered, the communist rebellion that went on for two decades, separatism in the south over two centuries, the struggle against military dictatorship in 1991-92 and the red shirt rebellions of 2009 and 2010.

But, again, we get Supalak’s point.

He’s right that the “military has been a constant presence in Thai politics throughout modern history. Although the uprisings of 1973 and 1992 directly challenged its power, they did little to shake the foundations of military authoritarianism.” This is a very interesting observation:

The Thai army was established more than a century ago by the monarchy and run by aristocrats familiar with patron-client system. The Army looked modern, but the blue-bloods who took charge of its units, barracks and camps treated it as their personal fighting force – just like old times. Thai commanders have a tradition of employing soldiers and military resources for their personal use. Low-ranking privates, for example, routinely serve their bosses as house boys, cleaning, cutting the grass and washing clothes….

Nepotism is tolerated in the military….

Supalak concludes: “If it has been decided that nepotism and the patron-client system are okay, why maintain the attitude that Thailand needs reform?”

Again, we get the point. However, it is mainly anti-democrats who have been shouting about the need for “reform.” What they mean is that the old system has to be maintained and strengthened.

What he couldn’t say is that the monarchy is the keystone of this old and decrepit system of nepotism and hierarchy.

Supporting anti-democrat political allies

12 07 2015

In another case indicating the uneasy relationship between the junta and its political allies of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the apology issued to PDRC and People’s Alliance for Democracy coordinator Supot Piriyakiatsakul stands out.

As PPT posted a week or so ago, Supot received Mafia-like threats from thugs organized as soldiers, who thought he was supporting the Dao Din students. Supot bleated about his support for The Dictator and the military dictatorship but referred to “an arrogant exercise of power…”.

This event has caused an apology from the Army to its “brother.” At a Korat Army base, “Col. Patikorn Eiamla-or, a senior commander of 21st Army District, said the incident was a misunderstanding.” He apologized: “I would like to apologize to you, brother…. I insist with my dignity as a soldier that I had no intention to use my power or duty to cause conflict in society.” The idea of the Army having anything like dignity and not wanting to cause conflict is a lie, of course. The Army is was obviously concerned about Supot’s organizing capacity but still needs political allies.

Supot’s response raises other questions. He opined: “”Even though I am a Thai of Chinese descent, my heart is dedicated to love for my country. I have been campaigning in politics since 2006 by choosing to stand on the side of the righteousness…. I have always supported the military in all their actions.”

The questions raised by this statement include the issue of ethnicity and why Supot raises it? Was he accused of disloyalty based on his ethnicity? Was there a supposed link to the Communist Party of Thailand that was being investigated and as trumpeted by a member of the Democrat Party? It is entirely within the realms of military possibility that Chinese ethnicity, links to former CPT and even counterinsurgency figures and political organizing in the northeast could be construed as a political threat. Yet the mad anti-democrat from the so-called Democrat Party seemed to be pointing a finger at Thaksin Shinawatra-linked “communists” rather than those linked with PAD or indeed to the Democrat Party itself. Yet the military is seldom used to or using political nuance.

The second question is perhaps not as controversial. Supot’s claim to have “always supported the military in all their actions” may not be entirely accurate, but it is telling of the relationship between anti-democrats and the men with all the guns. The evidence of military links with PAD and PDRC is not difficult to find.

A little politics and music

6 07 2015

Coconuts Bangkok has an AFP story regarding the political use of mo lam. It also refers to mo lam as a music genre now under threat.

As the report notes, mo lam was heavily used in the 1960s and 1970s by the military in the Northeast. The Communist Party also used it and:

wrote lyrics praising their collective system and warning Isaan against becoming “servants of Bangkok” under the yoke of “bastards who don’t have farms.”

In more recent times, part of the story says that the political conflicts of recent years:

have curdled a sense of cultural and geographic difference between the center and the northeast – home to a third of Thailand’s people and most of its poorest provinces.

 One result of this was that:

Before the most recent coup last year, Mo Lam songs extolling the virtues of Thaksin [Shinawatra] and lampooning the Thai elite did the rounds at Red Shirt rallies and on their radio stations….

The 2014 military coup changed this:

But when the military seized power, it shuttered radio stations and silenced local leaders, tearing down posters of Thaksin and outlawing rallies.

In normal times, Mo Lam – and its racier electric guitar-backed offshoot Mo Lam Sing – would be expected to provide the soundtrack to a resistance.

But, this time, the Red Shirts have barely flickered in defiance.

North Thailand or North Korea?

19 06 2015

As we have mentioned several times previously, worshiping Dear or Great Leaders in Thailand and North Korea have some essential similarities.

As the National News Bureau of Thailand reports, in Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand – not North Korea – several “government agencies in Chiang Rai province have convened a meeting to discuss plans to promote the little-known Phaya Phi Phak Forest Park as an important historical attraction.”

Once the area was a site of battles between the Communist Party of Thailand and Thailand’s military. A memorial has been erected at 1,118 m on Doi Phaya Phi Phak to commemorate those who died in the battles. Some details are available in this book (it has a Google books preview) and there’s a CPT version of events available as a pretty slow download of a PDF. The Army was later involved in drug trafficking in the area.

It is apparently Army Region 3 that has led the planning “to develop the national park into a must-see tourist attraction in Chiang Rai, highlighting its forest landscape and historical importance.”

They are managing to convert a one-time battlefield into a royal and military revision of history. That revision commemorates a visit by monarchs: “Their Majesties the King and Queen visited the strife-torn area to boost morale for the soldiers and villagers. During his visit, HM the King also bestowed his footprints, which are now kept in Mengrai Fort.” Of course, this “project” is meant to “celebrate the 88th birthday anniversary of … the King.”

There are several items to be commented on here. First, the use of footprints is remarkable as this implies that the king is being commemorated almost as if he is a living Buddha. Second, the Army is fudging for the king’s footprints in cement are already promoted as a kind of anti-CPT memorial in an Army base in the mountains. And third, the king visited after the cessation of hostilities as part of a royalist ceremony.

But, heck, facts don’t matter when the cult of personality is at work.

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