With two updates: Monarchist madness reaches new heights

11 10 2019

Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has form as a royalist ideologue. On Friday, as Khaosod reports, he “stunned the nation with an 90-minute tirade on anti-government politicians and academics, in which he accused them of attempting to sabotage the country’s constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Khaosod

This is nonsensical, but we must assume that Gen Apirat believes his own rants.

Some readers will recall that it wasn’t that long ago, in February, when we observed that no one should trust the commander of the Royal Thai Army. At that time, Gen Apirat “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. That was a lie. Then in July, he doubled down, promising he would:

wash his hands of politics after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] is dissolved once the new cabinet is sworn in…. From then on, I won’t make political comments nor will I get involved with politics in any way. I’ll perform my duty strictly as a professional soldier….

That was also a lie.

The Army even lied about his speech, saying “Apirat’s speech … as being about the situation in Thailand’s deep south, home to a Muslim separatist insurgency.”

In Friday’s deranged rant, Gen Apirat’s “fiery rhetoric and even invocation of Communist threats in today’s news conference took many observers of the armed forces by surprise.” He lied that “the opposition’s campaign to amend the current constitution as a stealth attack on the monarchy.”

His concocted plot is a clear attack on the Future Forward Party and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. He targeted them as “communist politicians” and “extreme left” academics “who had studied abroad.”

Gen Apirat “showed a picture of Thanathorn and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, albeit with Thanathorn blacked out for an unknown reason. Apirat said he suspects that the pair might be colluding in some ways.” He criticized the young demonstrators in Hong Kong as he accused Thai politicians of colluding with communists.

Oddly, in an anti-communist tirade – for Gen Apirat, the Cold War-era battle hasn’t ended – his criticism of Wong and Thanathorn was joined by the regime in Beijing. Presumably Gen Apirat knows that China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. Even so, he supported the Beijing view, beloved of yellow conspiracy theorists and regime supporters in Thailand, that Hong Kong’s protesters were being supported and egged on by “outsiders.”

He babbled:

Joshua Wong has visited Thailand on several occasions. Who did he meet? What type of people did he meet? Did their meeting have a hidden agenda? What did they plot? Now, there is unrest in Hong Kong. A visit [by Thanathorn] can be viewed as giving encouragement and support….

Bemedaled like a North Korean general, Apirat then attacked the opposition parties as “selfish opportunists” and declared that they “cannot be trusted.” He warned “that politicians, academics and other intellectuals may ‘manipulate’ young people to stage protests like those in Hong Kong.”

Like a rabid dog, he went after academics: “He singled out those who had joined or sympathised with the communist movement in the 1970s, saying they had now become academics ‘teaching students wrong things’.”

“I’m not involved in politics. The army has stepped back now that there’s an elected government. But this is about national security. I will never let anyone separate the country,” he said.

His mad view is that something he calls a “hybrid warfare” that incorporates “methods such as online propaganda and more traditional violent means was already being employed in Thailand to destroy the nation.” He further concocted, claiming “politicians were linked to former communists who he said never gave up efforts to seize power…”.

AP expresses its own confusion on this plot:

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to because Thailand is not at war, the military and its allies are firmly in charge having run the country for the past five years, and a long-running insurgency is limited to the nation’s three southernmost provinces. Apirat’s comments appeared largely aimed at opposition politicians who campaigned on efforts to reform the military but have not advocated war or violence.

AP might have added that many former communists – all of them aged – support the military and its government.

As a staunch royalist, Gen Apirat “at least once Friday appeared to be in tears when speaking of King … Vajiralongkorn.” He claimed: “There is a group of communists who still have ideas to overthrow the monarchy, to turn Thailand to communism…”.

Clipped from Khaosod

Gen Apirat then pointedly made the connection between ant-communism, military and monarchy, saying the king “had helped soldiers fight against communist troops in … Loei province on Nov 5, 1976.” He went on:

“His Majesty was in the operation base, ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder by shoulder with brave soldiers.”

The royal institution had always protected the nation and battles went on for a long time before the Communist Party surrendered in 1988, Gen Apirat said.

Gen Apirat declared:

The royal institution, the military and people are inseparable. In the past, kings were on elephants surrounded by soldiers. Those soldiers were the people who sacrificed themselves in battles beside kings….

The general and his king (Clipped from the Bangkok Post)

Gen Apirat argued that it was the military that was “with the people.” He said: “They [the opposition parties] criticize the military as being an obstacle to democracy, when in fact we work for every Thai citizen.” That’s after they have repressed, jailed, tortured and murdered the Thai citizens who don’t agree with them.

The Economist observes:

In theory, Thailand’s army, having seized power in a coup in 2014, has returned to the barracks, after handing power back to politicians. But General Apirat apparently sees nothing inappropriate in railing against communists, student agitators and opposition MPs.

Meanwhile, The Nation quoted a critical academic:

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of Political Science at the Ubon Ratchathani University, said the Army chief was exaggerating the point and acting as if the military owns the Constitution and the country….

Titipol also suggested that Apirat was using tactics allowing the military to make political gains by exaggerating the idea of amending Section 1 and accused him of acting against the principles of freedom of expression guaranteed to the people by the Constitution. He said people should be allowed to voice their opinions constructively about the amendment of the charter, adding that the military does not own the Constitution or the country….

He also said that the Army and the government do not want to amend the charter because it allows the military to stay in power after the military-led coup in 2014….

“This charter largely protects the interests of the political establishment at the expense of the people,” he said.

Gen Apirat is a deranged and armed thug. That makes him dangerous, especially when linked to a fearsome monarch.

Update 1: Naturally enough – we had forgotten – Gen Apirat’s mad tirade came on the anniversary of the previous king’s death and as Vajiralongkorn flew back to Thailand from Germany. The newspapers and media are thus overflowing with propaganda for the monarchy, much of it being concocted stories about “great” achievements. Vajiralongkorn can bask in the reflected glory as his military second in command goes full on monarchy bananas.

Equally crazed is Chairith Yonpiam at the Bangkok Post who suggests that Future Forward must “learn the art of compromise.” In one of the most biased op-eds in the Post for quite some time, Chairith forgets that the 2014 coup came after the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, military and Democrat Party trashed parliament and ousted yet another elected government. He prefers to recall only the red shirt protests while neglecting to mention that the red shirts were slaughtered by the military, including the gun-toting Gen Apirat.

Apirat being “democratic”

And, Chairith goes full yellow saying that the current “political conflict involving the government and the opposition, with the FFP at the forefront, is a clash of ideologies with the former representing the conservative oligarchy and the latter brandishing the flag of liberalism.” That’s a line radical royalists have been peddling. He doubles down by questioning whether the judge in Yala who shot himself is part of “an attack on the judiciary.” He supports ISOC’s use f sedition charges against academics and FF politicians and is warning the party that they had better be careful. The implied threat being that they may end up floating in a river. Why is Chairith not demanding that the military “compromise”? Precisely because his “conservative oligarchy” requires the military’s threats, repression, torture and murder to stay in power.

Fortunately, a Post editorial is far more reasonable, observing that Gen Apirat’s chilling rant “should never have been given by any army chief…”, adding that “the military will not put an end to its meddling in politics.” It observes that “Gen Apirat did not provide a shred of credible evidence for his allegations.” The editorial concludes:

The army chief fails to understand that amending the charter is the job of parliamentarians with input from the public, not his.

Gen Apirat’s remarks yesterday failed to assure the public that he will steer clear of politics. Nevertheless, as the army commander, he must remain politically neutral and avoid orchestrating a political messaging strategy targeting particular groups of people. Gen Apirat will have a hard time convincing many people that he is not engaged in information warfare of his own.

There is zero chance that the Army commander will cease interfering in politics. He’s ambitious, not too bright and a threatening thug. That Future Forward has responded and criticized the thug in green will anger him and his supporters and the conflict will deepen.

Update 2: With the meddling king back in Thailand, things may get even messier. In one report it is stated that Anusorn Iamsa-ard of the opposition Puea Thai Party has said that:

Gen Prayut must set up a panel to look into the matter to assure the public that the government did not use the army as a political tool, and that the army was not trying to support the government so much so that it loses its neutrality….

Of course, Anusorn knows that the Army is not neutral and that the government is infected by military men now in suits and that the Senate has special seats for the military, which means it support the current regime.

The military is clearly frightened by Future Forward’s electoral showing, seeing this as a clear sign that the military are political dinosaurs doomed to repression if they are to maintain their grip on power. This is confirmed with loony complainer Srisuwan Janya petitioning the “National Anti-Corruption Commission to launch an ethics probe against FFP leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit after the Chinese embassy last Thursday issued a statement accusing a Thai politician of contacting a group involved in the protests in Hong Kong.” Exactly how and why he is doing this unsaid, but as a mad royalist, he knows who salts his rice.





Out on bail

23 08 2016

Fifteen, mostly elderly, allegedly “communist”/”secret society” members and allegedly “conspirators” against the military dictatorship have been released on bail.

Their lawyer stated that “the Bangkok Military Curt had granted bail for his clients with a surety of 100,000 baht each.”

It seems that these “dangerous” conspirators, originally accused by the regime of having been responsible for bombings, were now far less dangerous political detainees. (The bombings are now, finally, said to be the work or southern separatists.)

 

No longer detained, the military court still seeks to silence these people who may be no more than critics of the regime. The military court “prohibited them from travelling overseas, engaging in any political activity and expressing their political views…”.

These bailed political detainees “have been charged with running an illegal secret organisation under Section 209 of the Criminal Code and violating the NCPO [the junta] ban on political gatherings.”





19th century repression

21 08 2016

The junta’s “capture” of 15 or 17 “activists” it calls “communists” is another example of how fascist military regimes can “invent” and “reinvent” law when it suits their political interests and as they seek to shore up their power.

Thailand’s military dictatorship has rather startlingly revived a law that belongs to earlier years centuries.

It has charged the 15/17 with being member of an ang-yi or secret society.

Earlier this year, Khaosod had an article on absurd Thai laws, like the ban on roller skating after midnight and refusing to assist a postman. The secret society law was included. It says this:

The offense dates back to Rama IV, when Chinese triads (secret societies) were formed, sometimes with criminal intent. Triads, known in Thai-Chinese lingo as Ang Yi, were also accused of sparking riots and revolts against the authorities in Thailand.

Although long gone in history, Ang Yi  remain alive and well in the law. Section 109 of the Penal Code specifically outlaws Ang Yi and similar organizations. The law defines Ang Yi-like behavior as belonging to a secret society with an intent to break the law.

This law has its origins in the late 1890s. As far as we can tell, it fell into disuse in the 1960s, when the military regime used the anti-communist law against its political opponents.

How desperate is the military regime? So desperate it seems that it needs 19th century laws. (Lese majeste dates from the early 20th century, but has been re-feudalized in recent years.)





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.





Updated: Communists support judiciary

19 06 2012

At the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul made this claim:

Meanwhile, in Udon Thani, about 3,000 former communists converged in front of the town hall to show moral support for the judiciary in the face of a challenge to the Constitution Court by Pheu Thai MPs and their red-shirt supporters.

PPT is interested to know if readers have seen any other reports of this event. A few days ago it was former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban who claimed:

Meanwhile, former Communist Party members are moving to turn Thailand into a republic run by a single political party. This may go along with Thaksin’s intention. Both have joined forces and are threatening the Thai people and Thailand.

We are wondering, then, if Suthep is being made to look stupid or whether Veera’s reporting is inaccurate. Let us know by email (thaipoliticalprisoners@gmail.com).

Update: A PPT reader was quick off the mark in sending us two excellent links regarding this story. One is a Thai-language story at Krungthep Thurakit, with an account of up to a thousand people rallying in support of ultra-royalists associated with the military and the machinations between various ex-communists. The other link is to photos at a Facebook page. These old communists are opposing some of their former comrades associated with red shirts.





Military dinosaurs

16 10 2010

In an earlier post, PPT concluded that amongst all the censorship, jailing, repression and fear-mongering, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is so enmeshed with the the military that there is no distinction between the government and the military.

That being the case, we thought it worth looking at the military bosses. Not new army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha – there’s been considerable commentary on him in the media – but his new regional commanders in the north and northeast. These commanders are critical for the regime’s battle with the red shirts and the Bangkok Post has stories on both of them.

To the north first. The Bangkok Post reports on new 3rd Army commander Lt.-Gen. Wanthip Wongwai having “recently summoned security officers working with the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) in the North for a seminar on the army’s security and reconciliation policy” and told them they have been not up to standard. His evidence is that red shirts are strong in the north and are regrouping.

Wanthip is gearing up for the renewed fight and wants ISOC to do better, saying: “I think every one of us knows what we are supposed to do and we should start doing it…”. As the Post explains, “Isoc’s work at the provincial level largely focuses on intelligence and psychological operations. It also tries to counter disinformation and prevent manipulation of public opinion which it deems as posing a threat to national security.”

This is, in fact, a new definition of its role post-2006 putsch as coup leader and junta boss General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin tried to remake ISOC as a kind of internal security force to root out Thaksinites. Prior to this, ISOC was best known for its anti-communist activities that involved bombing villages, hunting down alleged communists and psychological operations. ISOC was also known to be involved in political shenanigans that don’t look all that different from the “fear factor” campaign currently being waged.

But back to the story. Wanthip, working with the Phitsanulok governor, called in some 1300 local leaders to hear that “the plot to overthrow the [royal] institution is true and can be proved.” PPT doesn’t believe him, but Wanthip is harking back to a well-used royalist notion that a threat to the monarchy will be taken seriously. We doubt this, especially as no evidence for the so-called fact has been produced. We think most local leaders will recognize this.

The Post story then tells readers what reconciliation means, stating that the “army has shown it is serious about reconciling with the grassroots supporters of the anti-government UDD. It has instructed that senior personnel _ up to the level of army region commander _ go door to door to meet the people in the North and Northeast, the two regions with the highest numbers of red shirt supporters. Apart from engaging the red shirt folk, high-ranking army officers also plan to meet local politicians and members of parliament to persuade them to help with the reconciliation campaign.”

Of course, this is not reconciliation. It is simply something that ISOC did in the anti-communist days of the 1960s and 1970s – propaganda for the government, hoping to win over the people to the government side. And as in those days, where there are failures, the guns get put into action.

Now to the northeast. The Bangkok Post recently had an interview with new 2nd Army Region commander Lt.-Gen. Thawatchai Samutsakhon. The general sees his main task as reducing political division. He then says: “I’ve been living in Isan for a long time and I understand the local culture well. Poverty is a major problem in the region. Those who have a lot of money want to become MPs. And no matter what political party they represent, they have to invest money to achieve that goal. Voters are happy to take the money candidates give, and the truth is they usually vote for the candidates who pay them the most, fearing it would be a sin not to vote for someone who has given them money.”

PPT guesses from this kind of ancient observation that when one lives on an army base, getting to know local culture is mediated through army eyes and imaginations.

As in the north, Thawatchai is sending out men to “tell the truth.” We are pleased to note that this general at least concedes that the army shot people during the battle for Bangkok in April and May, when he says that the “key message is that soldiers needed to use weapons to protect themselves … and none shot at innocent people.” The use of the word “innocent” is at least a step forward from the usual “we killed no one” line from the military and government.

Thawatchai seems to see Puea Thai Party parliamentarians as a kind of enemy and considers that the army must counter them. His view of red shirts is further shown in his comments on the emergency decree, when he claims: “Actually, keeping the decree would never have done any decent person any harm.” Clearly, those who support human rights or are politically active are not “decent people.”

It is clear to PPT that these “new” commanders have very old heads on their shoulders. As political dinosaurs, their ideas are fixed in a previous era, where anti-communism was the military’s bread and butter. Those ideas and tactics are now reincarnated in a plan that seems little different from those articulated in leaked documents from the coup junta and the military leadership under General Sonthi.

But to be fair, Sonthi simply parroted tactics that Privy Councilor, never elected prime minister, and former army chief General Prem Tinsulanonda advocated years ago. Prem’s shadow is one of the reasons for the enveloping political darkness that has descended on Thailand.





Lese majeste, anti-monarchists and the political police

17 08 2010

As a follow-up to our post of a few days ago on the Department of Special Investigation and the lack of reverence for the monarchy, Anasuya Sanyal, IndoChina Bureau Chief at Channel News Asia has a full transcript of the interview with the DSI’s Deputy Director-General Yanaphon Youngyuen. Well worth a read. Bangkok Pundit also has a comment.

There are some interesting and revealing statements:

“… during the (Red shirt) protests, a conspiracy has been quite open…. There are gangs, foreign conspiracies, financial transfers, and so on, which can be considered as connected actions to attempt to insult the monarchy.” Gangs out to get the monarchy? What could this mean?

“the words ‘insulting the monarchy’. This term was included in the National Security law. Therefore, insulting the monarchy isn’t just insulting, but also undermining national security. Because the monarchy in Thailand is highly involved with national security, and if our nation doesn’t have security, our country can become unstable. So it’s very important.” We knew this, but it is neat to have the DSI explain the “thinking” they engage in.

Yanaphon then adds his bit to rewriting Thai history: “On that day the People’s Party could have established themselves to be the president, but they didn’t do that because they knew that Thailand or Thai culture needs the monarchy, for national security, for moral support, and so on. The People’s Party saw this importance. They could have changed the system (to a presidential one) but they opted not to. They all had overseas education. So it could be concluded that even the revolutionaries knew the importance of the monarch. They included the monarchy under the law.” It is a great pity that royalists seem to have established the hegemonic historical discourse. This explains, in part, why the red shirts were so interested in 1932 and other revolutions that sent monarchies packing.

But it is this section of the interview that is most interesting, showing the royalist mindset and the orientation of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s political police. When asked what the anti-monarchists want, the DSI deputy director replies at length (with PPT emphasis):

“There are many groups. The first is those who want to advance their political interests…. Another group is academics who are pro a presidential system. Another group is are the socialists. They are from the communist period in the past and they still want it to be socialist way. Another group was those who are mentally ill. For example, some people who have AIDS and are on their deathbeds, for some reason they just criticize the monarchy. Some have hallucinations, or are dreaming that some (officers) are bad, some police are threatening the civilians; therefore the institution (monarchy) has to take responsibility for that because the institution is the boss of the police. These are some examples of those who are kind of insane.” PPT wonders where the insane people are lodged? Perhaps in the leadership of DSI itself!

Also, some young people, who are in the news recently, wanted to rebel. Some of them were from broken families whose parents got divorced. Therefore, they wanted to be well-recognized by posting some messages on the website (insulting the monarchy), then others made positive comments about their postings. Those anti-monarchy people also sent some information to these young people, then they keep come back and post these kind of comments…. Some people were also disappointed from their business, or their political views, or family affairs. And they thought the failures were caused by the institution (monarchy)….

These people have very strong ideologies, sympathize with those who share them, or they are hallucinating, or have some bias that the institution abuses the people. Some people don’t think rationally. Some groups of people living overseas feel like second-class citizens there, and wanted to make a name for themselves. So they know they might be able to be the first-class citizens here in Thailand only, so they wrote or condemned the monarchy. It might derive from being depressed in the country they are living in. Another group is terrorists who have separatist aims. But people in the 3 southernmost provinces still pay high respect to the monarchy. But some think to achieve those separatist aims, they need to use the strategy to discredit the monarchy.”

So according to the stable and rational deputy director of the DSI, almost everyone who is opposed to the monarchy is in some way mentally unstable – apart from political types. He adds: “But 99.99 percent of people are still loyal to the monarch.”

On the monarchy’s political role and the political use of lese majeste, the D-G says:

“according to the statistics, the LM cases were not so numerous, but after the 19th September coup, the number reached a peak. These people misunderstood (that the monarchy was behind the coup) but no one corrected this misunderstanding. We have been trying to correct their thought but they failed to understand for some reasons. These masses don’t have the real leader so they believe whatever they hear. They create and distribute wrong messages that they have heard or read.”

And on those pesky foreigners and the monarchy:

“Foreigners mostly don’t understand why we are so loyal to the king. Their monarch may not do the same thing as ours. So they don’t feel much loyalty to their monarch and they can’t imagine this feeling. They have images from the movies that kings are brutal, jealous, or take some money from or tax people and live on that money. These are portrayals of the kings in foreign countries, unlike in Thailand…”.

PPT has to say that the statements by the D-G give cause for alarm. Not just for the usual reasons associated with the prosecution of political offenses, but for the mindset displayed by senior police.

Clearly politicized and royalist, the DSI is sometimes compared with the FBI. That comparison works very well, especially for the period of the McCarthyist witch hunts of the 1950s and 1960s, when J. Edgar Hoover headed America’s political police.





Prem’s desire?

29 07 2010

According to Wassana Nanuam in a really interesting story in the Bangkok Post, and was reported elsewhere a year or so ago, Privy Council president, former army commander and former and never elected prime minister, General Prem Tinsulanonda wants a cavalry division in Khon Kaen. PPT suspects, though, that more than anything else, the 90 year-old political manipulator and palace servant wants the red shirts crushed.

Like so many others who exist in the cloistered world of the upper echelons of the royalist elite, they believe that the red shirts were republican communists out to get rid of the monarchy. Drawing on the experience of fighting the Communist Party of Thailand from the 1960s, Prem and his ilk see the fight against the red shirts as requiring military suppression. That means strengthening the army.

Thailand’s army was never designed – right from when it was first established – to do much more than internal policing involving the suppression of, well, republicans and communists. When it has done real army-type things such as defending borders, it has usually been pretty hopeless. So it has concentrated on political activities. That’s still where it sits today.

Wassana extends on her earlier report on the military’s spending splurge. That report seemed to draw some criticism from the government, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva decrying claims that the spending spree was motivated by the military’s desire to crush the red shirts. That claim seemed somewhat half-hearted, for being seen to want to crush the red shirts gets the support of the yellow shirts and the more rabid and royalist elements of the Democrat Party.

Wassana agrees that a 7th Infantry Division has long been on the army’s wishlist – as the premier said – but points out that it is only current supremo General Anupong Paojinda who has been able to “resurrect the idea” and at this important and significant juncture, thus raising “the question of whether there is more to the move, than simply a need to meet military demand.” Of course there is!

They will be continuing – with an investment of some 10 billion baht – the political work that Wassana reminds us began immediately after the 2006 coup. That political propaganda operation was “to reach out to rural villagers and to promote the role of the army…”. The Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) had a budget of “about one billion baht to send tens of thousands of soldiers into villages each year under the banner of ‘fight the economic crisis with the sufficiency economy philosophy’.”

Wassana reminds readers that following the army’s dispersal of red shirts on 19 May, the army and ISOC “recorded the names and addresses as well as ID cards of the red shirts involved before releasing them. The army then visited them at home to try to provide ‘healing’ in its own inimitable way.” Numerous villagers have reported threats from the military and people who appear seeming to have no uniform.

Readers are told that the army actually wants 16 infantry divisions; that’s a further 7 divisions and tens of thousands of troops. They seem to be preparing for a long internal war (even without considering the war in the south).

Wassana concludes: “there is no doubt that the hidden agenda of having a new division is to bring the force in to take care of ‘internal security’ concerns.” The agenda is barely “hidden.” She adds: “The North is undoubtedly a red zone. After the clash at Ratchaprasong, the army sees an increasing need to have soldiers operate in the field. Indeed, Gen Anupong and Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security, Suthep Thaugsuban, discussed the possibility of setting up the 7th Division since late 2009.”

She reveals that “resistance” to the army’s plan “is so strong that the army has prepared a back-up plan – to have the division’s headquarters in Lamphun instead. Critics of the army – which is viewed as being solidly on the Abhisit government’s side after the Ratchaprasong operation – have ventured so far as to speculate that the army is setting up the new division in preparation for the coming general election. After all, the [ISOC] is the army’s arm for political affairs.”

When Prem was thrown out in 1988, it seemed that the military era in Thai politics might have been over. That was reinforced in 1992. Thailand’s future now seems to intertwined with that of the military. The Democrat Party and the palace should be held responsible for this turn to the past and to authoritarianism. Prem, at least, must be feeling reasonably pleased at this outcome. Maybe he sleeps more easily as more people are jailed and subjected to repressive measures.





Chirmsak on civil war

3 01 2010

Just before New Year, PPT blogged about former Army commander, former but never elected prime minister and now president of the king’s Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda appearing in military uniform in public for the first time since the 2006 palace-military coup. That was an important event as Prem seemed to be rallying the royalists that a showdown with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra forces is not far off.

Since then we have blogged about some of the more maniacal statements from the yellow and red sides on the predicted fight.

To make his point about the looming battle, Prem recommended a newspaper article by Thaksin critic Chirmsak Pinthong (แนวหน้า, 28 December 2009). Prem recommended the article to those who were visiting him, saying it “important and a must-read.”

If Prem thinks this piece of great significance, then PPT thought it important to provide a summary. PPT’s commentary is limited to some points in square brackets and a couple of points in concluding this post.

Chirmsak Pinthong was one of the first batch of elected senators and was a firm and well-informed Thaksin critic when in the Senate. Later, however, he threw in his lot with the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy and has been an important intellectual critic of Thaksin and the red shirt movement.

In his article, Chirmsak’s basic point is that Thailand has entered the first phases of a yet to be decided civil war. On one side is the “legitimate government” of the “kingsom of Thailand.” On the other side there are the Thaksin forces. They aim not just to overthrow the Abhisit government, but to radically change the system of government, eventually establishing a republic and a dictatorship. Chirmsak explains how the pro-Thaksin lot going about this civil war in eight major points.

His first point is to note that the first stage in a civil war is for one group to reject the authority of the state. [PPT guesses that Chirmsak would distinguish the red shirts from his PAD colleagues by arguing that PAD didn’t reject the “state” but just “illegitimate government.”]

His second, closely related point, is the rejection of the 2007 Constitution and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government as illegitimate. On the latter, Chirmsak argues that the Abhisit government came from the same elections as the Samak and Somchai governments and there should be no reason to reject it as a legitimate government.

[Like many on Abhisit’s side, Chirmsak ignores the shenanigans and outright corruption orchestrated by the military and others in establishing a Democrat-led coalition. Of course, the questions surrounding the destruction of earlier elected governments by coup and legal manoeuvring doesn’t enter the equation. And, Chirmsak was one of those appointed by the military junta to draft the 2007 Constitution.]

As evidence of this rejection, Chirmsak cites the fact that government ministers cannot perform their duties in some parts of the country due to red shirt hostility. [That is true and was a tactic developed by PAD as it chased ministers out of its strongholds during the previous governments.]

In effect, the red shirts are establishing a separate jurisdiction or a territory of their own, separate or overlapping with that territory under the jurisdiction of the Thai state. [Again, PPT assumes Chirmsak exonerates PAD because he would see them as nationalists, not as here where he implies that the red shirts are traitorous.]

A third element is the use the media to confuse and divide the public by inventing stories and misleading people so that there is hostility towards the government. Chirmsak points to DTV and complains that it is media established solely with a political purpose to undermine the state and the Kingdom of Thailand rather than any ideas about professional journalism and the ethics this would involve.

[Chirmsak is obviously on very shaky ground here as PAD pioneered this media approach. PPT has not noticed any particular attention to facts or ethics from ASTV/Manager.]

The fourth point is about “soldiers for hire.” Chirmsak refers to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and the Class 10 army officers who are “on the march” for Peua Thai and loyal to Thaksin. They are a minority, unlike the police who remain loyal to Thaksin, as evidenced by their failure to investigate the attacks on “peaceful PAD rallies, causing several deaths.”

[The recruitment of old soldiers to Peua Thai is seen by the anti-Thaksin forces as highly dangerous as it threatens a split in military ranks when a “final showdown” looms. The pro-Thaksin loyalty of the police is dangerous, but the potential for a struggle for the military is threatening indeed.]

Related, Chirmsak’s fifth point is about the involvement of foreign states or foreign forces or influences in the movement against the Thai government. Chirmsak states that it was only after General Chavalit travelled to Cambodia that the Cambodian government’s stance towards the Abhisit government became negative.

[Here Chirmsak is on very shaky ground indeed. PAD and the Democrat Party have been hostile to Cambodia and Hun Sen for several years. The racist attacks from the PAD stage are unlikely to be forgotten by Hun Sen. But Chirmsak again wants to show the red shirts as traitors to the “Thai Kingdom.”]

Sixth and still related, he makes the point that the pro-Thaksin forces take secret state documents and disclose them, including to foreign states, even when they relate to national security. [As noted above, Chirmsak is accusing them of traitorous acts.] Worse, they give false meanings to the documents. This is part of the strategy to create division and mayhem by continually telling lies about the legitimate government. [Again, this strategy is one that PAD used rather successfully also.]

As a seventh point, Chirmsak says that the motivations of the participants in fomenting the civil war need to be considered so that it can be understood how the Thaksin lot can lure them in. There are the political activists, who Chirmsak likens to prostitutes, who sell themselves and their “spirit” for the money they get. For the “old Communists,” this allows them to raise class issues. Then there are the republicans and like-minded red-shirt academics who hate the idea of “democracy with the king as head of state.” They want a change of government, first making the royal institution symbolic and then gradually changing to a presidential system. Or the aim might be to weaken the monarchy as in Cambodia. There is also the group who want a return to the 1997 Constitution and the attraction is to get rid of the current constitution. The hired soldiers just want the money and benefits or are traitors who want to rule over Thailand, hoping that if Thaksin comes back they will enjoy greater power and benefits.

[In all of this Chirmsak is suggesting that Thaksin supporters are either just in it for the money that they get or they are traitors to the Thai state. The money claim has been made regularly for some years. The implication is that there are no principles involved. If there are principles, they are held by those who are dangerous to the monarchy.]

Chirmsak also mentions “the poor” and couples them with “those people with insufficient information” who hope that Thaksin can come back and resurrect their failed dreams.

[PPT separated this out as it is worth noting how easily Chirmsak dismisses “the poor.” How many millions of people and votes are simply ignored in this sentence? Coupling “the poor” with the “ignorant” – those with “insufficient information” – is not new for the anti-Thaksin opponents. However, it is interesting that a leading right-wing intellectual remains so resolutely dismissive of so many millions of citizens. Chirmsak’s appeal is to the frightened middle class and the poor hardly matter in the “Kingdom of Thailand.”]

Chirmsak concludes that teaming up with Thaksin has many attractions and inducements, but he concludes that everyone of them is essentially missing the main aim, which is personal interest. The Shinawatras want to avoid all the legal cases and prevent the confiscation of 76 billion baht in “unusual wealth.” [This claim has been made since PAD was inaugurated.]

Chirmsak’s eighth point relates to the strategies of the pro-Thaksin forces in making war on the “Kingdom of Thailand.” The “big boss” is firing off the “intercontinental missiles” that “drop from the skies on the Kingdom of Thailand”. Some red shirts are the “infantry” creating all the problems in the country. Others are the “artillery,” using television as their weapon. The Peua Thai Party in parliament are the “cavalry in tanks,” protected by their parliamentary position but causing confusion. The “spies” are the senior government officials who are provide secret information, impede and disrupt. [The point is that each of these “squads” is dangerous and need to be defeated – see below.]

The civil war has begun but the outcome is not certain, so what can be done? The government is not going to be able to administer the country in any normal manner. The government needs to be more aggressive in maintaining the state’s power. The constitution has to be maintained. The power of the judiciary has to be protected so that it can enforce the law.

[It seems to PPT that Chirmsak is advocating a greater use of state power to crush the red shirts. He emphasizes the legal means – just as Abhisit repeats “rule of law” ad nauseum – but implies a partisan and highly politicized use of the law as a tool to crush opponents. This is the authoritarian direction that the Democrat Party-led coalition has been refining in recent months.]

Above all, the government has to maintain stability to protect the interests and happiness of “the majority.”

[An interesting point. It is not at all clear that “the majority” Chirmsak writes of is indeed a majority. And, in the recent past, anti-Thaksin ideologues have repeatedly been disdainful of majorities that derive from elections.]

Chirmsak cites a Chinese proverb: “If you are to capture warlord you must shoot his horse first.” This is because if the warlord doesn’t have a horse, he can be controlled more easily. Hence Chirmsak advocates enforcing laws strictly. Most especially the cases already in place against Thaksin have to progress, preferably simultaneously, strictly enforcing the law. There is a need for more “information” so that the government can go out and fight its opponents in society. All that can be done has to be done to end this civil war.

[Obviously the proverb could be read in several ways. It could easily be a call to crackdown on the various pro-Thaksin groups he has detailed above. In Chirmsak’s hands, however, it seems to be that – hence the call for a stricter enforcement of laws against opponents – but is also a call for more and much broader judicial activism. Apparently Chirmsak has no doubt about guilt in any of cases and wants them finished as fast as possible.]

Chirmsak concludes by asking: Can we do it before the country is covered in blood?

PPT conclusion: We find it interesting that Prem singled out this account. Most of the points made are those that the anti-Thaksin crowd have used to sustain their views of the Thaksin regime and its supporters for several years. Many of these views are foundational for the policies and actions of the Abhisit government. What seems new is the claim of “civil war” as a red shirt strategy and the call to oppose it with all means available to the Thai state. Prem is again uniformed. Yellow-shirted intellectuals like Chirmsak are calling for action, the government is apparently preparing, right-wing commentators have been labeling opponents as traitors and enemies of the Thai state, and its seems that many red shirts now see a showdown and violence as inevitable. Chirmsak seems to want to the showdown sooner rather than later.