Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





Updated: More political prisoners

28 06 2020

Along with every other media outlet, Khaosod reports that, on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a July 2007 protest that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. The rally accused Prem of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Nattawut Saikua, Veerakarn (then Veera) Musikapong, Weng Tojirakarn, Nopparut Worachitwuthikul, and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for “illegal assembly and using violence to resist police orders.”

Fellow UDD leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn observed that these men are political prisoners. The five were immediately taken from the court to prison.

While the reports refer to the five as red shirts, it needs to be noted that the wearing of the color hadn’t taken off at this time and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship-led rally and march had most people wearing yellow shirts, which was a display of “loyalty” following the 2006 60th anniversary of Bhumibol’s reign.

Another UDD leader, Jatuporn Promphan, reflected on the double standards in the judicial system: “I once said to them that on our way of fighting, it’s either death or imprisonment…. Over the past decade, we took turns getting in and out of the prison.” Jatuporn is “also due to stand trial on the same offense…”.

The double standards refer to the efforts by several royalist regimes supported by the pliant judiciary to lock up red shirts and UDD leaders while those from the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee who also occupied parts of Bangkok and several state properties for extended periods, with considerable violence, get off quite lightly.

Few of the reports said much about the rally at Gen Prem’s free lodgings, so PPT went back and looked at reports from the time.

Asia Sentinel had a perceptive report. It began by observing:

On Sunday night, UDD leaders caught police unaware by marching with thousands of supporters to the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister who is held in high respect by much of the Thai public due to his proximity to the king.

King, queen, Prem and military coup leaders

The protesters accused Prem, who was in the compound at the time, of acting as the puppet master behind the coup last September that ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. They called on Prem to resign.

The UDD set up a makeshift stage in front of Prem’s house on Sunday afternoon and made speeches for five hours or so, according to witnesses and news reports. But in the evening, after the protesters vowed to permanently camp outside the residence, riot police attempted to break up the gathering and arrest the leaders, prompting demonstrators to hail rocks, chairs, sticks, water bottles and pieces of broken flower pots at the police, who eventually retreated.

Most reports put the UDD crowd at 5,000 to 10,000, with some counting up to 20,000. The police eventually mobilized about 2,000 officers. The police:

made two more attempts to arrest the protest leaders, charging at  demonstrators with clubs, pepper spray and tear gas. Each time the demonstrators fought back with fists, rocks, sticks, bottles and anything else they could find.

Weng said the protesters withdrew when threatened with the army, saying, “We didn’t want anybody killed from this event.”

The police claimed that 200 of their officers and about 70 protesters were injured. Six protesters were arrested and charged with “causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage to state property…. Police were also seeking arrest warrants for eight or so other UDD leaders…”.

The report wonders about the police action, saying:

It’s unclear why authorities attempted to break up the protest this time as many similar
protests had occurred earlier without incident. Some observers said the army may have been spooked by UDD statements that the group would camp out in front of Prem’s house — an unacceptable scenario for generals who swear allegiance to the royal advisor.

It also notes Prem’s coup role:

Although Prem is supposed to be non-political as a privy councilor, coup opponents blast the 86-year-old for a series of speeches he gave a year ago in which he donned full military garb and said soldiers should be loyal to the king instead of the government. Many observers said the speeches set the stage for the coup.

The Irrawaddy (July 23, 2007) carried a report that royalists declared Thaksin behind the UDD. The then president of the Constitution Drafting Committee Prasong Soonsiri, cheered the arrests, saying: “He [Thaksin] is probably responsible for supporting the clash, and he won’t stop there…”. This was a widely held view among the military-installed regime led by former Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Shortly after the event, the Union for Civil Liberty issued a statement:

Declaration concerning the avoidance of violence during a conflict of opinion

During a protest by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DADD) at the home of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda in the Thewes district of Bangkok, there occurred violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Alleging the part played by General Prem in organizing the military coup of 19th September 2006, protestors called for his resignation. As a result of the clashes which took place in the late evening of Sunday 22nd July, according to news media, 106 persons were injured.

The Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) maintains that the holding of non-violent protest to make known a political viewpoint is a civil right and a fundamental component of the democratic system. It is the duty of government to assure that the right of citizens to exercise this right is respected at all times, whether their action is against or in support of government, or to express other political opinion.

It is a matter of great regret that the protest on 22nd July last could not enjoy such a right to free expression due to the action of the police in blocking the protest march to the residence of General Prem in the Thewes district. The action angered some participants in the protest leading to the use of force and many casualties both among the protestors and the police.

To avoid the recurrence of such violence, perhaps on an even larger scale, the Union for Civil Liberty submits the following proposals:

1. Appoint a committee of persons acceptable to the public to investigate the events which occurred on the evening of the 22nd July for presentation to the Government and to the public.

2. Take court action against those who have acted illegally, whether the police or the protestors, in order that justice be done and human rights be protected.

Statement issued on 23rd July 2007
Union for Civil Liberty

So, for seeking to exercise their freedom of expression, these men are jailed. The regime that went after them was a junta-appointed administration that was vehemently royalist and anti-Thaksin. The double standards are as clear as they ever were.

Update: For another take on double standards, especially in comparing red shirts and yellow shirts, read this op-ed.





On stealing the election XII

9 05 2019

As expected, the military junta has “won” the “election” it spent five years rigging, but only just and thanks to puppet agencies that went to work massaging the “election” results.

After the junta-supporting Constitutional Court ruled that the puppet Election Commission was empowered to decide how to “count” votes for the party list system, the EC did its assigned duty.

After all the “debate” over party list allocations, EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee is reported to have “admitted that only one formula was proposed to the commissioners – the one rejected by critics and [some] parties.”

In other words, for the EC, the debate was irrelevant; all it needed was Constitutional Court’s stamp of approval. It got that yesterday and the EC immediately called a press conference to announce the results, complete with a “14-page explanation of how the controversial calculation method worked.”

According to The Nation, the EC announced that “26 parties had secured party-list MP seats despite 11 of the parties not winning enough votes to be entitled to the seats and only 16 being eligible.” Instead of the 71,000 votes most critics considered needed to gain a party list seat, the EC gave seats to micro-parties that gained only about 30,000 votes in a total vote of in excess of 33 million. This means that some micro-parties with less than 0.1% of votes have gained a seat in parliament.

The calculation method is deliberately complicated and was designed by the junta’s puppet Constitution Drafting Committee for the junta and its party’s benefit. We note that even statistically-oriented political scientists were unable to produce estimates that match the EC’s startling “result.”

Of course, the EC’s “method” was meant to produce as many micro-parties as possible while taking party list seats away from parties like Future Forward – where there’s a difference of 7-8 seats based on the “method” used. More micro-parties means that the junta’s Palang Pracharath will still have trouble in the lower house, but can buy the support it needs.

On this, the Palang Pracharath Party’s MP Suchart Tancharoen has stated that he expects to be House speaker and that he’s “ready to deal” with “unruly” MPs from micro-parties. This is in the context of controlling parliament, but it is actually to the benefit of Palang Pracharath, which can buy micro-party MPs and “rent” others from some of the larger parties.

This is because – again – the junta’s “2017 charter allows MPs to freely voice opinions without the need to fall in line with their parties’ stance, which could play havoc with party discipline. Suchart helpfully explains: “I don’t want these MPs to be called ‘cobras’…. They just follow the constitution that grants them free expression of opinions and votes…”.

The outcome of the EC’s fiddling is that the anti-junta bloc will be able to put together the 250 MPs required to claim government in the lower house, probably holding around 245 seats, with more than 40 EC “investigations,” most of them targeting ant-junta parties, that could move even more seats to the junta’s party.

Hence, as expected, Palang Pracharath is negotiating deals with smaller parties on the allocation of lucrative cabinet seats and coalition.

Then there’s the unelected senate, which will be entirely pro-junta and pro-Palang Pracharath. More on that later.

In the end, the junta has manufactured the result it wanted, based on rigging and five years of manipulation and repression. The only small surprise for PPT was that the people’s voting didn’t allow the junta to win by the margins it had planned for.





On stealing the election VI

7 04 2019

In an earlier post in this series, we were naive in commenting on the allocation of partly list seats. It seems that the Election Commission’s initial bumbling on this was something of a smokescreen to allow for the junta-approved “method” of allocating seats to be used.

The EC has finally “revealed” that it is going to “calculate MP-seat allocation based on a formula that will allow more than 25 parties to be present in the Lower House.”

That “method” is to the advantage of the junta and allows its Palang Pracharath Party to concoct a coalition and drags seats away from anti-junta parties.

The EC’s “public relations team” – apparently it has one –  “revealed” that “the commissioners will stick to the formula proposed to them by the now-defunct charter drafting team.” They claim that this “formula was based on stipulations in the Constitution and the MP election laws…”. But they would claim that, wouldn’t they.

The PR persons reckoned this was  “to give importance to every vote…”. So much importance that a bunch of at least 25 micro-parties that can be easily bought will get one seat based on as little as 30,000 votes, perhaps even less.

The authorities on this scam are some members of the junta’s hand-picked Constitution Drafting Committee.

While the EC rigs the election result for the election rigging junta and its buddies, it is now using law suits to silence critics. Reports mention Nutta Mahattana and

Meanwhile, despite fierce criticism against its questionable performance, the EC has gone ahead and filed defamation lawsuits against political activist Nuttaa Mahuttana and Sirote Klampaiboon but it seems there may be up to a dozen others who are receiving the EC’s attention.

It seems pretty clear that the junta is successfully stealing its own “election.”We can expect that after the king’s coronation that a Palang Pracharath coalition will be announced. After that look for junta ministers simply continuing their current jobs.

Nothing much will have changed. The election will have been successfully rigged and stolen, pretty much in broad daylight. And, yet again, the people’s voice will have been ignored. Are we too pessimistic?





Further updated: On stealing the election III

3 04 2019

In most places where elections are held the Election Commission usually knows how the process works. But not in Thailand.

Even when little startles us when it comes to political shenanigans in Thailand, a report in The Nation caused us something of a start.

Election Commission secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma has said that the EC doesn’t yet know how it is going to calculate party list seats.

He revealed that the EC will probably decide what to do later this week. Jaurungvith said that there are “[a]t least two formulas, based on different interpretations of the law…”.

We can be sure that the puppet EC will choose the method that best suits the junta’s Palang Pracharath and other devil parties.

Bungling, opaque and belonging to the junta, the EC has failed dismally. Yet we guess the junta still has work for them to do.

Update: Is the EC lying and cheating (for the junta) or is it full of dullards and incompetents?

At the Bangkok Post, former member of the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee and former election commissioner Prapan Naigowit appears to say that the EC’s statements about there being “at least two formulas” is absolute nonsense.

Prapan states that “the process is explicitly set out in Section 128 of the law and covers all possible scenarios…”. Of course, he might be seen as one of the junta’s messengers.

We await the EC’s bumbling response.





Junta punts again

10 01 2019

The military junta is desperately trying to drop the election football like it is a hot potato. It keeps trying to punt the most recent “election” delay to every body other than itself.

The Dictator is reported as urging “relevant authorities [he means the Election Commission] to seek opinions from the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) when determining the poll date…”. He adds that he “expects all those responsible for organising the general election, previously scheduled for Feb 24, to ensure it proceeds smoothly before, during and after the ballots are cast.”

Yes, right. That all sounds good, but where’s the royal decree? That’s the issue and problem.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam promised “that a clearer picture of the poll timing would emerge today…. He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would today be meeting with the committee in charge of coronation preparations to discuss scheduling requirements.”

So nothing has changed since the shock of no royal decree on 2 January. That’s the initial roadblock.





On the junta’s senate

4 12 2018

The senate selection process belongs to the junta. This is why so few people “nominated.” To be selected, one needs to be a junta crony or one of its potential or actual political ally.

The Election Commission’s Jarungvith Phumma has said that just “7,210 people have applied to compete in the contest and the turnout is much lower than the EC expected.” It is stated that the EC expected at least 30,000 candidates. Another report has it that the EC had previously predicted “90,000 to 100,000 applicants from all over the country…”.

Confirming our view, “Chartchai Na Chiangmai, a member of the [puppet] Constitution Drafting Committee, said the low turnout could be because the candidates are not sure if they will eventually be picked by the regime.” And, many felt that the junta had already chosen its representatives for the senate. As Chartchai put it: “They [potential applicants] see no motivation for them to apply. They are sceptical [and see ] that in the end the NCPO [junta] may not appoint them…”.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that this “process” costs the taxpayer up to Bt1.3 billion.

The senate

An earlier Bangkok Post report explained that the junta is still in the process of setting up a secret committee to secretly consider the appointees for the senate.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the junta “will appoint between nine and 12 people to the committee that will oversee the selection of the 194 senators.” He revealed that few of these will “come from an open selection process as there might be too many applicants, which would make vetting their qualifications difficult.” Rather, the junta will choose.

One source at the puppet National Legislative Assembly is reported as saying “[p]otential appointees include the army’s top brass, political post-holders and businessmen who have close ties to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha, his deputy [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan, army chief [Gen] Apirat Kongsompong and NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.” The senate is likely to look and behave like the puppet NLA.





Updated: A rigged election awaits

6 09 2018

It looks increasingly like that the military junta has decided on its rigged election in the first half of 2019. Things may change, but one indicator is the ditching of local elections.

These had previously been mentioned as needing to be held before the junta’s national election. Back in June, the junta was reportedly preparing to hold local elections as a way to “test the waters” ahead of its “election,” then being touted for February 2019. Now it is reported that honorary unofficial junta spokesman Meechai Ruchupan, touted as head of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, says the Election Commission simply lacks “sufficient time to make preparations” for local elections.

Now we thought that the constitution was well beyond drafting stage, so wonder what Meechai is doing but guess it is watching the drafting of bills resulting from the charter. Even so, we didn’t know he was also directing the EC. But as an Interfering Old Man, he always feels entitled to tells lesser persons what to do.

Meechai revealed that the six draft bills governing local elections haven’t been “scrutinised by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)…”. He added that “it remains unknown at this stage if the election of district councillors will continue…”. In other words, there may be a period where local government has no councilors at all. We assume this means Article 44 will have to be used by The Dictator to enable local government to continue in the interim period.

That his junta twin Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam agrees with Meechai confirms that local elections are off for this year.

Another sign of a forthcoming “election” is the promulgation of even more policies to keep voters onside with the junta.

Update: We note that at The Nation, Wissanu is quoted as saying: “If the general election is held in February 2019, local elections will take place around May 2019…”. At the same time, he is also saying that the junta has agreed that political parties (who are not in the junta’s pocket and already at work) will be able to “campaign” for 60 days and he gives a December lifting of the ban. Again, this points to late February, perhaps, maybe.





More on the (non-) Election Commissioners

5 08 2018

A few days ago we posted on the those selected as election commissioners and how we considered them engaging in the selection of a chairman in a process that can be considered either illegal or unconstitutional. We did say that we thought the legalities mattered little under the junta.

In a recent report, it seems that our interpretation gains some weight when it confirms that the five selected election commissioners do not officially hold their positions.

We say this because it is reported that their names have only recently been “submitted for royal endorsement…”.

While these men getting together and selecting one of their number as chairman without having been officially appointed to their posts can’t be considered constitutional except with considerable squirming. Yet that is exactly what the Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan did.





Old farts and their lies

19 06 2018

Old fart is sometimes considered a pejorative term. In this case it certainly is meant that way.

Constitution drafter to several military and fascist regimes Meechai Ruchupan is an old fart. He’s a continual meddler on behalf of the past.

Recently he was forced to deny that the constitution he dutifully prepared the anti-democratic charter for the military dictatorship “was written with a goal of paving the way for a government of ‘national unity’ after the next general election.”

Meechai, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, then lied. Not just fibbed, but lied big time: “He declared that the junta’s constitution … was based on suggestions from public members.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Meechai must not be permitted to lie about the junta’s basic law.

The junta’s constitution was drawn up on the military dictatorship’s orders, based on anti-democratic ideology, written by the junta’s puppets and approved by the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly.

While the charter was approved in a referendum, this vote was neither free nor fair, with the dictatorship’s thugs preventing any campaign against it or any criticism.

The only major changes made were ordered by King Vajiralongkorn who took the opportunity to grab more power for himself, which the junta granted in secret sessions of the NLA.

Meechai lied again when he claimed it was impossible to scheme on an election outcome: “You can’t plot such a plan that is speculated…”.

That’s buffalo manure. The most basic reason for the2014 military coup was to ensure that pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties could never win another election. It plotted to do this by changing the electoral rules in ways that seek to ensure such an outcome.

Meechai’s lies were piled one on another as he declared that the junta’s Constitution was written to benefit of the public. The charter was drawn up to benefit the amart, the elite, royalists, anti-democrats and the military.

Meechai’s lies are a part of a process to prevent changes being made to the junta’s constitution should all of the above fail and an anti-junta regime somehow comes to power.