The dictatorship and Wharton

15 03 2015

Not that long ago, PPT posted about another foray into U.S. academia by royalist interests. That post was about the University of Michigan as royalists forked out loot, with the Crown Property Bureau to promote their interests. There had been a similar doling out of dosh at Harvard (as if it needs it!). Both efforts to curry favor in the U.S. were under the current military dictatorship.

The most recent link to U.S. universities is a “conference” in Bangkok, organized by The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Our attention was drawn to this event by a report that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, was a keynote speaker at the Wharton Global Forum Bangkok.

The Wharton Dean states that the Wharton Global Forum Bangkok will see “industry and academia will come together to debate ideas and explore new pathways for exploiting the possibilities and mitigating the pitfalls of today’s borderless world, and Asia’s central role in this rapidly changing business environment.”

Shouldn’t we expect him to know that there is no academic freedom in Thailand under the military dictatorship? Shouldn’t he know that some academics have had to escape Thailand while others are prevented from presenting views that are not in line with those of the dictatorship? Surely business schools, which repeatedly talk of good governance and corporate social responsibility, should be ashamed that this meeting is under the auspices of the world’s only military dictatorship, with The Dictator as a keynote speaker.

Shouldn’t Wharton be ashamed that it provided The Dictator with a platform to lie – he claimed his government had never infringed human rights – and to attack the very notion of electoral democracy.

Why would Wharton lend its name to the military dictatorship? One reason is that one of the Chairmen of the event is multiple military junta servant and minor prince Pridiyathorn Devakula. He’s been finance minister for both the 2006 and 2014 military junta backed and appointed governments and he’s a Wharton alumnus. That, however, is probably not sufficient to get a big conference for the military dictatorship. That requires money, and Pridiyathorn is not short of a baht. In fact, he is listed as an event sponsor. That requires a payment of $50,000.

The lead sponsors include a bunch of Sino-Thai conglomerates close to the military dictatorship and the monarchy: Double A, Bangkok Bank, CP, Land & Houses, PTT, and the Crown Property Bureau -controlled Siam Cement Group. No doubt most of this lot were happy enough to fork over $100,000 each when Pridiyathorn  and the dictatorship came knocking.

Money for monarchy

5 03 2015

A local press report in Michigan has alerted PPT to another foray into U.S. academia by royalist interests. It is recalled that last August, it was reported that, as “human rights in Thailand deteriorate under a military junta, Harvard is collaborating with key supporters of the recent coup to create a permanent Thai Studies program at the university.”

The Daily Press reports that the “University of Michigan has received $2 million to establish the Thai Professorship of Theravada Buddhism.” Innocuous at first glance, especially when the university states that “the gift will enhance one of the largest Buddhist studies programs in North America” and that the “holder of the endowed chair will teach courses and conduct research to advance knowledge of Thai Buddhism.” The chair is to be in the “Department of Asian Languages and Cultures in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.”

Plenty to research given scandals involving fascist politics, sex, drugs and money in Thai Buddhism.

However, the report also notes that the “gift comes from Amnuay Viravan, the former deputy prime minister, finance minister and foreign minister of Thailand, with matching support provided by the Crown Property Bureau of the Ministry of Finance of Thailand.”

PPT’s only mention of Amnuay is in a post about the military junta’s cabinet, where the 1997 economic meltdown involved him and a current member of the the military dictatorship’s cabinet. Amnuay is an alumnus of Michigan and has previously donated. Yet in the context of the Harvard collaboration, the Ann Arbor gift is worthy of scrutiny.

One of the points made in the earlier srticle about Harvard was this:

At the Harvard fundraiser I attended in Bangkok last August, [coup supporter] Surin [Pitsuwan] used the word “beachhead” to describe the envisioned role of the Thai Studies program. His choice of a word with military and strategic connotations is significant. Having overthrown a series of elected governments and facing growing criticism from cold-war allies, the conservative establishment is working hard to rebuild its legitimacy abroad, and setting up a program at Harvard would be an important victory. Surin announced donations from several tycoons, and said he was seeking funding for the program from the King’s Crown Property Bureau, which manages the monarch’s wealth of more than $30 billion.

Given that the same Crown Property Bureau is involved and that the Ministry of Finance has splashed taxpayer funds into this, is Michigan a second “beachhead?

Finance is headed by the wealthiest military sycophant, the minor prince Pridiyathorn Devakula who must have taken this promotion of Buddhism with Thai taxpayer’s money to the military junta for approval. We have no doubt that such a splurge is a part of laundering the dictatorship’s image.

The Crown Property Bureau  is involved because it is burnishing royal credentials when the monarchy is seen as supportive of illegal putsches and is under pressure from the negative publicity of that, the disappearance of the aged king, presumably near death, and the succession of a crown prince demonstrated as grasping, vindictive and dangerous.

Money for Buddhist studies seems meant to wash away many sins and lends credibility to a fascist and royalist regime.

Updated: Two views on monarchy

6 01 2015

Regular readers will know that PPT often re-posts Ji Ungpakorn’s work on Thailand. In a recent post at Ugly Thailand, he asks: Does the Thai King’s immense wealth give him political power?

His answer to this is made in the context of his acknowledgement that the king:

… owns a huge capitalist conglomerate, in the shape of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), and … he is also the richest person in Thailand…. The CPB owns a large number of shares in the Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement. It also owns huge amounts of land, often in prime real-estate sites…. The monarch is formally in charge of its investments. The King also has a separate private fortune.

Even so, Ji asks: “But does immense wealth and being nominally in charge of a huge conglomerate automatically confer political power?” His answer is that it doesn’t and makes a kind of Poulantzian argument about the state being relatively autonomous of the capitalist class.

Yet Ji wants to make the state even more autonomous than this, arguing that the king “is beholden to the military for his wealth.” More than this, the king has no power over the armed forces. Even so, Ji acknowledges that the king “cannot be separated from political power, but not because he or the institution of the monarchy are powerful. It is because those who have real political power use him as a tool.”

We are not so sure (see below), but we do agree with this:

Nor can he be separated from his role in perpetuating Thailand’s gross economic inequality. That is why the monarchy should be abolished and its vast wealth nationalised for the benefit of ordinary people.

 Here’s an article that says why PPT prefers to see economic and political power as intertwined. It is from The Independent and looks at broader issues associated with the sex scandal enveloping Britain’s Prince Andrew and written by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:

As you know by now, Prince Andrew has been accused by a woman known as Jane Doe 3 of being “forced” by Jeremy Epstein to have sex with him when she was a teenager.

Of course, Buckingham Palace denies the allegations. However, as Alibhai-Brown says,

The story will not end there, but for now that is all we can say on this particular scandal. It should, however, raise questions about our monarchy, its role and position, the devious, secret way it operates.

She’d be jailed in Thailand. No local journalist has dared touch any of the scandals, sexual and otherwise, in the royal family. But British law does not prevent reasonable questioning of the monarchy and royal behavior.

She looks at the roots of the deviousness and secretiveness of the monarchy:

The Magna Carta is now 800 years old…. The document did not give every subject fundamental equality and rights. It was a charter by and for the upper classes. Still, there will be events marking this much mythologised moment throughout 2015.

… OK, so let join in with this latest national commemoration, part truth, part fantasy. It may encourage us all to contemplate and renew our faith in liberty, freedoms, fundamental human rights and democracy, which came much later.

Alibhai-Brown continues:

But how is that possible when the family at the top of the social structure undermines every one of the ideals and principles that our nation proclaims at home and abroad?

She mentions “Prince Andrew … cavorting with insalubrious billionaires and vicious autocrats.” She observes:

Human rights? Why should an ageing, playboy prince care about those? Prince Charles is matey with Arab despots too. The next time you feel the urge to denounce Robert Mugabe, remember these royal appeasers. Yes Blair, Clinton and Bush also had unsavoury friendships. But they lost power, eventually. Our royals can carry on sleazing indefinitely.

That’s because they aren’t elected but are of the right blood. That blood, the privileges it presents and the access to power and wealth taint the monarchy:

Freedom of speech and expression is held up as a shining British value. But the Queen and her brood can and do stop the media and authors from pursuing legitimate investigations and asking tough questions. They can come down so heavy that seasoned journalists shake with terror and give up.

The BBC has been persuaded from broadcasting two programmes fronted by Steve Hewlett, a much respected multi-media man. If we, the people, had been allowed to watch the programmes, we might have seen how the Palace used scheming spin doctors to erase Diana from national memory and replace her with Camilla, and how Prince Charles’s actions go way beyond his constitutional role and so on. I don’t blame the BBC. Lawyers employed by the royals are like Alsatians, fiercely protective and very sharp.

Imagine what the reaction would be if, say, Tony Blair stopped the BBC from broadcasting a critical programme on his activities. Britons would be outraged. But with the Royal Family, there is only quiet acquiescence. We are subjects after all, the great brainwashed.

They have particular benefits that result from blood and privilege: “The Queen, the Duke, her children, and grandchildren are not covered by the freedom of Information Act.”

Once in a while, we get to hear of private jets and costly jaunts, but the conversation is quickly shut down by a largely loyalist fourth estate. What about power? As Owen Jones writes in his book, The Establishment: “In practice…members of the Royal Family have a powerful platform from which to intervene in democratic decisions. Prince Charles, the designated successor to the throne has met with ministers at least three dozen times since the election…’ His correspondence with ministers is still kept from the public eye. Transparency is for only for plebs and politicians, it seems. The royals sit among the clouds, at the summit of the secret state and look down on us.

If we accept this settlement we cannot be a proper democracy. When some – whether wicked, stupid, or even wonderful – inherit limitless privileges and untold wealth, and are handed the highest positions in society, we, the rest, are lesser beings. Humans in Britain are not born equal, cannot be equal.

We will not have a credible meritocracy until this unholy edifice is dismantled. I know monarchists will say privileged families are found in strong republics too and that this system gives us stability and unity. All bosh. Wealth is indeed passed on by the rich everywhere, but  they are not subsided by their nations, and they are not revered.

Blood and wealth make for a social, political and economic order that is unequal, unfair and maintained by state, capitalists and others who benefit from the maintenance of hierarchy. To quote Ji, this system is “perpetuating Thailand’s gross economic inequality. That is why the monarchy should be abolished…”.

Update: A reader points out another interesting approach to succession, this time in Britain. Nick Cohen at The Guardian comments on a banal and likely interventionist King Charles III, when he get his hands on the throne. If you doubt this, look at the claims made by the next king’s supporters, speaking for him. Blood, wealth and hierarchy mean political access.

Harsher still on lese majeste

16 12 2014

The Dictator is reported at Prachatai as ordering the “Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) to deploy harsher measures on lese majeste websites.”

Self-appointed prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha wants MICT to be even more vigilant in monitoring websites and social media “that might affect public morale…”. He wants this regime in place in part for his own political reasons and in part because he wants to dampen criticism as the crown prince moves to prepare for succession. As PPT has noted previously, many of the current lese majeste cases are about a palace cleanout by the prince.

We are watching to see when Prem Tinsulanonda gets some marching orders, the Privy Council is cleaned and/or the Crown Property Bureau get some attention.

Updated: More divorce news

15 12 2014

With the Thai stock market plummeting for a time today and the prince making a concerted effort to clear the decks and with lese majeste charges being thrown about like never before, as PPT noted yesterday, we have the impression that there is an underlying cause yet to be revealed. In the meantime, more palace news.

First, the Bangkok Post reports that the “Crown Property Bureau has acted upon a request to allocate funds to Than Phuying* Srirasm Suwadee, formerly princess Srirasm, as desired by … Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn…”. [*Other newspapers say that this title has not been awarded.]

Interestingly, it was Finance Minister Sommai Phasee, who chairs the CPB, who made the announcement rather than Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, its Director-General.

Sommai stated that the CPB “had complied with the request from the Crown Prince for money to be provided to Than Phuying Srirasm for living expenses and to care for her family.” No amount was stated.

It is added that a “press release also urged the media not to publish inappropriate news about the former royal.”

Khaosod reported that the “palace did not identify the reason for Srirasmi’s decision to shed her royal status,” and added that the “Royal Household Bureau has not addressed the status of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Srirasmi’s 9-year-old son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.”

Another Bangkok Post report states that 202 “police officers promoted by disgraced former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan [one of Srirasmi’s relatives] are expected to be transferred to remote posts outside the mainstream in a massive reshuffle at the CIB.”

Update: Perhaps connected with “unfounded rumors,” the Royal Household Bureau has announced that the king “has been cured of an intestinal infection…”. His condition is said to be “improving.”

King is 5.4 million times wealthier than his average “subject”

5 11 2014

That’s part of the headline in a profusely illustrated story in Britain’s Mirror Online.

The story doesn’t appear to display all of its content, and much that is missing seems to be about the Thai king. However, the graphs are powerful. Here’s one:

King's wealthThe complaint PPT has about the story is that the data under-estimate the wealth of the royal house and monarchy in Thailand. The data presented essentially draws on calculations made in 2005.

That’s a decade ago, and despite the ongoing political crisis, the wealth of all Thailand’s big Sino-Thai tycoons increased remarkably while the baht strengthened against the dollar. Based on a quick scan of the main companies owned by the Crown Property Bureau and listed at the stock exchange, we’d estimate that their value has more than doubled in the period.

The biggest tycoon and capitalist conglomerate in the country is, we’d suggest, far wealthier than the story suggests.

Sufficiency and corruption

12 10 2014

Readers may not have noticed that on of The Dictator’s younger brothers is said to work at the Crown Property Bureau. Readers might also have missed noticing that the Prime Minister’s Office deputy spokesperson is the now promoted Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd. The latter was the spokesman for the murderous Thai Army who went about fabricating and concocting information throughout the life of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations.

We mention these two links because it was Sansern who was reported at the Nation as announcing that General Prayuth Chan-ocha will be at the Crown Property Bureau to “discuss strategies to promote development based on the King’s sufficiency philosophy … – with 18,594 villages targeted for various activities.” That’s apparently about a quarter of Thailand’s villages.

The “meeting would be held in accordance with government’s policy to implement sufficiency measures up until 2017.” Yes, the sufficiency economy is back for the poor because the military dictatorship believes that the “promotion of a sufficiency economy went hand in hand with the inculcation of moral ethics.”

Of course, the military junta believes that villagers need morals and ethics because they vote for populist politicians. The military and police brass now inhabiting the higher (appointed) positions don’t need morals or sufficiency because they are corruptly rich and prefer a coup to an election.

Sansern said that villages near the hugely expensive royal projects would be “targeted.” This royalist nonsense is being recycled by yet another military government because of the belief that it is a rhetorical device that demands loyalty to the monarchy and the royalist regime. In other words, it is a political project.

Because of this, Sansern said the sufficiency economy will be forced on “the education sector, in business administration, public relations and the security sector.” Sufficient funds for this sufficiency project are 8.7 billion baht. No doubt some of those unusually wealthy generals, admirals and air chief marshals will get their hands into this pot as well.


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