Democracy after death

16 02 2017

This documentary is worth watching. The version here has English sub-titles.

There’s also a story and interview about the film at Prachatai:

The Dictator on rights, liberties and democracy

11 02 2017

PrayuthThe self-appointed premier and The Dictator of Thailand, who heads a military dictatorship that jails political opponents on trumped up charges, and who launched an illegal coup and led troops in a murderous crackdown on protesters, while granting impunity to family and friends, has advice on rights, liberties and democracy.

Of course, The Dictator has no knowledge of such principles. And we would be laughing out loud if this situation wasn’t indicative of The Dictator’s desire to push his country into a monochrome and dark political “future.”

In another apparently angry retort, General Prayuth Chan-ocha demanded that the “general public not to be obsessed with democracy, rights and liberties, saying a preoccupation with this could lead to anarchy.”

He said he preferred “the people should take into consideration other principles, especially existing laws, to find proper logic.”

“Proper logic” is something that Thailand’s military probably thinks is found on a golf course or in a bag of “commissions.”

A clearly determined Prayuth warned people that they should not get “carried away with thoughts about rights, liberties and democracy in every issue…”.

What he intends is that the public should understand and accept that his regime has no plans to provide and rights, liberties and democracy.

The Dictator, seeming to speak to the 300 and more who signed a letter for the release of Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa and others beginning to gripe under the military boot, declared that his junta will “find a way to achieve its goals of reforms and national unity.”

In case anyone was confused, Prayuth added that his junta and its nearly identical government “cannot be swayed by the public’s feelings.”

Clearly the military junta’s political agenda is far more important than trifling notions of rights, liberties and democracy.

On dictatorship

27 11 2016

This from the Bangkok Post:

Foreign media and observers continue to regard our present government as a “dictatorship.” They have ignored [the] Prime Minister[‘s] … explanation about the necessity for building a democratic society on a stage-by-stage basis.

The Bangkok Post was supporting a dictatorial regime in an editor’s comment on a story from 25 November 1976. Little would appear to have changed from the period of the dictatorial and palace-picked prime minister and monarchist Thanin Kraivixien to the period of the self-appointed and palace-endorsed prime minister and monarchist General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The story, however, is of the rightist and youthful Interior Minister and palace favorite Samak Sundaravej and his approach to “establishing” what he called “democracy” in Thailand, in line with Thanin’s 12-20 year plan of stage-by-stage political change. There was an appointed assembly and elections were seen as “divisive.”

Prayuth has few youthful types in his military-based “government” but he has plenty of rightists and royalists. And he has a 20-year stage-by-stage plan. Prayuth’s military junta also has a puppet parliament of military appointees and views elections as dangerously divisive.

But there’s a difference. Samak stated (clicking opens a PDF of a 1976 press clipping):

Democracy of the past began at the Ananta Samaggom Throne Hall (traditional site of Parliament). lt then tried to seek roots in the villages. That was why it was unstable…. Democracy has to begin at the village council, then move up to the district council, the provincial assembly and then the House of Representatives.

Samak went on to declare: “We are now building up democracy from the villages.”

That sounds nothing like the current regime under The Dictator. No “bottom-up” democracy for them for they have learned that villagers simply cannot be trusted. Those at the local level don’t know what’s good for them and elect governments associated with Thaksin Shinawatra. These uppity villagers even dare to think that they should have some say in government, which is the preserve of the great and the good (and those of the military brass who don’t happen to fit these categories).

In fact, though, the comparison is false. Samak was no democrat in 1976. Reading the story it is clear that the “democracy” he boosts is, like Prayuth’s, no democracy at all. It remains top-down, with officials involved all along, directing, managing and funding a bureaucratized village planning process that knits neatly into the preferred hierarchical model of Thailand’s administration and politics. Anti-democracy and authoritarianism runs deep among the great, the good and the military brass.

Chinese flunkies or anti-democratic sloths?

5 10 2016

Thai authorities have detained and will or have deported Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong.

Prachatai reports that Wong was detained “at the request of the Chinese government” in the “early hours on 5 October 2016…”.

wongThe report states that Wong “was invited to the faculty of political science, Chulakongkorn university, to give a talk on new generation’s politics at an event commemorating 6 October [1976]…”.

Wong’s “political group” is said to have issued “a statement condemning the Thai authorities.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post also reports on Wong’s detention. The 19-year-old, “famed for his galvanising role in the city’s 2014 pro-democracy ‘umbrella movement’, “had apparently been held incommunicado by authorities. His group in Hong Kong says they have been unable to contact him for at least 10 hours.

Activists in Bangkok stated that Tourist Police stated that the detention followed “a written letter from the Chinese government to the Thai government concerning this person.”

As the Post points out, this is not the first time that the military dictatorship has appeared to be acting as the Chinese regime’s toadies. Thailand deported more than 100 Uighurs to an uncertain fate in China just over a year ago. The disappearance of Chinese dissidents and their reappearance in China and in custody suggests Thai collaboration with agents of the Chinese state.

The military regime is certainly willing to do Beijing’s bidding. At the same time, the junta is so anti-democratic that the idea of a democracy activist arriving in Bangkok to commemorate the 1976 slaughter of civilians that was prompted by rightists, royalists, palace and military is not likely to be appreciated. It is likely that in doing Beijing’s bidding the military dictatorship is also serving its own warped interests.

20 years to “international democracy”

4 09 2016

The Dictator intends to “prepare Thailand to become a democracy under international standards.”

In a recent report at The Nation, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is quoted as declaring that his military dictatorship’s “20-year national strategic plan was necessary” for such a political outcome.

It is unclear to PPT that The Dictator has any adequate notion of democracy. Later, confirming his odd understanding, Prayuth is quoted as referring to Thailand becoming “an international democracy.”

The plan, which may have begun after the coup in 2014, “would serve as the foundation and pillars in rebuilding the country for the future.”

In fact, he means 20 years of military tutelage in “preparation” for his “international democracy.”

General Prayuth insisted “that the new government to be formed after the next election would follow the strategic plan laid out by his administration, although it was unlikely to be implemented in its entirety.”

Prayuth insisted Thailand is not ready for democracy.

He was speaking on “national and military strategies for the 20-year period from 2017 at the National Defence College.” His audience were “students” from the “National Defence College, Joint Staff College, Royal Thai Army War College, Naval War College, and Air War College.”

These are the people who consider that they run Thailand better than its people can and so have limited popular sovereignty for decades and when it is in place have undermined it.

Sounding king-like or just like a royal parrot, Prayuth declared: “We all know well what the problem is, and its cause, but we can’t work together due to a lack of unity…”.

NYT and the military’s charter

7 08 2016

The New York Times wonders why a “new constitution that it [the junta] casts as an essential step toward restoring democracy” has seen the junta block “opponents from campaigning against the measure, banned election monitors and restricted news coverage of the referendum.”

It notes that “critics” say the proposed constitution will “extend the military’s influence for years to come.”

We doubt that the “vote will be the first major test of the military’s standing with the public, as much a referendum on the legitimacy of military rule as on the draft constitution” as the NYT suggests.It might have been if the event had been free and fair.

Its wasn’t, for “no matter the outcome, the junta will remain in control until it decides to hand power back to an elected government.” Even then, the military and other unelected bodies will control parliament’s actions. Military-controlled democracy is no democracy.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, points to more than 100 arrests for referendum-related “offences.” He says: “This referendum is not legitimate…. This is a redo of a military coup, using fear and intimidation to force Thai people to grant an extension of their control of power.”

Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to the junta declared himself in support of repression: “the public did not need an election campaign that could lead to more strife. Voters can decide by studying the 105-page document…”.

He’s always been a dedicated military pawn and lies about the draft. Almost no one has seen it or read it. It beats PPT why the NYT even speaks with such a dick. Perhaps only to get the expected quotes.

But he does drone: “The section on the parliamentary system [reducing its representativeness]  is quite new in many regards…. It’s an attempt to control and regulate the politicians.”

That’s true. The military and its supporters and acolytes like Panitan hate the idea that the people should freely choose their representatives in a competitive political situation they do not control.

The International Federation for Human Rights is quoted:

The draft charter creates undemocratic institutions, weakens the power of future elected governments and is likely to fuel political instability…. If approved, the charter will allow the military and its proxies to tighten their grip on power and cement their influence in political affairs.

That’s true. The aim is to retain royalist authoritarianism.

Surprising, but true

10 06 2016

A few days ago, we posted on the International Institute for Strategic Studies  and its invitation to The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha to present a Keynote Speech to its 15th Shangri-la Dialogue.

The Dictator’s speech there has caused The Nation to compose an editorial with the bold title: “Junta’s dishonesty to the world continues.” We were a little surprised, when a reader drew our attention to this, noting the use of “dishonesty” and “continues.”

It went further, noting that the so-called Dialogue always sees security issues trump any consideration of democracy, but observing that The Dictator offered “false assurances.” It says that “General Prayut … disguise[d] the state of Thai politics,” declaring that the junta “continues to be dishonest and misleading about the domestic political situation…”.

We were startled that The Nation, which has for several years been determinedly anti-democratic, declared “[t]he [political] division we suffer is not unprecedented, and nor did it stem from politics that rendered democracy dysfunctional.”

Prior to both the May 2014 coup and the 2006 coup, Thailand had a normal parliamentary system similar to that of many other countries, including the United Kingdom. Ideological differences are hardly unique to Thailand. But in more advanced democracies such differences, and even conflicts that boil into violence, are resolved non-violently in parliament. Public dissatisfaction with elected representatives is expressed in the next election.

Thailand had already developed a system of democratic institutions that could have calmed its political upheaval without the military interfering as it did. The armed forces – manipulated by the power elite – simply refused to allow the system to work in the normal way.

Better late than never? Surprising, but true.

The Nation gags on Prayuth’s claim that “the Thai military is politically neutral.” The editorial declares that the military “always takes sides:

Its troops spilled the blood of fellow citizens to end the 2010 red-shirt street demonstrations and, by contrast, responded to the pleas of the erstwhile yellow shirts to topple a legitimate and elected government in 2014. Prayut was among the insiders on both occasions and knows this distinction all too well.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Surprising, but true. And still further:

The only law the Thai military understands is martial law, and it is applied with extreme prejudice. Prayut and the NCPO are forever stressing the importance of the rule of law, but they must have a limited grasp of what this entails. If they truly respected the rule of law, they would not have staged coups against elected governments – a coup in itself is unlawful. Thus any law imposed by a coup-installed government and any ostensibly legal action taken is illegitimate, lacking the popular mandate and measures of accountability that democracy demands.

Nor would the prime minister even consider having in his arsenal the interim legislation known as Article 44, which grants him extraordinary powers to override the usual restrictions on government activity. And nor would the NCPO be bringing civilians to trial before a military court.

Again, surprising, but absolutely correct. And still more truths follow:

For Prayut to tell foreign observers that the junta doesn’t “intend” to violate rights or restrict freedoms demonstrates how hypocritical this government is willing to be. It must surely be plain for all to see both at home and abroad that the military is offering false assurances with its claim to have seized power temporarily to restore law and order so that reforms can be introduced. The ongoing detention of critics of the junta has nothing to do with reform, and in fact runs counter to what ought to be reform’s ultimate goal – the strengthening of Thai democracy.

Washington Irving, if he were around, would think his Rip Van Winkle had woken in Bangkok. But credit is due to The Nation for this truthful editorial.