The Dictator unthaied

9 07 2017

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the man who appointed himself prime minister after running a military coup in 2014, has spent the last three years arranging puppet assemblies, puppet agencies, purging the bureaucracy and drafting and re-drafting a constitution, changed after a referendum that allowed no opposition. More, he’s allowed no opposition to anything much that the military dictatorship has done or wanted.

So when The Dictator declares “that he didn’t consider those who believe the military junta will hold power for another 10 to 20 years to be Thai,” he is apparently including himself. We say this because he has clearly worked very hard to ensure that the military retains control of government going forward and has even established a framework for any future government. He and his junta have established, rules and laws that will be difficult to change.

When he says the junta “do not seek to be in power for 10 or 20 years as feared by opponents and critics,” however, he’s fudging. No critic is actually saying that the junta plans to stay for all that time. Rather, it is the regime they have put in place that is at issue.

When he says, “We do not wish to control politics or democracy for the next 10 to 20 years,” he’s lying, for that is exactly what the junta has been about. Controlling the shape of politics into the future.

So he really is not Thai if that is what he says of others who identify his junta’s work.

Critic Anusorn Unno is correct when he says that “the junta will try to maintain control for the next two decades through various means designed under the constitution…”.

As a footnote, Prayuth shows his lack of knowledge of Thailand’s history – as an unThai he’s probably not even interested – when he states “we have been a democratic country for 85 years.” But he does want to keep Thailand as it was during that period of (mostly) un-democracy.

1932 will be erased

16 06 2017

Remember that plaque, commemorating the 1932 Revolution that, for the first time, reduced the absolute power of the monarchy? It was either stolen or semi-officially removed (in secret) at about the time that the junta and the king came up with the idea of making the junta’s constitution a royal constitution by proclaiming it in a royal ceremony on Chakkri Day.

The two events appear related, which seems appropriate as the removal of the plaque was a symbolic rejection of constitutionalism as law and people’s sovereignty and the junta’s constitution similarly rejects those principles.

With the anniversary of the 1932 Revolution coming up on 24 June, activists were planning to mark that event, as they had previously, at the site of the (now missing) plaque.

In anticipation, the police have “warned democracy activists … that they will be arrested if they gather to mark the upcoming anniversary of the revolution that ended absolute monarchy, a historical moment that has taken on renewed significance.”

In particular, police said “they would not tolerate any attempt to gather at spot on this year’s anniversary…”.

The police, who are remarkably dull and mainly focused on managing their own corrupt incomes, are probably acting at the direction of the junta.

One of their spokesmen “explained” the “thinking” behind the ban: “This year we will not allow activists to come to lay flowers at the Royal Plaza because this is palace ground and it violates the NCPO (junta) order banning gatherings for political purposes…”.

That is a perfect illustration of how the monarchy and military have been intertwined in opposing electoral democracy and popular sovereignty. It is a statement that acknowledges the rollback of politics to a royalist authoritarianism that seeks to establish a royalist political system that is anti-democratic.

A story gone missing

3 06 2017

An interesting story seems to have gone missing. We do not know who the author is. Thanks to a reader for capturing it and sending to us:

Charismatic monarch, unstable institution

King Rama VII himself said that a system of absolute monarchy relies on a good king. However, nobody can guarantee the existence of good monarchs forever. Systematic over-reliance on one individual creates irresolvable insecurity in all absolute monarchies (and constitutional democracies where monarchies are above politics).

So we try to build political institutions that do not rely on individuals, such as democracy, so that we may enjoy lasting stability. One failure of our current system is that such institutions have failed to take root.

The transition from Rama 5 to Rama 6 was one of a few instances where, at first, succession seemed to pass smoothly, with little opposition and all arranged in advance. But with the hindsight of five to ten years, the transition proved to be a turbulent one: the new King was not a good fit with the system, causing a split amongst elites.

While the aura of the revered late King Bhumibol Adulyadej still casts its light on the new King, this shadow is a double edged sword. At first, memories of the late king linger in a ‘honeymoon period’ where the populace welcomes his successor, with the expectation that he will continue the greatness of his father. But as the honeymoon period comes to a close, citizens will compare Vajiralongkorn with Bhumibol, and find him sorely wanting. It is not possible for the new King to be comparable with the late King — because hyper-royal enchantment with the late King causes him to transcend reality, to the point of being super-human.

Dissatisfaction and opposition is inevitable.

Or do we still live under absolute monarchy in disguise?

I think that most Thai people believe that succession impacts their lives. What does this mean? It means that a great number of Thai people share an understanding that we do not allow to be expressed — in other words that we are fooling and lying to ourselves. Though we may think this and that, we say out loud the opposite: that the King is not relevant to politics, only important to our lives. Yet that everybody is so concerned and questioning [about succession] shows that succession affects life, society and politics more than Thai people will admit.

I wish to request everybody reading to please ask yourself this question: What is the King’s role and importance to the country? If he is of little importance and his role is of little importance, then he doesn’t have to adapt much, because he doesn’t affect us. But that everybody is so concerned [about succession], it’s because he affects us all. So, please answer yourself: what influence does his have and why does he possess such influence?

The other questions I want to pose are: didn’t Thailand evolve beyond absolute monarchy a long time ago? Then what kind of system are we living under now? What is the actual role of the monarchy, such that it has such a large influence on society and politics? Or are we still living under absolute monarchy in disguise?

The network monarchy

One important characteristic of the monarchy is what many call the ‘network’. When I speak of the monarchy’s role in politics, ‘monarchy’ refers to more than just one individual or the monarchy itself — I am referring to the many people who benefit from the monarchy, who have vested interests, whose ideology is tied to the existence of a strong monarchy. The people who make up this network are many, and are not merely the King’s family. The network includes ordinary people just like us — with ideologies, beliefs, good intentions, bad intentions. Some are enchanted, infatuated with the monarchy while others have material interests. Whatever it is, they all desire a strong monarchy who has a role in the country’s political affairs.

In other words, if a King does not have sufficient charisma, engages in poor behavior and activities, or has a personality that causes people to doubt his virtue, the ‘royal hegemony’ will cease to exist. There is no ‘core’ that can form the foundation for the network, and which can provide the legitimacy needed to grow royalty’s influence in Thailand’s politics. So full circle back to this over-reliance on one individual — now we can see why succession is rising in importance. It’s not just about the King alone. The behaviour of the King is connected to the political system, to other institutions and on and on.

To sum up, succession would not be fatally important were it not for the current political context, and the conditions of Thailand today.

The king and the constitution

I think that the latest constitution makes it clear that we now live under a system of governance that is exactly what Rama VII wanted, but which the People’s Party opposed. What should we call this system? (laughs). More than 80 years later after the reign of Rama VII, he finally got what he wished for.

In conclusion, Thailand’s current political system depends on the monarch having great charisma. The constitution as it stands is based upon a king, whose own legitimacy is based on the belief that kings must be good. But nobody can guarantee this. As such, there is inherent contradiction in the system.

Will this contradiction erupt? Of course it will, one day. But nobody can say when.

This is an excerpt from an interview published in Prachatai’s new book A Molten Land: The Mandatory Transition. The book can be purchased here. It is in Thai.

Get ready for even more regressive “reform”

1 06 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the puppet “National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has approved a series of political reform proposals intended to form a key part of the 20-year national strategic plan.”

As usual, the puppets are acting as wooden dolls on strings, voting “158 against 2 to accept the reforms their proponents believe will pave the way for cleaning up Thai politics.” They mean roll back electoral politics and make it subject to the military and the “great” and the “good.”

The puppets babble about “good governance” and “strong democracy,” but these are simply words that conceal their anti-democratic mindset.

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.