No democracy! Hagiography!

6 10 2021

Remember the recent ranting by ultra-royalists and dinosaur bureaucrats and senior regime dolts about a series of of eight illustrated children’s books called Nitan Wad Wang, or “Dream Tales?” So incensed were the authorities that they began a probe looking for themes deemed critical of the government and sympathetic with the pro-democracy movement. They were also looking for anything negative about the king or monarchy.

Education Ministry spokesperson Darunwan Charnpicharnchai was especially “worried” that the booklets contain information that misleads children.

The story of this is retold at Thai PBS.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Meanwhile, the hopelessly inane Ministry of Culture “has released a cartoon book featuring biographies and stories about the contributions of the 10 monarchs of the Chakri dynasty.” No prizes for guessing that this is a pile of buffalo manure meant to prime kids with royalism.

The 237-page comic is meant to “honour of the 10 monarchs of the Chakri dynasty,” so can’t be truthful. We guess – couldn’t find the book at the Ministry website – that the chapter on the current king is well and truly padded out because he’s achieved so little in his 68 years.

Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome – whose father was a gangster and killer – “said … the cartoon format is partly aimed at promoting interest among the younger generation in the royal institution [monarchy].” He added to the manure pile by saying that “the monarchs have ruled under the Ten Principles of Kingship and devoted themselves to improving people’s livelihood through preserving and promoting cultural heritages and ensuring peace and prosperity.”





No democracy! We’re Thais!

30 09 2021

The Education Ministry has decided to get even more censorial as it seeks to “save” Thai students from democratic knowledge.

It is reported that alarmed officials have been spurred into action:

A series of eight illustrated children’s books called Nitan Wad Wang, or “Dream Tales,” is being probed by the authorities for themes deemed critical of the government and sympathetic with the pro-democracy movement. Taking the whole thing very seriously, Education Ministry spokesperson Darunwan Charnpicharnchai said the books could contain information that misleads children without parental guidance.

[Deputy] Education Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich is “extremely concerned” about the books, Darunwan added. A team led by ministerial adviser Phummisan Seneewong Na Ayutthaya will investigate the peril presented by the picture books.

Clipped from Coconuts Bangkok

Now there’s some elite family names! Who better to “save” Thailand’s youth! A person authorized to examine books, films, or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.

These hi-so so-and-sos have “set up a team to check all novels and comic books to ensure the content does not cause confusion among youngsters.” It seems the team will “examine if children’s books about a terrible dragon and a duck fighting for equality are subversive.” Frankly, we doubt this lot will comprehend the comics as they are written for 5-7 year-olds.

Spokesperson Darunwan came up with what she must think is a brilliant jibe, saying “children should have the liberty to access correct information.” Determining what is “correct” is a task for the crippled minds at the military as she explained that the “team will cooperate with the security affairs division in the investigation.” We assume that this is the military. We suppose it is possible that the Ministry of Education has a “security affairs division,” but that would prompt questions about its task. Whatever, the team will be appropriately royalist and acutely pro-regime.

When the team finds “incorrect information,” it will seek to “take legal action against companies that publish novels and comic books that contain distorted content…”.

We recall that after 6 October 1976, there was a culling of books with “incorrect information.” Next comes the book burning.





Royal land, royal power

25 09 2021

PPT was intrigued by two recent stories about the king and about royal land. In case readers missed them, we link to them and summarize some points.

At The Nation, it is reported that the “Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that it has taken back more than 100,000 rai of land owned by the Royal Property Bureau and will redistribute it among prisons and low-income people.” This is somewhat vague, and even the short story is contradictory. Director-general Yutthana Yimkarun is reported as saying that “most of the 100,000-rai taken back from state agencies was either left unused or was being misused. The land will now be used for temporary prisons, inmate training sites and housing for low-income people.”

Usually, the Treasury Department looks after the business interests of the property it holds for others, including the Army, and ensures a reasonable return to the owner. So we assume the property remains owned by the monarch.

Self-crowned

The really interesting point is that the “Treasury Department currently oversees some 500,000 rai of royally owned land.” We would guess that, with other royal land, this confirms that the monarch is one of the country’s largest landowners, exceeding the earlier guestimates.

The second story comes from Prachatai. It states, perhaps playing on numbers, that:

Since 2017, King Rama X has issued at least 112 royal edicts appointing and demoting royal officials and the royal consort, bestowing royal decorations, appointing monks to the Sangha Supreme Council and expressing political views….

This comes about due to:

The Royal Service Administration Act enacted in March 2017 transferred 5 agencies that were formerly part of the government structure into royal agencies to be organized “at the royal pleasure”.

After the Act came into force royal edicts were issued appointing and demoting officials in the royal agencies with no countersignature from anyone in the government.

Prachatai goes on to list the categories of edicts issued.

We understand that it also relates to the changes the king demanded in the junta’s 2017 constitution. As Prachatai points out, “no one in a democratic system should be able to exercise political power without accountability.”

Thus it would seem that, as the king does exercise political power without oversight or accountability, ipso facto, Thailand cannot be a democracy.





Down the shute

4 03 2021

PPT doesn’t always post on rankings, but the Freedom House index struck us as telling of Thailand’s descent into a dark era. Freedom House’s report now ranks Thailand as Not Free. While one might dispute such indices, it is clear that the country now languishes with some sad companions in these “league tables,” looking far more authoritarian than democratic.

Freedom House’s report on Thailand begins:

Thailand’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the dissolution of a popular opposition party that had performed well in the 2019 elections, and the military-dominated government’s crackdown on youth-led protests calling for democratic reforms.

It goes on

Following five years of military dictatorship, Thailand transitioned to a military-dominated, semi-elected government in 2019. In 2020, the combination of democratic deterioration and frustrations over the role of the monarchy provoked the country’s largest anti-government demonstrations in a decade. In response to these youth-led protests, the regime resorted to familiar authoritarian tactics, including arbitrary arrests, intimidation, lèse-majesté charges, and harassment of activists. Freedom of the press is constrained, due process is not guaranteed, and there is impunity for crimes committed against activists.

Read it all here.





112 threatens Thailand

16 01 2021

The Nation has a report on a recent statement by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul as secretary-general of the Progressive Movement.

Referring to the youth who have been demonstrating for reform and lamenting the rise of lese majeste repression, he states: “We cannot leave the ‘future of our nation’ to be charged with violating Article 112…. They are sacrificing their freedom and lives to fight for democracy.”

He argues that Article 112 of the Criminal Code is “problematic in all aspects, including the severity of punishment, and its interpretation and enforcement by authorities.”

He went on to urge “members of Parliament, as representatives of the people, to use this opportunity to cancel the criminal offence of defamation, whether it covered royalty, foreign leaders, ambassadors, shrines, or ordinary people.” He believes that “[d]efamation should be made a civil offence rather than a criminal offence…”, which would be inline with international practice, adding “that no one should be jailed for exercising their freedom of expression…”.

Piyabutr added that the “Move Forward Party he co-founded in 2019 had decided to leave the lese majeste law off its agenda, but this had left a scar on his conscience…. However, the situation had now changed and it was time to support the popular push to revoke Article 112…”.

He’s right.





With 3 updates: The Dictator’s response I

21 10 2020

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, is tone deaf. So hard of political hearing that he’s doubling down against the students and other protesters, seemingly prepared to risk clashes and extreme violence.

Voice TV has been defiant on the court ordered shutdown. But Gen Prayuth has ordered state authorities to crackdown hard, especially on anti-monarchy statements and images, stating: “We are duty-bound to protect the country and eliminate ill-intentioned actions aimed at creating chaos and conflict in the country…”. He’s talking about the monarchy.

In a piece of good news, and in an act that goes against the judiciary’s pro-authoritarian bent, the Criminal Court on Wednesday “repealed a government order to close down a TV channel [Voice TV] who’s been broadcasting live coverage of the student-led protests…”.

Voice TV “representatives argued to the court that the shutdown order breached the constitutional protection of media freedom…. The argument was accepted by the court, who noted that the order did not cite any clear wrongdoing.”

But other parts of the judicial system acted against democracy. Many will have seen reports that several of those arrested had been bailed. Not so fast. A Bangkok Post report states:

Two protest leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, were taken to the Criminal Court on Wednesday as Bangkok police pressed charges against them for their part in an anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Sept 19.

Samran Rat police took the two pro-democracy activists from the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Pathum Thani province to the court, ariving around 10.50am on Wednesday.

The two Thammasat University students were released on bail by Thanyaburi court on Tuesday afternoon, before police took them to the Region 1 Border Patrol Police camp in Khlong Luang district.

Mr Parit and Ms Panusaya were also wanted on arrest warrants from other police stations for their roles in anti-government rallies in Bangkok and other provinces.

In other words, the police and regime can continue to keep them on political ice.

More than this, the arrest continue, even in the fake case of “royal endangerment.” Suranat Paenprasert, a coordinator for children’s welfare and anti-drug advocacy group “Active Youth,” was charged with Article 110 of the Criminal Codes, which bans committing acts of violence against the Queen or [h]er [l]iberty.” It is a fit up, but the regime want to raise the temperature of ultra-royalists, while removing activists.

Meanwhile, the royalists are getting organized, with support from the state. Seeing the students and other protesters as “misled” and “duped” – terms also use when denigrating red shirts – Warong Dechgitvigrom warned of “the plot”: “pro-democracy protesters’ demands were not legitimate, especially those concerning the monarchy.” And, he added that there were hidden backers: “group leaders did not want to show themselves to avoid legal action.”

Helping him out, “Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin yesterday spoke about his Facebook post urging people in Chon Buri to exercise their power to protect the monarchy.” That’s a call to action and probably arms.

The state is now actively engaged in mobilizing royalists. The Bangkok Post reports:

Crowds estimated to number in the tens of thousands led by local administrators gathered in several in provinces on Wednesday in a show of loyalty to the royal institution.

The royalist demonstrations, staged in response to recent calls by some student protesters for reform of the monarchy, took place in provinces including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Lampang, Nan, Narathiwat and Songkhla….

Similar gatherings were planned in provinces before the end of this month.

Bangkok Post: An estimated 20,000 yellow-clad people march in Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat on Wednesday morning to show their loyalty to the royal institution. (Photo by Waedao Harai). The Post always downplays and vastly underestimates the size of student rallies.

The states involvement is a dangerous turn of events and The Dictator seems to be digging in. We are not sure that can save him. How desperate can he become?

Update 1: The Bangkok Post appears to be aiding the regime. One of its latest “stories” is about continuing protests and the ultra-royalist marches mentioned above. It reports that “authorities are worried about possible clashes between the two groups in the future.” Again, the post goes full ultra by not pointing out that it is the authorities who are mobilizing the royalists. Indeed, many of those who marched were in civil service uniforms! The Post, by playing dumb, is aiding and abetting any violence that the state unleashes.

Update 2: The Nation makes it clear that the royalists were mainly officials.

Update 3: Social media reports that the first attacks on protesters by yellow shirted royalists took place at Ramkhamhaeng University around 5-6pm today.





The Guardian on Thailand’s absolutist monarch

16 10 2020

The Guardian has an editorial on Thailand that deserves to be widely read. With apologies to the publisher, we reproduce it here in full (including hyperlinks):

The Guardian view on Thailand’s protests and the king: the end of deference

Demonstrations reflect a longstanding appetite for democracy – but challenging the monarchy breaches a taboo

Thailand is often described as coup-prone, given the numerous military takeovers since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. It would be as accurate to call it democracy-hungry. Thais have periodically fought to determine their own future, despite the risks.

Early on Thursday, the government declared a “severe” state of emergency in Bangkok, in response to months of protests culminating in a mass rally on Wednesday. It banned gatherings of more than four people and the publication of information that could “create fear” or “affect national security”. Thousands immediately surged into the streets, angered by the arrest of protest leaders. The fear of a harsher crackdown is well-founded given the brutal repression of previous movements, including the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University. The UK and others must press the regime to respect the rights of protesters.

Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration, a military junta that laundered itself into an elected government via a rigged system, is both incompetent and authoritarian. Even dissidents who have fled the country have been harassed, disappeared or killed. Unhappiness has been fuelled by Covid-19’s destruction of the tourism sector, on which the country is heavily dependent. Protestors demand the prime minister’s resignation and the redrafting of the constitution. But they have also broken new ground by demanding reform of what was previously taboo, thanks to heavy penalties for discussing it: Thailand’s royalty. Anon Nampa, the lawyer who helped kick the movement off and is now detained, warned: “If we don’t fix the monarchy, we can’t fix anything else.”

While his father, who died in 2016, was seen touring provincial development projects, King Maha Vajiralongkorn is better known for his personal life, including the ruthless treatment of ex-wives. He resides largely in Bavaria with a female entourage; Germany’s foreign minister says it has “made it clear that politics concerning Thailand should not be conducted from German soil”.

But the king has also centralised both wealth and power, taking direct command of troops, insisting on constitutional changes and taking personal ownership of the Crown Property Bureau’s holdings – estimated at $40bn [PPT: way too low]. While millions are unemployed, $1bn of this year’s government budget will go to the monarchy. Cue previously unthinkable scenes, with protestors giving a three-fingered salute to the royal motorcade in reference to the Hunger Games and to liberty, equality and fraternity.

Yet the institution’s revered status had already begun eroding. While the last king was seen as a pillar of stability, he consistently sided with the forces of conservatism. Anti-monarchism began to emerge among the largely poor and rural “red shirts” who supported the ousted and controversial prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Strikingly, however, there now seems to be a nascent realignment between this movement and another with which it has often clashed: the urban, largely middle class pro-democracy movement often rooted in universities and NGOs, and which most recently swung behind Future Forward, a now-dissolved pro-democracy party.

Thailand’s establishment has so far proved incapable of grasping that the age of deference is over. It is not surprising that the elites resist change in a country with possibly the highest wealth inequality in the world, where the richest 1% control almost 67% of assets. But nor is it feasible that the rest will be content with their meagre lot. Until a better political and economic settlement is reached, the strains will continue to grow. The monarchy’s position is now one of them.





Reform demanded

20 09 2020

In wrapping up the student-led rally on Sunday morning, a large group moved from Sanam Luang to an area near the headquarters of the Privy Council to deliver their 10 demands for the reform of the monarchy.

Initially, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “had asked to submit the demand with a representative of the Privy Council but after negotiations with the police agreed to leave it with the metropolitan police chief.”

The rally leaders had read out the demands at the rally site.

In part, the letter accompanying the 10 demands stated:

The purpose of these demands is not to overthrow the monarchy…. Instead, it is with good intentions to honor and maintain the monarchy … under the democratic system, to sustain [the monarchy]… in the context of the modern world. The monarchy … must not have political powers, must be subjected to checks and balances, must be opened to criticism, and must not burden the people. Therefore, the monarchy … shall exist honorably under an internationally accepted democratic system.

Protest leaders have called for another rally on 14 October.





10 demands

13 08 2020

As reported by Prachatai, the students at Thammasat made 10 demands for the reform of the monarchy.

The context: “These demands are not a proposal to topple the monarchy. They are a good-faith proposal made for the monarchy to be able to continue to be esteemed by the people within a democracy.” The demands:

1. Revoke Article 6 of the 2017 Constitution that forbids any accusation against the King. And add an article to allow parliament to examine wrongdoing of the King, as was stipulated in the constitution promulgated by the People’s Party.

2. Revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code, to allow the people to exercise freedom of expression about the monarchy and amnesty all those prosecuted for criticizing the monarchy.

3. Revoke the Crown Property Act of 2018 and make a clear division between the assets of the King under the control of the Ministry of Finance and his personal assets.

4. Reduce the amount of the national budget allocated to the King in line with the economic conditions of the country.

5. Abolish the Royal Offices. Units with a clear duty, such the Royal Security Command, should be transferred and placed under other agencies. Unnecessary units, such as the Privy Council, should be disbanded.

6. Cease all giving and receiving of donations by royal charity funds in order for all assets of the monarchy to be open to audit.

7. Cease the exercise of the royal prerogative over the expression of political opinions in public.

8. Cease all public relations and education that excessively and one-sidedly glorifies the monarchy.

9. Investigate the facts about the murders of those who criticized or had some kind of relation with the monarchy.

10. The king must not endorse any further coups.





Students rising III

29 02 2020

The student rebellion against the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continues, with rallies in many parts of the country.

As would be expected from a royalist and dictatorial regime camouflaged by a rigged election “victory,” the repression is ramping up.

As already mentioned in earlier posts, Gen Prayuth has warned students. In parliament, he “pointed out that some demonstrators were making other demands — some of which touched on the monarchy — in addition to pressing for more democracy.” Police followed up.

Prayuth also repeated a common royalist-conservative mantra: that the students are pawns of politicians. As an example of this buffalo manure, the Bangkok Post reports that “experts”- we can only see one and question the use of the word “expert” for him – who admonish the students, declaring that: “Students at anti-government rallies risk becoming a tool of politicians who are seeking ways to attack the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration…”.

They are falling in line with conspiracy theorists. For example, writing for a Russian outlet, a notorious foreign yellow shirted agitator declares the students – every one of them – as pawns of USA-loving politicians and Western plotters. Such claims are avidly consumed by yellow shirts, the military brass and the regime’s leaders.

The problem for the conspiracy theorists, Thai and foreign alike, is that the students have made up their own minds that they oppose authoritarianism and are actually dragging the politicians along. The extent of the rallies have surprised many, including the politicians. While there are antecedents and sparks, these student rallies represent and organic opposition to the regime.

Sadly, if the regime reacts as it has before to challenges – when it was the military junta – there will be more repression. If the military engages, expect arrests and the use of thugs against those identified as leaders of the protests.

More broadly, because there are rallies, we can probably expect criminal charges against the Future Forward leadership to be pursued.








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