Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Red shirt response

10 05 2014

Several readers chided PPT for observing in a recent post that “Red shirt protests about this so far seem feeble.” At the time we wrote that, the official red shirts were preparing a rally, well away from Bangkok to protest the Constitutional Court’s politicized decision-making. There is now an official red shirt response.

The Bangkok Post reports that Saturday’s red shirt rally was large and represented “a robust red response.” Andrew Spooner writes of the rally:

… over 100,000 pro-democracy Red Shirt activists gathered in a suburb of Bangkok to express their resistance to the Thai establishment’s moves to derail a fairer, more accountable society. That powerful and supposedly ‘educated’ Thais – like the cabal of well-groomed thugs in expensive suits who lead the PDRC/Democrat Party – are so ready to destroy Thailand’s hard fought for democratic gains whilst risking civil war, reveals them to be closer to nihilists than a credible political alternative.

He also notes what might be a warning to the red shirts – armored vehicles moving through Bangkok.Armor

According to the Post’s report, for the official red shirts, the line in the sand is not the Constitutional Court’s decision or the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s dubious decision to refer charges against Yingluck Shinawatra nor is it the Election Commission’s determination to not hold and election. Nor is it the anti-democrat’s illegal occupation of Government House or the senate’s unconstitutional actions. The line in the sand is any attempt to remove what remains of the interim government.

Jatuporn Promphan delivered a fine account of why the anti-democrats, in cahoots with the royalist elite and their tools in the judiciary and senate, are engaged in illegal actions. Yet these anti-democrats can pretty much do as they want. The sandy line is supporting the lame duck government:

Jatuporn said the UDD was ready to continue its rally for as long as it takes to support the government. The sight of tents along a four-kilometre stretch of Aksa Road, not far from a residence of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, indicated people were willing to stay for a week or longer.

He said the UDD would try to exercise full tolerance and not move anywhere yet.

“As long as the country’s democracy is not safe, we will be here,” he told reporters. If there is a coup or an unelected prime minister is installed, the red shirts will “escalate our fight immediately…”.

 Meanwhile, Suthep Thaugsuban has all but declared that he is in charge:

“The people hope there will be a new prime minister of the people by Monday. If not, we will have no choice but to take action by ourselves. We can’t allow the country to continue like this anymore,” Suthep said.

“From tomorrow [Sunday], we will issue statements. And I will read the statements inside Government House.”

Suthep is now ensconced in Government House with the armed and extremist Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform group, led by PAD’s  Nittithon Lamlua, at his side. He is joined by PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang and his Dhamma Army, and all of the other PAD leaders. It is looking increasingly like 2008, when the elected government was overthrown with barely a whimper. Could that happen again? The events of 2009 and 2010 suggest it shouldn’t, but the path across the line in the sand seems defined.





He’s back!

9 04 2014

We find it a little difficult to believe, but we are very pleased to see that veteran democracy campaigner Chalard Worachat is back at it. Prachatai reports that 22 years after he put backbone into the movement to prevent the military consolidating power in 1992, Chalard is camping out near Parliament House and has been there since 22 March (another report says 21 March). That is the day the Constitutional Court nullified the 2 February election.

Back in 1992, it was Chamlong Srimuang, now a grinning leader of the rightist Dhamma Army and of the People’s Alliance for Democracy who got credit for his hunger strike that eventually led to demonstrations and a massacre of civilians (note this report where a little-known intervention by the king is reported, trying to get Chamlong to abandon his hunger strike). In fact, though, it was Chalard who, as a very lonely protester, began a hunger strike that forced usually spineless politicians like Chuan Leekpai of the Democrat Party to take notice.

Chalard

A Prachatai photo

Prachatai sates that:

Chalard’s very first hunger strike took place [in 1980]…. He protested against the right-wing Prime Minister Kriangsak Chamanan, who was installed after the 1977 military coup, for raising oil prices…. It caused Kriangsak to resign on the 36th hour of Chalard’s hunger strike.

In 1983, Chalard was back, protesting:

during the General Prem Tinasulanond government, the House tried to pass a bill allowing bureaucrats and military officers to become Prime Minister, in effect allowing Prem to extend his term. Chalard held a hunger strike for nine days before successfully stopping passage of the bill.

He was back again in 1992, and then “played an important role in pushing for the 1997 constitution…”. From 1965 to 1987, Chalard was a member of the now disgraced Democrat Party. He once represented the Party in parliament. However, he:

protested against his party leader by holding a hunger strike to call on Chuan to amend the 1992 constitution to be more democratic, but on the 49th day, he quit due to his deteriorating health. The Supreme Patriach asked him to ordain instead…. His strike however led to “Chalard’s Friends,” a committee which successfully pushed for political reform as its main social agenda, and later paved the way for the drafting of the 1997 constitution.

In the hours after the 2006 palace-military coup, Chalard was arrested for protesting against it.

As Prachatai puts it, he is now back at the spot:

… where this 71-year-old man held a 45-day long hunger strike in 1992 to protest against General Suchinda Kraprayoon, then Prime Minister who came from a coup he led in 1991. The protest led to Black May, a people’s uprising in Bangkok which toppled the military regime and paved the way to a more democratic government for Thailand.

And, he has much the “same demands — to abolish an undemocratic constitution and oppose an appointed Prime Minister, as well as a military coup.” He isn’t refusing food yet, “but he says he will, should a military coup happen.”

Today, Chalard said “the core problem of Thai politics is the 2007 constitution which allows independent agencies too much power over the government.” He says: “We must call for the abolition of the current seditious constitution, and bring back a more democratic one.” If this doesn’t happen, Chalard states that the “situation will lead to chaos, more violence and a military coup for sure…. What we need is a new election to be held as soon as possible. We need a Prime Minister who comes from elections.”

Asked about the failed Democrat Party, “Chalard said he first decided to join the party because it was against the military in the 1970s…. Now it changed from opposing dictatorship to supporting it…”. In fact, even in the 1970s, the party’s opposition to military government was tepid.

Chalard’s actions always spur reaction, so it will be interesting to see if this current lone protest has any impact.





Notes on the news

20 02 2014

PPT is again having trouble keeping up with the flood of stories – bizarre and serious – that deserve attention at present. Here’s a brief set of notes:

Army hide-and-seek: Both Khaosod and Bangkok Post report on the military refusing/delaying handing over soldiers accused of involvement in organizing the assassination attempt on red shirt activist Kwanchai Praiphana. At Khaosod it is reported that the “military has not yet handed to the police four suspects…”. All are said to be from the 9th Infantry Division.

The Army had previously promised to deliver the suspects but this hasn’t happened. (Yes, it is the case that the military is treated differently from regular citizens in legal cases owing to their control of government for many years.) It seems the military are refusing to answer the phone. Worse, they are withholding evidence: “the 9th Infantry Division, … in Kanchanaburi Province, has also withheld two pick-up trucks thought to be used by the four suspects during their assassination attempt…”.

The Bangkok Post has it this way: “The army yesterday abruptly cancelled the handover to police of four soldiers allegedly involved…”. The Post says that the Army accuses the “police of allegedly breaking a handover condition and cited this as the reason for the cancellation.” Here’s the reason: “The suspects had travelled to Khon Kaen, along with the staff judge advocates and military court prosecutors, expecting to be handed over to police. Before they reached the police training centre they were informed that witnesses would be questioned while they were being interrogated, said Maj Gen Pairoj. This had not been part of the agreement, he said.”

Eventually, the suspects were delivered, and then released on bail….

Who us (Army)? No, couldn’t be. Then who?: At the Bangkok Post, a “top army officer [Maj Gen Varah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st Division (King’s Guard),] has denied speculation that troops shot at police during Tuesday’s clash between authorities and anti-government protesters.” Why would he need to do this? Because some on social media “questioned whether unidentified men who used deadly weapons during the melee were military officers.” For PPT, what we have heard is questions regarding the shooters – who are now pretty well-known and identified – is a question about whether they are serving or or were previously serving, soldiers. As Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously said that these shooters appear to be well-trained and claimed he has no idea who they are, the social media question seems reasonable.Shooter 10

Meanwhile, the reprehensible Tharit Pengdit of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has also said that the shooters were “unidentified armed elements” with “high-explosive hand grenades, M79 grenades, high-velocity sniper rifles and handguns.  We doubt they are “unidentified given the photographs available of them.  We have more to say on Tharit below.

Courts again support anti-democrats: The Bangkok Post reports that the “Civil Court ruled yesterday the caretaker government has the authority to enforce the emergency decree, but issued a set of orders chiefly to prohibit dispersal of the anti-government protesters.” In essence, the court upheld the decree but rejected the measures needed to enforce it. Pondering the 2010 red shirt demonstrations, this action would have been unthinkable. So why the double standards? Simple: “It cited an earlier ruling by the Constitution Court that the PDRC rally is peaceful and without weapons.” Right…. The guys with guns and grenades actually are “unarmed”….  And the court was frank about its decision: “The court said its order was to protect the protesters’ right to hold peaceful demonstrations, citing massive mobilisation of security forces into Bangkok to break up the protest.” Funny, we don’t recall that logic being applied in 2010? Or have we neglected the courts providing “protection” to red shirts? It matter not that this is legal horse manure, for the Constitutional Court has ruled!

Anti-election commissioner: At the Bangkok Post it is reported that Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who has led the EC’s charge against elections, stalling, fibbing, dragging feet etc. etc.,  says that by defending the government’s rice policy and trying to stem a political run on a state bank, “Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s televised address … risks breaking the law.” It is stated that a message posted on Somchai’s Facebook page – yes, it is okay for an election commissioner to post his views there it seems – where he said “the premier’s use of the media to woo voters conflicts with Section 60 of the organic law on elections and the EC’s announcement on the poll campaign. Ms Yingluck also promised to give farmers something, and this breaches Section 53 of the organic law on elections, he said. The premier, meanwhile, used state resources to seek votes, which goes against Section 181(4) of the constitution. She also failed to behave neutrally, which violates Section 57 of the organic law on the election.” It seems that in politics, Somchai is of the view that a caretaker government can do nothing at all, whereas the opposition is free to campaign as they please, including on the streets. More of those old blue double standards!

Meanwhile, Somchai is busy suing others for allegedly defaming him!

Abhisit VejjajivaAbhisit in la-la land: Also at the Bangkok Post, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has an op-ed and there is also a story about his call for a political path forward. He uses pretty political language to dress up his party as well-educated proponents of political compromise. The problem for PPT is that Abhisit seems to think that every one in the world interested in Thailand’s politics is either an anti-democrat or suffers memory loss.

Some seem to think it is a kind of breakthrough that Abhisit says “As the leader of the Democrat Party, I must share the blame for the failed politics…”. Of course he does. His party rejected elections after calling for them, trashed parliament, supported political extremists, engaged in serious hate speech and decided to lead street demonstrations because it can’t win an election. Abhisit has also destroyed the moderate wing of the Democrat Party and allowed it to be controlled by extremists. In addition, Abhisit was prepared to accept a military coup, make deals to grab the premier’s position and then participated in decisions that saw red shirt demonstrators shot down, more or less in cold blood. Yes, Abhisit has more than his fair share of blame for the current problems.

It is clear that he is in both denial and spin modes when he states: “We must all demand progress in bringing to account the perpetrators of over 30 incidents of violence against protesters and opposition leaders in the past few months.” The guy has to be given a negative credit for his complete rejection of his own violent responses to demonstrators and the failure to condemn violence by his own people; indeed, the Democrat Party’s own Blue Sky channel lauds the protester’s violence.

And the elitist Abhisit has also found farmers to be political tools when he finally manages to see them not as ignorant buffaloes but as tools for attacking his opponents.

Perhaps the least surprising element of his political diatribe is the call for “someone credible and accepted by all sides can lead the reform process and manage the short transition to new elections in which everyone participates. That someone is clearly not the current government, the protest leaders nor the Democrat Party…”. That call is the one emanating from the senior royalists and Abhisit must do what he is told.

Is it Dhamma or Army?: Chamlong Srimuang’s religious beliefs have long been soaked in politics and blood. From his time as a mercenary to 1976, 1992, and all the events since 2005, Chamlong has mobilized the so-called Dhamma Army, which nowadays appears to be bereft of dhamma and to act as a political gang. They were at the center of clashes with the police on Tuesday and they remain united under Chamlong as their commander. Other extremists populate the Dhamma Army contingent and encourage violence. As the Bangkok Post explains, “Police were attacked with grenades and gunfire but they also fired live rounds at protesters.”

And The Eel: We noted above that we’d get back to Tharit. This is reported in The Nation: “Tarit insisted that the police who carried out the operation were not armed.” As he did during the red shirt demonstrations when he was against them, he’s lying. It is clear from many reports, videos and photographs, police were armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. To claim otherwise is stupid. In another source, he states: “crowd control police were backed up by an armed unit, to protect them if they were in danger. However, the backup unit did not fire a shot on Tuesday, just displayed their weapons in a tactic to subdue the other side…”. Again, we think this is lunacy. The picture evidence is that police did fire shots. What is unclear is whether these were all live rounds or rubber bullets. With “allies” like this, enemies are almost unnecessary.





Further updated: Anti-democrat shooters again on the attack

18 02 2014

There are a series of stories at Khaosod on the shootings today. These reports confirm tweets by numerous reporters indicating that shooters amongst the anti-democrat demonstrators again opened fire, this time at police.

The Bangkok Post reports on these events, also clearly identifying the shooters as amongst the anti-democrats and acting for them:

As police were firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live munitions at anti-government protesters in the area near Jor Por Ror intersection on Tuesday, they were suddenly targeted by unknown gunmen.

PPT is yet to see any reports of police firing live ammunition. If readers see such reports, email us. The gunmen are not “unknown,” with one identified by name, but with the courts rejecting an arrest warrant.

”After the gunshots by unidentified men [sic.], police stopped their operation and later retreated,” an INN reporter on the ground said. ”I didn’t see where they came from, but their shots went in the diretcion of the police,” he said.

The Post refers to the “popcorn shooter” and says he/they “returned on Tuesday for the first time since the Laksi clash on the eve of the Feb 2 elections, when a photographed hooded-man fired at red-shirts, ending the clash with protesters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). This time there was believed to be more than one shooter.”

The police were acting against the extremist Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand when three of these armed men “set free PDRC co-leader Somkiat Pongpaibul, who was being held in a police paddy wagon on nearby Ratchadamnoen Avenue after being seized by police at Phan Fah Bridge.” Somkiat is a long-time People’s Alliance for Democracy extremist who was, for a while, and Democrat Party MP.

Somkiat said “three men he did not know [sic.] freed him from the vehicle. At the same time there were sounds of gunshots and explosions, and the policemen guarding the detention vehicle took cover, allowing him to escape…”.

Samdin Lertbut, a coordinator of the Dhamma Army, explained that he presence of the men – PPT says they are trained military or ex-military men – “was the turning point…”. Another

Panthep Puapongpan, another PAD member: ”The ‘unidentified forces’ were protecting brothers and sisters of Muan Maha Prachachon,” and warned: ”State authorities now must think twice about their plans…”.

The PAD/Dhamma Army/Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand plans are clear. As PPT predicted in a recent post, anti-democrats have almost nothing left. Violent confrontation may be something the extremists want, but that will only see them lose even more support. Clearly, they have decided on a violent insurrection.

Update 1: Grenade attack on police.

Police and grenade

Update 2: Thai Rath has a series of photos from these events / Another set here / Andrew Spooner has a take on events in Thailand / BBC report with pictures / CNN video report and attack on police / A later CNN report that gets the order of attack correct / men-in-green or popcorn shooters apparently meet with PAD and extremist Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand leader Nittithon Lamlua / Bangkok Post has video and photos /

For the king

 

 





Pandering to the minority?

30 12 2013

The Bangkok Post has joined The Nation in apparently pandering to the anti-democratic movement by naming it as the “People of the Year.” It refers to the “great mass uprising” or “muan maha prachachon” as a kind of middle class revolution that could “go down as a major political landmark and point of progress in Thai history.” The Post adds: “Whether the newly emerged force … will grow into a positive movement that brings about political progress remains to be seen.”

In other words, the selection is, like that of The Nation, either a bit of anti-democratic campaigning, pandering and hope or it is a bit like TIME magazine choosing Hitler as Man of the Year in 1938 which appears as fascination with a demagogue. We don’t know, but we do wonder about the Post’s pitch on this “landmark.”

Let’s look more closely at the claims made in this campaign by the Post (the indented bits are from the newspaper’s story):

Discontent, it is said, is the first necessity of progress.It’s discontent that lies at the hearts of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to Bangkok streets since last month to protest against the amnesty law that sought to absolve all crimes and corruption cases from 2006 onwards without any clear justifiable reasons.

It’s discontent against the flagrant abuse of power by a majority of democratically elected representatives who not only voted to pass a law that would have rendered the justice process meaningless but did so at 4:25am _ unbecoming conduct by parliamentarians for such highly questionable legislation.

This is true, as far as it goes. There is no doubt that the ill-conceived amnesty bill was a disaster for all involved. It is true that the amnesty bill motivated many who have demonstrated. However, it is also true that red shirts, both official and others, were also opposed to the amnesty bill. They are not demonstrating.

As the story later states, the bill has since been withdrawn. It might have been added that it never became law.

It is also true that the opposition movement is not primarily about this bill. The anti-democracy movement is primarily interested in destroying what it identifies as the “Thaksin regime” and prevent an election before the rules of elections can again be changed to allow minority interests to control politics.

The almost spontaneous uprising against the draft law started with tens of thousands who joined then Democrat MP and former party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban at a rally on Samsen Road, and grew into hundreds of thousands within weeks.

It is important to recognize that this anti-democratic movement was formed in 2005 and has been active ever since, seeing various levels of support. The opposition to the “Thaksin regime,” as Thongchai Winichakul points out in an excellent op-ed,  may have begun in late November, but this is “only one battle in Thailand’s protracted political struggle since the violent protests of 2006 that ended with a military coup.”

In fact, the lineage and allies is: People’s Alliance for Democracy (since 2005), Democrat Party (since 2005), Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), Group of 40 Senators (since 2005), palace and military (2006), judiciary (since 2006), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (which began its demonstrations in the same month in 2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), and now the misleadingly monikered People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013). Each of these groups -and we are sure we have missed some of them – has had overlapping membership and leadership. Essentially, a small group of rightist leaders have worked from 2005 to mobilize and bring down elected governments.

The spirit of the 2013 uprising, the will to mass together to challenge injustice and the force for change it engendered, has earned the mass uprising, or muan maha prachachon as it has become known, the Bangkok Post’s 2013 People of the Year distinction.

PPT can’t help thinking about the injustice heaped upon every single elector who has voted again and again for the governments the majority wants, only to see them overturned by unelected minorities. We can’t recall, but were red shirts the Post’s Persons of the Year in 2010 for their campaign for an election?

It is the first time that white-collar working-class people and business entrepreneurs have spoken up and demanded they be treated as informed citizens who are willing to engage in participatory democracy, in activities that go beyond casting their ballot on voting days.

When Sondhi Limthongkul formed the People’s Alliance for Democracy six years ago, only a few thousand people in these classes joined him as the so-called yellow-shirt demonstrators….

This is far from factual. Business people have been funding PAD’s demonstrations since 2005 and have been involved in demonstrations previously – recall the 1992 “mobile phone mob.” The “white-collar working class” is an odd term and seems little more than an attempt to identify middle-class protesters who have come out time and again to oppose elections and pro-Thaksin governments. We have to say we are seriously confused by the claim about Sondhi and PAD. The Bangkok Post’s archives tell a different story.

Indeed, the … movement … is not without flaws.

As the uprising against the political amnesty law grew under Mr Suthep’s leadership, it morphed into a demonstration to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government and so-called “Thaksin regime” _ a term used to refer to the influence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on politics and more loosely to the tyranny of the majority.

It is revealing that the Post uses the term “tyranny of the majority” with no interrogation. The term is usually used to refer to a situation where decisions made by a majority mean its interests are so central that those of an individual or minority are ignored in a manner that constitutes oppression. The anti-democrats, however, use this terminology to refer to the Shinawatra clan and associates getting all that they want. They also use it to complain that legislation the Democrat Party doesn’t like gets passed in parliament.  In reality, the Yingluck government has repeatedly backed down on its electoral promises in order to reduce opposition. Recall what political scientists were saying 6-12 months ago: the Yingluck strategy has been, according to Duncan McCargo, to cool political tensions. Kevin Hewison made similar claims in a 2012 article at Political Insight. None of this sounds either tyrannical or despotic.

While its demand seems to resonate with many people _ hundreds of thousands rose up every time Mr Suthep called on them to march _ it is questionable whether the movement is for a “less flawed democracy” as many demonstrators have claimed, or simply “less democracy” as Mr Suthep’s proposal seems to suggest.

Political analyst Chris Baker is cited by the Post:

He said the movement’s rejection of the one-person, one-vote basic principle of political equality is clear.

“Some supporters have clearly said they think Bangkok people should have more weight in the elections than non-Bangkok people. This is important. We outside observers now know what this movement stands for…”.

Thammasat political scientist Kasian Tejapira is also quoted:

He said what is going on is not different from a putsch. It’s just being done with support from the masses instead of military tanks and weapons. “The muan maha prachachon is a capitalist movement that will lead to the tyranny of the minority…”.

Despite this clarity, the Post still it is fascinated by the anti-democratic movement. Part of the reason for this is explained by Democrat Party stalwart and former ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan:

He said the rural electorate was awakened and made aware of its political power and potency in an open political process over a decade ago.

Now, the other end of the political spectrum including people who were politically passive have become agitated by the ways things are going.

“Deep grievances are being articulated against a rampant and unprecedented level of corruption, abuse of power, cronyism in business, nepotism in the bureaucracy, intervention in the check-and-balance mechanisms, control of government media and intimidation of free and independent news agencies.

“[They are also upset about] pervasive and systematic violations of human and civil rights, impunity for law enforcement personnel, ruinous populist programmes and ill-conceived government projects. All of these lead to a profile of anger, frustration, bitterness, emotional pain and political divide on the streets of Bangkok,” Mr Surin said.

It is a bit difficult to know where to begin with Surin’s position. We do agree on the political awakening of a decade or so ago. However, as we have shown above, the claim that “the other end of the political spectrum including people who were politically passive” is false. It would only be true if there hadn’t been a 1992, a PAD or a coup. The POst adds to this:

There are those who attend rallies because they want “good people” to govern the country, university students who want to rid the country of conflicts of interest, and those critical of the government’s environmental policies.

A common theme of the protests is the crowd’s opposition to corruption.

“It’s the corruption, stupid!” former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala wrote on Facebook.

He was referring to former United States president Bill Clinton’s phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid!” which alerted American voters that the key issue during the 1992 US election was not the war against Iraq but the poor economy.

To be factual, the phrase was not Clinton’s but of one of his campaign strategists. That aside, it is fair to observe that none of these desires are absent from the majority who support pro-Thaksin parties. At the same time, each of these claims has been made since PAD came into existence and the double standards are breathtaking: Suthep has a long history of nepotism and cronyism, not to mention corruption claims; Sondhi Limthongkul has an equally long history of corrupt practices; the Democrat Party had to leave office in 1995 over corruption claims; and when Abhisit was in power, the claims of corruption were from red shirt opponents.

Political commentator Anek Laothamatas is also cited:

The Pheu Thai Party, which has focused on winning votes from the rural base and believed _ falsely _ that electoral victory would silence the minority middle class, must rethink their strategy to regain its support….

He’s right on that. The majority has been repeatedly told by the minority – the middle classes and elite – that electoral victories mean nothing. In democracies that take hold, these classes usually make compromises that allow the poorer majority a say in politics. It seems Thailand’s minority wants another path.





Anti-democratic violence

26 12 2013

Now that the bulk of the protesters have left the streets, the anti-democratic movement is in the hands of Suthep Thaugsuban, the People’s Alliance for Democracy leadership and extremist members of the Democrat Party. Their protesters are now the protest hardened toughs from the “rubber farmer” demonstrations in the south, which were particularly aggressive, the rabid ultra-nationalist/anti-Thaksin activists of groups like Siam Samakkhi and the Thai Patriot Network, Chamlong Srimuang’s professional protesters of the Dhamma Army, and the violence prone vocational students. Each of these groups is led by PAD operatives from the 2008 long occupations and associated street violence.

This is a dangerous and potentially explosive mixture of extremists.

The initial results of this in recent days has been the steadily increasing violence meant to prevent an election taking place. Today has seen a steady escalation of violence as Suthep has send his hardened activists to break into and occupy the election registration center at Din Daeng. They faced police, determined to keep them out. Violence erupted, with anti-democratic thugs attacking police with various weapons. The police replied with tear gas and rubber bullets.Machete

Amongst tear gas, shots were fired, killing one policeman and wounding several others, including a journalist. It seems medics were frightened by the violence and threats from protesters as they tried to save the policeman’s life. Others were apparently beaten by protesting toughs (see photo left).Taxi driver It was reported that “several other policemen were also wounded by gunfire from unidentified individuals…”. Protesters mainly suffered the effects of tear gas, as did the police.

It remains to be seen what lethal weaponry was used by the protesters, although one tweet with a picture claims that the shooter was apprehended by police (see photo right).Shooter

The situation was so dangerous that Thai Journalists’ Association, referring to “several reporters” being injured, stated that “the executives of all media should order their reporters to pull out from the risk area immediately…”. That makes sense, although if journalists are unable to report, expect the anti-democratic movement to concoct its own story of the events where the police will be painted as aggressors.

Election Commission staff had to be flown out of the stadium by helicopter, with some reports of shots being fired at the helicopters.

Meanwhile, one of the Democrat Party’s hired American supporters, with considerable combat experience, has claimed that he is with the “fighters” who were attacking the police.

YonOut of all of this, the useless dolts at the National Human Rights Commission managed to conjure a biased and pathetic statement:

… expressing its worry over the police operation against the protesters who were attempting to storm the Thai-Japan Stadium. It specifically criticised the police for using tear gas and rubber bullets, claiming that such measure is unacceptable in universal crowd control methods. The statement also urged the police to rely on peaceful dialogue as means to defuse the tension. The statement made no mention of any violence committed by the protesters.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission continues its flip-flops. At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the EC has again decided that an election is a bad idea. Not that long ago, we asked: How is it that the Election Commission can continue to ask for the election to be delayed? Their bleating seems designed to encourage Suthep’s anti-democrats to acts of sabotage against the election….  Their call seems unlawful. But that never seems to bother this lot.

Despite repeated flip-flopping and acknowledging that the election must be held according to the constitution, the EC has again “asked the government to postpone the general election scheduled for Feb 2…”. This time, the EC has stated a determination to postpone the election due to the anti-democracy movement’s protests, and has issued a threat:

“The EC would like to send a message through this statement to the government, to all sides in conflict, and people in all sectors, that the Feb 2, 2014 election will not happen without a joint agreement reached by all concerned.

“Therefore, the EC would like to ask the government to postpone the election until such an agreement has been reached. The EC is ready to act as a mediator to find a joint settlement,” the statement said.

If no action was taken to resolve and improve the situation, the EC would consider exercising the rights of individual commissioners to make a decision to resolve the situation as deemed appropriate, the statement said.

In fact, the political violence of the anti-democracy movement is one element of the creeping coup, with an equally important part being played by politicized agencies and courts, with the EC and other agencies lining up cases that can easily be used to end the government’s tenure, halt an election and declare anti-democrats the winners in this particular crisis.





Notes from the news I

28 11 2013

Things are moving quickly at present, so we can only provide some notes and links for readers to follow.

Note 1: We wanted to get to this one much earlier, but events took over. At the Bangkok Post a few days ago, op-ed scribbler and yellow-shirted booster Veera Prateepchaikul makes himself “the people.” He says “they” – he means himself – are crying out for regime change. His cry is a full-throated shout of support for Suthep Thaugsuban’s actions, legal or not. It is a cry to stop pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties winning elections by fixing elections. Veera and his ilk cannot believe that the majority of the population reject their elite politics. The result is a call to change the system so that his lot can be in power.No vote

He doesn’t know what the protst leaders want – who does – but he’s salivating for a return to elite control: “Even the protest leaders themselves have no idea of the full extent of the reform they wish. That, perhaps, is to be worked out later by academics.” For him, elite domination is a “noble objective.”

Of course, Veera recognizes that he and the protest leaders are not on about democracy, so his posterior cover is to tell foreigners that they can’t really understand the Thai situation: “Many may ask why can’t the anti-government protesters accept or recognise a democratically-elected government. If they have spent enough time in this country and tried to understand Thai politics, they will find that Thai democracy has a different meaning to that in Western countries.”

“Thai-style democracy” is not democracy at all, because, well, of Thaksin. That’s it. But we wonder what he says to Thais who don’t recognize anything democratic in the claims and actions of the protesters and their leaders? Grin and bear it?

Veera hates Thaksin, red shirts and voters. They are the reasons for demanding change – well, not change, but a return to elite rule.

Veera also managed to come up with an op-ed to justify breaking the law. Funny that, we seem to recall he was a rule of law junkie when the red shirts were demonstrating.

For the really looney stuff, look at this op-ed in the Bangkok Post that manages to make democracy the problem. Damn Thaksin and his lot! The buffaloes keep voting for his parties! Ipso facto, elections are a problem too.

GimmeeNote 2: The Democrat Party has surprised no one an announced support for their man Suthep. The Nation reports that Democrat Party leader and forever hopeful prime minister – just because he was born to it – Abhisit Vejjajiva found it necessary to confirm that “his party is determined to overthrow the ‘Thaksin regime’, saying the government had lost legitimacy.”

We guess he has plenty of experience with lost legitimacy, having never won an election, having been hoisted to power by the miltiary and having ordered crackdowns on protesters that caused thousands of deaths and injuries. This time Abhisit affirms that his craving for power means that all his MPs may quit parliament “in order to conduct the campaign.” He stated: “If it leads us to win the battle, we won’t hesitate [to do it] with unity…”. He claims that “unconstitutional means” won’t be used. He may as well just shout that parliament is dead and I want to be PM again, gimme, gimme, gimme!

Yingluck ShinawatraNote 3: Meanwhile, also at The Nation, Yingluck stated that “the establishment of a people’s council to reform the country could not be done under the current Constitution.” She urged protesters to leave occupied government buildings and enter into talks with the protest leaders to seek ways forward. That sounds quite reasonable, but will be rejected.

Note 4: Readers will no doubt remember the pained complaints of the Abhisit government and its supporters when red shirts were accused of being too pushy, demanding and scary in dealing with the Chulalongkorn hospital in May 2010. There seems – as yet – no such outrage when the Suthep lot turn off water and power at the police headquarters and the Police Hospital next door. The Bangkok Post reports that People’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism (Pefot) and the Dharma Army – these are essentially Chamlong’s Srimuang’s yellow shirts – potentially impacting 500 patients. Meanwhile, the hopelessly hopeless National Human Rights Commission managed to shake its biased and hopeless collective head, but suggested that the power cut was not the work of the nice royalist allies demonstrators.





Further updated: Occupations and Korn

27 11 2013

We suggest watching Saksith’s Twitter (https://twitter.com/Saksith) account for a blow-by-blow description of fast unfolding events in the anti-government protests including the seizure of government buildings and provincial halls.

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At the Bangkok Post, Suthep Thaugsuban has decided to go for broke and is painting himself as a martyr-in-waiting and hinted at violence to protect him:

Suthep insisted … he would not flee [and arrest warrant] as he said he respected the justice system but would not turn himself in to police until the so-called “Thaksin regime” is uprooted from the country….

He said if his supporters did not want him to be arrested, they should come to Bangkok to join the protests.

“These could be my last words to you. I don’t know what will become of me.”

… Suthep [again] urged all anti-government demonstrators across the country to take over the fight by laying siege to all government offices.

“I’m asking Bangkok people to do like I did at the Finance Ministry at all remaining ministries and for people in the provinces to do it at provincial halls and tell officials not to serve the Thaksin regime anymore,” he said.

“We have to do it simultaneously tomorrow [today], otherwise we will have no chance of victory.”

Provincial halls are now being seized in several places in the south where the Democrat Party is strong, and also at Saraburi.

In Bangkok, more government buildings are being seized. These attacks are being led by some southern stalwarts but also by PAD leaders such as Preecha Iamsuphan and Somkiat Pongpaibul, who have “moved to surround the Interior Ministry where the situation was the most tense. They demanded that all civil servants exit the building.” They cut off power to the complex.

Update 1: The old crew from PAD are getting this anti-government protest motivated. Along with the southerners arriving in fairly large numbers and the Dhamma Army providing the basis of the moveable demonstrations and some of the occupations, some of PAD’s celebrity supporters are being seen. Mad monarchist Tul Sitthisomwong has been with the crowds at Silom. Tul

The Bangkok Post has a reported that former Finance Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s school chum and current deputy leader of the Democrat Party Korn Chatikavanij has been at some of the rallies and is showing support for his former colleague and the Party’s big boss, Suthep. Korn has also commented on his Facebook page that he supports Suthep’s campaign to overthrow the “Thaksin regime.”

A Bangkok Post photo

A Bangkok Post photo

Apparently, like Suthep, Korn craves a  “people’s government” which would consist of a “dream team” of administrators. This team would “temporarily take the helm of the country’s administration…”. It all sounds very last century, harking back to the military junta’s appointment of royalist Anand Panyarachun in 1991. One of the complaints from the yellow lot in 2006 was that the then junta appointed a bunch of has-beens to a “dream team” that was unable to root out the “Thaksin regime.”

Korn reveals that:

“Khun Abhisit (Vejjajiva) and all of us also would not take any positions (in the people’s government). I, for one, would like to make it clear I will also not take any position. I would take an administrative post only after being elected,” Mr Korn wrote on his Facebook.

 But, as in 2006, the Democrat Party then expects to take over from the “dream team” and run the country without having to worry about free and fair elections.

There’s just one small problem: “Korn said he did not quite understand what the ‘people’s government’ would really be like.” Really? No one seems to know! Perhaps they can just make it up after the chaos.

Update 2: The newly-established media division of the street protesters now calling themselves the Civil Movement for Democracy, has released its third statement (see the earlier two here). The third statement repeats six points that Korn posted at Facebook (and which we skipped above) suggesting that Korn and his team are working directly with the CMS. That said, there are some divergences in the preamble. It states:

CMD Statement Number: 3

Issued: 27 NOV 2013

Statement for Immediate Release

Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD)

Rejecting the divisive, color-coded politics of recent years, the Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) is a broad-based people’s movement committed to rooting out Thaksin’s regime and to building an inclusive Thai society based upon sustainable democratic principles.

The Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) is committed to establishing a People’s Assembly which would work in tandem with the current legislative structure, the Assembly would move to address structural flaws which are impeding the development of our country. The CMD considers institutional corruption as the main threat to the country and will implement structural changes to address this, such as:

1. Creation of an election system whereby vote buying would be more difficult – such as making electoral constituencies bigger.

2. Effectively counter corruption within the country – such as doing away with statutes of limitation for corruption charges.

3. Providing the public with more governing authority – such as giving the public more tangible powers to impeach flawed politicians and through increased decentralization by changing the gubernatorial system so that governors are directly elected rather than appointed by the Inter Minister (currently only the Governor of Bangkok is directly elected).

4. Reforming the police force – such as making the police more representative of the public’s needs by having the police in each province come under the jurisdiction of an elected Governors.

5. Reforming the bureaucracy so that it responds to the needs of the public rather the interests of politicians – such as making it more difficult for politicians to arbitrarily transfer bureaucrats (with measures such as those that currently ensure the impartiality of the Governor of the Bank of Thailand.)

6. Foster a free market economy that would prevent monopolies, collusion and market distorting policies such as the Rice mortgage scheme. Create a National Agenda to address issues such as Education, Health Care and Infrastructure deficiencies.

 The most interesting part of this statement is the claim that the now capitalized People’s Assembly will work with the existing parliament – the one Suthep has rejected. That seems to run counter to the earlier claim by Korn that a “dream team.” But then, if the “Thaksin regime” is toppled and the 300+ parliamentarians sent packing for voting on the amnesty bill, then there’s be on members of the Democrat Party left in parliament. Confused? So are we.

Much of the rest of the statement is stuff that’s been around on all sides of politics for some time – electing governors. cleaning up the cops, reforming the bureaucracy, decentralization – and you’d guess that the Democrat Party, when in government in the past, would have addressed these items. They didn’t so we are left wondering why they’d so it now.

Reforming the electoral system we take to mean another attempt by the Democrat Party and its backers to ensure that the party can get elected. In fact, prior to the last election in 2011, the Democrat Party tried some of this, but they were still beaten in a landslide. So “electoral reform” can only mean wholesale changes that are unrepresentative and anti-democratic; essentially, fixing the system.

The final shibboleth on the free market means little. In fact it might scare some supporters for the backers of the PAD and the Democrat Party favor oligopolies and sweetheart business deals for making their billions.

It seems they are a confused and confusing lot. We do know they hate Thaksin and love the king.

 





Updated: Running to the king

12 11 2013

It had to happen. The Bangkok Post reports that the yellow-shirted Anti-Thaksin Coalition has “submitted a petition to the palace asking His Majesty the King to allow a ‘people’s council’ to run the country’s administration in the place of the present government.”

PPT mentioned this people’s council tactic two days ago, pointing out that this is something like an assembly appointed by notables selected or ratified by the king, or maybe the military following a coup, that would act without election or through some fake process of acclamation. In other words, representative democratic forms of government will be jettisoned. The justification will be much like that of the coup masters in 2006: we will press the reset button and get a “real” democratic system in place….old-farts-and-jackasses

Of course, their “democracy” comes without electoral representation.

The anti-democratic activists are the usual cast of old farts and mad royalists: retired Admiral and former assistant to Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, Chai Suwannaphap;  The ultra-nationalist and PAD supporter and former General, Preecha Iamsuphan, who has been urging illegal actions against Cambodia; the ever-grinning political manipulator, Dhamma Army boss, PAD leader and former Major-General, Chamlong Srimuang, who led the airport occupations in 2008; PAD’s Somkiat Pongpaibul, who was once a Democrat Party MP, who was always pushing the party to be more activist and bright yellow; and PAD’s Samdin Lertbutr.

This tactic of running to the king is highly reminiscent of the call to use Article 7 in 2005, asking the king to dump the elected government. The call for a “national government” or a “people’s council” suggests that this lot thinks the palace is likely to be supportive of its actions.

Update: Naturally, when running to the king for support, the yellow shirts also expect the judiciary to do their part. While we missed this report at Khaosod, a regular reader picked it up:

11.00: The court has allowed Mr. Chaiwat Sinthuwong, a leader of the Yellowshirts, to join the anti-government rally and give speeches on the stage, as long as the speeches do not “encourage chaos in the nation”.  Mr. Chaiwat is facing a legal action for his role in leading the occupation of Survanabhumi Airport in 2008 as an attempt to oust the Thaksin-allied government at the time. The court has previously allowed him a bail release on the ground that he must not join any political activity.  Mr. Chaiwat said he would later give speeches at the rally in Ratchadamnoen Avenue today.

Recall that in the judiciary of double standards, red shirt leaders have been sent to jail for political activism.

The same report notes that the Army is also being drawn in:

15.00: A representative of Student and People Network For Political Reform of Thailand has submitted a letter to Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, calling on the army to investigate a rumour that the government has secretly brought in foreign armed militants to sow chaos against the anti-government protesters.

Such reports and claims open the way for any violence to be attributed to the government.

The patterns here are just all too clear and remarkably depressing Thailand’s anti-democratic Groundhog Day.