Royal propaganda and lese majeste

20 06 2015

The propaganda associated with promoting the monarchy and royalist ideology is intimately related to the lese majeste law. This may seem obvious to many, for one of the points of lese majeste is to prevent any questioning of the propaganda. At the same time, those who wield this blunt instrument attempt to separate the monarchy from the law, as in the specious reference to the king’s speech on lese majeste that was, in fact, an attack on Thaksin Shinawatra.

Three recent reports at Khaosod illustrate this important intertwining of propaganda and lese majeste.

The first may seem relatively innocuous in the pattern of royalist propaganda and repression. It is a story about Prince Vajiralongkorn and a cycle ride to “honor” his aged and infirm mother, Queen Sirikit.

Titled “Bike for Mom 2015,” the event is said to have been “conceived” by the prince for his mother. If she gets there, she will be 83 on 12 August. It is announced that the prince “will lead [the] mass bicycling event.

This is surely propaganda, for the event was announced by the military dictatorship. More than this, the cycling event is from the so-called “Royal Plaza to the 11th Infantry Division headquarters in northern Bangkok on 16 August.” That military base has been politically significant in recent years as a center of the Army’s planned attacks on red shirts.

It is also a part of well-established palace propaganda that has designated Thailand’s Mother’s Day to be the queen’s birthday, as Father’s Day is the king’s birthday. These designations are attempts to establish a paternalistic hierarchy that is critical to royalist domination.

The military dictatorship builds on this, basing its propaganda and rule on hierarchy, paternalism and royalism. Its announcement brings all this together, claiming that this event will “reinforce unity” and states it is an “open opportunity for all groups of people across the country to join the event to express their loyalty to the monarchy, express their love for their mothers and the Mother of the Land…”. the statement says, using a common epithet to refer to Queen Sirikit.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced the prince’s involvement, saying that the prince “has … ordered officials to take care of the participants’ safety. The important thing [for him] is that the people are happy.” We are not sure which laws give the prince the power to give orders to officials. Prayuth also reveals that the military dictatorship receives constant messages from the palace as a matter of course. In other places, such actions by a constitutional monarchy cause problems. But, then, Thailand’s constitutional monarchy has been transformed over many years into something that is highly politicized.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej

In a second report, Khaosod tells us that The Dictator considers “Thainess” and being “Thai” to be associated with uncritical support for the monarchy.

Prayuth was commenting on the constant efforts to extradite those accused of lese majeste who have fled the dictatorship and threatened incarceration in Thailand. Of course, if any returned, they would be convicted. Indeed, in recent days, as in the 30 or so lese majeste cases initiated through Prince Vajiralongkorn, all victims have been forced to plead guilty and their “trials” have been perfunctory.

Prayuth states that Ekaphop Luera, now living in New Zealand, is no longer ‘Thai.” He declared: “Since he fled this country to another, it shows that he is no longer a Thai person and he cannot stay in Thailand…”.

This links directly to the prince’s cycle event in the sense that Ekaphop is defined as being outside the norm of royalist Thailand that makes the monarchy central to any definition of “Thainess.” Hence, Prayuth considers it his “duty” to jail those who reject the royalist norms: “We are not neglecting this duty. We simply cannot neglect it. The Ministry of Justice is working on it, the Royal Thai Police are working on it [extradition]…”.

The third story at Khaosod links notions of duty and lese majeste to the enforcement of hierarchy and authoritarianism through lese majeste repression. Prayuth, is described as “a hardline royalist,” and the report reminds us that he has declared that “defending His Majesty’s authority” is a top priority for his military junta.

He has received a communication from a “group of ultra-royalists in northern Thailand” who have declared their gratitude to The Dictator for “defending” the monarchy through “his strict enforcement of the country’s lese majeste law.”

These royal fascists have a “local association called People Who Love the King, [and] submitted the group’s thank-you letter through Phrae province’s governor…”. They assert that they “are impressed by Gen. Prayuth’s ‘dedication’ to enforcing Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Codes, a law known as lese majeste that criminalizes insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent with up to 15 years in prison.”

The fascists believe that, “In the past, officials responsible for law enforcement have neglected their duties, and there were many serious insults and accusations against the monarchy, both in open and secretive ways…”. They believe that this led to more attacks on the monarchy because “there was no fear of committing the crime…”.

Such a claim makes a nonsense of the history of lese majeste, but the point is that these ultra-conservatives appreciate Prayuth’s efforts to roll back electoral politics and reinforce royalist hierarchies. They prefer the old order and many laud a military dictatorship as a faux absolute monarchy. Royal and palace propaganda and the extreme implementation of the feudal lese majeste law are essential for the maintenance of the social, economic and political rule of the royalist elite.





Mad about lese majeste

17 06 2015

“Mad” has several definitions. One source has this:

1. mentally disturbed; deranged; insane; demented.
2. enraged; greatly provoked or irritated; angry.
3. abnormally furious; ferocious: a mad bull.
4. affected with rabies; rabid: a mad dog.
5. extremely foolish or unwise; imprudent; irrational: a mad scheme to invade France.
5. wildly excited or confused; frantic: mad haste.
6. overcome by desire, eagerness, enthusiasm, etc.; excessively or uncontrollably fond; infatuated:…

Most of these meanings can be applied to Thailand’s military dictatorship when it comes to the feudal politics of lese majeste.

The most recent example of dozens is the ridiculous effort by the Office of the Attorney General of Thailand that has indicted Ekaphop Luera (Tang Acheewa) under Article 112.

Given that Ekaphop has already sought protection from the UNHCR and the Cambodian government before gaining asylum in New Zealand, and that the military dictatorship has unsuccessfully sought his extradition from Cambodia and pressured the New Zealand government, an attempt to extradite him from New Zealand may be considered mad.

The prosecutor’s office has announced that New Zealand has been requested “to extradite the lèse majesté suspect back to Thailand.” The line from the dictators seems to be that foreign countries should recognize Thailand’s laws, even if they violate international human rights norms.





Updated: True colors

24 01 2015

The military dictatorship has aggressively suppressed every demonstration and even individual protests that it considers oppositional, anti-coup or anti-“reconciliation.” It has called in hundreds of “opponents” and jailed some. Early on in its dictatorship, the junta sometimes requested that its supporters not demonstrate.

No more it seems.

Khaosod reports that pro-monarchy demonstrations are just fine under the junta. Yesterday, “[d]ozens of Thai royalists defied the junta’s ban on protests to stage a rally in front of the New Zealand Embassy … demanding NZ authorities extradite an alleged anti-monarchist [Ekaphop Luera] back to Thailand.”

Defied? Probably not. The report states that “[o]ver 70 security officers … quietly observed the protests until the protesters … dispersed on their own.” No arrests. Perhaps a leader will be called in and thanked quietly told not to create too much of a fuss.

The protesters “were led by Maj.Gen. Rienthong Naenna, a retired military commander, director of a hospital, and founder of a Facebook page called ‘Garbage Collection Organization,’ which advocates tougher measures for those who criticize the Thai monarchy.” He was joined by  “Satit Segal, an India-born businessman and core leader of the ultra-conservative protest group that campaigned” for the overthrow of the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

The protest leaders promised to escalate their protests if the New Zealand government did not return Ekaphop.

As we understand it, returning a political refugee would be an affront to international obligations and could be easily challenged under New Zealand law. So the royalist flunkies might be pissing in the wind as far as New Zealand is concerned, but they are more concerned with domestic performance.

Update: On the “illegality” of demonstrating, General Prayuth Chan-ocha recently ranted against Yingluck Shinawatra supporters and warned: “If someone [Yingluck] does something wrong, will you feel pity for that person?… Even if you [do] feel pity, you can’t [protest] anyway, because it’s against the law.” Double standards? You bet.





Lese majeste and foreign policy

20 01 2015

Military dictators are generally not the brightest bulbs in the box. This is as true of Thailand as elsewhere. Its military leaders are groping about on policies when only a few items turn on their lights. Unfortunately, these are all ideological nonsense that includes crude ultra-nationalism driven by lese majeste and reactionary repression against all who are seen as anti-coup and anti-military. Both are met with blunt and usually ill-considered responses.

When foreign policy is in the hands of military men, they tend to be pretty hopeless and seldom have any of the diplomat’s skills. When lese majeste and diplomacy meet the mind of a dull military man, there’s not much opportunity for careful consideration.

As we have posted previously, angry royalists and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, directed to action by The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, have been in a frenzy over the UNHCR’s efforts to have the New Zealand government grant political asylum to Ekaphop Luera. Ekaphop has been charged under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste laws that have been ferociously implemented by the royalist military regime. New Zealand responses to lese majeste madness have been careful and considered.

According to a report at Khaosod, Prayuth has actually says something that makes a little bit of sense. Don’t turn off at this faint praise for The Dictator, however.

Prayuth must be feeling the domestic royalist heat for he told reporters that he can’t do much more: “They claim it’s an assistance based on humanitarian aspect, so what can I do?” He makes sense when he explains to the looney royalists attacking the UNHCR and withdrawing donations was a mistake, mixing up lese majeste and the agency’s international work.

He is back in the mode of pleasing domestic royalists when he claims to have “sent a letter of protest to the United Nations’ refugee agency for reportedly helping a lese majeste suspect flee Thailand.” Prayuth added that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent letters of protest” to some “7-8 countries” that the regime thinks are”harboring Thai lese majeste suspects.” Prayuth reveals that “none of those foreign governments have responded to the letters.”

His comment that follows is also not completely bonkers: “They haven’t given us any answer, so we can’t do anything about it…”. Where he does show his lack of knowledge and narrow military perspective is when he states that Thailand can’t do anything “because we are not strong enough to fight the entire world…. We should wait until we are the superpower first before we think of doing anything like that.”

That’s a reasonable statement. But it is in the context of Thailand’s ridiculous and feudal lese majeste laws that criminalize free speech and thought and which makes criminal rather normal political speech. It is also in the context of the most outrageous use of the law since it came into existence more than a century ago. Prayuth has responsibility for that.

 





Updated: What royalists want

14 01 2015

Royalists are a demanding lot. They want loyalty. They want order. They want ideological correctness. They want all their opponents and those who do not fit their fundamentalist position locked up or silenced. Because of this desire to silence, repress and oppress, they relish the use of Article 112 or the lese majeste law as it is quite effective in generating self-censorship and is effective in jailing those who bravely speak out.

This is why we see royalists, and especially those who serve the military dictatorship, going after those considered disloyal, even when they have a history of mental illness. Because they paranoiac themselves, perhaps they do not notice psychiatric problems in others. Or perhaps they are just very nasty and very vindictive and consider that making a lesson out of every “violator” is important in maintaining their fundamental maxims of loyalty, order and ideological correctness.

This is why they create hatred against those they see as enemies. That hatred can result in jailing, torture, bashing and other attacks by thugs, online harassment and more. The most recent example involves the incitement of supporters to attack the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. In recent days, the ‘UNHCR Thailand’ Facebook page has closed following online attacks and threats by royalists unhappy that lese majeste victim Ekaphop Luera was granted political refuge in New Zealand.

Prachatai states that “[h]undred[s] of hate comments from the Thai royalists were … showered the page[s]” of royalist vigilantes. For example, the ultra-royalist V for Thailand Facebook page says: “The next measure is to pressure the UNHCR to get out of Thailand.”  People’s Alliance for Democracy fascist Suriyasai Katasila as supporting the attacks on the UNHCR.

In the end, royalists want a return to feudalism or at least a return to mid-20th century military authoritarianism that suppresses all opponents of the existing order.

Update: And, yes, they also want to be rewarded for their royalist fundamentalism. Khaosod reports that that amember of the Thai junta’s [puppet] reform body has suggested that all of his colleagues receive royal decorations as a reward for the ‘sacrifices’ they are making for the country.” PPT choked on our mid-afternoon khao nieow mamuang at the local food court.

 





A New Zealand response on lese majeste

12 01 2015

In the past couple of weeks, ultra-royalists have become agitated – some quite hysterical – by the fact that the New Zealand government provided Ekaphop Luera with political asylum.

Ekaphop had been first sought on lese majeste accusations just prior to the 2014 military coup. After being sought for the military dictatorship, he fled to Cambodia and then, with UNHCR help, he was resettled to New Zealand.

The hysterical royalists are in a state of high angst because of the New Zealand government’s noble actions. They have demanded that something be done. They seem to want him back in Thailand so that they can torture and jail him for daring to speak out on the corrupt monarchy.

Interestingly, the conservative The New Zealand Herald has an editorial on the case. It begins with a silly concession to the mad monarchists in Thailand by referring to his “youthful indiscretion” in “[p]osing with a New Zealand passport on his Facebook page…”. PPT would have thought that his action showed his joy at being accepted by a liberal country.

Yet the Herald is right to observe that this action “should have no relevance in any decision on his future in this country. That should be judged purely and simply on the validity of his refugee status. The bare bones suggest his case is a compelling one.”

We reproduce the rest of the sensible editorial:

Mr Ekaphop was granted that status by the United Nations refugee agency last year and fled here via Cambodia. He said that he was escaping persecution in Thailand, where he is wanted under lese majeste charges. These forbid the threatening or insulting of Thailand’s royal family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years’ jail. Mr Ekaphop is said to have made the comments in 2013 when, as an affiliate of the Red Shirts political protest group, he spoke in support of the government of the day. He left Thailand when a military junta overthrew that administration, and was resettled under New Zealand’s quota refugee system.

Criticism of any royal family is, of course, part and parcel of the freedom of expression in this country. Forbidding it seems like something out of the Middle Ages. Indeed, to suggest that royalty should be immune from critical remarks would be to trample on a principle that is fundamental to any fully fledged democracy. Yet Thailand’s military junta has increased the prosecution of lese majeste subjects. Doubtless, it would claim this is a response to most Thais’ ongoing reverence for the royal family. In large part, however, it points to the debt that flowed from royal endorsement.

Mr Ekaphop is, in fact, a victim of the ongoing friction of a sharply divided nation. This will not end until democracy takes root. At the moment, that is far from the case. The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which Mr Ekaphop and the Red Shirts supported, was democratically elected. It drew its support mostly from poor and rural voters, who had benefited from her Pheu Thai Party’s policies, including improved healthcare and education and cheap loans.

But her government, like others elected by popular vote before it, was never accepted by Thailand’s traditional elite and the metropolitan middle classes. Their aim has been to create so much instability that the army saw no option but to intervene, not least in the interests of the country’s tourism industry. A measure of their success has been the dozen or so coups mounted by the military since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. The most recent intervention, in May last year, followed the wrecking of planned parliamentary elections.

Thailand says that Mr Ekaphop is “exploiting his status granted by the New Zealand Government to conduct political activities which have reverse impact on Thailand’s security”. This, it says, is an obstacle to the good relationship between the two countries. New Zealand should buy none of this. It should be pressing for a democratically elected government in Thailand. As is Mr Ekaphop.





Hysterical royalist nonsense

10 01 2015

All of our readers will already know that the lese majeste law is very special in Thailand. So special that the usual rules of evidence and even constitutional provisions are simply ignored when cases are brought. So special that it defines contemporary Thailand as a society that remains dominated by feudal institutions and ideas that leave horrendous scars on the body politic.

Yet ultra-royalists are not content with this special status that makes illegal what should be legal and a special status that makes a mockery of any claim that Thailand has rule of law.

An astounding report at Khaosod explains that some of Thailand’s ridiculous royalists “have called for boycotting a UN agency [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UNHCR] that reportedly helped a lese majeste suspect [Ekaphop Luera] escape the country.” Of course, this is a nonsensical report for Ekaphop had already left the land of mad monarchists before he was assisted by the UNHCR to gain acceptance by the New Zealand government.

But nonsense is the stock in trade of balmy royalists who want to remake Thailand a nineteenth century absolute monarchy. Fundamentalism is not the preserve of religious zealots for thailand’s royalists are equally irrational.

Royalist social media, “aided by a translation to Thai that appeared on the right-wing Thai newspaper Naew Na” has lit up demanding a “boycott” of the UNHCR for helping the “anti-monarchy” escape the non-justice of Thailand under the military dictatorship. As far as PPT can tell, these royalists are deranged. Indeed, reading the report in the New Zealand Herald does not indicate anything about the UNHCR doing other than its normal job.

Khaosod claims the rancid royalist campaign” appears to be coordinated by several Facebook pages…”. The tenor of the make-believe world of royalists is explained:

“The UNHCR has received so much help from His Majesty. They were allowed to work fully on Thai soil, which led to their Nobel Peace Prize in 1982,” a blogger on OK Nation wrote. “But in 2014, the UNHCR betrays His Majesty and grants a refugee status to a suspect who violated Section 112.”

This is nothing short of ludicrous. These people are so deranged by their royalist fundamentalism that the bloody events of 6 October 1976 become easier to understand as part of a hysterical fundamentalism that is pathological.