Neo-traditionalism and fascists

18 03 2021

Prachatai has a couple of stories that are about a theme – political repression. In our view, they also appoint to the entrenchment of neo-traditionalist, royalist, fascism.

The first report is about complaints made by the so-called People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy to Anek Laothamatas, who seems to spend some time as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. They demanded that the former communist now mad royalist and failed politician investigate the lecturers who have used their positions to stand bail for arrested protesters. The fascist Network “claims that their bail requests for Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, students at Thammasat and Mahidol universities, constitute behaviour that infringes upon the monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai
The Network submitting a petition to the MHESI representatives, Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang and Jak Punchoopet (Source: Facebook/ Center for People Protecting the Monarchy).

Immediately, the ministry sprang into action: “Jak Punchoopet, Advisor to the Minister … said … the Ministry is preparing to summon deans and chancellors of the universities of 8 lecturers who offered bail to 3 student activists detained while awaiting trial for royal defamation and other charges.” Jak previously participated in People’s Democratic Reform Committee efforts to foment a coup against an elected government.

The Network claimed it is “unethical for teachers as they are protecting students who have clearly and publicly defamed and infringed upon the King, Queen and the Chakri dynasty, which the Network has denounced.”

Jak quoted Minister Anek as stating that “academic freedom must not infringe on the … monarchy.”

There’s not much academic freedom in Thailand anyway, with the 2020 Academic Freedom Index grading Thailand as an E, “the lowest grade, with a score of 0.13 out of a maximum of 1.  Other countries with and E grade include China, North Korea, Cuba, Lao, Iran, Rwanda, and South Sudan.”

Preventing academics standing bail would be a major change to previous and longstanding practice.

Of course, neither the fascists of the Network nor the dolts at the Ministry ever pause to think that none of these political prisoners have yet been found guilty. In any case, none were allowed bail.

An equally concerning report is about constant harassment of independent media:

The Isaan Record, an online media organization based in Khon Kaen Province, is under surveillance by police officers. This is not the first time, and it occurs after they report on monarchy reform and anti-dictatorship activities which other media find distasteful.

The effort to silence The Isaan Record is clear and follows a pattern:

On 10 March, Hathairat Phaholtap, the Isaan Record editor, told Prachatai English that police officers came to their office 4 times in one day. She was informed by vendors close to the office that police had asked them about the agency. The police did not approach staff directly.

This took place after the agency reported on an activity organized on 8 March by Femliberate, a feminist activist group, who shrouded the statue of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with women’s sarongs with a banner reading “Justice died 8 March 2021,” a symbolic action against the oppression of women and the court decision to keep in detention Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok, 3 leading pro-democracy activists.

Police intimidation sometimes leads to arrests but can also lead to attacks by royalist thugs – more often than not these are police and military men in plainclothes. Such attacks are never investigated.

Unsurprisingly, these royalist, fascist interventions are coordinated. Prachatai reports:

… Manager Online for the northeast region reported news with the headline “Don’t stand for it! Khon Kaen people love the institution [of the monarchy]. Attack KKU [Khon Kaen University], ask its position on whether they want the monarchy or not after allowing gangs who want to abolish the monarchy to hang out there,”.

The news item reports that a pro-monarchy group blames the Progressive Movement, from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, for being the mastermind behind the student movement in Khon Kaen in the past year. They also questioned Khon Kaen University for letting public figures who spoke about democracy and monarchy reform give lectures to the students.

You see the link between Manager Online and the People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy. When fascism takes hold, the country usually falls into a deep and dark abyss.





Clown royalists and the monarchist laundry

11 03 2021

The Bangkok Post had a report that, if it wasn’t from royalist, neo-absolutist Thailand, would seem odd, even crazy. It is about a nutty minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, “taking legal action and seeking damages of 50 million baht from writer Nattapol Chai­ching and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky) for alleged slander.”

Minor princess Priyanandana, is “a granddaughter of the Prince of Chai Nat” and in the name of her princely grandfather, has lodged “a complaint with the Civil Court against Mr Nattapol, his two PhD thesis advisers and two executives of the Fah Diew Kan publishing house for disseminating false information.”

All of this stems from the work of royalist/yellow-shirted academic Chaiyan Chaiyaporn at Chulalongkorn University, who spent his time combing through Nattapol’s thesis seeking any error he could identify. He accused Nattapol of “false references,” in the thesis one of which was to a:

Bangkok Post article published on Dec 18, 1950, which said the Regent [Prince of Chai Nat] had been expanding his political role by frequently attending cabinet meetings led by prime minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram. This move was said to have made Field Marshal Plaek unhappy and that he responded by demanding that he be allowed to sit in meetings of the Privy Council if the Regent continued to interfere with the administrative and legislative branches.

The Post later denied it had reported such information, “and said the article merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced concern over 50 senators being appointed by the Privy Council without the government being consulted.” Nattapol has admitted that error in referencing. As far as we know, the Post has not reprinted the article online and we have been unable to find an archive.

In any case, the claim that Phibul had problems with Rangsit and, at the time, actively worked against the royalists and their political machinations is hardly news. But what’s going on here is a royalist laundering of critical scholarship that tells the real story of the royal insurgency against the remnants of the People’s Party.

We were struck by the parallels with current writing on the British monarchy. This one seemed relevant:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish [Thais], it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.





Silence on monarchy

4 02 2021

We have been trying to get to this post for a week or so. In the meantime, as we have collected news stories, it has grown and grown.

Among the demands of the democracy movement were constitutional reform and monarchy reform. When they come together, it is in parliament, where constitutional reform, law reform and lese majeste reform is meant to be considered.

On monarchy reform and especially reform of Article 112, the usual royalist rancor and “opposition” spinelessness has been on display. Khaosod reported a while ago that “[o]nly one opposition party is planning to raise the issue of the excessive use of the royal defamation offense when the Parliament reconvenes for a censure debate…”.

That is Move Forward, and a couple of their MPs have expressed reservations and fears. Move Forward plans to criticize the use of the draconian law to intimidate political dissidents. The party plans to “push for reforms of libel laws, including lese majeste…”.

Spineless politicians

Other opposition parties panicked, and even walked back on their censure debate which mentioned the political use of the monarchy. Puea Thai stated that while the “formal motion of the no-confidence debate accused PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of ‘using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,’ … the party has no plan to raise the issue of the lese majeste during the censure debate or support the law’s amendment.” A spokesperson added “We didn’t include monarchy reforms in the motion either. We only wrote it broadly, that PM Prayut damages the confidence in democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”

That sounds remarkably like backpedaling with a political spine gone to jelly. Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk observed: “… Pheu Thai still lacks moral courage. It will only worsen and prolong the problem of political divisions.”

Acknowledging the status quo of decades, it was observed that “discussions about the monarchy during a parliamentary session are generally discouraged,” adding: “There are restrictions … we cannot mention His Majesty the King unnecessarily…”.

Khaosod reports that there’s a parliamentary regulation that “bans … ‘referencing … the King or any other person without due cause’.”

The Seri Ruam Thai Party also ran from the lese majeste law and monarchy reform. Thai PBS reported opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng as saying they are “fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the [m]onarchy, but he insisted that the opposition will refer to the [m]onarchy during the debate while trying to be very discreet and referring to the institution only if necessary.”

The part of the motion causing all the royalist angst states that Gen Prayuth has not been “…upholding nor having faith in a democratic system with the King as the head of state; undermining and opposing democratic governance; destroying the good relationship between the monarchy and the people; using the monarchy as an excuse to divide the people and using the monarchy as a shield to deflect its failures in national administration.”

Of course, the regime’s supporting parties are opposing any discussion of the monarchy and lese majeste. These parties announced they will “protest if the opposition makes any reference to the [m]onarchy during the censure debate…”. Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth said “he would feel uncomfortable with any reference to the Monarchy in the opposition’s censure motion which, in essence, says that the prime minister referred to the Monarchy to deflect accusations of gross mismanagement and failures in national administration.”

In the military’s Palang Pracharath Party royalist fascist Paiboon Nititawan emphasized that the pro-military/royalist parties will invoke parliamentary rules to silence any MP discussing the monarchy. He was especially keen to silence critics of the lese majeste law. He declared: “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.” On the broader issue of constitutional reform, the Bangkok Post reports that Paiboon demands that “any provision related to the royal prerogative should not be changed at all, regardless of which chapters they were in.” No change to anything related to the monarchy. We recall that the last changes made to the king’s prerogatives were made on the king’s demand and considered in parliament in secret.

Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said MPs had to toe the royalist line: “Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” He said his party will oppose amendment of the lese majeste law. Why? “…[O]ur party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly…”.

The parliamentary royalists were cheered on by mad monarchist and royal favorite Warong Dechgitvigrom who declared “he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.”

Soon after this pressure – and plenty more behind the scenes – the opposition buckled. Thai PBS reported that they “agreed to remove a reference to the monarchy, which the government may find provocative, from its censure motion to avoid protests from coalition MPs.” This came after a meeting  to resolve the conflict over the motion. The meeting was chaired by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Puea Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat was reported as pedaling backwards and was reported to have promised “that he will withdraw the motion and rewrite it.” He later denied that he had made this promise and the opposition pushed on with the motion.

Back at the debate about parliamentary (non)debate, Thai PBS had a story about royalist allegations that Sompong had broken his promise to delete the reference to the monarchy in the censure motion. Palang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjakha “threatened to file a lèse majesté charge with the police against opposition MPs who sign in support of a censure motion…”.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth “warned today that the opposition‘s refusal to delete the offending reference may lead to protests in parliament, to the extent that the debate may be disrupted and end prematurely.”

The last time the royalists disrupted parliament. A Bangkok Post photo showing a Democrat Party member grabbing a policeman’s throat.

Thai PBS took sides, declaring that “Thailand is bracing for unprecedented chaos [not really, see above] in Parliament later this month when the opposition shatters a deep-seated taboo by citing the monarchy in its censure motion against the prime minister.” It asserts: “Involving the monarchy in the no-confidence motion has sparked angry accusations from the government camp that this constitutes a grave insult to the revered institution.”

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that the regime “has formed a legal team to monitor the upcoming censure debate for inappropriate references to the monarchy…”. The person in charge of this is quisling former red shirt Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister to the PM’s Office whose own 112 case sems to have been forgotten. The regime’s legal team will “gather false allegations made during the debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and cabinet ministers and lodge complaints with police.”

The threats have come thick and fast. The regime is furious. Presumably the palace is too. What they want is to roll back politics to the golden era when the king was never discussed, by anyone, except the seditious.





More monarchy indoctrination needed

26 12 2020

While the military’s regime continues to use “law” to repress anti-monarchism, The Nation reports the ultraroyalist Thai Pakdee group is demanding more royalist  indoctrination.

One might puzzle as to how “more” is even possible in a land simply flooded by palace propaganda. But, for the ultras, floods can be ever deeper, drowning out anti-royalism.

The mad monarchists, led by the man with the golden ear, Warong Dechgitvigrom, have “submitted a letter to Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan on Wednesday, asking him to launch five measures to promote protection of national institutions.” Here, they mean nation, religion and monarchy.

The group’s leader, Warong Dechgitvigrom, said the move aimed to prevent politicians and activist networks from using teachers and students as tools to encroach on the “three pillars” of nation, religion and the monarchy.

The proposals for the monarchy are based on their belief that unnamed “politicians” are behind the students, manipulating them. They usually mean Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his colleagues, but deep yellow social media also mumbles about Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai Pakdee wants to keep “politicians” and “activists” off campus, school staff to “support” the “institutions,” while not supporting the same “politicians” and “activists,” and for schools and their administrators to be held responsible for “any activities held under their jurisdiction that encroach on national institutions.”

You get the picture. This is royalist fascism, allowing royalists to determine who is not sufficiently royalist and repressing them. School administrators are threatened. To add to the general impression of enveloping, suffocating royalist fascism, the mad monarchists demand that the Education Ministry “improve the curriculum to promote pride in being Thai” and increase indoctrination of staff.

Book burning is probably the next step.

As might be expected, the Minister for Education gave the royalists his support.





Further updated: Lese majeste complaints begin to flow

23 11 2020

In sync with The Dictator’s announcement that lese majeste was back, two reports of complaints and/or charges being filed against protest leaders.

The Nation reports that Protest leader Parit Chiwarak or Penguin stated on Sunday that “police had contacted him to hear a charge of lese majeste against him. However, he was not sure the charge related to which demonstration. The protest leader assured people that he would not flee Thailand to escape the severe charge.”

The Bangkok Post reports that Nitipong Hornak, reportedly a “songwriter, founder and major shareholder of Grammy Entertainment,” has “filed a lese majeste complaint against Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul, a co-leader of the People’s Movement.” He is reported to have “filed the complaint with the police Technology Crime Suppression Division on Friday afternoon…”. The incident the complaint focuses on is not known.

We may be missing something, but the Stock Exchange of Thailand does not list Nitipong as a major shareholder of Grammy/GMM and nor is he listed at Wikipedia as a founder of the company.

Update 1: Matichon reports that lese majeste charges are now out for 12 protest leaders, including Rung and Penguin (mentioned above):

1. นายพริษฐ์ ชิวารักษ์ หรือเพนกวิน (Penguin)

2. น.ส.ปนัสยา สิทธิจิรวัฒนกุล หรือรุ้ง (Rung)

3. นายภาณุพงค์ จาดนอก หรือไมค์ (Rayong Mike)

4. นายอานนท์ นำภา (Arnon)

5. น.ส.ภัสราวลี ธนกิจวิบูลย์ผล หรือมายด์

6. นายชนินทร์ วงษ์ศรี

7. น.ส.จุฑาทิพย์ ศิริขันธ์

8. นายปิยรัฐ จงเทพ

9. นายทัตเทพ เรืองประไพกิจเสรี

10. นายอรรถพล บัวพัฒน์

11. นายชูเกียรติ แสงวงศ์

12. นายสมบัติ ทองย้อย

Update 2: Several English-language outlets now report the 12 lese majeste cases: Bangkok Post, The Nation, Thai PBS.

Interestingly, “Protest leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul has been named as one of the world’s 100 most inspirational and influential women of 2020 by the BBC.”

Meanwhile, Thai Enquirer argues that using lese majeste is merely inviting rightists to expand their fascist royalism.





Compromise/threat

2 11 2020

The biggest news of the past 24 hours has been the video of an unsteady and sickly looking King Vajiralongkorn talking of “compromise.” CNN reports that when asked “about what he would say to the protesters who have been on the streets calling for reform,” he first said “no comment,” before going on to say: “We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.” A follow-up question was “whether there was any room for compromise with protesters,” Vajiralongkorn declared, “Thailand is the land of compromise.”

It is worth watching the whole thing, not least for the king sending his daughter on a political errand.

The problem with the “interview” is that despite the reporter’s efforts, it is decontextualized. It didn’t show him greeting and speaking with fascists who are working to undermine the students, accusing them of “overthrowing the monarchy,” and some of whom have promised violence:

The gathering was in response to calls by staunch royalists, such as Dr. Warong Degitvigrom of the Thai Pakdee group, Buddha Isara and the twin brothers Bin and Aekkapant Banluerith, former actors, to protect the Thai Monarchy, as anti-establishment protesters demand sweeping reforms of the institution.

AFP at the Bangkok Post notes that this is a “growing show of force from royalists — as well as their increasingly harsh rhetoric online against the pro-democracy bloc…”.

It is not a show of compromise when the king engages in political acts:

Actor and volunteer rescue worker Bin Banluerit said the gathering was held with no political agenda. They merely wanted to show the King and Her Majesty the Queen their loyalty. He was among several famous figures urging people to come out to show their respect for the monarchy amid calls for its reform from some anti-government leaders.

Bin was allowed to prostrate at the King’s feet when the King came out to meet royalists outside Wat Phra Kaeo after he finished changing the Emerald Buddha image’s attire. “It is my first time to touch and prostrate at the King’s feet. He has relieved my tiredness. I am feeling overwhelmed to meet [him] and see his face….

“The King also thanked me for helping the people. I consider this the highest merit of my life…”.

This is the king boosting the forces on the right, thanking them for their ultra-royalism, and encouraging them, a la 1976. Hence the signs declaring, “We will die for the king.”

The rally showing loyalty to the king and his “visit” was a statement not of compromise, but of threat.





Beware of fascists

13 10 2020

With reports that the regime is mobilizing up to 30,000 police – previously it was 15,000 – while claiming that less than 10,000 protesters will attend, Thailand’s fascists are at work stoking hatred.

One of the regime’s hired turncoats, former red shirt and now Vice Minister Suporn Atthawong has been discouraging red shirts from participating. The real red shirt leaders are ignoring him, so he has ratcheted up his incitement of the ultra-royalists he now claims to love and support.

Suporn claims to have”learned that Monarchists will line the avenue [where protesters will be rallying], to welcome and express good wishes to the [k]ing, adding that some of them will help police to protect Government House from the protesters, who have threatened to lay siege to it.”

As Suporn now attends “intelligence” briefings, we can only presume that ISOC and the Army are encouraging and supporting fascist royalists to face off against protesters. Such incitement can easily descend into violence.

These are becoming dangerous times for peaceful protesters who must now be on the lookout for state violence, fascist ultra-royalist attacks and third hands.





Students rolling, royalists reacting

23 08 2020

As demonstrations continue, it might be expected that the young students and their supporters might be losing some support by demanding reform of the monarchy and calling for an end to the military-backed regime, both seen by conservatives as the cornerstone of the status quo.

In fact, this doesn’t seem to be happening. The Bangkok Post reports two surveys, one by the seldom trustworthy NIDA Poll with 1,312 respondents and another by the Suan Dusit Poll which claims 197,029 respondents. Go beyond the headlines, and it seems that a large majority support the students and their headline three demands. It also seems that support for the regime has dropped even more.

In the most recent demonstration in Khon Kaen, a statement was issued and called:

for an end to intimidation of the people, the government’s legal action against people with different opinions, inequality in education, inequities in the justice process and the plunder of natural resources.

“We want rights and freedom and human dignity because we are not slaves. We want a democracy which belongs to the people. We want equality in education and true justice in the judicial process. We want the decentralisation of power and the right of communities to manage their own resources. We want a new democracy….

Interestingly, several of these demands have ideological continuities with the rights demands heard during red shirt rallies a decade ago. That seems organic in the sense that many of today’s protesters were very young when the red shirts rose.

When the military has its government pad out its budget through rubber-stamping in parliament, the students get more supporters.

Regime and royalist reaction is pretty much what might be expected. As well as giving the military more kit, the regime is shoring up its support among the top brass. An example it Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s likely pick for next air force boss. Apparently, the job requirement is that the appointee must be “intelligent, ethical, dedicated and loyal to the monarchy.” We doubt the first two criteria can be fulfilled along with the last requirement. The other loyalty must be to the regime’s leaders.

Rightists are straggling along, as yet not well organized. This means they flop back on old tactics. For example, the “independent” agencies are used to undermine those various rightists think are “behind the children.” So it is that serial complainer Srisuwan Janya “says he will petition the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether the Move Forward Party (MFP) broke the law on political parties by proposing to amend the constitution’s Chapters 1 and 2 which contain general principles and sections associated with the monarchy.” Who pays him?

And surveillance and repression continues. As would be expected, “[s]ecurity agencies are keeping an eye on political activities ahead of a planned student rally on Sept 19 to prevent protest actions that may lead to violence and unrest…”, painting a picture of “Hong Kong violence,” obviously seeking to influence and agitate the Sino-Thais of Bangkok and linking to yellow-shirt ideologues who follow Russian troll sites on “color revolutions.”

They are also seeking to limit protest growth through political alliances with groups like the Assembly of the Poor. Hence last week’s arrest of the Assembly secretary-general, Baramee Chairat, for alleged offenses at the 18 July rally.

We doubt that these military and police spies are about preventing violence and are more about preventing protest and agitating against the “children.”

There’s a long road to be traveled.





Rightist royalists reactivated

15 01 2020

Khaosod has a report that is reflective of a remobilization of right-wing ultra-royalists in the ongoing battle to silence voices associated with parliamentary politics.

A sure sign of rightist-royalist reaction is their public mobilization to “protect” rightist regimes or the generalized “need” to “protect” the monarchy as a linchpin of the ruling class. In the past it was often privy councilors who would make the public calls. In more recent times it has been military leaders. In the recent past we have seen Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s somewhat crazed rantings as he attacked the elected and legitimate opposition.

Such raving often sees the even more troglodyte types scurry out from the political woodwork. And so it is now as neo-fascist royalist Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah again makes the news.

A bit like the USA’s Department of Homeland Security, the military officer who is in charge of a family-owned private hospital, demands that his employees hand over their social media account details.

The crazed Major General “announced he would only hire employees who share the same pro-establishment views as his…”.

He declared that “Mongkutwattana Hospital will not support or have any business dealings with those who insult the monarchy or have ill intention toward the country.” He added: “From today onwards … I will not accept personnel whose ideologies are opposed to mine…”.

Maj Gen Rientong said “those with different political views” were “… ungrateful parasites…”. Such dehumanizing language has been a staple of rightist-fascist attacks in the recent past.

We expect that the current military-backed regime will be grateful for the support and may encourage similar individuals and groups to rally to its side.





More threats against Faiyen

13 07 2019

More death threats, claiming to be from elements of the Thai military, have been received by members of the anti-monarchy, pro-democracy band Faiyen, who live in exile. Read about it here. Whether true or not, you get the picture of the constant harassment endured by those who have fled royalist Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website