Updated: A decade of PPT

21 01 2019

A decade has passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand. We admit our huge disappointment that we are still active after all these years.

By this, we mean that PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners, its military dictatorship and political repression would have been a thing of the past. But political dinosaurs flourish in Thailand’s fertile environment filled with fascists, royalists and neo-feudalists. Sadly, the political climate in  the country is regressing faster than most pundits could have predicted.

When we began PPT on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor, publicizing a spike in lese majeste cases to an international audience. Instead, a decade later, we are still at it and dealing with the outcomes of royalist politics gone mad. We now face the repressive reality of the continued dominance of a military dictatorship, brought to power by an illegal military coup in 2014. This regime is underpinned by a nonsensical royalism that masks and protects an anti-democratic ruling class. Royalists have fought to maintain a royalist state that lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few.

In “protecting” monarchy, regime and ruling class, the military junta has continued the politicization of the judiciary and is now rigging an “election” that may, one day, be held, if the king finally decides that he will allow an election. That “election,” embedded in a military-royalist constitution, will potentially be a political nightmare, maintaining military political domination for years to come.

A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream.

When we sputtered into life it was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes and hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology. Those perceived as opponents of the military and the monarchy were whisked away into detention, faced threats and surveillance and some have died or been “disappeared” in mysterious circumstances, and continue to do so in recent months.

This royalism and repression has also strengthened the monarchy and the new monarch. The junta has supinely permitted King Vajiralongkorn to assemble greater economic and political power. It has colluded with the palace in aggregating land for the monarch that was previously set aside for the public. It has colluded in destroying several symbols of the 1932 revolution, emphasizing the rise of neo-feudal royalism that leaves democracy neutered.

On this anniversary, as in past years,  we want an end to political repression and gain the release of every political prisoner. Under the current regime, hundreds of people have been jailed or detained, subjected to military courts and threatened by the military. The military regime is not only illegal but is the most repressive since the royally-appointed regime under Thanin Kraivixien in the mid-1970s.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, both conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a new political dark age where the lese majeste law – Article 112 – has been a grotesque weapon of choice in a deepening political repression.

From 2006 to 2017, lese majeste cases grew exponentially. Worse, both military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than that,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the lese majeste law has been extended. Thankfully, in 2017 we were unable to identify any new lese majeste cases and some in process were mysteriously dropped. We don’t know why. It could be that the military’s widespread crackdown has successfully quieted anti-monarchism or it might be that the king wants no more cases to get public airings and “damage” his “reputation.”

The last information available suggest that there are at least 18 suspects accused of violating Article112 whose cases have reached final verdicts and who remain in prison.

As for PPT, despite heavy censorship and blocking in Thailand, we have now had more than 6 million page views at our two sites. The blocking in Thailand has been more extensive in 2018 than in past years. This is our 7,999th post.

PPT isn’t in the big league of the blogging world, but the level of interest in Thailand’s politics and the use of lese majeste has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to political repression and lese majeste than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of these issues is far more critical than it was.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through all the attempts by the Thai censors to block us. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

As in the past we declare:

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

Charges against political activists must be dropped.

All political prisoners must be released.

The military dictatorship must be opposed.

Update: We completely botched the number of views at PPT. We have amended above to 6 million, not 3 million as we originally had.





Rolling back 1932 II

28 12 2018

It was back in mid-2017 that we had our first “rolling back 1932” post. Since then, most of our posts on this topic have had to do with King Vajiralongkorn’s property grabbing in the so-called royal precinct.

That earlier post on 1932 was prompted by the property grabs but more especially by the 2017 theft of a People’s Party plaque and its replacement by a royalist plaque, seeking to erase memories and symbols of 1932. All of this was done in secret, at night and with no explanation at all. Rather, people who asked questions were jailed.

Now, another symbol of that historic period of anti-royalism has been secretly removed.First on social media and then at Khaosod, it is reported that the:

historic monument that commemorated government victory over a pro-monarchy rebellion eight decades ago was removed Thursday night without notice or explanation.

Activists and historians fear that the Constitution Defense Monument, which stood at the Laksi Intersection in northern Bangkok, could be destroyed after security forces were seen taking it away in the early hours.

The now missing monument celebrated 1932, the end of the absolute monarchy and specifically the defeat of rebellious royal forces by the People’s Party, its army and the people of Bangkok in 1933. Known as the Boworadej Rebellion, it was led by Prince Boworadej and supported by the anti-democratic King Prajadhipok.

Chatri Prakitnonthakarn, who teaches history of Thai architecture at Silpakorn University stated: “We don’t know where it is now. There’s a risk that the monument will be gone for good…”.  He worried that the monument has met the “same fate … as the plaque.”

According to Khaosod, those who should know what was going on claimed total ignorance:

Bang Khen district chief Somboon Homnan maintained he didn’t know anything about the removal. He said the monument was located in an area governed by the state railway, which is building an elevated railway nearby….

MRT deputy governor Surachet Laophulsuk, who oversees the railway construction project, declined to comment….

Junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvari could not be reached as of publication time.

Pro-democracy activist Karn Pongpraphapan “went to the site Thursday night after hearing about the sudden operation.” Police monitoring the operation
“confiscated his phone at about 3am Friday just as he was trying to begin a live video stream via Facebook Live.”

Karn also said “one of the soldiers at the scene refused to tell him why the monument was being removed.” He just said “secret.”

Like many others, PPT can only guess that this is another deliberate plaque-like removal as part of the re-feudalization of Thailand.

Since the accession of King Vajiralongkorn there has been a rapid unwinding of arrangements regarding the relationship between crown and state that were put in place following the 1932 Revolution.

Since coming to the throne, almost everything the king has done has challenged decades-old arrangements that have long annoyed the royal family. It seems clear that he has imbibed the anti-1932 bile that has circulated in the family. He joins a long line of relatives who plotted and schemed against the People’s Party and its legacy. He’s being quite successful in this because he is supported by the royalist military junta and its authoritarianism.





Madam Secretary criticism affirms Thailand’s feudalism

19 11 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on the episode of Madam Secretary that includes commentary on Thailand’s monarchy and the feudal lese majeste law. Most controversial is the part of the episode that includes a call for the monarchy to be brought down. The episode is available here.

The episode opens with comments on Thailand from the main character, the US Secretary of State, who emphasizes the feudalism of the monarchy and a statement that “Thailand is a country where free speech does not exist.”

A religious studies professor who was born in Thailand has a monologue – a speech in Bangkok – that goes like this:

Thailand is a land of contradictions. A Buddhist nation that worships its own king as semi-divine…. This … country imposed on its people the worship of a man nowhere recognized in its Buddhist faith….

Where does it [Buddhist faith] say that one man and his family should be worth over $30 billion while many of his people starve and beg in the streets?

… I call for an end to this family’s rule over Thailand. Let the monarchy die when our king passes from this world and let the people of Thailand choose their own leaders, not false gods.”

She’s arrested for lese majeste and threatened with decades in jail while her friend seeks a pardon from a king portrayed as an angry and unsmiling old man.

While all this is fiction and the episode is not always accurate – it is a fictional TV show – the attention to the monarchy and lese majeste is pretty much as it was used, particularly after the 2014 military coup. And, parts of the episode were made in Thailand.

As expected, the regime has had to respond.

The Bangkok Post reports but cannot repeat any of the main material of the episode because Thailand is indeed a country where free speech does not exist. It also gets some things wrong, stating, for example that the episode “makes no mention of Thai reaction” when it explicitly does so and has a scene where Madam Secretary says the US has to prepare a response to the Thai reaction.

In real life, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reported to have “asked the Thai embassy in Washington to ‘convey our concern and disappointment to CBS’ over the Nov 4 episode.”

As expected, Ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks complained that the “episode … presented the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai monarchy in a misleading manner, leading to grave concern and dismay from many Thais who have seen it…”. We have no idea if the latter claim is true or not, but the portrayal of a lack of freedom of expression, the feudal and hugely wealthy monarchy and the draconian lese majeste law are not misleading.

And here’s where the Ministry and royalists dig themselves into a monarchist hole. In responding, the Ministry confirms the episode’s portrayal of the monarchy.





Monarchy, “ancient traditions” and neo-feudal property relations

5 11 2018

One of the things PPT repeatedly pointed out following succession was the attention the king gave to clawing back what he believes to belong to the monarchy and, specifically, the king.

Since accession, King Vajiralongkorn has overseen a rapid unwinding of arrangements regarding the relationship between crown and state that were put in place after the 1932 Revolution. These arrangements were to establish a separation of state and crown, not least in terms of the state’s funds and the those of the crown and the monarch.

The military junta agreed that the king could have total and personal control of the Crown Property Bureau, making that Bureau’s assets his personal property.

Before he came to the throne, it has been widely assumed that Vajiralongkorn was little more than a dumb hedonist. However, the efforts he has made to challenge decades-old arrangements that have long annoyed the royal family suggest that he has imbibed the anti-1932 bile that has circulated in the family. He’s showing that he follows a line of royal relatives who plotted and schemed against the People’s Party and its legacy.

The most recent change to these arrangements, reported at Khaosod, should send shivers through all property owners and businesses.

Yet another revision to the law governing the king’s assets has been promulgated.

The amended Crown Property Act “redefines the king’s possessions to include what the monarchy had accumulated under ‘ancient royal traditions.’ King Vajiralongkorn has the final say over what is included in the category.”

Further, the arbiter of disputes over, say, a plot of land, is none other than the king himself: “Any dispute over what assets are considered Crown Property under the royal ancient traditions must be referred to His Majesty’s judgment…”.

Presumably this means that, if he wants your land or other assets, the king can simply take them.

Some of this has been seen already (see here, here and here), but this retrograde law makes everyone vulnerable.

Feudalism is being restored in 21st century Thailand.





Lese majeste ≠ democracy

3 11 2018

In a rather bizarre junta “election” story, which we will post on separately, Foreign Minister and junta lover Don Pramudwinai defends the lese majeste law.

We know that all regimes have defended this odious law. In the past, defenses have ranged from declaring lese majeste a part of Thailand’s cultural bedrock, comparing it with defamation laws, claiming it as essential for political stability, asserting that lots of countries have such a law, to claims about Thailand’s “uniqueness.”

Anti-democrat Don, however, invents a new and preposterous story. He claims that the draconian lese majeste law has popular support, seemingly making it a “democratic” law:

Some ambassadors discussed with me and raised the lese majeste law issue, and asked why there exists such a law which limits free expression. I asked whether their countries have no specific measures and said Thais are well aware of the lese majeste law…. If you count the number of people who oppose it, you will discover that it’s just a handful. So how can it be a problem when a majority does not see it as a problem?

This is nonsensical but, then, Don is a ridiculous propagandist for the military dictatorship and a feudal monarchy.

The fact is that as Thailand’s politics became more vigorous and divided following the 2006 military coup, arrests and imprisoning through accusations of lese majeste and acts against “national security” became increasingly common, reaching a crescendo under the military Junta that seized power in 2014 and continues to reule and oppress.

Lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act are used by Thailand’s royalist regimes to denounce political opponents and protect privileges and positions.





Each grovel is a democratic setback

20 10 2018

The various UN agencies have been a happy hunting ground for palace officials and royalist toadies who seek honor after honor to be conferred on royals. One example was the great sucking sound attached to the launch of the UNDP’s report on sufficiency economy under the previous post-coup government. And the UN award invented for the previous king.

Each grovel by the UN before the world’s wealthy monarchs is a setback for democracy because it lauds feudal ridiculousness.

The latest report of groveling involves UNICEF. It is revealed that Princess Sirindhorn “has been honoured with a life-time achievement award … in recognition of her relentless efforts to improve the quality of life of children in Thailand.” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore declared that the princess had made “significant contributions and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children in Thailand…”.

An AP Photo

We scratched our collective head on this and decided to determine what she is said to have done for kids.

So, we looked at a UNICEF report.

It says Fore gushed that Sirindhorn got the prize most especially for “her advocacy and Royal Patronage projects on issues such as combatting iodine deficiency, promoting good nutrition for disadvantaged children, promoting literacy and education activities and her focus on marginalized groups living in remote areas…”.

Well, she may have patronized such things, but the ideas, work and outcomes have almost nothing to do with this royal.

Sitting atop stuff in Thailand is the way the feudal system of patronage is. So UNICEF is rewarding feudal patronage.

There are a bunch of dedicated medicos who worked on IDD from a time the princess was a coddled baby. The same is true for nutrition. They should be rewarded, not a feudal figurehead. We could go through the whole list of “human development, including nutrition, health and hygiene, education, water resource development and agriculture” and point to scores of deserving people and not one of them is a pampered princess.

The 1983 “projects to improve access to and quality of education for children in the remote areas and marginalized communities” was essentially counterinsurgency and run by the murderous police and military.

Her Royal Highness has also led an Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Project since 1990. Combined with significant efforts by UNICEF around systematic salt iodization by salt producing companies in Thailand, Iodine Deficiency Disorder rate in primary school children has continuously been under 5 per cent.

UNICEF should know better, but its people in Bangkok are dedicated and servile royalists.





The royal(ist) mess that is Thailand

3 04 2018

The success of palace propaganda, reinforced by decades of fascist-military domination, promoted by a royalist lapdog media, both state and private sector, and buttressed by draconian laws and belligerent royalist agencies like the military and ISOC, has been so sweeping that there’s little overt opposition these days (we note the linked article is no longer free to download). That which does exist has been firmly under the military boot in recent years.

Some wondered if the succession would temper there would be some cutting of the strings that tie Thais to the palace. Wonder no longer. Almost nothing has changed. As evidence, we cite two news stories from the last day or so.

The Nation reports that “Thai Heritage Conservation Week” is upon us. Like the recent noe-feudal celebration of the repression under pre-1932 absolute monarchy, this week royal posterior polishers get another chance to dress in feudal style – “traditional costumes.”

The useless Culture Ministry “kicked off the week with Thai Heritage Conservation Day on April 2…”. That day “has been celebrated annually since 1985, honouring … Princess … Sirindhorn, who was born on April 2, 1955, and her contributions to the conservation of the nation’s heritage.”

We can’t immediately recall her “contributions” but there must be plenty claimed for her by palace propagandists.

More worryingly, The Nation also reports on the kerfuffle in Chiang Mai over the mansions being built on forested – now deforested – hills that will be handed out to judges and others in the Ministry of Justice.

What do the people opposing this project do to protest? They “will petition … King … Vajiralongkorn for help.”

A network of those opposed to the project will gather signatures before petitioning the king.

Why? Get publicity? Look doltish? Look loyal? Who knows and who can blame them in the current ideological straitjacket of royalism.

Apparently they “would also lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court in early May,” which seems far more grown up.

Yellow shirts among the opponents blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his clan for the problem. Perhaps that says something about the feudal fawning.