Imprisoned

11 06 2017

Almost a week ago, Pavin Chachavalpongpun had an op-ed at The Japan Times. In it, he stated:

Inside the sprawling Dhaveevatthana Palace in Bangkok is a prison built to lock up those betraying the trust of the new Thai king, Vajiralongkorn. On March 27, 2012, during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, the Ministry of Justice issued an order regarding the construction of a prison within Dhaveevatthana Palace on a 60-sq.-meter plot of land. Named Buddha Monthon Temporary Prison, it is under the authority of the Klong Prem Central Prison.

Dhaveevatthana Palace or Residence, in Bangkok’s west, was one of Vajiralongkorn’s residences, favored until he ditched and demeaned his former consort, then Princess Srirasmi.

Pavin had mentioned this prison previously. He makes several claims about the prison and how the royal residence is used.

What is more interesting is the response of Thailand’s ambassador in Japan, in a letter to The Japan Times. It is interesting because it says little other than “we object.” Here it is, as published:

Regarding the column by Pavin Chachavalpongpun in the June 3 edition, while Thailand respects freedom of opinion and expression, this right has to be exercised responsibly in order to protect the rights and reputation of others.

In the article, several unsubstantiated claims were made by Chachavalpongpun, who, to the best of my knowledge, has never been to the palace in question.

As Chachavalpongpun himself acknowledged, there is a lack of information about the palace and that rumors thus play an important part. The article is biased and reflects the author’s hidden personal agenda. It is intended to offend the institution of monarchy, which is one of the main pillars of Thai society and highly revered.

I therefore strongly object to the publication of this article.

BANSARN BUNNAG
THAI, AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN

Several of Pavin’s claims are unsubstantiated, but that is the nature of reporting on a monarchy that is made as opaque as possible and where any real commentary on it risks years in jail. What is substantiated is that the prison exists – it was announced in the Royal Gazette, as Pavin says – and that former Grand Chamberlain Jumpol Manmai was held there.

So Bansarn and the military junta he represents may object but they are unable to convincingly deny the refeudalization of “justice.” Officials like Bansarn are imprisoned too; they cannot escape having to defend a decrepit royalism.





Planking for dead monarchs

6 05 2017

Planking was a short-lived fad that had dopes worldwide posting photos of themselves and others prostrated and face down in various spots and situations.

Not in Thailand, where it is an enforced “display” of “loyalty” to dead and living feudal potentates.

Activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, recently elected to head the Chulalongkorn University Student Council, has said that he might campaign for students to be able to decide whether to abide by the royalist university’s demand that students prostrate themselves before the statue of King Chulalongkorn at an annual ceremony.

The idea of belly-flopping before a statue of a dead king who just happens to be the king who ruled that his subjects didn’t need to prostrate themselves, seeing the practice as feudal and uncivilized, is weird in itself. But, then, the administrators want to enforce hierarchy just like their allies in the junta.

Now Netiwit has been chastised by The Dictator, who is a big fan of the royal belly-flop.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha sent a message to Netiwit and to the Chulalongkorn administrators when he said the idea that students to be given the choice was a terrible idea. He warned: “This could tarnish the reputation of the institution…”. He referred to the royal planking as a “good tradition.” He said prostration was “charming.” Charming like torturing Army recruits, perhaps, as it maintains the appropriate social order and required hierarchy.

Good traditions, he said, need to be preserved, as they were “charms” of the country. He displayed his historical ignorance by declaring prostration a display that showed people “proud of our good history and it should be preserved.”

It would be useful if Prayuth could actually read and understand the history of King Chulalongkorn’s decision on prostration. We can help, quoting from Wikipedia:

In 1873, the Royal Siamese Government Gazette published an announcement on the abolition of prostration. In it, King Chulalongkorn declared, “The practice of prostration in Siam is severely oppressive. The subordinates have been forced to prostrate in order to elevate the dignity of the phu yai. I do not see how the practice of prostration will render any benefit to Siam. The subordinates find the performance of prostration a harsh physical practice. They have to go down on their knees for a long time until their business with the phu yai ends. They will then be allowed to stand up and retreat. This kind of practice is the source of oppression. Therefore, I want to abolish it.” The Gazette directed that, “From now on, Siamese are permitted to stand up before the dignitaries. To display an act of respect, the Siamese may take a bow instead. Taking a bow will be regarded as a new form of paying respect.”

In fact, Prayuth wants prostration for all the reasons the king abolished it.

We have no problem with Prayuth rubbing himself along the ground, but forcing others to do it is oppressive, harsh and does little to elevate his dignity.

But here’s what’s worse than this. Prayuth’s historically false claims were made “in a keynote speech at Mahidol University on the roles of Thai universities.”

That any university considers Prayuth worthy of addressing its academics and students is an insult. We are sure that does not occur to the royalist anti-democrats who control all of Thailand’s universities.

Netiwit responded: “Who is the nation’s embarrassment?” He went on to say that “in the eyes of young people like him, Prayut had tainted the country’s reputation for more than three years after staging the 2014 coup and restricting human rights.”

Netiwit added some home truths that will enrage The Dictator: “He should respect the rules of the country. If he has political ambitions, he should form a political party…. By staging the coup, he did not abide by the rules.”





The stolen plaque and repression

25 04 2017

Pro-democracy activist and former lese majeste detainee Akechai Hongkangwan has been “detained at the 11th Military Circle after attempting to submit a complaint regarding the missing Siamese Revolution plaque at Government House on Tuesday.”

The stolen plaque, presumably now buried, melted down or at the bottom of a lake in southern Germany is a subject added to the long list of items that may not be discussed in refeudalizing Thailand.

The Nation reports that a “police officer at Ladprao Police Station told the Thai Human Rights Lawyers (THRL) group that the activist had been detained according to an arrest warrant…”. Yet it is the military thugs who have him.

It is not clear what the charge could be. Perhaps the dastardly crime of asking about a missing plaque? Or perhaps the equally terrible crime of addressing The Dictator. More likely, there’s no real charge and that The Dictator is simply miffed that the activist asked about anything.

The report says a “security agency source” has said that the activist “had been invited” for something the military thugs call “a talk to create some mutual understanding…”. The “misunderstanding” is that the “the activist attempted to submit a complaint calling for an investigation regarding the missing [stolen] plaque.”

The military junta and The Dictator seem to believe that no-one can complain about this vandalism. That can only be so because the theft has the highest fingerprints on it. “The source said officers were afraid his actions could create confusion in the public.” Really? Everyone knows that this was a royal/royalist act of historical and political vandalism involving the deliberate destruction of public property.

Vandalism, military abductions and repression are likely to be the hallmarks of the new reign.





A feudal future beckons

21 04 2017

Yellow shirt commentators do not worry much about military dictatorship. They see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand.

While most yellow shirts still believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra, it is also clear that not all yellow shirts expected an enforced royal dictatorship that fosters Thailand’s refeudalization.

Nonetheless, yellow shirt anti-electionism and royalism naturally promotes refeudalization.

The symbolic removal of the 1932 plaque is not just a royalist act of political and historical vandalism. It is also one more step by the military junta that marks the path of Thailand’s refeudalization.

The attraction of a feudal political arrangement for the military dictatorship is that it has no truck for notions that the people are sovereign.

In this sense, while symbols can have multiple meanings, expunging those that can be used by those who demand popular sovereignty is a part of the military’s palace alliance and its 20-year plan for a “reformed” Thailand.

This is part of the reason why The Dictator is both mum on the removal of 1932 commemoration plaque and protective of the royalist plaque that replaced it. It is pretty clear that this vandalism initially caused fear among some in the junta. Now, however, they have fallen into line, knowing that by their own design, they are politically bound to the reign.

That the opposition and agitation over the removal of the plaque has largely come from those the junta considers the “usual suspects” has also meant that protection of feudalism and its symbols is an easy and “natural” decision.

The most recent act of protection has been to accuse opposition figure Watana Muangsook of “a computer crime for posting on Facebook that the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque is a national asset.”

As Prachatai explains it:

On 19 April 2017, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Chief of the Royal Thai Police (RTP), revealed that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) filed a complaint against Watana Muangsook, a politician from the Pheu Thai Party, for breaching the Computer Crime Act.

The police apparently think that the use of the term “national asset” is threatening and false.

Watana was due to report to the police. He is the second to face charges or detention over the plaque. Like Srisuwan Janya, Watana has called for the “return of the missing plaque and for prosecution of those responsible for its removal.”

No one associated with the removal of the plaque has been named, arrested or charged. The chances of this happening are pretty much zero.

As one correspondent stated, everyone knows who is behind this act, but no one can say for fear of lese majeste and jail.

Expunging the symbols of 1932 expunges notions of popular sovereignty. That serves the interests of the military-monarchy alliance where King Vajiralongkorn looks like a throwback absolutist.





Updated: Who took the plaque?

18 04 2017

Being on holidays and out of Bangkok for a few days, the social media frenzy surrounding the political vandalism of the People’s Party plaque has been a bit difficult to follow.

This post is quite a bit out of the ordinary for PPT as we are getting into very heavy speculation with little to go on other than joining some dots together. We are posting now because we think this is a very dangerous reactionary trend in Thailand, one that goes far beyond that of the military junta.

We think we know why it is difficult to follow, but more on that below.

The vandalism was not a minor bit of pilfering. This had to be a fair sized and well-planned operation.  After all, the historic plaque had to dug up and stolen on a day with light traffic and replaced with another plaque commemorating nothing significant, but displaying ridiculous monarchist graffiti.

That piece of royalist metal pap was set in cement, or so the pictures suggest, and that takes time to set, so this was not a snatch and grab raid.

This is all suggesting an operation that could only have been done by the authorities or with their connivance. (We will pretty much ignore the predictable ultra-royalist cheering that another step to re-establishing feudalism has been taken.)

The junta and its minions, including the police, are Sgt Shultzing this. They know nothing.

But, oops, someone complained. This brings one of those police responses which is the response you get when you just know that something is being hidden or that the cops have their private parts in an important vice.

Then some unexpected persons decide to protest, and the cops quickly get agitated and see off these more-or-less unknowns operating for reasons that are not entirely clear. It’s a small group and hardly threatening, but the cops feel differently. This is suggesting the motive behind the removal is somewhere reasonably high up.

This is followed by serial prodder of regimes, Srisuwan Janya of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, showing up at the junta’s “public service centre” to “submit a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asking him to look for the 1932 Siamese Revolution memorial plaque…”.

So far The Dictator has been silent, suggesting that the normally talkative general is feeling unable to comment. It is as if he feels constrained, dumbfounded or fearful.

Odder than that, when Srisuwan shows up, soldiers are waiting and he is “whisked away in a military van … for talks at the 1st Cavalry Regiment…”.

That suggests there’s something to hide and that the regime is jittery as hell.

And then there’s the linking of the plaque and the earlier “order” about three overseas bloggers, seeking to criminalize and prevent contact with them.

We think there’s a story here of orders coming from the king. Of course, we have no evidence, but the fingerprints are there. There’s a fear that the banned bloggers are able to soak up leaks from close to the palace and that they will publicize them.

They already publicized the odd behavior of one of the king’s favorite concubines just meters from the plaque a month or so ago.

There’s a perspective emanating from the palace that suggests a desire to roll back 1932 as an aberration. In fact, the view is that the 17th century was a time when kings ruled with few constraints on their often aberrant behavior. Don’t be surprised to hear of suggestions that pre-Bangkok laws might still be useful in contemporary times.

We kind of hope our speculation is wrong.

Update: We think that Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s latest post at New Mandala, on the fear that infects palace circles and which infects much else, should be read with this post. He makes some excellent points about the reign after just a few months.





The end of 1932

14 04 2017

In a highly symbolic act of vandalism, Prachatai reports that the plaque marking the 1932 revolution has been removed, stolen  and replaced with a royalist plaque. The report is confirmed at Khaosod.

According to the report, the replacement graffiti states:

May Siam prosper forever [with] happy fresh-faced citizens [who are] the force of the nation. The respect and loyalty to the Buddhist Triple Gems, to one’s family clan, and being honest towards one’s King are tools for making the state prosper.

This is an obviously royalist paean and a junta-friendly message.

The original plaque, a source of angst for royalists who viewed it as a threatening reminder of a different Thailand, looked like this:

Memorial of the Revolution on the Royal Plaza: “…ณ ที่นี้ 24 มิถุนายน 2475 เวลาย่ำรุ่ง คณะราษฎร ได้ก่อกำเนิดรัฐธรรมนูญ เพื่อความเจริญของชาติ”; “…here, in the dawn of 24 June 1932, the Khana Ratsadon has brought forth a constitution for the glory of the nation” (From Wikipedia)

It is not clear who removed the original plaque. The report of its removal implies that the vandals may have been either ultra-royalists or officials acting on orders. Khaosod’s informants suggest the former.

We suspect that the vandals are acting on orders or are seeking to be seen as loyalists. If these vandals acted on orders, then those commands must have come from on high. A new reign and a new king have no links to 1932, except those that come from within a conservative palace. In fact, we are sure that the new king is likely to view 1932 as an impediment to the further re-feudalization of monarchism.

Make no mistake, this is an act of political vandalism by a faction that feels it is putting right the “natural” order of things in Thailand, sweeping aside the remnants of 1932.

The junta has demonstrated that it is a part of this reactionary royalism based in a desire to expunge 1932.

The events of the 1932 revolution have influenced Thailand’s politics for 85 years. The overthrow of absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932 set in place a conflict between conservative royalists and anti-royalists that see-sawed until about 1957, when General Sarit Thanarat set about a process of re-monarchizing Thailand.

Since then, the royalists have regained much of the political ground, rolling back much of the change initiated by those who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The reign that began in 1946, in the midst of that political struggle by princes and arch-royalists who mostly came together in the Democrat Party, led to a thoroughgoing monarchization of not just politics but of society.

Images and reminders of 1932 have been erased. So much so, that the Proclamation of the revolutionists is now seen by ultra-royalists as lese majeste:

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932





Secrets, constitution and election

19 02 2017

Not that long ago, PPT posted on the secret amendments to the draft constitution. Despite the sham “referendum” on the “constitution,” the king demanded changes that, according to The Dictator’s account, give the king more power and flexibility.

Those amendments were crafted, in secret, by a puppet committee. Then the military junta declared that these palace and junta secret amendments would only be revealed to the public by the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary.

We remain in awe of the notion that a “constitution” put to a “referendum” can then be amended by a feudal institution and announced by that same feudal encumbrance. This is certainly a defining feature of Thailand’s authoritarianism in the tenth reign.

The Bangkok Post again quotes Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on this bizarre process. He says the “draft constitution has been re-submitted to … the King and its revised content will be revealed soon…”.

He can’t say when, because that choice remains with the feudal forces of the palace.

Remarkable, even in this extraordinary process, Wissanu is quoted as saying that the junta’s “cabinet will be officially informed about it on Tuesday…”. We assume that “it” refers to the changes made.” But who knows, this is such a farcical exercise.

Wissanu then turned to the delayed junta “election.” He declared taht the junta’s so-called “roadmap to a general election remains intact…”.

That nonsensical claim was then amended: “It’s only that we can’t fix the date of each step as everything is set within a framework…”.

That’s in part because they don’t seem to know what the king will do. Wissanu says that the “date the constitution is proclaimed will be the start.” Then there are junta laws to draw up “on national reform and national strategy” and these “must be completed four months after that [proclamation of the constitution].” Then the organic laws “will be completed within six months from that date…”. He then got to the junta’s “election,” stating the “general election date can be set once the organic law on elections is proclaimed.

That the “election” is delayed hardly bothers the junta. It wants it delayed so it has plenty of time to prepare for its “election” victory.

They continue to work at neutering the Shinawatra clan and its supporters and the “reconciliation” talks give them the opportunity to sound out their potential electoral allies. The junta is also working to ensure that the bureaucracy is junta-friendly and sufficiently anti-Shinawatra and anti-“politician” so that the election counts for nothing.