Updated: Going Chinese on Myanmar

1 02 2021

With a military coup in Myanmar, the military-backed and populated regime in Bangkok has responded as you would expect.

Despite bogus claims that the rigged 2019 election made the military junta somehow “democratic,” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has shown that the military mindset rules.

Gen Prawit declared that the coup, the democratically-elected government that won in a landslide, and the military detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of her party as an “internal affair.”

This response sounded very much like it might have come from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Naturally enough, Cambodia’s autocratic leader Hun Sen concurred that it was an “internal matter.”

Of course, Gen Prawit has been involved in at least two military coups in Thailand and he and other military bosses are close to Myanmar’s military.

The company the regime keeps shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.

Update: Prachatai reports: “As the Myanmar military seizes power, detains politicians and declares a 1-year state of emergency, the democratic opposition in Thailand condemns the putsch and holds a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok…”. In another Prachatai report, it is reported that “after Thais and Myanmarese staged a protest against the coup by the Myanmar military this afternoon, they were dispersed by the Royal Thai Police with shields and batons. 3 people were arrested.”

Thailand’s military-monarchy despots have become the protectors of authoritarian regimes.


Cambodia’s election and Thailand

27 07 2018

Commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak has an op-ed detailing all of the tricks Cambodia’s Hun Sen and his party have engaged in to win an election that is hardly free and fair. He has one comment on Thailand: “While Thailand has a seemingly indefinite military government with no clear poll date, Cambodia is holding an election on July 29 with a foregone conclusion.”

Of course, The Dictator in Thailand is hoping that when he decides to allow an “election,” it too will be a foregone conclusion. Perhaps Thitinan can be persuaded to comment on Thailand’s rigged election at some time. Preferably while the “preparations” are ongoing. Almost everything crooked that has been rigged in Cambodia has also been done in Thailand or is being put in place.

Meanwhile, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) has:

warned that Cambodia’s parliamentary election on 29 July will be neither free nor fair, as the vote will take place in a highly repressive political environment while the only viable opposition force – the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – has been banned from taking part.

The network of regional lawmakers urged the international community to not lend the sham vote an ill-deserved veneer of legitimacy by sending observers or other forms of election aid.

Hopefully they will be as strong when Thailand, one day (maybe), heads to the polls.

Did The Dictator blink?

13 05 2018

After a barrage of criticism about his electoral campaign visit to Buriram and the Newin-Dome, candidate/The Dictator/General/Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has postponed a trip to another potential devil party lair in Sa Kaeo, at least that’s the Bangkok Post’s reporting.

It had already been reported that “veteran politician Sanoh Thienthong, whose stronghold is in the province, had told media he would greet the premier during the visit.” Naturally. And, The Dictator knows the rapacious political chameleon from his time on the border when the Army’s and Sanoh’s business interests coincided.

Some critics slammed the visit because the junta chief is campaigning while all others are banned. Well, sort of, for when The Dictator showed up in Buriram, Newin Chidchob and Anutin Charnvirakul got campaign style coverage for Bhum Jai Thai. But, then, BJT is a pro-military party.

A “government source” says the campaign stop visit is postponed because “Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is not available to attend on the proposed date” for a border shindig.

Did the Boss blink? Did the criticism bite?

Probably not. The Dictator’s skin is as thick as a whale’s and he has “another provincial trip on May 23…” to canvas for votes and political alliances with local mafia capofamiglia and associated thugs.

Staying power for years to come means Gen Prayuth must stay on the campaign trail and hammer together a coalition of minor parties so that he can get the call to be the “outsider” premier.

Putting the shoe on the other foot

11 02 2018

Back in November, PPT posted on potential trouble brewing for Thai dissidents in Cambodia. At the time, Hun Sen seemed to be asking for the Thai junta to deport members of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled to Thailand.

On 8 February, Thailand handed over a Cambodian labor activist. Sam Sokha was “sentenced” in absentia by a Hun Sen regime court on 25 January for the vague “crimes” of “insult of a public official” and “incitement to discriminate.” In other words, she threw a shoe at a billboard depicting Cambodia’s authoritarian premier.

Of course, after she was presumably forcibly repatriated from Thailand, she was arrested.

According to several reports, Thailand’s military dictatorship deported her despite the fact that “the UN refugee agency reportedly had formally recognised her as a refugee.”

This is not the first time Thailand has done this. In 2016, the dictatorship worked with the Chinese to send dissidents back to China, including two who had UN status and were awaiting third-country resettlement.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said:

Thailand was fully aware of Sam Sokha’s status as a refugee, yet still returned her to Cambodia, where she is likely to face a prison term for expressing her political views…. It’s sad but not surprising that a military junta would do a favour for a neighbouring dictator, but they should not cement their friendship at the expense of a refugee.

We may guess that the junta expects Cambodia to return the favor and will be hoping to capture some Thai dissidents.

Lese majeste and the repression of political opposition

22 12 2017

Thailand’s lese majeste law has long been used as a means to repress political opponents of royalist, usually military-dominated regimes. More recently it has been used by the palace to “clean” its own house, but that is another story.

As a case study in expanding political repression, Cambodia provides a lens on lese majeste that is sometimes neglected for Thailand.

Cambodia’s current regime is certainly descending into deeper political repression as Hun Sen, born of U.S. bombing, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese invasion, grasps power ever more to himself and a coterie of supporters and the tycoons he has created. His disdain for dissidents is deep and his authoritarian proclivities well known.

It is reported that, despite there being no obvious threat to Cambodia’s weak monarchy, Hun Sen’s regime “is considering the implementation of strict lese majeste laws such as exist in neighbouring Thailand, which would criminalise perceived criticism of the Southeast Asian nation’s monarchy.

This law is being conjured “amid a crackdown by Hun Sen’s government against political opposition, the media and the NGO sector. Last month, the government successfully dissolved the major opposition force, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).” It has also “shuttered the US-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute and forced closure of the Cambodia Daily newspaper. The Bangkok Post reported on Monday that the Cambodian Information Ministry had shut down a further 330 print media outlets.”

In fact, the law would not be to “protect” the monarchy, but would be to trample Hun Sen’s political opponents. Indeed, the “country’s ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng already faces a lawsuit, filed by Hun Sen in October, for insulting King Norodom Sihamoni…”. The former DPM referred to the king as a “castrated chicken,” blasting him “for not getting involved in Cambodia’s political situation during a secretly recorded phone conversation.”

Clearly, Hun Sen seeks to ensure that his political opponents can’t use the monarchy against him. He’d rather use the monarchy for his own political purposes.

The parallels with Thailand can be drawn noting the way in which an alliance of palace and authoritarian regimes was created and maintained.

Trouble for dissidents

30 11 2017

The military dictatorship has been particularly challenged by having to deal with dissidents who decamped following the 2014 military coup for Laos and Cambodia.

We know that the group located in Laos has been troubling for the junta and it has repeatedly sought to convince the Lao government to send Thai dissidents back. Frustrated, the junta is the likely culprit in the still “unexplained” enforced disappearance/murder of red shirt Ko Tee in Vientiane.

However, it is Cambodia that has been a safe haven for many red shirts and has challenged the junta, who have been suspicious of Hun Sen as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

Now it seems that the junta may have an opening. The Phnom Penh Post reports that

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday raised the spectre of Thailand deporting members of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled the country….

Hun Sen declared that “Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should … ‘chase’ those people ‘staying in Bangkok’, in an apparent reference to ex-CNRP members who have fled.”

As Hun Sen destroys his opponents he will be keen to see those in Thailand deported. He is likely to be willing to make deals with Thailand’s military junta.

Learning from the dictatorship

4 02 2017

Some analysts have argued that Thailand’s junta is learning from the authoritarian leaders of China. There’s debates about that, yet we don’t doubt that, among other things, The Dictator would love to control the internet as tightly as his Chinese counterparts.

We now know that other authoritarian leaders are learning from Thailand’s military dictatorship. At The Cambodia Daily, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, reckons “authoritarian ideas ‘spread like the flu among ASEAN leaders’.”

While we get the point, we’d observe that authoritarian ideas have long dominated in ASEAN countries.

The reason for his observation follows Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promising “sweeping changes to Cambodia’s law governing political parties in a move that could eliminate the CNRP and remove opposition leader Sam Rainsy or any other politician convicted by Cambodia’s courts—from a leadership position.”

His model? He says, “I think that we should follow Thailand, which means anyone committing serious mistakes would cause their party to be dissolved…”. He added:

“The People’s Power Party was dissolved just because Samak Sundaravej appeared as a chef on television,” Mr. Hun Sen said, referring to a side gig that Thai courts deemed a conflict of interest. “He then lost his position as prime minister and they also dissolved his party.”

“So we follow it,” Mr. Hun Sen said of the Thai example, saying he sought to “dissolve parties and then ban the political rights for not just a few leaders, but all the party’s board of directors.”

Authoritarian leaders are always looking for more ways to solidify their hold on power. The Dictator may well have looked at Hun Sen’s ability to manipulate elections and learned from that too.

“Cambodian” shooters

6 02 2014

Readers may recall the claims made by anti-democrats like the Suthep Thaugsuban and Navy Seals commander Rear Admiral Winai Klom-in, who is close to Suthep. As loopy as these claims are, many anti-democrats seems to believe them and set about “proving” them.

One bizarre way of doing this is reported at Khaosod, where the “daughter of the elderly man paralysed by gunfire in pre-election violence has denounced the accusation that her father was a Cambodian gunman.”

Yes, Arkaew Saelew, aged 71, and probably shot by an anti-democrat gunman has been converted on anti-democrat social media into a dangerous Cambodian gunman, getting what he deserved from the “unarmed” anti-democrat gunmen!

More ludicrous, “[s]ome accusations also specifically identified Mr. Arkaew as a close aide to Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen.”

His daughter, Euangfah Saelew, has “filed complaint … urging the police force to prosecute those who spread ‘baseless’ online rumours about her father.”

She felt the need to explain that “her father was a Thai-Chinese resident of Songkhla province before he moved to Bangkok′s Laksi district where he settled down and made a living by selling soft drinks in front of a local school.”

The anti-democrats do appear to be descending into the depths of a Fascist nonsense world of lies and propaganda that only they believe.

Pavin on Thaksin, deals and the future of democracy

18 04 2012

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for South-east Asian Studies, Kyoto University, has yet another newspaper op-ed that deserves attention. Pavin has been one of the most prolific of media commentators on Thailand over the past 2-3 years after a kind of conversion away from the Democrat Party.

In our view, his most significant contribution in recent years has not been his writing but his innovative lese majeste-focused Ah Kong fearlessness campaign. At the time, Pavin’s action was brave and much needed,

Of course, as we at PPT well know, when one writes a great deal, there are many opportunities for getting things wrong in the murky world of Thai politics. Pavin’s latest piece is titled “End seems near for Thaksin saga,” and PPT thinks Pavin gets it wrong on several scores.

First, there is the issue of deals done and deals contemplated between Thaksin’s camp and the amart side. Pavin reckons that there must have been a deal because “the Yingluck government seems to lend credence to such reports through some of its actions.” But then there have been as many actions that would be deal killers by the same government. If a supposed deal was just about making the monarchy feel good about itself and letting the military play by itself, that would seem one-sided. But Pavin believes the deal includes Thaksin’s “enemies agreeing to allow him to return without facing any charges.”

Of course, no one has presented any evidence for a deal and there has been so much talk about deals done and deals broken that PPT can’t help but think that political deals are about as solid as a quicksand. We tend to think of strategies and pressure and counter-pressures rather than deals.

Related to the deal scenario, Prime Minister Yingluck’s government:

has made clear that it will not support calls to amend Article 112 of the Thai criminal code, which makes it an offence for anyone to insult or defame the monarchy.

That’s true, and this is our second point, we disagree that: “For the country’s traditional elite, Article 112 is the key to the survival of the royal institution and thus, to their position of power.”

That is a remarkable exaggeration that misses, for example, a whole range of symbolic and remarkably expensive symbolic nonsense that supports the monarchy and its lifestyle of living luxuriously at the taxpayer’s expense. It also ignores the most basic fact that monarchy is not just a bunch of welfare recipients living in grand style but the country’s largest capitalist conglomerates. That makes the monarchy more complex and more powerful.

Our third disagreement is more straightforward: Pavin says that Hun Sen’s “support to Thaksin and the Red Shirt movement” is the “first time in modern history that a Cambodian leader has openly taken sides in Thailand’s internal conflict.” Of course,Hun Sen has been doing this for several years now, so recent events are hardly novel.

We do agree with Pavin that the “traditional elite simply could not compete with Thaksin in the game of electoral politics.” That’s partly why we’d say that the monarchy as we have known it is finished.

And we also agree that Pavin raised the right question when he asks what the will be “the future direction of Thai democracy amid this power rearrangement among the elites?” In other words, what does Thaksin have in mind? His record in power was mixed and while he paints himself as a democrat now, his incapacity to disengage his own interests from those of the state seems likely to continue and to undermine those claims.

Thailand’s worst-ever foreign minister speaks

19 09 2011

PPT had hoped that unlike his leader Abhisit Vejjajiva,  former foreign minister Kasit Piromya might have considered that a whopping electoral defeat would have been enough reason for  him to consider his policies and actions as a minister had failed.

Arguably, Kasit must rank as the worst foreign minister Thailand has ever had. After all, he was never really much of a foreign minister. He seldom focused on the usual important issues. Instead he became a kind of Keystone Cops chief, chasing the man he saw as evil, Thaksin Shinawatra. Perhaps his major failure was his inability to separate his personal fear and hatred of Thaksin from Thailand’s relations with Cambodia, leading to armed clashes and deaths.

Never shy, always arrogant and apparently unaware of his failures, Kasit is in the Bangkok Post warning that “Thailand should be concerned about Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s actions now he has a Thai fugitive to his country…”. Kasit is referring to Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia. Kasit was speaking as a party list MP for the Democrat Party.

No longer able to make poor decisions, Kasit  explains that he is using Cambodian journalists as emissaries, telling them to explain that “Thailand is apprehensive about Prime Minister Hun Sen, who held a reception for a fugitive instead of cooperating with Thai authorities by bringing that person back to face justice in his own country…”. We guess he means he is apprehensive, along with some of his yellow-shirted buddies.

Kasit claimed that “Hun Sen’s action showed that he backed certain political groups and that he would not accept any other side that he did not support.” Would any sane person expect him to have supported an aggressive and chauvinistic Kasit during the Abhisit administration? But then Kasit gets totally loopy and claims: “The Democrat Party has never interfered in Cambodia…”.

PPT is at a loss. This statement is so far from the truth that we were stunned. But then we recalled that it was Kasit being reported. Here are some of our posts that indicate the relationship between the Democrat Party, its government and Cambodian problems, in no particular order: Ready for battle, War not peace, Abhisit rejects UN, Kasit disoriented, Clashes on the Cambodian border, Abhisit talks war, Abhisit reveals the contradictions of dealing with PAD, Teflon Mark and the Cambodian lies. And that’s just in 2011!

Most of the rest of Kasit’s comments are babble and unclear to PPT, so readers can sort those out.

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