Updated: Jatuporn’s meltdown

13 01 2021

One of the not very well hidden tasks of the regime, sometimes supported by the mainstream media, has been to nitpick at the protest movement and exacerbate divisions and differences.

That follows a tested junta tactic of trying to divide and conquer former opponents in Puea Thai and among red shirts. This involved buying off red shirt leaders like the detestable Suporn Atthawong, who has been rewarded with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions. Those turncoats have assisted the military junta to transform into the current post-junta regime.

A more activist Jatuporn

Over the past couple of months we have watched United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, leader Jatuporn Promphan say some odd things and, finally, have a meltdown. His story is told by a seemingly gleeful Thai PBS.

Jatuporn’s role as a red shirt protest leader resulted in numerous criminal charges and several arrests, and he eventually served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts. Jatuporn’s defamation was to call Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

He was also seen court orders for 100 million baht “in civil rulings stemming from riots and arson attacks by red-shirt protesters.” We won’t go back over the details of these false charges. In addition, he faces charges of “terrorism, illegal phone-tapping, and provoking public disorder, as well as other libel offences.”

Many activists looked differently at Jatuporn when, in July 2020, he “warned student activists not to cross a line, by infringing upon the [m]onarchy…”.  Some took this as a warning that the students should be wary of yet another murderous military attack on protesters. Others, however, wondered why Jatuporn appeared to be defending the monarchy. Many red shirts who joined with the student demonstrators calling for monarchy reform were stunned by Jatuporn’s statements.

In September 2020, his commentary was taken up in an op-ed by the notorious anti-democrat journalist Tulsathit Taptim who used Jatuporn’s “advice” to demonstrators to call for them to back down. Referring to campaigns against royalists, it was stated:

According to Jatuporn, it is all right for dictators to seek to destroy or suppress opposite or different opinions because it’s what they do. But it’s not democratic, he says, if minority or unpopular opinions are condemned, insulted or forced to undergo changes.

Oddly, in 2010 and during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it was Jatuporn who was accused by yellow shirts of supporting “majoritarianism” – in this case, supporting an elected government.

Two further outbursts by Jatuporn suggest that he has had a political meltdown. He has seen increasing opposition from former comrades, with accusations that he is a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.”

Staggeringly, Jatuporn has called for the UDD “to disband and pass the baton on to the young-generation protesters now battling for democracy. That push drew another barrage of criticism – this time that he was betraying fellow red shirts.” Some wondered aloud about Jatuporn’s motives and asked why, in 2014, the red shirts went off stage with a whimper. Was Jatuporn complicit in demobilizing red shirts? Some disgruntled observers suggested that Jatuporn’s paymaster had changed.

Then, he drew more criticism when he campaigned for the re-election of Chiang Mai’s provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chief, Boonlert Buranupakorn, himself considered a turncoat. Boonlert lost to a Puea Thai candidate who also had Thaksin Shinawatra’s support. Even other red shirt leaders spoke out against Jatuporn.

Just a few days ago, Jatuporn’s meltdown and slide to the other side was illustrated when he filed “a police complaint against some 200 netizens he accused of posting false information and defamatory abuse against him” during the [PAO] election campaign.”

Jatuporn said the “online attacks part of a concerted attempt to destroy his reputation,” something he seems to be doing for himself. Sounding like the regime’s nastiest of lying, cheating politicans, he vowed “many hundred more cases.” He seems to be taking a leaf out of Thammanat Prompao’s playbook.

We can understand that all those legal cases and the threat of more jail must weigh heavily, but it does seem that Jatuporn is doing the regime’s work.

Update: Khaosod has more on the UDD. It concludes with comments by red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich, saying “he would oppose any attempt to dissolve the UDD.” He correctly points out that “the large number of Redshirt protesters at anti-government rallies in 2020 prove that the movement is still a force to reckon with, and what the UDD needs is a new leadership with new strategies.” He adds: “Redshirts are against the dissolution of the UDD,” he said, citing an informal online survey that he conducted. “

As for Jatuporn, Anurak states: “I don’t want to use the word fired, but I’d like to ask him to leave.”





Updated: Going to the dark side

3 11 2020

Two seemingly odd stories today, both with political implications.

First, PDRC’s Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta is reported at the Bangkok Post as being under attack “after his ministry blocked access to Pornhub, a well-known adult website based outside the country.” According to the report:

The ministry on Monday ordered all internet providers and mobile phone operators to ban all access to the website after the Criminal Court gave the ministry the green light to take action, because porn websites are illegal in Thailand.

Of course, there are millions of porn sites that might be banned in Thailand, so why this one? Social media chatter is that Pornhub is banned because it has the video of the king’s former wife, almost naked at her 30th birthday. For those who want to watch it, it is revealing of the former Princess Srirasmi, but far more revealing of the king’s weirdness.

Second, after he went bonkers royalist a few weeks ago, Jatuporn Promphan’s latest rant suggests that the former United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leader  has been bribed, is being blackmailed or has gone completely nuts.

According to a media report, he’s “raised questions about the construction of a new US consular office in Thailand’s northern capital of Chiang Mai…”. His claims are bizarre and place him in the camp of the most extreme yellow shirts. That camp is the dark side.

Update: In a sign of how much things have changed, it is reported in The Nation that Buddhipongse has declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knows he’s talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former.





Saturday’s rally II

20 09 2020

There’s plenty of news reports about the ongoing, sometimes soggy, rally at Sanam Luang, including: The Nation, The Isaan Record on Facebook, The Guardian, The New York Times, Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page, BBC, and many more.

At one point, speakers on the stage reckoned 200,000 had showed up, but that seems a considerable stretch, especially as the police, military and other authorities worked hard to disrupt, preventing people from traveling, and threatening. And, the inclement weather didn’t help.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

One of the most confronting activity of the rally was Arnon Nampa’s call for a new People’s Party, with a march planned for today. Another was the outpouring of red shirts adding their support to the rally and seemingly rejecting Jatuporn Promphan’s royalist bleating.

They cheered Arnon’s “fiery speech” around midnight where he said “demonstrators on Sunday morning will install a new plaque commemorating the 1932 Revolution that overthrew absolute monarchy” after the previous one was removed by authorities. He declared:

Today, the 2020 People’s Party has officially been formed at this people’s field…. Tomorrow the plaque will be planted. The second People’s Party declaration will be read. All of us will be free.

In Thai he actually said quite a bit more that the Bangkok Post won’t report:

เราจะประกาศร่วมกันด้วยข้อความว่า ประเทศนี้เป็นของราษฎรทั้งผอง ไม่ใช่เป็นของสถาบันกษัตริย์อย่างที่เขาหลอกลวง เพราะวันนี้คณะราษฎร 2563 ได้เกิดขึ้นที่สนามราษฎรแล้ว

Roughly translated:

Together we declare that this country belongs to all of the people. Not to the monarchy as we have been deceived [into believing]. Because today the People’s Party 2020 has been born at the People’s Field.

As we write, school students are on stage speaking about demands for reform of the monarchy.





Further updated: Saturday’s rally I

18 09 2020

With heavy rain predicted, the rally planned for Saturday may be dampened. That said, there’s plenty of media coverage of what to expect.

There are citizen reports that police and military are preventing people from the provinces joining the protest.

One useful set of observations is provided by Prachatai a couple of days ago. Associated Press has a story that claims there are “jangling nerves in Bangkok, with apprehension about how far student demonstrators will go in pushing demands for reform of Thailand’s monarchy and how the authorities might react.”

Clipped from Khaosod

While AP says that “organizers plan to march to Government House, the prime minister’s offices, to hand over petitions,” this is no longer true as Khaosod reports that the protesters “will not go to the Government House,” [with a] … coordinator, who only identified herself as View, [saying] … “I can’t tell you just now where we will march to.”

Khaosod also reports on regime preparations:

Riot police are prepared to use force against the protesters should they fail to steer clear of the royal properties on Saturday, according to an internal document obtained by Khaosod English.

The 110-page document was reportedly prepared by the Metropolitan Police Bureau and used in a recent briefing with multiple police agencies. The plan calls for deployment of riot police to defend strategic choke points around the Grand Palace, the Royal Plaza, and Chitralada Royal Villa in Bangkok during the two-day protest planned for this weekend.

The Government House, the target of the demonstration on Sunday morning, is also declared out of bounds by police.

While the police rejected the document as belonging to them, this seems a ruse. Its details are scary and dumb (or, if one is conspiratorial, strategic) in making “royal properties” a target for anyone who wishes to generate violence. The document lists responses planned:

Riot dispersal gears such as shotguns, rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, acoustic control devices, and water trucks are ordered to be on standby for deployment, according to the alleged document. Drone jamming equipment and “anti-sniper” squads will be deployed as well.

“Anti-sniper” squads seems to mean that police snipers may be in place. Back in 2010, snipers were used against protesters and to take out particular targets, with some 200,000 rounds of ammunition, including 500 sniper rounds used in military operations in April and May 2010. Other reports were of thousands of sniper rounds used.

For international reports: BBC, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times.

Update 1: Khaosod’s report on “royal properties.” Deputy PM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has said: “Don’t go to the Royal Plaza…. [Police] will have to defend it…”. He was supported by recent convert to royalism Jatuporn Promphan, who “warned the protesters against crossing the point of no return by stepping into the royal grounds.”

Assistant national police commissioner, Lt. Gen. Damrongsak Kittiprapat, says “57 companies of riot police, or 8,550 men, were mobilized from around the country to handle this weekend’s protest.”

Update 2: More on Jatuporn’s royalism.





Targeting monarchy and regime

10 09 2020

With continuing reports that rights/police/military are continuing to dampen support for anti-monarchists, students from the United Front of Thammasat have made it clear that they will continue to “discuss” the monarchy at their rallies, including the one planned for 19 September. The date coincides with the date of the 2006 military coup.

That rally will begin at the downtown Thammasat University campus. In a pointed reference to the king’s seizing of properties in the area, the protesters say they will “seize Sanam Luang back for the people,” camp there overnight, and then will “march to Government House on the following day and submit a petition to PM [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration…”.

After decades of being a public place, officially under the control of the Bangkoj City administration, Sanam Luang has been closed to the public and fenced since the cremation of the late king.

Activist Parit Chiwarak “confirmed the monarchy will definitely be the subject of discussion at the rally.” He reportedly stated:

For Thammasat, we have been clear about freedom. We will talk about every issue.  We will touch on the Institution (Monarchy). We broke the ceiling on August 10th to open it to the sky.  We will not allow anyone to close it again. The ten proposals (for the reform of the Monarchy) are nothing new.  They have been around for a decade.  I believe the people will agree with us.  The masses will decide victory this time….

Khaosod says that Penguin was criticizing “a comment by an ex-leader of the Redshirt movement, Jatuporn Prompan, who warned the students not to ‘break the ceiling’ by touching the monarchy. Jatuporn said doing so might end up paving a way for another military coup.”

With more than a week to pass before the rally, expect some further political maneuvering.





With several updates: Royalists, recycling and ratbag rightists

31 08 2020

Watching the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group “rally” on Sunday was reminiscent of some of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee events. There was some yellow, some whistles, old head and arm bands, and the white, flag-themed t-shirts all seemed recycled from Suthep Thaugsuban’s efforts to overthrow an elected government and/or provide the political space for a military coup.

Thai PBS reports that mostly aged royalists rallied in support of the absent monarch and the junta’s constitution and to demand strong legal measures against student and pro-democracy activists. It was a full bag of rightist demands, recycled from earlier movements going back to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the military-backed rightists of earlier decades.

Former Democrat Party member, former Action Coalition for Thailand member, and long-term yellow shirt Warong Dechgitvigrom led the rally, and denied he planned and “confrontation” with rallying students and other pro-democracy groups. He did not say that his assigned task is to rally support from the right and royalists and to provide a potential base for further military-backed intervention, should that be deemed necessary by the powers that watch over him and his ilk.

Like his predecessors, Warong blamed all of Thailand’s “troubles” on “politicians,” accusing them of “plunging Thailand into deeper political divide, separating the old and new generations.”

His claim was that his ragtag ratbags had:

come together to protect the [m]onarchy, to retain the Thai identity, to do away with all forms of monopoly, to attain career equality for all Thai people, through the application of technology, and to enhance national prosperity via a sufficiency economy.

He also called for the “Education Minister and all university rectors” repress the student-based activism by not allowing space for rallies and to stop “lecturers, who may harbor anti-[m]onarchy leanings, from ‘brainwashing’ their students.” In this, he is recycling rightism from the 1970s.

In addition, Thai Pakdee planned to recycle rightist demands on the Japanese Embassy to stop Pavin Chachavalpongpun criticizing the monarchy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s Jatuporn Promphan, who has sounded rather royalist of late, said Thai Pakdee had “an extreme right-wing agenda, similar to a combination of the former Nawaphol, Red Guard and Village Scout groups.” We are not sure how Red Guards get into the mix, but his reference to Thai rightist heritage is apt.

The recycling of rightists and their rhetoric is dangerous, often leading to the unexplained/uninvestigated bashing of regime critics, probably by rightists working with the authorities.

It is dangerous also for regime and monarchy critics who live in exile. Rightist rhetoric gives cover and justification for the several enforced disappearances in Laos and Cambodia. These are very likely black ops by the Thai military operating on orders from the regime and the palace.

These acts of violence have been meant as “warnings” to anti-regime and anti-monarchists, to instill fear and to silence them.

Getting away with abduction, torture and murder in “brother authoritarian” regimes is relatively easily arranged, often a quid pro quo for similar operations by those regimes in Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

But it seems that this is not enough. The regime’s panic about anti-monarchy exiles in Japan, the USA and Europe is heightened, probably provoked by recent activism targeting the king in Germany.

The Nation reports on recent efforts to threaten those overseas based critics. Jom Petpradap, a “journalist living in exile in the United States has accused the Thai government of making veiled threats to his life and safety.” He has received a “package sent to him from Thailand [that] contained threatening materials” that made it clear that he is under surveillance and being followed.

Other exiles and outspoken monarchy critic Andrew MacGregor Marshall have reported similar packages and/or stalking.

Rightists in Thailand are also recycling Alt-Right inspired propaganda.

Thisrupt has a limited report on this development, noting that these conspiracy-based “revelations” of “plots” against the right’s Thailand mirror efforts in the 1970s to link student movements to international communism and efforts to overthrow the monarchy.

Something called “Thailand Vision” has been claiming a “plot,” backed by the USA – claimed to be promoting a “color revolution” in Thailand – and funded by Thai and international billionaires and capitalists. Like racists and rightists elsewhere, George Soros is identified as one of the culprit. Soros is remembered by Thai rightists as a culprit in the 1997 economic crisis. But his real “crime” is support for liberal causes.

In an elaborate concoction, Thailand Vision actually recycles claims made in earlier years by a self-exiled American, yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist who has been writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche. and with connections to Alex Jones and much of the anti-imperialist alt-right.

In earlier times, it was Thaksin Shinawatra who was the “culprit” in motivating the international liberal/globalist conspiracy to bring down the monarchy. Now it is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and international capitalists “behind” NGOs and international “co-conspirators” like the German newspaper Bild (for its tabloid journalism n the king in Germany), Business Insider, PixelHELPER, Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even Netflix!

In Thailand, “co-conspirators” include almost all of the NGOs and other organizations that are not rightist and sufficiently royalist, including the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Thai Volunteer Service, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL), Union for Civil Liberty, Prachatai, 101.world and The Isaan Record.

This might all sound bizarre, but in the recent past, such conspiracy nonsense has gained traction among former leftist yellow shirts like the late Kraisak Choonhavan and the regime/junta.

Recycling propaganda is about promoting notions of “threat” and mobilizing rightist reaction.

Update 1: We missed a Khaosod story about the ultras on Sunday. As well as one rally speaker – the youngest – seeming to incite violence and, later, calling for military dictatorship, coupled with a “Down with Democracy” screech, “speakers dish[ed] out conspiracy theories that implicate the governments of the United States and other Western countries in the ongoing anti-government protests.” Celebrity Hatai Muangboonsri said onstage: “Western powers want us to be divided. They encouraged a mindset that hates the pillars of our country…”. The reaction from the US Embassy was predictable. There’s also a strain of pro-China agitation from the ultras, who have mostly opposed Hong Kong democracy protesters.

Update 2: Two stories at The Nation deserve some attention. The first is about a street sweeper attacked outside the Thai Pakdee rally at the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Din Daeng. He was allegedly beaten up “because he was wearing a red shirt.” The story states: “It is assumed that the guard of Thai Pakdee royalist group may have assumed that Sukhon [the man beaten] had worn red to show he was associated with the anti-coup red-shirt movement.” The second story is a most unconvincing “denial” by Warong. Yellow social media is denigrating the cleaner as a “red buffalo” who got what he deserved as a Thaksin supporter. Fascism is on the march.

Update 3: In another story at The Nation, Student Union of Thailand spokesperson Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul insisted that the only people “behind” the student protests were the students themselves. She was logical in pointing out that the use of social media to raise political awareness among students and the young generation means that the students have a lot of supporters: “It wakes up many people. There are a lot of people who think like us.” She added: “It is human nature that if we know that many people share our views, then we have the courage to speak out … our fear is lessened…”. She added that she doesn’t even know all of the groups who associate themselves with Free People. Unlike Russian-paid trolls and yellow-shirted dolts, she’s brave, smart and appears (rather too) innocent.

Update 4: We added a link to Update 1 and corrected a point there.

Update 5: The Nation reports that Warong has “denied that the 15-year-old who posted a message on Facebook Live encouraging dictatorship was a member of his group.” He declared:  “he is not our member. I don’t know. Go ask him. He’s just a kid”.

Clipped from Khaosod

As the above picture shows, Warong is dissembling. He’s shown pulling a Thai Pakdee shirt over the lad’s yellow shirt. He’s applauded and lauded. Warong is trying to mislead people because he doesn’t want Thai Pakdee portrayed as it really is: an undemocratic, pro-military, pro monarchy mob that promotes the dictatorship.





Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.





Apirat, Jatuporn and the students

24 07 2020

With demonstrations against the regime spreading across the country, students continue to shine a light on the regime’s lack of legitimacy.

But the backlash has been swift and ultra-royalist. Some have been arguing that the students are a part of the lom chao republican plotting to bring down the monarchy.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

In a stern ultra-royalist warning, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong demanded that the protesters not “disrespect the royal institution” – he means the absentee king and the monarchy.

Gen Apirat babbled about “people’s rights and freedoms in a democratic system” – that can’t be Thailand – but worried that “protesters’ actions were making people feel uncomfortable.” He then speculated, like so many ultra-royalists, that “the current protest seemed like it may be part of a conspiracy but he refused to speculate who might be pulling the strings.”

Apparently Gen Apirat can’t get it through his thick skull that many of the younger generation aren’t interested in ageing generals and the absentee monarch, living off taxpayer monies.

Apirat being “democratic”

His meandering discussion raised the specter of 1976, when student demonstrators were massacred.

Meanwhile, an earlier Bangkok Post report brought a royalist warning from an unlikely source: Jatuporn Promphan, chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). He said that attacking the monarchy left the activists open to “a public backlash…”.

Jatuporn “said the students must not drag the monarchy into their activism.” He worried that republicanism “would end with huge losses like in the past…”.

Such advice is probably not needed by the students. They are well educated, quite politically savvy and of a different generation. They may appreciate his efforts in the past and his time in jail, but they probably disagree with Jatuporn’s political capitulation when he declared:

I’d like to ask these students to keep a clear head and bear in mind that Thailand will [always] be governed by a constitutional monarchy that will serve as [the kingdom’s] guard….

He is not someone this generation of very young activists listens to, distinguishing themselves from the battles of the 2000s and 2010s with new ideas and methods.





Updated: More political prisoners

28 06 2020

Along with every other media outlet, Khaosod reports that, on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a July 2007 protest that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. The rally accused Prem of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Nattawut Saikua, Veerakarn (then Veera) Musikapong, Weng Tojirakarn, Nopparut Worachitwuthikul, and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for “illegal assembly and using violence to resist police orders.”

Fellow UDD leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn observed that these men are political prisoners. The five were immediately taken from the court to prison.

While the reports refer to the five as red shirts, it needs to be noted that the wearing of the color hadn’t taken off at this time and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship-led rally and march had most people wearing yellow shirts, which was a display of “loyalty” following the 2006 60th anniversary of Bhumibol’s reign.

Another UDD leader, Jatuporn Promphan, reflected on the double standards in the judicial system: “I once said to them that on our way of fighting, it’s either death or imprisonment…. Over the past decade, we took turns getting in and out of the prison.” Jatuporn is “also due to stand trial on the same offense…”.

The double standards refer to the efforts by several royalist regimes supported by the pliant judiciary to lock up red shirts and UDD leaders while those from the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee who also occupied parts of Bangkok and several state properties for extended periods, with considerable violence, get off quite lightly.

Few of the reports said much about the rally at Gen Prem’s free lodgings, so PPT went back and looked at reports from the time.

Asia Sentinel had a perceptive report. It began by observing:

On Sunday night, UDD leaders caught police unaware by marching with thousands of supporters to the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister who is held in high respect by much of the Thai public due to his proximity to the king.

King, queen, Prem and military coup leaders

The protesters accused Prem, who was in the compound at the time, of acting as the puppet master behind the coup last September that ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. They called on Prem to resign.

The UDD set up a makeshift stage in front of Prem’s house on Sunday afternoon and made speeches for five hours or so, according to witnesses and news reports. But in the evening, after the protesters vowed to permanently camp outside the residence, riot police attempted to break up the gathering and arrest the leaders, prompting demonstrators to hail rocks, chairs, sticks, water bottles and pieces of broken flower pots at the police, who eventually retreated.

Most reports put the UDD crowd at 5,000 to 10,000, with some counting up to 20,000. The police eventually mobilized about 2,000 officers. The police:

made two more attempts to arrest the protest leaders, charging at  demonstrators with clubs, pepper spray and tear gas. Each time the demonstrators fought back with fists, rocks, sticks, bottles and anything else they could find.

Weng said the protesters withdrew when threatened with the army, saying, “We didn’t want anybody killed from this event.”

The police claimed that 200 of their officers and about 70 protesters were injured. Six protesters were arrested and charged with “causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage to state property…. Police were also seeking arrest warrants for eight or so other UDD leaders…”.

The report wonders about the police action, saying:

It’s unclear why authorities attempted to break up the protest this time as many similar
protests had occurred earlier without incident. Some observers said the army may have been spooked by UDD statements that the group would camp out in front of Prem’s house — an unacceptable scenario for generals who swear allegiance to the royal advisor.

It also notes Prem’s coup role:

Although Prem is supposed to be non-political as a privy councilor, coup opponents blast the 86-year-old for a series of speeches he gave a year ago in which he donned full military garb and said soldiers should be loyal to the king instead of the government. Many observers said the speeches set the stage for the coup.

The Irrawaddy (July 23, 2007) carried a report that royalists declared Thaksin behind the UDD. The then president of the Constitution Drafting Committee Prasong Soonsiri, cheered the arrests, saying: “He [Thaksin] is probably responsible for supporting the clash, and he won’t stop there…”. This was a widely held view among the military-installed regime led by former Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Shortly after the event, the Union for Civil Liberty issued a statement:

Declaration concerning the avoidance of violence during a conflict of opinion

During a protest by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DADD) at the home of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda in the Thewes district of Bangkok, there occurred violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Alleging the part played by General Prem in organizing the military coup of 19th September 2006, protestors called for his resignation. As a result of the clashes which took place in the late evening of Sunday 22nd July, according to news media, 106 persons were injured.

The Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) maintains that the holding of non-violent protest to make known a political viewpoint is a civil right and a fundamental component of the democratic system. It is the duty of government to assure that the right of citizens to exercise this right is respected at all times, whether their action is against or in support of government, or to express other political opinion.

It is a matter of great regret that the protest on 22nd July last could not enjoy such a right to free expression due to the action of the police in blocking the protest march to the residence of General Prem in the Thewes district. The action angered some participants in the protest leading to the use of force and many casualties both among the protestors and the police.

To avoid the recurrence of such violence, perhaps on an even larger scale, the Union for Civil Liberty submits the following proposals:

1. Appoint a committee of persons acceptable to the public to investigate the events which occurred on the evening of the 22nd July for presentation to the Government and to the public.

2. Take court action against those who have acted illegally, whether the police or the protestors, in order that justice be done and human rights be protected.

Statement issued on 23rd July 2007
Union for Civil Liberty

So, for seeking to exercise their freedom of expression, these men are jailed. The regime that went after them was a junta-appointed administration that was vehemently royalist and anti-Thaksin. The double standards are as clear as they ever were.

Update: For another take on double standards, especially in comparing red shirts and yellow shirts, read this op-ed.





Updated: No one forgets 2010

19 05 2020

There’s a trend in academic work that emphasizes memory, memorialization and memory. As it has translated in Thailand, several very smart academics have argued that Thais have forgotten important events, including 1976 and 2010. And, there’s discussion of how to remember. As an example, see one of the several op-eds at the Thai Enquirer today.

We feel this is too academic and too detached from the reality of the almost two-month long Battle for Bangkok. No one who was involved has forgotten. Nor do they need “advice” on how to remember. But, it is a decade ago, and many of those talking of memory, forgetting and remembering were too young, too class-disconnected, too bookish or too coddled to be involved and therefore, it is their memories that are constructed, distorted or reoriented. For examples, see the other op-ed at the Thai Enquirer by reformed/reforming/rethinking/unreformed yellow shirts (here, here, here, and here). And, do look at the real effort that this newspaper put into trying to understand 2010 (here, here, here, and here). We don’t agree with everything that is said, but applaud the effort made.

The 19th of May 2010 marked the end of the red shirt struggles. April and May 2010 again revealed the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of today’s regime is born of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. These men, blood on their hands, remain at the center of yet another military-backed regime.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible. Unfortunately, while no one involved forgets, it is Jatuporn Promphan who captures the essence of “remembering” for those defeated by the military’s armed excess:

“The truth is that this is the deadliest fight for democracy in Thailand…. Over the past 10 years, the Redshirts have been living humbly because we know that there is no way for us to fight. We can only seek for justice, but it will not be delivered.”

Update: It was at Wat Pathum Wanaram that – according to the courts and eye witnesses – the military gunned down people, including medics, in a zone they had declared “safe.” Since those murders, the military has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence witnesses and silence campaigners. Of course, the military has a lot to hide. Sadly, the military has also used the virus to close the temple on the anniversary of its murderous assault.