Ji on lese majeste and that dog

21 12 2015

We haven’t posted anything much from Ji Ungpakorn of late. No particular reason for that as we are sure he has plenty of readers. However, his take on the royalness of king’s yappy friend is useful indeed:

Street dog joins the royal family

Giles Ji UngpakornThong Daeng

In recent days the use of the draconian lèse majesté law in Thailand has reached absurd and vicious proportions. It is absurd because a young factory worker has been charged under this law for cracking a joke on social media about the king’s dog. It is vicious because these cases attract heavy prison sentences and, since the second military coup in 2014, they are judged in military courts with little transparency or justice.

The number of lèse majesté cases has increased dramatically under the present junta. People are in jail for expressing view through the print and social media. One man was charged for writing graffiti on a toilet wall. The junta have threatened all those who merely press the “like” button in Facebook after reading an oppositional view. At the same time extreme royalists, including a famous Buddhist monk, have been protesting against the U.S. ambassador who merely indicated that he was concerned about the use of lèse majesté. One group of Monarchy Fundamentalists even tried, unsuccessfully, to get the police to arrest the ambassador himself for lèse majesté. Such is the stupidity of those who worship the king.

Ironically, the case of the king’s dog raises the status of the king’s favourite street dog to that of members of the royal family. But dogs are viewed as “lowly” animals in Thai society. In fact a constant stream of comments on social media poke fun at royalists who prostrate themselves on the ground in front of the king and his dog. Significant sections of the population are becoming increasingly fed up with the monarchy and the military dictatorship. One wonders whether it might be cheaper and less bothersome to just appoint a dog as the next monarch. It could bark and wag its tail in approval of everything the junta does. And it would only need to be fed with scraps of food. The generals could then move in and live in the palace.

Mainstream accounts of Thai society and politics always include the cliché that “the king is loved and respected by all Thais”. This may have had some truth at certain periods in history, yet it is a mechanical static view that overlooks the constant changes in public opinion since 1932 and the severe repression and manic propaganda associated with the ideology of the monarchy.

Previous democratically elected governments in Thailand were not opposed to the use of lèse majesté either. In 2010, the head of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) under the Pua Thai government announced that people could be charged with lèse majesté for merely using “body language”, like clapping or smiling, while someone else makes a speech. In the case of that government it was aware that the military and conservative elites were just waiting for a chance to engineer regime change, which they later did. But that just shows how cowardly Taksin’s cronies really were. It shows that they were never committed to full freedom and democracy.

The reason why the military are so extreme in their royalism is that it is the military who invented the monarchy in its present form during the Cold War and it is they, along with the conservative elites, who have controlled and used the timid king to their own ends for most of his life. Given that today political legitimacy in the eyes of most ordinary citizens is conditional on democracy, the military can only seek legitimacy to intervene in politics by continuing to promote the monarchy and by claiming to be protecting the king.

The manic use of lèse majesté has little to do with unease about the crown prince becoming king in the future. This is because many red shirts mistakenly support him, deluding themselves that he will push for a liberalisation of the monarchy. Yet the vast majority of lèse majesté victims are close to the red shirts. The manic use of this law is really about attempts by the military to prolong its dictatorial power. We can see this by the fact that the case of the factory worker charged with “insulting” the king’s dog is closely tied up with attempts to jail him for exposing military corruption.

Those who are for maintaining lèse majesté in Thailand can only hold up the limp excuse that “Thailand is different”. But Thailand is unfortunately not unique. Brutal dictatorships exist all over the world.

For those who merely advocate reforming lèse majesté, their excuse is that they believe that they stand a better chance of convincing the corrupt and brutal generals, politicians and top civil servants to accept some minor changes if they don’t “go too far”. But that is like asking a gang of robbers not to “rob too much”.

The lèse majesté law cannot be reformed into a democratic law any more than a military dictatorship can be reformed or amended into a “democratic military dictatorship”. The lèse majesté law is fundamentally against the freedom of expression and democracy. It cannot be reformed. It has to be abolished. Without destroying the power of the military, via the struggle of a mass movement for democracy, this will not happen.

No one should face charges, be punished or be in jail or in exile for speaking their mind about Thai political institutions. This is the line that must be drawn in the sand to defend freedom of speech and build Democracy in Thailand.

Yellow senators see black

9 04 2013

No one should be surprised by a report in the Bangkok Post that begins: “Mysterious ‘men in black’ did attack security forces on April 10, 2010 on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, a senate sub-committee looking into political violence has concluded.”

For one thing, the report of the senate sub-committee is curiously timed to coincide with the events that saw red shirts killed, many targeted by snipers, and some military men killed in unexplained circumstances as the military was repeatedly pushed back when they used rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition to clear what had been quite peaceful red shirt protests.Red shirt coffins That timing suggests that, far from announcing an end to what are described as intensive investigations, the sub-committee has chosen to make a political stand, blaming MiB and linking them to red shirts.

A second obvious point is that the quoted senator is Somchai Sawaengkarn, a member of the yellow-hued Siam Samakkhi group that has long worked a anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and pro-royalist line. Back in early 2010, he was already saying that the red shirts were engaged in violent plots. In 2009, he and his group was dashing about lobbing lese majeste charges around, with Thaksin Shinawatra, Richard Loyd Parry, Asia editor of The Times, and Ji Ungpakorn.

A third reason for considering Somchai nothing more than a royalist stooge is that he is a member of the so-called Group of 40 Senators who do little more than seek reasons to bring down elected governments. The Post refers to “Elected senator Somchai Sawaengkarn” when the Senate itself shows him as one of the unelected lot.

And finally, Somchai presents nothing – or at least nothing is revealed in this story – that is in any way new or revealing. It is just the same stuff that has been trotted out by Somchai, the Democrat Party and other yellow groups.

Ji on Thaksin and red shirts

8 09 2012

Ji Ungpakorn has sent around another of his popular assessments of Thai politics. PPT reproduces it here, with the only changes being where we added what we think are useful links. We should add that we disagree with his statement that the “Government has increased the use of lèse majesté…”; unless Ji has data we haven’t seen, that is not the case when compared with the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. We agree that the Yingluck Shinawatra government has been entirely spineless on lese majeste:

The Parallel War: Taksin and the Red Shirts

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Six years after the 19th September coup d’état, it is possible to look back and assess the impact of the crisis on Thai politics and society.

One way of understanding the “dialectical” relationship between Taksin and the Red Shirts is to borrow the concept of a “parallel war” from Donny Gluckstein’s book on the Second World War [A People’s History of the Second World War. Resistance Versus Empire, Pluto Press, London, 2012]. According to Gluckstein there were two parallel wars against the Axis Powers. One was an Imperialist War, waged by the ruling classes of Britain, the United States and Russia for their own interests, while the other war was a People’s War against Fascism, waged by ordinary working people, many of them socialists. The two wars often overlapped in the minds of millions, but their aims were very different. We can see a kind of “parallel war” in the Red Shirt/UDD struggles against the military-royalist elites, where thousands of ordinary Red Shirts struggled for democracy, dignity and social justice, while Taksin and his political allies waged a very different campaign to regain the political influence that they had enjoyed before the 2006  coup d’état.

This explains the betrayal of the Red Shirt struggle by Yingluk, Taksin and the Pua Thai Party. For anyone doubting the scale of betrayal one only has to look at the issues of lèse majesté, the political prisoners and the non-punishment of state officials for killing protestors. The Government has increased the use of lèse majesté and refused to countenance any reforms of the law or even the justice system. Lèse majesté political prisoners like Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Surachai Darnwatanatrakun and Da Torpedo languish in jail and their plight as prisoners of conscience is ignored by the National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International. Even Red Shirt prisoners who were not charged with lèse majesté, but merely jailed for taking part in street protests, are still locked up in the “political prison”. As for the punishment of politicians and military commanders for the cold-blooded murder of unarmed demonstrators in 2010, no significant progress has or will ever be made.

The reason for this disgraceful Pua Thai position is that Taksin and his allies see the struggle as one between them and their political opponents in the military and the Democrat Party. Taksin’s dispute with the military has been quietly buried, leaving the Democrat Party as the only official opponent. Taksin is equally keen to use the monarchy for his own legitimacy, just like the military, the top civil servants and other big business leaders. That is why he wishes to preserve the attack on the freedom of speech represented by lèse majesté. He has never been committed to Human Rights and under his government innocent civilians were murdered in the War On Drugs and in crushing protests in the South in 2004. The idea of holding any state officials and politicians to account for killing civilians is not on his agenda. Even on the issue of increasing living standards, the partial increase in the minimum wage to 300 Baht a day in some areas has now been coupled with a 2 year pay freeze.

Despite the fact that thousands of Red Shirts supported Taksin, their struggle was shaped by their own different agenda, an agenda for the freedom and equality of ordinary citizens. Only in Taksin’s egotistical dreams were the Red Shirts fighting for him alone. Many Red Shirts are bitter about what has happened since the Pua Thai election victory. Many others are not ready to conclude that there has been a terrible betrayal. They continue to make up excuses for the Government. These excuses usually depend on a mistaken belief that King Pumipon is all powerful and that he controls the military and therefore nothing can be done until he dies. There is an irony that the ruling elites want to promote this line of thought about the powerful monarchy while the effect of this belief among Red Shirts causes hatred against the King and the Royal Family.

Just like in Gluckstein’s parallel Second World War, the ability of “the people” or the Red Shirts to achieve their goals depends on the degree of political self-organisation, independent from the ruling class. There may be thousands of disappointed Red Shirts, but their inability to form a united progressive movement to fight for freedom and equality has allowed the UDD Red Shirt leaders to police the movement and make sure that it serves only the interests of the Pua Thai government. That is why Turn Left [องค์กรเลี้ยวซ้าย] has suggested that progressive Red Shirts need to come together to build some kind of radical socialist organisation, with clear links to the working class, in order to keep the aspirations of the Red Shirts alive. This idea has been opposed by Niti Eawsiwong and Somsak Jiamteerasakul. Niti hopes that Red shirts can influence the Pua Thai Party from within. But Pau Thai is a typical Thai capitalist party with no internal democracy. It is controlled by “people of influence”. Somsak claims that it is “unrealistic” to build a socialist organisation. He proposes a small NGO-style pressure group made up of intellectuals like himself, independent of the Red Shirts, with the aim of pushing Pua Thai into having better policies. But small groups of intellectuals with no mass base among either the working class or the Red Shirts can have no real influence in society and no bargaining power with the elites.

Yingluck government’s lese majeste decline continues

14 12 2011

PPT has been pretty open to the idea that the lese majeste activities of the Yingluck Shinawatra government had been less dastardly than the actions of the Democrat Party-led royalist government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. We have also been careful to note that the government’s lese majeste record to date was not nearly as aggressive as the previous government.


However, we have to admit that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung is doing his best to change that. He has now been reported as stating that the “cabinet has approved a 400 million baht budget for the Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) to buy equipment to lawfully tap into websites to detect lese majeste content…”. That stands as a potentially aggressive action on lese majeste.

Chalerm claims the equipment “would be used to obtain communications network data pursuant to lawful authority for the purpose of analysis or evidence.”

Chalerm also states that “since after its establishment his committee had, with an order and warrant issued by the Criminal Court, suspended broadcasting of texts and pictures deemed lese majeste on five websites after searching five locations in Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok and seizing a number of computers, mobile phones, and other communications equipment for examination.”

At the same time, Chalerm “admitted the committee might not be able to block all lese majeste messages and pictures sent from outside the country, but it would try to stop them from being spread further.”

That’s a bad sign and goes together with some recent commentary at New Mandala suggesting further actions in the pipeline. However, Ji Ungpakorn’s recent claim that “the Government’s record of abusing freedom of speech is just as bad as Abhisit’s military-backed Democrats” is an exaggeration, at least at the moment. It feels like Chalerm is set on proving Ji right.

Thaksin, monarchy and the pardon (again)

18 11 2011

Predictably, there is a huge ruckus in the mainstream media and amongst the royalist bloggers and social media activists regarding the still strange story of a “closed door” cabinet meeting that has apparently come up with a draft royal decree that might allow Thaksin Shinawatra to be included in the king’s birthday list of thousands usually released following a pardon, along with about 26,000 others in jail and facing jail.

The story originates from Democrat Party parliamentarian Sirichoke Sopha and is now a rallying call, arguably bigger than alleged mismanagement of floods, for the anti-Thaksin, anti-Red Shirt, anti-Puea Thai Party and pro-royalist opposition.

As important background, PPT urges its readers to consult Bangkok Pundit’s account of the history and process of mass pardons associated with birthday and anniversaries associated with the monarch. Pundit points out that the pardon issue is not exactly new, mentioning earlier posts on discussions of the topic. Interestingly, Pundit observes that: “Last year’s Royal Decree for Royal Pardons [under the Democrat Party-led government] had a provision that it applied to those aged over 60 and have a period of imprisonment not exceeding three years…”.

In addition, vociferous and dogged anti-Thaksin activist Kaewsan Atibhodhi is quoted as having noted that the requirement to have served one-third of a sentence was also removed by that government. Kaewsan stated: “Especially regulations that may be to the advantage of Thaksin is the regulation that those aged over 60 and who have less than 3 years of their sentence for the 2007 pardon there was condition that must have served one-third of sentence, but in 2010 the government removed his condition so for 2011 the Yingluck government has the freedom to choose either the 2007 pardon regulations or the 2010 pardon regulations as they prefer…”.

In short, the current government has indeed chosen the 2010 regulations. Presumably Kaewsan and other activists didn’t jump up and down when the Democrat Party made these changes because they knew that Thaksin would be specifically excluded. Now, however, they have gone ballistic.

In the current struggle, the initial claims by the Democrat Party, taken up by the media, focused on the “secret” nature of the cabinet meeting. But aren’t all cabinet meetings behind closed doors? Apparently not. One Bangkok Post opinion seems to imply they are not: “Unlike the approval of similar decrees by previous governments, this draft to seek a royal pardon for convicts on His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday this Dec 5, was approved in a meeting behind closed doors.” Funny, we don’t recall the Abhisit Vejjajiva government being “transparent” in its decision-making in the cabinet. This is perhaps now a triviality associated with this reporting, but every media endlessly parrots it. None seem to mention the legal changes made by the Democrat Party.

Reading the newspapers now has a decidedly retro feel to it, with all of the anti-Thaksin groups suddenly roused from their focus on alleged floods mismanagement, law suits and rehabilitating the Army. For example, the Bangkok Post has a story that cites the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that explains “it will meet soon to decide what action to take against the proposed pardon.” Most analysts had written PAD off, but as PPT has argued, this is premature. PAD’s boss, Sondhi Limthongkul is also cited, and is reported to have “deplored the pardon plan which he said has piled pressure on the monarchy.” Sondhi claimed “the Pheu Thai Party was blatantly trying to destroy the rule of law…”. Calling this “despicable,” Sondhi declared that PAD would “not sit idly by.”

Meanwhile, the report states that more than “20,000 people signed up to a Facebook account opened by well-known television news anchor Kanok Ratwongsakul … to voice opposition to the decree.” Kanok is one of the anti-Thaksin and anti-Red Shirt mainstays of the mainstream media and closely associated with the anti-Thaksin Nation Group (see here and here). As can be seen in its annual report (a large PDF), both he and his wife held important positions at the NBC of the Nation Group.

Kaewsan is also reported. He said his “Siam Samakkhi group also protested against the royal decree proposal.” He (now) claims that the “royal decree was unconstitutional because it ran counter to the court’s ruling.” He shouts: “How dare you exercise the limited power of the executive to overpower the judiciary for the interest of one man.” That argument will have political clout, but Kaewsan neglects that the decree is a draft that has yet to be approved – as a first step – by the Council of State who look at issues of constitutionality.

Ignoring that step in the legal process, Kaewsan “called for the whole cabinet to be impeached, saying if it stayed, it would amend the constitution to free Thaksin from many other corruption cases. He also recommended Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be impeached and said that as the prime minister, she could not deny responsibility for the planned decree.”

Kaewsan’s call was supported by yellow shirt, hard-core royalist and appointed senator Somchai Sawaengkarn who joined with the Siam Samakkhi Group (again). Somchai has been behind lese majeste allegations against several political opponents, including Thaksin. Somchai was supported by yellow-shirted Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul who has a long record of opposing the current administration and its supporters. She was vociferous in not wanting an election in 2011, fearing a loss for the royalist party.

Also roused is Tul Sitthisomwong, a long-time PAD activist who is repeatedly identified in the media as “leader of the multi-coloured shirts.” The Nation reports that Tul has already “lodged a complaint with the Council of State against the draft decree. He said opponents of the decree would hold a rally at Lumpini Park today to air their opposition to pardoning Thaksin.”

Rounding out the reconstitution of royalist and anti-Thaksin oppositions, business and academics are reacting. The Bangkok Post claims: “Business leaders are uncomfortable with the cabinet’s approval of draft royal decree for a royal pardon that could include Thaksin Shinawatra, saying it could add political risk at a time when businesses are already suffering from floods.” It seems that capitalists fear more political instability.

Predictably, the Bangkok Post reports that a “large group of academics has joined the growing chorus opposed to the Pheu Thai-led government’s proposed royal decree to pardon jailed convicts on the King’s birthday.” Apparently “large” is less than 90 academics nationwide. Their attempt to be novel on this issue is to claim that the release of “convicted drug and corruption offenders … would further widen the wedge in society, undermine national security and create chaos.” Of course, their spokesperson is from the royalist political science faculty at Chulalongkorn University, which has been remarkably yellow. They even predict “nationwide chaos next year…”.

Of course, the Democrat Party joined these calls, claiming the draft decree “would undermine the justice system and divide society further.” PPT always finds such claims about social division and rule of law laughable when they come from this party, which perpetuated and enhanced “division” as the tool of royalists and in defending the rules and laws of the military junta. Abhisit “confirmed that his party would fight the proposal to the end as it would bring about national disunity.” What he means is that Thaksin remains the devil incarnate and the “national unity” expressed in votes can be ignored. And, he’d so love to have some outside force lift him back to the position he knows he deserves as premier.

The Democrat Party is already looking at impeachment on this case, along with the alleged flood mismanagement where, as reported at The Nation, it has already “lodged an impeachment motion against Justice Minister Pracha Promnok…” and six other Puea Thai Party parliamentarians, several of them red shirts.

So just as the floods have seen a rehabilitation of the military, the pardon issue promises a reconstitution of the yellow-shirted alliances of 2005-06. And, the legal challenges to yet another elected government begin.

Nowhere is this rounding up of anti-Thaksin elements clearer than in the call by PAD for yellow “civil society” to “wake up” and for royal action. Suwat Aphaiphak, PAD’s long-time lawyer saidd “PAD is likely to turn to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for help, as the royal decree is against several NACC laws. Any opposition to the draft from the NACC will provide enough grounds for the Privy Council not to forward the amnesty decree to His Majesty for endorsement.”

Suwat’s call to the Privy Council was supported by “Preecha Suwannathat, former law dean of Thammasat University and an ex-Democrat MP,” who “said the proposed changes would violate the law” and said “he hoped the Privy Council would exercise good judgement when vetting the draft decree if the government insisted on proposing it to the King.”

Interestingly, Suwat claimed that street demonstrations would not be the way forward as “nobody can match the power of the red shirts who are looking forward to the return of Thaksin.” So, as the lessons of recent years have been digested, the action will shift to judicial areas, where the royalists have considerable support.

Another take on this issue is from the red shirt sympathetic who are scratching their heads as to why the Thaksin issue is raised now. PPT has already posted Ji Ungpakorn’s challenge, much of which we agree with. Somsak Jeamteerasakul has said “the government should exercise laws for the public interest instead of that of an individual. He said many pro-Thaksin red shirt protesters had not been treated fairly. It was not right for the government to draft the decree to help Thaksin…”.

In what now can only be a footnote to the rapidly gathering political action is the question of “why now?” The mainstream media has been saying it is because the government’s popularity is declining, it must act now on Thaksin. PPT doesn’t buy this line. Of course, the government has to have a draft amnesty decree in place by the time of the king’s birthday and this important anniversary. It may have been delayed by the floods, but we are still left to ponder why it is that the Puea Thai government has decided to be deliberately provocative when it knows that this action will re-galvanize its opponents.

Wikileaks, Democrat Party, palace and lese majeste

31 07 2011

In our series on leaked cables, a Wikileaks cable dated 6 February 2009, by Ambassador Eric John, notes the rising tide of lese majeste charges.

He seems somewhat bemused by the Democrat Party’s position as ardent promoters of the use of the law. He comments: “Many of the Democrat Party leaders who have moved into top government positions are cosmopolitan, well-educated people who nevertheless appear to be facilitating growing efforts to clamp down on forms of speech critical of the monarchy. Whether that is primarily out of personal conviction or political advantage, or both, remains unclear.”

What he may have missed is the royalist heritage of the party and the fact that, in 2009, it owed its position to the Army that was also gung-ho on lese majeste and, like the so-called Democrats, dead keen to preserve the existing order that congeals around the monarchy.

John also has a comment on the case of Ji Ungpakorn, stating: “Giles [Ungpakorn] has traditionally attacked all elements of the traditional Thai elite, including all political forces without distinction, XXXX despite earlier pressure from Special Branch, formal charges did not surface until the inauguration of a Democrat-led government.”

On “friends of the monarchy” warning that lese majeste was damaging, John recounts: “15. (C) Several private Americans with long-term experience in Thailand and good connections with palace insiders weighed in ‘as friends’ February 3-5 out of concern that the increased application of lese majeste, without distinction between those who mean ill towards the monarchy and those who otherwise would be ignored, ran the risk of undermining the very institution the law seeks to protect, and which they feel has served Thailand well through the decades. The reception to the message was mixed. Privy Councilors Prem Tinsulanonda, Surayud Chulanont, and Siddhi Savetsila thanked one U.S. businessman for the ‘very good advice; we’ll take it seriously.’ The reaction from the Crown Property Bureau to a similar approach by a second businessman was completely negative; the self-described friend of the monarchy remarked afterwords: ‘these people live in an alternate reality’.” The emphasis is added by PPT.

Communique from Ji Ungpakorn

25 07 2011

PPT wishes to share the below communique from Ji Ungpakorn with readers (recommendations bolded for emphasis):

3 Weeks after the Thai election

Why is there no new government?

 Three weeks after the Thai election, where Peua Thai Party won a thumping majority, Abhisit Vejjajiva and his military-backed Democrat Party are still in government. The PAD extremist Kasit is still the Foreign Minister. All the Red Shirt political prisoners are still in jail and censorship has not ceased. The military-appointed National Human Rights Commission is still stalling on its long overdue “report” on the killing of innocent Red Shirt civilians in April/May 2010.

The reason for this is the way in which the last two Thai Constitutions have been crafted and the ridiculous powers given to the bureaucrats of the military-appointed Election Commission.

 The present Election Commission was appointed by the junta, and just like the National Human Rights Commission, it is staffed with people who supported the 2006 coup and the ultra right-wing PAD. The present election rules state that the Election Commission must “endorse” all MP before they can sit in parliament and that the new parliament can only be opened when all MPs from all constituencies have been endorsed. The EC is making a meal out of investigating all minor and irrelevant complaints against many prospective MPs. Even before the election it was given the power to vet the suitability of those standing for parliament.

So a handful of unelected bureaucrats, beholden to the military and the conservative elites, claim the right to judge whether candidates elected by millions of Thais can sit in parliament. This is not democracy. But the elites believe that the majority of the Thai electorate are “too poorly educated” to be given the ultimate power to elect MPs and governments. This patronising anti-poor attitude is also shown by the howls of outrage from rich business executives about Peua Thai’s election promise to raise the daily minimum wage to 300 baht ($U.S. 10).

In 2009 the Gini coefficient for Thailand, which measures inequality, had increased to 0.54. This compares with a Gini Coefficient of 0.42 for China and 0.37 for India. In 2009 the share of national income owned by the top 20% was 59% while the share of the bottom 20% was a mere 3.9%. Even the middle 20% of the population owned only 11.4%. It is the arrogance of the rich and powerful, who include the top generals, conservative business elites, the royal family, and even the middle-classes, which was behind the 2006 coup and the political crisis.

In a sensible election system, if MPs are found to have lied or cheated in the election in a serious manner, they should be prosecuted and impeached after parliament has already opened. It is important to state that we need to talk about “serious” offences because the election commission is investigating such trivial things as candidates taking part in processions and rallies. That is not cheating in any way. But much more important is the issue of MPs who really ought to be disbarred for using violence to frustrate the democratic process.

Abhisit, and his Democrat Party deputy Sutep, should have been disbarred from the election for ordering the killing of nearly 90 unarmed Red Shirt protestors last year. They did this, with the acquiescence of the top generals, in order to avoid an election that year. It would have been an election which they would have lost, just like the recent one. The Democrat Party has never won an overall majority. In addition to Abhisit and Sutep, General Sonti, the leader of the 2006 coup should also have been disbarred from running for parliament. The fact that the Election Commission endorsed the suitability of these blood-stained pro-dictatorship individuals means that the Election Commission and all its machinations is nothing to do with upholding free and fair democratic elections.

 As I have written before, there are urgent reforms which need to take place after this election. These include:

1. The freeing of all political prisoners, including those jailed or charged under the notorious lèse majesté law.

2. The ending of censorship of all types, especially the internet and community radio stations.

3. The sacking of the Army chief General Prayut Junocha on the grounds that he sought to influence the outcome of the election and announced that he opposed Peua Thai policies in the South. The Army Chief should be the servant of an elected government. He should never have special extra-constitutional powers to intervene in politics.

4. The indictment and trial of former Prime Minister Abhisit and his deputy Sutep, along with Generals Anupong and Prayut on the grounds of murdering Red Shirt civilians last year.

5. The temporary re-introduction of the 1997 Constitution, instead of the present military constitution and the start of a process to rewrite the constitution to increase freedom and democracy.

6. The scrapping of the lèse majesté and computer crimes laws which prevent freedom of expression.

None of these important changes will take place if the Red Shirts do not mobilise. Yet Prime Minister-elect Yingluck and many Peua Thai politicians are telling the Red Shirts to stay quiet. This is a recipe for maintaining the rule of the elites.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

24 July 2011

Ji on the military and red shirt enemies

25 10 2010

We post Ji Ungpakorn’s latest message, with illustrations from PPT’s library. See also PPT’s related posts here and here.

Military claims that the Red Shirts are the main enemy

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Army boss General Prayut Chan-ocha maintains that the Military’s top priority is to repress the Red Shirt pro-democracy movement and defend the Monarchy. Recently he said that “everyone is obligated, in an act of loyalty, to root out certain individuals from offending the country’s revered institution because without the Monarchy, we may live but things will never be the same…”. The truth is that without the Monarchy the military would not know how to legitimise its brutality.

Prayut’s views are supported by the General Wantip Wongwai, head of the 3rd army, who says that there is a serious republican movement headed by Jakrapop Pencare and myself. The army will go into villages and tell the truth about the army and the Monarchy to the people!!

Mainstream accounts of Thai society and politics always include the cliché that “the King is loved and respected by all Thais”. This may have had some truth at certain periods in history, yet it over looks the constant changes in public opinion and the severe repression, especially the use of the lèse majesté law, and also the manic propaganda associated with the ideology of the Monarchy. Today there are people serving up to 18 years in prison for merely criticising the Monarchy, yet despite this repression there is now a serious republican mood among millions of citizens. The King is openly verbally insulted and criticised in public, especially when demonstrations take place. The reason for this is that since 2006, the Military and the conservatives have systematically destroyed the democratic rights of millions of people who voted for Thai Rak Thai, using the excuse that they were “protecting the Monarchy”. The King also remained silent when the Military gunned down pro-democracy demonstrators in April and May 2010 and the Queen has openly supported the fascist PAD and the actions of the army.

It is ironic that the majority of, both the opponents and supporters of the Monarchy, believe today that Thailand is run by the King in some kind of Absolute Monarchy system. For most Red Shirt republicans, the King is the root of all evil and has ordered military coups and dominated politics for his own benefit. For most royalists, the King is an Absolute Monarch, a Constitutional Monarch and a “god” all at the same time! Reason does not come into the royalist thinking. This is partial convergence of belief is achieved by imposing and socialising the view among the population that the King is an all powerful god who is to be loved and feared. Today millions of Red Shirts have started to hate the King, but they still fear his power. Yet, the King’s power is a myth, created for ideological purposes by the ruling class, especially the Military.

An AP photo from the Telegraph: Protesters surround the coffins which will be used for the bodies of their comrades killed in clashes with troops.

If we are to understand the role of the King in Thai society, we have to understand the double act performed by the Military and the King. For ruling classes to achieve hegemony in most modern societies, they require both coercion and legitimacy. The Military and their bureaucratic allies have their armed might to stage coups and manipulate political society. The King symbolises the conservative ideology which gives legitimacy to the authoritarian actions of the Military and their allies. It is a double act of “power” and “ideological legitimacy”. In this double act the weak-willed King has no real power, but he is a willing participant.

The Military has intervened in politics and society since the 1932 revolution against the Absolute Monarchy. This is because the revolutionary Peoples Party led by Pridi Panomyong relied too much on the Military rather than building a mass party to stage the revolution. Yet it is also a cliché to just state the number of coup d’états that have taken place in order to say that Thailand is plagued by coups. The power of the Military is not unlimited and it relies on the ideology of the Monarchy and an alliance with businessmen, civilian technocrats and corrupt politicians in order to supplement its violent means of coercion.

At important moments in history, the power of the Military has been significantly reduced or kept at bay by social movements and popular uprisings. The post 1973 and1992 periods are good examples. It would be more accurate to state that the Military is an important centre of power among many. Other elite centres include big business, political bosses and high ranking bureaucrats. What is unique about the Military, however, is its weaponry and decisive ability to topple governments through coup d’états. The Military has a monopoly on the means of violent coercion which it has been prepared to use by gunning down unarmed protestors in the streets. The latest example was in April and May 2010 when over 90 people died. Previously, the Military shot unarmed protestors in 1973, 1992, 2004 and 2009 and in 1976 the Border Patrol Police, a paramilitary police force created to fight the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), was used, along with fascist mobs, in order to murder and brutalise students in Bangkok.

Because the Military has always had a problem with trying to legitimise its actions by quoting “Democracy”, it has relied heavily upon using the Monarchy to shore-up its legitimacy. At the same time, the Military also needed to promote the Monarchy. This process was initiated in the 1960s. Today the Military always claim that they are “protecting the Monarchy” and that “they are the servants of the King and Queen”. We see the generals in photo poses, supposedly taking orders from royalty. Yet it is the generals who are really in charge of the Palace. The Palace willingly cooperates in this arrangement, gaining much wealth and prestige. Claiming legitimacy from the Monarchy is a way to make the population afraid of criticising the Military and all the elites, and the draconian lèse majesté law is in place to back this up.

Further updated:Four years living in the shadow of the coup

19 09 2010

Today marks four years of living in the shadow of the coup in Thailand. PPT will post our own reflections on post-coup (or is that inter-coup?) life over the next few days, but for now we wanted to bring your attention to two new statements posted at New Mandala — by Jaran Dittapichai and Giles Ji Ungpakorn. Well worth a read. Check them out here:  New Mandala, 19 September 2010, “Two statements on the fourth anniversary of Thailand’s coup”.

Update 1: Not unrelated, The Thai Report has an excellent round-up, via numerous links to tweets, news reports and video posts, of red shirt activities that marked the anniversary of the 2006 coup. Amongst the more interesting elements of these links is that the size of red shirt crowds exceeded the authorities’ expectations and that the authorities continued to work hard to limit the demonstrations and repress, while instilling fear in the minds of the public.

Update 2: Thailand’s Troubles has a useful report and photos of the red shirt rallies in Bangkok on the anniversary of the coup.

New article by Giles Ji Ungpakorn

15 09 2010

Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s latest essay has been posted to Socialist Worker, the online newspaper of the International Socialist Organization. In it, Ji argues that it is the military, and the nature of its connections to the monarchy, rather than the monarchy itself, which must be interrogated in present-day Thailand. Ji’s argument is important because he dares to question the relationship between the cultural and religious capital vested in the monarchy and the sheer force and possibility of violence represented by the military. These are questions that all those concerned with Thai politics should be asking.

The entire article is well worth a read. It can be found here:  Socialist Worker, 8 September 2010, “The power behind the Thai throne”

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