Recent publications of interest

6 03 2017

As long-time readers know, we at PPT sometimes draw attention to works on Thailand by academics. In recent days there have been a few worthy of attention, each published in an easily accessible form:

The first is a New Mandala piece by Jim Taylor: “The perplexing case of Wat Dhammakaya.”

Taylor made a name for himself in the 1980s and 1990s writing on this group, so this piece is worth a read as the military regime and the monarchy try to bring it down.

Then there are a set of articles at the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asian Studies. The papers of Thailand interest in an issue on “Political Assassinations in Southeast Asia” are:

  • Prajak Kongkirati: Murder without Progress in Siam: From Hired Gunmen to Men in Uniform
  • Nuttakorn Vititanon: Assassination in Thai Local Politics: A Decade of Decentralisation (2000-2009)
  • Peera Charoenvattananukul: Rethinking Approaches to the Study of Thai Foreign Policy Behaviours

The issue includes articles on political violence in other parts of Southeast Asia.

Panic, coups and courts

9 05 2013

It is difficult to miss the increase in political panic attacks on the two main sides of the political contest in Thailand.

As PPT has already posted, the yellow-hued opponents of the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra have had multiple panic attacks that have caused them to shout their real political views out very loud. When Yingluck speaks to a meeting on democracy, the royalists and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra coalition has its leading figures shout about treason, selling out the country and greater “crimes.” The main “crime” seems to be Yingluck’s failure to again kowtow to the old men who think they run Thailand and continue to concoct a royalist version of the country’s recent political history. A few statements by a younger woman about political reality suggest to the geriatric royalists that their presumed control of her has weakened and that she does not “know her place.”

The tried and royalist trusted method for attacking elected governments, apart from the military coup, is judicial harassment and intervention. And so it is that as the political temperature rises ever more panicked and preposterous royalists charge off to their buddies at the Constitutional Court seeking judicial interference.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the latest move is appointed senator  – that is, unelected senator – Paiboon Nititawan who “represents” something called “other sectors,” which really just means he’s an unelected spawn of the military junta, has begged the kangaroo court to consider Thaksin Shinawatra’s alleged “order for Pheu Thai to amend the constitution,” which the senator claims “violates Section 68 of the charter, pertaining to acts that could undermine the constitutional monarchy or grab power through unconstitutional means.”

The Post states that some yellow-shirted intellectuals think the “Constitution Court is likely to take up a complaint…”. At the same time, “Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a political science lecturer at Sripatum University, said the allegation that Thaksin’s Skype call breached Section 68 is far-fetched.” That won’t bother the court or the royalists.

Somchai reckons that a more likely constitutional court intervention is over the “MPs and senators [who] have declared they will not accept the authority of the charter court…”. He says: “Such an announcement is bound to be a violation of the law…. Many MPs and senators may realise their action carries a risk.”

Panic has also set in on the government and red shirt side. PPT has already posted on the political foot-in-mouth calisthenics by Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap. Equally panicky seems to be red shirt supporters claiming that a coup is in the offing. The clearest English-language statement of this was at New Mandala where Jim Taylor makes this claim:

The army, if a little confused about royal futures, are talking about a coup (yes, yet again) among themselves and many senior army officers (including Prayuth Chan-ocha) dropping strong hints in the media…

Several readers have emailed PPT with similar claims. We don’t doubt that the military brass around boss Prayuth Chan-ocha were shocked by Yingluck’s Mongolia speech, but we have yet to see any strong evidence of the tanks warming up. We would expect to see and hear a lot more from the top brass if they were at any serious level of plotting. That said, Yingluck’s speech and the failure of the king and queen to appear as scheduled probably mean that the military men have the coup jitters.Red shirt protest

Meanwhile, while red shirt anger over the Constitutional Court shenanigans saw a mobile protest. Reports from the protest site are mixed, with some saying the protesters preparing to leave and others reporting an expansion of the protest (both in the same newspaper on the same day….). The very same newspaper is back to its old tricks of producing material filched from yellow-shirt sites and dressing it up as an op-ed rather than concocted propaganda.

The latter report also refers to:

hundreds of yellow-shirt Thai Compatriots and Territory Protection Front members, gathering since Tuesday at Sanam Luang, are refusing to clear the site.

They say they will stay until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is ousted and that their presence won’t interfere with Royal Ploughing Ceremony on the grounds next Monday…. They are also demonstrating to offer moral support to the Constitutional Court judges and oppose the Preah Vihear court case.

The Bangkok Post, which says the rally is called off, has a spurious headline at its website, seems to say that the red shirt protest at the Constitutional Court was all Thaksin’s doing, when the story itself implies something else again, even suggesting that the Puea Thai bosses and Thaksin were out of sync with the protesters. Apparently the protest was called off:

after losing the backing of Pheu Thai, other red-shirt groups and, more importantly, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, sources say.Thaksin did it

Some ruling party MPs initially sponsored the protest by the Radio Broadcasters for Democracy movement formed by some red shirts, the Pheu Thai sources said.

Apparently, the MPs got cold feet when the rallies turned to those close to the palace:

The MPs had also joined the protest in front of the Constitution Court on Chaeng Watthana Road in Bangkok.

But they later withdrew their support after demonstration leaders ignored their warnings and attacked Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, threatened Constitution Court judges and used obscene words.

The MPS and Thaksin apparently worried that the rally could destabilize the government. If Thaksin is the ring master in all of this, he seems to have been unable to control the situation or to fathom the impacts of his sister’s speech or the red shirt rally against the hopeless bunch at the Court. Always murky, the arm wrestle continues.

Targeting Surachai

27 01 2013

Part of the 1985 cover of the UCL Newsleter

Many readers will know that Surachai Danwattananusorn has been incarcerated on several lese majeste charges since 22 February 2011. On 28 February 2012, the then 71 year-old Surachai was sentenced to 15 years in jail for speeches made in late 2010. This was halved for his guilty plea.  On 27 April 2012, Surachai was sentenced to a further 5 years in jail. The court halved this sentence because of his guilty plea on the previous charges.  On 17 May 2012, he was hospitalized and scheduled for a prostrate operation. He came out of jail and hospital to be sentenced on yet one more charge on 28 May 2012. He received a further 5 years, reduced by half, for a speech on 15 December 2008. That’s a total of 12.5 years in jail. Surachai filed for a royal pardon on 20 August 2012.

At New Mandala, which has been surprisingly quiet on recent lese majeste cases and sentences, academic Jim Taylor has a brief interview with Surachai. PPT won’t repeat the details here, but we do want to add to the story from a document we recently came across from the mid-1980s. That was an appeal from the Union of Civil Liberty for Surachai, who had been tried in a kangaroo/military court under the administration of unelected Prime Minister General Prem Tinsulanonda, now Privy Council president. He was eventually released after an international and local campaign.

Undoubtedly Surachai has been a confrontational political activist. That is why the royalist state and the Prem and Abhisit Vejjajiva governments targeted him. It seems that the leaders of the royalist cabal, miffed that they couldn’t halt his activities in the 1980s have long memories and came after him again as he led Red Siam. As there has been not a peep from above regarding his amnesty, it seems he has a second “death” sentence at the hands of essentially the same cabal.

On Sulak

8 10 2011

Jim Taylor of the University of Adelaide has sent this post to PPT:

What’s with Sulak?

I don’t know what it is about amaat who claim to be advocates for “democracy (without even understanding how it works) like “social critic” Sulak Sivaraksa, who has to continually try and drag Thaksin Shinawatra back into the limelight. His recent outburst over the fiction of Thaksin controlling certain print media (e.g. Matichon/ Khaosod) because it happened to say something “positive” about the Phue Thai Party leading up the last election is the last straw! Many would be forgiven in feeling somewhat confused over where Sulak actually stands between cheering idealistic elite-dominated past and a present social and political reality unfolding around him.

Let’s put some things into perspective: Proclaiming “dhammic democracy” from the pages of the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Sulak clearly has a dilemma in the contradictions between: (a) his platitudes on the ills of Western capitalism, neo-liberalism and consumerism; and (b) his inability to come to terms with supporting a people’s elected government and democratic processes from the grassroots. He fails to perceive of how society can develop (by its own awakening rather than by a “guiding hand”), and in his lay preaching offers his followers only wishy-washy nostalgic comments on an “ideal Dhammic society”; one that seemingly cannot coexist with the amoral power of today’s global market forces. He recalls the time of Siam’s founding royal father King Ramkhamhaeng: “a perfect [in fact rather unequal and exploitative] society guided by Dhamma”. Although charged with lèse majesté, Sulak had charges dropped because of being a royalist and therefore himself apparently now untouchable. He unashamedly went on stage supporting the right-wing yellow shirts against an elected government and in praising the “positive elements” of the core leaders of PAD which successfully twice sabotaged a government elected by the people. He explained in a talk on “How to Achieve Our Democracy” a couple of months after the 2006 coup: “I will not offer any view on the recent coup d’etat. I will not criticize those who are in power now and will not discuss about the government of the present prime minister and his ‘parliament’. I think many individuals in power now are good. At least, they have good intentions and want to make changes to benefit the people as a whole…”.

Sulak, who cannot seem to get beyond a propagandized imagining of populist ex-PM Thaksin, who he compared ignobly to a dog on the PAD stage, was sadly silent when the state massacred 91 unarmed protestors in the streets of Bangkok. However, in one recorded interview he said that this incident was, quote, rather “unfortunate”! Even today Sulak has refused to criticize the military-backed regime of the last few years for its repression and violence. He had of course earlier cheered the military and neo-fascist yellow shirts when they came to power in the guise of conditional “peacemakers” on 19 September 2006. But, ironically, still the world piles accolades onto Sulak as a new world “peacemaker”!

Updated: Red shirts and lese majeste

14 03 2011

Khun Pla

Readers will no doubt find this story at Prachatai of some interest. “Khun Pla,” a red shirt, was “seized and taken to the police by guards of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship during the rally on Saturday when she was distributing leaflets containing information about Article 112, or the lèse majesté law, and royal assets.”

The guards are said to have told the police that Khun Pla was distributing “offensive’ materials” and they requested that she be charged. She was eventually released as the “police considered that the content in the leaflets did not constitute lèse majesté and decided not to press charges.”

The report states that the “three UDD guards were dismissed from their duties because of the incident.’

Khun Pla later said on her Facebook page (need to log in to read it, in Thai) that “she had produced the leaflets by gathering information from the internet to be distributed among red shirts, particularly the elderly, who might not be familiar with computers and the internet. She and a couple of friends had paid for the photocopies themselves. The leaflets contain basic information, already legally available on the internet, about Article 112, royal assets, the Crown Property Bureau, and the Sufficiency Economy.”

The People’s Law Office (Thai) has more on the story and an update, including pictures of the incident and red shirts rallying against lese majeste.

There are several aspects to this story that are of concern. One aspect is that PPT can imagine that the publicity to this story will mean further police investigation, meaning that Khun Pla may well face charges (even using publicly available material is no great defense against lese majeste).

A second aspect relates to the relationship between the current UDD leadership, lese majeste and allegations of “deals” done for their release. It has been said that one element of an alleged release “deal” relates to eliminating all attacks on the monarchy by red shirts. Was this “arrest” and attempt to censor grassroots red shirts?

In a more recent article, Jim Taylor writing at Prachatai, claims that “Worawut Wichaidit (UDD Acting Spokesperson) announced on stage whoever is distributing any materials should be arrested.” Khun Pla was thus picked up by the guards (who Taylor says included off-duty police). He says: “Nuttawut Saikua, who in fact gave a passionate speech on stage 12 March, tried bravely to fix the “error” after the arrest, but he and other UDD leaders need to make sure that mistakes like this never happen again.”

His account also confirms that the lese majeste charges may indeed come back later as it seems lawyers urged her release rather than the police agreeing that there was no lese majeste involved.

Update: From a reader who has UDD contacts: “… UDD got a report that Army was trying to masquerade a provocateur as a reporter passing Section 112 and that’s why a UDD guard made the mistake of turning her over to the police, but after clearing it with Nuttawut, the 112 woman’s best friend said Pla is satisfied with Nuttawut’s explanation and considers the case closed…”.

“…..UDD got a report that Army was trying to masquerade a provocateur as a reporter passing Section 112 and that’s why a UDD guard made the mistake of  turning her over to the police, but after clearing it with Nuttawut, the 112 woman’s best friend said Pla is satisfied with Nuttawut’s explanation and considers the case closed….”

Jim Taylor on tragedy and loss

23 12 2010

Dr. Jim Taylor teaches anthropology at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. He has been working on Thailand for many years, and as readers of New Mandala will know, has been a strong supporter of the red shirts and a trenchant critic of the current regime. He has a piece in the New Internationalist that may be of interest to PPT readers.

Some of the points he makes:

He suggests that, in “alliance with the media, an intense nationalistic information campaign reached into the heart of society, in which no other voices were allowed to be heard.”

This contradicts Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who repeatedly claims that Thailand’s media is freer  now than ever before. PPT can imagine that some will agree with this, so long as their media hasn’t been closed , blocked or censored in other ways.

The Red Shirts are properly known as ‘Red for the whole land’ (daeng thang-paendin); or, in English, the National United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, and are one of the most significant social movements to appear in modern Thailand.

The Red Shirts articulate a specific set of concerns in the context of a conflict situation which challenges the legitimacy of existing dominant relations of power. They are engaged in a dispute which directly and indirectly affects the distribution of power within society.

PPT would have to agree. While opponents see the red shirts as paid minions of Thaksin Shinawatra, there’s no doubt that the red shirts have been developing a struggle that has been innovative for Thailand and displays a determination that scares the jewels out of establishment’s crown.

Taylor argues that there was no outcry over the killings in April and May 2010 because: “most protesters are the subaltern – mainly from ethnic Northern Thai and Lao-speaking provinces rendered valueless in the élite-middleclass discourse on directed democracy. They were referred to in the media as mindless ‘buffalo’ and, as in one high class women’s magazine, as a group of dirty ‘foot cleaning-rags’, implying that the subaltern should stay down under the élite’s feet. In the persisting sentiments of traditional Thai society, the categories of person based on class/social position are more clearly divided post crackdown, as élites gather the moral high ground and the Red Shirts are further deprecated by urban bourgeoisie.

As we completed this post, PPT noted a comment by Jim Taylor at New Mandala. In the context of tragedy and loss, this is also worth posting here:

[A]nother red shirt community leader murdered in Chiangmai, 51 year old Noi Banjong “Daeng Kotchasarn” แดง คชสาร, a tuk-tuk driver; his wife washes clothes for a living; he has one nine year old child. He was a voluneer DJ for 92.5 Red Community Radio; also red guard for “Love Chiangmai 51 Group”. He was shot 18 times and, if that was not bad enough, had speed planted in his hand (it is presumed that this was done by the authorities). His ID card was taken and was recognised only when his picture appeared in the media. He said days before that he felt he was being followed by five men in a Black Toyota pickup (the same vehicle that shot young Krisna Klaahaan กฤษณะ กล้าหาญ as I reported Sep 8, 2010 in NM)…[full story on Thai enews:

This latest event is also the subject of a brief report at The Nation.

%d bloggers like this: