Further updated: Sineenat’s travels

28 08 2020

Social media has lit up with reports of King Vajiralongkorn’s once favorite consort being released from prison and being sent back to the king in Germany. Internationally, these reports have come from Junya Yimprasert and Andrew MacGregor Marshall, at their Facebook pages. However, the reports are also circulating widely in Thailand.

The king has a long record of cruelty, punishing minions, and as the rumors over several decades have it, for having some killed. He sacks people in a rage, issuing angry royal announcements. He also has a reputation for punishing his former wives and consorts along with their families.

Readers will recall that in October 2019, the king banished Maj. Gen. Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, one of his royal guards, but really his favorite minor wife over several years. Until the king punished her, Sineenat or Koi had often photographed with the prince-cum-king in Germany.

This act was shocking for only in July that year that the king officially made her Chao Khun Phra or Royal Noble Consort. And, in August, Sineenat received huge palace-arranged propaganda as the king’s favorite.

At the time, the official announcement “accused Sineenat of attempting to prevent Queen Suthida from being crowned and abusing her royal status.” Reports of the announcement stated:

Sineenat not only “expressed her opposition and exerted her pressure in every possible way” regarding Queen Suthida’s elevation to the throne as the Queen of Thailand, she also sought to have His Majesty the King appoint her to the role instead.

The announcement also explained away her previous position and official lauding by the palace propaganda machine:

After her repeated disobedience and attempts of interference with the royal affairs, the statement said, … the King graciously bestowed her the title of Royal Noble Consort in July out of hope that Sineenat would “lessen her pressure” and change her tact [sic.].

Instead, Sineenat continued to display “ambition” and overstepped her authority by engaging in many royal court activities without … the King’s approval, which caused much confusion to the public….

The announcement concluded that:

Her actions are considered disloyal, ungrateful, and ungracious of [the king’s] kindness…. They caused division among the royal servants and misunderstanding among the public; these amount to acts of sabotage against the country and the institution [monarchy].

She was stripped of all royal ranks, decorations, and her military rank.

That all sounds pretty grim. It got worse. While not reported in Thailand, her family home was demolished and she was jailed.

Over the last couple of days it has been widely rumored that she has been released from the Lat Yao Women’s Prison. Several on social media believe that she is now on the king’s personal plane (paid for by taxpayers) on her way back to the king in Germany.

Originally, it was thought she would be traveling later in the week, but the movement of the king’s plane suggests she might now being transported across borders. The plane must refuel on its way to Germany, so she’s unlikely to be seeing Thaksin and Yingluck in Dubai.

It is not known if this means further punishment or if she will be rehabilitated. We’d guess that if she’s back with the king, then she remains in a dangerous relationship.

Update 1: If Sineenat is aboard HS-HMK, then she’s now departed Dubai heading to Europe.

Update 2: HS-HMK arrived in Munich at about 8.50 am Munich time. We must now await to see if Sineenat was on it and if she is being publicly rehabilitated or whether her abuse will continue.

Birthday games II

29 07 2020

While protesters rallied in Germany, calling for an end to the monarchy, King Vajiralongkorn’s apparent abhorrence for Thailand is making the mainstream media again.

Deutsche Welle has a long and critical article about the king who prefers to live and play in Germany.

The article claims that Vajiralongkorn’s “passivity during the COVID-19 pandemic has made him the target of unprecedented criticism at home and abroad.” While it is true that as Thailand’s economy grinds down and unemployment spikes the king is “gallivanting miles away in Germany” and that “the monarch and his entourage have sought refuge in a luxurious hotel in the Bavarian Alps,” we think a focus on the virus is too narrow.

Criticism of the king has been rising for a while and has to do with his perceived alliance with an illegitimate regime, his absence from the country, his massive wealth, and his alleged involvement with the disappearances and murders of activists.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

The recent enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia has caused fear and loathing against the king and regime to expand.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

While “[c]overage of the king’s lavish life abroad circulating in foreign media outlets cannot be reported in Thailand due to its strict lese majeste law,” it is clear that young, social media-savvy Thais know what’s going on. This is why the recent rallies have seen “demonstrators brandishing placards and banners with messages critical of the king. The slogans, however, were disguised with slang and sarcasm” to avoid the excesses of regime repression.

The protests against the king in Germany are detailed:

Some 8,500 kilometers (5,300 miles) to the northwest, members of the German non-profit PixelHELPER Foundation and Thai nationals living abroad gathered to stage a protest on the king’s birthday.

Led by exiled activist Junya Yimprasert, protesters gathered in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and held signs which read: “Thai king to International Criminal Court (ICC).” They also erected a makeshift guillotine with a caricature of Rama X behind bars.

“Our goal is to abolish the monarchy,” said Yimprasert. The 54-year-old has been using an unconventional approach to catch the king’s attention. For weeks, she and fellow protesters have used a light projector to display anti-monarchy messages on the front walls of the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where the king currently resides.

To garner more attention, the group has also projected comical illustrations featuring Rama X onto the walls of the German parliament and the home of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Vowing to step up protests in Germany, PixelHELPER founder Oliver Bienkowski stated: “We want to end the fun of his private life and convey to him that it’s not so nice that he stays in Germany…”. He added that the group plans to “expand their efforts to other European countries, including Switzerland, where Queen Suthida is believed to be staying.”

A message to the king redux

4 05 2017

In an earlier post we nicked a video found at Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page and posted it to get wider attention.

It featured Junya Yimprasert speaking at the front of the king’s residence in Tutzing, near Munich and the use of a replica 1932 revolution plaque.

We understood that the king had already left for Bangkok when the women arrived for this ceremony. That is said to be incorrect and that he was still in Germany.

For those who have trouble with Facebook, here’s the statement at an open source:

A message to the king

30 04 2017

We saw this at Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page and it deserves wide attention.

It is a pity that the king had reportedly already left for Bangkok when the women arrived for this ceremony.

Junya Yimprasert speaks at the front of the king’s residence in Tutzing, near Munich.

Marshall follows up with an interview with Junya:

Malaysiakini on Thailand’s lese majeste exiles

7 01 2015

There have been several reports of late about Thailand’s lese majeste political exiles. One of these appeared in the influential Malaysiakini, written as a special report by Susan Loone. We felt it worth reproducing, with a few notes added and some clarifications:

Thai exiles want ‘free, democratic Thailand’

On Dec 1, several NGOs protested the visit of Thailand Prime Minister [they mean The Dictator and self-appointed premier] Prayuth Chan Ocha to Malaysia, in solidarity with the Thai exiles, who urged other countries Prayuth visits to follow the example of Malaysians in sending a strong message that they opposed the Thai military dictatorship.

Malaysiakini spoke to several Thai exiles, who expressed their desire to see a liberated Thailand in their lifetime.

One of them, Jakrapob Penkair, was a university professor and a TV journalist before devoting his time to politics in 2003.

During Thaksin Shinawatra’s rule, Jakrapob … was a Member of Parliament, representing Bangkok, besides being a minister in the Thai Prime Minister’s Office and a government spokesperson.

He helped formed the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and was subsequently jailed for 12 days for his anti-military coup activities.

As a cabinet member, he was about to relinquish state powers when he was accused of lèse majesté, the law that punishes citizens for insulting the royalty.

Jakrapob left his beloved country on April 14, 2009 and has never since returned. And he has not never given up on his political beliefs either.

“We hope to undo the brainwashing of Thailand and to continue with the process of democratisation.

“We Thais have been led to believe that the King of Thailand can right all the wrongs and we need not have confidence in ourselves, but just to believe in him.

“No country can depend on one person, although one good leader can encourage several more people to move and shake,” Jakrapob told Malaysiakini in an interview recently.

He is proud and grateful that several Malaysian activists protested against Prayuth’s visit to Malaysia on Dec 1.

“You made it clear to the dictator of your disgust and disdain about him and his kind. We would like to express our appreciation to all of you.

“We understand that your internal struggle is no less tough and tiresome. We hope to be able to join forces for you as well,” he said.

Junya Lek Yimprasert is a Thai labour rights activist who fights and writes about exploitation at the bottom of supply chains.

After the massacre of civilians by military forces in Bangkok in May 2010, Junya wrote ‘Why I don’t love the King’ and was charged with lèse majesté.

She has, since July 2010, been living in Finland as a “political refugee”.

“The last straw that made me leave was after seeing many trade unions and NGOs become part of the royalists movement to kick out many elected governments since 2005.

“My last straw was seeing 40,000 military troops crackdown violently on the demonstrators, which caused some 100 people to be killed and nearly 2,000 injured,” she said in an interview with Malaysiakini.

‘Even those in exile face threats’

But being in exile does not guarantee freedom from violence or fear.

Junya … said the Thais who are living in exile from the military regime also face much threats, from both ultra royalists and the military, as well as imprisonment, without any chance to defend themselves.

“For me, being wanted by the Thai military junta as ‘a criminal and a treat to national security’ for my writings is something that hit me hard in terms of recognising that the road of struggle for democracy and freedom in Thailand will be long and with lots of obstacles,” she said.

Like many who live in exile, Junya is not happy to see Prayuth welcomed warmly in Malaysia by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

She then went on to call upon Malaysians to oppose the Thai junta and not allow Prayuth to poison the aspirations for freedom and democracy in her country.

“It’s important for Malaysia, for Thailand and for Asean as a whole that the people of Asean stay in solidarity to uphold the principle of freedom and democracy. The Thai people are very much in need of solidarity from you all to help us fight against the dictatorial military regime,” she said.

Suda Rangkupan was an assistant professor at the Department of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, from 2000 to 2004 before she fled Thailand.

Suda was part of the well-known movement, “29 Jan 10,000 Liberate”, where 10,000 people called for amnesty for political prisoners.

She left Thailand after the coup, on May 22 last year, after realising that the Red Shirt Movement to oppose the military coup could not be pushed further at that time.

She does not accept the coup as the orders of its leader, Prayuth …, are “illegal and an act of rebellion”.

“However, I realise how brutal the Royal Thai Army, which took control of Thailand, is to the Red Shirts so I decided to leave Thailand, hoping that the least I can do as a free person is to tell the world that not all Thais surrender to this latest royal coup,” she said.

‘Prayuth is just a junta leader’

Suda does not understand how anyone can accept Prayuth as the leader of Thailand. “I would not call him prime minister, for he is just a junta leader,” she said.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University in Japan has been summoned twice by the Thai junta for his criticisms of the military.

“I rejected the call and as a consequence, the junta issued a warrant for my arrest. Shortly afterwards, my passport was revoked and this forced me to apply for refugee status with the Japanese government,” Pavin … said.

He now feels safe in Japan, for the government there looks after him well, he said. He has a permanent job, with a steady income and a sense of security.

“Hopefully, I will be granted refugee status in the future and this will allow me to travel legally, which is a important part of me as an academician, for I need to travel for my work.”

Pavin’s message to Prayuth, nevertheless, remains clear: “Return power to the Thai people immediately. Stop violating the people’s rights.

“The military must withdraw itself from politics; the military must also stop politicising the monarchy for its own political interests.”

The coordinator of the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy, Jaran Ditapichai, said Thais who love freedom and democracy need moral and political support, notably from the international community, to stop the human rights violations the ruling junta carries out daily.

Jaran is currently in political asylum, under the juridicial and administrative protection of France.

“I have several good friends, both Europeans and Thais, who are keeping an eye over me.

“But the big problem is how to earn living in this country, where the cost of living is high,” said Jaran, who was a former adviser to a deputy prime minister and a former national human rights commissioner of Thailand.

The leader of the … United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, which is also known as the Red Shirt Movement, is thankful to Malaysian politicians, human rights and democratic NGOs and the media that reported the protest against Prayuth during his visit to Malaysia.

“I hope friends of human rights and democracy in the other Asean countries will openly express their what they think of the Thai military leadership, like how the Malaysians have done,” Jaran added.

Palace coups

10 12 2014

PPT has just noticed a “birthday celebration” article on the king and politics in The Atlantic magazine. It makes some interesting points and shows how international commentators have become far more wary of simply reproducing palace propaganda than was the case even in the recent past.

For that change, we can credit the efforts of authors Paul Handley and Andrew MacGregor Marshall, and academics Serhat Unaldi, Patrick Jory, Michael Connors, Thongchai Winichakul, Kevin Hewison, Duncan McCargo and others. Activists like Ji Ungpakorn, Rose Amornpat, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Junya Yimprasert and others have also changed the monarchy discourse. And, perhaps, PPT and blogs like New Mandala have also changed perceptions.

Yet the story also evidences some confusions.

Beginning by noting that the king was a no-show for his promised birthday speech. It makes nothing of this, which is odd. Given the fanfare about the aged, frail and largely incomprehensible king coming out of hospital to make a speech, that event would have been a “coup” for the military dictatorship. But the report wants to make another point:

With nearly seven decades in power, Bhumibol is the world’s longest-serving head of state—and he’s somehow achieved this milestone in a country that has seen more coups than most any other. By one count, there have been 10 since Bhumibol assumed the throne after his brother, the previous king, was found shot in the head in 1946. As elected leaders and military juntas have come and gone in Thailand with a frequency unrivaled in the world, King Bhumibol has held on at the very top, and he is frequently described as a “unifying force” in a country with deep political divisions. How has he done it?

Much in this is odd. First, it is odd that the question of who shot the king’s brother is not made. It is now a widely-held view, as it was at the time amongst diplomats, that the present king shot his brother, probably by accident. Second, the claim made seems to be that the king has been a coup survivor. That is a very odd claim. Indeed, for almost all the military putsches during his reign, the king and palace have been actively involved with the coup-makers and, in some cases, the palace has been involved in planning and making the military intervention. Surviving a partnership with the military is far easier and more profitable than opposing each illegal military coup.

The article says that the king “survived” these military interventions, not because he was a part of them, but because he is “genuinely popular.” Remarkably, in making this point, The Atlantic cites Paul Handley, who is quoted: “He’s shown himself as really a man of his people…”. The article continues:

Listed by Forbes as the world’s richest monarch, worth some $30 billion in 2011, Bhumibol has presented himself as a friend to Thailand’s poor, with well-publicized efforts to improve rural development, health care, and education. A combination of authentic dedication and professional image management, Handley told me, have helped build up a strong reputation for the king over a period of decades.

If these are accurate quotes, and we think they are taken out of context, then PPT reckons that there’s a confusing of ideology and reality.  As is later stated: “The law also makes the monarchy’s own role in Thailand’s coups—many of which, Handley wrote in his book, ‘took place in the throne’s name and with the palace’s quiet nod’—difficult to discuss publicly within the country.” Indeed, the palace has been more deeply involved than this suggests.

In any case, as the article says, “it’s not quite that simple, and it’s impossible to know exactly how popular, or how unpopular, the king really is. Thailand criminalizes speaking ill of the royal family…. The [lese majeste] law may help protect the king’s image and reinforce his popularity, but their enforcement also provides an imperfect window into the anti-monarch sentiment that exists in the kingdom.”

It quotes David Streckfuss, who states that the number of lese-majeste cases has “skyrocketed to never-imaginable heights…”. Readers of PPT will know that the number of cases has gone up even further since then, with the military dictatorship using the law more feverishly than any government since the law was established in the early 20th century. Noting just one of these cases, the article states:

The law is now being employed by Thailand’s ruling military junta, which took power in a coup in May, to suppress dissent and demonstrate the military’s allegiance to the popular monarch. Just this week, a former member of parliament was sentenced to two and a half years in jail for comments made in a May speech entitled “Stop Overthrowing Democracy.”

Indeed, that speech made the palace-military link clear in recent military interventions. Under the royalist military dictatorship, facts are replaced by myth, and the enforcement of myth is vigorous.

Talking about crisis and monarchy

16 11 2014

PPT was unable to post an announcement about the discussion that recently took place in London at the Frontline Club. We make up for that failure by linking to a report on the event, which also includes a video of the event:

The panel was chaired by Simon Baptist, chief economist and Asia Regional Director at the Economist Intelligence Unit and included four speakers:

Andrew MacGregor Marshall is a journalist, political risk consultant and corporate investigator, focusing mainly on Southeast Asia. He spent 17 years as a correspondent for Reuters, covering amongst others conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and political upheaval in Thailand. He is author of A Kingdom in Crisis.

Claudio Sopranzetti is a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University All Souls College and the author of Red Journeys: Inside the Thai Red-Shirt Movement.

Eugénie Mérieau is a lecturer in political sciences and law at the University of Sciences-Po in Paris. She is also a political columnist for TV and print media. She recently published The Red-Shirts of Thailand.

Junya ‘Lek’ Yimprasert (via Skype) is a Thai labour rights activist who writes about exploitation at the bottom of supply chains. After the crackdown by military forces in Bangkok in May 2010 she wrote Why I don’t love the King and was charged with lès majesté. She is now a political refugee in Europe, she continues to denounce openly the military junta and interference of Monarchy in political life in Thailand.

The report of the event begins by noting that “if the event … had taken place in Thailand instead of at the Frontline Club in London, members of the … panel could have been jailed” under the lese majeste law.

Junya’s lese majeste case moves forward

2 09 2013

In March, PPT posted on exiled activist on lese majeste, labor, monarchy, women and more, Junya Yimprasert. Junya, widely known as Lek, posted then that she thought her new book Labour Shouldering the Nation was being investigated “most likely for lèse-majesté crime under the article 112 of the Thailand’s ‘draconian’ criminal code.”Junya

As the investigation has progressed, however, it became clear that the Department of Special Investigation was looking at her publication Why I Don’t Love the King or ทำไมถึงไม่รักในหลวง that came out in English and Thai in 2010. The complaint about this book came from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT).

On 30 August Lek posted at Facebook:

I have received some shocking news — a warrant for my arrest has been issued in Thailand over accusations that I offended the monarchy…. A senior government source told me yesterday that the arrest warrant was issued in May.

She adds that Why I Don’t Love The King was “a personal account of how I lost my love for Thailand’s monarch but still deeply love my country…”. After she put it out, she “was advised that it would be safer … to stay out of the country.”

Lek makes the all too obvious point that:

Without the abolition or reform of the lèse majesté law there will never be freedom of speech in Thailand.

Junya is a brave and outspoken woman, and the investigation seeks to punish her for being an independent thinker.

Updated: Junya’s lese majeste case

13 03 2013

A couple of weeks ago PPT briefly mentioned that a new book by the exiled activist on lese majeste, labor, monarchy, women and more, Junya Yimprasert was being looked at by the police. Junya, widely known as Lek, posted that she thought her new book Labour Shouldering the Nation was being investigated “most likely for lèse-majesté crime under the article 112 of the Thailand’s ‘draconian’ criminal code.”Junya

As the investigation has progressed, it has become clear that the Department of Special Investigation is interested in the blog publication Why I Don’t Love the King or ทำไมถึงไม่รักในหลวง put out in English and Thai languages in 2010. It seems that the complaint about this book came from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT).

The confusion developed because the police visited the printing house putting out Labour Shouldering the Nation in December, so it was assumed that the problem was with that book. When letters were received from the police in early March asking some of the people associated with the printing house to provide statements, it became clear that the allegedly problematic publication was Why I Don’t Love the King/ทำไมถึงไม่รักในหลวง. The police indicated that because Labour Shouldering the Nation had mentioned this piece, the police and public prosecutor, had decided to investigate Lek for lese majeste.

Clearly, this case is one that has its origins in the current Yingluck Shinawatra government. It remains to be seen if the prosecutor will lay charges, which would represent a major and highly symbolic step back to feudalism by this government.

One outcome is that Labour Shouldering the Nation is being removed from bookshops as they are timid on everything lese majeste. Activists report that Lek’s other forthcoming book Unveiled and Unthaied will only be selling online to avoid “complications.”

Junya Yimprasert is a brave and outspoken woman, and clearly the investigation is an attempt to silence her as an independent voice. She is also a fighter, and any case is unlikely to go ahead unchallenged. With a large solidarity network internationally, any case against her will again shine a very negative light on this feudal and draconian political law.

Update: This post is available in French as Le cas de lèse-majesté de Junya.

Lese majeste on social media

27 02 2013

PPT has been looking at various social media discussions of lese majeste and found two items that readers may find of interest.

The first is social media activism in support of lese majeste convict Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and is self-explanatory:

Somyot download

The second relates to a new book by the exiled activist on lese majeste, labor, monarchy, women and more, Junya Yimprasert. She posts that she thinks her new book Labour shouldering the Nation is being investigated by the Thai police, “most likely for lèse-majesté crime under the article 112 of the Thailand’s ‘draconian’ criminal code.” The cover of the Thai-language book is shown below:


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