Hardening lines I

13 08 2020

A couple of days ago, The Guardian reported the now obvious: “Thai protesters have broken a long-standing taboo, risking lengthy jail terms to criticise the king, after weeks of student-led pro-democracy rallies that have swept across the country.”

In fact, as Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recount,

Since 18 July 2020, youth and various civic groups have demonstrated against dictatorship in Thailand. Free Youth has proposed three demands: the state must stop intimidating the people, a new constitution must be drafted, and parliament must be dissolved. At least 107 public activities and assemblies have been organized in 52 provinces, the latest of which was the #ThammasatCan’tTakeItAnymore demonstration organized by the United Front of Thammasat and Assembly at Lan Payanak on Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 10 August 2020.

The students have included those in high school and university. They have been joined by other pro-democracy groups and individuals. The movement is decentralized and multi-headed.

That some protesters have begun to openly criticize “the country’s wealthy and powerful monarchy” has shocked some and provoked others.

The Guardian report believes this has “left the government in a bind. Allowing criticism to pass would undermine the status quo that keeps them in power … while cracking down hard on the students could foment further protests and intensify scrutiny of the monarchy.”

With King Vajiralongkorn having made another flying visit to “his kingdom,” we expect that the regime has been ordered what it must do.

(We assume Vajiralongkorn is on his way back to Germany via Zurich as the taxpayer-funded TG970 left Bangkok at about 2.30 am. If that is his flight, then he spent just 18 hours in country, visiting his hospitalized mother and swearing in new cabinet ministers.)

At Thammasat University on Monday students issued “a 10-point list for reform of the monarchy.”

The regime and the palace have reacted. Rightists have been mobilized, but for the moment remain relatively contained and constrained. But the self-proclaimed protectors of the monarchy have also been vocal in warning and threatening the students.

Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong provided the example for rightists by borrowing from rightist social media to describe the protesters as “nation-haters.”

Sunai Phasuk at Human Rights Watch warns that legal measures and intimidation of pro-democracy protesters “is getting more and more aggressive…”.

Claims on social media that the palace has been speaking to owners and executives of media firms, encouraging them to scale back their reporting of the protests and to oppose the students seems reflected in television news and in the press.

For example, the Bangkok Post seems to have become more recognizably rightist. Its report on Monday’s rally made accusations: “Comments made by protesters at the university’s Rangsit Campus in Pathum Thani have potentially violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law.”

That amounts to a threat to the students by essentially calling for Article 112 to be used against the students.

They cite university administrators and their threats to students and distancing themselves from the rally: “Police will take legal action against all involved, particularly those who are not Thammasat University students…. For the university’s students who acted improperly during the rally, Thammasat will itself take action based on facts and in line with its regulations.”

For a university that has been the site of so much political activism, its compromised administrators made the astounding statement that the university will now “ban political activities on its premises that risk violating the law.”

The report went on to cite rightists and yellow shirts. Not a single student voice is heard in this “story.”

Unelected senator and rightist Kamnoon Sidhisamarn “told parliament that the demands made by protesters during the rally were unprecedented and their comments were the most violent he’d ever heard.”

Violent? Is he quoted correctly? If he is, then it is a lie and a fabrication that threatens the students and invites violence from the right.

Like many others, Kamnoon raised the specter of 6 October 1976 and its violence. While he moderates his threats by arguing that parliament should have a role in sorting out this conflict, his commentary remains threatening.

(At least royalists are admitting that the massacre at Thammasat in 1976 was by royalists and for the “protection” of the monarchy.)

Another unelected senator, Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana claimed the students had offended “tens of millions of Thai people loyal to the royal institution and the tradition of peaceful co-existence based on the mercy of the royal institution.” That’s pure royalist drivel but also a call fro a response from the right and ultra-royalists.

The Bangkok Post joins the call for parliament to play a role in preventing the “country plung[ing] into a deep divide, with the possibility of violent confrontations … [in] what could become a national crisis.”

It makes no comment on the student’s demands.

Meanwhile, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has observed that

The exercise of the right to freedom of expression and public assembly has caused at least 76 organizers of the events to face intimidation and surveillance, as well as being told to call off the events, denied permission to hold the events, and the events being intervened by the authorities, etc. At least four legal cases have been initiated against individuals who have exercised their right to freedom of expression, particularly as a result of their criticism of the monarchy. It has led to the arrests of lawyer Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer, and Phanuphong Jadnok, a university student, and it appears more people will be slapped with legal cases. The issue has ignited widespread and fiery debate online as some view the exercise of such freedom of expression by the demonstrators as illegal acts and “insulting to the monarchy.” They have even threatened that the dehumanizing violence of 6 October 1976 at Thammasat’s Tha Pra Chan campus could repeat itself.

In response to the official and rightist threats, 130 academics issued a statement “to voice their support for student protesters who raised a 10-point manifesto on reforming the monarchy in a rally at Thammasat University on Monday.” They argue that the proposal “does not undermine the Palace.”

The academics supported the 10-point manifesto to reform the monarchy and stated that “the protesters were sincere and expressed their opinions within their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 34 of the Constitution. Moreover, it said, their activities are in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is recognised by Thailand.”

They pointed out that the proposals do not violate any law, arguing that “it’s a straightforward proposal that aims to protect the constitutional monarchy and democracy.”

Implicitly criticizing Thammasat administrators, they declared: “Educational institutions must not avoid or shut the door on freedom of expression. The universities should set an example and teach society to face challenges with patience, which is essential to democracy…”.

Part of the motivation for the academic statement was talk of a military coup, a point also made by the anti-government Free People movement which stated “it was also opposed to all attempts to stage a military coup…”.

Updated: Amnesty? Why now? II

21 07 2020

We had an earlier note on a new proposal for political amnesty, this time from the yellow-shirted side. Since then, there’s been considerable discussion and speculation regarding the “real” source of the proposal.

The Bangkok Post summarizes some of this discussion. It is worth reading. Some will remark on the “fate” of People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders:

On Feb 13 last year, the court upheld eight-month prison sentences for six former PAD co-leaders for their role in the seizure of Government House during 2008 street protests.

Five of them were later granted a royal pardon on the occasion of … the King’s coronation.

It is also worth noting that it was only last month that Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protest in July 2007 that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, accused of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Given that cases from more than a decade ago continue to drag on, perhaps there’s motivation for some. Maybe something else is going on behind closed doors. We still can’t determine the source of this new amnesty proposal, but it does appear to have high-level support.

Update: Interestingly, amnesty proposer Kamnoon Sidhisamarn is also urging a light touch with student demonstrators. Clearly, something has changed, at least for Kamnoon.

Amnesty? Why now? I

16 07 2020

Why an amnesty proposal now? And why from ardent yellow shirt Kamnoon Sidhisamarn?

He and those of his ilk vehemently opposed proposals for amnesty under the Yingluck Shinawatra regime and even before that, including one by Nitirat. They used it as “evidence” of Thaksin’s control of the Puea Thai government. The proposal put forward by Puea Thai was flawed, not least because it provided the military and yellow-shirts an opportunity to mobilize and eventually bring another elected government. Even some red shirts opposed it.

It smells fishy to us.

Kamnoon is now a junta-appointed senator and was speaking of the junta’s 20-year national strategy when he argued that “an amnesty law for crimes associated with protest would return harmony to the country following political rallies since 2005 that had split Thais into two political camps and caused a widening division in society.” He added: “It was high time that the government imposed a law absolving protesters who were not criminals by nature…”.

We assume that excludes Thaksin and political prisoners, but this remains unclear. Or is a grand bargain being struck? Maybe readers know more than us? Comments are open.

Crony senate

14 05 2019

As simply everyone expected, a Senate has been unveiled by the military junta that is packed full of junta supporters, backers and lackeys:

Khaosod reports: “Military top brass and the junta’s inner circle dominate the full list of 250 appointed senators unveiled to the public on Monday, ending months of secrecy.”

The Nation states: “Many of the newly appointed senators are from the ruling junta and people close to its key figures.”

The Bangkok Post: “The Royal Gazette on Tuesday published an announcement on the royally-approved list of 250 senators, including 66 army generals…. The Senate list includes the names of 105 people with ranks in the military or police….

None of this is a surprise. Perhaps some hoped that the members of the junta might demonstrate at least a pinch of political decorum, but that is misplaced as the military junta has repeatedly demonstrated that is has no shame at all.

Some other quotes from the reporting linked above are worth preserving here, demonstrating that the junta is a chip off the 1991 coup group and operates as a representative of yellow-shirt interests. (Those who imagined that the red-yellow divide was gone should look more carefully at the manner of the junta’s operations.):

The list – mostly handpicked by junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha – includes generals, loyal government technocrats, 15 ex-ministers who served under Prayuth until their resignation last week, and even a younger brother of the junta leader.

Hardline critics of ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains a popular figure among opposition voters, also made it to the final cut. They include poet and activist Nawarat Pongpaiboon, former anti-corruption chief Klanarong Chanthik, and royalist law scholar Kamnoon Sitthisamarn….

The announcement dated on Saturday included Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Adm Sitthawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Klanarong Chantik, former secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), former deputy prime minister Chatchai Sarikulya, former national reform member Khamnoon Sitthisaman, former foreign trade director-general Duangporn Rodphaya, and former national security council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri.

Among other senators were Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, former president of the National Legislative Assembly, former NACC chairman Panthep Klanarongran, forensic expert Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, former deputy agriculture minister Luck Wajananawat, and former tourism and sports minister Weerasak Kowsurat.

More than a third of  the newly appointed senators have military or police backgrounds….

But one surprise is this for the conflict of interest and nepotism it involves:

Some of the new Senate’s members sat in the committee tasked with nominating senatorial candidates to be selected by the National Council for Peace and Order.

More than 100 of them are retired or active high-ranking officers from the armed forces and the police, including 70 from the Army, 12 from the Navy, eight from the Air Force and 12 from the Royal Thai Police.

Many new senators are family members of people in power.

These include General Preecha Chan-o-cha, who is the younger brother of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha; Air Vice Marshal Chalermchai Krea-ngam, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam; Admiral Sitsawat Wongsuwan, who is the younger brother of Deputy Premier and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan; and Som Jatusripitak, who is the elder brother of Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.

Nothing more or less can be expected from the military junta. Be prepared for this kind of cronyism to breed deeper corruption. After all, that’s the pattern of past military-dominated regimes.

The next 20 years of royalist repression II

5 12 2016

The Nation reports claims by the puppet Constitution Drafting Commission’s spokesman Udom Rathamarit on the “reform” that will come with the “promulgation of the military-sponsored constitution…”.

His comments are revealing of the anti-democratic spirit of that charter and those who followed the junta’s orders in developing it.

Udom “explains” that this constitution had specific aims, mean to constrain “raw powers, big families” and make them “play the game under the same rules.” In this, the anti-democrats have one eye closed. The greatest and darkest power in Thailand is the murderous military. That “great family” is permitted to do whatever it likes.

Like most anti-democrats, Udom makes claims about “morals and codes of conduct.” These “morals” are those of the elite and revolve around notions of impunity for the great and the “good.” Double standards are their most cherished “code of conduct.”

He is clear that the constitution is written by the CDC to coerce while the “independent” agencies are meant to prevent evil “politicians” to “be vigilant and see through the trick [before any irregularity occurs]…”. Elected politicians simply can’t be trusted. The military’s “tricks” are usually blunt: jail, repression, censorship and murder.

Those hoisted into “independent agencies” must be carefully screened to ensure they are loyal servants of the great and the “good.”

Turning to the planned 20 years of royalist repression, National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) member Kamnoon Sidhisamarn anticipated that “Thailand would see volatility and instability because of unprecedented mechanisms enshrined in the charter…” and “continual reform” over 20 years “that future governments will be required to follow.” He said that plan “would be finished within one year and a few months.”

Kamnoon said that “the sweeping power that junta head and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has would still be valid after the promulgation [of the charter] and most of the Senate were appointed by the junta…”, this would drive the “reform” agenda.

Dead on arrival

1 02 2016

We assume that some members of the military junta must like the draft constitution Meechai Ruchupan had drawn up. We know that those involved in concocting it have been told not to criticize it. Yet it seems that, as people read it and consider its potential impacts, it has even less support than the previous junked version. A Bangkok Post editorial called it a “mess.”

One former MP reckons the whole thing is a plot, with the draft charter “written in such a way that it would be rejected in the referendum.” This would allow the junta to stay in place for even longer.

The Post editorial says:

No political party or politician has had a kind word for his work. Newspaper headlines run along the lines of “Thumbs down for charter”. The prime minister already believes voters may reject it at the planned referendum.

Despite all of the above, the governing National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha intends to push ahead with the draft. It is not clear why. The government and military spokesmen have told the country it is all about the political roadmap controlling the return to civilian government.

But it is all a shambles. Gen Prayut’s original roadmap has been torn up and continually rewritten. The roadmap produced shortly after the May 22, 2014, coup promised elections would be held in 2015. A subsequent roadmap promised elections in mid-2016. That then became 2017 — and last Friday when Mr Meechai presented his draft constitution, 2017 looks like becoming 2018.

The editorial laments the lack of participation: “The lack of participation by the real stakeholders means a draft charter without support.” Even if there were some participation, this wouldn’t have changed the draft. Why the junta wants such a mess is anyone’s guess, but it does point to an intense desire to hold onto power.

So intense has been the criticism that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has already had to engage in constitutional calisthenics to defend its most controversial sections.

Don’t worry about the junta’s charter, he says, because “no constitutions anywhere were completely democratic.” Wissanu went on to defend some of the most undemocratic elements of this draft: further empowering and politicizing the courts and “independent” bodies and the continued use of Article 44, saying the Article “could help make an election more free and fair.” Naturally, he was unwilling or unable to explain how a despotic power could be used in such a manner.

Conservatives and anti-democrats seem unhappy. Well-known yellow shirt Rosana Tositakul seems disturbed by the whole thing now, even though she was imploring the military to intervene and throw out an elected government just a short time ago. She reckons that this is a charter for tycoons and nobles, potentially worse than the Thaksin regime. She seems unwilling to lie in the political bed with the monster she helped create.

Others who are regime supporters are tossing out lines that were also used in 2007: Kamnoon Sidhisamarn “said people appear to be left with few choices. If they want ‘certainty’, they will be compelled to vote for the draft charter as a way to ensure a general election is held in the latter half of next year under the NCPO’s roadmap.” However, it is clear that “certainty” is just being sure that the elections will mean nothing much at all, with political power in the hands of unelected elites and the military brass.

Ji on an elections and who hates them

17 10 2014

Ji Ungpakorn has posted on the recent statements by The Dictator and his flunkies on delaying elections:

Elections postponed while anti-reformist show their true colours

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

While the dictator Prayut was huddled with the Chinese and Japanese representatives in Italy, he had previously told reporters not to “speculate” when elections would be held again in Thailand. Many analysts are predicting that elections will not take place at least until 2016, thus rubbishing the initial promises of the junta to hold elections next year.

     Meanwhile a panel of anti-reformist junta lackeys were pontificating about the legacy of the 14th October 1973 uprising against the military and how this would “influence” the present anti-reform process.

     This academic meeting was not banned by the junta, unlike pro-democracy seminars.

     Kamnoon Sitisamarn, former military appointed senator, said that having parliamentary elections with political parties nominating their own candidates for elections, was the same as the Chinese government’s insistence that it has the sole right to select the candidates for “elections” in Hong Kong. Now most of us would see the parallels between the Chinese dictatorship and Kamnoon’s masters in the Thai junta, but Kamnoon believes that MPs should not belong to political parties and should be “independent”. Independent of democratic accountability no doubt! So, all western democracies are really dictatorships, according to this anti-reformist. We can see what kind of future system these people have in mind.

    Anek Laotamatas, well know[n] academic who glorified the Thai middle classes in his writings, tried to rewrite history by claiming that he represented the views of the October heroes from 1973. This mealy mouthed ex-communist said that in those days the students were against dictatorship, but the most important thing was that they loved the king! Anek is well known for despising the rural people who he believes are trapped in a patron-client relationship. We can only guess that for Anek, only the middle-classes, who called for the coup and wrecked the February elections, can be trusted to develop democracy.

     One of the problems with Thai academia is that they shy away from debate, even when there isn’t military rule, and therefore academics are used to just spouting any old rubbish and expecting their students and the general population to just listen obediently.

     Manit Suksomjit, a retired media professional, claimed that Thailand had suffered from a “parliamentary dictatorship” and that the biggest problem was the stupidity of the people who elected crafty intelligent politicians. No doubt it would be better if the lower classes were denied the vote or maybe if good people like Manit could veto election results.

     Finally, Tawatchai Yongkitikoon, rich banker and secretary of the Thai Bankers Association, said that the real problem in Thailand was corruption. He waxed lyrical about “wonderful” corruption-free Singapore. “No one in Singapore complains about the lack of democratic rights”, he declared. Maybe so, because you risk losing your job, your flat or even risk jail if you are too forthright in Singapore. What is more, the top politicians, who manipulate elections, pay themselves higher salaries than the U.S. president. Nepotism is rife in the island state. Yet, all this cannot possibly be corruption, of course!

     What a shower of excrement now inhabit the National anti-Reform Committee.

Rewarding the anti-democrats I

8 10 2014

In an earlier post, PPT referred to the fiction of a separation between the military junta and the government. In another post, we pointed out the obvious: that the National Legistlative Assemby is a puppet assembly.

In this context of the military junta’s control of all government it is to be expected that the (fake) National Reform Council (NRC) will be stuffed full of the military’s political allies. Some time ago PPT posted from The Nation, stating that the leaking of 173 names claimed to have been selected for the National Reform Council (NRC) “clearly signify political bias and social exclusion, which could lead to unfair reform proposals that will make all reconciliation efforts fail…”.

The uniform you have when you slip out of the Army uniform

The uniform you have when you slip out of the Army uniform

Did this cause The Dictator to pause? Not a bit. He did exactly what the critics suggested. The military dictatorship has hand picked the NRC crammed with anti-democrats and fascists.

Khaosod reports that “Thailand’s military junta has appointed a 250-member reform body that is heavily stacked with traditional elites and allies of the country’s conservative establishment.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha had lied that “the NRC would represent a balanced cross-section of society,” but it doesn’t. The final list of members “is dominated by conservative hardliners opposed to the former government.” Khaosod lists some of them:

Among them were nine leaders from the anti-government protests that preceded the coup, including Naowarat Pongpaiboon, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, and Charas Suwanmala.

The protest group, known as the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), campaigned against the former government for seven months until the military intervened and launched a coup in May.

Eleven of the ‘Forty Senators’ clique – a group of unelected Senators who opposed the former government – also made the final cut, such as Rosana Tositrakul, Kamnoon Sitthisaman, and Pramote Maiklat. The so-called Forty Senators played an active role in the PCAD’s campaign to unseat then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and replace her with a royally-appointed PM.

In addition, 31 retired military officers were added to the reform council, as well as nine members of the governing bodies appointed by the previous coup-makers in 2006.

It is as if The Dictator is rewarding those who worked so hard for the coup and against elections earlier in the year.

Judicial action I

27 09 2013

The Nation reports Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana lambasting the Constitutional Court for accepting petitions from royalists over the proposed constitutional amendment on senators.

The court has done this as a warning to government party MPs, implicitly threatening them with banning and party dissolution.

We have sympathy for his complaints, but the Constitutional Court has been a royalist political tool for some time, so its shenanigans are to be expected. Puea Thai has yet to fully challenge the bias of the court.

The threat is made explicit by another royalist tool, the so-called Democrat Party. Its official loudmouth Chavanond Intarakomalyasut threatened the government on the third reading of the amendment bill, “warning that it could lead to the early demise of the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.”

Just for good royalist measure, unelected  senator and card-carrying yellow shirt Kamnoon Sidhisamarn invoked the king, implying that sending the bill to the monarch before the kangaroo court’s ruling on the amendment’s constitutionality, risked having the aged and interventionist king refusing to sign.

Of course, in the past, the king has held bills up and sent them back when displeased, making a public statement of dissatisfaction or simply protecting his own interests.

Real amnesty?

19 07 2013

A few days ago at the Bangkok Post it was reported that relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown by the Army and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government on red shirts are to submit an alternative amnesty bill to parliament, which has six other amnesty bills to consider.

Phayao Akkahad, whose daughter Kamolkade was killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2010, said the relatives’ bill meant that: “People from all colours will be absolved of any offence they committed or had committed against against them, except for core leaders…”. The relatives’ bill will “seek to bring to justice those who made the decision” on the crackdown. It would also “allow judicial lawsuits to be pressed against persons or groups that killed people and/or damaged private property” and “does not prevent private entities whose properties were damaged in the unrest from launching civil suits against vandals or arsonists…”. Importantly, the relatives have specified “which actions, not persons, will be granted an amnesty…”.

The relatives have now submitted their draft bill to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

PPT thought this proposed bill made sense. Hence, we were somewhat surprised when, at The Nation, Democrat Party leader Abhisit was reported as being “prepared to back an amnesty bill proposed by relatives of the victims of the 2010 crackdown, provided the government withdraws all previous versions of the amnesty bill proposed to Parliament.”

But at the Bangkok Post, it is reported that the reprehensible royalist added an important caveat: “the bill needed to make sure that those involved in corruption and offences against the monarchy are not included under the amnesty.”

Everyone knows that the corruption bit refers to Thaksin Shinawatra. But the monarchy bit is part of the never-ending project to re-energize a declining monarchy that royalists consider central to their world.

PPT wasn’t alone in its surprise, for the Democrat Party immediately came under heavy criticism from red shirt-hating royalists.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut was quick to dismiss “criticism that the party has supported an amnesty aimed at exonerating those involved in instigating public disturbances during the 2010 political violence.” He pointed out that his reading of the relatives’ bill was that it “clearly separates offences in violation of the emergency rule and minor offences during the 2010 unrest.”

Bright yellow unelected Senator Kamnoon Sidhisamarn attacked the Democrat Party and called for it “to clarify its stance on the people’s amnesty bill.” His reading of the bill is that it is “modelled on an amnesty bill proposed by the Nitirat group” and “seeks to grant an amnesty to offenders who violated Section 112 [lese majeste] and to those who set fire to government buildings.” Oops, the royalist whip has been cracked.

Chavanond had Abhisit and the Democrat Party immediately in reverse, saying “the party will not support an amnesty for these violations…”. In other words, Abhisit is not (now) supporting any reasonable amnesty bill, and neither is the Democrat Party.


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