Worth reading

18 07 2018

Over recent months we have neglected suggesting some of the more academic works on Thailand that some readers might find of interest.

We were reminded of this omission when we saw an excellent account of the 6 October massacre and associated events in a story at the Los Angeles Review of Books by Suchada Chakpisuth and translated by Tyrell Haberkorn. As ever, when it comes to anything on Thailand’s politics, there are likely to be negative responses. In this case, so far, there is only one such comment. All we can say is that what one reader finds sentimental and sophomoric, we found enlightening, sobering and a painful reminder of the ways in which ultra-nationalism and ultra-royalism can spin out of control or be made to become demonic and murderous.

Back to recent articles that may be of interest:

There’s a Commentary behind a paywall at Critical Asian Studies by Kasian Tejapira: “The Sino-Thais’ right turn towards China.” Also at CAS, there are pay-for-view commentaries reflecting on Thailand: “Thailand’s urbanized villagers and political polarization” by Duncan McCargo and “Modern day slavery in Thai fisheries: academic critique, practical action” by Peter Vandergeest, Olivia Tran & Melissa Marschke.

At the Journal of Contemporary Asia, there are several pay-for-view articles and book reviews: Owners of the Map. Motorcycle Taxi Drivers, Mobility, and Politics in Bangkok is reviewed by
Kevin Hewison who also reviews Working Towards the Monarchy: The Politics of Space in Downtown Bangkok, while A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern Period is reviewed by Robert H. Taylor. Björn Dressel & Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang author “Coloured Judgements? The Work of the Thai Constitutional Court, 1998–2016.” The most recent issue includes two Thailand articles: “Anti-Royalism in Thailand Since 2006: Ideological Shifts and Resistance” by an anonymous author (which was, for a time free for download, but not now) and “Politics and the Price of Rice in Thailand: Public Choice, Institutional Change and Rural Subsidies” by Jacob Ricks.

Pacific Affairs has a pay-for-view article by Aim Simpeng, “Participatory Inequality in the Online and Offline Political Engagement in Thailand.” and free book reviews of Thai Politics: Between Democracy and Its Discontents reviewed by Kevin Hewison, Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok reviewed by Charles Keyes, The Lost Territories: Thailand’s History of National Humiliation reviewed by Søren Ivarsson.

Contemporary Southeast Asia has a free book review of Thai Politics: Between Democracy and Its Discontents reviewed by Aim Simpeng, Khaki Capital: The Political Economy of the Military in Southeast Asia reviewed by John Blaxland and Thailand: Shifting Ground between the US and a Rising China, reviewed by Pongphisoot Busbarat. It has a pay-for-view article by Duncan McCargo, Saowanee T Alexander and Petra Desatova, “Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum.”

The Journal of Southeast Asian Studies has “Mae Fah Luang: Thailand’s Princess Mother and the Border Patrol Police during the Cold War” by Sinae Hyun and available for free download. It also has several book reviews of general Thailand interest, some for free download.

If an article is behind a paywall, we recommend searching by title as authors and their universities sometimes make them available in a pre-print format.





Release the students, return power to the people

28 06 2015

The Nation reports that 53 “leading academics and activists yesterday demanded that 14 arrested student activists be immediately released and called on the public to stand up to the junta.”

This call came as the military dictatorship downplayed the possibility of the students each receiving 7 years in jail under Articles 116 and 83 of the Criminal Code.

Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, who has repeatedly stated that he knows but refuses to name a mysterious “mastermind” he alleges is “behind” the students and warned their supporters:

If you direct them in the wrong direction, disturbing the country’s peace and order, I warn you stop it. We have identified you all. Most people do not approve of your actions because they want the country to be peaceful.

Like others in the junta, he’s either delusional or a liar and probably both. As usually happens under this deranged leadership, we can expect some arrest and a claim of a network and plot, with a likelihood of lese majeste accusations and undefined threats to national security.

Meanwhile, the academics and activists, who are “calling themselves People Behind the Neo Democracy Movement, issued a statement to demand that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) return power to the people.”

These supporters of students and democracy “gathered at Suan Ngern Mee Ma, a training centre that served as a shelter for the student activists before their arrest on Friday.”

In a statement, they “emphasised their stance in opposing … a dictatorship and the ‘selfishness and ineffectiveness’ of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha [The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha].”

The Nation identified the “most prominent” of these activists as “social critic Sulak Sivaraksa, political scientist Kasian Tejapira, former Thammasat University rector Charnvit Kasetsiri, and noted writer Suchat Sawatsri.” It reports that “[o]ther signatories … include Chulalongkorn University political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Thammasat University anthologist Yukti Mukdavijit, political scientist Pongkwan Sawasdipakdi, and Same Sky magazine editor Thanapol Eiwsakul.”

They asked: “What kind of society is the NCPO [military junta] leading Thailand to? Calls for democracy and justice using non-violence have become criminalised…”.

The arrested students have repeatedly “denied a claim by the authorities that political groups were behind their moves.” They declared: “There is no need for us to prove anything. We don’t have anyone behind us.”

They also rejected the ridiculous paternalism and authoritarianism of the military dictatorship. They stated: “Prayut[h]’s administration is scared of opponents’ opinions because they are well aware that they can’t run the country…. They are not capable of solving problems. But they persist to stay to preserve their own power and interests amid the national calamity.”

The students called on the “people to come out and call on the junta to return their power…”.





No elections for the “sensible”

6 05 2014

The anti-democrats are crowding out Suthep Thaugsuban. Abhisit Vejjajiva came up with a 9-point plan which essentially wanted “reform” before an election and an appointed premier – yep, the standard anti-democrat demands.

Abhisit’s proposals were not received all that well for their obvious lack of originality and lack of even a nod in the direction of democracy.

So another senior member of the Democrat Party has proposed an allegedly sensible reform plan in the Bangkok Post yesterday. Surin Pitsuwan swans about with a handful of monikers: former secretary-general of ASEAN, professor emeritus at Thammasat University, visiting professor at GRIPS in Tokyo, adjunct professor at the University of Malaya and the Tun Abdul Razak Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and a distinguished fellow at the royalist King Prachathipok’s Institute.

Despite all of this attributed greatness, he begins with a bit of disingenuous whining:

For the past seven years, since the coup of 2006, Thailand has seen governments come and go with increasing frequency and the divisiveness in the country has deteriorated to the point of political paralysis.

Well, perhaps, but that frequency owes much to actions of his fellow anti-democrats. So does the “political paralysis.” If his lot followed the political rules, the popular vote and got over their elitist political laziness, perhaps there would be political development rather than paralysis.

Apart from this whining, Surin comes up with a 7-point reform plan. He claims that the “seven steps are being carefully considered within the prevailing political situation and existing constitutional and democratic framework and the collective sense of urgency that the Thai people have been articulating.”

Well, the anti-democrats are the ones who are clamoring for “reform” before elections.

So what are his main points?  One is that “Thailand’s reform process must proceed within the existing constitutional framework, in its letter and spirit.” What does this mean for Surin? First, that any political situation not covered by the constitution, then the king is free to use Section 7. That’s what the People’s Alliance for Democracy claimed first time around and the king rejected it.

Second, Surin argues that the senate “can serve as a Pillar of Legitimacy, acting as parliament in the absence of the elected House of Representatives (Section 132), to any agreed reform and its necessary legislative action.” Is this correct? No. This is what the constitution states:

Section 132. During the expiration of the term or the dissolution of the House of Representatives, the Senate shall not hold its sitting except in the following cases:

(1) a sitting at which the Senate shall act as the National Assembly under section 19, section 21, section 22, section 23 and section 189, and the votes taken shall be based on the number of senators;

(2) a sitting at which the Senator shall consider of a person for holding office under the provision of this Constitution;

(3) a sitting at which the Senate shall consider and pass a resolution removing a person from office.

None of this applies to the situation Surin is on about; he’s making it up.

And, yes, he wants “reform” before elections and some kind of appointed, “national government.” If this sounds like Abhisit, then that’s because the essential points are the same anti-democratic nonsense.

This “reform” would be “paving a way for a New Politics that everybody expressly desires.” That term is the PAD call from several years ago and implies anti-democracy.

Thankfully, several commentators have rejected Surin/Abhisit. At the Bangkok Post, a “small group of scholars has warned” against this anti-democratic push.

They argue that “caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should remain the leader, unless the Constitutional Court says otherwise, until the July 20 election is held and the results finalised.”

Kasian Tejapira, a political scientist at Thammasat University, “said all the proposals were basically the same, … [and are] a violation of the letters and spirit of the constitution and democratic principles.” He adds:

The two versions, be it Abhisit’s or Surin’s, are based on a PDRC mob-engineered political crisis and power vacuum as a result of their illegal obstruction of the [Feb 2] general election….

In the end, they are similarly positing the crisis, vacuum, and unconstitutional measures as a fait accompli and necessity, so as to ride roughshod over the people’s will that should be respected and complied with as expressed in a general election….

Kasian warned that there is a growing coalition amongst the so-called independent institutions to smash constitutional and legal politics. He stated:

One can’t suspend electoral democracy for the sake of reform, for the only way to make reform stick and endure is to involve the people in the process through peaceful legal means such as an election….

He’s right.

 





Princess to go to court

5 04 2013

The idea of a member of the royal family appearing in court is unusual, anywhere. We can only recall one such attempt in Thailand, back in 1933, as described in Kasian Tejapira’s Commodifying Marxism: The Formation of Modern Thai Radical Culture, 1927-1958:

Thawatt

That case is also briefly mentioned in this set of documents (clicking opens a largish PDF) as a case involving the alleged libel of Pridi Phanomyong by the then king.

So it is that a report at The Guardian is of interest for it covers a corruption case and the involvement of King Juan Carlos’ daughter, Princess Cristina, who is now “formally named as a suspect in a court investigation.” This case is interesting for Spain maintains a lese majeste law and has notions of inviolability as well.

The report states that this “dramatic decision by investigating magistrate José Castro will see the princess called to give evidence at a courthouse in Palma de Mallorca, capital of the Balearic Isles, on 27 April.” It adds that the “decision is a blow for King Juan Carlos, as a once model royal family begins to buckle under the weight of public scandal.” The case revolves around alleged special deals by her husband and the access and apparent impunity his royal connection provided.

Left and republican parliamentarians have “welcomed the decision to make the princess – who will visit the court on a Saturday so that special security measures can be set up – declare before the investigating magistrate.”

 





1932 principles of democracy and constitutional rule

30 09 2012

“Thailand needs a re-incarnation of the 1932 democracy philosophy in drafting a new charter to return sovereign power to the people…” says the Bangkok Post in a report. It would never be an editorial! Heaven forbid! This is an article reporting an event at Thammasat University called “Lawyers and the Coup.”

What was it that the People’s Party/Khana Ratsadon said in 1932? The initial constitution of July 1932 that the toppled absolute king hastily scrawled “provisional” on is the one that most clearly reflected the view before the royalists got their politically grubby hands on the first “permanent” constitution, they said:

Article 1: The supreme power in the country belongs to the people.

Article 4: The person who is the king of the country is King Prajadhipok. The succession will proceed in accordance with the Royal Household Law on the Succession of 1924 and with the approval of the Assembly.

Article 5: If there is any reason that the king is unable temporarily to carry out his duties, or is not in the capital, the Committee of the People will execute the right on his behalf.

Article 6: The king cannot be charged in a criminal court. The responsibility for a judgement rests with the Assembly.

And so it goes on, establishing the sovereignty of the people.

Kasian Tejapira, a political scientist from Thammasat University opined that “the monarchy has become the core of whatever form of administration rules Thailand.” For PPT this means that the spirit of 1932 has been defeated. In fact, while the pre-1946 royalists tried violence, murder and rebellion to turn back the clock, from the time of the gunshot death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, the effort has been to compete for the allegiance of the military, and from 1957 to use the military to support the return of the monarchy’s wealth and power.

Worachet Pakeerut, a core member of Nitirat, declares – quite correctly – that the “1947 coup … was a landmark coup that unbalanced the power nodes between the monarchy (from the old power) and other political institutions (Khanarassadorn legislature). The post-1947 coup constitutions … strengthened the monarchy and created the privy council.”

Kasian points out that this unbalancing means that “[c]oups … have been endorsed in Thailand as long as they uphold the monarchical institution…”. That’s why some, including Nitirat, want to “add punitive measures against those who attempt to tear down the constitution…”. Kasian says that Nitirat is the only “the only group of public law scholars to stand up to coups…”. That he considers them a “a spectre haunting Thammasat University” is a sad reflection on the fact that royalists have come to control the university that was meant to be the people’s university rather than a school for royals and royalists.

Kasian declares that “Nitirat should, from now on, work towards collaborating with scholars in other fields in order to revitalise the image of ‘Thammasat University for the People’, as it once was…”. What a great idea!

Worachet explained that “all constitutions after the 1947 coup, particularly the 1991, 1997 and 2007 charters, returned power to the monarchy, including the decision on the succession to the throne without referring to the endorsement power of the parliament.” He added that the succession of coups meant that “judges and lawyers therefore would always abide by the coup rules and regulations.”

Worachet called for a new constitution that would include “reforms of monarchy, political institutions, judiciary, and military.”





Rejecting the “historic compromise”

14 02 2012

Rejecting the 1997 constitution

There’s an interesting perspective in the Bangkok Post by Deputy Editor Atiya Achakulwisut, reporting on an academic seminar. It is interesting in a number of ways and suggests how significant the Nitirat claims have been in directing attention to the role of the monarchy.

It is interesting, in the current highly charged context, to see a journalist admit that the monarchy doesn’t function “according to the rules prescribed by the charter,” meaning the constitution. The cited reason for this – tradition – is not, in our view, an adequate explanation, but more on that below.

It is also interesting that academics see the need to debate what should be accepted history. Historian Nidhi Eowsriwong and political scientist Kasian Tejapira agree that ”constitutional monarchy” represents a ”historic compromise” between King Rama VII and the People’s Party.

In fact, that is only partly true for recalcitrant royalists, and Prajadhipok himself, never accepted the compromise. By their actions it is clear that they rejected it. From the time of the 1932 events, they worked persistently for a restoration.  Often that restorationist activism led to quite violent actions.

When Prajadhipok abdicated, the struggles didn’t cease, although the royalists were often on the back foot. However, their dogged determination for restoring the power and wealth of the monarchy was especially clear in 1946 and again following General Sarit Thanarat’s military coups in 1957 and 1958. The story since then is of persistent political intervention and increasing wealth and political power.

Finally, it is interesting that Atiya concludes with a call for more open debate on the role and position of the monarchy:

Under the situation, open debate and the allowance of freedom of expression would be more helpful to society in search of a new balance. It goes without saying that this freedom must be exercised along with mutual respect. Some of the questions regarding the monarchy that have surfaced recently may sound outrageous _ like whether or not the King is under the constitution _ but if we look into the facts, we will realise that it is not something that has not been asked before.

Of course, the question has been asked before, but the power, status and wealth of the monarchy – and lese majeste – has been used to stifle such questions.





Royalist minds

4 02 2012

The opposition to Nitirat and discussion of the lese majeste law has been reported extensively. It has been pretty threatening, not least because some of the comment from high levels has been meant to strike fear and to silence people.

That’s why it is so encouraging to see some of those supporting freedom of expression speaking out and being reported. We acknowledge that doing this is a brave act as those speaking out risk public scolding and out of the limelight, threats and worse. Hate emails are especially common, and these usually include threats.

It is in this turbid, even rancid, atmosphere that The Nation reports on academics speaking out.

Most outspoken – at least that is how it comes across in the report – was political scientist Kasian Tejapira. He points out that some Thais “have not left the absolute-monarchy system.” He explains:

Some Thais still relate to the monarchy institution as if they lived under an absolute monarchy, leading them to become enraged when faced with people they think want to criticise the institution…. This outlook also causes them to regard anyone who wants to repeal or abolish the lese majeste law….

Comments like this, pointing out a conservative royalism, should not be controversial for they are absolutely obvious. The ultra-royalists would prefer an absolute monarchy. However, in the current atmosphere, Kasian will likely be seen as driving a stake into the hearts of ultra-royalists.

That’s even when he urges “those critical of the monarchy and the lese majeste law to refrain from using hate speech or strong words and bear in mind that they’re dealing with people who believe they love the institution ‘most’.”

In fact, though, most of the hate speech originates with those opposing Nitirat and lese majeste.

Panus Tassaneeyanond, a former dean of Thammasat’s Law Faculty pointed out that the media has fanned “hatred through the supply of one-sided information.” Panus agreed with Kasian:

He also acknowledged that many ultra-royalists did not care about details of the proposed amendment, and simply regarded supporters of the move as anti-royalists. The mentality of these ultra-royalists is that of people living under an absolute monarchy….

As PPT alluded in an earlier post, this conservative royalism is not so much a hangover of an earlier historical period as a constructed ideological position. We would place the effort to build royalism, while always there for the palace as it battled to re-establish its power and wealth after 1932, it was the Cold War that brought the military, the palace and the bureaucracy together to build royalism and nationalism into an anti-communist brew that had “loyalty” at its core.





Support for Nitirat’s lese majeste reform proposal

19 01 2012

PPT missed this report a couple of days ago, and we post it now because it is significant.

At Matichon, it is reported that a list of significant academics, writers, lawyers and intellectuals in Thailand have supported Nitirat’s call for a review of the lese majeste law. Significantly, and like an earlier international academic call for the law’s reform, it has 112 signatories. Each signatory was listed in a Nitirat pamphlet.

The names include many very well-respected and senior intellectuals. The lead signatories are Charnvit Kasetsiri, Pasuk Phongpaichit and Nidhi Eowsriwong, each of them well-known and respected in Thailand and internationally. Other respected signatories include: Thongchai Winichakul, Thak Chaloemtiarnana, Suchit Wongthes, Seksan Prasertkul, Tanet Charoenmuang, Kasian Tejapira and Kengkij Kitirianglarp.





On oligarchies

31 03 2011

Benedict Anderson has a guest post at the Midnight University website. PPT thought this quote accurate and pointed on Thailand (and the rest of Southeast Asia):

… Kasian Tejapira,  one of the very best students I ever had, has been describing the present system as a ‘semi-democracy.’ This is the commonest way that outsiders tend to describe the political orders of Indonesia, the Philippines, and  Malaysia.   But in my opinion all these states, including Siam, are actually controlled, to varying extents,  by oligarchies, clusters of interlocking families, whose children go to the same schools, whose businesses are interconnected,  who marry among themselves, and share a common set of values and interests.  This does not mean that they do  not compete among themselves, sometimes fiercely. Nor are they entirely exclusionary; they are flexible enough to  assimilate various kinds of semi-outsiders, but on their own terms.  They even have a kind of code of conduct – one element of which is not to  use sexual scandals against each other.  A good sign of oligarchy is the absence of a coherent, well-managed opposition; another is the easy and rapid movement of sor-sor between so-called parties as shifting governing coalitions get formed.

PPT would call this a ruling class. Red shirts might think of amart.

There’s more worth reading in the piece, including some side-swipes at the monarchy.





Korn, Kasian, verdict and coup

6 03 2010

A mini-debate has emerged following the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case. It involves questioning the 2006 coup and the role of the military junta in the justice system. This was sort of set off by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij’s recent bloggings at his Facebook page.

That post is now largely reproduced by the Bangkok Post (5 March 2010) as an op-ed piece.

Korn begins on something of a sour note, with a misrepresentation. He says: “It is now a week since the celebrated ruling on Thaksin Shinawatra’s private assets was announced, and I have yet to air my opinion on the verdict. This is partly because I felt that many people have already been talking about the issue, but it is also because this is an issue close to my heart as I have been personally involved for some time. I also wanted my own opinion and emotions to crystallise before I spoke out..”

PPT points out that this is untrue. Korn posted at Facebook earlier. Even the Post has an earlier report expressing surprise (The Bangkok Post (3 March 2010) where it states: “Finance Minister Korn said if it wasn’t for the military coup, justice wouldn’t have been served, that dictatorship is perhaps better for justice than democracy – causing a stir of debate – but what did he actually mean?

There are several issues in the Korn op-ed that warrant some comment. The first relates to his personal involvement in the assets case. He explains that from the time of the sale of Shin Corp, “all of Thaksin’s actions at that time indicated that he was the real owner of the assets and had hidden all of his shareholdings all along.” As a result, he took two actions: “First, I pointed out that there was evidence at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicating that Thaksin secretly owned his Shin Corp shares via an account at Singapore UBS Bank. Second, I filed a complaint with the Revenue Department that the transactions involving the transfer of shares to Thaksin’s children carried a tax liability.” He complains that his actions were thwarted by an unresponsive bureaucracy. At the same time, it would be interesting to know how Korn had information from UBS Bank.

There is then a gap in the narrative, with Korn explaining that “[w]hen the ASC was set up, I brought all the evidence to them, helped them analyse the information, and explained to them on matters regarding securities and securities trading, which was quite complicated and difficult to understand” (emphasis added).

Korn’s second and most significant issue is in this question: “The question I would like to raise is, if the coup did not happen in 2006 and the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) had not existed, would we see justice being served in this case?” He restates it as: “if there had not been a coup, would justice have prevailed?” And then he thinks a bit more: “why can’t Thai society … achieve justice without having to rely on coup-makers initiating the process? Does this mean that sometimes ‘undemocratic’ actors place more emphasis on truth and justice than democratic ones?”

Korn doesn’t explicitly answer the first question although it is absolutely clear that he is a coup supporter and believes that justice has been brought by the 2006 military coup. Of course, the question is hypothetical as the coup prevented any further attempts to deal with Thaksin’s alleged corruption under the 1997 Constitution. We’ll never know the answer.

On the second question, Korn is more effusive and highly PAD-like. He says that it is possible that “the majority of Thais do not sufficiently care about truth and justice. As long as our businesses are doing well and there is food on the table, we Thais appear willing to live with corruption.” That sounds like a critique of Thai culture. But then Korn makes it clear which Thais he means: “Truth and justice cannot fill empty stomachs. Perhaps, therefore, only the wealthy have the time and inclination to ponder on matters such as justice while the poor, who have to struggle to feed their families, do not have that luxury. And when the majority is made up of poor people and the majority voice is what counts in a democracy, the resounding answer is seemingly ‘We don’t care’.”

Yes, Korn adds a throwaway line about “many businessmen and the well-to-do” who also don’t care, but the message is clear. It is those horrid people who vote for Thaksin who are to blame for the failures of the justice system. Korn must never have met average Thais in a normal situation. He must not know how they fell about injustice and double standards that allow Korn’s “thinking elite” to get special treatment in a system designed to prevent justice being blind to position and wealth.

Not unexpectedly, as the Bangkok Post (4 March 2010) reports, Puea Thai Party politicians have reacted strongly, pointing out that Korn is: (i) in a position to influence future investigations of Thaksin and his family through the Ministry of Finance, and he has taken a personal and political position that shows considerable ill-will. In other words, he should have kept his feelings of elation and self-justification to himself; and (ii) a member of parliament supporting undemocratic political interventions. Even the Chart Thai Pattana Party spokesman Watchara Kannika pointed out “that as a politician in a democratic system Mr Korn should not support any military coup.”

Not necessarily a part of this debate, but reflecting on some of the same issues, Kasian Tejapira, political science lecturer at Thammasat University has commented (Prachatai, 3 March 2010): “Don’t use a coup to solve the problems of corruption. That will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice system. It’s really a high price to pay…”. Kasian’s perspective is far less elitist and a lot more thoughtful than Korn’s view.

Kasian, who strongly opposed Thaksin before the coup, reportedly stated that the “coup was meant to ‘reform democracy to be safe for the monarchy’, as implied right from the start by the original name of the coup makers, the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, because the Constitutional Monarchy was insecure under Thaksin’s rule.” Kasian clarifies this comment, meaning that “The point was to maintain the hegemony to lead the country in one direction under the monarchy. Under Thaksin’s rule, hegemony was shifted to Thaksin, the Thai Rak Thai Party and their cliques.”

For Kasian, this means that what we are seeing is “measures … taken to secure hegemony where it was. This means it was necessary to destroy Thaksin’s power, crushing the two most important bases of his power, his money and his party…”. The process in train is, Kasian says, “obvious. Once Thaksin’s hegemony is destroyed, no other alternative hegemony is likely to emerge in Thai society.”

Kasian also points out that the 26 February assets judgment is also about “scaring big capitalists away from entering politics.” In fact, even before the coup, PPT has already seen big capitalists moving back to being behind-the-scenes funders of the Democrat Party and big-time supporters of the monarchy’s various fund-raising schemes, from polo to pearls and pathetic “art” and design.

Like PPT, Kasian sees a decline in liberal ideas and positions and a tendency to a “despotic” hegemonic regime. Thaksin might have been headed in this direction, but Kasian seems to lament that failure to reign him in: “Thaksin held state power, and sometimes stayed above the law. To bring the most powerful Prime Minister to court is an attempt to bring about the rule of law.”

After the 2006 coup, however, “influential figures” have been a problem: “the rule of law has been distorted by these influences. The police dare not, or take too long, to investigate the Suvarnabhumi Airport case; it has been over a year now.  The prosecutor has not brought them to court, claiming a lack of intention. This is where the allegation of double standards has been spawned.” And, there’s no transparency, not least in the judiciary.

Kasian worries that there is “judicial rule, because more and more people from the judiciary have taken political positions, through the 2007 Constitution.” The “2007 Constitution has institutionalized judicial rule, and that is locked in. It cannot be turned back.” On the verdict, Kasian says: “Many people cannot say for sure that the Thaksin government was innocent, and many believe that it was corrupt. However, after the process that has been followed, the lesson can be learned that to stage a coup to tackle corruption will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice process…”.

At present, Kasian says that compromise is impossible because “one side is not in the mood to talk, … no changes are allowed. They trust nobody, neither the red shirts, nor Thaksin. It’s a feeling of insecurity, a fear for normal democracy. The abnormality must be made secure under their control…”.