Updated: Remembering the 2014 political disaster

22 05 2021

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention.

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post, via Matichon, is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the tenor of announcements in the controlled media is that a National Order and Maintenance Committee – the military bosses – are arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over. There are some unconfirmed reports of shooting.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies.

It is becoming clear that the plan is exactly what the royalist and anti-democrats have wanted: a search for a “neutral” premier. Look for a former military commander or a privy councilor or someone who fits both categories.

Weng

Given that the Bangkok Post published not one but two op-eds supportive of military intervention today, we assume the editorial board is dancing in the streets (until curfew at 10 P.M. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who stated, among other now dumb as a box of rocks statements, this:

Look for an interim government, appointed. Look for reforms, not necessarily to tackle corruption or to solve the education crisis, those issues take years, and we wouldn’t want an appointed government for years.

But definitely look for reform measures to ensure future political stability and economic opportunity. In this, look for factions and individuals to be persuaded to fall in line and do as told.

In addition, look for these measures to be more effective in setting Thailand on the ‘’right’’ course, as compared to after the 2006 coup.

Then, look for a reasonable period of time until the military is sure that the peace is kept. Three months, six months, a year, however long it may take.

After which, look for the return of the democratic election and things to actually go back to normal – well, normal for Thailnd, that is.

A scenario is mere speculation based on past lessons to ascertain likely future possibilities. If there is any certainty, it is that democratic elections will return.Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC.

He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.”

He argued – and recall this was early on – that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He’s fully on board with the military, as you’d expect.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism.

Update: We noticed a couple of articles in the English media on the anniversary of Thailand’s bleakest of coups. At Thai PBS, there’s a story on Yingluck Shinawatra’s response. Among other comments she observes:

The past seven years, since the coup, are seven years of lost development opportunity and seven years of the people’s voice being ignored. It is seven years that people have been hoping for a People’s Constitution, which nobody knows whether it will ever be realised….

That’s pretty much it, but no one could possibly have thought that this set of dinosaurs was going to be progressive or interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarch, who must, at all cost, be revered and coddled.

The Bangkok Post has two stories. One is a kind of “evenhanded” account that sees the only support for the junta-post-junta being expressed by its people. Government and military spokespersons come up with a large pile of buffalo manure.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri insisted the government “is trying to prevent clashes between those involved and is not acting as a party to the conflict…”. He seems to think everyone is as stupid as he is. And to prove his own stupidity, his claim for “progress” after seven years was this: “reforms initiated by the government have made substantial progress with laws being amended to accommodate changes. When the bills are enacted, the reforms will be more visible.” Yes, that’s a zero.

The Ministry of Defense spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich is worse still, making stuff up, squishing manure and making military manure piles. He invents a story that “the NCPO stepped in to end political conflict and solve problems such as illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and aviation safety problems.” He’s bonkers.

The other Post story is more about the zero outcomes (for most of us) and the bleakness. But the really sad thing is the future:

Unless the constitution is changed to prevent senators from voting on a PM before the next election, Gen Prayut will likely be the prime minister for another six years, for a total of 13 years, beating Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, the longest-serving PM to date with 9½ years in office.

A more terrible political future we cannot imagine, unless it is Vajiralongkorn’s vision of neo-absolutism. Only the students saved us from that (at least for the moment).





Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Humpty’s men

3 07 2019

Marwaan Macan-Markar, at the Nikkei Asia Review, contributes a long and useful review of the remolding of the relationship between monarchy and military.

He claims that diplomats in Bangkok know which military leaders are closest to King Vajiralongkorn by a pin with an “image of Prince Dipangkorn, the king’s 14-year-old son” which are “pinned on the left breasts of a select few military leaders…”. (Dipangkorn is widely considered to be heir apparent, lives in Germany and seldom appears the full quid.)

Gen Apirat

One diplomat described those wearing the pin as “a small network,” with Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong an important bearer of the pin. Gen Apirat is known to present himself as “fiercely loyal to the king.”

Macan-Markar says that this “network” indicate “a major change in the relationship between two of Thailand’s most powerful institutions — the monarchy and the military” under King  Vajiralongkorn.

While his analysis, based on interviews with diplomats, pundits and academics, is interesting, it is one that is based on a kind of “Kremlinology” of military watching which can be somewhat misleading if the forest is obscured by the trees. Hence the interminable speculation over Queen’s Guard versus King’s Guard.

In our view, it is misguided to see the king’s faith in the “senior generals of the King’s Guard, a Bangkok-based faction” as representing a spurning of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta. As far as anyone can tell from available evidence, the junta has done everything that the king has wanted and it is Gen Prayuth, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda who have put in place military succession plans that lead from Gen Apirat to Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae, currently commander of the First Army region and Gen Songwit Noongpakdee, the leader of the Bangkok-based 1st Infantry Division.

That “defense analysts say the monarch’s choice of trusted lieutenants stems from his own military record” is no surprise, now. What they miss, however, is that the king’s succession was a long one, with his father incapacitated, and the then crown prince and his advisers long having had influence over the military brass.

Interestingly, and barely mentioned, is the ways in which the king revamped the Privy Council, the Crown Property Bureau and the palace administration over that period of long succession. In these moves, he made these institutions his own, bringing in junta loyalists and advancing those closest to him, including Air Chief Marshal Sathitpong Sukwimol, long the king’s private secretary and now, arguably, his most powerful adviser, heading the CPB, Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement Group, among other important bodies.

ACM Sathitpong Sukwimol (clipped from The Nation)

All of these rearrangements, promotions and not a few demotions and ousters do mean that a military man on the throne has ensured that he has the military under control. Just in case of problems, there’s some “insurance,” with ACM Sathitpong’s younger brother Pol Maj Gen Torsak at the head of a large force of “protectors.”

Naturally, Prawit remained a Prayuth confidant during the five years of the junta, serving as the deputy prime minister and defense minister. Gen. Anupong Paochinda, another former army chief from the Queen’s Guard, was also a key figure in Prayuth’s coup and junta.

That the king promotes the “King’s Guard, the faction he was part of, in the driving center of army power,” hardly seems a revelation. Yet there’s no evidence that the Queen’s Guard is in any way untrustworthy or disloyal. (It was King Bhumibol who placed his son in the King’s Guard.)

With little evidence, Macan-Markar discerns that the generals of Queen’s Guard is somehow more “politically ambitious” than those of the King’s Guard. There’s no evidence for this. In addition, there’s an amnesia for previous claims made. In the view of many pundits, it was the Queen’s Guard who conducted the 2014 coup in order to ensure the current king’s succession. What happened to that position? And, it was the Queen’s Guard coup masters who purged the military of those perceived as disloyal.

Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya is quoted as saying: “The king clearly wants a vertical hierarchy without any distractions and divisions that can cause splits in the army…”. That seems to have been the junta’s aim as well. To see this as a move against the Queen’s Guard ignores the fact that the junta’s role has been to “cleanse” the military, to immeasurably strengthen it and to embed it at all levels of society. That’s the important message, not the Kremlinology of watching factions.

It seems that “experts” on the military blame “factional rivalries” for “repeated coups.” We think the experts need to re-read the history of successful coups.

Former ambassador and new author James Wise is right to observe that “the monarchy and the military exercise authority in their own right, often without reference to the more familiar legislative, executive and judiciary…”. The big picture matters.

When Kasit predicts: “No more coups,” we think he’s in la-la land. It will depend, as in the past, on on perceptions of “threat” to the monarchy and the broader ruling class.





Quotes on an “election”

4 10 2018

PPT has seldom agreed with former Democrat Party foreign minister Kasit Piromya. However, in a piece at Asia Times, he provides a useful perspective:

“Thaksin and his legacies, his party, personality cult and populist policy measures,” are Prayut’s biggest threat, said Kasit Piromya, a former foreign minister under a Democrat Party-led government and prominent critic of Thaksin and Yingluck’s rule.

“Prayut and his allies have to be certain that they will have the majority before the holding of the election. They will not go to the election in order to lose…they could keep on postponing the election date,” Kasit said in an interview.

“The constitution and related laws are not democratic, so an election in substance cannot be democratic,” Kasit said.

He’s right about the essential undemocratic nature of the proposed “election” – journalists take note.

While not directly on the “election” at some time next year, Thitinan Pongsudhirak’s account of the “new” military carries some interest for The Dictator’s plan. Like others, he seems to hope that splits between junta leaders and the new military leadership will destabilize the junta’s control. We think the tea leaves are dissected to much, but never discount the arrogance of military leaders. Look at the several challenges Gen Prem Tinsulanonda faced when he was premier with palace support.





Thailand’s future politics II

2 11 2017

In our previous post we looked at two articles considering possible futures for Thailand’s politics. Here we look at two more.

Christina Larson is a Beijing-based reporter who has written for the New Yorker, Foreign Policy and Bloomberg. Her guess that the “respect felt by most Thais for their monarchy” is “genuine” is married to an appopriate observation that this is “besmirched by the growing enforcement of the world’s strictest lèse-majesté law…”. She adds that ” use of the law has allowed the government to persecute critics and to create a widespread fear while maintaining a veneer of legality.”

She observes that the “fate of the law has been inextricably tied up with the image of Bhumibol himself.” That’s a point that others have often missed. At the same time, the increased use of the law and its justification has been “protecting the monarchy.” Larson notes that the image of the monarchy that is protected is of the ninth king and adds: “But the burnished image of the ‘People’s King’ — as a crusader for little people, a camera-toting investigator and promoter of public works – was shaped and reinforced by a supremely successful 70-year-propaganda campaign.”

It is that propaganda image that has been reinforced again and again over recent years – not least because the incumbent was mostly hidden in a hospital – and because that image was challenged. The funeral pushed the image again to supreme heights. But it is constructed:

According to Thailand’s constitution and school textbooks, the monarch is above politics, separate from the spheres of government and business. But nearly every public and private establishment in Bangkok was marking the official mourning period. Black-and-white memorial photos of Bhumibol in full royal regalia were on display at major airports, on highway billboards, at restaurants and hotels, even on the screens of ATMs. Liquor sales were prohibited during the cremation ceremonies, and the city’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens closed early on Thursday. That speaks to the power of the monarchy – and the fear of causing offense – that’s opened up a wide venue for persecution.

Larson quotes Benjamin Zawacki on the monarchy and lese majeste. (As a former representative of Amnesty International, he spent a lot of energy arguing that the reign of the dead king promoted human rights! He and AI neglected lese majeste in Thailand.)

Zawacki makes a rather odd comment: “If the cremation shows us nothing else, it is that the depth of respect and adoration for the monarchy in Thailand renders the lèse-majesté law redundant…”. Clearly it wasn’t, and the palace and military used it whenever there were political crises or whenever it saw threats to the grand concocted image of the monarchy.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak seems to contradict Zawacki, saying:

With the new reign, the enforcement of the [lèse-majesté] law will likely only increase, not decrease, for two reasons. The new monarch does not command as much love and respect as his father on an individual basis, and the monarchy will be under pressure to structurally adjust to new democratic norms.

Thitinan sees a continuation of the monarchy’s anti-democratic politics and a deepening of fear and intimidation. That seems entirely consistent with what we know of Vajiralongkorn and The Dictator. The symbiotic relationship mentioned in our previous post is important. At the same time, the  junta benefits enormously from the lese majeste law.

Kasit

The final article is an op-ed by the Democrat Party’s Kasit Piromya titled Thai political transformation needs ‘third force’. He believes an “alternative exists to military rule and entrenched political elite.”

Given that Kasit seems to have supported two military interventions throwing out elected governments, was a long-serving and senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, filled with members of the elite who are deeply royalist, we can only marvel at his idea of a “third force” and his call for “full-fledged democracy.”

He asks: “How much longer must Thai society accept the military’s involvement in politics?” Perhaps the answer is when persons like Kasit stop supporting those who are responsible for the coups.

He’s not keen on electoral politics, with PAD-like anti-democrat finger-pointing at the “dominance of vested interests in the political landscape led to countless numbers of abuses of power and corruption” along with “a power-hungry civilian political elite that engaged in rent-seeking with its majority rule.” He means the Thaksin regime.

And the “third force”? It is a PAD “solution” based on its usual false premises.

Kasit declares a pox on all houses (not his own): “One cannot rely on the military to voluntarily return to and remain in the barracks, nor on the political class to change its exploitative ways.”

The citizens must take the lead. But, of course, only after this “uneducate,” duped, misled and paid among them “educate themselves by gaining full access to information about government services and tasks, including how the national budget is spent, how decisions are made and how they can have input.” Does Kasit do this? We doubt it.

PADistas like Kasit believe that the citizenry is fodder for Thaksin-like politicians because they are “uneducate.”

Somehow the “Thai democratic citizenry” will be achieved “with the advent of modern telecommunications that enable convenient and fast connections with the public through mobile phones, social media and other internet-based vehicles.” Internet-based vehicles?? He’s making this up as he writes.

But what of the “third force”? Kasit reckons it “could consist of like-minded people” who come “together to agree on a course of action and draw up a list of priority issues so that a national consensus can be reached on taking Thailand forward.”

We think he’s serious, but who knows. When he calls the “get together” we’ll be sure to attend. Oh, but hang on… we are not “like-minded” with Kasit (thankfully!).

That said, he is right that when old ruling classes in some places have “reached a consensus with society at large to agree on a transitional approach toward democracy.”

In Thailand, however, the ruling class has repeatedly demonstrated that it will not compromise. Kasit can ramble on about a “third force” but the problem is the ruling class. They need to be overcome.





Further updated: Reporting Yingluck’s disappearance

27 08 2017

The military dictatorship states that it did “not allow former premier Yingluck Shinawatra to flee the country…”. It makes this statement due to the widespread view that her no-show at court and her reported flight could have only been possible with junta support. Hence, a deal was done.

Newspapers have been widely reporting that Yingluck is in Dubai. The Bangkok Post quotes an anonymous source from the Puea Thai Party: “We heard that she went to Cambodia and then Singapore from where she flew to Dubai. She has arrived safely and is there now…”.

As far as we can tell from the newspapers, this has yet to be confirmed and Yingluck has not been seen on Facebook or in the media since last Wednesday or Thursday.

The specific threat to the regime over Yingluck’s disappearance comes from the yellowists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (usually said to be “former” but still meeting and demanding).

PAD “is demanding that the government investigate the escape of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and severely punish any state officials who helped her flee the country.” It declared that “Yingluck’s escape reflected a failure on the part of security authorities, leading to speculation that the failure was allowed to happen.”

Like others, PAD:

… pointed out that Ms Yingluck for months had been closely shadowed by soldiers, to the point where she complained on social media about privacy violations. They noted that Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan] on Feb 29 last year had said soldiers were needed to provide protection for Ms Yingluck and to help maintain peace and order in a politically tense time.

One of the junta’s deputy spokesmen, said “the Foreign Ministry was taking steps to revoke the ex-premier’s passport.”

Significantly, he also “said there was no official confirmation of Yingluck’s whereabouts…” or, it has to be said, that she has actually left Thailand. That said, her relatives have expressed no alarm, but have not said where she is. That lack of alarm suggests she has not gone the way of Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee, who seems to have been disappeared.

Then there are the assessments of what it all means. Hong Kong’s The Standard expresses it this way:

Yingluck Shinawatra’s escape from Thailand ahead of a court verdict that was expected to land her in jail for up to 10 years will tilt the country’s politics back in favor of the Bangkok establishment….

They mean the winners are the “military, technocrats, old power cliques, and the well-connected in business.”

That newspaper refers to Yingluck’s “escape,” using the inverted commas. It argues about motives:

Instead of letting the woman become a heroine of the masses that her family had dominated for so long, Yingluck can now be portrayed as a coward betrayer of her supporters, and her Pheu Thai party can be reduced to political insignificance.

It is added that The Dictator is “probably grinning from ear to ear” at her “escape.”

While The Standard editorial thinks Yingluck took “flight to Dubai via Singapore aboard a private jet to join her brother [Thaksin Shinawatra],” its observes that the junta seemed to deliberately muddy the waters:

Comments made by the junta after Yingluck’s flight … were extraordinary. For [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] ordered border security be stepped up. Number 2 [General] Prawit Wongsuwan said Yingluck had gone to Cambodia, while a naval source asserted she had escaped by sea…. All seemed to have been said to increase confusion to protect those involved.

Now the junta will have the opportunity to discredit Yingluck as a “fugitive,” just like her brother.

Update 1: Al Jazeera has a useful discussion of the current political condition. In this report, Peua Thai’s Sean Boonpracong “confirms” she has left Thailand, as have several other party sources.

Former foreign minister Kasit Piromya is adamant that there was “collusion between Yingluck and the military authorities…”. It was, he says, a “political decision.” It is “political expediency” and “convenient to both sides, adding its “convenient to everyone.”

Update 2: The junta has now “Thaksinified” Yingluck, seeking to revoke her Thai passports, with The Dictator declaring her “a fugitive after fleeing judgement in her rice scheme trial…”. General Prayuth continued to “explain” that an “investigation … into how she could have left the country.” The Dictator “blamed previous criticism that security authorities were crowding Ms Yingluck. Concerns over human rights had led to the present problem…”.

We were not aware that “human rights” were ever a concern for the regime.

Deputy Dictator General Prawit claimed “that authorities had followed Ms Yingluck closely. She was able to disappear because she had many vehicles.” That seems a lame “excuse” that his critics will find unconvincing.





Warning the conservative elite II

1 03 2016

PPT has never had much respect for former ambassador, anti-Thaksin foreign minister, defender of human rights abuses and lese majeste, PADster, coup supporter, anti-foreign media, etc. Kasit Piromya. He’s often sounded lazy, bizarre and loopy. So what can we make of an op-ed he is said to have penned at the Nikkei Asian Review that actually seems to make some sense?Kasit

We suggest it be read because, if he wrote it, he seems to have had a light turned on, at least for a moment. He begins:

Thailand’s conservatives, the real power behind the country’s military-backed government, have neutralized the political opposition and consolidated their authority behind a facade of constitutional reform. But they should beware. New proposals to entrench their position permanently risk conflict and perhaps chaos. The people cannot forever be denied a role.

He goes on to identify a power structure that he seems to fit into:

Thailand’s political structure can be characterized as a bureaucracy with a military spearhead, supported by an entourage of place seekers and hangers on such as academics, media personalities, white-collar workers and professionals.

Has he been reading PPT and like-minded blogs and articles? It seems so when he says:

These modern aristocrats are conservative in their thinking, their perceptions and their behavior. They seek order and stability in society: these are their top priorities in the affairs of the state. They perceive themselves as the natural leaders and rightful protectors of national institutions, especially the three main pillars of Thai society — the nation, the Buddhist religion and the monarchy. They adhere to a belief in the unique characteristics of Thailand, reflexively embodied in what they call the “Thainess” of traditional values, of discipline, and of authority relationships. Most importantly, they sit at the apex of the system…. They love the authority they have, and the discretion it conveys to use power as they see fit, and they shy away from concepts of transparency and accountability.

He might have added that they hate electoral politics, and always have. As a “good” anti-democrat, Kasit reckons that “[c]omprehensive reforms of political and social structures are being canvassed; a new constitution is proposed that will supposedly lay a firm foundation for democracy to take root and more forward in a sustainable manner.”

He’s worried that these anti-democrat reforms are being derailed. Somehow he’s forgotten that this is what he and his ilk supported and wanted. To suggest that he and his mobs wanted to “reform” in a way that was “about sharing of power, a more equitable distribution of wealth [and] access to equal opportunities.”

This was never the aim, and if he thinks it was, the light is off again.

Kasit and his buddies got what they wanted and now get what they deserved. Those who suffer are the people who just wanted a chance to vote and have that respected. The elite, conservative and fascist, can’t get their heads around this notion.





Updated: Constitutional mayhem

24 02 2016

The alliance that was the anti-democrats with the military is coming undone. They are unpicking the alliance themselves as they are unable to agree on what “reform” means and how it will be handled if there is ever an elected government. The draft constitution is the source of the dissension, even if it is already a mess.

That the meaning of “reform” is debated is no surprise given that it has gone from political slogan to the military’s club for beating the country into its preferred shape, and is now being institutionalized.

As happened in 1992, when the military expresses its desire to hold onto power for ever and ever, some of those who think the boys in green are there just to see off those threatening the social order, get the fidgets. The elite and trembling middle class realizes that it may have to put up with these thugs and to keep paying them off with positions and power.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the junta’s demand that there be a “special set of rules to allow the military-led government to maintain security during the transition to civilian rule [and after] is likely to be rejected by charter drafters…”.

Frankly, we doubt that the junta will give way or that the Constitution Drafting Committee would develop a backbone. However, the idea of dissension and a rejection of the junta, from within, is worthy of note.

Described as “an ex-leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee” and as a “[f]ormer Democrat MP,” Thaworn Senniam said the “CDC will not include the cabinet proposal in the charter.” He said: “We can’t return to ‘half-democracy’.”

Thaworn has little conception of democracy, but his dissension is worth noting.

More significantly, the old fascist war horse “Sqn Ldr Prasong Soonsiri … is warning the military government against making any moves that reflects a desire to stay in power.” He remembers 1992. Anyway, he says, if the military doesn’t like something after an election it can easily intervene.

As expected, The Dictator is unimpressed.

The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “affirmed the country needs a special mechanism to advance reforms during a five-year transitional period.” That “mechanism” is meant to guide government and is presumably replacing the unofficial and behind the scenes mechanism known as the Privy Council. (Post-Prem/post-present king, it can’t be trusted.)

It seems the junta is also pressing for an unelected senate. This is a favorite of the military as they get to hold many of the seats and have veto powers over government. In this instance “it would ensure the junta will have at least 200 senators supporting the junta after an election…”.

As it has been from the beginning, the junta seeks a throwback semi-democracy combined with an institutionalization of measures to replace the monarchy’s political interventionism.

Update: Former PADster, PRDCer and Democrat Party Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has joined the splits from the junta. In a story at Matichon, he has slammed the military junta. Among other things, he digs at The Dictator, saying he wants to stay another five years after two years of failed administration. He says there have been no substantial accomplishments. He says there is no good reason for them to stay.

The dictatorship is being challenged. How will the erratic boss respond?





Platitudes on the military dictatorship I

24 09 2015

The Bangkok Post has a longish article called “analysis” that deals with The Dictator’s visit to the United States and appearances at a business event and at the U.N. PPT, seldom surprised by what it reads in the mainstream media, was dismayed to read a series of platitudes that ignore the fact that Thailand remains the world’s only military dictatorship.

One Wikipedia page lists countries by system of government. For Thailand, there is a standout entry: “No constitutionally-defined basis to current regime.” Not quite right, but then this military dictatorship wrote its own “charter” after illegally ditching the previous one.

Another Wikipedia page lists military dictatorships as countries where a “nation’s military control the organs of government and all high-ranking political executives are also members of the military hierarchy.” Two are listed, Thailand and Burkina Faso.

Unfortunately for Thais, the situation in the latter case has changed: “In September 2015, military forces seized the country’s president and prime minister, and declared themselves the new national government. However, on 22 September 2015, the coup leader, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, apologized and promised to restore the civilian government. On 23 September 2015, the prime minister and interim president were restored to power.”

Something may have changed internationally in recent days, but the sorry fact is that Thailand remains the only pariah state: a military dictatorship.

None of this is clear in the Post’s “analysis.”

This “analysis” begins by recounting that self-appointed Prime Minister and coupmeister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is will “highlight the progress the government has made in fighting human trafficking…”. Yep, that’s it for the junta over the whole period since 22 May 2014. But only if there is no mention of repression, jailings, bombs, bad policing, economic torpor and so on.

The Post helpfully adds that Prayuth’s trip “gives him a chance to share with global leaders the military government’s achievements in tackling Thailand’s development issues, especially human trafficking, its roadmap to democracy and the latest economic stimulus plan.” Prayuth has declared: “I will tell the international community the government is driving the country towards full democracy under the roadmap. We are doing everything we can to reach that goal…”.

“Everything” seems to include jailing and re-educating opponents, censorship, repression and banal royalism. Deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukhondapatipak seemed to recognize this, stating that the junta has different “rules.” He observed that “our rules [were] not originating from an ideology several countries wished to see.”

The Dictator received support and gratuitous advice from several commentators regarding its terrible international image as the world’s only remaining military dictatorship.

Former Foreign Minister and ardent yellow shirt Kasit Piromyaadvised: “[There is] no need to pretend we are perfect as we live in a borderless world…”. We would have thought that “perfect was the wrong terminology. He may has well have stated: “[There is] no need to pretend we are anything other than complete crap with almost everyone knowing this as we live in a borderless world…”.

Kasit is followed in the report by “[p]olitical scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University [who] echoed this sentiment.” Like Kasit, he offered advice on how to hide crap: “A realistic middle path would be to admit to the shortcomings of ascending to office through a putsch…”. He went on to say that “some of the signature achievements of the coup government” could be trumpeted, including “combatting human trafficking and corruption, while delineating a clear time frame to return power to the Thai people.”

Thitinan goes a step further, urging the military dictator to go ahead with a dozy plan to grab a seat on the UN Security Council. His “reasoning” seems to be that other crappy states have obtained a seat, so why exclude the world’s only military dictatorship. He cheers: “There is still a chance for Thailand…”. Yes, he does add that the regime should “demonstrate an actionable pathway that will lead to a semblance of normalcy under civilian, not military, rule…”.

He means that this execrable regime should babble about its “roadmap” for stymieing democracy in Thailand, making its propaganda seem somehow plausible to Thailand’s “friends.”

The last set of platitudes is from the usual suspects at a dinner hosted by business lobby groups, the US-Asean Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce. They are so profit-oriented that they are prepared to provide a platform for the military dictator. Still, they have done this  before and bill it as “an opportunity for top American corporate executives to rub shoulders with Thai dignitaries.”

Corporate types hobnobbing with murderous dictators would make dinner rather difficult to stomach.





Future of monarchy in Thailand is uncertain

21 09 2015

That is part of a headline in the New York Times for an article by Thomas Fuller on the king’s declining health. The article will certainly anger the military junta and rabid royalists.

It will be especially galling as the article quotes persons identified by the junta as “anti-monarchy.”

The article begins:

After nearly seven decades on the throne, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, the keystone of Thailand’s identity and a major unifying force for the country, is in declining health. With increasing frequency, the palace has issued medical bulletins detailing his ailments, and in recent days his youngest daughter has led prayer sessions following a Buddhist rite normally used for terminally ill patients.Senile king

PPT doesn’t think the king unifies, unless this means a murderous alliance with the military, palace propaganda and rightist vigilantism.

That line of buying the propaganda and repression continues: “While reverence for the king was once the only thing that this fractured country could agree on, today the future of the Thai monarchy is uncertain.”

That’s also untrue, and there is plenty of history to demonstrate that there has always been opposition to the monarchy.

The article talks of the prince:

The king’s heir apparent, the jet-setting crown prince, has a reputation as a playboy and faces an uphill battle to win the trust and adoration his father has achieved. Many Thais hoped that Princess Sirindhorn, the crown prince’s sister, who has won hearts through her charitable causes and dealings with the poor, might succeed her father, but palace law bars women from the throne.

Happy togetherThe prince gave up trying to emulate his father years ago and left the space for his sister to fill. She’s been the center of the (almost) post-Bhumibol propaganda, and has benefited from limited scrutiny. The prince seems to not care for this limelight. Meanwhile, the military junta has been cleaning up for his succession, sorting out his personal inconveniences by jailing his former wife’s family and replacing her with a woman who will probably be queen.

The article has a link to six recent lese majeste cases, noting that the law restricts discussion of succession and the future of the monarchy. Even so, the article refers to a “growing underground republican movement…”. The article states that:

The republican movement was precipitated in part by the rise of Thaksin Shinawatra, a business tycoon turned populist politician whose influence and popularity in rural areas were seen as threats to the royal establishment and Bangkok’s urban elite.

It quotes Sulak Sivaraksa:

The current anti-monarchy movement is due to the very fact that the monarchy is now made into almighty god…. The more you make the monarchy sacred, the more it becomes unaccountable and something beyond common sense.

The strength of the movement is unknown, but as author Fuller states:

One way to assay the strength of the anti-monarchy movement might be by sizing up the military government’s efforts to counter it. The junta, which claims legitimacy from the king’s blessing, has positioned itself as the institution’s ultimate defender.

The ruling generals have been aggressive in jailing critics of the monarchy and this year alone are spending $540 million, more than the entire budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on a promotional campaign called “Worship, protect and uphold the monarchy.”

The campaign includes television commercials, seminars in schools and prisons, singing contests and competitions to write novels and make short films praising the king. The military also erected giant statues of past kings in the seaside town of Hua Hin, but said they were financed by private donations.

“This is not propaganda,” Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the junta, said several months after seizing power last year. The youth, he said, “must be educated on what the king has done.”

It is also a part of preparing for the succession. Former Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is quoted:

Mr. Kasit, the former foreign minister, said the bicycle tour was a “turning point” for the prince.

There are no more doubts inside the military establishment as to who will be the next monarch of Thailand,” Mr. Kasit said.

PPT thinks that’s accurate and it is one of the few times we have agreed with the erratic Kasit. And, it is in the military’s interests to maintain the critical link to the monarchy:

Rejecting the 1997 constitutionThe military’s backing of the prince, indeed its alliance with the monarchy, is seen as mutually beneficial. The king is the head of the Thai armed forces and must endorse all new governments and major appointments. Critics say the military and Bangkok establishment are leveraging the king’s power to bolster their own.

Fuller observes that the political divisions of recent years remain:

Military rule has papered over those [political] divisions, silencing critics and jailing former members of the government. But unifying the country remains the most pressing challenge for both the junta and the future king.

While the article concludes with advice from Thailand’s 5th and most absolute of its “modern” kings, which he didn’t necessarily follow himself, the real final word belongs to critic-in-exile Somsak Jeamteerasakul:

The situation of the Thai monarchy will not remain like this for many more years…. There are two options for the future. Either transform to a modern monarchy like in Europe or Japan or don’t change and become definitively demolished (a republic). There is no third choice.