“Depoliticized” military

26 02 2018

Kavi Chongkittavorn used to be with The Nation but now seems to write op-eds for the Bangkok Post. Some of his recent writings can best be described as undisguised political doggerel. His anti-democrat position was buttressed by an undisguised love for Abhisit Vejjajiva.

His most recent op-ed displays his other great affection. Kavi lauds the military-to-military alliance between the United States and Thailand. Triumphantly, Kavi declares:

The 37th Cobra Gold annual multilateral military exercise ended last week with one major outcome — the depoliticising of Thai-US relations which have been held captive since the May 2014 coup….

The US and Thailand are now strengthening relations through military ties — the pattern that has shaped their traditional alliance for decades but faced some hiccoughs during the Obama administration, which criticised the military’s seizure of power and joined the military training in smaller form. It is a reversal of US policy during the Obama administration….

Gen Prayut has expressed Thailand’s support for the US role in the Indo-Pacific. The region was given a big boost and new meaning when US President Donald Trump highlighted the close cooperation of US allies and friends — India, Japan and Australia — in strategic areas, including maritime security.

Apart from sounding a bit like a report from the Cold War, any notion that military-to-military relations are “depoliticized” is bizarre. Nothing could be more politicized, as any cursory review of Thailand’s little brother-hired hand relationship during the Cold War would reveal. The U.S. spent a lot of time and shiploads of money propping up military dictatorships in Thailand and undermining democratization. As Thailand’s generals learned the finer skills of political repression, some became fabulously wealthy.





Updated: Thailand rejected at the UN

29 06 2016

Kazakstan does not look very much like a democratic polity. Yet it is not a military dictatorship. As the Bangkok Post has it, Kazakstan “easily defeated Thailand’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, with just 55 countries backing Thailand against 138 for Kazakhstan.”

Junta supporters have pointed to the 55 and drawn some cockeyed notion about support for the regime, but that glass isn’t even half full.

Earlier, some of Thailand’s diplomats were quoted as declaring that “[m]ilitary-ruled Thailand stands a ‘good chance’ over oil-rich Kazakhstan…”. We couldn’t help wondering if these were the same shoppers diplomats who lied to the UN Human Rights Council. That these diplomats reckoned it was “a 50:50 draw, but we stand a good chance as we have secured support from Washington among others…” is another example of how the junta’s Thailand is Bizarro World, where its inhabitants are in some kind of delusional state or parallel political universe.

We also wondered if The Dictator’s self-described diatribe to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon might have sunk a very leaky Thai ship in the UN.

In the end, the “second-round voting wasn’t close.”

For more background on this event, see Kavi Chongkittavorn’s propaganda-like piece in support if the junta’s bid for the UNSC seat and the opposition of Human Rights Watch and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) opposition.

Update: Despite all of the junta hype before the devastating defeat, and in the face of statements that the “Thai bid delegation, comprising former Asean secretary-general [and Democrat Party stalwart] Surin Pitsuwan and other retired ambassadors, had been optimistic about winning the race,…” Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has commented that: “We had anticipated that…. Never mind. Next time.” Prawit sounds as if he will still be around “next time” in 2017-18. Meanwhile, according to the same Bangkok Post report states that the “Pheu Thai Party claimed Wednesday the country spent more than 600 million baht in a campaign leading up to Thailand’s defeat in the race for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).”





How many “intelligence” officers?

12 01 2016

It seems the answer to this question is “[a]t least 1,600 officials … belonging to seven Thai agencies: National Intelligence Directorate, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Supreme Command Headquarters’ Intelligence, Special Branch Police and National Security Command Headquarters.”

This number doesn’t include cyber-vigilantes and other volunteers recruited to snoop on neighbors, whether locally or via the internet. We are unsure why the Internal Security Operations Command is not listed separately as it is critical in catching regime opponents.

That number is in an article by Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation. We don’t read his stuff much as it has tended to be yellow-hued and sometimes nonsensical. Yet this article brings some attention to the National Intelligence Strategy (2015-22), which Kavi says was recently approved by the Cabinet.Spy-VS-Spy

Thailand’s “intelligence” services, like their controllers who mostly inhabit the military or have military backgrounds, are organized for domestic operations. Once tracking down communists and other opponents of the state they now seek opponents of the royalist state, monarchy and junta. They have tended to rely on blunt instruments such as torture and murder. More recently, they have gotten interested in digital technologies as they see opponent lurking in cyberspace.

This is apparently acknowledged in the “Strategy,” which states that “Thailand needs new corps of intelligence officials who have a broader knowledge of their country and of events abroad, especially of neighbouring countries.” Recruiting such persons is going to be difficult as the education system is focused on delivering propaganda and “leaders” are not known for accepting advice that challenges the tropes and shibboleths of the royalist state.

The strategy acknowledges this with “old priorities,” with “those related to monarchy, the separatist movement in southern Thailand, political division in Thailand … and threats from extremists.”

Kavi reckons the “last category is something new. Thailand used to have a naive view that it did not have enemies and it is never the target of any group.”

That’s absurd when one recalls, for example, the ways that the military cooperated with oppositions to the Vietnam-backed regime in Cambodia in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Khmer Rouge, dealt with opponents of the regime in Burma over several decades. Then there were various “terrorist” events including the 1972 negotiated the release of six Israeli Embassy officials in Bangkok held hostage by Arab terrorists, the January 2000, storming of a hospital in Ratchaburi by 20 armed rebels from the Karen militia known as God’s Army, the murder of Saudi diplomats, several bomb plots against the Israel Embassy and more.

Under the military dictatorship the threats to Thailand are likely to be identified as republicans and “unfriendly” Western governments who refuse to believe the junta’s narratives.





What happened?

3 12 2013

In an earlier post we stated: “Protesters have interpreted this [entry to government buildings] as a victory, as has the anti-government leadership. While rumors fly that the Army refused – as it did in 2008 – to support the elected and constitutional government, it remains to be seen what kind of deal has been done or whether there has been top-down pressure on the government.”

Thanks to Siam Voices, PPT saw this at AFP:

A senior military source with knowledge of the Sunday meeting told AFP that the heads of the army, navy and airforce refused to throw their support behind the premier.

“None of the three commanders took the government side,” said the official, on condition of anonymity. “They said if the government used force, they would stand next to the people.”

And Siam Voices also put up this from the BBC’s Jonathan Head, also on the story of the Army’s involvement. Note that a deal is said to be still being done:

HeadObviously one of the truce negotiating points had to do with the shenanigans that are portrayed as the king’s birthday celebrations. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gives a feel for this:

In her special TV address at 5:02pm, Yingluck said the government was happy that the political situation had eased.

She said all sides should help the country by joining a forum to discuss how to carry out political reform.

Yingluck said she would like December to be the month of happiness for Thais when Thais celebrate His Majesty the King’s birthday on December 5. She said she would like Thais to be united during the time of celebration for His Majesty.

The prime minister also called on the media to focus on reports about festive activities and His Majesty’s activities as part of the celebration. She said the media should be constructive and avoid presenting news that would fan hatred among the people.

We have the feeling that the old team is back at it. Both sides now face risks and opportunities. Suthep Thaugsuban can’t claim victory, but re-mobilizing protesters isn’t easy. He loses momentum, and he has certainly faced a severe threat because he clammed up very quickly. For the Puea Thai and the government, they can can now regroup and rethink, but it is clear that they have also been “disciplined.” If they stay on, are they now at the beck and call of the military? The only way for the government to break out would seem to be an election.

If there was an election, will the masses and diehard red shirts support Puea Thai again? PPT thinks they would, but for all the lies the media is peddling about red shirt and state violence,* the red shirts have been sidelined since they were sent home. Was that an order from the military backed by a threat? We guess it was.

Interesting days ahead after the birthday nonsense is done with.

*Because we can’t be bothered posting on it, we simply point out that Kavi [Larry] Chongkittavorn has managed to produce probably the worst op-ed PPT has read anywhere, ever. It would normally make our weekend laughs post, but this propagandist was once a serious journalist.





Kavi on Abhisit by Abhisit

30 10 2012

Kavi

Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation has never been shy about promoting Abhisit Vejjajiva as his most loved politician. In a post not that long ago, we pointed out Kavi’s unreserved admiration for Abhisit and the distaste he felt for elected politicians who seemed to be more popular with voters than the man he admires most. Hence it is no surprise that Kavi should produce a wholly uncritical and  syrupy appreciation of Abhisit’s recently published book that claims to set the story straight and tell the truth of the events of April and May 2010.

While the book is titled “Truth has no color,” and Kavi claims it is a “tell-it-all” account, Kavi doesn’t actually tell his readers if there is any truth in Abhisit’s account or whether it is simply a self-serving gloss. PPT hasn’t yet seen the book although the cover apparently claims that the book rebuts the claims of all the “liars.”

We can only assess Kavi’s account of a 174 page “memoir” that has, astoundingly, 44 chapters. This alone suggests that, at less than 4 pages a chapter, the book is not providing any deep analysis. So much for Abhisit the “academic.” A reader tells us it is “so badly written, so poorly substantiated … it’s actually impossible to satirise as it sets a new benchmark for unconscious self-parody.” At least Kavi explains that the book contains “simple thoughts.” Nowhere is Kavi even close to being critical, being accepting of every claim Abhisit makes, including the notion that the brave leader worked “to ensure that Thailand would not become a failed state.” The regime Abhisit created, built on royalist ideology, brute force, repression, and censorship and rejecting opponents as ignorant, duped and paid buffaloes says more about a failed ideology and ruling class than a failed state.

Referring to Abhisit as a “young leader,” Kavi claims that Abhisit struggled with “fears of losing innocent lives…”. He says that Abhisit includes “his thoughts and surroundings along with his close aides and soldiers who guarded him” at the headquarters of the 11th Army Regiment which became the offices of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations during the events of April and May 2010, and where Abhisit and his team sort the military’s protection.

In fact, Abhisit’s military protection included his being hoisted to power in a deal concocted by the military and he is apparently unhappy that he was criticized for not having won government via the ballot box. This causes him to claim his “premiership was legitimate and went through the parliamentarian approval as in other countries.” Nothing new there, as this was his claim from the beginning. That it also hides the military’s role in his rise haunts Abhisit.

Abhisit expresses his personal disdain for Thaksin Shinawatra and believes that his “only serious mistake” was in rejecting Thaksin. Like a spoiled child, Abhisit blames his failures and his unpopularity on the evil mastermind of every single thing, Thaksin. His claim that his infamous “televised negotiation [sic.] between … Abhisit’s government and opponents … was a publicity stunt for the opponents even though he thought the government could reach agreement with them.”

Our memory of the event is that it was Abhisit who decided to make the televised meeting with red shirt leaders a stunt. He had repeatedly refused any negotiation and abruptly changed his mind at the last minute. In the talks, he repeatedly denied the red shirt claim for a new elections, saying that “elections will solve nothing.” While Abhisit was intransigent, in the book he blames Thaksin.

The good old days

Kavi makes claims regarding the book that has Abhisit portraying himself as following “rule of law” or following international standards on military engagement with protesters and the like. This leads Kavi to claim that Abhisit displayed “strength and decency.” Unfortunately, Kavi provides no evidence from the book for this and fails to reflect critically on these claims by a man accused of ordering the military to establish live fire zones and to use snipers. That evidence suggests that the idea that Abhisit was “a concerned leader constantly fearing bloodshed and tried to prevent the loss of lives” is a self-serving nonsense.

There are other claims that are apparently from the realm of fairy tale. Abhisit says that “with all the propaganda that went on against the government, Abhisit and his team were not able to counter them efficiently and sufficiently.” How ludicrous is this when it is considered that the state controlled all media or had it on side and shut down virtually all of the red shirt media.

Abhisit is living in a fantasy world where he now believes his own propaganda. Kavi wants to live next door.





Kavi goes off, loves Abhisit, hates Yingluck, hates electors

20 08 2012

Kavi Chongkittavorn appears in The Irrawaddy, attacking Yingluck Shinawatra’s first year as prime minister. Apparently the article was originally in The Nation, as an op-ed, but as PPT avoids those pages as if poison, we didn’t see his diatribe until The Irrawaddy reproduced it. In reading the post that follows, readers might recall that PPT has been critical of Yingluck Shinawatra and her administration (for example, here, here and here). However, we feel that Kavi’s account is simply a piece of undisguised political doggerel.

He begins his account with a bit of poor journalism by making his very first point a bit of macho nonsense: “all Thais agree without any hesitation that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is easy on the eye—her photogenic face closely linked with an above average approval rating.” In other words, where a decent political point was made the Abhisit Vejjajiva was only good at talking, Kavi descends to claim that Yingluck is a good looker but displays “no leadership whatsoever.”

What’s worse for Kavi is that “the media, both electronic and print,” has simply bought this as that media is “so gullible in championing her appearance and body language…”. This is nonsense and suggests that Kavi doesn’t even read his own newspaper.

He gets agitated that Yingluck has an “image” that is not about shooting people and having political opponents locked up but of “engaging with villagers and those suffering from last year’s floods with her index finger pointed at the needy as if it was a panacea.” Heaven forbid, she is also praised as a mother and as “Thailand’s first female prime minister.”

What’s wrong with all of that? Well, it seems Kavi is upset because the Puea Thai Party is more media savvy than Abhisit and the Democrat Party, who were good lads but “detached and stingy…”. He might have added that Abhisit and his lot were pretty good at gaining negative publicity by their repressive actions. Kavi might not have noticed, but the verdict of voters was a resounding rejection of his preferred lot.

For Kavi, the problem is that Yingluck is “a convener rather than a leader.” He seems to prefer a strong leader, perhaps backed by the military’s guns or who is greeted with derision in much of the country.  Be that as it may, Kavi can’t but avoid this: “Recent polls, both professionally and unprofessionally conducted, have yielded one common result—Yingluck is not such a bad leader and should stay on.” Oops, the damned voters expressing an opinion again!

That seems to have really ticked Kavi off, for he responds with this: “In fact, the absence of her views is a blessing in disguise as her predecessor suffered tremendously from insightful and intelligent comments.” It has to be said that Kavi has long displayed an uncritical love and admiration for Abhisit. Back in 2009, PPT commented on another piece of Kavi’s Abhisit posterior polishing: “It seems, however, that he is serious, demonstrating his inability to distinguish between his admiration for Abhisit and reality.” That hasn’t changed.

Whereas Abhisit was “coherent and realistic,” the buffaloes in the countryside just want money: “The Thais want to feel good with some money in their hands to spend. In rural areas, 10 or 20 baht can make quite a difference.” It’s the old People’s Alliance for Democracy line that votes and support are all about (Thaksin’s) money and corruption. Kavi prefers it when Abhisit’s support was all about the barracks and the palace, where there are nice, clean, coherent and sensible people rather than a rabble.

“Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party has made sure that funds are quickly dispersed to them, even with a lot of pilfering along the way. Corruption is epidemic in this government but Thais in general do not care as long as they have something in their hands, albeit briefly.” Of course, Abhisit was slow “due to stringent rules which caused public resentment.” It is all about corruption now and the Democrat Party government didn’t do anything wrong (see here, here, here and here, just as a few examples of Kavi’s disingenuousness).

On corruption, while the measures are contested, Transparency International shows virtually no change in Thailand in its perception’s index during Abhisit’s time as premier. Interestingly, the index for Thailand declined after Thaksin Shinawatra was thrown out by Abhisit’s friends in the military.

Kavi’s not interested in truth, just pompous claims that deride the people who vote: “Long-term negative consequences do not come to mind. Live and let live another day. Therefore, the government spins day-to-day policies and enslaves the public mind with the façade that they are enjoying a good life. The future has yet to come. There is no payback with the current government—the only way is forward—because the Pheu Thai Party will always win the next election.” Damn voters, again!

And it gets worse!: “Even in foreign policy, the government is changing all the rules. Yingluck is very proud that she has transformed all Thai ambassadors, who normally represent the Royal Court, into salespersons for the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) scheme overseas.” Forgive our stupidity, but PPT had thought the ambassadors were diplomats who represented a nation rather than the personalized interests of a monarchy that is meant to be constitutional. Kavi appears to prefer it that taxpayers money is wasted on the foibles of royals (with here, here, here, here, here, and so on).

You get the picture. In the end, PPT prefers a quieter, calmer premier who heads a regime that isn’t killing and imprisoning opponents.  If we were to engage in the doggerel Kavi has served up, we’d be saying that not only does Kavi look like Larry of the Three Stooges, and not to put the Stooges down, Kavi sounds like a stooge, for Abhisit and his lot. It is at that level.





National security and the self-fulfilling prophecy

20 02 2012

It is only a few days ago that bombs went off in a well-known area of Bangkok and the authorities and media have been talking about terrorism. Then there is the ongoing struggle in the south, which has cost thousands of lives.

In The Nation, Kavi Chongkittavorn has a longish article on national security. He reminds us that Thailand’s most recent national security strategy (2007-2011) concluded last year. That strategy “pursued two priorities—internal security and stability as well as protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In essence, despite some fudging, he concludes that the strategy was pretty much a waste of time, overtaken by events, lack of foresight and poor policy formulation. The issues mentioned above were ignored or handled badly.

In the next five-year strategy (2012-2017), Kavi makes one fundamental point:

Despite all the great shifts and changes of political environment–one thing has not and will not change is the protection of monarchy which remains the utmost important task of the country’s security policy makers. It remains at the top of the country’s objectives….

A strategy that elevates the monarchy to such a position in “national security” suggests that its status remains severely diminished. Continuing to follow military notions about the threat to the monarchy is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Devoting ever greater resources to “protecting” the monarchy is evidence that the military and palace are unlikely to promote a historic compromise that would have recognized non-elite demands for voice and could have established a monarchy protected by and beholden to a constitution.

That would have allowed national security strategy to focus on issues such as terrorism and solving real security problems rather than policing “loyalty.”