Criticism = sedition

11 12 2017

Criticism = sedition if the critic is considered an “opponent,” meaning a red shirt, a Thaksinista or a member of the Puea Thai Party.

A few days ago we posted on Peau Thai Party one-time deputy spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat making some basic criticisms of the military regime which were not all that different from criticisms in the mainstream media.

This led the prickly junta to file charges against her. It has singled out “opponents” in the past for special “legal” attention, including the crude use of lese majeste against Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa as one among several thousand who shared an accurate news story on King Vajiralongkorn.

The junta has now filed a sedition case against her and several more.

The Nation reports that she will report to the police to acknowledge “six charges … for allegedly committing sedition and violating the Computer Crime bill by uploading false information to her Facebook page.

The Dictator and his junta are a gaggle of spineless cowards, unwilling to accept criticism from political opponents. Indeed, in a sign of deepening repression, they are turning on allies in a campaign that cannot go well for Thailand.





Military and monarchy as Siamese twins

10 12 2017

The Asia Times has another long commentary on Thailand’s political predicament by Shawn Crispin. There’s some interesting bits and pieces.

For one thing, it is stated that in “the lead-up to the cremation of … King Bhumibol …, authorities rounded up 42 suspects at check points around the royal ceremony…”. Further,

Rights groups and diplomats monitoring the arrests say the detained suspects likely face prosecution on national security-related charges for threatening the ceremony, including under the penal code’s harsh lese majeste provision that shields the royal family from defamation, insult and threat.

It is interesting that Crispin credits The Dictator “for steering a smooth succession from Bhumibol to Vajiralongkorn, a delicate transition many feared could spark instability.” To be honest, we think the “delicate transition” was a bit of a beat up.

The next royal big deal, he says, is “Vajiralongkorn’s formal coronation, now seen as astrologically auspicious to be held in March…”.

Crispin asks “how stable is the transition from royal old to new, and how serious is the threat posed by anti-monarchists supposedly lurking in the shadows?”

He notes that Vajiralongkorn “has set a tone for his reign in moves that diplomats and analysts say shows his intent to shake-up royal institutions in terms of personnel, protocol and operations.”

That’s somewhat bland for what he’s doing, which is erasing all notion of popular sovereignty in favor of a monarchy that is independent of all checks and balances introduced after 1932.

Crispin says that the “Royal Household Bureau has also openly targeted those found to have abused their palace positions or association for personal gain.”

That’s somewhat bland for what somewhat bland for what’s happened. Rather, the new king has been purging the palace and appointing his trusted allies.

One interesting observation is that “[c]hampions of the new reign say the housecleaning is overdue and that ill-deeds grew in the latter years of Bhumibol’s reign when he was hospitalized for ill-health.”

That’s what might be expected, but it is one of the first statements of the fact that the new reign is embedding in a manner that is essentially neo-feudal and that shifts political and economic power to the palace.

The notion that the new palace will “challenge the big business families that have long leveraged royal connections to corner sectors of the economy, a commercial domination that has grown since the 2014 coup” seems to come out of nowhere, but it is known that the king maintains relations with several Sino-Thai tycoons.

It isn’t clear to us that Vajiralongkorn taking “full control of the Crown Property Bureau …[and] the board of the palace’s Royal Project Foundation,” seems like him establishing his dominance and lining his pockets rather than a challenge to the big tycoons.

Crispin is correct to note that the military junta has “unquestioningly” done the palace’s bidding, but adds a note:

Thailand’s military and monarchy have long had a symbiotic relationship, with the former sworn to the protection of the latter, but the new emerging balance between the two powerful institutions is still being determined under Vajiralongkorn’s young new reign.

Both General Prayuth Chan-ocha and the king are self-centered and erratic, leading to concerns that the two may clash.

Crispin is also on the money when he notes that the king is asserting authority of Bangkok-based military units, He refers to the “absorption of military combat units, including the First Region Command’s First Infantry Division, a top-fighting force, into the king’s personal guard.”

That division “was recently moved from the military’s main command in Bangkok to Vajiralongkorn’s secondary Tawee Wattana palace on the capital’s outskirts, with certain soldiers transferred upcountry.”

On the transition to an “elected” government, Crispin observes the junta’s reluctance and suggests that “anti-monarchy elements remain bent on undermining the royal institution…” may be a “reason” for further “election” delays. at a still uncertain juncture of the succession.

He reckons that there are 1,000 lese majeste complaints “still under police investigation…”. That’s a whole lot of anti-monarchists and a whole lot of justification for ongoing military repression.

For the moment, the junta and the king remain joined as Siamese twins in neo-feudal repression.





More secret palace deals

9 12 2017

In a secret consideration, the junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has approved “adjustments to the law that manages the safety and security of … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.”

After the event, it is reported that the NLA “voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the 2014 Law of Royal Safety in line with the 2017 Constitution, as well as a new law concerning the Royal household.”

The amendment to the 2014 law reportedly “authorises the Principal Private Secretary to … the [k]ing to provide security services to the monarchy rather than a committee chaired by Chief of Aide de Camp General to … the [k]ing, as stipulated in the old law…”.

The previous committee “included military commanders and other relevant officials…”. Whether there will be a new committee is apparently up to the Principal Private Secretary. That person:

… will also be in charge of security and safety services for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily whenever they travel abroad…. The old law commissioned the Aide de Camp Department [of the military] and the Foreign Ministry to take care of their safety. Under the new law, the Principal Private Secretary … will plan and command safety measures for … the [k]ing….

The 2014 Law on Royal Safety also “authorised the prime minister to be involved in the approval of safety plans for … the [k]ing and members of the [r]oyal [f]amily.” That role is now gone.

It is reported that the “amendment will be promulgated in the Royal Gazette later,” and that the “content of the new amendment was not available to the public during the NLA debate.”

This is another move consolidating palace affairs in the king’s hands and a process of removing all vestiges of civilian control of the monarchy and palace that were put in place in 1932 and after.

Earlier, the NLA had approved the transfer of the Royal Household Bureau, Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, Royal Aide-De-Camp Department, Office of Royal Court Security Police and Royal Security Command, formerly under control of the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office and the police, to the king.

He’s continuing the process of making the monarchy independent of any notion of civilian and parliamentary control. The previous justification for the move was that issues related to the king and his family could not be served by the state bureaucracy.

Not that long ago, the arrangements for control of the fabulously wealthy Crown Property Bureau were passed to the king in another secret set of dealings.





Minting the new king

7 12 2017

For an unspecified reason, the Thai Treasury Department has threatened social media users, demanding that they “not to share footage of the new coins being minted to replace those currently in circulation.”

Apparently, the design of the Rama X coins, set to replace the Rama IX versions, “is supposed to be a state secret and has yet to be approved for release by the cabinet…”. Odd, as most countries do show planned designs well ahead of circulation.

But this is neo-feudal Thailand, where astrology, the king’s whims and black magic and the secrecy of the military dictatorship, along with the fears associated with offending an erratic and obsessive–compulsive king, make such simple things a matter of state and secrecy. Presumably, sharing the video could constitute lese majeste!

The new design was shown ever so briefly in a video about a French mint that makes the coins.

 





The king’s speech

6 12 2017

Several days ago Khaosod provided an unofficial translation of the speech made by the king when “18 new [sic.]members were granted an audience with [the]… the [k]ing to swear their oaths, as the law requires.”

Given that we seldom get a speech reported from Vajiralongkorn it is worth considering.

The new cabinet also convened “a traditional group photo in front of Government House” which has led to debate and criticism of Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan for wearing a watch worth more than four times his annual salary. Generals are often obsessed by expensive watches.

But back to what Khaosod called the king’s “most high-profile public address thus far in his reign, which he used to urge the new cabinet to work for the nation’s three highest institutions: nation, religion and monarchy.”

His support for the junta was clear:

I’d like to use this opportunity to bless you with strength of mind and body, and the wisdom to perform the duties for which you have sworn your oath. In short, they are: national security, happiness and safety of the people, and reputation and culture of our country, which has a long history and culture, along with the three sacred institutions that have always protected the nation.

He sounded a bit like his father with encouragement for the dictatorship:

In your work, naturally you will encounter problems, difficulties and mistakes. This is what has always been throughout history. But if you use your wisdom, alongside spirits and good dedication, you will know how to overcome any difficulty, mistakes and obstacles that may happen. Because happiness of the public and security of the nation and the people are important to Thailand.

His obsessive–compulsive need for order was on display:

There are many ways to work, it’s important to have dedication and resolve to serve the people, the country and the highest institutions of the nation. The people want to be happy. The people want to have confidence and security, and they are willing to walk in the right direction. Therefore, the cabinet has a duty to steer, safeguard and protect our nation.

The link between palace and the military thugs remains important to both.





Busy king

4 12 2017

Over the past week or so, the king has seemed busier than usual, at least in terms of public reporting. As usual, the reporting is circumspect.

Khaosod reports that the king is engaged in two activities that have been defining his still short reign.

The first is his continuing intervention in the way the security forces appear in public. Readers will recall that he has ordered a new form of salute and forms of military posture for police and military, demanded new haircut regulations for the armed forces and police and has  transferred agencies responsible for palace affairs to his direct control.

Now the king has ordered that “police will be given new uniforms…”. A police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said “that a single khaki shade, officially called Sor Nor Wor 01, will be implemented across the police force to display a sense of unity.” It seems that, over the years, different units have used slightly different shades of khaki.

No doubt this annoys the king as he has an almost obsessive–compulsive need for order and control. In fact, the king has already picked out the shade and has sent a “sample fabric and color pattern … to police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda…”.

Krissana found himself having to dissemble: “Every police officer deeply appreciates it…”. All 230,000 of them.

When the new design is finalized, “Gen. Chakthip will be the first to wear it ‘as an example’,” and will no doubt sport the required haircut as well.

The second task has been the consolidation of royal control over all of the property in the so-called royal district. Readers will recall the stealing of the 1932 plaque and the closure of Ananda Samakhom Hall to the public. The former parliament building appears to have been returned to the throne.

The king seems to want to wipe out all references to the 1932 revolution and grab back “royal property.”

One major gap in the property is the Dusit Zoo. The zoo began as a private zoo for royals and it was in 1938 that  the “constitutional government asked King Rama VIII’s regency council to give this park to the Bangkok City Municipality to be open as a public zoo.” No doubt the king regards this as theft. To get the land back – all 189,000 square meters – the king has decided the zoo should move.

The zoo was not talking about the move to Pathum Thani and a larger plot, said to be donated by the king. An official stated: “His Majesty is very merciful…”. And, no doubt pretty happy with this deal that expands the royal area substantially.

This is a king with a sense of where the monarchy should be, and that marks out a restorationist monarch.





Protecting the politicized constitutional court

27 11 2017

Prachatai reports that the junta’s puppet lawmakers have approved a junta law that will give “more power and protection to the Constitutional Court.”

Why would 188 of the dutiful National Legislative Assembly members vote as a block (with just 5 abstentions and not a single opposing vote) for this law?

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

Apart from the fact that the NLA slavishly slithers after the junta, the Constitutional Court is considered an important bulwark of conservatism, royalism and anti-democracy. Since King Bhumibol’s political activation of the courts in 2006, the Constitutional Court has often played a king-like role, being the institution to “sort things out.” Its decisions have been highly politicized.

 

Giving the Court more powers is in line with ideas about establishing an interventionist institution that can proactively and retroactively punish political oppositions challenging the established order.

The NLA also “protected” the Court from “people who make ill-intentioned criticism of the Constitutional Court, including those who post such criticisms online.”

There has been criticism of the NLA’s work.