Good vs. evil I

1 01 2016

One of the dominant discourses of recent years has been the royalist notion that the political world is populated by good and evil people. Promoted by aging princes and then by the current king, this discourse drew on a particular reading of Buddhism. It became a part of an ideological justification of a return of royalism that was to undo the ideals of the 1932 revolution.

When political contestation has been at its highest, as in recent years, “good people” are those who are loyal to king and monarchy. This also means that they are “moral people.”

It is in this sense that what might be considered evil in a normal world is magically made “good” and “moral.” Hence, mass murder conducted in the name of the king or of protecting the monarchy is made “good” because it is done for the “best” of reasons – loyalty to the crown.

Among the most notorious statements of this view was by Kittivudho Bhikkhu in an interview in late June 1976, who argued that while all killing involved some demerit for Buddhists, killing communists in protecting nation, religion and monarchy was killing bestial types rather than humans and he stated that “Buddhists must do it [kill communists].”

This notion also means that loyal royalists who murder students or political opponents deemed threats to nation, religion and monarchy can be excused or even lionized. This is why the loyal royalist but immensely corrupt General Sarit Thanarat, also responsible for the deaths of numerous opponents, can be a royalist hero.

In recent years, the royalist definition of those who are evil and immoral has included elected politicians who support Thaksin Shinawatra, red shirts and electoralism, for all are seen as threats to the monarchy. Military commanders and pliable royalist politicians who engage in corruption and the murder of politicians, however, are “good” and “moral” because they oppose these threats and kill and jail persons considered threats.

This is a long-winded way of getting to a Khaosod report that observes:

In a way, former army chief Udomdej Sitabutr, was cleared of the allegation that he is involved in massive graft, even before an inquiry by the Ministry of Defense yesterday formally let him off the hook.

Just hours before the announcement of the Ministry’s weeks-long investigation into Rajabhakti Park, the monument complex built under Udomdej’s watch and said to be mired in widespread corruption, Udomdej received a glowing endorsement from Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the influential former Prime Minister and top advisor to … the King.

“Good” person Prem reportedly declared:

“I believe goodness will bring success to you, Dong,” Gen. Prem told Udomdej at his residence on Wednesday, calling him by his nickname. “I believe you are not that kind of person. I believe you are a good person.”

Udomdej told reporters “that he also chatted with Prem some more in private, and Prem repeated his confidence that the former army chief was not involved in any wrongdoing in the construction of Rajabhakti [Corruption] Park.” He added that Prem told him “he believes I didn’t do anything wrong…”.

The Khaosod report states:

Gen. Udomdej has been embroiled in the scandal since he admitted to reporters in November that he was aware of some financial irregularities in the one-billion baht project. According to Udomdej, the army hired private foundries to make giant statues for the park through a businessman who took a 10 percent cut from the budget. (Khaosod English is withholding the man’s identity to avoid a possible lawsuit under defamation laws.)

Admitting that there was corruption in the project he oversees means little when Udomdej is anointed as “good” by a senior “good person.”

Udomdej is not out of the corruption woods yet. Even so, Prem, like his cronies heading the military junta, knows that those pointing to the corruption are “evil” and “disloyal.” This means they must protect Udomdej and the junta and in doing so, they are doing more “good.”

Unleashing extremism

2 11 2015

Unleashing extremists has long been a tactic employed by the military when dealing with political opposition. This was especially clear during the 1973-76 period when rightists associated with the palace and often led by military figures were used to create unrest and destroy opponents. This often led to murder and what are now called enforced disappearances. The role of the Red Gaur and Village Scouts in the 6 October 1976 is available in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (clicking downloads a 70 page PDF).

The Red Gaur was led by Army intelligence officer Maj. Gen. Sudsai Hasdin. For a time, under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s administration, Sudsai was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He and his supporters were often used to pressure opponents with the threat of more mayhem and violence.

Also in that period, rightist monks were active, including the notorious, palace-linked Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not much of a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster. More recently, the military supported the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which had rightist and royalist monk Buddha Issara as one of its leaders.

In other words, rightist extremism is not unusual in Thailand, and has long been supported by both palace and military. Such extremism is promoted by the aggressive notions of the trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy that has been promoted in society, producing xenophobia as well as ultra-royalism and ultra-nationalism.

This is a long introduction to a disturbing report at Prachatai. It states that the monk “Aphichat Promjan, chief lecturer monk at Benjamabophit Temple, a Bangkok temple under royal patronage” has “suggested that the government should burn a mosque for every Buddhist monk killed in the restive Deep South.”

He also urged the government to “arm the Buddhist population in the Deep South as a measure to protect ‘defenseless’ Buddhist monks and people in the area from being targeted by what he called ‘Malayu bandits’.” That aligns with a program that was implemented from about 2004 and saw the arming of Buddhists at the queen’s urging. The aligning of extreme nationalism, royal urging and rights is seen in a Wikileaks cable from 2005.

While this monk probably draws some inspiration from right-wing nationalist monks in Burma, with a dangerous military dictatorship in power in Bangkok, working hard to eliminate all political opposition, the emergence of such rightists and extremists is, sadly, to be expected. The support they receive from military and palace emboldens them.

Updated: Monarchist monk mad about the U.S.

1 10 2015

Readers will recall the activities of Buddha Issara, a political monk who campaigned against elections and the elected government and who supported the anti-democrat movement. He is a rabid royalist.

Rightist monks are not new in Thailand, with Buddha Issara’s antics reminding us of Back in the 1970s, another defining element of rightist extremism was the rise of fascist monks. Most notorious was the palace-linked monk Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not much of a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster.

Prachatai reports that the “pro-coup Buddhist monk known for leading anti-election mobs prior to the 2014 coup d’état has urged the US [government] and Human Rights Watch, a human rights civil society group, not to touch Thailand’s lèse majesté law or intervene in its domestic affairs.”

Not much there that anyone would not guess from the right-wing royalist, but the rest of the report suggests that Buddha Issara is one very dumb monk – one of the “uneducate” – or is more than a little kooky.

Buddha IssaraOn Monday, the monk posted a letter on his Facebook page, addressed to Glyn Davies, the new U.S. ambassador to Thailand.

In the letter he urged “the US and Human Rights Watch not to intervene in Thai politics and to stop calling on the Thai junta to amend ‘Articles 112 and 116’ of ‘the Constitution’.” Neither Article is in any constitution, and he refers to the draconian and feudal lese majeste law and the sedition law.

He called for a rally at the U.S. Embassy today.

The racist, rightist and royalist monk stated:

We have to show those ‘Farang’ (westerners) that we Thai people will not let anyone insult and intimidate our beloved monarchy. Do not breach diplomatic protocol and intervene in our domestic affairs,” Buddha Issara stated. “This time if something happens, I ‘Phraya Ratchasi (the king of the lions) of Chaengwattana Stage’ (one of the PDRC stages in Bangkok before the coup) will be responsible.

According to the report, he added another error when he stated:

that the reason he will not go to the Human Rights Watch office, which according to him is in the UN Headquarters in Bangkok, is because it is a ‘satun’ (vulgar) organisation established by the US government.

HRW has no office in Bangkok.

Update: According to Khaosod, the rightist monk did lead a group of demonstrators “at the U.S. Embassy to urge the United States to stop calling for Thailand to amend its laws against insulting the monarchy.” Provided with “tight police security,” the royalist monk established his hierarchy of “institutions”:

“Thailand is not the colony of any country. We have Nation, Religion and the Monarchy as our own beloved institutions,” read the letter addressed to recently installed U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies. “Especially the monarchy, which has been building national security for hundreds of years until now.”

The monarchist monk declared:

We call for this New York-based organization and U.S. Embassy officers to stop intervening in our domestic affair and apologize to the Thai people for disrespecting our dignity by insulting our king…. And we, the Thai people, hope the ambassador and U.S. government will prioritize this issue.

He is confused, thinking he speaks for “the Thai people,” and seems to consider discussion of feudal laws like the lese majeste statute to be defining of a “people.” These would be odd utterances and beliefs anywhere except when oozing from the mad monarchists in Thailand.

This royalist was joined by ultra-royalists, led by Rientong Nan-nah, who want to lock up anyone with views different from their own warped beliefs.

Buddhism and royalist extremism

23 04 2014

In an earlier post we made comparisons between extremist political groups in the 1970s and the emergence of lese majeste extremists today.

Back in the 1970s, another defining element of rightist extremism was the rise of fascist monks. Most notorious was the palace-linked monk Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster.

The contemporary equivalent of Kittivudho is Buddha Issara who heads up one of the anti-democratic groups aligned with Suthep Thaugsuban.

A report at the Bangkok Post indicates  how this political activist monk has decided to take up the lese majeste cudgels to attack his political opponents. He has “accused several pro-government radio stations of lese majeste, and demanded the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to take then off the air.”Buddha Issara

This is not his first effort at vigilantism. The anti-democrat monk  got in on the lese majeste sycophancy by holding a rally and offering a reward of 500,000 baht for anybody who could arrest or locate the red shirt iconoclast Ko Tee, recently accused of lese majeste. He’s also exhibits a considerable interest in money.

Political extremism in Thailand begins with monarchy and lese majeste. Here’s the rest of the Post report:

The monk led a number of PDRC protesters to the NBTC head office in Soi Phahon Yothin 8 after calling at the Miracle Grand Hotel where the Election Commission and political parties were meeting.

Luang Pu met NBTC secretary-general Thakorn Tanthasith, and asked him why no action had been taken against several radio stations of the red shirts which he alleged had broadcast programmes containing lese majeste remarks in violation of the Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

He said such radio stations included the one run by Wuthipong Kochathamkhun, alias Ko Tee, the Pathum Thani red-shirt leader. He gave a tape which recorded a programme broadcast by Ko Tee’s radio station on Tuesday morning to Mr Thakorn. Ko Tee has been charged with lese majeste in a separate case, but has apparently fled rather than answer charges.

Mr Thakorn explained to the monk that the NBTC had set up a task force centre to monitor radio and TV programmes. It has no authority to order the closure of any stations, including those accused of violating lese majeste laws. It is a police matter, he explained.

The protesters said they were not satisfied with the explanation and shouted disapproval, accusing the NBTC of neglect of duty.

They vowed to stay at the NBTC office until they receive the “satisfactory answer” they are seeking.

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