Monarchy and conflict II

3 08 2020

Prachatai has an important post that reproduces a 24 June op-ed from The Manager Online defending the king. It is remarkable that, on the anniversary of the 1932 revolution felt the need to “defend” the king. Prachatai notes that this piece “is one of many responses to negative sentiments towards monarchy as anti-government protests grow.” The threat of rightist violence has increased. As Prachatai notes:

The opinion piece came out amid proliferating protests against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, many elements of which are seen by many as involving the monarchy. The protests also took place in July, which is the month of King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday. Many have asked the protesters not to involve the monarchy, including former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, Army Chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, the leader of the Kla Party [and former Democrat Party boss and PRDC supporter] Korn Chatikavanij, and the rector of Rangsit University [and ardent yellow shirt], Arthit Ourairat.

The piece is authored by Dr Arnond Sakworawich, an Assistant Professor in Business Analytics with qualifications in statistics and psychology at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics in the National Institute of Development Administration.

He has quite a list of op-eds in the media and seems a reasonably regular columnist for The Manager.

His previous claim to fame was as “director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida)’s polling agency” when he “vowed to resign after [NIDA’s] top administration bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.” He was only director for three weeks.

More significantly, as Prachatai points out, in “2014, Arnond … was on stage of the PDRC mob which overthrew Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government and gave rise to …[the] military regime.”

In the piece discussed at Prachatai, Arnond is driven to declare the absentee king a low-profile hard worker.  That hard work is defined as using “modern technologies” to “give orders to his royal servants and follow up on them.” A kind of couch potato hard work.

Arnond makes a claim for the king having an idiosyncratic work style: “With regard to the issue that people make accusations and gossip that King Rama X rarely works, I know that it is not true. In fact, His Majesty works very hard and uses many methods specific to His Majesty…”. He claims “he knows His Majesty’s working style from his observation of …[his] role in the Tham Luang cave rescue in June and July 2018.”

Our memory of the king’s involvement that event is of “phu yai” culture and political grandstanding, marked by royalist propaganda that even featured the king’s son and one of the first mobilizations for the king’s uniformed jit arsa “volunteers.” We also recall his interfering nature.

Arnond’s account is of the king having minions – “officials” – at the cave. Apparently he had them “record videos and take pictures to be sent to him, and write reports to him all the time via Line.” We can only wonder if these “officials” were getting in the way (after all, reporters were restricted in where they could gather). He also claims the king “sought equipment, contacted divers and experts from around the world by himself, and gave advice and assistance closely and followed up every step…”.

This is kind of a standard royalist narrative for Vajiralongkorn. We recall when they were claiming the king was secretly joining teams to clean Bangkok’s streets at night when the virus first appeared. Of course, he was carousing in Germany with his harem.

But that doesn’t stop royalists constructing an image; something that was especially powerful during Bhumibol’s reign. Aged readers will recall images of the now deceased king listening in on all kinds of radios on all kinds of issues and events nationwide, ready, like some kind of superhero, to swoop in and solve problems.

Channeling the Bhumibol image, the assistant professor says that, on the cave story, the king:

went without sleep following all aspects of the situation himself. He followed in his own way, that is, His Majesty did not want anyone to know what he was working on. The King likes to be silent, and likes it to be a secret. He does not make announcements, attaching gold leaf to the back of the Buddha statue in the most silent way.

Exactly how Arnond knows of the king’s alleged work at the cave or anywhere else is left opaque.

But some of what he says is just trite and trifling:

King Rama X uses modern communication devices, the internet and smartphones to give orders and follow up work (while many of us Thais are sending flowers of seven colours, saying hi for seven days, and sharing fake news and messages around without checking and using it for entertainment more than work.)”

Arnond repeatedly emphasizes that the king works secretly and silently. It is a claim that is, by its nature, impossible to refute or verify. It is also an attempt to “explain” why the king is so seldom seen doing anything much at all.

At work, using taxpayer monies

Arnond also defends the king’s absenteeism. He reckons privy councilors say that, “regardless of which country he stays in, the King works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

Asleep on his bike: The king “works at night and sleeps during the day…”.

And, even if he is lolling about in Germany, he’s got his men at work:

he clearly assigns different work for each Privy Councillor. “Some are responsible for the three border provinces in the South, some for public health, some for agriculture, some for security, and some for education. He assigns work in a military way….

If readers watch the royal news, they can see this as privy councilors are sent off to appear at events, making up for the king’s absence.

In contextualizing the propaganda piece, Prachatai goes on to note that the “monarchy is facing a growing challenge.” That’s a factual claim, but in Thailand, it is a bold statement.

It cites Royal World Thailand, a Facebook account that claims the king is “facing decreasing popularity with a growing number of negative views among the people, from normal critics to great malice displayed publicly which has never ever happened in Thai history.” It refers to “waves of haters and great malice” towards the king.

The reason for this is because “the King assigns various officers to represent him in some duties, rather than doing them mostly by himself.” Arnond is seeking to turn this fact on its head.

Will this decline of the monarchy lead to conflict? Probably.

Party of the pathetic

30 03 2020

About three weeks ago we posted on the new Kla Party that seems to be a party for some disgruntled Democrat Party members who want to promote the nothingness that is Korn Chatikavanij. To be honest, we wouldn’t be commenting on this party for dolts and creeps if it wasn’t for the Bangkok Post campaigning for Korn and the nothing party.

In its most recent fawning posterior polish, the Post describes Kla as having “been compared to the now-dissolved Future Forward Party…”. We can’t fathom how such a comparison could be made. After all, this is a self-defined boring party that has no political position and no policy that amounts to anything other than a weak slogan and a pathetic appeal to support from business.

Its “strategy” is to win 20 seats at the next election. Yep, it is best to aim low when you have nothing to offer.

Has the new party said anything on the big issues of the day? Nope. This is because it styles itself as “pragmatic.” Perhaps “pathetic” is a better style.

We can’t understand the Post’s fascination. Maybe it is about the rich boys playing together.

A dull party for the dolts of nothingness

10 03 2020

It seems the Bangkok Post’s board of the hugely wealthy has decided that one of their own – Korn Chatikavanij – offers a chance of the non-military elite having one of their own as a future premier. They keep promoting him, this time with an interview.

Elite chums

Korn is so boring. So boring that not even a nifty party name like Kla (Dare) can save him from the dullness of nothingness.

The boring rich man left the Democrat Party – at least he has that going for him – even if it is because his “leadership qualities” were apparently not as valued as much as he wanted.

Korn was, for a time, a minister under his school chum Abhisit Vejjajiva. He seemed to enjoy that spotlight and wants it again.

But read the interview. What policies does Kla have? None that he mentions. He seems not to have had any real thoughts or insights for years but displays the ruling class’s instinct for supporting royalist and reactionary causes. The interview is all marketing talk for a party that’s a vehicle for self promotion. But like the lazy rich, even self-promotion is tiring and he needs friends to push him to work.

Korn and Kla are hopeless rather than offering any hope for anyone, not even his ruling class buddies.

Updated: Reporting on cowardly attack

30 06 2019

While yellow shirts on social media continue to cheer the vicious and cowardly attack on Sirawith Seritiwat, the reporting of the attack, the patterns it reveals and the future it portends, reporting has been extensive. We felt readers may finding a linked list of some use:

Reuters, 28 June: “Thai anti-junta activist attacked, latest in ‘pattern’ of violence.”

La voi dumond, 28 June: “Thaïlande: un militant pro-démocratie passé à tabac en pleine rue.”

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Prawit orders police to speed up ‘Ja New’ case.” While some politicians on the right made statements against violence, the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party voiced a concoction that also circulates on yellow-shirt social media, claimed that the assault was probably by supporters of the Future Forward Party in order to gain support. If neither the junta nor her party doesn’t condemn her bizarre statement, then we may assume she’s speaking their collective mind. Pareena mimicks the fascists of 1976.

Political cartoon by @stephffart in support of activist Sirawith Serithiwat

Bangkok Post, 29 June: “Future Forward MP has ‘Ja New’ attack clip.” The clip is widely available on social media and its publication preempts any attempt to claim that CCTV was inoperable and prevents the media “disappearing.”

Daily Wiews, 29 June: “Thai anti-militare attivista attaccato e lasciato inconscio.”, 29 June: “Shocking pictures show brutal bashing of political activist in Thailand.”

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Thammasat U professor suspects Ja New’s assailants used blackjack batons.”

The Nation, 29 June: “Former senator calls for public donations for Sirawith.” Interestingly and symbolically, Jon Ungpakorn called for 247.5 baht donation, channeling the 1932 Revolution.

Thai PBS, 29 June: “Fund-raising campaign to help cover Ja New’s medical bills.”


The Nation, 29 June: “Korn condemns assault on anti-junta activist.” Democrat Party deputy leader and plutocrat Korn Chatikavanij managed to (sort of) condemn the attack on Sirawith, only by referring to alleged attacks on his “subordinates” at some unstated time. Korn was complicit in the Abhisit government and cabinet that presided over a period where dozens were killed by the murderous military and hundreds were injured. Korn blamed others.

The Nation, 29 June: “Pheu Thai MP raises Bt103,000 to support assaulted anti-junta activist

The Nation, 29 June: “‘Ja New’ needs eye socket operation, say human rights lawyers.” This report has stills from CCTV showing attackers and lists the damage done to the young activist in the brutal attack.

The Nation, 29 June: “Concert held to support Ja New after anti-junta activist assaulted again.” In fact, Sirawith “helped organise the concert, named ‘Democracy 24 June: What’s day?’, to mark the 87th anniversary of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 that overthrew absolute monarchy…”, suggesting that thugs involved in the attack may be ultra-royalist hirelings or acting for the military, which has a record of creating and managing such rightist thugs.

Bangkok Post, 30 June: “Activist assaults go unpunished.”

Update: Khaosod reports on CCTV footage being available, while the police are already saying such footage is “unclear.” No one can expect justice from this junta (except the rich and powerful friends of the junta).

The personal and the political

5 05 2018

A report at the Bangkok Post on Vorakorn Chatikavanij’s son and Korn Chatikavanij’s stepson states that he was charged with possession of cocaine.

Korn is a former Democrat Party minister and Vorakorn has been a yellow-shirted warrior. Korn is spectacularly wealthy. When great wealth meets the judiciary the result is usually in favor of the affluent.

Vorakorn and Korn

Cocaine is a Category 2 drug under Thai law. Changes to laws in 2016 means that Category 2 substances can mean the the offender faces six months to 10 years imprisonment and fines of 10,000 to 5 million baht. The changes also provided judges with more discretion.

The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Friday seemed to use truckloads of “discretion” when it released Panthit Mahapaurya “on bail of 10,000 baht in his cocaine possession case, and ordered him to report to a drug rehabilitation facility on June 21.”

The court “did not set any special conditions.” It ordered Panthit “to report at the end of the fourth detention period at 8.30am on June 21 to a psychosocial service centre of the courts to begin a drug rehabilitation programme.”

Sure, rehab might be sensible and this is bail and not sentencing, but we expect that this case will simply go away as the courts yet again make decisions on the “great and the good” using “principles” other than those in the law.

Cocaine is a rich person’s drug in Thailand and the rich enjoy it with relative impunity – think of the Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was rumored to have been doing a bit of sniffing prior to his murderous drive home.

As in everything legal in Thailand, the rich get special treatment and the poor get arrested, jailed, beaten and shot. Double standards are the only standards for the judiciary.

Further updated: Pots and kettles I

11 12 2017

There’s an English saying about the “pot calling the kettle black.” It means something like people should not criticize someone else for a fault that they have themselves. In Thailand, when discussing current politics, it is sometimes difficult to determine which is a pot and which is a kettle, and the blackness seems equally deep and sooty.

So when we read the Bangkok Post: and discover one confirmed and frequent liar being called out by another of similar ilk we do get to wondering.

Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd and (anti)Democrat Party rich leader and Korn Chatikavanij have been going at each other.

According to this report, by Veera Prateepchaikul, a former editor of the Bangkok Post sides with Korn:

Lt Gen Sansern, who is also acting director-general of the Public Relations Department, accused former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, without naming him, of being an opportunist craving media space with an intention to lead the public into believing the government has not been doing anything.

The publicity which appeared to upset the spokesman was just Mr Korn’s recommendations to the government on how it could help rice farmers shore up rice prices during the months of November and December when the main crops were to be harvested.

We can understand criticism of Korn on rice policy; after all, he’s never been assigned any work in a rural area, although he now claims “four years” of work on a rich kid botique rice marketing scheme (read about it here, which begins with an incorrect assertion about what Thais think of rice. We think he means his rich brethren).

What was more interesting, though, was Korn’s licking of the pot:

Korn said the government should be more open-minded and receptive to divergent opinions as several policies could help farmers.

He lectured the spokesman and urged him to distinguish friend from foe and not to sow the seed of conflict.

He also reminded the lieutenant-general that there are people outside the government who are loyal and have good intentions toward the country.

Korn is reminding the dictatorship to be nice to its political allies, which includes the coup-loving and coup-provoking Democrat Party.

Apparently Korn has “discovered” and recommended a variant on the long-standing rice pledging scheme that pays a guaranteed minimum price for rice (a plan implemented by others in the past).

Even if Korn is recycling policy, he’s also telling the junta to be gentle with friends.

Seemingly to emphasize this, former Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai has demanded that party members not be “persistent” in “asking the regime to lift its ban on political activities…”.

Chuan and “other party executives agreed party members should not keep demanding political restrictions be lifted.” He stressed that if there are delays, the junta should be blamed. But he is also wary of poking his bear-like friends in the junta.

Chuan, who supported to military coups and judicial activism to bring down elected governments then banged on about “democracy.” The “real obstacle” to “democracy” is “people who do not uphold democracy…”.

As far as we can tell, the Democrat Party is chock full of people who do not uphold democracy, including Chuan himself. The Democrat Party has a long history of supporting royalist anti-democracy. Indeed, that was the reason the party was formed.

Update 1: Interestingly, Chuan seems keen to advise the junta on its political base (shared with the Democrat Party). Worried about that base, Chuan “appealed to premier [General] Prayut Chan-o-cha to address falling household income in the South.” Chuan showed that under the junta, average incomes had fallen substantially in several southern provinces.

His advice has been taken up, at least according to the report: “Based on Mr Chuan’s petition, the government had announced a policy of boosting people’s income in a bid to pull the country out of the so-called middle-income trap.”

Chuan worries that the junta makes the Democrat Party look bad as they are seen as political allies.

Update 2: In another political reminder to the junta, anti-democrat leader and “former” Democrat Party deputy leader Suthep Thaugsuban has re-emerged to announced “that he would release a video clip showing the group’s fight during 2013-2014 ‘to commemorate the fight that we fought together’.”

While he did not explain who the “we” were, his latest move suggested to some commentators that he wanted to address the junta. His group supported the junta and allegedly invited them to take office during the months-long protests.

Observers “believe Suthep wanted to remind the junta of their fight and the purpose of their fight” and to oppose the junta’s plan to establish its own political party, which is said to “contradict the PDRC’s initial purpose.” He’s also worried that the junta is “losing” the south.

Waiting for a bus that doesn’t arrive

6 02 2016

Bloomberg has a pretty neat first paragraph in a recent story on Thailand:

Thailand is waiting for a new constitution, waiting for the restoration of democracy, waiting for the succession in its monarchy, waiting for an economic recovery and waiting for rain.

The wait could be very long indeed. Rain will fall before the junta moves on, the generals ever decide to give up their power.


Some other bits of the story will have the military bosses grinding their teeth even more. Here’s some selections:

… [O]verseas investors have voted with their feet. Applications for foreign direct investment slumped 78 percent in the first 11 months of 2015. Exports have fallen for three straight years.

“It’s partly self-deceiving to legitimize their existence, and partly their loss of touch with reality,” said Puangthong Pawakapan, an associate professor of international relations at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “The junta leaders do not see how people now are worried so much and struggling with economic hardship.”

“The main achievement of the military was achieved within 24 hours,” said Korn Chatikavanij, a former finance minister and a member of the Democrat Party, whose supporters largely cheered the coup. “Subsequent to that they haven’t achieved much. But then I never expected much.”

What can we say? Korn is right, but when he says he didn’t expect much, he is disingenuous. He wanted the military as much as all his anti-democrat and elite chums.

“I don’t believe Thailand will have an election until the succession is completed and the throne is stable,” said Puangthong at Chulalongkorn University. “This is the main objective of the 2006 and 2014 coups. If the king passes away — the mourning period will be at least one year. The junta will use it to condemn any politicians demanding an election.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Than [Rittiphan, 23, a student of international relations at Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok and a member of the New Democracy Movement]…. “This country is not a toilet that you can put up a sign saying ‘under construction.’ You cannot wait for democracy.”

New year barbs I

1 01 2015

Songkran Grachangnetara writes an op-ed every so often for the Bangkok Post, and he’s been getting more interesting of late. A couple of days ago he had some festive “wishes” for “a few people and institutions to give them a much needed gift and wish them luck for the approaching new year.”

His first wish was to “one of the most embarrassing organisations in Thailand” – and there is a long list –  the “Election Commission (EC), headed by Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, which recently said his agency would file a lawsuit against those deemed accountable for the 3.8 billion baht cost of the voided election of Feb 2, 2014.” Songkran gets right to the point:

This is a lawsuit so absurd it is making Thailand a laughing stock. My gift to Mr Somchai this New Year is a mirror. The EC’s behaviour during the February elections was nothing short of disgraceful, because although 23 million Thais, including myself, went to cast a ballot that day, numerous EC officials in certain southern constituencies didn’t even bother to turn up and man the voting booths as duty dictates. So if Mr Somchai is looking for someone to sue for damages, I suggest he look in the mirror and start with himself and the organisation he claims to lead.

The second wish is to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. He says:

… I’m buying all of them an i-watch — because they don’t seem to be able to tell time. Yes, I realise they have done an excellent job by putting the rice pledging investigation of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on “easy pass” towards a guilty verdict by the courts, but why the Democrat Party’s own rice scheme was put on the backburner for a few years (until the acquittal just over a week ago) has yet to be made clear to the public.

Moreover, in April 2013 the NACC took over a case from the DSI, launching a graft probe into the police stations fiasco, involving then deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban and several high-ranking police officers. But after setting up panels and nearly two years of investigations, a case has yet to be filed for this scandalous and wasteful scheme.

The third wish is to the police. He points out the obvious, saying: “… [the p]olice have consistently acted against the public interest and shown themselves to be a serious menace to civilised society.” Oddly, though, Songkran seems to think that there is a crackdown on police corruption under the junta, missing the fact that there’s a reorganization of corruption under the junta, extending to the palace.

He also gets mixed up on  PM’s Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul, but we’ll leave that to get to Panadda’s buddies in the Democrat Party, who also get a festive greeting from Songkran. Despite the military dictatorship seeking to “change our electoral system, the constitution, taxation and education — to mention just a few things,” the Democrat Party “remains totally untouched and completely unfazed.” He goes on:

Despite consistently losing general elections to Thaksin Shinawatra-backed parties in recent times, the Democrat Party, it seems, thinks the most effective strategy for winning the next general poll is to run with the same tired leader, keep the same rigid party structure and regurgitate the same old strategies.

Then he gets off track, burbling about “good people” in the party, even mentioning the reprehensible Korn Chatikavanij and babbling about the “good name” of the king. Oh well, four out of six is not too bad under the military dictatorship.

The junta’s history

17 09 2014

Like dying your hair jet black – a trait exhibited by many Asian dictators – things that are uncomfortable, truthful and disliked can be summarily expunged from history. It is cosmetic, for the truth is still able to be retrieved, yet dictators like to make history fit their own narratives. Just think of how the military dictators have previously demanded and used a santized history of the monarchy; as we have seen, that can be undone.

HairHence it is predictable that General Prayuth Chan-ocha should demand a history for school children that is a fairy tale, with uncomfortable facts erased.

The New York Times reports that “high school students will not find the name Thaksin Shinawatra in the history textbooks that the country’s military junta recently ordered schools to use.” Thaksin and his supporters domination of elections from 2001 to 2011, and his role in the red shirt rising will simply be erased.

The compliant and generally hopeless Ministry of Education has, according to the textbook’s author, Thanom Anarmwat, “just deleted it, cut it,” referring to mention of Thaksin’s period.

Of course, the Ministry of Education is more like a Ministry of Propaganda. It has long served the dictators and the ruling elite by providing texts that are sanitized. More importantly, the Ministry has had the role of disciplining the unruly and unwashed – we use Korn Chatikavanij’s term – and making them kowtow to the great and the good (a term the elite applies to itself). In its most recent propaganda work, the Ministry has ordered that:

all public high schools use the new textbook is part of a broader effort to instill patriotism in Thai youth. The junta has ordered a new school curriculum that underlines what are seen to be the unifying themes of the monarchy and the glories of the ancient kingdoms of Siam, as Thailand was formerly known.

Royalist propaganda has been heavily promoted by most of Thailand’s dictatorial military leaders. As historian Charnvit Kasetsiri explains, “This is very much the usual practice of Thai elite…. But it will be difficult because of social media and because it is not that easy to control the thinking of the masses, especially educated youth.”

Another historian, Chris Baker, says: “Snipping history like this is straight out of the handbook of totalitarian regimes…. I think doing this in a society that has become as open as Thailand is counterproductive, because people will notice the absence.” It is totalitarian, but it is not unusual in Thailand.

Other measures to bring Thailand into line with one-party dictatorships like North Korea and China include:

Under the new curriculum, students will learn more about the meaning and symbolism of Thailand’s tricolor national flag, and songs such as the king’s anthem will be played in schools.

Schoolchildren will be trained to act as ambassadors of patriotic spirit….

The junta wants royalist-nationalist automatons to be produced who become self-disciplining and discipline others. Students will be asked to go about “reprimanding adults who fail to stand at attention during the national anthem, which is played on radio stations and on public broadcast systems at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.”

PPT used to write of the slippery slope to authoritarianism. Thailand is at the bottom of the slope. Getting back up it is more difficult than the slide down. Undoing the propaganda of royalism, nationalism and militarism is difficult as these are the foundations of the ruling order and its sytems of exploitation. They are part of the reason the rich are so fabulously rich in Thailand. Indeed, if nothing else, the Thaksin period shows just how difficult it is to make a society that is not authoritarian.

Back, way back

17 06 2014

Originally from the Financial Times, this article by Reuters correspondents Michael Peel and David Pilling escaped our attention when it came out. It is a slightly schizophrenic article, beginning with some odd material and then becoming quite good.

The article begins with a rather strange claim: “stasis has reached such a pass that even some Thais who consider themselves democrats and are instinctively uncomfortable with military intervention speak of their relief, given what they see as the lack of alternatives to an increasingly violent political battle…”. We can think of no true democrats who could ever condone a military coup. The “political battle” was not “increasingly violent.” Indeed, the highest levels of violence were instigated by the military in 2010, and over the past 6-7 months, there had been low-level violence. much of it instigated by anti-democrats and, we suspect, military provocateurs. Our latter claim is based on the fact that post-coup there has been no violence.

Those matters corrected, PPT was drawn to a quote from a “medical student.” He stated: “Foreign people don’t do coups but Thai people do because they want better politicians…. A little time in the future, the army should stop ruling and create a new group of politicians, who can be peaceful like 10 years ago.” This is classic anti-democrat nonsense. “Thai people” do not “do coups.” The military does coups and plenty of them. The military are not the people but rather murder people they disagree with. They intervene in politics to establish military dictatorships that protect their interests and those of the Sino-Thai business elites. The people are abandoned or attacked. That is the narrative of Thai history in the reign of this king.

This is why the claim that “[t]urning the clock back to a simpler age shorn of ideological disputes…” is silly. Ideological disputes are not shorn, they are crushed by an intensely ideological military boot.

When a “senior politician opposed to the ousted government blames his own political class for forcing the military’s hand and likens it to a national ‘reset’,” we suspect this is someone like Korn Chatikavanij, and as a supporter of two military coups in recent years, he merely recycles the “reset” claim from the same decrepit anti-democrats congealed around the yellow shirts and Democrat Party in 2006. This record is stuck in a deeply anti-democratic groove.

Turning to the other “side” of the story, the claim that “this coup … shows signs of developing into something less neutral than that term implies” is the most obvious point that any observer could make. That this coup is conservative is also obviously correct but deserves repeating. And we will. This is:

a conservative counter-revolution against forces assaulting the old paternalist certainties of southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Thailand now stands not so much at a crossroads as on the verge of a full-scale U-turn. With each day, the gap grows wider between its reputation for liberal openness and the military’s rule by arbitrary detention, censorship and diktat.

More importantly, this is a “campaign by coup supporters to curb the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra” that has broadened “into an effort to force the politically awakened rural Thais who support him — and civil rights campaigners who do not — to unlearn their new ideas and return this formerly feudal absolute monarchy to an age when everyone knew their place.” Absolutely! The FT is spot on.

They quote an astute academic who is afraid to be identified – who can blame anyone for such fear when criticism is banned? That academic rightly observes that: “[c]ertain groups in society have come to the conclusion that democracy is not going to suit them…. They’re unreconstructed. They think they have a natural right to rule.” The military is meant to deliver this for them. If elections are ever held again, they will be by the military’s rules:

The junta’s plans for change are likely to prove the most sweeping gerrymandering yet of a system changed repeatedly to stifle the influence of elected representatives and bolster the power of the courts, regulators and appointed bodies of the great and the good. Asked what the military means when it speaks of re-form, a political analyst says: “I know exactly what they mean. It will mean some sort of rigging of the rules in favour of the political establishment.”

Coup supporters, anti-democrats, the military and “the establishment” blame Thaksin for changes in Thailand that are deeper than his influence, but they “see him as a demon whose influence can be exorcised, rather than a cipher for change…”. As a businessman cited by the FT correctly observes,  “[Bangkokians] think he … mesmerises the people…. Get rid of him and the people will become nice and subservient again.” They are simply wrong not least because their heroes and saviors are all of the past:

This nostalgic view sits comfortably in a country where the “deep state” has grown increasingly gerontocratic. The 18 members of the privy council, an influential but opaque royal advisory body of former armed service chiefs, judges and politicians, have an average age of 78. General Prem Tinsulanonda, the 93-year-old president, spent his junior school years under an absolute monarchy that lasted until 1932. A prime minister from 1980 to 1988, General Prem has played a powerful role in moulding Thailand’s political landscape for decades.

The suspicion that the dictators and the Dictator “are trying to recreate a Thailand of their imagination…” is a fact.


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