With several updates: Royalists, recycling and ratbag rightists

31 08 2020

Watching the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group “rally” on Sunday was reminiscent of some of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee events. There was some yellow, some whistles, old head and arm bands, and the white, flag-themed t-shirts all seemed recycled from Suthep Thaugsuban’s efforts to overthrow an elected government and/or provide the political space for a military coup.

Thai PBS reports that mostly aged royalists rallied in support of the absent monarch and the junta’s constitution and to demand strong legal measures against student and pro-democracy activists. It was a full bag of rightist demands, recycled from earlier movements going back to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the military-backed rightists of earlier decades.

Former Democrat Party member, former Action Coalition for Thailand member, and long-term yellow shirt Warong Dechgitvigrom led the rally, and denied he planned and “confrontation” with rallying students and other pro-democracy groups. He did not say that his assigned task is to rally support from the right and royalists and to provide a potential base for further military-backed intervention, should that be deemed necessary by the powers that watch over him and his ilk.

Like his predecessors, Warong blamed all of Thailand’s “troubles” on “politicians,” accusing them of “plunging Thailand into deeper political divide, separating the old and new generations.”

His claim was that his ragtag ratbags had:

come together to protect the [m]onarchy, to retain the Thai identity, to do away with all forms of monopoly, to attain career equality for all Thai people, through the application of technology, and to enhance national prosperity via a sufficiency economy.

He also called for the “Education Minister and all university rectors” repress the student-based activism by not allowing space for rallies and to stop “lecturers, who may harbor anti-[m]onarchy leanings, from ‘brainwashing’ their students.” In this, he is recycling rightism from the 1970s.

In addition, Thai Pakdee planned to recycle rightist demands on the Japanese Embassy to stop Pavin Chachavalpongpun criticizing the monarchy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s Jatuporn Promphan, who has sounded rather royalist of late, said Thai Pakdee had “an extreme right-wing agenda, similar to a combination of the former Nawaphol, Red Guard and Village Scout groups.” We are not sure how Red Guards get into the mix, but his reference to Thai rightist heritage is apt.

The recycling of rightists and their rhetoric is dangerous, often leading to the unexplained/uninvestigated bashing of regime critics, probably by rightists working with the authorities.

It is dangerous also for regime and monarchy critics who live in exile. Rightist rhetoric gives cover and justification for the several enforced disappearances in Laos and Cambodia. These are very likely black ops by the Thai military operating on orders from the regime and the palace.

These acts of violence have been meant as “warnings” to anti-regime and anti-monarchists, to instill fear and to silence them.

Getting away with abduction, torture and murder in “brother authoritarian” regimes is relatively easily arranged, often a quid pro quo for similar operations by those regimes in Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

But it seems that this is not enough. The regime’s panic about anti-monarchy exiles in Japan, the USA and Europe is heightened, probably provoked by recent activism targeting the king in Germany.

The Nation reports on recent efforts to threaten those overseas based critics. Jom Petpradap, a “journalist living in exile in the United States has accused the Thai government of making veiled threats to his life and safety.” He has received a “package sent to him from Thailand [that] contained threatening materials” that made it clear that he is under surveillance and being followed.

Other exiles and outspoken monarchy critic Andrew MacGregor Marshall have reported similar packages and/or stalking.

Rightists in Thailand are also recycling Alt-Right inspired propaganda.

Thisrupt has a limited report on this development, noting that these conspiracy-based “revelations” of “plots” against the right’s Thailand mirror efforts in the 1970s to link student movements to international communism and efforts to overthrow the monarchy.

Something called “Thailand Vision” has been claiming a “plot,” backed by the USA – claimed to be promoting a “color revolution” in Thailand – and funded by Thai and international billionaires and capitalists. Like racists and rightists elsewhere, George Soros is identified as one of the culprit. Soros is remembered by Thai rightists as a culprit in the 1997 economic crisis. But his real “crime” is support for liberal causes.

In an elaborate concoction, Thailand Vision actually recycles claims made in earlier years by a self-exiled American, yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist who has been writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche. and with connections to Alex Jones and much of the anti-imperialist alt-right.

In earlier times, it was Thaksin Shinawatra who was the “culprit” in motivating the international liberal/globalist conspiracy to bring down the monarchy. Now it is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and international capitalists “behind” NGOs and international “co-conspirators” like the German newspaper Bild (for its tabloid journalism n the king in Germany), Business Insider, PixelHELPER, Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even Netflix!

In Thailand, “co-conspirators” include almost all of the NGOs and other organizations that are not rightist and sufficiently royalist, including the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Thai Volunteer Service, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL), Union for Civil Liberty, Prachatai, 101.world and The Isaan Record.

This might all sound bizarre, but in the recent past, such conspiracy nonsense has gained traction among former leftist yellow shirts like the late Kraisak Choonhavan and the regime/junta.

Recycling propaganda is about promoting notions of “threat” and mobilizing rightist reaction.

Update 1: We missed a Khaosod story about the ultras on Sunday. As well as one rally speaker – the youngest – seeming to incite violence and, later, calling for military dictatorship, coupled with a “Down with Democracy” screech, “speakers dish[ed] out conspiracy theories that implicate the governments of the United States and other Western countries in the ongoing anti-government protests.” Celebrity Hatai Muangboonsri said onstage: “Western powers want us to be divided. They encouraged a mindset that hates the pillars of our country…”. The reaction from the US Embassy was predictable. There’s also a strain of pro-China agitation from the ultras, who have mostly opposed Hong Kong democracy protesters.

Update 2: Two stories at The Nation deserve some attention. The first is about a street sweeper attacked outside the Thai Pakdee rally at the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Din Daeng. He was allegedly beaten up “because he was wearing a red shirt.” The story states: “It is assumed that the guard of Thai Pakdee royalist group may have assumed that Sukhon [the man beaten] had worn red to show he was associated with the anti-coup red-shirt movement.” The second story is a most unconvincing “denial” by Warong. Yellow social media is denigrating the cleaner as a “red buffalo” who got what he deserved as a Thaksin supporter. Fascism is on the march.

Update 3: In another story at The Nation, Student Union of Thailand spokesperson Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul insisted that the only people “behind” the student protests were the students themselves. She was logical in pointing out that the use of social media to raise political awareness among students and the young generation means that the students have a lot of supporters: “It wakes up many people. There are a lot of people who think like us.” She added: “It is human nature that if we know that many people share our views, then we have the courage to speak out … our fear is lessened…”. She added that she doesn’t even know all of the groups who associate themselves with Free People. Unlike Russian-paid trolls and yellow-shirted dolts, she’s brave, smart and appears (rather too) innocent.

Update 4: We added a link to Update 1 and corrected a point there.

Update 5: The Nation reports that Warong has “denied that the 15-year-old who posted a message on Facebook Live encouraging dictatorship was a member of his group.” He declared:  “he is not our member. I don’t know. Go ask him. He’s just a kid”.

Clipped from Khaosod

As the above picture shows, Warong is dissembling. He’s shown pulling a Thai Pakdee shirt over the lad’s yellow shirt. He’s applauded and lauded. Warong is trying to mislead people because he doesn’t want Thai Pakdee portrayed as it really is: an undemocratic, pro-military, pro monarchy mob that promotes the dictatorship.





Death of democracy and those complicit in it

16 03 2017

PPT decided to post about this event, even though it is on Cambodia. Promoted by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), it sounds like a reasonable event and we think readers will be interested.

Yet two things struck us about this event. First, that it is held in Thailand, which is a country under a military dictatorship. That’s kind of ironic and quite sad.

Second, a listed speaker and APHR Board Member is Kraisak Choonhavan, who is advertised as a “Former Thai Senator.” Another irony of this event is that Kraisak is a member of the Democrat Party, which has boycotted several elections, and he has supported two military coups, several anti-democrat movements and the actions of the current junta. He’s been very selective when it comes to human rights. That’s hardly the record of a parliamentarian who is serious about human rights.

Media Advisory: Report Launch and Press Conference

DEATH KNELL FOR DEMOCRACY
Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions

Monday, 20 March 2017, 10:30am at the FCCT in Bangkok

In February 2017, Cambodia’s Parliament approved a set of new amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which grant unprecedented powers to the executive and judicial branches to suspend and dissolve parties. The move marked a culmination of nearly two years of escalating persecution of Cambodian lawmakers. These attacks have come in the context of a renewed, broader crackdown on dissent, which has targeted nearly all segments of Cambodian civic life, as well as similar growing threats to other legislators across Southeast Asia.

In Bangkok on 20 March, members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), including lawmakers from Malaysia and the Philippines who will have just returned from a fact-finding mission to Cambodia, will present the organization’s latest report: Death Knell for Democracy: Attacks on Lawmakers and the Threat to Cambodia’s Institutions. The report documents and analyzes the recent wave of attacks against parliamentarians in Cambodia, including judicial prosecutions, violations of procedure surrounding parliamentary immunity, and physical violence. APHR members will also share observations from their recent fact-finding mission, as well as discuss wider regional parallels and implications. Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson will also join the panel to comment on the report and provide his perspective on recent events in Cambodia.

Featured Speakers:

Hon. Charles Santiago, Member of the Parliament of Malaysia, APHR Chairperson
Kraisak Choonhavan, Former Thai Senator, APHR Board Member
Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, APHR Member
Phil Robertson, Asia Division Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch

Where: Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT)
Penthouse, Maneeya Center
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330

For more information or to request an advance (embargoed) copy of the report, contact: Oren Samet at oren@aseanmp.org

About APHR: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a human rights intervention force of current and former parliamentarians, who use their unique positions and innovative means to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, and promote democracy and human rights throughout the region. APHR supports the work of civil society and human rights defenders and encourages sustainable solutions that increase pressure on governments and multilateral bodies to ensure accountability and uphold and enforce international human rights laws.





Mafia-like thuggery

5 07 2015

We are sure that quite a few readers will have seen the Khaosod report on People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee coordinator Supot Piriyakiatsakul being chased by the military for allegedly supporting the Dao Din students of the Neo-Democracy Movement.

According to Supot, a group of soldiers arrived at his home “in Nakhon Ratchasima province on 2 July and sought to talk with him, though he was not home at the time.” Reportedly, the “soldiers identified themselves to his neighbors as officers from 21st Army District, and left a message for him before leaving the scene.” Supot says that they told his neighbors to warn him: “Don’t get involved with Dao Din group. If you don’t stop getting involved, and if you don’t obey us, we will get involved with you.”

This is surprising and baffling, not least for Supot. As the report states:

In 2005-2006, Supot was a regional coordinator for the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which sought to oust Thaksin [Shinawatra] and his government at the time.

In late 2013, Supot joined the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State – another reincarnation of the Yellowshirt movement – when it launched street protests to topple the government led by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The campaign came to an end after then-army chief Gen. Prayuth [Cha-ocha] seized power in a coup on 22 May 2014.

In the wake of the May 2014 coup d’etat, Supot was one of the hundreds of activists, academics, and politicians summoned to army camps for up to seven days of “attitude adjustment” aimed at easing the country’s political tensions.

“When the military summoned me for attitude adjustment, I joined it, and I showed my sincerity of wanting to build reconciliation and unity for people in the nation,” Supot said. “Let me insist that I do not know Dao Din students at all. I have only been hearing about them in the news. There is no reason for me to be behind or give support to Dao Din.”

Supot is said to be 69 years old, and has long been an organizer in Korat. His networks with NGOs were the initial link to PAD and while we can’t confirm it, as with most PAD stalwarts in Korat, he probably has connections with organizers trained by and with U.S. Special Forces at Lopburi in the 1960s and 1970s (see about p. 341 of this book). These organizers have had a role in managing farmers and electioneering in Korat, some with links to Chartichai Choonhavan and then with his son, Kraisak. His credentials with PAD are impeccable.

As might be expected, Supot complains:

This is an arrogant exercise of power…. Throughout all this time, I and my fellow [activists] were united in showing our stance of supporting the government of General Prayuth Chan-ocha. We recently asked him to stay in power for a long time to solve the country’s problems and deal with corrupt politicians. We have even traveled to Bangkok to show our support.

He added: “Let me insist that I do not know Dao Din students at all. I have only been hearing about them in the news. There is no reason for me to be behind or give support to Dao Din…. This kind of net-casting is like pushing friends to join the opposition.”

As well as suggesting that the military is either very dull and/or can’t abide any organizing, even by political allies, the thing about this report that struck PPT was that the military is using Mafia-like tactics. We know that the military has used similar tactics with opposition figures, but this report somehow lays bare the nature of the thuggery involved. Mafia-like, members of the military gang intimidate and display their power to the neighborhood. They could be running protection rackets as well.

 

 





Criticism of the draft anti-democratic constitution

7 05 2015

While the military dictatorship is desperately attempting to limit debate and even discussion of its draft constitution to puppet assemblies, the anti-democratic nature of the charter draft is causing widespread concern.

Internationally, a range of criticism has been reported, in quite different sources.

At the World Socialist Web Site, the military dictatorship is described as a “US-backed regime.” This seems a bit of an ideological over-stretch given that recent events would permit it to be called a China-backed or Russian-backed regime. The claim that the military dictatorship “intends to stay in control indefinitely, despite proposing to hold elections next year” might be a little more accurate, although the ways in which this might be handled ned nuanced analysis.

The WSWS is on very firm ground when it states that the “aim of the new constitution is to strip elected politicians of any power” and in claiming that the “Bangkok-based ruling elites—the military, the monarchy and their supporters in the state bureaucracy—want to ensure that the Pheu Thai Party, led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, never regains office.”

The draft constitution is criticized for making the the preserve of “appointees close to the military and the bureaucracy”;  for having parliament “policed by a new National Ethics Assembly, authorised to remove MPs from office for ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ reasons”; and for having provisions that allow the “generals … continue to wield power through a National Reform Steering Committee, which will set the legislative agenda for parliament to rubber-stamp.”

Meanwhile, at the Voice of America, the reporting is “even-handed,” giving space to junta sock puppet Panitan Wattanayagorn who appears to challenge the political parties, saying they “could mount a serious challenge to the draft before it is scheduled to be finalized in August.” He babbles that the path of the draft charter is “not going to be smooth, especially with Pheu Thai members, because they saw themselves as the losers in this constitution. The (former opposition) Democrats are not the same but still they are not happy because the constitution is aimed to reduce their power – at least to create more equal balance…”. We aren’t sure we know exactly what he means in the last phrase, but he probably doesn’t either.

The VOA agrees that the charter “weaken[s] the influence of major political parties, creating a greater need for coalition governments.” It quotes official red shirt leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn who says “it’s not a charter of democracy. They don’t want to ask the people before they can use this charter. They don’t want to have the strong party, the strong government. And especially you see the prime minister can come from other people, not the MP (member of parliament)…”.

Meanwhile, anti-democrat Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the Democrat Party, states that the lack of support from political parties means “that the constitution will have to rewritten again and that would mean a longer stay for the military junta…”. That could be seen as a threat to the parties – accept the draft or you get the military thugs for longer.

One way or another, the royalist elite and the military keep a grip on power and a foot on the neck of Thailand’s majority.





The 23 February 1991 coup

29 08 2014

PPT was doing some hard disk cleaning and came across a file that was sent to us some time ago by a reader who thought  we’d be interested.

It is a report by Australia’s Parliamentary Research Service and is listed as a “Background Paper,” and we have also located it online as “The Coup inThailand” [Clicking downloads a PDF]. Because there are so many of them, we should note that this refers to the coup of 1991, and that the report is dated 19 March 1991. Its author is listed as Frank Frost.

We thought these bits interesting, indicating how the monarchy has been used by the military/has used the military for political purposes:

The deterioration in relations between Prime Minister Chatichai and his government and the senior military leadership came to a decisive point in February 1991. The ultimate cause of the confrontation was probably the military’s concern at evident efforts by Chatichai to bring their autonomy into question and the general lack of trust between the parties. The immediate focus for tension was an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against senior public figures in 1982 and an attempted Cabinet change by Chatichai.

Prologue: The assassination plot’ issue

The publicity given to the alleged assassination plot highlighted the continuation of tensions between elements of the Thai military from the 1980s. The Thai military is now firmly in the control of a group of military leaders identified by their status as graduates of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy’s Class Five (i.e.the fifth post-world war two graduating class); General Suchinda Kraprayoon, now commander of the Army, was class president. The 1981 and 1985 coup attempts were largely planned by a group of officers identified with the Military Academy’s Class Seven. In January 1991 , publicity was given to the continued investigation of an alleged plot in 1982 by some military officers, several  academics and several members of the Communist Party of Thailand, to assassinate several figures, including Prime Minister Pram, Supreme Commander Arthit Kamlang-ek, and Queen Sirikit. One alleged suspect was a leading Class Seven officer, Manoon Roopkachorn, who led both the 1981 and 1985 coup attempts. He left Thailand after each attempt, but in 1990 was able to return, was pardoned, reinstated into the military, promoted from Colonel to Major General, and appointed by Prime Minister Chatichai to the Defence Ministry as his adviser. In January, anonymous leaflets were reportedly circulated, accusing Manoon and Chatichai’s son, Kraisak {who had been one of the Prime Minister’s key advisers) of having been involved in the alleged plot. Both men complained to the police about the leaflets.

The controversy was intensified in late January, when the national police chief General Sawaeng Thirasawat and General Boonchu Wangkanond, who had been in charge of the assassination plot case, were both transferred; Boochu was a Chulachomklao Class Five officer. Rodney Tasker (Far Eastern Economic Review) wrote that: “Inevitably, there was strong suspicion that Chatichai had ordered the police reshuffle to prise the assassination case away from Boonchu and place it out of harm’s way in other officers hands … Chatichai strongly denied that this was a motive and ordered the police through the Interior Ministry, to expedite the case”. Tensions rose over the issue. Army commander General Suchinda called for a speedy conclusion to the case and Supreme Commander General Sunthorn in his capacity as director of internal security, warned: “If the directorate of internal security finds any distortion of the facts, it will take drastic action against the ill-intentioned people in accordance with its legal powers”. Sunthorn took action to ensure that General Boonchu would remain involved in the case as a military representative. In this complex context, Chatichai’s association with Manoon, the alleged conspirator, was clearly a matter of controversy. In an atmosphere of rising tension, Prime Minister Chatichai moved to appoint a senior former military supreme commander, now in parliament, General Arthit Kamlang-ek as deputy minister of Defence on 20 February. The military leadership, who are known not to be on good terms with Arthit, evidently viewed this with disfavour. Chatichai may also have planned to make personnel changes among the top military leadership. In the event, on 23 February, when Chatichai boarded an aircraft to fly to Chiang Mai for an audience with the King, a coup was instituted by the military leadership.

The coup leaders received formal endorsement for their actions from the King. A Royal Command, dated 24 February, stated that “it has occurred that the government which has Gen Chatichai Choonhaven as prime minister, has not administered the country to the confidence of the people, and cannot keep peace and order in the nation”. The Command formally appointed General Sunthorn as head of the NPC and directed civil servants to heed the orders of General Sunthorn. While formally endorsing the position of the NPC, the King, in a comment relayed by General Sunthorn the day after the coup, cautioned the NPC “not to let the people down”. The King’s endorsement was a crucial issue; the monarch played a major role in the defeat of the coup attempts in 1981 and 1985. A draft interim constitution was submitted to the King and, in an unusual step, he reportedly asked for it to be amended before approving it.

The new interim constitution, approved by the King on 1 March, granted extensive powers to the military. A legislative assembly of up to 300 members would be appointed to prepare for elections and draw up a permanent constitution. The assembly will have six months to do this, and elections would be held by April 1992. But the NPC reserves the right to dismiss the interim prime minister or dissolve the assembly in the interests of national security. Article 27 gives seemingly wide-ranging authority to the military to take any action necessary against people threatening national security or going against Buddhist morals.

PPT previously posted documents about this: Young Turks Assassination Plot 1982-91.





Latest from anti-democrats

23 01 2014

As we noted in an earlier post, the enactment of the state of emergency is a very high risk strategy. One of the risks is that the anti-democrats see it as a sign of weakness and a victory for themselves. This press release suggests exactly that:

PDRC Press Release

Issued: 22 January 2014

For Immediate Release

People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)

PDRC Spokesperson: Emergency Decree shows state’s desperation The caretaker government’s enactment of the Emergency Decree today indicates its growing desperation, said PDRC Spokesperson Akanat Promphan. In his view the move was not surprising; prior to the enactment all signs pointed to Yingluck Shinawatra and her cabinet’s inability to govern.

First, civil servants from every ministry have invited and enthusiastically welcomed the PDRC to shut down their agencies, with some such as those from the Ministry of Public Health openly demanding the caretaker government’s resignation. Officials from other agencies have webpages or Line app groups denouncing ministry policies and actions, and officials alert the PDRC to their superiors’ whereabouts and next moves.

Second, citizens everywhere support the PDRC’s efforts numerically and financially. More people join secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban with each march, rally stages are packed every night with people from all regions as captured in social media, and massive amounts of donations continue to pour in. Seven-figure donations are frequently announced during Suthep’s rallies.

Third, Yingluck and her cronies’ graft and wrongdoings have been admonished and exposed by independent agencies, particularly the Constitutional Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), thereby garnering foreign media and diplomatic corps’ attention on the Thaksin regime’s misdeeds.

Finally, the Pheu Thai party’s traditional political base is rapidly eroding. Rice and corn farmers in the North and Northeast are shutting down provincial halls with PDRC supporters because their payments from the state are long overdue. They are fully aware that Yingluck’s government continues to lie and blame unrelated parties such as the PDRC, the Election Commission, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, and the Government Savings Bank to cover up its inability to pay farmers, its mismanagement of pledging schemes, and its corruption. Left only with depreciating bonds while their stocks are rotting away in government storage facilities, several farmers are filing a lawsuit against the government’s fraud while many others will be travelling to Bangkok to join the PDRC’s shutdown of the city.

Spokesperson Akanat highlighted that the caretaker government’s grounds for enacting the Emergency Decree were falsified. “The anti-government protests are perfectly peaceful,” said Akanat. “Demonstrators are unarmed and non-violent. They are in no way a security threat. Violent attacks only commenced with the appearance of UDD government supporters, unknown “third parties,” and “men-in-black” (which police subsequently admitted to be police officers) who have killed and injured hundreds of citizens with tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, arsenal, and explosives.”

Akanat further added: “Despite the increasingly violent attacks on PDRC core leaders’ and speakers’ residences, rally sites, and protesters, the caretaker government has failed to provide protection or security to citizens who are simply sitting and walking on the streets of Bangkok. Innocent Ramkhamhaeng University students were under fire almost 2 months ago and law enforcement officials have yet to capture a suspect or announce any progress in their investigation. Most recently, when peaceful protesters fell prey to a daytime bombing that killed Prakong Chujan, CAPO chief Surapong Tovichakchaikul and his peers quickly and conclusively accused anti-government demonstrators of staging the incident when the investigation had barely started. This discriminatory treatment by the state is terrorizing citizens. Members of the public write us daily about their alarm at the increase in police patrols scrutinizing protesters and also at normal occurrences like power outages for fear of attack. Even medical vehicles are victim to this discriminatory treatment. In the past few days at least two ambulances on active duty have been stopped and searched while police let other vehicles pass. Peaceful citizens and ambulances are not a security threat to the state. If anything, they feel increasingly threatened by law enforcement agents. Why, then, has Yingluck chosen to accuse an already intimidated public by enacting the Emergency Decree? Is she afraid of whistle-blowers and health professionals?”

The only side to benefit from the enactment of the Emergency Decree is the caretaker government, Akanat declared. This is because the law allows the caretaker government to centralize authority and arbitrarily encroach on individual rights including by imposing curfews, prohibiting assemblies, detaining suspects without charge, and censoring or even banning media at the state’s discretion.

However, humanitarian and international organizations were keeping a close eye on the caretaker government’s treatment of unarmed citizens, revealed Akanat. For instance, Human Rights Watch representative Sunai Phasuk met with the PDRC on 20 January 2014 and expressed his concern at law enforcement agencies’ failure to take responsibility for protecting peaceful, unarmed citizens, and their utter lack of progress in bringing the culprits to justice.

The release itself includes some interestingly misleading information. First, there is no evidence that “civil servants from every ministry have invited and enthusiastically welcomed the PDRC to shut down their agencies.” This response has been from some extremists and from groups traditionally royalist, such as senior medical professionals. Second, the claim that “rally stages are packed every night with people from all regions” is not accurate at all. That said, we do not doubt that “massive amounts of donations continue to pour in” to the anti-democrats as their rallies cost a considerable amount and this requires the support of major business elites. Third, it is true that theConstitutional Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission have been negative, but all observers recognize that these agencies are royalist and deeply politicize, long acting for the anti-democrats.Finally, the claim that the “Pheu Thai party’s traditional political base is rapidly eroding” is an exaggeration. Most farmers understand that the “shutdown” is causing inconvenience and sabotaging state actions. The demonstrating farmers are mostly from the south and Phichit, where the Puea Thai Party doesn’t hold seats.

The claim that the “anti-government protests are perfectly peaceful,” is a fabrication. The claim that “men-in-black” at the Thai-Japan Stadium were police officers is another attempt to concoct propaganda that has been shown to be false. The anti-democrats are writing their own history, and if they succeed in their campaign, it is this fabricated version that will become official. The Democrat Party has a long history of this fabrication of history.

Finally, the mention of Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is indeed interesting. PPT posted several times on Sunai’s past associations with the anti-democrats and support for the 2006 coup. He has long and close associations with former leftist, Democrat Party member and anti-democrat sympathizer Kraisak Choonhavan.





Updated: The politics of censorship

4 04 2012

As has been widely reported in the media (see here and here), Thailand’s Film Censorship Board has banned another film under rules established by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, with some intent to protect the monarchy.

Some reports are that the first banned under its revised law was Tanwarin Sukhkapisit’s Insects in the Backyard. That transvestite-gay-themed film was banned for allegedly “being immoral and pornographic.” For some broader information on film censorship see here.

The most recent banning is of Shakespeare Must Die, claimed to be “the first Thai Shakespearean film, a horror movie adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’,” directed by Ing K.

The idea that any film should be banned in Thailand is a reflection of the inability of state’s to think and the fear of things that are somehow conceived as “abnormal” or “unThai” or “divisive.”

A press release by producer Manit Sriwanichpoom dated 3 April 2012, states that the Film Censorship Board, under the Department of Cultural Promotion, Ministry of Culture, stated:

the Board deems that the film Shakespeare Must Die has content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation, according to Ministerial Regulations stipulating types of film, BE 2552 [AD 2009], Article 7 (3).

Therefore our verdict is to withhold permission; the film is grouped under films that are not allowed to be distributed in the Kingdom, according to Article 26(7) of the Royal Edict on Film and Video, BE 2551 [2008].

The letter from the Board is reproduced here. No real reasons are provided apart form the likelihood that the film will be “divisive.”

There’s no doubt that the film is anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt, but that isn’t a reason for doing anything about the film other than watching it. And we guess that some of the censors see it as possibly see it as a threat to the monarchy. After all, as Wikipedia describes it,

The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is … about a man who commits regicide so as to become king and then commits further murders to maintain his power. The play clearly demonstrates the corrupting effect of ambition, but also deals with the relationship between cruelty and masculinity, tyranny and kingship, treachery, violence, guilt, prophecy, and disruption of the natural order.

So the censors panic and act like a bunch of ninnies and nannies and ban it.

A little on the film and its background may also be of interest for readers. As Manit points out, this was the “last film to receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture’s film fund…” That fund was controversial, with the government doling out money to royalist and royal film makers. Shakespeare Must Die’s credits in the trailer (linked above), also indicate that the making of the film was  supported by the Thai khemkaeng project, also established by the Abhisit government and highly controversial.

Manit adds that:

under the auspices of the Creative Thailand Project by the previous (Abhisit Vejajiva) government in 2010, but was only recently completed and submitted to the Censorship Board this year, under a new (Yingluck Shinawatra) government.

Ing and Manit are dedicated anti-Thaksinites, who last produced the film Citizen Juling, an almost 4-hour film that tended to sheet home the southern troubles to Thaksin, and was a surprisingly nationalist account. The military also gets some criticism, and royalism is also a big part of the Juling story.

While it did hit many of the important issues of the region, Citizen Juling was so long because  it degenerated into a self-indulgent rant, even if the IHT says it was an “intelligent and timely documentary…”. It was produced in association with senator-cum-Democrat Party politician Kraisak Choonhavan, and was shown in only one cinema in Thailand.

The new film is, if the information at its website and in the trailer is any indication, also an attack on Thaksin. As Manit states:

As every English-speaking middle school children know, ‘Macbeth’ is the supreme study of megalomania, the tale of a warlord with limitless ambition who, prompted by the prophecies of witches and egged on by his fiendish wife, kills his king to crown himself. A reign of terror ensues, as the paranoid tyrant must keep on killing to preserve his power.

It seems strange that the cultural ministry would ban Shakespeare, in the form of a film that the ministry itself had funded. It’s as if we’re actually living under a real live Macbeth.

Ing K. adds to this, stating that:

I’m writing this on the eve of sending Shakespeare Must Die to the censors, in an atmosphere of escalating and irreconcilable socio-political conflict under the Yingluck Shinawatra government….

Thailand is in the worst mood in my living memory; the very dust in the air is filled with rage, hate, grief and helplessness.

The picture is clear, although she makes it even clearer:

Are you not afraid that this film will contribute to the existing divisiveness? Are you biased against the red shirts? Aren’t you scared that the red shirts will kill you? Is the film an attack on the Shinawatra family? Is this film an attack on the royal family? (Given the current plague of lese majeste cases, let me confirm right here that every syllable in that scene is straight from Shakespeare; it’s a discussion of the Divine Right of Kings, ie they’re only divine if they behave, and it’s essentially about rulers and leaders of men, not only kings.) Is this film dredging up old and new wounds unnecessarily? Why does Khunying Mekhdeth (Lady Macbeth) call on evil spirits to possess her while praying before a Buddha statue? Etc.

Our cast and crew motto was: Fight Fear with Art; Make Art with Love…. We needed a brave set motto, since in the making of the film we faced literal hell fire (red shirt occupation and riots in 2010 which closed down the filming for two weeks, made it a hassle for everyone to get to work, especially Lady Macduff who was daily and nightly harassed by red shirt guards so that she had to move, and once on 28th April stranded us in Rangsit when the highway back to Bangkok was cut off when violence broke out and a soldier was shot dead by a sniper)….

Balanced and Fair…? Instead of demanding accuracy from a low-budget horror movie, why don’t you pose such questions to Newsweek, which has just named Yingluck as one of “150 Women Who Shake the World” alongside Aung San Suu Kyi and Hilary Clinton, praising her as one whose election “inspired hope of reconciliation in a country torn apart by two years of violent political protests…. Er, no, you can’t use my spittoon.

Linking to the horror of the October 1976 massacre, Ing K. says:

Instead of crazed royalists, however, now we have other violent, unreasoning, fanatical morons to be scared of, courtesy of the alchemical spin of the Thaksin machine.

…red is the universal colour for violence.

That is all controversial and politically one-sided stuff. That censors can’t stand the heat such a controversial film might generate, if it first generates an audience, tells us a lot about their fears. It is as though the censors consider Thais children who can’t be trusted with difficult and controversial ideas.  PPT reminds the censors that children grow, rebel, dissent, and may come to replace paternalistic ideas and values with something better.

Update: As might be expected, by banning the film, it now has plenty of publicity. When PPT last checked, Google was listing almost 300 media reports. We haven’t looked at them all, but found this report in the Christian Science Monitor useful.





Wikileaks: more on HRW and the coup III

5 02 2012

This is the fourth of our posts on Human Rights Watch and the events that unfolded following the 2006 coup. Wikileaks has 58 cables mentioning HRW in Thailand, the majority related to events in the South. In this post, as in the previous instances, we look at cables related to the political struggles.

Our earlier posts may be found here, here and here.

We begin with a cable from November 2006, which is mostly about an investigation into the deaths associated with the War on Drugs. The cable states:

In February 2003, [Prime Minister] Thaksin [Shinawatra] launched a national campaign targeting drug dealers and traffickers as a threat to society and national security. Over the next several months hundreds of alleged drug offenders were killed. Estimates of the number of people killed vary. Post [i.e. Embassy] estimates the number killed as a result of this policy to be approximately 1,300. Other estimates range as high as 2,600.

HRW has consistently used a figure of 2,800. At the time that this cable was composed, HRW’s Sunai Phasuk was working with others including “former senator Kraisak Choonhavan, National Human Rights Commissioner Wasan Panich, and Chairman of the Thai Lawyer’s Council Human Rights Committee, Somchai Homlaor” in a private investigation of 40 cases.

In a conversation with Embassy staff, Sunai is reported as claiming that:

he initiated this effort in the days immediately before the September 19 coup by informing persons close to Privy Council President Prem [Tinsulanonda] that, if Thaksin were to be removed from power, a group of activists intended to push for re-examination of EJKs [extrajudicial killings] during the War on Drugs. Sunai said that this information was “received positively.” He said that he was surprised when the coup leaders did not list ‘gross human rights abuses’ as one of the official reasons for ousting Thaksin.

While the War on Drugs was reprehensible, it is revealing that HRW is claimed to be enmeshed with coup planners. On this enmeshment, the cable adds more when he is asked why the group “waited two months before publicly moving forward with its campaign.” Sunai responded that:

Prem only recently signaled his approval for the interim government to move forward with re-opening investigations after making certain that none of the proposed cases will implicate the military.

In effect, in order to investigate cases, the human rights “defenders” are complicit is covering up the military’s involvement and ties investigations into extrajudicial killings to the political agenda of Prem and the post-2006 coup military junta.





Baby steps and backward steps

21 09 2011

While there has been some good news on the new government, especially in recent days, there are also some odd reverses being reported.

Good news has come with, for example, Yingluck Shinawatra’s statement that lese majeste is to be addressed. Bad news is seen in a report from Prachatai where it is revealed that Minister of Interior Yongyuth Wichaidit has had the not too bright idea that the previous government wasn’t all that good at protecting the monarchy.

PPT might agree if Yongyuth meant that the emphasis on lese majeste and the monarchy’s willing political entanglements had done little more than reveal the true nature of the monarchy and its associated regime.

Yongyuth, however, states that the monarchy is “above” policy and “to protect the institution was the soul and spirit inherent in the blood of all Thai people.” That’s royalist nonsense and ahistorical drivel. But then this bombshell:

The government has the idea to revive village scouts in concrete form for the sake of the reconciliation of Thais to encourage them to love the country and religion, and to be an important force in the future.  No budget will be allocated for this, but [the government] will promote the idea of sacrificing for the country.  And the main task is to fight the drugs problem….

PPT recognises that there is some mixing of policies going on here, but the sentiment associated with “reviving” the village scouts is truly retrograde. Of course, the scouts were never gone. They may have aged, been turned into cyber-scouts seeking out lese majeste, and so on, but they remained close to the Border Patrol Police and cherished their links to the monarchy (see the scan of the first page of an old academic article (left). Here is how they were described in the official U.S. history of the period:

Political tensions between leftist and rightist forces reached a bloody climax in October 1976. On October 5, right-wing newspapers in the capital published a photograph of student demonstrators at Thammasat University reenacting the strangling and hanging of two student protestors by police the previous month. The photograph, which was later found to have been altered, showed one of the students as being made up to resemble the king’s son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. The right wing perceived the demonstration as a damning act of lèse-majeste. That evening police surrounded the campus of Thammasat University, where 2,000 students were holding a sit-in. Fighting between students and police (including contingents of the paramilitary Border Patrol Police) broke out. The following day, groups of Nawa Phon, Red Gaurs, and Village Scouts “shock troops” surged onto the campus and launched a bloody assault in which hundreds of students were killed and wounded and more than 1,000 arrested. That evening the military seized power, established the National Administrative Reform Council (NARC), and ended that phase of Thailand’s intermittent experimentation with democracy.

The idea of re-engaging the right-wing village scouts belongs to the right-wing of the 1970s and the Jurassic royalist elite of today, not to any serious government.

A second story that reminds PPT of old days and bygone ideas is the Bangkok Post report that the self-proclaimed killer General Panlop Pinmanee is an adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck and wants his old job back at the International Security Operations Command (ISOC).

It isn’t that often that we agree with both the Post’s yellow-hued opinion page scribes and with the bitter Suthep Thaugsuban on anything. However, we agree that the ever-ambitious Panlop is simply someone who should be bypassed. In fact, he is another general who should be tried for his abuses over many years.

Panlop was once accused of involvement in an assassination attempt on Thaksin. Panlop denied this in a curious way:

Thaksin sacked Pallop, a retired Army general, after a car belonging to an Isoc officer was found packed with a significant amount of explosives and parked near the prime minister’s residence on the route normally taken by his motorcade.

The officer, Army Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana, was later arrested and charged with possessing explosive materials, including TNT, without a permit.

“You know me. If I was behind it, I would not have missed,” Pallop, visibly shaken, said. “I wouldn’t have sent Thawatchai to drive around Thaksin’s residence. I would have set it off without any warning.”

The officer involved was Panlop’s driver. Panlop explained he was an experienced leader of “death squads,” so he would not have pussy-footed around in killing the premier.By 2008, Panlop was a yellow shirt (see picture right).

Oddly, Panlop later went over to Thaksin’s side and was a divisive but dangerous figure, apparently accepted because he was prepared to spill the beans on royalist coup plotters.

Prior to this, Panlop was already notorious for his murderous actions at the Krue Se mosque. This is Wikipedia’s account:

It was revealed that Pallop’s order to storm the mosque contravened a direct order by Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to seek a peaceful resolution to the stand-off no matter how long it took. Pallop was immediately ordered out of the area, and later tendered his resignation as commander of the Southern Peace Enhancement Center. The forward command of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), which Pallop headed, was also dissolved. A government investigative commission found that the security forces had over-reacted. The Asian Centre for Human Rights questioned the independence and impartiality of the investigative commission. In 3 May 2004 during a Senate hearing, Senator Kraisak Choonhavan, noted that most of those killed at Krue Se Mosque were shot in the head and there were signs that rope had been tied around their wrists.

Why anyone would even think of dealing with Panlop is remarkable statement of extreme pragmatism. But Panlop says “he was ready to work there [ISOC] once he was ordered to do so.” Let’s hope the order never comes and this ambitious old man is sent packing or down with the navy’s submarines.

These are worrying and contradictory times.





Abhisit’s victory, queen deals and the Army boss

1 07 2011

As we recently posted, Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has reported that his unnamed sources say that a deal has been done to allow Puea Thai to form a government. Bangkok Pundit reckons he heard something similar.

The story has appeared in many places now. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this reporting is that all the Thai media leave out the alleged involvement of the queen in the dealing, through her lady-in-waiting Jarungjit Thikara. Even the Bangkok Post has left this choice bit out of a lead story. Is it the fear of lese majeste? No, can’t be as that doesn’t apply to a lady-in-waiting. Perhaps it is because the mainstream media has no spine for anything that shows the palace deeply involved in politics, even by way of rumors.

One person who seems to know nothing of all of this – or at least is giving any hint of it – is Abhisit Vejjajiva. Perhaps this rumored deal is why Kraisak Choonhavan reckons Abhisit is about to be thrown aside by the elite?

Whatever the case, Abhisit has come up with an election prediction. In the Bangkok Post story linked above, he is reportedly “exuding confidence” and insists that “his party will certainly win the July 3 election and have the legitimacy to form the next government.” There are no polls now, and Abhisit can make claims like this without having to deal with polls that show he’s dreaming. But is he? “winning” can have several dimensions. Does he know something about how the election will pan out that seems inconceivable? We just have a sneaking suspicion that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Could there be a stitch-up? That suggestion is out there with other rumors.

Outside rumors, we do have a definitive statement from Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha. He’s reported in the Bangkok Post as stating that there will be no coup if Puea Thai win the election. But is this definitive? We know from 2006 that such statements aren’t worth much, but read the story:

“There will definitely not be a coup even if the Pheu Thai Party wins the election and has the legitimacy to form a government, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reiterated on Thursday…. Gen Prayuth also repeated his call that all sides refrain from trying to drag the military into politics. Whoever is government, the army is duty-bound to protect national sovereignty, he said.”

Is that definitive? PPT watched Prayuth on television, and this account seems reasonably true to his words, although we can’t tell what was edited out.

There will be no coup if Puea Thai wins and has the legitimacy to form a government. And who decides on legitimacy? Prayuth’s statement that whatever government is in palace, the army is duty-bound to protect national sovereignty, says nothing about following the legal directions of that government. The bit left out by the Post relates to this statement, where Prayuth also talked about protecting the monarchy. PPT assumes that this is a statement directed at Puea Thai and red shirts. If party supporters act in ways the Army boss thinks infringe on the monarchy or sovereignty (on Cambodia perhaps), then the government becomes an enemy.

We think his claim of no coup is, in fact, another warning.