Censorship unites mad monarchists and ultra-nationalists

28 11 2021

PPT has mentioned several times that we were sure that self-censorship and regime censorship was increasing simply because so many lese majeste cases were not making it into the mainstream media.

That perception has been confirmed in reports that the supplicant National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission “has warned the media against reporting on calls for monarchy reform…”.

NBTC commissioner Lt Gen Perapong Manakit reportedly “said during a meeting with representatives of various media outlets that they should not broadcast the 10-point demand for monarchy reform put forward by the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration at a protest on 10 August 2020, after the Constitutional Court ruled on 10 November…”. Since then, the NBTC rules have circulated.

The general affirmed that reporting on calls monarchy reform “could be repeating the offense.” He stated that “reporters should not interview protest leaders, protesters, or those who agreed with the demands, but may report on the events that happen.” He warned that there should be no “long live broadcasts of protests to prevent the re-broadcast of speeches made during protests and calls for people to join the movement.”

The NBTC has also told the media that they should “avoid inviting guests for talk show interviews about the demands, especially inviting representatives of both sides in to give their opinion on air.”

These kinds of censorship and threats to reporters and media outlets egg on ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists. Not that long ago, the Bangkok Post reported that Sonthiya Sawasdee, a former adviser to the House committee on law, justice and human rights has made a police complaint “against Miss Universe Thailand Anchilee Scott-Kemmis for standing on what looks like a Thai flag in a picture featured on the pageant organiser’s website.”

Sonthiya has “accused Anchilee of breaching the 1979 Flag Act and the PM’s Office announcement banning the use of national flags for commercial purposes.”

The picture “was released online in a promotional campaign before Anchilee competes in the 70th Miss Universe pageant in Israel on Dec 12.”

Photo from Thai Enquirer

Sonthiya wants to stop Anchilee from setting “a bad example for young people, as has a large following on social media.” She’s seen as too close to reformists and democracy activists.

Thai PBS added that Anchilee was “carrying a Thai flag pole on her shoulder and standing on a Thai flag motif carpet.” The outlet seems as dull as the rightists attacking her, confusing a constructed image as including a “carpet.” But, we are talking about stupid nationalism/royalism. Many of them “took her standing on the Thai flag carpet, particularly on the blue bar, which signifies the monarchy, … and pointed out that she was showing aggression toward the revered institution.”

From a Facebook post

Clearly, fake news, but the regime’s fake news is okay. For example, royal news is often faked. Most recently, the Bangkok Post announced that a “research team led by … Princess Chulabhorn … has demonstrated two methods for synthesising molnupiravir for emergency use on Covid-19 patients…”. Given her longstanding and debilitating illnesses, we doubt she leads anything. This is simply royal posterior polishing as established in the previous reign.

While on Chulabhorn, several years ago, when she supported anti-democrats then calling for a coup, she used the Thai flag on a dog’s foot.

And, we can only wonder about all of those shoes sold with the Thai flag emblazoned on them.

In other words, the usual double standards of “good” people versus “bad” people is at work. The “good”can do what they like and will be praised even when they do nothing. Critics, especially those wanting a democratic Thailand, are censored. The media is threatened – censor the other side or else!

 





A royalist ode

21 11 2021

According to Royal World Thailand, King Vajiralongkorn, his queen and his favorite consort have been briefly back in Thailand before returning to Switzerland and Germany. In Thailand:

… King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida of Thailand, with … Princess Bajrakitiyabha, … Princess Rajsarini Siribajra​ and Princess Sirivannavari, along with the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani presided over the ceremony of changing the seasonal attire for the Emerald Buddha into winter attire. The tradition of changing the robes seasonally; Rainy, Winter, and Summer, held at the Temple of Emerald Buddha….

There is quite a lot to think about in this event. First, why did he and his huge entourage decamp to Europe just a little more than a week ago, to return for just day? Was he trying to be out of the country when the Constitutional Court was promoting absolutism? Or is he just being his usual erratic and dull self? Second, why is the royal family unmasked, especially when they have been in Germany, where the virus is raging. Third, who pays for these expensive jaunts to and from Europe? Finally, why do royalists continue to turn out and support a king who has made it clear he’d rather not be in Thailand? The latter question sent us to poets, with apologies to Thomas Ford:

There is a king erratic and (un)kind,

Was never a face so pleased my mind;

I did but see him passing by. And yet I’ll love him till I die. His gesture, motion, and his grimaces,

His lack of wit, but his voice my heart beguiles,

Beguiles my heart, I know not why,

Yet, I will love him till I die.





Mad, mad monarchism II

13 11 2021

Priyanandana is seeking compensation of 50 million baht for the “damage” done to the dead relative, Prince Rangsit:

She initially asked the Court for a temporary injunction stopping the circulation of both books, but later withdrew her request, noting that there was no point to a temporary injunction as the books have been widely circulated. She is also suing Nattapol’s PhD thesis supervisor, former Faculty of Political Science lecturer Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead; Chaithawat Tulathon, editor for “Dream the Impossible Dream”; Anchalee Maneeroj, editor for “The Junta, the Lords, and the Eagle”; Same Sky Books, the publisher of both volumes; and Same Sky Books editor-in-chief Thanapol Eawsakul.

Apart from the usual royalist nonsense, why Prince Rangsit? Essentially because the Prince is seen as one of the driving forces for the political and economic restoration of the palace and for steering it through the difficult times after the abdication and then the death of Ananda Mahidol and the rise of Bhumibol.

Rangsit spend several years in detention, accused of treason and of plotting a coup in 1938, but was released at the end of WW2. He became regent in 1946 and was quick to support royalists and military men opposed to the People’s Party. Even if the original claim – that Rangsit interfered with cabinet – is not supported by the Bangkok Post story in 1950, it is clear in several accounts that Rangsit repeatedly interfered, seeking advantages for the palace and for royalists.





Further updated: Absurd court reaffirms its royalist credentials

11 11 2021

Section 49 of the junta’s constitution states:

No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering
the cessation of such act.

In the case where the Attorney-General orders a refusal to proceed as petitioned or fails to proceed within fifteen days as from the date of receiving the petition, the person making the petition may submit the petition directly to the Constitutional Court.

The action under this section shall not prejudice the criminal prosecution against the person committing an act under paragraph one.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Constitutional Court surprised no one yesterday with its absurd decision that those calling for reform of the monarchy were seeking to overthrow the political system and the monarchy. Its ruling, following the first paragraph above, was all the more bizarre given that many of the reforms were a call for the status quo ante of the previous reign and of the post-1932 regime.

The Court ruled on a petition from Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman, who prompted the court to rule on whether “public statements, made by leaders of anti-establishment groups concerning the monarchy at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10th last year, amount to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Even among the deranged among royalists, Natthaporn stands out as quite mad. His earlier efforts with the Constitutional Court in 2019 involved a bizarre claim that the Future Forward Party was attempting to overthrow the same “democratic regime with the king as the head of state” under the very same Section 49. The lame lawyer claimed, among many odd things, that party members were “anti-monarchy and anti-religion, is that they are part of the Illuminati.” In other words, the FFP was a part of a (fictitious) global anti-monarchist conspiracy. Many mad monarchists believed this rubbish. That action failed, so he took the same nonsense to the Election Commission, claiming an “alleged violation of the Political Party Act.”

This time, the Constitutional Court, by majority (8-1) decision:

ruled that the calls for monarchy reform and monarchy-related activities organized by Anon Nampa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and associated organizations were, are and will be abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to ‘overthrow’ the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.

Remarkably, the court determined “hidden” intentions and “inferred” meanings:

The Court ruled that Anon’s speech and Panussaya’s statement at the 10 August 2020 protest, and their participation in the protests afterward and other symbolic actions have the hidden intention of overthrowing the regime, which would cause public disorder and unrest in society….

The word ‘overthrow’ can be inferred from actions that cause a serious threat to the constitution and regime in a decisive and irreversible manner that completely obliterates them.

The court considered the demand for the repeal of Section 6 of the constitution “which guarantees the monarch’s authority, as Head of State, which no one can accuse or violate is an explicit act with an intent to annihilate the monarchy.”

Rather, the demand was:

Abolish Article 6 of the constitution, which dictates that no one can make legal complaints about the king. Add an article to give the parliament power to perform checks and balances on the king, similar to the Khana Rasadon’s constitution.

This is a call to reform and a return to a previous status quo. As an op-ed at Thai Enquirer states: “If you carefully listen, what they are asking for is the modernization of the royal institution so that it can continue to peacefully exist along with the development of a democratic system.”

And the court objected to the tone of speeches:

To demand such changes and make such attacks in public, by claiming that it is an exercise of rights and freedoms according to the Constitution, not only is bad conduct, with rude words spoken, but also violates the rights and freedoms of other people who think differently….

For good measure, the court trotted out the palace and military propaganda line on the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s history. Essentially they accused the reform movement of being offensive to (ruling class) Thai culture.

The court also ordered the three respondents and others to end their movement: “The three respondents, other organisations and networks must cease their actions…”.

The ruling carried no penalty for the three respondents but it potentially unleashes a cascade of royalist repression and cases for the royalist courts that, the regime and palace appear convinced will be the end of the monarchy reform movement.

It is worth noting that, like the hurried and politicized dissolution of several parties in the 2008 judicial coup, the court dispensed with witnesses. As Prachatai explains:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that, despite a request by lawyers for the three activists for them to be summoned for an inquiry along with several other witnesses to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, the ruling was made without examining witnesses and based only on the complaint itself, the objection to the complaint, and documents that the Court requested from the Office of the Attorney General, Khlong Luang Police Station, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Office, the National Intelligence Agency, and Thammasat University.

The Court then ordered the inquiry concluded, claiming that it has enough evidence to issue a ruling.

TLHR also said that, in addition to the three activists themselves, they had requested that several academics be summoned as witnesses. They had planned to summon historians Nithi Eoseewong and Charnvit Kasetsiri to testify on Thai political history, and legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang to argue that the activists’ actions do not qualify as using their rights and liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.

They also planned to summon writer Sulak Sivarak to speak about the role of the monarchy in Thai politics and President of the 1997 Constitution Drafting Assembly Uthai Pimchaichon to speak on the intention of Section 49 of the Thai Constitution, which is modelled after the same section in the 1997 Constitution.

None of the aforementioned witnesses were given a chance to testify.

On the ruling, Natthaporn gloated: “The ruling today is a starter, that peace will finally be returned to society…”. He claimed the ruling bans all activities that might be construed to threaten the monarchy. His next target is the Move Forward Party: “He said the court’s decision would lead to the Election Commission deciding whether to move for the disbandment of the Move Forward Party. Mr Natthaporn claims the party supported the protests.”

In an interview cited by Prachatai, academic lawyer and former FFP member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul saw three impacts from the ruling:

Firstly, the ruling’s broad interpretation of the law has closed the door for those who want to reform the monarchy.

Secondly, the ruling prohibits many acts, both those which have been done and those not done. This will allow those who oppose proposals for monarchy reform to flood the courts with petitions similar to the one today. Civil society organizations and political parties that rally for the amendment or abolition of the royal defamation law might be affected by this.

Thirdly, this order to gag people will not bring about reconciliation between those who think differently. It will exacerbate tensions between the old and the new generations who have different ideas about the monarchy.

“If you don’t want to enter the red zone, then don’t do it. Don’t speak. Don’t touch. Don’t do anything. Then, you will be in the safe zone. Your party won’t be disbanded. Your MPs can stay. Criminal charges won’t touch you. In public rallies, you mustn’t speak about this. Just talk about ousting Prayut. Don’t speak about these [monarchy] issues and you will be safe.”

Indeed, this decision will, despite the wording of Section 49, will be used to lock up protest leaders and it will provide justification for a regime purge of those it can now say are anti-monarchists.

Finally in this absurdist “legal” world of the country’s protectors of the status quo, we must go back to the Thai Enquirer and its comments:

Asking for the amendment of the lese-majeste law is not treasonous in any way. Overthrowing an elected government by a military coup like what General Prayut Chan-ocha and his friends did in 2014 was.

It was also unconstitutional and unlawful. But the courts have regularly sanctioned military coups. The op-ed lists other unlawful acts sanctioned by courts:

Jailing and persecuting elected parliamentarians….

Arresting, cracking down, violently using force against unarmed protesters….

Shutting down public debate, installing an unelected senate, using the judiciary to go after dissidents….

Abducting and murdering political activists….

The op-ed concludes:

The verdict was almost like the final nail in the coffin of space for fair discussions in our society. And it was perpetrated by the same court system that has done nothing for the last six years but carry out the junta’s whim and reinforce the junta’s rule.

Update 1: Usefully, Prachatai has provided a translation of the Constitutional Court’s decision. Read it in all its bizarre detail.

Update 2:The Constitutional Court has defended not hearing evidence, saying it was too late and that the investigation was complete. Interestingly, in its decision, the court does not refer to any evidence that was not from the complainant or an official security agency.





Mad 112 case

2 09 2021

Prachatai reports that an Article 112 complaint has been lodged against former royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner Thanat Thanakitamnuay.

Longtime readers might remember him from this report. More recently, he has joined pro-democracy activists, apologized for his previous politics, and made speeches to anti-regime activists. He was injured in an event on 13 August, with his family saying “his right eye was hit by a ‘blunt cylindrical object’ – which … was [probably] a tear gas canister – tearing the cornea, rupturing the eyeball, and causing his retina to peel off.”

For his recent appearances at rallies, on 30 August 2021:

Nangnoi Atsawakittikorn from the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims and Jakkapong Klinkaew from the Centre of the People for the Protection of Monarchy filed a royal defamation complaint [Prachatai means a lese majeste complaint] against Thanat at the Samranrat Police Station on behalf of the “People’s Network for the Protection of the Royal Institution”.

Just to remind readers, Article 112 states: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” In 2013, however, the the royalist Supreme Court decided “that the law also applies to all previous monarchs…”.

The ultra-royalists have used this to bring some ludicrous allegations and charges, even involving, more than once, a dead royal tail-wagger, historical kings and members of the royal family not covered by the words used in the law.

Thanat. Clipped from Prachatai

In the complaint against Thanat, the ultra-royalists complain about him “wearing an outfit similar to one worn by the late King Rama IX.”

They complained that:

… Thanat was intentionally mocking the late King Rama IX by wearing a suit, an eyepatch and a camera to a protest on 22 August…. According to Nangnoi, Thanat’s costume and camera were props employed to ridicule a well-known photograph of King Rama IX.  The late King often wore a camera around his neck when travelling upcountry.

Of course, Thanat’s eye was covered because he had been injured in a previous rally (see above).

These mad monarchists, who have lodged many lese majeste complaints over the past year, added another complaint, asserting “that a speech Thanat gave on 25 August calling for Section 112 to be abolished reflects his intent to overthrow the monarchy.”

Again, the idea that calling for Article 112 to be abolished can be either lese majeste and/or sedition charges has been increasingly common.

In addition, as Prachatai points out:

This is not the first time that royalists have taken umbrage with the costumes of pro-democracy activists. Conservative netizens put up a storm of critical commentary after the 28 January 2021 posting of a picture featuring Chaiamorn ‘Ammy’ Kaewwiboonpan, a lead singer in the Bottom Blues Band, and actress Inthira Charoenpura which Chaiamorn dressed in an outfit similar to one worn by King Rama IX.

Mad monarchists get madder by the minute. Internationally, the country’s judicial system is a joke.





Ratbag fascists

21 05 2021

As the mainstream media seem to be ignoring lese majeste and other political repression while also self-censoring on anything to do with the monarchy, it is Prachatai that is providing a window on rabid monarchism that looks increasingly like ratbag fascism by both state royalists and citizen monarchists.

In one report we are reminded that the royalist state targets particular individuals and their families. In fact, there have been several cases where it targets mothers. This report states that the “mother of student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has received a police summons on a charge under the Emergency Decree, after she joined a protest demanding her daughter’s release.”

She was one of the “mothers of five detained activists at one of the ‘Stand Against Detention’ protests, standing next to cardboard cutouts of their children.” Their call was to “return the children to their mothers.” Now she has a summons declaring she “violated the Emergency Decree by organizing an unauthorised gathering of more than 20 people at risk of the spread of disease …[at a] protest in front of the Supreme Court on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 28 April 2021 to demand the release of Panusaya and other activists who were detained at the time.”

This was just one of a number of “Stand Against Detention” protests in Bngkok and the provinces. So far she and just two others have been summoned by the bully-boys in brown acting for the greenish tinged fascist regime. The others are reportedly the activist Punsak Srithep, “a member of Resistant Citizen and whose son Samapan was killed during the the military crackdown on red shirt protesters in May 2010, … and another protester named Napatsorn Boonrey.”

The protesters were said to have maintained their “social distance” and it is said that “Resistant Citizen also required registration for each protest and only 20 participants were allowed.”

The second Prachatai report is of probably state-organized royalist vigilantes in Phetchabun Province who descended on a young vocational student’s home demanding and forcing her to “apologize for alleged royal defamation.”

The group claimed to be “government officials and people ‘with the duty of suppression and control regarding the institution of the monarchy’.” On 19 May, claiming “they were from the Department of Provincial Administration,” with no warrants, to “charge her with royal defamation.”

The vigilantes alleged that “the student had posted video clips about the monarchy that they claimed were inappropriate.”

They videoed the student being forced to prostate before a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and apologize. And, the posted this on Facebook to humiliate her and warn others of the danger of thinking differently.

Under this regime, Thailand’s future remains bleak.





Further updated: Crooks, fraudsters, and palace

16 05 2021

The story of four high-profile suspects arrested in connection with a fraudulent investment ring estimated to have made off with at least 1 billion baht reminded us of an earlier hi-so fraud.

In the recent case, police detained “Lt Col Dr Amraporn Visetsuk, chairwoman of the Tiao Puea Chart (Travel for the Country) project, and three others, on charges of public fraud and collaborating in fraudulent public borrowing. All of them denied the charges.” The one who got away was “suspected ringleader Prasit Jeawkok, chairman of the Kuen Khun Pandin (Paying Back the Land) project…”.

The story gets more interesting:

Last year, Pannika Wanich, spokeswoman for the Progressive Movement, accused Mr Prasit of being behind the army’s now-discredited “information operation” (IO) and allowing the army to use the servers under his control for free.

Prasit himself has “boasted of his royalist credentials and unbuttoned his shirt to show a ‘Long Live the King’ tattoo on his chest. Even if he supported IO, he declared, it was a ‘good IO’.”

Prasit has been praised by the wealthy Yuenyong Opakul or Add Carabao who is also a mad monarchist, writing “the song ‘Prasit the Giver,’ praising his good deeds under the Kuen Khun Pandin project in July 2019.”

All of this is vaguely familiar to anyone old enough to remember the fantastic Mae Chamoy fraud case in the mid-1980s that saw Chamoy Thipyaso and seven others found guilty of corporate fraud and on 27 July 1989, sentenced her to 141,078 years in prison. She only served 8 years.

It was her connections with the military, and especially the Royal Thai Air Force and also with the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, saw her chit fund scheme go on for almost 20 years, providing huge returns to some at the top of the pyramid scheme.

As the linked report states:

Chamoy

Among her clients there were prominent members from the military and the Royal Household, which prompted calls for the Thai government to bail out the banks and chit funds. Discussions of an unknown nature were made with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, following which the chit fund was wound up and Thipyaso arrested. She was [d]etained secretly by the Air Force for a few days.

Thipyaso’s trial only commenced after the losses of the victims from the military and royal staff were recovered….

Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles (pp. 308-9) has more on the scheme:

Chit funds were pyramid schemes that had blossomed over several years without intervention from the government, in part because many had strong government connections. One especially, the Mae (Mother) Chamoy Fund, was estimated at $300 million and involved large numbers of investors from the military and, it soon became apparent, the royal household, including probably Sirikit, Vajiralongkorn, Ubolrat, and Chulabhorn. With such prominent and politically significant people likely to lose massively in the Mae Chamoy collapse, [Gen] Arthit [Kamlang-ek] stepped in again. He threatened a coup if the government did not rescind the [recent baht] devaluation and bail out the banks and chit funds.

This time, King Bhumibol himself rescued [Gen] Prem [Tinsulanonda], without saying anything. Prem went to stay at the Phuphan Palace for nine days, and each day the media ran pictures of Prem with the king, queen, and crown prince. Making the message clear, when Prem returned to Bangkok he was escorted by Prince Vajiralongkorn and Chulabhorn’s consort Captain Virayuth. When Arthit then flew to the Phuphan Palace, Prem turned around and went back. What was said in their discussions with the king was not made public, but the episode ended with Prem still in power and Arthit unpunished for his series of mutinous acts. The devaluation stood and the Mae Chamoy Fund was shut down, but only after more backhall dealings managed by Prem. Fund manager Chamoy was arrested and held in secret by the air force until, it is believed, the losses of palace and military personnel and other high officials were recovered. Only afterward was she tried and sent to prison. Her hearing was held in camera and the records were sealed, presumably to protect the palace. Meanwhile thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people who didn’t have special protectors lost their savings.

Are we completely mad to wonder if there aren’t some coincidences of news now and news then?

Update 1: Adding to the mystery and protection of fraudsters, it is reported that Prasit Jeawkok has done a deal with police to surrender to them on 17 May. It is common for influential people to arrange this kind of deal and arrive to meet police with influential figures and lawyers. At the same time, we are told that “the Second Army pledged the suspect, Lt Col Amaraphon, who is attached with the Second Army’s Support Command, will face punishment if she is found guilty.” That’s a familiar refrain, seldom ever carried out.

Update 2: Thai Enquirer has two op-eds on this case, here and here. Is anyone surprised that Lt Col Amaraphon already has bail? Scams like this produce huge cash flows for big shots.





Mad authoritarianism

23 04 2021

There’s been considerable discussion in recent days of a draft law that would allow state monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities. This amounts to a predictable deepening of control by an authoritarian regime. At the same time, it is reflective of a quite mad authoritarianism as the regime has increasingly come under the influence of ideas of conspiracy that dominate the “thinking” of mad monarchists.

Thai PBS reports that the effort to strictly control civil society organization and dominate political space by limiting NGOs by the “monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities” through the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations “stems from fears of foreign intervention in local politics and adverse impacts of NGOs’ foreign donations on national security.”

That report cites Amnesty International as saying that other states have also introduced “restrictive laws and policies, and stigmatising rhetoric…”. The examples provided include “Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Hungary, and the Philippines.”

In the Thai case, the bill appears to reflect the increasingly frenzied deep yellow shirt conversations about CIA (meaning the USA) and Jewish (meaning George Soros) conspiracies to undermine the monarchy. There’s no evidence for such conspiracies, just an ever-mounting social media gnashing of teeth and tan ever-higher piling of buffalo manure, some of it egged on by organized anti-Western bloggers and “news” outlets. Such sources have waged a campaign against “colour revolutions” and, since the rise of the red shirts, have increasingly focused on Thailand. In Thailand, their deeply conservative narrative has been couched in “radical” terms, railing against “American imperialism.”

This narrative caught on among yellow shirts who themselves had dealt in fictious notions of conspiracy against the monarchy that constructed accounts of the Finland Plot to bring down the monarchy and of Thaksin Shinawatra’s anti-monarchism.

Such conservative fictions were easily imbibed by military monarchists. One result is this bill to control civil society groups. It was the post-junta cabinet, dominated by military monarchists that “in late February approved in principle the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations, which would require NGOs to report their financiers and amount of funding, to have their accounts audited, and to ensure that their activities are lawful.”

Thai Enquirer refers to the Bill as the “Operation of Non-profit Organizations Act,” and notes that the “legislation was proposed by the Council of State…” which cited the concerns that resulted in the draft bill, including that NGOs “receive funding from foreign persons or entities.” Nothing new there; it has been a standard operating procedure for decades. However, in these reactionary times, there’s a view that this “might adversely affect the relationship between Thailand and that of other countries.”

Thai Enquirer explains what the Bill will do:

This draft bill, if passed into law, would require NGOs to register themselves with the Director General of the Department of Provincial Administration, prior to commencing its activities in Thailand. Once registered, they will be additionally required to comply with rules and conditions prescribed by the Minister of Interior, in addition to those requirements set forth in the legislation.

In addition, NGOs would be subject to an annual disclosure viz-a-viz sources of funds and must file an annual tax report to authorities. And, more horrendously, the NGOs can only receive funding from foreign persons, entities, or groups of persons, only for the purpose as prescribed by the Minister of Interior. Failure to comply with these requirements would subject the NGOs to criminal sanctions. Potentially imprisonment for persons involved.

It is unclear whether receiving funds to engage in political advocacy such as calling for the amendment of the constitution would be one of the permissible purposes. However, given the government’s track record and how the government MPs have reacted to iLaw’s requests, it is reasonable to fear that the purpose of political advocacy would not be permitted.

The article continues, noting that the regime:

does not wish to appear subtle about its motives either. It includes as material substance of the law that the bill would effectively ensure that NGOs are operating in Thailand without “Tai-ya-jitr” (hidden agendas). It remains unclear what “hidden agenda” means in this context. Is advocating for democracy … under the authoritarian regime regarded as a “hidden agenda?” … One might therefore reasonably conclude that this law is aimed at curtailing the activity of liberal NGOs….

The regime “has provided numerous hints about how it intends to use the law,” citing “a senior intelligence official specifically cited a statement signed by 13 human rights organisations … as demonstrating the need for further control over organisations working in Thailand.” That statement by human rights groups “condemned the government’s use of force against protesters.”

As The Interpreter observes:

Since a military coup in 2014, however, civic space and fundamental freedoms have taken a beating in Thailand. Authorities have harassed activists, cracked down on protesters and obstructed the proceedings of civil society. But these actions have failed to fully extinguish dissent, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has now proposed a draconian new law governing associations and organisations, which, if passed, would do more to crush civic space and undermine Thailand’s role in the region than any other effort by the Thai government in the past decade….

Under the proposed legislation, any group engaged in non-profit activities – no matter how small, informal or unorganised – would be required to register with the ministry. Student groups, community organisations, protest movements, artistic collectives, social clubs and short-lived associations would all fall within the remit of the law.

It establishes a “mandatory registration scheme overseen by the Ministry of Interior” and gives “authorities expansive powers to control and monitor groups of all sizes and types.”

Under the current authoritarian regime, the proposed law’s “broad terms and steep penalties would likely be wielded arbitrarily against independent-minded individuals and organisations.”

It imposes harsh penalties for failing to register: “individuals associated with an unregistered group could be punished with up to five years’ imprisonment.”

…The law would give the Ministry of Interior sweeping powers to determine the conditions under which registered groups operate. Activities backed by foreign funds would require pre-approval by the ministry, with foreseeable consequences for groups that frequently come into conflict with the government. More worrying still, the law would allow officials to inspect a registered organisation’s office and access its emails without justification or judicial oversight. It provides no safeguards against governmental misuse or arbitrary application of the law.

…Moreover, the selection of the Ministry of Interior as the ministry responsible for enforcing the law is telling. The Ministry of Interior oversees local administration and internal security within Thailand. As a result, it frequently comes into conflict with community associations, non-governmental organisations and other groups that would be governed by the law. The surveillance and enforcement powers granted by the law would bolster the ministry, to the detriment of those seeking to hold government officials accountable for corruption, human rights abuses or other misdeeds.

Such requirements and such intrusive surveillance mean that the government would determine which NGOs could register and what they could do, if they receive international funding.

The Interpreter further observes:

Adding to the law’s recklessness, the timeline set forth for registration – 30 days from the date of enactment – does not provide enough time for the ministry to register the thousands of currently unregistered groups operating in Thailand. If it were passed, numerous organisations would be forced to cease operations, and many would never reopen.

That is likely one of the aims of the legislation.

Each of the reports mentioned in this post reports on responses from NGOs. Among many issues, they note that the law is in conflict with several provisions of the constitution – not that such matters have ever bothered this regime – and that the law would allow “authorities to harass civil society groups and activists critical of the government by categorising them as NGOs.”

The Interpreter concludes:

If enacted, the proposed law would devastate Thai civil society and could lead to an exodus of international organisations currently based in Thailand.

Clearly, the regime’s support for the monarchy and the need to suppress anti-royalism puts it in alliance with all kinds of mad monarchists. For them and the regime, only conspiracy theories can “explain” attacks on their beloved monarchy and monarchist ideology. When mixed with the regime’s military-induced love of hierarchy and order, the outcome is a political system that is deeply authoritarian. The threat is to make Thailand forever authoritarian.





Royalists and censorship

13 04 2021

One of the traits of royalism in Thailand is the way in which all manner of royalists, from officials to the mad  monarchists, seek to destroy those they see as opponents.

About a month ago we mentioned the “case” being mounted by academic royalists to censor the work of historian Nattaphol Chai­ching, a campaign that had been waged by yellow shirts since 2018. That royalist assault has been recently paired with a ridiculous (except in royalist Thailand) defamation case by minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, against Nattaphol and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky), seeking to protect the honor of a long dead relative.

We would have hoped that such a malicious set of actions by mad monarchists would have faded away. It hasn’t, with a report at University World News suggesting that the royalist stronghold at Chulalongkorn University is seriously pursuing the claims against Nattaphol.Nattapoll

The royalists clearly see Nattaphol’s book’s and their “popularity and influence as a threat…”. As a result, they”have targeted the author, calling for his PhD to be revoked.” The royalist witch hunt is led by yellow-shirted political “philosopher” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn at Chulalongkorn University.

The university, “who owns the copyright to the PhD thesis, set up an investigation committee in February ostensibly to review its academic integrity,” after earlier “effectively bann[ing] the thesis by barring public access to it, claiming at the time that it contained errors based on some pieces of evidence used.” As far as we can tell, the “errors” are one mis-attribution to a newspaper article.

With the “investigation” now proceeding, mostly in secret, the university could revoke Nattaphol’s degree or take “other disciplinary action under research misconduct rules.”

The report cites Ek Patarathanakul, assistant to the president for corporate communications at Chulalongkorn University, and an interview with BBC Thai on 26 March where Ek claimed “Chulalongkorn University would uphold the ‘academic perspective’ in examining the issue.” He added: “we have to use universal principles [of academic integrity] in reviewing this case…”.

As we know, in Thailand, “principles” and standards are easily manipulated, and the university’s political track record is royalist and shaky (for an example, see our series of articles Pathetic royalist “university” in 2017 that begins here).





Mad monarchists madder still II

30 03 2021

With the resurgence of protests and the regime intensifying its repression, the mad monarchists are increasingly agitated.

While reporting on Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon and her recent speech targeting the monarchy and other reforms, Thai PBS spends space on enraged monarchists and their bizarre claims.

Mind

Mind

Already facing a lese majeste charge, on 24 March, Mind made three calls on the monarchy, calling on the king to cease interfering “in the military, in politics and in public assets.”

As a result of these reasonable demands of a monarchy meant to be constitutional, Mind probably faces additional lese majeste and other charges. She says she is “bracing for jail…” and vowed to “continue her fight even if she was jailed during the court trial.”

The rabid royalists given space are alleged “scholar” Arnond Sakworawich and political aspirant Warong Dechgitvigrom. It is interesting how each royalist repression of protesters since 2005 has seen a new bunch of royalist spokespersons promoted as the “defenders” of the monarchy.

Arnond claims Mind is “mistaken in alleging the King has ‘his own army’, independent of the Thai armed forces.” His view is that the “King’s Royal Guards were simply transferred from the military and police to form the royal security unit.” He doesn’t explain how it is that this “unit” is under the direct command of the palace or why it was necessary to vastly expand the “royal security unit.”

Arnond’s rebuttal of Mind’s observation of the king’s political interventions – preventing his elder, non-royal, sister stand in an election – seems to confirm Mind’s point. Arnond ignores other interventions, including the king’s demands for constitutional change.

Royalist Arnond’s defense of royal wealth and the king’s assets is just loopy and ignores the king’s own changes to the law that allowed him to take total control of all assets associated with the monarchy, while rolling back decades of legislation.

Warong Dechgitvigrom relied more on the concoction of a conspiracy, a royalist strategy that has been used repeatedly since 2005 to smear and repress.

He claimed Mind is manipulated “by a hidden hand bent on defaming the King with distorted facts.” He declared:

It’s a pity that you didn’t do your homework before reading the statement. The person who prepared the statement for you is so cruel. Without supporting truth, they sacrifice you just to incite people….

This conspiracy claim is repeated and expanded by the maddest of the Bangkok Post’s monarchists, Veera Prateepchaikul. Agreeing with the yellow-shirt conspiracies and cheers the detention without bail of those accused of lese majeste.

Like Warong, he believes that Mind and other protesters are manipulated and the tools of dedicated anti-monarchists. He pours accelerant on the royalist fire, repeating scuttlebutt that her “demands for reform of the monarchy was allegedly given to her by someone believed to be an anti-monarchist.”

He demeans and diminishes all the young protesters, preferring to believe they are misled and tricked. His claims are a familiar refrain. It was only a few years ago that yellow shirts demeaned red shirts, considering them uneducated buffaloes, led around by the nose, and or paid by Thaksin Shinawatra. Obviously, the kids protesting aren’t “uneducated,” but there is still a search for a political Svengali.

In an attempted political assassination, Veera names and seeks to shame “Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement Group and anti-monarchist lecturer at Thammasat University…”. Veera decries Piyabutr’s view that the protesters are agents of change, who “will not change their mind on the monarchy” by jailing them.

Veera peddles more royalist tripe by questioning why several academics have been willing to post bail for those jailed.

Veera states that “many students have been exploited,” and claims that Mind is manipulated: “What if she is thrown behind bars for reading the script in question while the actual writer remains scot free? That is unfair, cold-blooded and sheer exploitation of a young mind.”

Yellow shirt ideology is conspiratorial and displays a remarkable penchant for patriarchal nonsense, diminishing the views and actions over many months of demonstration. Clearly, the students understand that reform to the monarchy comes with a diminution of patriarchy and other hierarchies that keep old royalist men in charge of the country.








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