Neo-traditionalism and fascists

18 03 2021

Prachatai has a couple of stories that are about a theme – political repression. In our view, they also appoint to the entrenchment of neo-traditionalist, royalist, fascism.

The first report is about complaints made by the so-called People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy to Anek Laothamatas, who seems to spend some time as Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. They demanded that the former communist now mad royalist and failed politician investigate the lecturers who have used their positions to stand bail for arrested protesters. The fascist Network “claims that their bail requests for Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, students at Thammasat and Mahidol universities, constitute behaviour that infringes upon the monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai
The Network submitting a petition to the MHESI representatives, Duangrit Benjathikul Chairungruang and Jak Punchoopet (Source: Facebook/ Center for People Protecting the Monarchy).

Immediately, the ministry sprang into action: “Jak Punchoopet, Advisor to the Minister … said … the Ministry is preparing to summon deans and chancellors of the universities of 8 lecturers who offered bail to 3 student activists detained while awaiting trial for royal defamation and other charges.” Jak previously participated in People’s Democratic Reform Committee efforts to foment a coup against an elected government.

The Network claimed it is “unethical for teachers as they are protecting students who have clearly and publicly defamed and infringed upon the King, Queen and the Chakri dynasty, which the Network has denounced.”

Jak quoted Minister Anek as stating that “academic freedom must not infringe on the … monarchy.”

There’s not much academic freedom in Thailand anyway, with the 2020 Academic Freedom Index grading Thailand as an E, “the lowest grade, with a score of 0.13 out of a maximum of 1.  Other countries with and E grade include China, North Korea, Cuba, Lao, Iran, Rwanda, and South Sudan.”

Preventing academics standing bail would be a major change to previous and longstanding practice.

Of course, neither the fascists of the Network nor the dolts at the Ministry ever pause to think that none of these political prisoners have yet been found guilty. In any case, none were allowed bail.

An equally concerning report is about constant harassment of independent media:

The Isaan Record, an online media organization based in Khon Kaen Province, is under surveillance by police officers. This is not the first time, and it occurs after they report on monarchy reform and anti-dictatorship activities which other media find distasteful.

The effort to silence The Isaan Record is clear and follows a pattern:

On 10 March, Hathairat Phaholtap, the Isaan Record editor, told Prachatai English that police officers came to their office 4 times in one day. She was informed by vendors close to the office that police had asked them about the agency. The police did not approach staff directly.

This took place after the agency reported on an activity organized on 8 March by Femliberate, a feminist activist group, who shrouded the statue of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat with women’s sarongs with a banner reading “Justice died 8 March 2021,” a symbolic action against the oppression of women and the court decision to keep in detention Parit Chiwarak, Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok, 3 leading pro-democracy activists.

Police intimidation sometimes leads to arrests but can also lead to attacks by royalist thugs – more often than not these are police and military men in plainclothes. Such attacks are never investigated.

Unsurprisingly, these royalist, fascist interventions are coordinated. Prachatai reports:

… Manager Online for the northeast region reported news with the headline “Don’t stand for it! Khon Kaen people love the institution [of the monarchy]. Attack KKU [Khon Kaen University], ask its position on whether they want the monarchy or not after allowing gangs who want to abolish the monarchy to hang out there,”.

The news item reports that a pro-monarchy group blames the Progressive Movement, from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, for being the mastermind behind the student movement in Khon Kaen in the past year. They also questioned Khon Kaen University for letting public figures who spoke about democracy and monarchy reform give lectures to the students.

You see the link between Manager Online and the People’s Network to Protect the Monarchy. When fascism takes hold, the country usually falls into a deep and dark abyss.





United royalists want lese majeste law toughened

14 01 2012

Yesterday PPT added an update to its post on blue-bloods calling for lese majeste reform. In that update, we noted that yet one more yellow-shirt group has been formed to “protect the monarchy.”

According to The Nation, that group – calling itself “Sayam Prachapiwat” or Siamese People’s Progress – this “group of royalist academics from eight universities,” as part of an orchestrated yellow-shirted campaign, has issued a remarkably backward, even fascist, “manifesto.”

It began by “attacking those who want to amend or abolish the lese majeste law and vowing to fight what they called the monopoly of Thai politics by a ‘capitalist political party’.” Here they mean the Puea Thai Party and they are specifically rejecting election results. That is not surprising. After all, this is a yellow shirt group that draws inspiration from the anti-democratic elements of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The group includes “26 academics from eight universities including Chulalongkorn and Thammasat.” As we noted yesterday, the spokesman is a NIDA academic. The reactionary academics stated that:

… no one should touch the lese majeste law and that the penalty for violating it should be made more severe, because there exists a movement to defame and abolish the monarchy institution.

Law lecturer – yes, apparently that is the correct designation – Komsan Pho-kong, from Sukhothai Thammathirat University stated that

the “real problem” is not the lese majeste law but “an attempt by some to establish a new Thai state“, referring to the perceived threat of republicanism.

This new ultra-royalist group

accused the Nitirat group of law lecturers, which will launch its public campaign to amend the lese majeste law on Sunday at Thammasat University, of exploiting their academic status to push forward a “hidden agenda” to undermine the monarchy.

For Nitirat’s agenda, see this lengthy document. There seems little that is hidden in that, and this week Nitirat will re-launch its campaign to eradicate the laws established by the 2006 coup and military junta. Indicating just how reactionary this new group is, one member stated that Nitirat “speaks like Latin American revolutionaries…”.

Of course, the academics who are members of the so-called Sayam Prachapiwat or Siamese People’s Progress are supporters of the coup. They do not see the military as problematic. Rather, they are opposed to elections that “their” party never wins. So:

The group insisted that military dictatorships’ domination of Thai society is over and the sole threat is that of the so-called “capitalist political party”, which it said is corrupt.

Remarkably, this fascist-like group argues for a reduction in political freedoms:

Komsan added that most Thais do not understand what liberty is all about. The Siam Prachapiwat group stated in its manifesto that Thailand is facing a “crisis of [too much] liberty”. “There exists the overuse of liberty, leading society toward anarchy,” part of the manifesto reads.

The Nation notes the group’s links to PAD. It is thus no surprise that it includes the deeply yellow PAD activist Charas Suwanmala of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, who is also associated with that other PAD front organization, the so-called multi-colored group. Charas is claiming that, as he did in the past, he will organize anti-Thaksin Shinawatra “academic seminars.” He promises “discussions” of the “monopolisation of Thai politics” by the Pheu Thai Party.”

Echoes of the early 2008 PAD activities are not coincidental.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post has a report that indicates how a yellow-shirted campaign has been orchestrated. Tul Sitthisomwong, also of Chulalongkorn University and a yellow shirt stalwart plans to mobilize his multi-colors to “campaign in opposition to any move to change the lese majeste law.”

In a related move, Tul will rally his followers to “show its opposition to the cabinet’s resolution to pay compensation to relatives of protesters killed and injured in the anti-government protests…”. He reckons that the amounts “was too high, because the budget comes from the people’s taxes…”.

Also joining in is a senate committee that “opposes moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, saying those who are against the law might have a hidden agenda.” In other words, the same statement as the fascist academics noted above.

Senator Pornphan Boonyarataphan, appointed to the Senate under the military junta’s rules and chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Follow-up Committee, made the standard royalist claim that the lese majeste law is in line with the laws of other countries. This is a point that has repeatedly been shown to be false. The unelected senator went further:

The senator said the committee will send a letter to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, asking it to protest against United Nations rights official Frank La Rue’s call for the government to make changes to Section 112 after the Criminal Court sentenced a 61-year-old man to 20 years in jail after finding him guilty of lese majeste.

She expressed a position also made in the Manager, a PAD mouthpiece in rather more derogatory terms:

Those who want Section 112 of the Criminal Code changed don’t actually want the law to be more lenient but their target is to allow people to insult, defame, create malice and cause the institution not to tolerate any longer.

While that last sentence might be a bit mangled, the intention is clear. With the anti-Thaksin forces increasing their level of mobilization, the next week or so will see an interesting clash of ideas about the structure of Thai politics.





Updated: More on latest lese majeste witch hunt

8 01 2012

A couple of days ago PPT posted on the latest summons in the ongoing repression associated with lese majeste. The young woman involved is Natthakarn Sakuldarachat. She will face police investigators in about a month.

In the Bangkok Post, Voranai Vanijaka has a good account of the case and the terrible harassment “Kan Thoob” – Joss Stick – has faced.

PPT won’t go into the details in Voranai’s story. Rather, we just highlight a few points. The account begins:

Hate mail and threats are the least of her worries. Being shunned by society that has forced a young girl to become persona non grata should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. She had to change her name. She was turned away from three universities despite passing the entrance exams. She’s hounded by the press and society. It has been more than three years, and the witch hunt continues.

That witch hunt has been managed by yellow shirts:

Her real name and the name she changed to were revealed to the public by Manager Online, owned by Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the yellow shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

Those revelations were meant to encourage ultra-royalists to engage in the campaign of harassment. It is not the first time that the yellow-shirt media has encouraged vigilantism. Voranai correctly observes that:

Sondhi and his media organisation brought her to trial. The court of public opinion delivered the guilty verdict. PAD supporters and others continue to punish her relentlessly.

In recent days it has again been Sondhi’s Manager that has “outed” her one more time:

Recently Manager Online learned that Joss Stick is studying at Thammasat University’s Social Administration Department. The media and the people who have been hounding her demanded to know why Thammasat accepted the girl’s enrollment.

At one point in the account, Voranai asks a very pertinent question: “When army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha suggested a social boycott of lese majeste offenders, is this what he had in mind?”

Probably it is. This is what lese majeste repression has come to in Thailand. Punishing even minors for their thoughts and words. And the palace’s silence – in this and in all recent cases – makes it complicit in a very dirty and nasty campaign.

Update: Prachatai has two stories on this case. See “Kan Thoop’s police summons postponed to 11 Feb” and “Matichon Interview with ‘Kan-thoop’.





Chai-Anan Samudavanija and republicanism

5 08 2009

Chai-Anan Samudavanija, formerly a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, is a long-time ally of Sondhi Limthongkul. He was also a supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra for a considerable time, and seemed to stay longer than Sondhi. Chai-Anan jumped ship when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was in Sondhi’s hands. Chai-Anan is also close to the palace, as director of Vajiravudh College and a member of the Royal Institute.

Chai-Anan has been a regular commentator at ASTV and his columns have been rather incendiary whenever the political temperature has risen over the last couple of years.

In a recent issue (Manager Online, 2 August 2009: “สังคมไทยแบ่งเป็นสองฝ่าย”), Chai-Anan writes about the divisions in Thai politics and society.

Interestingly, he begins with a “former minister” who comes up with a different division: there are those who want the monarchy (ฝ่าย “เอาเจ้า”) and those who don’t (“ฝ่ายไม่เอาเจ้า”), the monarchists and the republicans. Here the “former minister” is referring to the people, not political leaders, for he says that Thaksin is largely irrelevant to this division, and whether he is around or not, the people are in these camps.

Chai-Anan says if this is the case, then people had better worry for the country, because the monarchy has always been there.

How did it come to this? He acknowledges Thaksin’s policies were welcome in the villages and increased his electoral stock, but wonders why republicans have emerged.

His answer is that there seem 4-5 groups: (i) those who dislike some privy councillors and this flows on to a disdain for the monarchy itself; (ii) those who mislead rural people and taxi drivers and pay for them to join the movement and demonstrations; (iii) a group in Chiang Mai who give rise to feelings about an old Lanna that had its own monarch and independence from Bangkok; (iv) others who feel that the current monarchy is remote from the people, unlike monarchs of the past; and later he adds (v) intellectuals who are closet republicans.

Chai-Anan is worried. He wonders why people don’t think about Thaksin’s bad deeds or blame him for the seeming acceptance of corruption amongst the younger generation. He asks rhetorically, was it Thaksin or Thaksin’s money that people liked?

Perhaps Chai-Anan should answer the question himself instead of pointing to others. He certainly benefited by holding several well-paid positions when Thaksin was premier. It seems pathetic and arrogant of Chai-Anan to seek to denigrate others when he was on the gravy train himself.

For Chai-Anan, Thaksin still has political influence because he has created a politics that operates like a marketplace.

He believes that the police are 100% for Thaksin and the red shirts. If Thaksin and the republicans grow in size and influence, it will be the fault of those police who refuse to do their duty.

Finally, Chai-Anan worries that if the republicans expand, the monarchists have little in their arsenal with which to counter-attack. He sees the monarchists arguments as only holding sway with the older generation, while the under 30s seem uninterested in nation and monarchy.

If all this is to be the fate of Thailand, the place will be ruined.





More on lèse majesté at the FCCT

1 07 2009

Thanks to Bangkok Pundit for pointing us to a Manager Online story (1 July 2009: “แจ้งจับ “กรรมการ FCCT” ขายดีวีดี “จักรภพ” หมิ่นเบื้องสูง”) that refers to a case where “a Thai who loves the Institution” has brought a complaint to the police alleging lèse majesté against all 13 members of the committee of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT).

The report claims that Miss Laksana Kornsin (ลักษณา กรณ์ศิลป) complained that the police must  proceed on the case against Jonathan Head and citing Jakrapob Penkair’s presentation at the FCCT on 29 August 2007  and the sale of DVD of that presentation as evidence that the FCCT is trying to bring the monarchy into disrepute and to threaten national security.

Presumably not just by chance, the Manager/Phujatkan has photos of the good Ms. Laksana presenting her complaint to the Lumpini police.