Updated: A blue blood intervention on lese majeste

12 01 2012

The battle over lese majeste has seen ultra-royalists, the military leadership and pretty much every politician in leadership positions in all parties opposing change on lese majeste. Indeed, it was only a few days ago that former 2006 coup leader and junta boss General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who now heads up the insignificant Matuphum Party got leaders and representatives of nine political parties  to agree that the lese majeste law could not possibly be amended.

What will they do now that a bunch of blue bloods have come out to urge that the Yingluck Shinawatra government amend the lese majeste law?

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that 8 “people with royal lineage” have signed a letter which they sent to the premier “asking the government to change the law. They are MR Sai Svasti Svasti, MR Saisingh Siributr, MR Narisa Chakrabongse, Vara-Poj Snidvongs na Ayudhya [former ambassador to Italy], Gen MR Krit Kritakara, MR Powari Suchiva (Rajani), MR Opas Kanchawichai and Sumet Jumsai na Ayudhya.” PPT added what we hope are correct links.

The letter complained that the number of lese majeste cases had increased substantially in recent years, although for some unknown reason, there data points are 2002 and 2009. In fact, the huge spike in lese majeste cases came after the 2006 coup and under the royalist, Democrat Party-led coalition led by Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The scribes complain that these cases have “been reported around the world and resulted in increasingly intense attacks on the institution of the monarchy…”.

To support their claim for amendment, the group “cited … King Bhumibol’s address on Dec 4, 2005 in which he said putting people who criticised the monarchy in jail only caused trouble to him.” They lament that no government has “improved” the law.They do not specify how it might be “improved.”

PPT can only find this version of the speech at present, and we challenge readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.

Sumet says: “Most important of all, our group wants to draw attention to the fact that His Majesty himself has criticised the law…”. It is added that it is “the government’s duty to protect the institution and, in this instance, heed the King’s concerns.”

PPT doesn’t know much about any of these minor royals, although we did once comment on Sumet’s somewhat liberal attitude on republicanism and updating the monarchy. We have no idea if they have links to the palace and whether there views are representative of a broader royal view. Even so, that a coterie of the high and mighty see lese majeste as a negative for the monarchy is likely a significant intervention.

Update: Soon after the royals called for reform, The Nation reported yet another yellow-shirt group has been formed to “protect the monarchy.” Unsurprisingly, it comes from the died-in-the-wool royalist National Institute of Development Administration. There, Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of the Law School, “more than 20 academics from five universities have formed a group called ‘Sayam Prachapiwat’ (Siamese People’s Great Development).” The group is to be officially launched today at NIDA.

Kind of like the People’s Alliance for Democracy, “Banjerd said the group’s academic were concerned about the ongoing ‘monopoly of Thai politics’ by a group of capitalists and politicians, as well as ‘the crisis of freedom and ethics’.”

Fancy that, politics being dominated by politicians. That aside, Banjerd seems to say absolutely nothing about the repeated election victories and even landslides of recent years. Like PAD, Banjerd probably dismisses electoral politics as a sham dominated by the ignorant.

This is confirmed when Banjerd says:

Our views are based on the principle that the Thai society’s values must not be copied from the West. Our society respects the monarchy and this value is an important principle in Thai society….

That is how to deny electoral democracy. Of course, Banjerd’s group is also established to oppose Nitirat.

Updated: Spineless politicians meet a stooge

6 01 2012

Pardon our cynical rudeness in this post but PPT is flabbergasted by the notion that former 2006 coup leader and junta boss  Sonthi Boonyaratglin is chair of a parliamentary “reconciliation committee.” The former Army boss now heads up the barely noticeable Matuphum Party and somehow managed to get this peculiar post.

According to the Bangkok Post, the politically compromised general got leaders and representatives “of all nine political parties in the parliament” to a lunchtime meeting “to discuss ways to bring about national reconciliation…”. The meeting apparently agreed to constitution change so long as it doesn’t benefit Thaksin Shinawatra.

Sonthi stated that “all agreed that the lese majeste law should not be amended.” He said: “All party leaders are in agreement that the government should put any plan to amend the Criminal Code’s Section 112[the lese majeste law] on hold…”. Why? Apparently showing less backbone than a jellyfish, these party bosses worry that amending the draconian law is “a sensitive issue.” It seems Puea Thai Party leader  Yongyuth Wichaidit promised “no changes … to the law.”

Politicians meeting to consider not amending the lese majeste law. Sonthi is not the brightest one

On amending the constitution these brave lads agreed that “the changes must not touch on sensitive or ambiguous issues…”. We are wondering if these lads have the brains of jellyfish as well.

Perhaps not, and we are being just too judgmental. After all, Sonthi is a stooge. He showed that in the manner he was led into the coup and he continues to act in the interests of his bosses. This is seen in his claim that reconciliation talks “would not involve Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda or the judicial sector, since they were not the main parties in conflict.” That logical contortion is unlikely to be convincing for many.

Unsurprisingly, Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha welcomed the meeting. It was a meeting that advances the political cause of reactionaries who have never stopped fighting despite electoral defeat. That Puea Thai joins it shows how little the party understands its constituency.

Update: At the Bangkok Post it is reported that DSI-eel-in-chief Tharit has responded. As might be expected, Tharit “has rejected an accusation that the agency is serving the government’s interests and vowed to carry out any inquiries in an honest and straightforward manner.” That would be a first! PPT can’t wait to see that. That the DSI is even investigating is, for us, bizarre.

Usefully, Tharit adds a denial and affirmation. He: “denied the DSI was involved in making the graphic, insisting it had received it from other security agencies, mainly the military. It must have taken all of military intelligence’s collective imagination to concoct this “map.”

Democrat Party standards

1 08 2010

A report in The Nation prompts PPT to once more direct attention to double standards as standard operating procedure in regime and ruling party.

The report state s that the father of Democrat Party double standards and spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks has “slammed Chaturon Chaisaeng, a banned executive from the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, for interfering in the justice process in relation to the court hearing of the party dissolution case – by saying that if the Democrats were not dissolved, it would be hard for the country to achieve reconciliation.” Of course, Buranaj was joyous when the Department of Special Investigation intervened and interfered.

But what about the political involvement of other banned executives of disbanded political parties? From this government’s nativity with military midwives, it has dealt repeatedly with such politicians. Banharn Silpa-Archa is regularly consulted and feted at Government House. Recent reports had the Democrat Party dealing with exiled convicted criminal and chief of the Matuphum Party Vatana Asavaheme. That party is nominally led by 2006 coup leader General SonthiBoonyaratkalin.

More directly, the regime includes, from birth, the banned political turncoat, vote-buyer and local mafia-like figure from Buriram, Newin Chidchob. Turncoat is probably the wrong term as Newin has a chameleon-like capacity to change color.

Most recently, the Bangkok Post: reports that Newin “does not like to lose…. The Buri Ram politician is preparing the [governing coalition member] Bhumjaithai Party for the next general election. He believes his party has a chance to overtake Puea Thai as the new champion of the Northeast, the region with the most seats and the popularity base of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” The story is mainly about Newin’s expensively-purchased Buri Ram PEA football club, and at a recent game, reports that “[e]xtra officials from the Interior Ministry had been deployed at the stadium [that Newin visited] amid concerns that Mr Newin could be the target of a security threat.”

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government and the Democrat Party deals with Newin on a daily basis. Chaturon, who has recently been quiet, makes a comment and he is criticized and his banned status emphasized. Glass houses stuff as well as blatant double standards.

Where the Democrat Party seems to maintain a standard is in its elitist perception of “the people.” The Nation reports that Prime Minister Abhisit has told his party’s MPs to “focus more on solving people’s problems than politicking. They must also help clarify and publicise the government’s policies.” He added: “If we ask what’s on people’s minds, the problems of expensive consumer goods, low prices for crops, and debts rank first among people’s problems…”.

Sounding reasonable as long as one ignores the premier’s self-selected concerns, but then he reveals his elitist position: “The PM said his government had effective policies to help people solve such problems, but people lacked knowledge and understanding about them.” He added: “People don’t know many things…”. This has been a standard line from the Democrat Party in describing why people don’t support it in past 2-3 elections and for the continued support garnered by pro-Thaksin parties. That standard, at least, has been maintained.

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