On May 1992, part I

18 05 2015

PPT is seldom dismayed by the manner in which history is constructed and reconstructed by Thailand’s political elite for its own purposes.

May 1992 – Black May – was a significant event in Thailand’s recent political history. Several dozen people were killed, a similar number “disappeared,” and hundreds were injured and arrested. These were almost all civilians who demonstrated against a military-backed attempt to monopolize electoral politics.

At The Nation it is reported that incorrigible puppet Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Borwornsak Uwanno “took the two major political camps to task for their portrayal of ‘distrust’, saying their action was a bad sign that political division and disparity would not be resolved easily.”

Well, who thought it was going to be easily resolved? Perhaps just political hirees like Bowornsak. The drafter of constitutions for military dictatorships says “Political leaders must project optimistic views…”.

Not uncommon to hear such nonsense from a political body for hire, but the truly galling thing is that he somehow thought that such comments were appropriate for “an event marking the 23rd anniversary of the May 1992 bloodshed on Rajdamnoen Road.” Bowornsak is aiding and abetting the military in embedding its political influence in his draft 2015 constitution! That is what happened when the military thugs took over in 1991, drafted a constitution the king urged on the country, and eventually led to the May 1992 uprising.

Borwornsak is a disgrace.

We were pleased to learn that Bowornsak’s poisonous speech was interrupted by “a group of four women calling themselves ‘maled prik’, or chili, held placards with the message ‘No to 2015 charter’; ‘No reconciliation with murder’; and ‘Leading legal expert hired to destroy democracy’.” They went on to read a “statement saying society before the May bloodshed in 1992 protested to amend the charter to block the military from rising to power and pushed for elected governments. They were cracked down on by the military, resulting in heavy casualties.”

The report notes that “No military officials stood trial following these incidents.”

They went on to call “on the current military-installed government to scrap the amnesty bills that pardoned those who seized control of the state on February 23, 1991 and put military officials linked to the May bloodshed on trial…. They called for an elected PM and Senate and for public participation in drafting the new charter.”

The report states that “None of the group was arrested after their demonstration but their placards were destroyed.”


In for the long haul II

13 11 2014

Some time ago, PPT posted on the military dictatorship being in position for the long haul. Then we were observing that despite claims about “democracy” and an “election” in about 12-15 months, the military dictatorship was likely to maintain control for a very long time.

Wassana Nanuam a senior reporter at the Bangkok Post now seems to agree with us, setting out the path to deep military involvement in Thailand’s post-junta regime.

She focuses on “speculation is growing over a plan by the men in green to form a new political party, or perhaps a nominee party with military backing.”

Previous military regimes that decided not to rule more directly tried this. Some past efforts have failed. In the post 2006 period, the military backed Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party, and it did poorly in the 2011 election. Before that, when General Suchinda Kraprayoon tried a military party, it resulted in the 1992 rebellion.

She details moves that might politically position the military for the long term. The important considerations seems to be the observation that “[s]ome people in the military believe the Democrat Party will never win the next election, so the military might have to step in, or at least throw its support behind a party to challenge Pheu Thai.”

As a footnote, Wassana’s discussion of the dealings between General Prawit Wongsuwan and Thaksin Shinawatra put a different spin on this part of the story, worth considering.

In terms of transition beyond the military dictatorship, 12 years has often been mentioned as the period required to get back to full electoral democracy. It was 12 years from the coup in 1976 until Prem Tinsulanonda finally stepped aside in 1988.

Cockeyed opinions on democracy

20 10 2012

For Ploenpote Atthakor, apparently a Deputy Editorial Pages Editor at the  Bangkok Post, democracy is something that can’t possibly include red shirts. This Deputy Editorial Pages Editor at the Bangkok Post has recently had what she describes as her “first encounter with the people in red in the flesh.”

While it might be astounding that a Deputy Editorial Pages Editor at the Bangkok Post has never, ever had an “encounter” with red shirts, we can well understand that a Deputy Editorial Pages Editor at the Bangkok Post probably only hangs out with the yellow-shirted lot that tend to inhabit the Post.

This Deputy Editorial Pages Editor at the Bangkok Post says she:

happened to find myself in the middle of a red-shirt gathering at the Democracy Monument on Sunday. It was Oct 14, and the people in red were celebrating an historic event associated with our nation’s democracy _ the student-led uprising in 1973 against Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn and his clan.

She was obviously in the wrong place for the site was a center of red shirt activism recalling the historical struggle for democracy against the military and its palace backers of 16 years.

We know she was in the wrong place because she found it odd that the “main message was … a blasting of the military and dictatorship repeated again and again.” She probably meant to type Thonglor into her satnav rather than Rajadamnoen…. Or maybe she meant to go to the non-Democrat Party’s “men in black” rally at Lumpini Park? Certainly she was out of place at a rally celebrating democratic activism.

She asks a rhetorical question:

Come to think of it, isn’t it ironic that the commemoration of such an historic event was dominated by just one group? Doesn’t the sheer absence of other voices highlight the dark side of Thai democracy nowadays?

Our answer is, no, there is no darkness, unless you mean the proto-fascist ultra-royalists or the old conservative rightists in the palace. The message is that the average people of Thailand have stood up again, even when they know the military and the conservative elite may well cut them down again.

Ploenpote Atthakor, a Deputy Editorial Pages Editor at the Bangkok Post, still has a long way to go before she understands the struggle for democracy in Thailand. Her current musings amount to an ignorant and pompous piece of self-delusional nonsense, made worse by a concocted attempt to appear tolerant when she simply hates red shirts.

This is one of the worst pieces of  “journalism” we have seen for a couple of years. Her claim that “we have not gone anywhere” since 1973 is infantile, hypocritical and ahistorical dribble.

Wikileaks: King, Thaksin and “democracy”

10 10 2011

PPT hasn’t posted on any Wikileaks material for a while, and it is time to get back to the cables. In this cable, dated 18 May 2006, U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce looks at the deeper meanings of the political struggle going on in Thailand and the future of democracy as the king intervened in April 2006 to eventually have an election annulled by the courts. For more background, see the important cable by Boyce on the very same day.

He begins with a clear statement:

At issue is not just who will be the next prime minister. Rather, this is a confrontation between different models for Thai society, playing out in the struggle between the beloved King, and all he represents, and the popular prime minister, and what he portends. Right now, the momentum is running against Thaksin [Shinawatra], who may have to pay a high price for his hubris. But in the longer run, the King is old and the Thailand he represents is changing.

While Boyce’s royalism is clearly showing in this loaded set of words, he at least sees the real nature of the political struggle between the nostalgic past and the less certain future. He continues on the king, presenting the royalist and palace position:

On the one hand, the King represents traditional Thai values: respect for age and authority, moderation, modesty, and Buddhist values. He is the father of the people, his country is the Thailand of the rice farmers. He champions “sufficiency economy,” in which people eschew debt and dreams of quick riches, and instead build their lives around honest labor and prudent investment. Pictures of him are everywhere in the country, iconographic images often showing him with the elderly, the poor, and children.

He then returns to the idea of an era past:

On the other hand, to some the King represents an old and perhaps out-dated order. His periodic interventions in Thai politics may, as in 1992, have had a positive influence, but he has also supported military governments and condoned their human rights abuses in the past. Governments come and go, but the King has been there since before most Thai were born. Knowing this to some degree discourages the Thai from taking the training wheels off their democracy, building strong institutions and relying on them, instead of the monarch, to unify their nation and defend their rights.

Just as footnotes, it remains debatable whether the1992 intervention was positive and Benjamin Zawacki at Amnesty International might want to revise his own royalist ideas on the king and human rights as expressed at the FCCT in May 2011, where he claimed the king was a force for better human rights.

Thaksin is seen to represent a “modern political and economic order. He is decisive, not risk-averse, confident about himself and about Thailand’s place in the world.” Thaksin is seen to represent all that is big and bold about capitalism in Thailand: “He tells the rural people to do what he did — borrow money, think big, leave behind your rural roots, play the system, and strike it rich.” This was Thaksin’s “war on poverty.” It made him exceptionally popular.

Boyce then explains that “to some people Thaksin represents everything that is wrong with development in southeast Asia.” PPT guesses he means himself and his yellow-shirted interlocutors.

He is greedy, corrupt, inherently undemocratic under his facade, (did we mention corrupt?), conceited and self–promoting. In his heart, he defers to no one — not to age, not to Buddhist hierarchy, and not to the King.

Not to appeared to pissed by Boyce, we might add that his own democratic country, engaged in two wars and was torturing suspects at the time, seemed to treat democracy as little more than a facade….

Boyce is not completely against Thaksin’s role:

He introduced many positive aspects to Thai politics: his party had a platform that attracted rural voters, and he kept many of his promises to them, introducing the 30 baht health scheme and cheap credit for farmers.

He adds, though, that

the cost was high – a Prime Minister who, in the end, disdains many of the key features of a democracy, such as a free press and civil society, and was eager to grasp power more openly and greedily than any civilian PM before him.

Boyce reckons that the conflict has bubbled along for several years. But with the courts being asked to “demolish the April parliamentary elections and attempt to dismantle Thaksin’s political machine.” He is apparently gleeful that “there is a very good prospect that TRT will be dissolved and the party leaders, including Thaksin, banned from politics for five years.” He was wrong on the particular instance but right on the outcome, that had to wait for the illegal coup in 2006 and its dubious legal processes.

On Thaksin’s political future, Boyce says:

The King is 78. Even if “the worst” happens — Thaksin is banned for five years, or truly cannot return until the King dies — he knows he has time to make a comeback. He has cultivated a good relationship with the Crown Prince, expected to take the throne upon his father’s death. He is enormously rich. Thaksin cannot be counted out for the long term, whatever happens over the next few months.

That is an adequate summary and Thaksin’s “comeback” has been seen and stalled once already. Another is on the cards, and the royalists are fuming.

Boyce then goes on to admit again that what PPT would call the myth of the “King’s Thailand” composed “of poor but honest rice farmers is slipping into history.” It wasn’t ever there; it was the self-fulfilling myth of monarchy and elite. But Thaksin and his support had shown the myth for what it was, and this was galling for the royalists and the old men around the palace.

The U.S. Ambassador then moves to a People’s Alliance for Democracy-like account of how the attack on the most popular elected government in Thailand’s history was a victory for the democratic process. He is almost laudatory of PAD when he says:

Many Thai intellectuals view the current crisis philosophically, and feel that the democracy here will be strengthened by what has happened. In particular, the vigor with which the courts have taken on the entrenched power of the ruling party is unprecedented and encouraging. The Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy and opposition political parties have taken to the country road to try to bridge the perception gap on Thaksin and his policies between the city and the countryside, an important step to building broader support for real democracy.

Of course, this is nonsense, but Boyce was mainly hearing from PAD-aligned intellectuals. He seemed unable to see that a coup was around the corner. The idea that PAD and the Democrat Party were having an influence in the countryside – he means the north and the northeast – has been demolished in every election that has been permitted. PAD was simply dismissive and demeaning when referring to rural voters.

At this point, it is clear that Boyce has seen the real nature of the political conflict but remains under the spell of PAD rhetoric.

Thailand must learn the lessons of history

23 05 2011

PPT reproduces this Statement by the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, forwarded by the AHRC. Apologies for being slow in getting it up.



May 23, 2011


A Statement from Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission


THAILAND: Thailand must learn the lessons of history


Statement on the 19th Anniversary of the Black May Incident


18 May 2011

18 May 2011 marks the 19th anniversary of what Thai people remember as “1992 Black May incident,” when a popular uprising was met with brutal and violent suppression by the military. Official reports put the death toll at 44 with 38 missing, however in actual, more people were victimized. The victims’ families continue to suffer because of the non-revelation of the truth and the absence of justice.

Almost two decades have passed since the gruesome massacre. Many questions still remain unanswered. Even the final death toll is still being disputed while the families of those who went missing continue their long and agonizing search for truth and justice.

Though the traumatic event of 1992 has triggered the demands for change that led Thailand in the road to democracy, this path is always chaotic and sometimes, violent. Human rights have always been sacrificed.

The Thai government must therefore recognize that the future of its fledgling democracy lies in dealing with its dark past. If it is to move forward towards achieving a long and lasting peace, it must first remember its own history and learn from it.

The long-delayed project to build a monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue would have been a good start. The Black May monument, if finally established, will stand as a stark reminder that violence must never again be used to settle political differences because it is doom to fail.

While lives lost can never be replaced, a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing, however hurtful, can help mend the deepening wounds of the Thai society so that the process of reconciliation can start.

Nevertheless, the recognition of past human rights violations is not enough to engender the culture of transparency and accountability. It necessitates sincere commitment of the state to promote and protect the human rights of its citizens. Doing such complementary efforts both for the past and for the present will bring the country to the road to genuine democracy that will guarantee the future of its citizens.

Thailand, which prides itself for being a party to seven out of the nine core human rights treaties, however fails to make human rights a reality on the ground. The issue of state impunity on the human rights violations committed in the context of the ongoing military operations in southern provinces remains unsettled. Even its promise before the international community that it will prioritize the speedy resolution of the disappearance case of human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit turned empty when on 11 March 2011, the Appeals Court acquitted the five police officers charged with the offense of coercion and robbery.

Today as the Relatives Committee of the May 1992 Heroes commemorates the 19th anniversary of “1992 Black May Incident,” the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) expresses its firm solidarity with them and with all the families of victims of human rights violations in Thailand and around the world as we reiterate our collective call to the Thai government to move beyond human rights rhetoric and fulfill its international human rights obligations.

The call of for national reconciliation of the Thai government can only be made possible if it will lead by example. It can concretely do so by seriously investigating the past crimes, in identifying those responsible for human rights violations and imposing sanctions on them, providing reparations to victims and families, preventing future violations, and preserving and enhancing genuine and lasting peace.

There can never be peace and reconciliation without truth and justice.

Signed by:


Chairperson, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances


Secretary-General, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances

%d bloggers like this: