Unreal “reconciliation”

28 04 2017

We are slow to this post as a series of posts jumped ahead of it. Yet it remains significant.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that a “military-led panel on national unity … wrapped up two months of work gathering public opinion, paving the way for the drafting of a unity agreement which will be publicised in June.”

Now this is all a bit of a word puzzle. In fact, the panel is military-dominated, not military-led, the notion of national unity is the military junta’s idea of what “unity” looks like, and there was no gathering of public opinion. It was groups the military considered worth consulting and telling them what they should do.

To emphasize this, when the dictatorship’s minions held a the wrap-up meeting, it “was the first time participants” in the military’s “unity building process had met face to face since the opinion gathering process started on Feb 14.”

The anti-democrats let the meeting go by probably because they know that Army boss General Chalermchai Sitthisat will draft the “unity agreement” and that this will fundamentally be anti-democratic, just like the “constitution.”

Interestingly, after the meeting, official red shirt advocate Nattawut Saikua “proposed a new constitution be drafted following a general election and be put up for a national referendum.” What a fine idea. Get rid of the anti-democratic charter.

(We continue to think that the notion of a referendum is daft, and note that it is only anti-democratic military and military-backed regimes that have used this idea.)

He also suggested “that a committee be set up to review and scrap the coup’s orders and announcements, saying laws should be be passed by parliament if any of those orders are necessary.”

Another good idea.

We are betting that neither of these make it into the Army and junta’s “agreement” (that is only subject to their “agreement.”





When the military is on top IV

27 04 2017

Military dictatorships only like media they can manipulate. Military dictatorships want to control the news. Censorship is their modus operandi.

Thailand’s military dictatorship is no different. The Dictator has shown, time and again, that he hates the media because it sometimes does not do as he wants.

Thailand’s military dictatorship wants to censor everything. It thrives on censorship. Its minions seek out material to censor in the media, on the internet and in private conversations.

The military dictatorship’s latest effort to control news is reported in the Bangkok Post. This effort is led by the mass media panel of the puppet National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).

It has drafted laws that will require that any person the state deems to be a “reporter” “will be required to have a licence to do their jobs or face a jail term up to two years or a fine not more than 60,000 baht, or both…”.

In true Orwellian style, Pol Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, the deputy chairman of the panel said his committee named the revised bill as being about “the protection of rights and freedom and promotion of ethics and professional standards of mass media…”.

It is really a dictatorial regime’s effort to limit rights and freedoms and has absolutely nothing to do with professionalization or ethics.

The dozy Pisit compared journalists to “traditional massage service[s]” in needing to be licensed.

He also explained who this bill was meant to silence. He noted that “licensing shouldn’t be a problem with old media — newspapers, radio and TV — but it won’t be easy with new media.”

Defining “reporters as those who have the intention and continuity in reporting news to the public and earn direct or indirect revenue from doing so,” the bill is meant to censor blogs, alternative news sites and “websites such as Sanook.com, Kapook.com or news apps on Line platform…”.

Maj Gen Pisit stated that the opposition of all “mass media organisations” – “against the bill, against licensing” – counted for nothing. He has a job to do for the dictatorship.





When the military is on top III

26 04 2017

When the military is running its dictatorship, secrecy and silence replace any notion of transparency, reinforcing arrogance and abuse of power.

We have already noted the junta’s secret approval of its controversial purchase of a 13.5 billion baht Chinese submarine. Taxpayers fork out the money but they are not told about how their money is to be used.

Yet secrecy goes far wider than this.

Most lese majeste “trials” are held in secret. This ensures that political “crimes” are heard in political courts.

Now it seems that more political “crimes” are to be heard in secret political courts.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “[s]even people accused of contempt of court in connection with a Feb 10 gathering to voice support for lese majeste suspect Jatupat Boonpattararaksa [and who] reported to the provincial court [in Khon Kaen on] Monday to acknowledge charges” were treated to a secret hearing.

The court that does this is indeed contemptible. It again demonstrates that the junta and its courts are lawless in delivering injustice.

Not only was the “hearing was held behind closed doors,” but police were “deployed to beef up security.” This for a group that has never indicated any semblance of “unrest.” In fact, the heavy “security” is but another measure of demonstrating who is on top.

The arrogance of power is breathtaking. The destruction and politicization of Thailand’s institutions is breathtaking. But when there’s a military dictatorship, they do these things. No transparency, no scrutiny, no justice.





The military on top

24 04 2017

A couple of days ago, we commented on yellow shirt commentators who see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand. Many yellow shirts believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra.

Naturally enough, the military junta plays on this relationship, seeing the anti-democrats as its best political ally, so long as they know their place as supporters, not leaders. The military considers that it is uniquely qualified to rule Thailand. That is why the 2017 constitution is as it is.

The Nation reports that Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has expressed the junta’s view that the military must remain on top.

Making the argument that Thailand is “unique,” he says this means “it is necessary to have military commanders oversee a long-term national strategy…”. That “strategy” is to remain in place for 20 years.

The proposed committee to oversee the “strategy” will include “the prime minister, his deputy or another minister, the presidents of the Upper and Lower houses, experts, as well as five military commanders and a permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry.”

Let’s add that up. We don’t know how many “experts” will be appointed, but they will likely reflect a military view of the political world. The prime minister is likely to be military, but suited up as civilian. It is possible that “his deputy” will be military similarly suited. The president of the mostly unelected upper house will almost certainly be military. Then there will be five serving military and the permanent secretary.

Any civilian politician will be lucky to get a word in.

Prawit can babble about “[n]ational strategy need[ing] to be driven by all parties, whether the military, people or academics…”, but the dominance of the military is clear.

What is “unique” about Thailand is its capacity for military authoritarianism.





A feudal future beckons

21 04 2017

Yellow shirt commentators do not worry much about military dictatorship. They see military dictatorship as “normal” for Thailand.

While most yellow shirts still believe that the military is the only thing standing between them, an election and the hated Thaksin Shinawatra, it is also clear that not all yellow shirts expected an enforced royal dictatorship that fosters Thailand’s refeudalization.

Nonetheless, yellow shirt anti-electionism and royalism naturally promotes refeudalization.

The symbolic removal of the 1932 plaque is not just a royalist act of political and historical vandalism. It is also one more step by the military junta that marks the path of Thailand’s refeudalization.

The attraction of a feudal political arrangement for the military dictatorship is that it has no truck for notions that the people are sovereign.

In this sense, while symbols can have multiple meanings, expunging those that can be used by those who demand popular sovereignty is a part of the military’s palace alliance and its 20-year plan for a “reformed” Thailand.

This is part of the reason why The Dictator is both mum on the removal of 1932 commemoration plaque and protective of the royalist plaque that replaced it. It is pretty clear that this vandalism initially caused fear among some in the junta. Now, however, they have fallen into line, knowing that by their own design, they are politically bound to the reign.

That the opposition and agitation over the removal of the plaque has largely come from those the junta considers the “usual suspects” has also meant that protection of feudalism and its symbols is an easy and “natural” decision.

The most recent act of protection has been to accuse opposition figure Watana Muangsook of “a computer crime for posting on Facebook that the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque is a national asset.”

As Prachatai explains it:

On 19 April 2017, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the Deputy Chief of the Royal Thai Police (RTP), revealed that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) filed a complaint against Watana Muangsook, a politician from the Pheu Thai Party, for breaching the Computer Crime Act.

The police apparently think that the use of the term “national asset” is threatening and false.

Watana was due to report to the police. He is the second to face charges or detention over the plaque. Like Srisuwan Janya, Watana has called for the “return of the missing plaque and for prosecution of those responsible for its removal.”

No one associated with the removal of the plaque has been named, arrested or charged. The chances of this happening are pretty much zero.

As one correspondent stated, everyone knows who is behind this act, but no one can say for fear of lese majeste and jail.

Expunging the symbols of 1932 expunges notions of popular sovereignty. That serves the interests of the military-monarchy alliance where King Vajiralongkorn looks like a throwback absolutist.





How big is the junta?

19 04 2017

In the reports of the military junta considering pay rises for officials that work directly to it, there were also statements made about how large the junta’s staff is.

The Nation reports that the junta has a huge staff. It states that the “NCPO secretary’s office … reported that around 22, 771 military officers were recruited to help the junta’s work.”

That means that, in addition to the junta’s control of the military and bureaucracy, more than 20,000 soldiers work directly under the junta’s office.

Maintaining military dictatorship requires a dedicated force of thugs and minions.





The end of 1932

14 04 2017

In a highly symbolic act of vandalism, Prachatai reports that the plaque marking the 1932 revolution has been removed, stolen  and replaced with a royalist plaque. The report is confirmed at Khaosod.

According to the report, the replacement graffiti states:

May Siam prosper forever [with] happy fresh-faced citizens [who are] the force of the nation. The respect and loyalty to the Buddhist Triple Gems, to one’s family clan, and being honest towards one’s King are tools for making the state prosper.

This is an obviously royalist paean and a junta-friendly message.

The original plaque, a source of angst for royalists who viewed it as a threatening reminder of a different Thailand, looked like this:

Memorial of the Revolution on the Royal Plaza: “…ณ ที่นี้ 24 มิถุนายน 2475 เวลาย่ำรุ่ง คณะราษฎร ได้ก่อกำเนิดรัฐธรรมนูญ เพื่อความเจริญของชาติ”; “…here, in the dawn of 24 June 1932, the Khana Ratsadon has brought forth a constitution for the glory of the nation” (From Wikipedia)

It is not clear who removed the original plaque. The report of its removal implies that the vandals may have been either ultra-royalists or officials acting on orders. Khaosod’s informants suggest the former.

We suspect that the vandals are acting on orders or are seeking to be seen as loyalists. If these vandals acted on orders, then those commands must have come from on high. A new reign and a new king have no links to 1932, except those that come from within a conservative palace. In fact, we are sure that the new king is likely to view 1932 as an impediment to the further re-feudalization of monarchism.

Make no mistake, this is an act of political vandalism by a faction that feels it is putting right the “natural” order of things in Thailand, sweeping aside the remnants of 1932.

The junta has demonstrated that it is a part of this reactionary royalism based in a desire to expunge 1932.

The events of the 1932 revolution have influenced Thailand’s politics for 85 years. The overthrow of absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932 set in place a conflict between conservative royalists and anti-royalists that see-sawed until about 1957, when General Sarit Thanarat set about a process of re-monarchizing Thailand.

Since then, the royalists have regained much of the political ground, rolling back much of the change initiated by those who overthrew the absolute monarchy. The reign that began in 1946, in the midst of that political struggle by princes and arch-royalists who mostly came together in the Democrat Party, led to a thoroughgoing monarchization of not just politics but of society.

Images and reminders of 1932 have been erased. So much so, that the Proclamation of the revolutionists is now seen by ultra-royalists as lese majeste:

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932