Political violence and official impunity

2 07 2019

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan is administratively in charge – still – of all security units. He has finally spoken of the attack(s) on activist Sirawith Seritiwat. He wasn’t very convincing when he “denied being behind a recent attack that left a pro-democracy activist in a critical condition.”

He went on in junta-speak: ““I don’t condone violence. Whoever causes unrest in the country must be punished…. The case is still unclear. It is under investigation.”

Gen Prawit managed to maneuver into to ultra-rightist narrative when he added that he did not know if the attack was politically motivated or a “personal issue.” This plays into the “fake news” (that Prawit claims to want to end) from ultra-yellows and the junta’s own, including the reprehensible Pareena Kraikupt of the Palang Pracharath Party and police “leaks” to a rightist newspaper that claim “Sirawith might have been attacked by loan sharks due to a family debt…”, which Sirawith’s mother has vehemently denied.

Meanwhile, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda “aired his suspicions that both attacks on Sirawith were orchestrated by the same group.” Brilliant! No wonder he is police chief! But then he managed to support the rightists thugs and their aim, warning “that it wasn’t safe to get political in public, saying that activists should avoid campaigning publicly…”. That’s what the thugs (and the junta) want. He also mentioned that police “couldn’t guarantee their [activists’] safety.”

Some of the reporting/op-eds on the cowardly attack is worth considering.

Veera Prateepchaikul at the Bangkok Post observes the brazen attack, claims of state connivance and the attackers’ apparent nonchalance, “convinced they would never get caught.” He is right to say that the “unprovoked violence deserves condemnation in the strongest terms.”

He’s also correct to observe that “there has not been a word from any other incumbent ministers except …[Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon…”. He notes their silence on previous attacks on Sirawith and other anti-coup activists. And, he’s has little doubt that the “attack on Mr Sirawith was politically motivated.”

But, then, as ever, Veera wants to compare this violence with that under Thaksin Shinawatra. While political violence occurs under all regimes, the culprits and motivators of political assassination, beatings and enforced disappearance are almost always believed to be police and military. In recent cases, He also mentions the murder of former ministers in the 1940s, by police. It isn’t clear why Veera does not look at the rise of royalist-rightist violence sponsored by the military in the early 1970s.

(He might also get his facts right. He states that “whistle-blower Ekkayuth Anchanbutr went missing without trace in 2013 during the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” In fact, according to Wikipedia and The Nation reported Ekkayuth’s “body was found in the southern province of Phatthalung…”.)

Then there’s Paritta Wangkiat who is a columnist for the Bangkok Post. She observes the rightist cheering of the political thugs. That’s the “He deserves it”response, “with apparent satisfaction…”. Some on social media “referred to the activist as a ‘saboteur’ against the nation who deserves to suffer from even more attacks.”

She’s right to observe that these “recent attacks reflect the current state of polarisation in Thai politics with a dangerous rise in incidences of violence.” Her comment that the rightist “acceptance and encouragement of the use of violence against someone with a different political ideology speak volumes about our sick and rotten society” is worth considering.

But she looks to the past decade when, again, her view should be more historical. This kind of violence, conducted with impunity, is a defining characteristic of Thailand’s military and its efforts over several decades to “protect” monarchy and promote anti-democracy.

While Veera neglects it, Paritta does mention the impunity with which the military under Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Anupong Paojinda shooting down dozens of protesters and injuring hundreds more or the cheering associated with that, including from the Bangkok Post.

Sadly, she gets amnesic when she refers to “unidentified killers.” Letting the murderous military off the hook for their dirty deeds contributes to its impunity.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

On another point, however, she offers insight by observing the class nature of political violence. She notes that:

Thais are expected to know “their place”, be submissive and accept oppression…. This attitude of submissiveness and obedience has been embedded in society making it a perfect match for an authoritarian regime.

Such attitudes are the bread-and-butter/rice-and-fish sauce of the military and royalist rightists.

Where she gets it wrong is to argue that there is apathy towards political violence. There’s no apathy, on any side. Rather, the problems is that the military and other authorities operate this barbaric way with legal impunity.





Destroying Future Forward

11 06 2019

Over the past decade or so Thailand’s ruling class have repeatedly rejected the will of the people. It has achieved this its armed wing in the military that has seized power twice, slaughtered protesters and assaulted and repressed. It has also used the judiciary to enforce its will, several times dissolving popular parties.

It is doing it again. The Future Forward Party, which did surprisingly well in the junta’s 2019 election, is being punished and it will be destroyed.

So far, the regime – still the junta – has moved, through the puppet election Commission and the Constitutional Court, to charge the party’s leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with several alleged offenses and has succeeded in having him kept out of parliament. It has also brought charges against the party’s secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.

In another report of the determination to eliminate Future Forward, we learn that the slavish lapdogs at the EC have “accepted a petition against the Future Forward Party (FFP) over claims by some of its MPs that they were offered money to vote for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister…”. No complaint against Palang Pracharath has been seriously investigated because the EC and that party both belong to the junta.

Another tactic used by the ruling class has been to use its parliamentary wing to destabilize elected governments. This was seen when its former attack party, the so-called Democrat Party, deliberately damaged parliament and went to the streets with the ruling class’s anti-democratic street gangs.

The new, preferred ruling class party is the junta’s Palang Pracharath. Already, we see that it has descended into the maniacal monarchical slime to attack Future Forward’s spokesperson Pannika Wanich.

Everyone in Thailand knows that this is a witch hunt and that Future Forward is being targeted and will be destroyed. Yet it seems nothing can be done. The junta’s control remains strong. More importantly, the ruling class, its junta and its minority of anti-democrats have learned that overturning the people’s votes is rather simple. And, if it gets out of hand as it did in 2009 and 2010, well, the opponents can be killed and jailed.





Does parliament matter?

9 06 2019

That may seem like an odd question given that there was a first election in eight years not that long ago. But it’s 11 weeks since that election and the country still doesn’t have a government resulting from that election. And, that election was rigged, even if the result was not exactly what the junta planned and hoped.

Then there’s Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who now claims to have been anointed by a parliament that he scorns by not bothering to deal with, probably something that will probably be common going forward, if “forward” is the appropriate word for the troglodyte regime and its spawn.

Most symbolic of the deep, dark trench that has been scoured by the monarchy-military regime, trying to excavate a politics that was meant to have been buried in 1932, is the homelessness of parliament. The previous parliament house has been acquired by King Vajiralongkorn before the new parliament house has been completely built.

A story at The Nation adds more information on the new parliament house. Not that long ago the public was told that the king’s takeover of the land and building would mean that parliament would remain homeless until the middle of next year. Now, it seems, “the current completion date leaning towards the end of 2020.” The date remains rubbery. It could be that parliament remains homeless well into 2021 or even longer.

As The Nation says, “In the meantime legislators will continue meeting at various large venues around Bangkok as needs dictate.”

While the new parliament building is heralded as a splendid piece of architecture, the building for the people’s representatives is also built with the monarchy in mind – indeed, a special royal functions hall – and will also house, for now, the unelected swill of the junta’s Senate.

Gen Prayuth is hoping that parliament doesn’t matter all that much, but the electors have (repeatedly) shown it does matter (even if rigged). Their votes have presented The Dictator with a nopposition that he can’t simply ignore, harass, jail or silence with the ease afforded by Article 44 and military power.





Weaponized “law”

6 06 2019

According to a report at the Bangkok Post a few days ago, police are considering yet another political attack on Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as if it is a legal case.

We at PPT well understand that law has become deeply politicized and even weaponized in the junta’s Thailand, but this “case” is among the most egregious abuses of the law seen in recent days.

(Weaponizing law is a widely-used tactic by rightist authoritarian regimes.)

The police are apparently considering “a petition calling for a probe against … Thanathorn … and two others for allegedly offending late statesman Prem Tinsulanonda via social media.”

This crazy idea seems to be that it was not the dead Prem who was “offended” but his acolytes and posterior polishers.

The “complaint” comes from the founder of the virtually unknown junta-supporting New Alternative Party’s founder Rachen Trakulwiang.

Rachen’s royalist and military proxy party was “the first newly registered political party to receive the junta’s approval to convene meetings” back before the junta’s “election.” Then, The Nation reported on Rachen’s rightist-royalist background:

Rachen first came to the public’s attention as president of the Federation of Thai Defenders of the Monarchy. In 2011, he led a campaign against a group seeking to amend the lese majeste law in Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He has also filed complaints with police against several red-shirt leaders accused of insulting the monarchy.

In late 2013, Rachen joined anti-government street rallies organised by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), describing himself as a PDRC leader from Nonthaburi, his home province. Rachen also joined monk Phra Buddha Isara, a key PDRC leader, to organise a rally at Government Complex, but later withdrew from the effort.

Rachen has subsequently ended his role as a PDRC leader while continuing his role as president of the Federation of Thai Defenders of the Monarchy. He decided to enter politics two years ago and eventually turned the federation into the New Alternative Party.

In his most recent attack on his political opponents, Rachen barked that he “was referring to posts that he claimed were attacks on Gen Prem…”.

In filing his complaint, it seems Rachen has concocted yet another royalist “group” to allow him to propound rabid royalism:

“Gen Prem was a representative of the King. We should treat him with respect,” said Mr Rachen as his group Khon Rak Pa (“People Who Love Pa”, the nickname of Gen Prem).

Perhaps inadvertently, Rachen linked himself with other thugs by making similarly ridiculous but threatening “complaints” about other he opposes:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, an anti-coup activist who chairs the Student Union of Thailand, and Suphraiphon Chuaichu, a losing Puea Chat Party election candidate for Bangkok’s Bang Khunthian district.

Rachen whined that “he suspected their alleged insults could be the start of attempts to destroy the Privy Council and the military.”He threatened: “We can’t accept that and will never let it happen…”.

PPT suspects that Rachen and his ilk will be used by the junta’s revamped regime to “protect” it as it seeks to “govern” in a polarized political environment. Its threats and the weaponizing of law will be used to undermine and silence critics. It’s an old military strategy, primed by ISOC, to support its governments.





On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.





International media on monarchy and military

23 12 2018

It’s the holiday season, so we at PPT felt that a bit of a round-up of what the international media is saying about Thailand. Unsurprisingly, the topics are monarchy and military.

The monarchy stories revolve around silly and sad notions. The silly is that ultra-royalists and others in Thailand have been so brainwashed by decades of palace and other propaganda over the claimed brilliance and alleged capacity of royals that no criticism can be made or implied. It is sad that the police and other elements of the (in)justice system accept complaints from a motley collection of royalist political activists, mad and corrupt military leaders, the palace itself and anyone else who shows up at a police station that can result in ridiculous secret “trials” for lese majeste and huge prison sentences.

The most recent case involves a blogger who commented on a frock “designed” by one of the king’s daughters, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana. PPT couldn’t give a fig about the dress, but the controversy caused by a dopey royalist political candidate laying a complaint has caught the attention of the international media. Here are some of the stories:

The Guardian: “YouTube host faces charges for criticising Thai princess’s Miss Universe dress

TIME (via AP): “YouTuber Could End Up in Court After Criticizing Miss Universe Gown Designed by Thai Princess

Yahoo Finance: “YouTuber faces charges for calling a Miss Universe contestant’s dress ugly — here’s why

Ironically, as the police “investigate” the supposed slander of a dress allegedly designed by the princess, the senseless ultra-royalist has been arrested for a previous allegation of fraud.

On the military, the stories are about how the junta is intent on political longevity via its rigged election – no surprise for PPT readers. Here are some of the stories and op-eds:

EurAsia Review (via Bernama): “Thailand: Military To Retain Grip On Power Post-2019 Polls – Analysis

East Asia Forum has an op-ed by academic Kevin Hewison: “Another year of military dictatorship in Thailand

Deutsche Welle: “Will Thailand’s military step aside after elections?





Thirayudh among the chickens

12 12 2018

In his annual musing about Thailand’s politics, usually delivered in a seasonal scruffy cardigan, one-time student activist, former communist, former critic of the monarchy, anti-democrat and “academic” Thirayudh Boonmee has delivered another of those waffling pronouncements that can be interpreted in several ways.

When he “likened Thai people to chickens in farms where they were under control from birth to death” it seemed that he took this as a state of affairs to be accepted.

He seemed pessimistic about “politics”, arguing that “Thais are too obsessed with political problems to realise they face other, more fundamental, issues — inequality, poor education, widespread corruption, and economic monopoly by large groups of capitalists.”

It seems quite strange to think of inequality, poor education, corruption, and capitalist oligarchy as being apolitical. We would consider such outcomes to be a result of Thailand’s anti-democratic politics, long periods of authoritarianism, the impunity of military murderers and the triad of military-monarchy-tycoon capitalists.

He seems to suffer a dementia moment when he falsely claims that it has been “[o]ver the past decade, [that] about 10 large groups of capitalists had been formed and they controlled most key economic sectors and politics…”. Most of the giant capitalists group have been around for decades and almost all align with the biggest capitalist conglomerate, the monarchy.

He’s on stronger ground when he observes that the military junta:

had long planned to prolong its hold on power by allowing political parties to nominate outsiders as prime ministerial candidates, having 250 military-appointed senators with the right to vote for the prime minister, and by gathering political factions into the Palang Pracharath Party. All without caring about any criticism.

PPT has been saying that for a very long time. For most of that time, Thirayudh has been a junta supporter.

He’s certainly not alone in seeing that The Dictator has “a very big chance of … remaining the prime minister after the general election…”. The question is whether one supports that rigged outcome or not, and we think Thirayudh is comfortable with more military domination of politics even if he notes the problems politics “under the influence of the military, government officials, the intellectual elite and large groups of capitalists” brings.

He reckons that if the junta doesn’t engage in outright electoral fraud, “people would accept the next government of Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha]…”.

Thirayudh’s claim that the junta’s government and its returned regime after an election is/will be little different from the Thaksin Shinawatra regime is amusing but inaccurate.

At the Bangkok Post, The Dictator himself is dismissive of Thirayudh as an aged dope in this comparison. Prayuth then babbled that Thaksin did wrong.

Overall, Thirayudh is boring, deceptive and deliberately forgetful. It’s time he stopped relying on his reputation of more than 40 years ago and gave way to a younger generation of real democrats.