The monarchy and Thai society (preamble)

6 05 2023

Clipped from Prachatai

PPT has decided not to run a commentary on the 2023 election in the last couple of weeks of the campaign. Part of the reason for this is that we are taking a break and will only be posting occasionally over the rest of the month.

However, over the days leading up to the election, we are posting The Monarchy and Thai Society, a speech by Arnon Nampa, made on 3 August 2020.

The 2023 election is about many issues, but an important pivot is around the monarchy and Article 112. As such, we feel this speech deserves renewed attention for the light it throws on the nature of the military- and monarchy-backed regime.

We use translation of the speech made available in English some time ago. The translators’ introduction states that the speech was given during the “Casting a Spell to Protect Democracy,” protest organized by Mahanakorn for Democracy and Kasetsart University (KU)
Daily at the Democracy Monument.The translators’ note adds:

The Democracy Restoration Group transcribed the tape of the speech and it was published as both a small paper booklet and distributed as a free PDF. For this English-language translation, in addition to the footnotes in the original Thai-language version, footnotes (marked with –trans. at the end) and supplemental information in [ ] have been added to the text where necessary for an international audience that may be unfamiliar with Thai politics and history. Otherwise, the translation has hewn as close to the original as possible to retain the quality of speech.

The future vs. the past

23 04 2023


AFP reports that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, campaigning for the Move Forward Party, has declared the 2023 election choice between “a dark present and a bright future.”

Indeed, this is an election that pits the ruling parties, packed with corrupt, aged, party-hopping dullards and policy plagiarists, “backed by the conservative military and royalist establishment, and more reformist and progressive opposition groups.”

One of the differences is highlighted in the article is between young opposition party leaders like the well-educated 42 year-old Pita Limjaroenrat of Move Forward and 36 year-old Paetongtarn Shinawatra of Puea Thai and the old military-trained dolts who have led the country since the 2014 military coup, 69 year-old Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and 77 year-old Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

It is claimed that over 40% of Thailand’s voters are under 35. That group craves change they will never get from the military, monarchy, and other rightists.

One of the traits of conservative anti-democrats is having old men in positions of power. Their role is to oppose, reject, and roll in the trough of public money while lavishing money and praise on the military and monarchy. They are called on to order the jailing of opponents and, as necessary, the murder of citizens who might oppose them, the monarchy and/or the military.

Buffoonery in the military

19 04 2023

The military is best known for its coups, for murdering and surveilling civilians, and for massive corruption. It is led by buffoons who make their way through corruption and monarchism.

Two stories caught PPT’s eye on these defining features.

The first is about 100 golf carts burning on military property. In this case, the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Nakhon Nayok, a favorite haunt of Princess Sirindhorn (or at least it was). She doesn’t play golf, although if she did, we are sure she’d be written up as a star.

It seems that golf carts catching fire is not all that uncommon – batteries bursting into flames.

Clipped from the Williams Lake Tribune

But here’s the rub. This burning must highlight corruption. The report states: “The golf carts belong to a company which operates a golf course next to the academy. The company rents space from the academy in which to keep and recharge the carts.” That means the commandant and others get a fee.

Why doesn’t the company charge at the course? Questions might be raised as to who owns the company. Our guess would be that an investigation would show military involvement. Meanwhile, does the golf course have adequate title? Who owns it? Who sold the land to it? We’d guess there’s lots to say about these questions.

Naturally enough, such enterprises operate with impunity, protected by military buffoons.

The second story is about the engine-less Chinese submarine. Buffoon-in-chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha says the long delay will soon be over. He’s said that before and so have Navy leaders. But why say it again now?

It is because the Royal Thai Navy has a brand new 6.1 billion baht frigate “that will serve as a submarine-support vessel … [has been] delivered at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai…”. So, for the time-being, there’s a new, taxpayer-funded ship that is unable to fulfill its mission. Perhaps it could tow submarines about?

Who got the commissions on these ships? Navy admirals are among the richest in Thailand. Because of loyalty and hierarchy, buffoons float to the top and get very rich.

Updated: Military party ultra-royalism

9 04 2023

A couple of weeks ago we posted on hick party royalism. Today we post on one of the military parties and its ultra-royalism.

Recall that it is the ultra-royalists who are quickest to bemoan any “politicization” of the monarch and monarchy. Yet their military-backed parties regularly use the monarchy as a political piece. This is because for decades the royalists have been promoting and “protecting” the monarchy as a national shibboleth and the keystone of the conservative ruling class.

Pirapan. Clipped from

In their latest use of the monarchy for political advantage, in its electoral campaigning, the leader of the inaptly named United Thai Nation Party, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga has “vowed to take action against ‘nation haters’ if his party forms the next government, saying Thailand is a land for patriots and those who don’t like it can live somewhere else.”

Predictably, “nation haters” are defined by Pirapan as anti-monarchists: “Thailand is a land for patriots and the land is holy with the monarchy serving as the pillar of the country.” He babbled on:

“If you don’t like it, you have no right to change it because the entire nation wants it,” he added.

“If you don’t like it, please go to another place. No one is stopping you. Go now. Any country you like, you can go and stay there. But Thailand will be like this forever.”

“Under the Ruam Thai Sang Chart (the Thai name of UTN), we will not change,” he said. “If the UTN is a core party that forms the next government, we will get tough against chang chart (nation haters) and those who want to overthrow the institution.”

Apparently Pirapan sees no contradiction in the “United Thai Nation” excluding those who do not subscribe to mad monarchism. But he wouldn’t, because the very wealthy like him tend to defend their pile.

And, of course, as a former judge, Pirapan reflects the judicial bias against those who do not bow to ultra-monarchism. As a mad monarchist, he has defended the king’s extraordinary powers, hunted down lese majeste suspects and blocked thousands of websites when minister, claiming that “Offences against the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent or the Regent are considered offences relating to the security of the Kingdom…”. Unsurprisingly, Pirapan was an extreme opponent of Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts.

Added to all of this, while Pirapan spouts loyalty when it comes to the monarchy, he has had little loyalty to the various parties he’s joined. Of course, his lack of party loyalty is not unusual among royalists. Back in 2021, when was in the ruling, military-backed Palang Pracharath Party, he was an “advisor to powerful party leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.” Now he’s touted as number 2 to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the new UTN and Prayuth reckons he should be prime minister after Prayuth’s ludicrous extended term is over.

When Pirapan sprouted his hate declaration it was “during the party’s first major campaign rally at Benjakitti forest park in Klong Toey district…”. Supporting his extremist monarchism were a gaggle of rightists: Gen Prayuth, ML Chayotid Kridakon, ultra-royalist Rienthong Nan-nah, who is now “chairman of the party’s committee on quality of life improvement,” and party secretary-general Akanat Promphan, stepson of Suthep Thaugsuban, who “paved the way for the military coup led by Gen Prayut” in 2014.

Pirapan said the UTN “will live forever under the policies of Uncle Tu (Gen Prayut’s nickname) and the heart of the party is the nation, the monarchy and people…”.

But there seems more going on within what Thai PBS called an “old boy network.”

Gen Prawit, who is also deputy prime minister, revealed recently that he has maintained close ties with Pirapan since the time they served together in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Cabinet from 2008 to 2011. Prawit served as defense minister and Pirapan as justice minister.

However, their relationship actually began long before they entered politics.

Apirat back then. Clipped from Khaosod

Both studied at the all-boys Saint Gabriel’s College. Though Prawit was Pirapan’s senior by many years, both were part of an alumni network that also included former Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who is now a deputy to the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau, which oversees day-to-day operations of the Palace.

Rumors have it that Apirat helped get fellow alumnus Pirapan his advisory job at Government House after the latter left the Democrat Party in 2019.

The plan for the 2023 election seems to be for Pirapan and Prayuth to represent the extreme right for royalist voters and maybe a few military types, banging on about monarchy. Prawit’s party represents the “cuddly” royalists, rightists, and military, appealing to a “middle” of voters, sprouting (new) words about reconciliation and democracy. The hope may be that they can get sufficient seats to form another coalition, drawing in some of the parties-for-sale.

Update: According to the Bangkok Post, Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party has responded to the ultra-royalist Pirapan’s hate speech.

Brave women III

11 02 2023

Despite the angst of some, the brave and determined hunger strike by Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong is producing results: increased international attention, more domestic action on lese majeste reform, and the release on bail of a number of political prisoners.

To be sure, motivating the regime is akin to moving mountains. Here, we mean more than the government. What needs moving is the ruling class of palace, tycoons, military, and the senior police, bureaucrats, and judges who serve that class.

But, at glacial pace, and despite internal splits between the faux liberals and the recalcitrant royalists, it is moving.

Prachatai reports that “on 10 February that Sitthichok Sethasavet, a detained food rider, was allowed bail by the Supreme Court, a final feat after the Court of Appeal denied the temporary release during an ongoing appeal.” It adds that a “day before …, Sombat Thongyoi, a protest guard, and Kongpet (surname withheld), another political detainee, were allowed bail.” And, “Another convicts related to explosive device possession, Tatphong Khieukhao, was also released from his temporary detention on 8 February.”

In summary, “8 people are still under detention for participating in political protests that call for political and monarchy reforms. All are being detained pending trial.”

That’s progress thanks to Tantawan and Orawan.

Even the supine Bangkok Post has an editorial calling for reform. It somewhat grudgingly states: “Their self-destructive campaign poses a challenge in terms of how Thailand will balance the application of the strict lese majeste law while permitting freedom of expression in a more open society.” It does acknowledge that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s response has been paternalist and cruel:

his messages are … disturbing and unproductive. It is shocking to hear the man who, after staging the coup in 2014, promised “peace and reconciliation” so easily discount the credibility of young political activists, and try to position them as the pawns of political groups. His words will only further alienate dissidents. Perhaps now we can understand why his national reconciliation plan remains half-baked, and young activists have grown more alienated and even radicalised during his eight-year tenure.

But the Post can’t explain why it declares: “Make no mistake, the lese majeste laws have been part of the country’s political culture and are needed to protect the revered institution.” This is royalist mantra. But it still shows glacial progress thanks to Tantawan and Orawan.

Repression of monarchy reformists

20 11 2022

DW recently had a story that sought to assess where the democracy/monarchy reform movement is more than two years after the movement spectacularly burst on the scene.

In essence, the story is that the monarchy reform movement has been so repressed that it is difficult for activists to engage in political advocacy.

Clipped from Prachatai

The youth-led protest movement, “calling for constitutional reforms to rein in far-reaching powers of the country’s monarchy” and for the resignation of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, “inspired hundreds of thousands of people across Thailand…”.

But, over two years later, the military-backed, pro-monarchy regime has managed to silence many and drain the movement of energy.

The repression that has dogged activists has resulted in lese majeste charges in the hundreds, long jail terms for some, and the development of a surveillance state that weighs China-like on anyone deemed a “threat.” The regime increasingly relies on cyber snoops and ultra-royalists, many of them with links to the military and ISOC, to bring complaints that result in charges, arrest, and detention.

Arnon. Clipped from Prachatai

For example, human rights lawyer and activist Arnon Nampa, faces at least 14 lese majeste charges, and was detained for more than 200 days without bail. Other activists are kept busy fighting a myriad of charges.

Democracy activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon explains: “Many of our friends are still detained…. Some have been held for more than 200 days.” As DW has it, “there are [now] at least 11 political detainees, including three on lese majeste cases.”

Patsaravalee reckons “the government had made people ‘numb and accustomed’ to protesters being detained.”

Even when bailed, there are sometimes ludicrous conditions that amount to house arrest, “along with a hefty bond and vague conditions that limit their freedom of expression and movement.” For example, Arnon “is prohibited by court order from encouraging others to protest and is not allowed to share posts on social media about demonstrations.”

Activist Chonthicha Jaengrew said “these conditions forced people into self-censorship, as ‘even voicing opinions in good faith could put us at risk of our bail being revoked’.”

Chonthicha said such “bail conditions had blunted the protest movement.” As she explained: “We don’t know when these conditions will be used as a tool to revoke our bail, which forces us to be more careful [in our speeches and actions]…”.

Several activists have fled Thailand.

But it is not all a gloomy story. Clearly, the discussion of the monarchy is now more widespread, and activists know that there has been a groundswell of broad support. Arnon thinls “more politicians in the future would be emboldened to question the Thai monarchy.” As he observes: “Discussing the monarchy has caught on…. We might not see a radical change like a revolution … but one thing is for sure: Thai society will not backtrack.”

Military and monarchy I

25 09 2022

For those who haven’t seen it yet, avid military watcher Paul Chambers has a piece on the recent military reshuffle and what it might mean. Our earlier post on this reshuffle included important links.

Chambers reckons: “Decisions regarding reshuffles represent crucial demonstrations of power…”.He adds: “With a general election due no later than May 2023, guaranteeing palace-led political stability in Thailand’s military and police is essential to the interests of the state and of the elites. ”

From Ugly Thailand

On the role of the monarchy, Chambers includes tables that indicate palace links, and observes:

Thailand’s current king has sought to take an active role in military reshuffles, unlike his father and predecessor who opted for a more indirect role. Initiatives in this area on the part of the palace have translated into the king’s direct selection of Wongthewan faction members to serve as Army commanders, as in the cases of General Apirat Kongsompong (2018-2022) and General Narongphan Jitkaewthae (2020-2022). In 2018, King Vajiralongkorn established the Kho Daeng or Red Rim clique, whose members attend special short-term military training under royal sponsorship. Only Red Rim officers can now rise to top Army, Air Force, or Supreme Command postings.

We think Chambers direct/indirect dichotomy is misleading. The dead king certainly intervened, using his chief privy councilor Gen Prem Tinsulanonda as his hands-on military specialist. This is probably what he means by “indirect,” but this is hardly removed from direct influence, as everyone understood that Prem did the king’s work. In any case, Bhumibol was very hand-on when he supported Prem as prime minister, including against two military attempts to be rid of Prem.

Chambers sees the latest reshuffle as showing some changes to influence/power:

The data … indicate that the palace and Burapha Phayak [military faction]—the latter as dominated by [Gen] Prawit [Wongsuwan]—are engaged in a tug-of-war for control over postings at this highest level of authority. The Navy and Air Force commanders are king’s men first and foremost. Incoming Navy chief Admiral Cherngchai Chomcherngpat and Air Force commander Air Chief Marshal Alongkorn Wannarot join their classmate Army chief General Narongphan [Jitkaewtae] in acting as the bulwark of monarchical interests. Admiral Cherngchai’s royalist ties are owed to his being part of a Navy faction connected to former Navy Chief Admiral Luechai Ruddit, brother of Privy Council member General Kampnat Ruddit. For his part, Armed Forces chief General Chalermpol Srisawat must walk a tightrope, as he is close both to the palace and to Burapha Phayak, the military faction to which he belongs. Like Narongphan, Chalermpol is also a member of the king’s Red Rim faction.

The article concludes:

The 2022 military and police reshuffles reflect an attempt on the part of the monarch to enhance palace proactivity in a year that has seen differences between Prawit and Prayut grow…. [T]he palace appears to be backing new potential Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul of the military-allied Bhumjaithai Party…. [T]he king seems to have intervened in military and police reshuffles, ensuring that arch-royalists whom he trusts assume the top leadership positions…. One aspect of Thailand’s military and police reshuffles remains certain. Since 2008 … these reshuffles have remained under the control of the palace and senior security officials…”.

Who controls the armed forces

13 09 2022

It has been widely rumored that the king has taken a particular interest in military affairs. The Bangkok Post provides a hint that he may well now be in charge. The report is by longtime military watcher and favorite Wassana Nanuam. It begins:

The result of the latest annual military reshuffle shows that the power of the “three brothers in arms” has diminished as they had little say in key army appointments, according to a source….

A royal command appointing 765 officers in the annual reshuffle was published in the Royal Gazette yesterday. Of them, 300 are new major generals, 17 of whom are women. The appointments will take effect from Oct 1.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

So if the top three, the coup makers, the suppressors of anti-monarchy dissent, and royalists are not influential, who is? Wassana’s source “said army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae had more authority in the appointment of personnel to key army positions…”. The report states:

The promotion of Maj Gen Phana Klaewplodthuk, 1st Army deputy commander, to commander is a case in point.

The 1st Army is known to be a key unit, controlling troops in 26 provinces in the Central Plains Region, East and West, with its HQ in Bangkok.

The promotion of Maj Gen Phana is unexpected, given that Lt Gen Tharapong Malakham, the army’s 1st Corps commander, was most favoured for the job, but shunted to the post of an army special adviser, the source said.

Lt Gen Tharapong came from the Burapha Phayak (Tigers of the East) group — a nickname given to a military clique attached to the 2nd Infantry Division, the Queen’s Guard. Gen Prayut, Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong are members of this clique.

Despite this, Lt Gen Tharapong was still passed over for a promotion, showing the power of the trio has diminished, the source said.

Now the interesting bit:

The 1st Army commander must concurrently serve as the chief of staff at a special task force under Royal Guard 904, of which army chief Gen Narongphan is commander.

Before his promotion, Maj Gen Phana finished special training to become a royal guard last month.

Moreover, he and the army chief once served in the 31st Infantry Regiment, the King’s Guard, in Lop Buri.

We are guessing that the top decision maker is now the king. That is not good, even if the army top brass, past and present are thugs.

Military-monarchy alliance

21 08 2022

Two articles worth reading:

NikkeiAsia: “Thailand king’s elite ‘Red Rim’ officers enter the spotlight.” The story begins by noting the King’s control and influence over the upper ranks of the military:

Clipped from Khaosod

As Thailand’s military officers await their fate in annual promotions, the fortunes of the elite “Red Rim” corps within the armed forces, the country’s most powerful political institution, appear secure.

Military insiders expect prominent officers among this new corps, a 2017 innovation by King … Vajiralongkorn, will have influential slots in the top-heavy military, which has an estimated 1,750 generals, admirals and air marshals commanding 335,000 active military personnel. The U.S. military, by contrast, has just over 880 flag officers.

The Diplomat: “How Lese Majeste Laws Are Eroding Free Speech in Southeast Asia.” That story begins:

Across Southeast Asia, increasingly authoritarian governments are systematically corroding freedom of expression as their tolerance for dissent and criticism deteriorates. States continue to harass, sue, and imprison activists and human rights defenders at alarming rates, as documented by ARTICLE 19’s Global Expression Report 2022. Repressive governments in the region are weaponizing a range of laws to silence criticism and preserve their corrupt regimes. Of these, archaic lese majeste laws are arguably the most problematic of them all.


Wither the (in)justice system

27 01 2022

Over several years, the (in)justice system has been crafted to ensure that “good” people are protected from the law. That protected species is made up of criminal masterminds, the well-connected, murderous generals, coup-makers, police, army, the wealthy, and more.

In the never-ending saga, dating back to 2012, of getting the wealthy Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya off all charges associated with his murder of a lowly policeman, The Nation reports that. as expected, the “cocaine use charge against … [the fugitive is] nearing the end of its statute of limitations.”

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

The office on Wednesday released a statement on the results of the year 2021 and the direction of proactive action in 2022.

That will leave one charge: “rash driving causing the death of another person…”.

The only question now is how the corrupt (in)justice system can make that one go away. In the meantime, there’s stalling, delays and so on that mean justice is dead and those responsible for that death have probably become wealthier.

Meanwhile, to add emphasis to the death of justice, the Bangkok Post reports that an Appeals Court “upheld a Civil Court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed against the army for compensation over the death of Lahu human rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae, who was shot dead at a checkpoint in Chiang Mai province in 2017.”

The “court ruled to dismiss the lawsuit and said the army has no need to pay compensation to Chaiyaphum’s family. The court considered the M16 rifle that a soldier shot Chaiyaphum with was used in self-defence and out of necessity.”

This relates to a case where “officers claimed they found drugs in Chaiyaphum’s car and had to shoot him because he resisted their search and tried to throw a grenade at them.” Of course, witnesses had a different story, saying “Chaiyaphum was dragged out of the car, beaten and shot.” And, the CCTV footage of the military’s actions was taken away by Army bosses and never provided to any court. That’s because the military is more powerful than the courts, enjoys almost complete impunity for its crimes, and has the power to murder civilians as it sees fit.

Of course, occasionally a court does its work properly, but these occasions are surprises rather than the norm. Wither the justice system.

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