Updated: De-nationalized artist

21 08 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that the Ministry of Culture’s three-member “national culture committee has decided to strip veteran editor Suchart Sawasdsri of his national artist title due to his ‘inappropriate behaviour’ in connection with support for protests over political reforms.” He has criticized Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime and supported reform of the monarchy.

Suchart was given the title “national artist” in 2011 for his contributions to literature.

The Post states that:

National artists receive 25,000 baht monthly for life or as long as they hold the title. They’re also entitled to health insurance, emergency payments, funeral costs and a stipend of 150,000 baht for the production of a biography or autobiography.

Now aged 76, Suchart is one of the country’s most distinguished, living author-artists. According to Wikipedia, Suchart studies at Thammasat University:

After graduating in 1966, he taught history and geography at a private school for a short time. He was then able to secure a position as assistant to Sulak Sivaraksa, editor of the literary journal Sangkhomsat Parithat. When [Sulak] left two years later, [Suchart] became editor. Under his editorship, the journal became more active politically, often criticizing the government. In 1977, when a new military regime took power, he was removed from the post of editor after the journal was brought back to a purely academic orientation….

A number of [his] stories … appeared in Sangkhomsat Parithat. In 1972, these stories were published as Khwam Ngiap (Silence).

In 1977, he became editor of a new literary journal Lok Nangsu’. That publication … ceased publication in 1984. He next was editor for Ban Mai Ru Roi and Samoso’n Thanon Nangsu’. In 1989, he was co-founder of the literary group Samnak Chang Wannakam, which published a quarterly short story magazine Cho’ Karaket until 2000. In 1997, he received the Sriburapha Award and, in 2005, the Pittisin Prize….

Suchart is reportedly “the first national artist to be stripped of the title…”, with the “decision” – probably an order – having been a “unanimous decision” by the state’s committee.

The case against him has been drawn out:

On Dec 17, Suchart wrote on Facebook: “I wonder if I also face the lese majeste law for requesting monarchy reform on Facebook. If you [the committee] want to withdraw my title, please hurry up.”

Speculation about an Article 112 charge continues.

Suchart’s long history of comments critical of military-backed regimes suggests that the present regime is among the most thin-skinned of such regimes.

Update: Thai PBS reports that the “Thai Writers Association, several prominent writers, politicians and academics have voiced opposition to the reported decision by the National Culture Commission of Thailand to strip Mr. Suchart Sawatsri of his status as a national artist.” The story continues:

SEAWrite awardees, Mrs. Veeraporn Nitiprapha, Uthis Haemamool, and Sakul Boonpathat, president of the Thai Writers Association, also voiced their strong opposition to the commission’s decision.

“The country is declining further and further and has not yet reaching the bottom,” said Mrs. Veeraporn in her Facebook post, as she demanded an explanation from the national commission.

We should ban the commission, as well as the national artist award. It shows a complete lack of maturity,” wrote Uthis [wrote] in his Facebook post.





The royal(ist) mess that is Thailand

3 04 2018

The success of palace propaganda, reinforced by decades of fascist-military domination, promoted by a royalist lapdog media, both state and private sector, and buttressed by draconian laws and belligerent royalist agencies like the military and ISOC, has been so sweeping that there’s little overt opposition these days (we note the linked article is no longer free to download). That which does exist has been firmly under the military boot in recent years.

Some wondered if the succession would temper there would be some cutting of the strings that tie Thais to the palace. Wonder no longer. Almost nothing has changed. As evidence, we cite two news stories from the last day or so.

The Nation reports that “Thai Heritage Conservation Week” is upon us. Like the recent noe-feudal celebration of the repression under pre-1932 absolute monarchy, this week royal posterior polishers get another chance to dress in feudal style – “traditional costumes.”

The useless Culture Ministry “kicked off the week with Thai Heritage Conservation Day on April 2…”. That day “has been celebrated annually since 1985, honouring … Princess … Sirindhorn, who was born on April 2, 1955, and her contributions to the conservation of the nation’s heritage.”

We can’t immediately recall her “contributions” but there must be plenty claimed for her by palace propagandists.

More worryingly, The Nation also reports on the kerfuffle in Chiang Mai over the mansions being built on forested – now deforested – hills that will be handed out to judges and others in the Ministry of Justice.

What do the people opposing this project do to protest? They “will petition … King … Vajiralongkorn for help.”

A network of those opposed to the project will gather signatures before petitioning the king.

Why? Get publicity? Look doltish? Look loyal? Who knows and who can blame them in the current ideological straitjacket of royalism.

Apparently they “would also lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court in early May,” which seems far more grown up.

Yellow shirts among the opponents blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his clan for the problem. Perhaps that says something about the feudal fawning.





Feudal plaudits

22 02 2018

Some time ago, PPT posted on the king’s ordering celebrations of winter that took on a feudal tone. That post mentioned that the public was encouraged to wear “traditional clothes” and 19th century fashions. We were not aware that there was a dress competition.

Khaosod reports on that competition. It says that Culture minister Vira Rojpojchanarat made awards for the best costume.

In a regime that is unable to understand notions like nepotism, conflict of interest, corruption but which understand hierarchy and feudal notions of “good people,” deciding on the winners was not a difficult task. For Vira, if there were no royals in the competition, then the award had to go to the next level of the “good” and the “great.” He decided to give “awards to five fellow cabinet members and spouses including junta chairman [Gen.] Prayuth Chan-ocha and his wife Naraporn Chan-ocha.” Other winners were Vira’s colleagues “Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, Finance Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.”

Some might draw some meaning from the awards going mainly to non-military cabinet members.

Gen Prayuth and his colleagues dressed up to answer the king’s call, so obviously, as the top dogs, they deserves the prizes. See them in all their vainglory in the pictures at Khaosod.





Moralizing thugs

14 07 2016

The military gang of thugs running Thailand are nothing if not hypocritical. Perhaps the best example of their hypocrisy is their various morality campaigns.

These began with The Dictator’s “12 core values of the Thai people.” Of course, like most dictatorial regimes, such moral diktats were designed to repress, suppress and discipline.

While schoolchildren are still required to rote learn these “values,” the idea that Thailand’s murderous and corrupt military can lecture citizens on anything like values is unadulterated hypocrisy and has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with repression.

The military dictatorship’s moral campaigns are not being embedded for the long term. The propaganda arm of the regime, the National News Bureau of Thailand reports that the junta “has given approval to the national moral promotion master plan, with the intent of creating peace [they mean order and discipline] at all levels of society.”

Minister of Culture Weera Rojpotchanarat has said that there is a “national master plan for the promotion of moral integrity for the year 2016-2021 as proposed by the ministry. The objective of the plan is to involve all sectors in instilling morality, ethics and the right values in the people.”

The “master plan” has four “strategies,” and there are no prizes for guessing what they are:

  1. “to elevate the mind of public members by encouraging them to uphold religion and the monarchy.”
  2. “to strengthen related operations and mechanisms in order to promote morality in a concrete and effective manner”
  3. “to foster cooperation networks and role models to spearhead the effort
  4. “to turn Thailand into a model of morality for other countries in ASEAN and around the world.”

The moral enforcers are threatening to ensure “that the plan reaches people in all communities.”

The junta seems to be settling in for the long haul.





Which morals?

3 11 2015

The military junta beggars belief. Prachatai reports that the military thugs who control and repress the country “have drafted a master plan to promote ‘morality’ based on sufficiency, honesty, and responsibility as a national agenda.”

Gen Thanasak Patimaprakorn, allegedly a Deputy Prime Minister, is also the boss of the quite ludicrous National Committee to Promote Morality under the risible Culture Ministry. This absurd bunch have concocted a draft plan for 2016-2020.

Sufficiency – the balmy royal idea – honesty, responsibility will bring peace, harmony, and happiness and make Thailand “a leading country on morality in ASEAN region and in the world.”

If the military junta was doing anything more than expelling hot air perhaps they could have asked themselves if morality extends to a military that murders, maims, expropriates, extorts and represses its citizens.

 





Monarchy and military mutuality

9 05 2015

Thailand’s monarchy has pretty much given unflinching support to military junta’s since 1957. When it has gotten a bit tremulous about military regimes, it has usually been when palace officials and the monarch have felt slighted or that the military regime’s continuance was not in the palace’s best political interests. Despite this, as PPT has complained recently, the media continues absurdly in portraying the monarchy as apolitical and as creating some kind of political solidarity for the country.

This is one reason why we were pleased to see a revealing story on Thailand at the Financial Times. The FT draws the obvious and important link between a new piece of palace propaganda and the country’s military dictatorship when it refers to a “tale of two Thailands [that] is about to be played out in London’s most prestigious traditional concert venue and the jails of Southeast Asia.”

It seems that “a gala show at the Royal Albert Hall will next month honour a Thai princess, in a performance of a masked court dance last staged there for Queen Victoria 130 years ago.” At the FT points out, in Thailand, “student dramatists and even a bookseller languish in prison cells because they are deemed to have insulted the very same Thai royal family.”Sirindhorn

The FT quite correctly connects the two events as representing “a two-pronged campaign by the ruling generals in Bangkok to shore up power and preserve the existing social order.”

Yes, yet again the palace is supporting military authoritarianism.

In Thailand, the military runs a chilling campaign that has seen scores of people jailed for royal whim and for regime maintenance. In London, the Ministry of Culture forks out taxpayer funds to “celebrate” the already passed birthday of Princes Sirindhorn, giving away tickets by the dozen.

The price of a ticket is 20 pounds, should anyone be foolish enough to actually pay, and is far below the cost of most events at the Royal Albert Hall. (Bryan Ferry appears a few nights before and costs 80-100 pounds a ticket.) The filching of the taxpayer also involves the cost of getting a 60-strong cast and all their gear and hanger-on, and the princess and her entourage to London.

The only reasons for doing this is to propagandize for the military dictatorship and/or polish the royal posterior.

The latter is not uncommon, and in the past, the Thai taxpayer has subsidized “concerts” in the UK by the limited and long forgotten “talent” of a royal sibling’s daughter. Not to mention the support of European ventures including the alleged fashion “skills” of another royal granddaughter and the acting ambitions of an aging royal daughter.

The military junta’s vicious political crackdown “is far removed from the lavishly-costumed and junta-endorsed spectacle of the khon dance, due to be performed on June 18 at the Albert Hall…”. The junta expects to get brownie points from the royals and to curry a bit of favor in Europe through such propaganda exercises.

As the FT points out, while the “khon is superficially apolitical, it is also rooted in a particular vision of the former absolute monarchy of Thailand.” It celebrates the monarchy and is a performance once monopolized by the court. It is certainly not a popular dance and as one source notes, “never really caught on with the general public.”

The value for the military in royalist propaganda is that the “show also chimes with the 12 core Thai values imposed by the junta and compulsorily taught in schools which are strong on deference to authority. That checklist of virtue has driven other post-coup government initiatives, such as the national tourism organisation’s ‘Discover Thainess’ campaign.”

The royals are never lost when the military is running government, paying attention, polishing posteriors and lashing out from the public purse for propaganda and support. The relationship has long been based on mutuality.





Royal clothing advice

10 06 2011

Just in case readers missed it, and PPT can’t find it electronically – in the continuing silliness about what constitutes “Thai tradition,” the Bangkok Post (print edition, 8 June 2011, p. 4) has a short note that is, well, bizarre.

As the balmy Ministry of Culture worries about topless dancers and religious tattoos on the “wrong” bodies, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has come up with a screwy order for its officials. The Post reports that “officials will wear Thai-style outfits made of Thai cloth at least once a week…”. Indeed, Cabinet, filled with men and a couple of women all suited up, has “acknowledged” the Ministry’s “campaign to promote traditional Thai-style outfits among civil servants.”

One imagines shirtless men sitting and laying about on the floor, chewing betel, while clothed only in a loin cloth/pha nung or maybe some Chinese trousers. After all, that was “traditional” for some time for kha ratchakan, many of who conducted official business in their own homes.

But we imagine what is meant is the very non-traditional/recently invented tradition displayed at this Wikipedia page. Readers will notice that this page is all about royally-endorsed fashion. And sure enough, the Post story confirms that the Ministry has taken this fully-clothed plunge because “the Queen has said ‘Foreigners have asked why Thai men love to wear suits, not the Thai-styled long sleeve shirt with five buttons. That kind of shirt is nice and suits the Thai climate’.”

It seems the queen is pining for the days when the ever-reliable Prem Tinsulanonda made his fashion statement in this kind of dress. As the Wikipedia page says, the “suea phraratchathan (เสื้อพระราชทาน, lit. royally bestowed shirt) … was designed to serve as a national costume by royal tailors … for King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1979, and was subsequently given to General Prem Tinsulanonda, then the Minister of Defence, to promote and wear in public.”

PPT reckons that this trend, even if symbolic of the great pressure for the ever greater promotion of the royals and their every utterance, no matter how trite, is unlikely to take off.

 





Updated: Topless teenagers leave elite outraged, while killing red shirts is ignored

17 04 2011

If the endless reports and blogs are to be believed, a couple of teenagers getting their tops off during Songkhran revelries is an outrage. The Nation is just one of the outlets reporting the shock and horror experienced by the self-appointed guardians of what is proper and what is to be condemned.

The Nation reports that “Bangrak District Office director Surakiat Limcharern yesterday lodged a complaint with police over topless female Songkran revellers whose sexy dancing near Silom Road was recorded and posted on the Internet.” He opined that such displays hurt “the image of Thailand…”. Surakiat also “urged police to track down the teenagers who have carried out obscene acts in public places.”

He was joined in this outrage by National Police Commissioner General Wichien Potposri, who “vowed action against both the topless revellers and their cheering crowds.” (Oops, there’s that telltale cheering again.) And the Minister for Culture Nipit Intarasombat demanded “action taken against those lending loudspeakers and stereo systems for the topless dancing.” He threatened the girls with fines and required “cultural work.” Culture Watch Centre (yes, that’s the name) director “Ladda Tangsupachai yesterday disclosed that Nipit also instructed her to officially ask the National Police Office and the ICT Ministry to ban the video clips on the Internet.”

PPT expects this moral panic to continue for a while yet. Politicians must certainly chime in.

But a moment’s thought will confirm how horrid this reaction is. A few young women getting their tops off gets the elite upset. Killing red shirts around Songkhran (in 2009 and 2010) seems to bring cheers and joy for the elite. Where was the outrage from the elite when the army killed protesters? Perhaps this event will serve as a reminder of the lack of morality amongst the royalist elite….

Update: One of the interesting responses on the 5 minutes of topless dancing that we found interesting, pointed out by a regular reader, is this from the Public Relations Department:

The Ministry of Culture is preparing to issue handbooks campaigning for greater awareness of youngsters on the genuine value of Songkran Festival after inappropriate behaviors were spotted during the Thai New Year celebration.

This refers to the exposed breasts while dancing and a “similar incident” in Pichit province, where the topless dancers were transvestites.

The minister said … [it] is necessary to instil awareness of Thai culture among children and youths, he said. The ministry will soon issue handbooks to be distributed for that purpose.

Protecting public morals is a task that the conservative elite takes on when “protecting” the “institutions” of the old society, most notably the monarchy. The need for protection usually signals a demise.





Monarchy, morality and crusty conservatism

13 03 2011

Prachatai has a commentary on a new approach taken by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has come up with a program to boost the apparently flagging “morality” of the people.

This is one of the most basic, even foundational, elements of conservative ideology. The idea is that political resistance and modernity is seen as “unThai” and to be rectified by fiat.

The Cabinet has apparently decided that everyone needs to get to the temple or some other religious institution to be brought back to the straight and narrow. For good measure, they are also told to honor the king.

This bit of loopy and conservative royalism is attributed to the Ministry of Culture and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban as Chair of the National Culture Commission.

These conservatives have apparently “found that a lack of morality is a national problem due to social changes as people cling to materialism and consumerism under the influence of globalization in all aspects. The result is that Thai people in all sectors of society are removed from religion and do not follow religious teachings in their everyday life, and society has become more and more morally ignorant.”

One imagines the crusty old men of the Privy Council and their fellow royalists nodding in agreement as they themselves engage in all kinds of immoral acts themselves.

Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that all the old duffers are immoral bastards. We are just being cynical and recognizing that those who demand high moral standards do so not because they value morality (especially for themselves) but because they demand morality from the masses for political reasons.

The Ministry has come up with a program to “encourage people to go to the temple, ‘to get close to religion, to meet monks, to listen to sermons, to find happiness for themselves and their families, and to honour His Majesty the King’.”

One thing that is odd in the report is that some of things being demanded by the Ministry and their bosses are things that have been common in the past:  participation in an oath of allegiance to the king and having a set of altar tables together with the national flag and a photograph of the King in its meeting room.

PPT gets the impression that the old duffers think that some state agencies may be imbibing from the glass of republicanism.

Of course, student are to be made more loyal by forcing them to temples and oaths of allegiance to the monarchy, while making them pray every Friday. What punishment for those who refuse?

These kinds of conservative reaction are clear indications that the foundations of the royalist regime are rotten. Shoring them up is unlikely to be a successful strategy in the long term. Desperate and crusty old men have lost the capacity to understand their own people.





Updated: Royal treatment for Leekpai and Vejjajiva lads

15 08 2010

Our Sunday story of note this week is a warning for Democrat Party stalwart and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai. His son, who PPT posted on a few days ago, is now covered in The Nation in a way that is reminiscent of the posterior polishing associated with royals. Surabot Leekpai, the newly appointed assistant to the Culture Minister, is getting royal-like treatment by a fawning media that doesn’t even seem to know the word “nepotism.”

Indeed, as the report notes, so gushing has the media been that the 22 year-old Pleum has “been getting more attention from the media than Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat himself.”

Apparently Nipit offered Chuan’s kid a “position as deputy spokesman on political issues, which essentially means he’s in charge of promoting people who do good and who create standards for good works in society. Surabot can also put forwards ideas related to the ministry’s work to Nipit.” What a job! In the Ministry of Culture it should be a plum because “good” is so clearly defined!

One thing Surabot has decided is to “use clever marketing and celebrities to promote Thai culture and a pride in being Thai.” In other words, the kid is doing what everyone else in this tired ministry for royalist propaganda does.

Not only is Surabot a boy wonder at the Ministry, but he’s a Muay Thai exponent, a “competent musician with a talent for the ranad ek (Thai xylophone),” an artist, and, yes, the only son of Chuan. Being the son of a former premier, Surabot decided a long time ago that he wanted a career in politics and the new job looks like a dream appointment for the lad who has just graduated from Ramkhamhaeng University with a degree in political science.

PPT wonders how many other Ramkhamhaeng graduates got such plum jobs this year. Perhaps just Surabot is so lucky to be a part of the system of nepotism that is operating?

At least Surabot has his political ducks in the right line, for his “plan, which he acknowledges will take time, is to remove the dirt in Thai politics out and replace it with clean democracy, the way it should be.” PPT understands that this equates with weeding out pro-Thaksin Shinawatra types and replacing them with Democrat Party types (ignoring that party’s penchant for nepotism and corruption).

Surabot will have endeared himself to the yellow-hued lot when he explained: “Proper politics should be free from business interests. It’s a vicious cycle. Businessmen invest so they want to get their money back any way they can, which is usually by dominating politics…”.

Surabot is likely to do well because “[a]mong the members of the [new, clean politics] group are friends who are not just capable but also well known. But right now, only Surabot is ready to take the step into politics.” What a great lad! He’s even thinking about being premier in the future! How wonderful it must be to have his pedigree and all those skills. A shining princeling indeed, despite his self-proclaimed “hard times.”

PPT can only imagine how tough it has been…. Of course, beginning a political career embedded in nepotism means that he’ll need to wash off the “dirt” before he can be “clean.”

Update: Somehow PPT missed this story in the Bangkok Post a couple of days ago. In keeping with the syrupy treatment of the Leekpai scion, the Post gets out its polishing rag for the Vejjajiva backsides. It “reports” on “Parit Wacharasindhu, an 18-year-old nephew of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, has not yet decided if he will become a politician like his uncle.” Now that’s HUGE news. He hasn’t decided…. But he’s finishing off at Eton, so a prime ministership must be in the offing.

PPT really has to wonder what is going on with the English-language media. This is just horrible “journalism” and doesn’t deserve space in serious newspapers. Read it an weep for journalism in Thailand’s “free media.”