No democracy! Hagiography!

6 10 2021

Remember the recent ranting by ultra-royalists and dinosaur bureaucrats and senior regime dolts about a series of of eight illustrated children’s books called Nitan Wad Wang, or “Dream Tales?” So incensed were the authorities that they began a probe looking for themes deemed critical of the government and sympathetic with the pro-democracy movement. They were also looking for anything negative about the king or monarchy.

Education Ministry spokesperson Darunwan Charnpicharnchai was especially “worried” that the booklets contain information that misleads children.

The story of this is retold at Thai PBS.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Meanwhile, the hopelessly inane Ministry of Culture “has released a cartoon book featuring biographies and stories about the contributions of the 10 monarchs of the Chakri dynasty.” No prizes for guessing that this is a pile of buffalo manure meant to prime kids with royalism.

The 237-page comic is meant to “honour of the 10 monarchs of the Chakri dynasty,” so can’t be truthful. We guess – couldn’t find the book at the Ministry website – that the chapter on the current king is well and truly padded out because he’s achieved so little in his 68 years.

Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome – whose father was a gangster and killer – “said … the cartoon format is partly aimed at promoting interest among the younger generation in the royal institution [monarchy].” He added to the manure pile by saying that “the monarchs have ruled under the Ten Principles of Kingship and devoted themselves to improving people’s livelihood through preserving and promoting cultural heritages and ensuring peace and prosperity.”





With 3 updates: Students vs. the rotten system

13 09 2021

In recent posts, here and here, PPT has mentioned the increasingly aggressive tactics adopted by the regime’s police in confronting mostly young protesters. The police now face determined protesters.

The South China Morning Post reports that police face thousands of protesters – “young, angry and desperate for radical change – [who] come out to oppose a state they have lost all faith in.” Some are as young as 12. These protests are now daily and have a degree of predictability:

Protesters, some armed with paint bombs – the more hardcore among them, sling-shots and glass bottles – retreated then returned, a daily dance on Bangkok’s streets which is now threatening to spill out of control.

Protests now almost inevitably end in tear gas, broken bottles and rubber bullets.

The protesters speak to power and call for change: “No one in power has heard us, no one listens to us, they only intimidate and suppress…. So we will keep coming back.”

Their targets are not just the regime, but the rotten system: “… deepening inequality in a country where a tight-knit establishment of tycoons, military and monarchy dominate the economy and politics.” The quoted protester – aged 16 – says: “Inequality comes from these structural issues, everything is tied up here by monopolies of business and power…”. Her observation is testament to the alienation felt by many in the young generation.

Academic Kanokrat Lertchoosakul observes that:

This generation are a totally different species of political, active citizens that we have never seen before in Thailand…. They are a generation with mass awareness of their political rights and have superior analytical skills to their elders.

Prachatai provides another example of youth activism, reporting on the Bad Student activist group that has “launched a strike campaign to protest against the continuous use of online classes during outbreaks of Covid-19, which has been detrimental to students’ mental health and deprived many of an education.”

They are “demanding that the government provide students, education professionals, and members of the public with high efficacy vaccines as soon as possible so that the education system and the economy can continue.” They also want the Ministry of Education to “reduce tuition fees or impose a tuition fee moratorium, and provide whatever welfare is needed by students and their parents to keep young people in school.”

The group encouraged students “to stop attending [online] classes between 6 – 10 September 2021…” and the brief boycott was quite successful.

Bad Students have also joined the ongoing demonstrations and were there almost from the very beginning, saying: “We don’t want this rotten education system. We don’t want this stinking Minister. But we want our future back, and even better, is an education system that truly improves us…”.

Meanwhile, Thai PBS reports on students and other protesters still held without bail, including “seven core leaders of the anti-government Ratsadon group, who have been held on remand for about a month.” These detainees include Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa.

As the SCMP says, “Thailand is on a precipice … its politics once more a tinderbox of anger.”

Update 1: Sorry, we should have noted that the SCMP article was from August whereas the photos are more recent.

Update 2: Three stories at the Bangkok Post add to the analysis of the present moment in protest. In one story, police have said they will bring numerous criminal charges protesters. A second story says that police data is that 509 protesters have been arrested and a further 250 are being sought since the rallies began in July. That story also carries an important quote from Thalugas, welcoming the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration and the Thalufah group as rally “witnesses at the rally by young demonstrators in Din Daeng that evening.” Thalugas “said they should not be left to fight alone.” A third story is about a member of the older generation of protesters, Sombat Boonngamanong. He says: “We are at a crucial moment in democracy development…. This is a time when the ruling authoritarian establishment is trying to suppress the young, democratic generation.” His view is that “the nature of social movements has changed — because more people, especially younger generations, respect democratic values…. They do not tolerate authori­tarianism.”

Update 3: Prachatai reports on arrests in recent clashes. It has also produced a video on Bad Students:





Royalism corrupts

4 09 2021

The judicial system has lost much of the precarious public support it once had. Now, the only standards used are double standards.

Admittedly, the police were never held in high esteem, known to be murderous and thoroughly corrupt. But judges and prosecutors also display wanton corruption and never-ending double standards.

While some judges still try to hold some standards and to adjudicate the law, the deepening royalism of the judiciary has overwhelmed them. Political cases litter the judicial playing field, with judges taking decisions based on notions of “Thainess,” “good” vs “bad” people, on orders from the top or made for reasons that seem to bear no relationship to written law. Not a few judges have been shown to be corrupt.

A Bangkok Post picture

Meanwhile, prosecutors do as they are told and, in some cases, as they are paid. Wealthy killers get off with the support of corrupt prosecutors. Kids get prosecuted for political crimes. Working hand in royal glove with judges, prosecutors oppose bail in political cases, seeking to damage “suspects” through lese majeste torture and, now, the threat of virus infection in prison for political prisoners.

On the latter, as the Bangkok Post reports that “activist Chartchai Kaedam is one among many political prisoners infected with Covid-19.” His condition is cause for much concern.

A petition has been lodged with the National Human Rights Commission “demanding an investigation into how a Karen rights activist contracted Covid-19 while imprisoned,…” pointing out that “he is not a criminal and should be allowed bail, especially given his health condition…”. The petition added that “bringing innocent people into a contagious environment such as a prison during a deadly virus outbreak violates their rights..”.

The NHRC has been pretty hopeless since it was politicized under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, but in this case, Commissioner Sayamol Kraiyoorawong says “staff have made some ‘unofficial’ attempts to get information from the Department of Corrections about his [Chartchai’s] condition and treatment.” But guess what: “Under the Covid-19 crisis, we [NHRC] have not been allowed access to the prison to see people…”. Other concerned by his condition are also denied information. Prachatai reports that the “his family and lawyer were not able to speak to his doctor or obtain information on his condition.”

The impression is of a callous, deliberately dangerous, and unjust system seeking to punish even those not convicted of a crime and held without bail on trifling charges. Of course, they are political charges.

In another branch of the royalist swill, the police are still at it. Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” has reportedly been charged “with premeditated murder by means of torture, unlawful deprivation of liberty and malfeasance.” Despite all the evidence leaked, Joe now claims “he just ‘assaulted’ the victim, and did not torture and murder him.” He’ll probably get off. The pattern will be for witnesses to be paid off or strong-armed, for the case to be drawn out for years, and with public attention having moved on, and judges gingered up and rewarded, Joe might get a suspended sentence. That’s how the system rots.

All in all, this is a sorry tale of how royalism corrupts, money corrupts, and political preferences corrupt.

But never fear, “good” people are at work. Into this fetid swamp masquerading as a judicial system, come the Education Ministry, “planning to modify the history curriculum in schools to strengthen learning amid recent moves by youth groups against the kingdom’s highest institution [they mean the monarchy].” Yes, cleaning up Thailand means pouring palace propaganda into children. We suppose that this is an admission that the never-ending and expensive royalist buffalo manure over 50 years has failed to get sufficient cowering acquiescence. We do know that those who have drunk most at the fount of royalist propaganda are the most corrupt.

 





Harder repression

18 01 2021

While the big protests are on hold, guerrilla-style actions have continued. Over the past few days, it has become clear that the regime is taking advantage of virus restrictions to take a hard line against protesters.

The reporting on this include stories on an action at the Victory Monument “organised for protesters to write their opinions on a long fabric banner about Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s failures in handling crisis situations, as well as urging the abolition of lese majeste law, also known as Article 112, as symbolised by the 112-metre long banner.” The police surrounded protesters and quite violently arrested two leaders “of the pro-democracy group Guard Plod Aek … on Saturday afternoon…”.

Those arrested were “taken to Phya Thai Police Station and charged with violating the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations and the Communicable Disease Act, before being sent to Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Pathum Thani province.” Other participants were aggressively dispersed by the police.

Demonstrators also gathered near the Samyan Mitrtown complex on Saturday evening. There were reportedly “about 10 anti-establishment protesters were rallying on the ground floor of Sam Yan Mitrtown, opposite Chamchuri Square, to demand the release of their colleagues, being held at the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Bureau … for various offences related to [the earlier] protests…”. They were targeted by unknown assailants who lobbed an ping-pong bomb that injured two – a citizen and a reporter – or four people – “anti-riot police officers and a reporter were slightly injured” – depending on the report read. A later report seemed more definitive stating that those injured were “two policemen, a reporter for The Standard online news site, and another civilian…”.

Prachatai reports a third “flash mob” at the Ministry of Education, and states that at least eight people were arrested at the two sites, for demonstrating, not bombing. It also reports on the aggressive policing, stating that the small demonstration at Samyan was met by “several hundred crowd control police arrived at the scene and took control of Sam Yan intersection. The police also brought in many detention trucks.”

Police later stated that the explosive “device was similar to the type used on November 25th in front of The Avenue Ratchayothin, following a rally by the Ratsadon protesters…”. They reportedly found “nails, wire and black electrical tape at the scene of the explosion.” Prachatai claims that the police have “detained 4 suspects, 2 men and 2 women…”.  iLaw reported “that their phones were seized and they were not informed where they would be taken.” It is unclear who these people are.

Prachatai refers to a change in police tactics:

The overwhelming police reaction involving the deployment of large numbers of officers, aggressive engagement, and the speedy arrest and despatch of suspects to Pathum Thani for interrogation is a shift in their modus operandi against pro-democracy activities.

This response was seen at the shrimp-selling activity staged by the WeVo group on 31 December, 2020, where around 500 police aggressively dispersed and arrested people who were trying to help struggling shrimp farmers sell shrimps.

No law currently allows the police to transfer arrestees for interrogation to the facility of their choosing. The severe state of emergency, which did enable them to do so, was withdrawn in October 2020. The Criminal Procedure Code authorizes police to detain and interrogate people only at the police station responsible for the area where the alleged offence occurred.

The regime is lawless and operates with total impunity.





More monarchy indoctrination needed

26 12 2020

While the military’s regime continues to use “law” to repress anti-monarchism, The Nation reports the ultraroyalist Thai Pakdee group is demanding more royalist  indoctrination.

One might puzzle as to how “more” is even possible in a land simply flooded by palace propaganda. But, for the ultras, floods can be ever deeper, drowning out anti-royalism.

The mad monarchists, led by the man with the golden ear, Warong Dechgitvigrom, have “submitted a letter to Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan on Wednesday, asking him to launch five measures to promote protection of national institutions.” Here, they mean nation, religion and monarchy.

The group’s leader, Warong Dechgitvigrom, said the move aimed to prevent politicians and activist networks from using teachers and students as tools to encroach on the “three pillars” of nation, religion and the monarchy.

The proposals for the monarchy are based on their belief that unnamed “politicians” are behind the students, manipulating them. They usually mean Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his colleagues, but deep yellow social media also mumbles about Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai Pakdee wants to keep “politicians” and “activists” off campus, school staff to “support” the “institutions,” while not supporting the same “politicians” and “activists,” and for schools and their administrators to be held responsible for “any activities held under their jurisdiction that encroach on national institutions.”

You get the picture. This is royalist fascism, allowing royalists to determine who is not sufficiently royalist and repressing them. School administrators are threatened. To add to the general impression of enveloping, suffocating royalist fascism, the mad monarchists demand that the Education Ministry “improve the curriculum to promote pride in being Thai” and increase indoctrination of staff.

Book burning is probably the next step.

As might be expected, the Minister for Education gave the royalists his support.





Students rising

6 09 2020

There have been some very useful commentaries on students rising, including at New Mandala and in The Economist. The latter mentions that the students currently demonstrating are children of some who supported the royalist anti-democrats in 2013-14.

If the military and its royalist regime were hoping that arresting outspoken student and activists and waiting out the students would see rallies end, they were misguided.

The arrests and charges continue. The jailed activists Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok have been a focus of rallies, with student protesters using white ribbons tied on the Bangkok Remand Prison gate and calling for their release. The rally was not just for them: “there are others who face injustice and there are many who are being charged just for speaking the truth.”

The students were joined by Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Pannika Wanich, formerly of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, “urging officials to release two pro-democracy activists…”.

Including those jailed, those arrested are expressing defiance. Dechatorn “Hockhacker” Bamrungmuang of Rap Against Dictatorship has restated his support for the student’s demands:

I agree with the original three demands; stop harassing the people, dissolve the parliament, and rewrite the constitution. And I also support the 10 demands [on the monarchy] of Thammasat (University) students to reform the monarchy. It must be reformed to fit with the times.

The largest rally in recent days has been the Bad Student demonstration at the Ministry of Education, when “[h]undreds of high school students demonstrated … on Saturday to demand reform of an education system…”.

Clipped from Bangkok Post

Pannika also showed up for the students at the Ministry: “She said she wanted to encourage students to express their opinions freely because they have the liberty to do so.” Others supporting the students were: Juthathip Sirikan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, singer Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan and democracy activist Nutta Mahattana.

The students made political statements, “sport[ing] white ribbons that have become a symbol of the broader youth-led protest movement…. They also blew whistles — mocking Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, a former co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee…”.

Meanwhile, others are pushing the protest envelope further, preparing for the next big rally, planned for 19 September. Parit Chiwarak vowed that protest speakers would “continue to discus reform of the monarchy at the rally…”.





Updated: School kids vs illegitimate power

18 08 2020

Geriatric rightists are up in arms about high school kids and their acts of defiance, that include three-fingered anti-junta salutes during the national anthem rightist ritual and answering questions in class with three-fingered arm raises.

Clipped from Khaosod

One reaction was from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s Nataphol Teepsuwan, who is now education minister. He declared that school kids expressing political thoughts should be charged: “If students do something illegal, I support administration in pursuing legal matters…”. He added:

If teachers can explain to students, that would be good. Paying respect to the flag is a commendable, beautiful thing that we want to keep. I don’t want demonstrations that cause division. Demonstrating is their right, but delicate matters like these can cause division.

He was supporting school administrators who had called police to clamp down on their students political actions:

The policemen arrived in the morning at Samsenwittayalai School and took photos of the pupils wearing white ribbons in solidarity with the anti-government movement across the country. The students will also hold up blank papers at 3pm to call for freedom of expression amid widespread attempts to silence the protests.

Another school in Nonthaburi province places a ban on political gathering inside its campus – joining a growing number of educational establishments who impose similar policies.

“The school does not have policies to support any activities aimed to create division against the system of Democracy with the King as the Head of State,” a statement released by the Bodindecha Sing Singhaseni Nonthaburi School says.

Some students faced violence from teachers, enraging them.

As a result, the Bad Student activist group plans to “march on the education ministry on Wednesday to protest its perceived reluctance to defend students’ rights to protest.” They are targeting “minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, who failed to condemn acts of violence and harassment against student protesters in recent days.”

Seemingly not understanding much at all, the minister asked: “why are they chasing me out? Is it because I don’t have any administrative skills? Is it because I don’t fix the education ministry’s problems?”

He conveniently forgets that he is a rightist supporter of the military coup, the junta and the illegitimate government. The junta rewarded its PDRC allies following the coup and continues to have several PDRC rightists as ministers and in other positions.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the ministry has “sent a letter to directors of education around the country asking them to let students engage in protest activities within the scope of the law.” This seems a regime strategy to defuse protest, emphasizing legalities and preventing “division.”





A uniformed hierarchy

13 01 2019

It was easy to miss or to dismiss: a private school decided to let its students wear whatever they wanted, one day a week, for six weeks or so. By this, they meant that, on the day, students were not required to wear a uniform.

Uniforming them early

It is common to see Thais in uniform. Royals have hundreds of them, even for pets.

This reflects a society that is rigidly hierarchical and that has been militarized. School students are regimented and uniformed at every level of education from kindergarten to university.

The school said the one-day exercise was so students could “wear casual clothes to express their individuality and creativity…”. Such notions are anathema to Thailand’s ruling elite and especially to military types.

Presumably they are also somewhat surprising for average Thais who have internalized militarized notions that uniforms make for an orderly society.

Training “good” royalist lads at Vajiravudh College

Roger Crutchley usually writes a Bangkok Post column that humorous reflection on an older Thailand. This week, however, he reflects on the uniform “revolution.” He observes:

Reports that Bangkok Christian College is allowing students to wear casual clothes once a week might seem a trivial tale, but it could cause a few ructions in Thailand. This is a country where even university students wear uniforms and any thoughts about breaking out from this conformity are frowned upon. After all, it might spark “self-expression” which will send shudders down the spine of the education establishment. The next thing they know, students even might start asking meaningful questions.

Orderly and uniformed

Morally unacceptable but still a uniform

The policing of school uniforms in Thailand has been more rigorous than teaching the basic subjects. Regimenting students – uniform, hair cuts, parroting fascist slogans and inculcating hierarchical values and subservience – is, for many in the ruling class, absolutely critical for the maintenance of their privilege. It is as if policing uniforms is necessary for maintaining a moral, upright and ordered nation.

Unacceptable uniforming causes moral panic.

But even unacceptable uniforms seem superior to no uniform at all. No uniforms seems to mean the collapse of the world as the ruling class knows it.

Prachatai reports that following the first day of the Bangkok Christian College experiment, the Ministry of Education have sprung into action and want to “halt the experiment and stop other schools from copying it even though the rules say it is OK.”

No rules broken, except for the rule of hierarchy that all Thais are forced to inculcate and follow. To maintain hierarchy,

Maintaining hierarchy

The Office of the Private Education Commission (OPEC) has sent an official letter to Bangkok Christian College, a famous private school, asking it to review its initiative. Mr. Chalam Attatham, Secretary-General of OPEC, said that OPEC is worried about discipline, orderliness, the expense for parents, teachers’ responsibility, the Thai social context and social problems that might arise.

Chalerm wanted the school to restore order and maintain the hierarchy. He opined:

Bangkok Christian College must consult its board and report back to the Ministry of Education, because what students can wear in private schools still comes under the 2008 MOE Uniform Rules. We understand that the school’s executive team and teachers have consulted each other and want to do research on student uniforms for 6 weeks, but we want them to look deeper than that into what effects it will have during the experiment. After all, the MOE, if anything happens, has to reconsider this. If other private schools want to do anything, they should think carefully about the consequences of their actions. A school board has to be strong about this….

The junta’s Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin immediately jumped into the fray. After all, he knows what uniforms are about as he wears them and serves men wearing them. He reinforced the hierarchy, saying:

The reason we must have uniforms is because wearing uniforms is a matter of tradition and culture since the time of Rama V, who said that apart from setting discipline, having student uniforms narrows the gap between the rich and the poor.

Discipline, tradition, hierarchy, maintaining the social, political and economic power of the ruling class. Of course, the military knows how to deal with recalcitrant students and has, several times, violently intervened to maintain those values of the ruling class.

Students in 1976 (a Lombard photo)

The current military junta has maintained strict control of universities and has changed the curriculum in schools to maintain its “values.” This has involved “training” students with military discipline.

Controlling students

In fact, one of the junta’s tasks in “returning happiness” to the people has been to reinstate “orderliness.” Erasing challenges to the monarchy – the institution at the top of the hierarchy – has been critical. The military knows that monarchists are more submissive to the hierarchy.





“Uneducate” them

19 12 2016

We at PPT are not education specialists. However, we did see something in a story on Thailand’s poor PISA results.

The story explains how Thailand languishes in the bottom quarter of the 70 countries that have their students tested every three years on science, math and reading. It then asks why Singapore and Vietnam have been successful.

uneducate

Royalists show the poor what they think

Finally, the story gets to Thailand: what’s wrong? An academic from Chulalongkorn University’s Education Faculty observes that “the PISA results reflect serious disparities between students in well-known schools and students in rural areas.” In other words, a lack of equity.

New Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin “admitted he was also disappointed with the performance of Thai students.” He agreed that the results “reflected a huge gap in ability between students in elite schools and those in underprivileged schools.”

Teerakiat only just got his position. Until a couple of days ago, the Ministry was headed by a general with Teerakiat and another general as deputy ministers. Today, there’s one general as a deputy minister.

Inequality in schools and generals go together.

We say this because Thailand’s elite doesn’t really care about education except as a means for imparting propaganda and instilling notions of hierarchy and order.

The rich don’t send their kids to the average school. They go to expensive schools or get into the top-ranked public schools (which are essentially reserved for the elite). The rich, like the military, prefer average schools to beat hierarchy and order into the population. Most important, they expect the lower classes to be trained to respect and honor their “betters.”

PISA results reflect this desire to control Thailand so that the royalist elite can exploit, dominate and luxuriate.





Get ’em young

28 05 2016

Royalists like to get their propaganda started young. Many readers will have seen the Prachatai story on the kindergarten in Khon Kaen that instills “discipline” and, presumably, notions of hierarchy by making the children wear military-style uniforms once a week.

In fact, while this school is getting ’em young, one of the reasons the education system in Thailand is so awful is because schools are designed to promote loyalty, hierarchy and royalism as values far more significant for the elite than educating children more broadly and critically. That’s all one of the reasons that “reforming” education is so bitterly resisted by the elite who prefer servile and cheap labor rather than educated persons coming out of schools and universities.

Like others probably did, we thought of Nazism and children and notions of loyalty and nationalism.

The most revealing part of the report was this:

Arun Phosi, the kindergarten’s head teacher, told the media that the uniforms are part of the school’s ‘Little Soldiers of Princess Mother’ project, which aims to teach students discipline and educate them about the contribution of the late Princess Srinagarindra, King Bhumibol’s mother.

“Educate” is clearly the wrong word. Arun must mean “indoctrinate.”








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