Fudging for the monarchy

10 05 2021

Without explanation (that we can see), the Bangkok Post has changed an online story. Guess what it is about? The king’s Siam Bioscience company. It might be a small thing, but it is illustrative of how the system works. Someone got upset, got on the phone and the story gets changed. If it was legitimate, you’d expect a note, but not in royalist Thailand.

Here’s the original story:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing

9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release — in English but with numerous grammatical errors — James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress [sic] in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set [sic] by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for  requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses [sic] mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of  vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question [sic] have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”

Here’s what it became, with the same headline, same date and same time stamp:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing
9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release, James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”





Hunting political prisoners

7 05 2021

Rising disillusionment with the hopelessness of the mafia regime, its kowtowing to a nasty and erratic king, and the judiciary’s subservience to both regime and monarch saw the membership of a new Facebook group “Let’s Move Abroad” or “Migrate” explode. When we last looked it was approaching 900,000.

While no one expects 900,000 young Thais to pack their bags and head for more liberal environs, the regime correctly diagnosed another political challenge. And, as expected, its group idiocy kicked in.

Get outta here

Clipped from Juliology

The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry announced that it “is closely monitoring a new Facebook group…”. All of the “Let’s Move Abroad” lot would rightly see this response as confirming that the current regime is hopeless.

While the Bangkok Post thinks the group “sprang up out of frustration over the government’s handling of the Covid-9 pandemic,” it is wrong. The group reflects a much, much broader disillusionment. As one academic put it:

There’s a huge disillusionment. It’s an economic, political and ideological response to what’s going on…. It’s a way of attacking the regime politically by suggesting that there are people who have lost faith.

This is confirmed by the political nature of the posting. And that is what has the DES flustered and fuming seems to be “political content and posts about highly sensitive issues which are alleged to be in violation of the lese majeste law have also been spotted.”

DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn said the ministry’s working panel “has been instructed to take legal action against any illegal content when necessary.”

The regime continues to hunt for those it can incarcerate as political prisoners. That’s enough to send people looking for something better.





Further updated: “Justice” kills

6 05 2021

There’s increasing concern about hunger strikers and political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, including well-meaning calls from some for them to not die when seeking justice.

Sadly, it is becoming clear that the regime is callous and savage. More, we know that the king has a say in whether the lese majeste is used or not. We also know that he is savage in dealing with those he thinks have been disrespectful – look at how he has treated his various wives and Vajiralongkorn’s mad and furious tone in his official declarations when he sacks people.

It gets worse. It is now confirmed that another political prisoner, Arnon Nampa, has fallen ill with the Covid virus “and been moved for medical treatment” at the Medical Correctional Institution. The virus appears to be infecting many inmates and may be out of control.

Coronation 1

Arnon is the second political prisoner to have contracted the virus while incarcerated. The first was Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong.

All prisoners are now under threat, but that these political prisoners are at risk is yet another example of the politicization and monarchization of the (in)justice system. After all, the junta’s constitution states at Article 29:

A suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent, and before the passing of a final judgment convicting a person of having committed an offence, such person shall not be treated as a convict.

In lese majeste cases, there is a presumption of guilt.

The question must be asked again and again: why is that these activists are not receiving justice? What is it or who is it preventing justice? WHo is it who doesn not care if they die? Who is it that relishes this savage and feudal treatment of young Thais?

No wonder hundreds of thousands of young Thais have joined a Facebook group that displays their dismay and that they have lost faith in many of the country’s institutions.

The military, the mafia regime, and the monarchy are destroying the country while they and their friends eat it.

Update1 : Some good news: “The Criminal Court has approved bail for the temporary release of Rassadon co-leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul on condition that she must not get involved in activities deemed to dishonour the monarchy.” Who knows what the latter condition means.In addition, “she must not join any activity that may cause unrest in the country, leave the country without permission and must report to the court as scheduled.”

The court appeared unable to make a decision without getting advice-cum-orders from on high: “After an inquiry into her bail request on Thursday morning, the court first scheduled handing down the decision at 3pm but later rescheduled it twice to 4pm and 5pm.” We take that delay as confirmation that the court gets it order from the regime and/or the palace.

Update 2: Despite the virus outbreak in prisons and at least two political prisoners already infected, Parit Chiwarak has been transferred “from Ramathibodi Hospital back to prison … after his health improved.” The danger to him is made clear by the courts themselves, which refuse to hear these defendants for fear of the virus. Parit’s court appearance, and that for Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, have been postponed “because the two defendants will not complete their 14-day quarantine until tomorrow. Prison officials said both have to be screened again, to make sure they are clear of the virus, before they will be allowed to attend the hearing.” This amounts to protecting judges and other officials – which is reasonable – but keeping political prisoners in dangerous conditions.





Intolerance and monarchy

27 04 2021

Political intolerance is a virus that has infected much of Southeast Asia, rolling back the minimal democratic gains made in the late 20th century.

An Australian report shows how monarchies are being resurrected and revamped as symbols of and sites for political intolerance. Thailand’s lese majeste law is ridiculous enough, but in Malaysia there’s now competition for the most ludicrous use of the law that represses, silences and threatens.

The report is of Fahmi Reza who “unleashed his latest Spotify playlist at a party in Australia…”, to now find himself “arrested, thrown behind bars and facing a potential three-year prison sentence.”

Fahmi is a “well-known satirist [who] is being investigated under the country’s sedition law, as well as its communications and multimedia legislation, for allegedly insulting Malaysia’s Queen…”.

His playlist is centered on the words “jealous” and “jealousy” and is “a reference to the queen’s riposte on social media to speculation about members of the royal family and their staff having jumped the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Like Thailand’s police, Malaysian cops claim Fahmi’s playlist “intentionally threatens public security.” Yes, really. It turns out that the “investigation” was “triggered by a complaint made by pro-establishment government MP…”.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch was clear: the “investigation” was “patently absurd,” showing that the “Malaysian government persecution of free expression is reaching all new lows.” He added:

The intolerance of PM Muhyiddin Yassin and his government is really off the charts, and this kind of violation of civil and political rights betrays an anti-democratic tendency that values power and control over respect for the people and democracy….

Thailand ranks far lower.





Monarchism and secrecy

25 04 2021

Prachatai reports on cabinet approved draft amendments to the Official Information Act. As with changes proposed for the registration and operation of NGOs, the approved amendment promotes and supports political authoritarianism that is rooted in monarchism.

As the report notes:

The Official Information Act B.E. 2540 (1997) was intended as the cornerstone of the people’s right to access state information….

Under the current procedure, the authorities are required to make a wide range of information accessible to the public on request, including cabinet resolutions, the structure of state agencies, policies, regulations, budgets and concession contracts with private companies.

Of course, the authorities could still legally “withhold or not give information that would damage the monarchy (Section 14), or that would damage national security, international relations, law enforcement or the wellbeing of a private individual (Section 15).”

Those bits of information on the monarchy would be available after a massive 75 years and after 20 years for other withheld information.

The draft amendment, however, expands the kinds of information that can be withheld and adds “a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine for any ‘individual’ who discloses such information.”

The draft now states that withheld information is that which could be “used to damage the monarchy and information about royal security, cannot be disclosed.

In addition, the amendment:

… prohibits the publication of information about state security regarding the military, defence, terrorist prevention, international affairs related to the state security, intelligence, individual security and “other information about state security as announced by the Cabinet following recommendations of the Board.”

“National security,” dominated by issues surrounding the secretive monarchy, has “been interpreted in a highly military manner after the 2014 coup.” Nakorn Serirak, a lecturer at the College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University, a former expert on the Information Board, said the:

increased presence on the Board of military officers expert in national defence, intelligence, counter-terrorism and security-related international affairs may cause a greater information lockdown when it comes to considering appeals against non-disclosure decisions.

The increased restrictions and penalties for those who disclose it will cause a “shrinking of freedom of information for Thais…”.

Mana Nimitmongkol, Secretary-General of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT), is also quoted. He says that the amendment will allow “the authorities to sweep many documents, like those to do with procurement or construction project details, under the security carpet, making it impossible to check corruption in projects.”

The descent into dark authoritarianism was the aim of the 2014 military coup and is a part of the military-monarchy dictatorship.





Mad authoritarianism

23 04 2021

There’s been considerable discussion in recent days of a draft law that would allow state monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities. This amounts to a predictable deepening of control by an authoritarian regime. At the same time, it is reflective of a quite mad authoritarianism as the regime has increasingly come under the influence of ideas of conspiracy that dominate the “thinking” of mad monarchists.

Thai PBS reports that the effort to strictly control civil society organization and dominate political space by limiting NGOs by the “monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities” through the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations “stems from fears of foreign intervention in local politics and adverse impacts of NGOs’ foreign donations on national security.”

That report cites Amnesty International as saying that other states have also introduced “restrictive laws and policies, and stigmatising rhetoric…”. The examples provided include “Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Hungary, and the Philippines.”

In the Thai case, the bill appears to reflect the increasingly frenzied deep yellow shirt conversations about CIA (meaning the USA) and Jewish (meaning George Soros) conspiracies to undermine the monarchy. There’s no evidence for such conspiracies, just an ever-mounting social media gnashing of teeth and tan ever-higher piling of buffalo manure, some of it egged on by organized anti-Western bloggers and “news” outlets. Such sources have waged a campaign against “colour revolutions” and, since the rise of the red shirts, have increasingly focused on Thailand. In Thailand, their deeply conservative narrative has been couched in “radical” terms, railing against “American imperialism.”

This narrative caught on among yellow shirts who themselves had dealt in fictious notions of conspiracy against the monarchy that constructed accounts of the Finland Plot to bring down the monarchy and of Thaksin Shinawatra’s anti-monarchism.

Such conservative fictions were easily imbibed by military monarchists. One result is this bill to control civil society groups. It was the post-junta cabinet, dominated by military monarchists that “in late February approved in principle the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations, which would require NGOs to report their financiers and amount of funding, to have their accounts audited, and to ensure that their activities are lawful.”

Thai Enquirer refers to the Bill as the “Operation of Non-profit Organizations Act,” and notes that the “legislation was proposed by the Council of State…” which cited the concerns that resulted in the draft bill, including that NGOs “receive funding from foreign persons or entities.” Nothing new there; it has been a standard operating procedure for decades. However, in these reactionary times, there’s a view that this “might adversely affect the relationship between Thailand and that of other countries.”

Thai Enquirer explains what the Bill will do:

This draft bill, if passed into law, would require NGOs to register themselves with the Director General of the Department of Provincial Administration, prior to commencing its activities in Thailand. Once registered, they will be additionally required to comply with rules and conditions prescribed by the Minister of Interior, in addition to those requirements set forth in the legislation.

In addition, NGOs would be subject to an annual disclosure viz-a-viz sources of funds and must file an annual tax report to authorities. And, more horrendously, the NGOs can only receive funding from foreign persons, entities, or groups of persons, only for the purpose as prescribed by the Minister of Interior. Failure to comply with these requirements would subject the NGOs to criminal sanctions. Potentially imprisonment for persons involved.

It is unclear whether receiving funds to engage in political advocacy such as calling for the amendment of the constitution would be one of the permissible purposes. However, given the government’s track record and how the government MPs have reacted to iLaw’s requests, it is reasonable to fear that the purpose of political advocacy would not be permitted.

The article continues, noting that the regime:

does not wish to appear subtle about its motives either. It includes as material substance of the law that the bill would effectively ensure that NGOs are operating in Thailand without “Tai-ya-jitr” (hidden agendas). It remains unclear what “hidden agenda” means in this context. Is advocating for democracy … under the authoritarian regime regarded as a “hidden agenda?” … One might therefore reasonably conclude that this law is aimed at curtailing the activity of liberal NGOs….

The regime “has provided numerous hints about how it intends to use the law,” citing “a senior intelligence official specifically cited a statement signed by 13 human rights organisations … as demonstrating the need for further control over organisations working in Thailand.” That statement by human rights groups “condemned the government’s use of force against protesters.”

As The Interpreter observes:

Since a military coup in 2014, however, civic space and fundamental freedoms have taken a beating in Thailand. Authorities have harassed activists, cracked down on protesters and obstructed the proceedings of civil society. But these actions have failed to fully extinguish dissent, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has now proposed a draconian new law governing associations and organisations, which, if passed, would do more to crush civic space and undermine Thailand’s role in the region than any other effort by the Thai government in the past decade….

Under the proposed legislation, any group engaged in non-profit activities – no matter how small, informal or unorganised – would be required to register with the ministry. Student groups, community organisations, protest movements, artistic collectives, social clubs and short-lived associations would all fall within the remit of the law.

It establishes a “mandatory registration scheme overseen by the Ministry of Interior” and gives “authorities expansive powers to control and monitor groups of all sizes and types.”

Under the current authoritarian regime, the proposed law’s “broad terms and steep penalties would likely be wielded arbitrarily against independent-minded individuals and organisations.”

It imposes harsh penalties for failing to register: “individuals associated with an unregistered group could be punished with up to five years’ imprisonment.”

…The law would give the Ministry of Interior sweeping powers to determine the conditions under which registered groups operate. Activities backed by foreign funds would require pre-approval by the ministry, with foreseeable consequences for groups that frequently come into conflict with the government. More worrying still, the law would allow officials to inspect a registered organisation’s office and access its emails without justification or judicial oversight. It provides no safeguards against governmental misuse or arbitrary application of the law.

…Moreover, the selection of the Ministry of Interior as the ministry responsible for enforcing the law is telling. The Ministry of Interior oversees local administration and internal security within Thailand. As a result, it frequently comes into conflict with community associations, non-governmental organisations and other groups that would be governed by the law. The surveillance and enforcement powers granted by the law would bolster the ministry, to the detriment of those seeking to hold government officials accountable for corruption, human rights abuses or other misdeeds.

Such requirements and such intrusive surveillance mean that the government would determine which NGOs could register and what they could do, if they receive international funding.

The Interpreter further observes:

Adding to the law’s recklessness, the timeline set forth for registration – 30 days from the date of enactment – does not provide enough time for the ministry to register the thousands of currently unregistered groups operating in Thailand. If it were passed, numerous organisations would be forced to cease operations, and many would never reopen.

That is likely one of the aims of the legislation.

Each of the reports mentioned in this post reports on responses from NGOs. Among many issues, they note that the law is in conflict with several provisions of the constitution – not that such matters have ever bothered this regime – and that the law would allow “authorities to harass civil society groups and activists critical of the government by categorising them as NGOs.”

The Interpreter concludes:

If enacted, the proposed law would devastate Thai civil society and could lead to an exodus of international organisations currently based in Thailand.

Clearly, the regime’s support for the monarchy and the need to suppress anti-royalism puts it in alliance with all kinds of mad monarchists. For them and the regime, only conspiracy theories can “explain” attacks on their beloved monarchy and monarchist ideology. When mixed with the regime’s military-induced love of hierarchy and order, the outcome is a political system that is deeply authoritarian. The threat is to make Thailand forever authoritarian.





Updated: Jatuporn, Nattawut and the protests

4 04 2021

Today, the recently erratic official red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan is tentatively rallying his supporters to oppose Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. This is surprising and somewhat difficult to understand.

Part of the reason why this is a surprise is that, as we observed back in January, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn had been saying some odd political things and seemed to have had a political meltdown, as enthusiastically reported by Thai PBS. Part of the meltdown involved a dispute with Thaksin Shinawatra over local elections.

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

As everyone knows, Jatuporn has a long pedigree as a political activist dating back to the 1992 uprising against another military power grab. For his leadership of red shirts, he had faced numerous criminal charges and several arrests and served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts in 2010. Jatuporn’s defamation was to aptly label Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

Despite his history of political activism, his recent outbursts saw Jatuporn labeled a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.” There was muffled cheering from royalists when Jatuporn suggested that the UDD be disbanded and that the student protesters should refrain from calling for reform to the monarchy.

All of that had observers scratching their heads when Jatuporn urged the public to join a political forum at Santiporn Park to “kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut’s prolonged stay in power.”

According to Jatuporn, “the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims,” and he hopes it leads to a sustained campaign against Gen Prayuth. He even called on former political opponents – yellow shirts – to join if they opposed Gen Prayuth.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn “is proposing to bring Prayut down as well as write a ‘people’s constitution’.” He is cited:

Jatuporn blames the prime minister for the current aggressive deployment of the kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law against activists, which just worsens the political crisis. He reiterated that this is all the more reason why Prayut must go.

To avoid more violence and casualties, as seen in recent demonstrations, Jatuporn said that either Prayut must step down or the coalition parties must withdraw from the government.

Jatuporn says that his “new group of political activists is called Samakee Prachachon, which literally translates as ‘the people united’, to support an end to the current divide and rule strategy, wherein the Prayut regime exploits political division to hang on to political power.”

Today’s event has led to much speculation.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn is responding “to the call, by Adul Khieuboriboon, leader of the relatives of the victims of the ‘Black May’ event in 1992, for mass protests.”

On the right, there have been mixed responses. Some thought that an anti-regime movement that did not attack the monarchy might have political traction, whereas other rightists thought that Jatuporn remained Thaksin’s puppet.

One of the mouthpieces of the anti-Thaksinistas, former ideologue at The Nation and now writing op-eds for Thai PBS, Tulsathit Taptim, describes Jatuporn “ unpredictable” and asks: “Who is Jatuporn working for?” He promotes the idea that Jatuporn “has patched things up with Thaksin…” and that Thaksin wants to move now to prevent the regime further embedding itself through the (rigged) election processes:

The Thaksin-Jatuporn theory means Prayut will face a two-pronged attack. The current youngster-led campaign will go on, dealing with all kinds of sensitive subjects such as Article 112. Jatuporn’s army, whose size remains to be seen, will deal with the prime minister directly and push for relatively less sensitive constitutional changes like the origin and powers of the Senate. One of rare positives for Prayut in this case is that a Thaksin-Jatuporn combination would keep the Democrats more firmly in the fold.

Thaksin’s name will return to the center stage, according to this popular theory….

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protester leaders told Thai Enquirer that while “the student-led movement have not yet to discussed whether or not it would join a rally called by Jatuporn,” ousting Gen Prayuth was also one of the movement’s goals. However, the students said there “should be no division [between the groups]…”.

In other words, the students insisted the attention to the monarchy to remain. Benjar Apun, a protest leader from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said:

We will not interfere with what they are doing…but our goals are aligned, with or without the demand to reform the institution….

However, the UFTD will continue to demand for the reformation of the royal institution and Jatuporn’s movement also do not have the right to interfere with this demand….

She said her group would consider joining the rally but would never drop their demands to reform the institution [monarchy].

In line with that, it is interesting to observe that Nattawut Saikua, another UDD leader, just out of jail and just this week off electronic tagging, said that he “had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn…”.

Jatuporn-nattawutt

Nattawut and Jatuporn in red shirt days

However, on Tuesday, he called on the “government to release pro-democracy protesters from jail and seek a peaceful resolution to the political conflict.” He then went on to affirm that “sovereign power in the country belonged to the people as everyone is equal.”

He noted that he had been charged, arrested and jailed several times, saying: “I have no regrets over the path I chose. I have been sentenced to jail three times, but I can handle it if I have to face such punishment again.”

Nattawut reaffirmed his support for the pro-democracy protesters, saying:

The country can’t move forward if the new generation is still in jail, so the government should talk with the [young protesters] to seek a peaceful solution for the country….

These two red shirt leaders might have different aims, but the thrust of their current words and activity may further promote political struggle.

Update: Few of the mainstream media reported on the rally last night – perhaps it finished too late for stories to be filed? That said, the rally was livestreamed by various outlets, including Voice TV. Various reports were of a few hundred to 3,000 attending. Based on the broadcast PPT saw, it was very much a red shirt crowd and certainly much grey hair was evident.

Thai Enquirer did editorialize:

Jatuporn’s position also means that he is estrange politically. Having moved way from the Pheu Thai Party, Jatuporn has no ready allies in parliament. Move Forward, Palang Pracharat, Bhumjai Thai all have reason to not engage with the former red shirt leader. Ironically the party most closely aligned to his views might be the Democrat Party, the very party he once took to the streets to try to overthrow.

It is unclear how much traction this new movement will gain in the coming weeks and months or whether it will at all.

But what is clear is that if Jatuporn wants to create a stir and regain the support he once had, he is going to have his work cut out for him.





Framing activists

1 04 2021

AP reports that prosecutors have “indicted five pro-democracy activists on Wednesday on changes of attempting to harm the queen during a street demonstration last October in which some protesters shouted slogans critical of the monarchy.”

The five stand “accused of violating Section 110 of the Criminal Code, which says that whoever attempts an act of violence against the queen or the royal heir faces 16-20 years’ imprisonment.” This is another law “protecting” the monarchy, and this is, as far as we know, its first use in recent years.

As AP points out, there was no violence and “Queen Suthida … was not in any evident danger in the incident, which occurred when a limousine carrying the queen and the king’s son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, passed through a small crowd of protesters mixed with supporters of the royal family.”

In other words, the protesters may have been set up and they are certainly being framed.

They include Akechai Hongkangwarn and Bunkueanun Paothong. It is reported that all “five deny any wrongdoing. After their indictment, they were released on bail of 200,000-300,000 baht ($6,400-$9,600) each.”





Mad monarchists madder still II

30 03 2021

With the resurgence of protests and the regime intensifying its repression, the mad monarchists are increasingly agitated.

While reporting on Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon and her recent speech targeting the monarchy and other reforms, Thai PBS spends space on enraged monarchists and their bizarre claims.

Mind

Mind

Already facing a lese majeste charge, on 24 March, Mind made three calls on the monarchy, calling on the king to cease interfering “in the military, in politics and in public assets.”

As a result of these reasonable demands of a monarchy meant to be constitutional, Mind probably faces additional lese majeste and other charges. She says she is “bracing for jail…” and vowed to “continue her fight even if she was jailed during the court trial.”

The rabid royalists given space are alleged “scholar” Arnond Sakworawich and political aspirant Warong Dechgitvigrom. It is interesting how each royalist repression of protesters since 2005 has seen a new bunch of royalist spokespersons promoted as the “defenders” of the monarchy.

Arnond claims Mind is “mistaken in alleging the King has ‘his own army’, independent of the Thai armed forces.” His view is that the “King’s Royal Guards were simply transferred from the military and police to form the royal security unit.” He doesn’t explain how it is that this “unit” is under the direct command of the palace or why it was necessary to vastly expand the “royal security unit.”

Arnond’s rebuttal of Mind’s observation of the king’s political interventions – preventing his elder, non-royal, sister stand in an election – seems to confirm Mind’s point. Arnond ignores other interventions, including the king’s demands for constitutional change.

Royalist Arnond’s defense of royal wealth and the king’s assets is just loopy and ignores the king’s own changes to the law that allowed him to take total control of all assets associated with the monarchy, while rolling back decades of legislation.

Warong Dechgitvigrom relied more on the concoction of a conspiracy, a royalist strategy that has been used repeatedly since 2005 to smear and repress.

He claimed Mind is manipulated “by a hidden hand bent on defaming the King with distorted facts.” He declared:

It’s a pity that you didn’t do your homework before reading the statement. The person who prepared the statement for you is so cruel. Without supporting truth, they sacrifice you just to incite people….

This conspiracy claim is repeated and expanded by the maddest of the Bangkok Post’s monarchists, Veera Prateepchaikul. Agreeing with the yellow-shirt conspiracies and cheers the detention without bail of those accused of lese majeste.

Like Warong, he believes that Mind and other protesters are manipulated and the tools of dedicated anti-monarchists. He pours accelerant on the royalist fire, repeating scuttlebutt that her “demands for reform of the monarchy was allegedly given to her by someone believed to be an anti-monarchist.”

He demeans and diminishes all the young protesters, preferring to believe they are misled and tricked. His claims are a familiar refrain. It was only a few years ago that yellow shirts demeaned red shirts, considering them uneducated buffaloes, led around by the nose, and or paid by Thaksin Shinawatra. Obviously, the kids protesting aren’t “uneducated,” but there is still a search for a political Svengali.

In an attempted political assassination, Veera names and seeks to shame “Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement Group and anti-monarchist lecturer at Thammasat University…”. Veera decries Piyabutr’s view that the protesters are agents of change, who “will not change their mind on the monarchy” by jailing them.

Veera peddles more royalist tripe by questioning why several academics have been willing to post bail for those jailed.

Veera states that “many students have been exploited,” and claims that Mind is manipulated: “What if she is thrown behind bars for reading the script in question while the actual writer remains scot free? That is unfair, cold-blooded and sheer exploitation of a young mind.”

Yellow shirt ideology is conspiratorial and displays a remarkable penchant for patriarchal nonsense, diminishing the views and actions over many months of demonstration. Clearly, the students understand that reform to the monarchy comes with a diminution of patriarchy and other hierarchies that keep old royalist men in charge of the country.





Royalists need 112

28 03 2021

New Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said on Friday that he will continue with his predecessor’s policies. That is, his working life will be more or less devoted to track down and censor websites considered to be defaming the monarchy.

For a story that eschews the minister’s spinlessness and offers courage in the face of royalist repression, see the ABC’s “Thailand protest leader Rung could face a lengthy prison sentence for allegedly insulting the King. But she isn’t giving up yet.” Despite facing 112nine lese majeste charges that mean “she could be handed a maximum jail sentence of up to 135 years,” Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul or Rung, has vowed to fight on.

She explains: “I am in this battle, I give it my all, I devote my life,” adding: “Thailand has been changed hugely [by the protest movement] and there is no return … I feel going to jail is worth it…”.

Rung wants Article 112 “revoked entirely.” She said: “There is no need to have this special criminal law separately…. If [the royal family] think they were insulted they should use [civil] defamation law to sue…”.

Of course, royalists like the new minister and some of those cited in the story will be livid, realizing that their whole regime of fear and repression requires 112.