With two updates: Monarchist madness reaches new heights

11 10 2019

Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has form as a royalist ideologue. On Friday, as Khaosod reports, he “stunned the nation with an 90-minute tirade on anti-government politicians and academics, in which he accused them of attempting to sabotage the country’s constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Khaosod

This is nonsensical, but we must assume that Gen Apirat believes his own rants.

Some readers will recall that it wasn’t that long ago, in February, when we observed that no one should trust the commander of the Royal Thai Army. At that time, Gen Apirat “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. That was a lie. Then in July, he doubled down, promising he would:

wash his hands of politics after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] is dissolved once the new cabinet is sworn in…. From then on, I won’t make political comments nor will I get involved with politics in any way. I’ll perform my duty strictly as a professional soldier….

That was also a lie.

The Army even lied about his speech, saying “Apirat’s speech … as being about the situation in Thailand’s deep south, home to a Muslim separatist insurgency.”

In Friday’s deranged rant, Gen Apirat’s “fiery rhetoric and even invocation of Communist threats in today’s news conference took many observers of the armed forces by surprise.” He lied that “the opposition’s campaign to amend the current constitution as a stealth attack on the monarchy.”

His concocted plot is a clear attack on the Future Forward Party and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. He targeted them as “communist politicians” and “extreme left” academics “who had studied abroad.”

Gen Apirat “showed a picture of Thanathorn and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, albeit with Thanathorn blacked out for an unknown reason. Apirat said he suspects that the pair might be colluding in some ways.” He criticized the young demonstrators in Hong Kong as he accused Thai politicians of colluding with communists.

Oddly, in an anti-communist tirade – for Gen Apirat, the Cold War-era battle hasn’t ended – his criticism of Wong and Thanathorn was joined by the regime in Beijing. Presumably Gen Apirat knows that China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. Even so, he supported the Beijing view, beloved of yellow conspiracy theorists and regime supporters in Thailand, that Hong Kong’s protesters were being supported and egged on by “outsiders.”

He babbled:

Joshua Wong has visited Thailand on several occasions. Who did he meet? What type of people did he meet? Did their meeting have a hidden agenda? What did they plot? Now, there is unrest in Hong Kong. A visit [by Thanathorn] can be viewed as giving encouragement and support….

Bemedaled like a North Korean general, Apirat then attacked the opposition parties as “selfish opportunists” and declared that they “cannot be trusted.” He warned “that politicians, academics and other intellectuals may ‘manipulate’ young people to stage protests like those in Hong Kong.”

Like a rabid dog, he went after academics: “He singled out those who had joined or sympathised with the communist movement in the 1970s, saying they had now become academics ‘teaching students wrong things’.”

“I’m not involved in politics. The army has stepped back now that there’s an elected government. But this is about national security. I will never let anyone separate the country,” he said.

His mad view is that something he calls a “hybrid warfare” that incorporates “methods such as online propaganda and more traditional violent means was already being employed in Thailand to destroy the nation.” He further concocted, claiming “politicians were linked to former communists who he said never gave up efforts to seize power…”.

AP expresses its own confusion on this plot:

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to because Thailand is not at war, the military and its allies are firmly in charge having run the country for the past five years, and a long-running insurgency is limited to the nation’s three southernmost provinces. Apirat’s comments appeared largely aimed at opposition politicians who campaigned on efforts to reform the military but have not advocated war or violence.

AP might have added that many former communists – all of them aged – support the military and its government.

As a staunch royalist, Gen Apirat “at least once Friday appeared to be in tears when speaking of King … Vajiralongkorn.” He claimed: “There is a group of communists who still have ideas to overthrow the monarchy, to turn Thailand to communism…”.

Clipped from Khaosod

Gen Apirat then pointedly made the connection between ant-communism, military and monarchy, saying the king “had helped soldiers fight against communist troops in … Loei province on Nov 5, 1976.” He went on:

“His Majesty was in the operation base, ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder by shoulder with brave soldiers.”

The royal institution had always protected the nation and battles went on for a long time before the Communist Party surrendered in 1988, Gen Apirat said.

Gen Apirat declared:

The royal institution, the military and people are inseparable. In the past, kings were on elephants surrounded by soldiers. Those soldiers were the people who sacrificed themselves in battles beside kings….

The general and his king (Clipped from the Bangkok Post)

Gen Apirat argued that it was the military that was “with the people.” He said: “They [the opposition parties] criticize the military as being an obstacle to democracy, when in fact we work for every Thai citizen.” That’s after they have repressed, jailed, tortured and murdered the Thai citizens who don’t agree with them.

The Economist observes:

In theory, Thailand’s army, having seized power in a coup in 2014, has returned to the barracks, after handing power back to politicians. But General Apirat apparently sees nothing inappropriate in railing against communists, student agitators and opposition MPs.

Meanwhile, The Nation quoted a critical academic:

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of Political Science at the Ubon Ratchathani University, said the Army chief was exaggerating the point and acting as if the military owns the Constitution and the country….

Titipol also suggested that Apirat was using tactics allowing the military to make political gains by exaggerating the idea of amending Section 1 and accused him of acting against the principles of freedom of expression guaranteed to the people by the Constitution. He said people should be allowed to voice their opinions constructively about the amendment of the charter, adding that the military does not own the Constitution or the country….

He also said that the Army and the government do not want to amend the charter because it allows the military to stay in power after the military-led coup in 2014….

“This charter largely protects the interests of the political establishment at the expense of the people,” he said.

Gen Apirat is a deranged and armed thug. That makes him dangerous, especially when linked to a fearsome monarch.

Update 1: Naturally enough – we had forgotten – Gen Apirat’s mad tirade came on the anniversary of the previous king’s death and as Vajiralongkorn flew back to Thailand from Germany. The newspapers and media are thus overflowing with propaganda for the monarchy, much of it being concocted stories about “great” achievements. Vajiralongkorn can bask in the reflected glory as his military second in command goes full on monarchy bananas.

Equally crazed is Chairith Yonpiam at the Bangkok Post who suggests that Future Forward must “learn the art of compromise.” In one of the most biased op-eds in the Post for quite some time, Chairith forgets that the 2014 coup came after the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, military and Democrat Party trashed parliament and ousted yet another elected government. He prefers to recall only the red shirt protests while neglecting to mention that the red shirts were slaughtered by the military, including the gun-toting Gen Apirat.

Apirat being “democratic”

And, Chairith goes full yellow saying that the current “political conflict involving the government and the opposition, with the FFP at the forefront, is a clash of ideologies with the former representing the conservative oligarchy and the latter brandishing the flag of liberalism.” That’s a line radical royalists have been peddling. He doubles down by questioning whether the judge in Yala who shot himself is part of “an attack on the judiciary.” He supports ISOC’s use f sedition charges against academics and FF politicians and is warning the party that they had better be careful. The implied threat being that they may end up floating in a river. Why is Chairith not demanding that the military “compromise”? Precisely because his “conservative oligarchy” requires the military’s threats, repression, torture and murder to stay in power.

Fortunately, a Post editorial is far more reasonable, observing that Gen Apirat’s chilling rant “should never have been given by any army chief…”, adding that “the military will not put an end to its meddling in politics.” It observes that “Gen Apirat did not provide a shred of credible evidence for his allegations.” The editorial concludes:

The army chief fails to understand that amending the charter is the job of parliamentarians with input from the public, not his.

Gen Apirat’s remarks yesterday failed to assure the public that he will steer clear of politics. Nevertheless, as the army commander, he must remain politically neutral and avoid orchestrating a political messaging strategy targeting particular groups of people. Gen Apirat will have a hard time convincing many people that he is not engaged in information warfare of his own.

There is zero chance that the Army commander will cease interfering in politics. He’s ambitious, not too bright and a threatening thug. That Future Forward has responded and criticized the thug in green will anger him and his supporters and the conflict will deepen.

Update 2: With the meddling king back in Thailand, things may get even messier. In one report it is stated that Anusorn Iamsa-ard of the opposition Puea Thai Party has said that:

Gen Prayut must set up a panel to look into the matter to assure the public that the government did not use the army as a political tool, and that the army was not trying to support the government so much so that it loses its neutrality….

Of course, Anusorn knows that the Army is not neutral and that the government is infected by military men now in suits and that the Senate has special seats for the military, which means it support the current regime.

The military is clearly frightened by Future Forward’s electoral showing, seeing this as a clear sign that the military are political dinosaurs doomed to repression if they are to maintain their grip on power. This is confirmed with loony complainer Srisuwan Janya petitioning the “National Anti-Corruption Commission to launch an ethics probe against FFP leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit after the Chinese embassy last Thursday issued a statement accusing a Thai politician of contacting a group involved in the protests in Hong Kong.” Exactly how and why he is doing this unsaid, but as a mad royalist, he knows who salts his rice.





With two updates: “Law” and repression II

8 10 2019

It gets worse.

Khaosod reports that police on Tuesday (or it may have been Monday evening) arrested Karn Pongpraphapan, 25, a pro-democracy campaigner who they accused of spreading “hatred” toward the monarchy in an online post.

Karn was taken into custody “at his home last night and taken to a police station where he was charged with violating the cybercrime law. Karn now faces up to five years in jail.

As is often the case in the lawlessness associated with rule by law and acts said to involve the monarchy, the “police statement did not specify what Karn wrote, but described it as an ‘inappropriate content on Facebook spreading hatred’ which ‘upset a number of people’ after it was widely shared.”

As usual, Karn is charged under a section of the Computer Crime Act banning content that “pose a threat to national security.”

His lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree denied the charge and said:

the message in question was a public Facebook post Karn wrote on Oct. 2, which asked “How do you want it to end?”

Karn then went on to reference historical events involving past foreign monarchies, such as “shooting like the Russians,” “beheading by guillotine like the French,” and “exiled like the Germans.”

Winyat stressed that “Karn’s writing did not mention the Thai monarchy in any way. He also disputed speculation on social media that Karn was criticizing the recent traffic woes allegedly caused by royal motorcade in Bangkok.” He said: “He was talking about the history of other nations.” He says that it was others who distorted his client’s writing.

The report adds that “[t]he arrest came several days after digital economy minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta announced that the police were on the verge of ‘purging’ anti-monarchy figures on social media.”

It is no coincidence that, at the same time that Karn languished in jail, Minister for Digital Censorship Buddhipongse issued a directive that “cafe and restaurant operators with free wifi service must collect internet traffic data used by their customers up to 90 days, or face punishment.” He “explained” that “officials may need to request for the information under Article 26 of the Computer Crimes Act…”.

It is also no coincidence that this follows that mass outbreak of complaints about the monarchy.

Update 1: Khaosod reports that the watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, wants five people arrested on these (disguised) lese majeste charges of making “inappropriate” online comments about the monarchy.

In an attempt to deflect criticism from the throne, the king has arranged it with the regime that charges other than lese majeste are now used for those considered to have insulted the monarchy. (The regime has also taken to enforced disappearance, torture and murder in dealing with anti-monarchists.)

Prawit babbled “we’ll have to prosecute them, because their wrongdoing involves attacking the monarchy.”

Minister for Digitial Censorship Buddhipongse said Karn was not targeted “for his political beliefs.” He’s fibbing. He invoked rule by law, claiming that Karn’s nighttime arrest was a matter for the courts.

Buddhipongseis an anti-democrat from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee who became a junta spokesman, then a member of the junta’s front party and is now a minister.

(We should add that it was only a couple of weeks ago that Shawn Crispin at Asia Times trumpeted Thailand as being post-authoritarian, erroneously claiming: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. We remain confused how a journalist can whitewash the current regime’s political repression.)

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Karn was granted bail late on Tuesday.





Updated: Flashback 6 October 1976

6 10 2019

As we do each year, we recall the events of 6 October 1976, where military, right-wing thugs and palace came together to murder protesters and unleash a rightist authoritarianism led by a palace man that was soon replaced by a direct military regime.

Those events have had sad resonances over the decades and the blood continues to drip from the hands of those who have been the military’s leaders and its ideologues.

This year we remember 1976 with a reproduction of a booklet that came out on 2008 from the Pridi Banomyong Institute.

Download the 16-page PDF here.

Update: For those who haven’t seen it yet, the article by Puangthong Pawakapan and Thongchai Winichakul, “The desecration of corpses on 6 October 1976: who, how and why” at New Mandala is well worth some contemplation.





Updated: Fear of the palace

4 10 2019

PPT has been following the social media discussion of massive traffic jams and delays caused by processing royals. Only one English-language outlet has reported on this and the mainstream media seems reluctant to mention it. As usual, the reason for this reticence is fear.

Khaosod reported a couple of days ago that a royal blockade last Tuesday had “[c]ommuters frustrated with police’s traffic blockade during … rush hours…”. On social media, the commuters are “seething with anger over the blockade, which shut down a number of key roads and intersections in downtown Bangkok for a royal motorcade to pass through.”

Several posts are not just frustrated but expressing anti-royal sentiment. One social media post reckoned that there were now close to 750,000 angry tweets and posts. This is probably why the mainstream media is running in fear.

How things have changed. Just a few years ago, a palace official claimed: “The royal family never meant to bother the public.” Of course, the motorcades had been a fact of unpleasant urban life in Bangkok for decades, but politics and rising anti-monarchism back in 2012 caused the then king to issue “new rules” for the “treatment of royals on the roads” and in shopping malls.

Back then, “authorities distributed 25,000 handbooks to police and other officials with guidelines for directing royal convoys and new protocol for public appearances by the extended royal family.” The report added: “The manual overturns several practices that had quietly irritated the public in a country where open criticism of the royal family is illegal, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

For the malls, it was stipulated that they no longer had to “turn away shoppers if a royal family member shows up.”

It seems that these changes were simply too much for the current crop of royals and they are now happy to irritate the public.

Update: One fear, it is worthwhile reading an op-ed at Khaosod. Pravit Rojanaphruk writes of what is probably a hoax but demonstrates the effectiveness of intimidation associated with the monarchy. Royalists work in mysterious ways but all to “protect” the world’s wealthiest monarchs in a Thai world that is looking remarkably feudal. Interestingly, a recent photo of blocking entry to malls for royals is reproduced. We clipped it below.





Recalling the 2006 military coup

20 09 2019

The army’s task: coups and repression

19 September was the anniversary of the 2006 military coup. This was the coup that set the path for Thailand’s decline into military-dominated authoritarianism based in ultra-royalist ideology.

Over the past couple of days we didn’t notice a lot of memorializing of the event that illegally removed then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party, with tanks on the streets and soldiers decked out in royal yellow.

The military soon hoisted Privy Councilor Gen Surayud Chulanont into the prime ministership.

Anointing the 2006 coup

As we know, the coup did not succeed in its self-assigned task of rooting out the “Thaksin regime,” with Thaksin’s parties having been the most successful over the years that have followed and when the military permitted elections. This is why the 2014 coup was aimed at “putting things right,” through a more thorough political repression and a rigging of the political system for the ruling class. It also unleashed a rabid use of lese majeste to destroy that class’s political opponents.

One effort to recall the 2006 coup was by Ji Ungpakorn. He observes the:

forces behind the 19th September coup were anti-democratic groups in the military and civilian elite, disgruntled business leaders and neo-liberal intellectuals and politicians. The coup was also supported by the monarchy….

2006 coup

And adds:

Most NGOs and large sections of the middle classes also supported the coup. What all these groups had in common was contempt or hatred for the poor. For them, “too much democracy” gave “too much” power to the poor electorate and encouraged governments to “over-spend” on welfare. For them, Thailand is still divided between the “enlightened middle-classes who understand democracy” and the “ignorant rural and urban poor”. In fact, the reverse is the case. It is the poor who understand and are committed to democracy while the so-called middle classes are determined to hang on to their privileges by any means possible.

For a flavor of the times, see reports of the coup by the BBC and The Guardian. For early efforts to understand the 2006 coup, consider Ji’s A Coup for the Rich, Thailand Since the Coup, and Thailand and the “good coup.”

It’s been downhill since 2006: repression, military political domination and ultra-royalism, leading to a form of neo-feudalism in contemporary Thailand.





Updated: Royalist plotting

19 09 2019

Among others, Khaosod noted the “report” that was “seen on PM [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s desk during a parliament session on Wednesday” when he did not respond to his unconstitutional oath.

That official document is apparently titled “Network Plotting to Destroy the Nation…”. Initially, “Government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat said the report was compiled by officials who work on ‘national security issues,’ but declined to elaborate, saying the content is ‘classified’.”

Khaosod observed that the “report’s cover photo appears to show the aftermath of a recent bomb attack in Bangkok.”

The Bangkok Post has more detail, translating the report’s title as “network of elements sabotaging the nation…”. Its anonymous “source within the government” disclosed that the report was “prepared for a briefing by intelligence and security agencies,” with “the elements” claimed to be “sabotaging the nation” are “political figures whose acts are deemed to offend the high institution of the monarchy.”

In other words, as has been since the period leading up to the 2006 military coup, the royalist military and its supporters are concocting yet another “plot” against the monarchy. This follows concoctions like the Finland Plot and the infamous anti-monarchy “plot” and “diagram” under the royalist military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has confirmed that it “has information about a network…”.

As the Post observes, no names have been mentioned, but Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong “had previously mentioned some groups which he believed intended to harm the country…” and referred to “a movement which was trying to provoke a civil war between ‘pro-democracy’ and ‘pro-junta’ factions.” He was essentially attacking the Future Forward Party.

And it was only a few days ago that the Criminal Court ruled that ultra-royalist prince Chulcherm Yugala, who declared the Future Forward Party dangerous republicans “seeking to overthrow the monarchy,” had not libeled that party.

Quite obviously, the military, its ISOC – an “intelligence” agency – and the regime is going to use the monarchy against democratic and parliamentary opposition.

Such plotting by the regime may be dismissed as the musings of old generals who crave power and serve the ruling class.

However, such maniacal plotting in the military and probably in the palace has real and terrible consequences such as military coups, lese majeste, jailings, bashing of opponents, enforced disappearance and torture and murder.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Even in recent days, the family of victims of such accusations have been harassed by the regime thought police. Kanya Theerawut, the mother of missing political refugee Siam Theerawut, disclosed “that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department [a useless part of the Ministry of Justice] … told her not to take her son’s case to the UN, as it could ruin the country’s image.” We think the regime has done plenty to ruin Thailand’s image. She was also “visited and questioned by Special Branch officers…”, which is a standard regime means of intimidation.

It is the royalist plotting that is most intense and most deranged. It is also hugely expensive. This regime plotting is far more dangerous than anti-monarchists.

Update: A reader points out that the report on the political harassment of Kanya came just a couple of days after Shawn Crispin at Asia Times erroneously claimed: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. Like the reader, we are confused as to why a journalist would want to whitewash the current regime’s political repression.





Updated: Constitutional Court ignores constitution II

12 09 2019

The Constitutional Court’s most recent decision places the king above the constitution. This is yet another move that moves the the monarchy away from its status as constitutional; with the monarchy now deemed to be above the constitution, it is, by definition and in law, no longer a constitutional monarchy. In Wikipedia’s basic definition:

A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy (in which a monarch holds absolute power) in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework.

The Constitutional Court affirms that the king is not constrained by the constitution – even when he demanded and received changes to that constitution under the military junta – when it determined that: “… it lacked jurisdiction because the oath was a matter between the executive branch and the king.”

Of course, it isn’t. The constitution is clear that ministers must make a particular oath, with the words set out in the constitution. This is not a matter between the executive and king except if, like the Court, the monarch is considered above the constitution and not under it.

That King Vajiralongkorn and his palace determined the unconstitutional oath is confirmed by earlier reports. For example, the Bangkok Post recently reported that the military-backed government had warned politicians not to discuss the monarchy’s role. It determined that:

MPs will not be protected by customary parliamentary immunity during the general debate on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s incomplete oath recital, chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate said yesterday.

Since all parties concerned want the session to be held openly [sic.] instead of behind closed doors, lawmakers should be warned they are not immune to being sued over remarks deemed to offend the monarchy, he said.

You get the picture. The king is not to be mentioned, even if he is the culprit in encouraging anti-constitutional actions.

Update: StrategyPage is not a site we know well. However, it has a story on the monarchy that has some interesting claims. It begins:

The animosity between monarchists and democrats is growing more intense. The new king, the former unpopular playboy crown prince, is turning into an unpopular king who is seeking more control over the military and more money for his increasingly (compared to his popular father) lavish lifestyle.

It goes on to claim (under an interesting heading):

Bad Royals

The military and the new king are making it more likely that the democratic opposition will eventually call for the elimination of the monarchy. This was not really possible until the current king took power and made it clear he was different. Unlike his predecessor, the new king already had an unsavory reputation as a playboy crown prince. To make matters worse the new king made a deal with the military government that would, in theory, benefit both of them in the long run. First, the former crown prince assured everyone that he would behave, after a fashion. In return, the military government freed the monarchy from constitutional and parliamentary restrictions that were part of the 1930s deal that turned the absolute monarchy into a constitutional one.