Royalist ratbag politics

19 01 2022

A few days ago, Thai Enquirer reported on royalists responding to the wave of graduates rejecting royal graduation ceremonies.

The expected royalist response has begun, with “a campaign to stop the hiring of university students who did not receive their diplomas from the royal family as per tradition.”

Of course, the news outlet’s use of “tradition, which follows a post at Prachatai, ” is a bit of a royalist stretch. As far as we know, having members of the royal family present diplomas was introduced in 1930 and was discontinued until after WW2, and then became one of those mid-20th century royal “innovations” during the era of Sarit Thanarat, and meant to tie graduates to the monarchy. Like other innovations, it “restored” a practice briefly used under the absolute monarchy. More a royalist propaganda device than a “tradition.”

Since the monarchy reform and anti-lese majeste campaigns got underway quite a number of graduating students “have chosen to not attend the ceremonies in solidarity and because they say the cost of attending the royal ceremony is too high.” Some of them oppose feudalism.

Royalists are aghast and some “business owners are striking back at the protesting students by saying they won’t hire any that didn’t attend their graduation ceremony.” They plan to demand graduation photos as evidence for having prostrated before the wealthy, feudal, family.

In the way of feudalists-fascists, “Paisal Puechmongkol, a former senator and former assistant of Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon, wrote of students as non-human. He claimed employers “need to initially consider whether the person who is being hired is ‘a human being that can work within a human society and a job that provide services to customers or not’.” He considered those who avoided the royals as “stupid people who do not know what is right and wrong…”.

Such attitudes tell us much about these nasty fascists engages in ratbag royalist politics.





Silencing the media I

16 01 2022

The regime has congratulated itself on its ability to repress anti-government/anti-monarchy protests. The king must feel confident returning to Europe later in the month.

But at what cost? In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says:

Thai authorities have prosecuted dissenters, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and censored news and social media…. Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse while the government’s promises of reform remain unfulfilled.

Read HRW’s World Report 2022. We assume that HRW is in the regime’s sights for repression next year.

The regime’s moves to shut down political expression has been going on for several years, and much of this has been posted by PPT. Of late, we have had several asides regarding the apparent constricting of the media. Some of this has to do with business decisions – look at the Bangkok Post where the “news” is obliterated by advertorials and “stories” that are promotional. Some of it has to do with the political proclivities of owners.

But much of it has to do with repression, censorship and self-censorship. That screw has been being wound down for some time, but the Constitutional Court’s support of the regime in its ludicrous judgement on political reform now seems like a turning point, sending the country further down the repressive royalist rathole. That decision silenced much of the media reporting on monarchy reform.

With that stimulus, as Khaosod recently reported, the regime has conjured “a draft law that would allow suspension of media license on grounds of publishing contents deemed against ‘good morals of the public’.”

The bill,  formally called “Draft Media Ethics and Professional Standards Promotion Act,” was proposed by the government’s Public Relations Department and approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday. The department is chaired by Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who served as the spokesman for the junta….

We all know how the regime defines “good” and “good people.” It has nothing to do with goodness, but with supporting the regime and monarchy. And, we also know that morals have no meaning for a regime full of shysters and murders, not to mention a convicted heroin trafficker. Of course, they are all “good.”

The new law establishes a new licensing and watchdog agency called “Press Profession Council.”

The law will limit press freedom: “It stipulates that while freedom of the press is guaranteed, ‘the exercise must not go against the duties of Thai people or good morals of the people’.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the “draft bill on the promotion of media ethics and professional standards has cleared the cabinet…”.

Supporters of media repression

Regrettably, the Post is already under control, choosing to suggest, in Orwellian style, that an obvious effort to silence the media is, about “the rights, freedoms and independence of media organisations and practitioners.” This is buffalo manure, and the Post’s owners know it, but they have chosen to support repression.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand, is equally supine, describing “the bill as the best media-related piece of legislation to date.”

With the backbones of jellyfish, such support bodes ill for Thailand’s political future.





Boycotting feudal royals

14 01 2022

A couple of days ago, Prachatai reported that the Chiang Mai University Student Union had announced “that its representatives will not receive members of the royal family at the university’s graduation ceremonies during the current committee’s term in order to uphold equality.”

The graduation ceremony for the classes of 2019 and 2020, which was held on Friday 14 January 2022, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, usually framed as the most popular among the odd family of royals.

The report explains the ceremonies:

Thai graduation ceremonies are often long, complicated, and strictly regulated as they are presided over by a member of the royal family. Student representatives at many universities are required to wait to receive the member of the royal family arriving to preside over the ceremony. Universities also impose strict dress codes on graduates, specifying even hair colour and nail polish colour, while many transgender students face obstacles in getting permission from university administrations to dress according to their gender identity. Attending the ceremony also costs graduates and their families a large sum of money, including the cost of the graduation gown, hiring a photographer, and travel costs for those who live in distant provinces.

The Student Union explained that it would:

not send representatives to receive Princess Sirindhorn as she arrives for the ceremony, and that it will not receive any member of the royal family at any graduation ceremony which takes place during the current committee’s term, as receiving members of the royal family would show support for “feudalism” [sakdina] and because they see the reception ceremony as a form of oppression and inequality. It also calls on other faculty unions to boycott the reception ceremony.

The union viewed “the ceremony as oppressive, outdated, and a way of normalizing inequality. Boycotting the ceremony would therefore be a way of upholding equality and human rights.”

Along with the 2020 – 2021 pro-democracy/monarchy reform protests, “graduation ceremonies have become a platform for young people to express their discontent at the status quo. Many graduates see boycotting the ceremonies as an act of civil disobedience, while activists are reported to have staged small activities at their universities’ graduation events.”

At a Khon Kaen University graduation on 13 December 2021, students and graduates hung banners reading “Free our friends” and “Repeal Section 112. ” They gave speeches “criticizing the university and its Faculty of Law for not taking action when its students were detained on political charges.” Student activist Sarayut Narkmanee:

gave a speech saying that for the 2021 ceremony, which was presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the university designated a wider than usual area as royal space, which pushed people off campus. He also said that students don’t graduate because they are handed a degree, that graduation should be for the people, and a graduation gown is created by the authorities and so is not necessary. He then burned a graduation gown in an act of protest.

At the Chiang Mai event, “two student activists were arrested … [on] 14 January … while holding banners near the Chiang Mai University … auditorium calling for graduates to boycott the graduation ceremony … and for the repeal of Section 112.”:

CMU student activist Yotsunthon Ruttapradid and Phimchanok Jaihong, member of the activist group Thalufah, were arrested this morning (14 January) by plainclothes and uniformed police officers while standing on the foothpath opposite the university auditorium, where a graduation ceremony was being held. They were reported to be holding banners saying “Repeal Section 112” and “Feudal degrees” in a campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law and to call on graduates to boycott the ceremony, presided over by Princess Sirindhorn, the King’s younger sister….

The activists were charged with creating a noise without a reasonable cause and refusing to comply with an official’s order. They received a 1500 baht fine and were released. Officers reportedly said that they were able to charge the activists with causing noise while on campus because the campus was considered royal space during the ceremony.

Social media reports that only about 40% of graduates showed up for the royal ceremony.





Throttling, silencing civil society

5 01 2022

A few days ago we pointed to a terrible piece by a regime stooge on the conspiricist-authoritarian effort to further control NGOs. At the time, the draft legislation was postponed.

Today the Bangkok Post reports that the “cabinet has tentatively agreed to a bill requiring non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to declare their financial sources or risk prosecution.” Actually, it makes far more changes than simply requiring financial reporting.

The remarkably preened regime spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana says that “cabinet agreed in principle with the bill…”. There will now be public hearings and we’d hope that NGOs can express their problems with the controlling legislation.

Thanakorn lied when he said “the bill was conceived in the best interests of the public…”. The legislation is mean to silence regime and monarchy critics – even the regime stooge was clear on that.

In an effort to buy off some NGOs, the bill is now offering “tax incentives for NGOs and their donors.”

The idea is to control funding. It is also to police NGOs. This is why they “will be required by law to disclose mission statements and the sources of their funding.” This is to “prohibit them from engaging in activities detrimental to national security or social harmony.” No criticism of the monarchy allowed, no support to political prisoners, no criticism of the judiciary, military or bureaucracy.Foreign funding will be discouraged. And, “[s]pending plans will also need to be explained to ensure money is not used for the purpose of influencing state power or pandering to the interests of a political party.”

All sounding very authoritarian, controlling and silencing. Rather like the Chinese position on NGOs.





Welcome back III

2 01 2022

Further to our earlier posts, here and here, Prachatai has now reported on the events at Wongwian Yai, where several anti-112 protesters gathered and a woman broke the security cordon around King Vajiralongkorn.

It recounts that “[t]hree activists, one a 17 year old, were arrested on Tuesday night (28 December) for holding up banners with the message ‘abolish Section 112’ at Wongwian Yai, where a crowd of people were waiting to see King Vajiralongkorn and his entourage.” In fact, five were detained by police. Two were released while those charged were “Sainam, Baipor, and Tawan (last names withheld) – [who] were taken to the nearby Bupharam Police Station.” It is stated that “police released the other two activists as they were only taking pictures of the protest, not shouting or holding up banners.”

Explaining the protest,

Tawan, 20, said that they arrived at Wongwian Yai around 16.00 and were planning to raise their banners when the royal motorcade reached the scene to communicate directly with the King. Although concerned that they might be attacked by royalists, she said that they still wanted to exercise their right to express their opinions.

Tawan added that the woman who ran towards the king “was not part of their group and that they never approached the royal entourage.”

Baipor said that they planned to stand on the footpath but while waiting, were approached by a plainclothes officer who appeared to recognise Sainam. According to Baipor, they told the officer that they were only holding banners and did not intend to cause harm. Unidentified men in yellow shirts then surrounded them. In footage of the incident, formally clad police officers receiving the royal motorcade took part in the arrest.

Tawan added that the men in yellow shirt[s] surrounded them for around an hour. Once the Queen appeared, they lifted up their banner, but the men immediately pulled it down. She said that they were not planning to make noise, but when the men snatched their banners away, they began shouting “abolish Section 112.”  They had earlier decided to do this if they were assaulted. The men dragged them away, putting their hands over the activists’ mouth and choking them in the process.

… A video clip of the incident shows the activists being surrounded by men wearing royal volunteer service yellow shirts and scarves.

These “volunteers” include many police and military officers. They are sent to bolster crowds at royal events.

According to Tawan, when the men sought to physically silence her by placing their hands over her mouth, they knocked her contact lenses out of position, pushing them deep inside her eyelids.  She was later able to remove them but Sainam and Baipor both suffered injuries. Baipor was cut on the lips.

She said “the activists demanded to know what crime they were being charged with. Instead of answering, the officers ordered them to sit down and pushed them to the ground.” Only after the royals had left were they taken to the police station.

The activists were “charged with causing a public commotion and failing to comply with police orders. Each received a 1000-baht fine. Following their release, they said that they were going to a hospital to make a record of their injuries and would by pressing charges against their assailants.”





Regime stooge

31 12 2021

Kavi Chongkittavorn was for decades at The Nation, writing mostly on foreign policy. He was with that newspaper as it became seriously rightist in opposing Thaksin Shinawatra, with several writers, including Kavi, tapping out propaganda that supported the rise of right-wing royalism and two military coups.

Kavi once positioned himself as an interpreter of Thailand for foreigners, seemingly supporting democracy and human rights, and gladly accepted all kinds of US and European trips and fellowships including fellowships at the East-West Center, Oxford University, and Harvard University. He even served the committee for the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and is a member of the governing board of the Human Rights Resource Centre, a non-profit academic center headquartered at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. That Centre is supported by UI, the Canadian International Development Agency, Stanford University, the Swiss Embassy, and USAID.

But all of that seem to be artifacts and/or are lies about his real views.

Kavi or a Stooge?

In his latest op-ed at Thai PBS, where he’s reunited with another regime stooge formerly with The Nation Tulsathit Taptim, he throws his full support behind the military-backed regime and its authoritarianism. He also shows that he’s a fan of conspiracy theorists.

He does this by supporting the regime’s temporarily withdrawn “draft bill on so-called Not-for-Profit Organisations” that gives control of local and international NGOs operating in Thailand to the Ministry of Interior.

While Kavi drops the word “allegedly” a couple of times, his views are clear, considering that “both local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) … perpetuate fake news against and negative views of the government.” Then he reveals the real impetus for the need to control and limit:

Worse still, some of them, with funding from abroad, have reportedly tried to topple the current political system under the constitutional monarchy.

Only conspiracy theorists believe this. It’s nonsense. The support is to people jailed under draconian laws who have their rights limited.

Kavi laments that his military-backed, undemocratic government “has come under constant attack by these organisations, which have sometimes perpetuated allegedly untruthful information and made inflammatory remarks.”

He reckons the problem is with groups that engage in advocacy like those who funded his junkets to the West and the Human Rights Resource Centre.He bites the hand that has fed him:

To show support for the CSOs, representatives of the US and other Western embassies based in Bangkok met with selected groups of local and foreign CSOs on Tuesday. Among them was a representative from Amnesty International, which is currently embroiled in controversy due to its campaigning in support of the youth movement, which is calling for reform of the monarchy.

Kavi attacks foreign NGOs:

Thailand … will not tolerate those who advocate for the ongoing campaign for reform of the royal institutional, which it considers an internal matter. For decades, the presence of these civil society organizations has been viewed positively. That is no longer the case for some. In the near future, pending the draft bill, the government will toughen its engagement [sic.] with the CSOs. Both recipients and funders will have to come clean and be accountable, or face consequences.

He’s been a fraud and now he’s a regime stooge.





Another year of repression

27 12 2021

Even with the virus, most people have been celebrating the holidays. But, as Prachatai reports, nothing of the sort is possible for those jailed without bail on lese majeste charges.

Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa have again denied bail in an act of lese majeste torture. The four have already spent some 3-4 months in jail pending trial.

Of course, in line with lese majeste torture protocols, the courts are in no hurry to get these political prisoners into a trial.

Clipped from VOA News – a Reuters photo

A bail request was submitted to the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court on 17 December.  As expected from the royalist courts, on 24 December the court “ruled to leave its former order unchanged out of concern that the four, if released, would commit the same offences again.”

The court rejected an undertaking by the “four detainees [who] affirmed that, if released, they would abide by previous Court conditions to not engage in any activities damaging to the monarchy, take part in protests causing public disorder, flee the country, or violate Court-mandated travel restrictions.”

The regime and, we assume, the absent monarch, prefer to keep these young people locked up. They fear the anti-monarchism that has grown and that is (temporarily) repressed.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

Protesters had gathered at the Court to support the political prisoners. After bail was refused, the protesters “burned a judge uniform and the Criminal Code textbook and sprayed paint all over the Court entrance area.” Meanwhile, “Thatchapong Kaedam, another prominent figure in the protest movement, said that next year, the people will continue to call for change and the intensity of the demonstrations will escalate.”

This is now the normal court contribution to political repression: at least another 16 people “are being detained pending trial or police investigation of their participation in political protests and confrontations with the police over the past year.”

Over the longer period from July 2020 to October 2021, according to the Thai Enquirer, 1,636 people in 896 cases have faced lawsuits for their political participation and expression, including 258 minors.

Of that, 1,337 are being prosecuted for alleged violations of the emergency decree which came into effect in March 2020, 107 are being prosecuted for the alleged violations of the Public Assembly Act, 97 for alleged violations of the Computer Crime Act, 112 for sedition and 154 for lese-majeste.

In addition to the politicized judiciary, the royalist regime has also used violence to repress anti-monarchism. According to a report by the Thai Enquirer, in 2021, more than “500 people were injured from protest-related violence in 2021…”. Dozens of them were children, with one 15 year-old was killed.

Of the total, 347 civilians, including 88 minors were injured. Reflecting the regime’s attempts to also suppress the media, 29 journalists were injured, including several who were targeted with rubber bullets. In addition, three medical volunteers and two bystanders were injured. Many more injuries went unreported.146 police officers  and one soldier were injured.

The police have become especially aggressive, having replaced the military as the frontline troops in repressing protest. Emphasizing this, as Prachatai reports, another “20 protesters and activists have been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the 28 November 2021 rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection to call for marriage equality.” They are also charged with obstructing traffic.

LGBTQ protesters are now seen as threatening and in need of repression. Of course, pro-monarchy and pro-regime groups face no such police action,

The activists of the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality say “that the rally was an exercise of their legal rights and freedoms, and that the charges against them amount to a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP.”

They add that they are “willing to fight the charges to show that they are free to think and are protected by the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution. They are also considering filing complaints against the officers who file charges against them.”

For a perspective on Thailand’s authoritarianism, see this article.





Recent writing on protest, monarchy, and law

16 12 2021

PPT wants to draw attention to two recent works by academics that should get some attention.

The first is “Thai Youth Movements in Comparison: White Ribbons in 2020 and Din Daeng in 2021” by Chulalongkorn University political scientist Kanokrat Lertchoosakul. One reason for reading it is that it is from New Mandala. Once once mighty source of debate on Thailand, New Mandala has dropped off in recent years and is all too tame these days. Another reason for reading it  is that the article offers consideration of different political strategies that include a move away from non-violent protest. While we wonder about the (middle-class academic) notion of “the power of individuals to create change,” the discussion offers a nuanced account. It concludes: “In spite of differences in socio-economic status, political demands and protest strategies, the two groups have several features in common. They are politically active citizens and stand in support of political freedom and social justice.”

The second work is harder to access. A pricey new book, with an altogether too fancy title, is available. Constitutional Bricolage. Thailand’s Sacred Monarchy vs. The Rule of Law is by Eugénie Mérieau who is an Associate Professor of Public Law at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. An extract from the book is available. The publisher’s blurb states:

This book analyses the unique constitutional system in operation in Thailand as a continuous process of bricolage between various Western constitutional models and Buddhist doctrines of Kingship. Reflecting on the category of ‘constitutional monarchy’ and its relationship with notions of the rule of law, it investigates the hybridised semi-authoritarian, semi-liberal monarchy that exists in Thailand.

By studying constitutional texts and political practices in light of local legal doctrine, the book shows that the monarch’s affirmation of extraordinary prerogative powers strongly rests on wider doctrinal claims about constitutionalism and the rule of law. This finding challenges commonly accepted assertions about Thailand, arguing that the King’s political role is not the remnant of the ‘unfinished’ borrowing of Western constitutionalism, general disregard for the law, or cultural preference for ‘charismatic authority’, as generally thought.

Drawing on materials and sources not previously available in English, this important work provides a comprehensive and critical account of the Thai ‘mixed constitutional monarchy’ from the late 19th century to the present day.

Based on this, the extract and the table of contents, this looks like a serious piece of scholarship.





Silencing reformists and media

12 12 2021

Activists Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Attapon Buapat of the Ratsadorn Group for Abolition of Section 112 have submitted a petition to the Office of Attorney-General calling on it to “consider taking steps to rescind the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the sustained calls for monarchical reform, specifically pertaining to the sought-after abolition to the Criminal Code Section 112, better known as the lese majeste law, were allegedly designed to ‘undermine democratic rule with the monarch as head of state’.”

Attapol observed that the Court’s “ruling would be merely used as a legal, political tool against any opponents to those who may have been supportive of the lese majeste law, which, he said, has obviously stifled the people’s freedom of expression and violated the human rights for them to take part in peaceful gatherings and demands for an end to it.”

He’s right, but it does far more than that.

Former Constitutional Court president has recently stated that:

the media can be considered as an accomplice in crime if they published messages about the monarchy that are outlawed. However, t[h]e question of intent would also be taken into account when considering the case.

So he suggested that the media avoid reporting what may be regarded as illegal. The ten demands for monarchy reform can be reported with care. The parts that infringe the monarchy will have to be censored.

The mainstream media is likely to be tamed and silenced even further, with the regime relying on self-censorship by journalists, editors, and media companies. It is already happening.





Updated: NHRC and double standards

7 12 2021

Over the years, PPT has been critical of the National Human Rights Commission for its political partisanship. While these days it seldom seems to do or say much of consequence, recent events highlight its problematic existence.

Recently, police arrested 37 protesters [some reports are that 36 were arrested], including 31 women, from the Chana Rakthin Network. The protesters gathered at the entrance of Government House to “demand that the government adhere to initial promises to delay an industrial project set to take place in the 16,700-rai Chana district in southeastern Songkhla.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

The locals were made these promises by then minister Thammanat Prompao, but the regime now appears to be reneging. So they traveled to Bangkok to “remind” the government. Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha demies there was ever an agreement.

A representative of the protesters stated:

They have been charged with the violation of the emergency decree and the police are looking to file more charges against them since the protesters are not willing to accept the proposal for them to stop protesting against the project if they were to be released….

When the police grabbed the protesters, they blocked the media.

Just another day in broken promises, lies, and policing for the regime. And, a background to the role of the NHRC.

According to the Bangkok Post:

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday issued a statement calling for the government to unconditionally release the 36 protesters of the Chana Rakthin Network detained on Monday night….

On Tuesday morning, NHRC commissioners Preeda Kongpaen and Sayamon Kaiyurawong paid a visit to the arrested protesters, who were detained at the Police Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit road.

The NHRC statement declared “the protesters had the right to expression of their views and to gather peacefully under the 2017 constitution…”, and “called for the unconditional release of the protesters.” And, it added, “[m]embers of the media and observers should be allowed to report on all developments surrounding the project without being obstructed…”.

Maybe we have just missed the NHRC being busily at work, but we do not recall such statements when monarchy reform protesters have been attacked, arrested, and held without bail. We do not recall much reporting of the NHRC demanding that police stop attacking and impeding journalists covering those demonstrations.

Just another day in the land of double standards.

Update: A reader asks if we are dismissing the seriousness of the Chana Rakthin Network. Certainly not. The regime’s treatment of the group, using police to threaten and arrest while reneging on an agreement, is reprehensible. Our question was why the NHRC chooses to take action on this state action but not on other egregious human rights abuses.








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