Defending the Constitutional Court as farce

11 03 2019

Little things sometimes matter. For example, we noticed that the state’s propaganda arm did not officially report the king’s objection to (Princess) Ubolratana’s nomination by the Thai Raksa Chart Party until 9 March. Our quick search of its English-language website turned up a report of her nomination but no reporting of the king’s response (at least not as a headlined story). A quick search of the Thai-language part of the site produced nothing about the king’s response.

We may be over-reading this, but it seems to us that this lack of reporting until after the Constitutional Court’s decision is a remarkable piece of self-censorship and the now-required deference born of fear.

Meanwhile, in an effort to limit the damage of the whole affair to the monarchy, and especially for an international audience, hoary royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner, Veera Prateepchaikul has been wheeled out.

Veera is a former editor of the Bangkok Post. His task in his most recent op-ed is to “explain” why the Court was right and “foreigners” are wrong to criticize the verdict.

He views it as no “surprise that most foreign media and human rights advocacy organisations” got the decision all wrong. He particularly ticked off by Amnesty International. He’s miffed that these “foreigners” see the Court’s decision as politicized.

He reckons the “foreigners” got it “wrong.” As “evidence” for getting it “wrong,” failing to consider “the role of the monarchy in society dating back to 1932 and its status of being above politics and being the symbolic soul of the nation…”. Of course, this is the usual blarney that royalists spew out when considering their beloved monarchy, ignoring the facts of history.

Veera relies on a written statement from one of the nine Constitutional Court judges who just happens to be his yellow-shirted buddy Nakarin Mektrairat. Now, Nakarin should know better as he wrote a history of 1932. But he sold his historian’s soul to the anti-democrats quite some time ago. A yellow-shirted historian, a 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, there seems little to assure “foreigners” that Nakarin is anything other than a junta quisling.

Still, Veera reckons Nakarin’s “enlightened explanation about how the court viewed the TRC’s nomination of Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate and the possible repercussions towards the monarchy if this ‘highly inappropriate’ act was not nipped in the bud.”

Oddly, Nakarin apparently recognizes that Ubonratana was unencumbered by being a member of the monarchy but was still “undermin[ing] the basis and value of the constitution,” by her status as a member of the royal family and that it is the royal family that is “above politics” and this was “mandated in the first constitution of Thailand and enshrined in following charters.”

Indeed, Article 11 of the 1932 constitution did declare members of the royal family with status of Serene Highness and above were not to be involved in politics. However, by the time of most recent constitutions, this provision is not evident, having first been revised in 1946.

It is unclear which article of the constitution she was undermining or which law she was bending. In fact, even the Court relied on a half-baked notion of “culturalism” rather than law aand, of course, the king’s own pronouncement.

The real problem for Veera is that the person “dragging” this “member of the royal family into politics” is Thaksin, and therefore the move ” is simply unimaginable.”

It is not “electoral fraud,” that the “real motive” was to win the election. Indeed, this constituted a “wicked idea.”

We agree that the whole idea was daft and evidenced a kind of desperation, but to conclude that the “Constitutional Court’s verdict …has set a precedent … that the institution is politically impartial and above politics” is farcical. Just look at the repeated demonstrations of partiality by monarchs since 1932.

Old men and old ideas

13 09 2015

A couple of days ago we again pointed out that Thailand is a country where very old men remain powerful and influential.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that aged legal expert Meechai Ruchupan has indeed been invited by The Dictator “to lead a new charter-drafting body that is expected to be formed by next week…”.

Meechai as a rabid royalist ideologue associated with the 2006 military coup and junta and with several anti-democratic movements, including the movement that sought to bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra elected government. He has been fully prepared to defend the lese majeste law, even making stuff up to support the draconian law.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha is said to be “interested in Mr Meechai” because of his experience “at the helm of legislative bodies, both as Senate chairman and chairman of a national legislative assembly…”.

In fact, this experience is telling. According to a brief entry at Wikipedia:

He was the acting Prime Minister of Thailand following a military takeover of the government that took place in February 1991. He served only seventeen days, from May 24, 1992 to June 10, 1992, and was succeeded by Anand Panyarachun. He had been appointed by Royal Command to take over after highly unpopular General Suchinda Kraprayoon resigned under public and state pressure.

Meechai served as President of the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly of Thailand after the coup d’état in 2006. After another coup d’état in 2014, Meechai—as one of two civilians—was appointed as a member of the junta which calls itself the National Council for Peace and Order.

The picture of a royalist who serves the military is clear.

Prayuth thinks this is the right man to again serve the military-monarchy alliance as it represses popular will and seeks to cement its rule.

Others reportedly being sought for the military dictatorship’s “fix” of the political system include royalists and military backers like the conservative Sujit Boonbongkarn, former 2006 junta appointee Kanjanarat Leewiroj, Banthoon Sethasiroj, anti-Thaksin Shinawatra lawyer Banjerd Singkhaneti, who fronted the ultra-royalist and neo-fascist Sayam Prachapiwat, Preecha Watcharaphai, who worked with the 2006 military junta and former unelected senator and anti-Thaksin activist Surachai Liangboonlertchai, who once tried to use the Senate to bring down the elected government.

The picture is pretty clear: conservatives, royalists, yellow shirts, anti-Thaksin activists and military backers.

The pattern is also seen in a recent appointment to the Constitutional Court of yellow-shirted historian, 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, Nakarin Mektrairat.

This may all seem like more of the same under the military dictatorship. Yet it is clear that the junta and its supporters and backers have decided that Thailand requires more “reform.” This means a deeply conservative and royalist return to an authoritarian and intolerant past.

Enforced historical amnesia I

20 09 2014

There is something of a theme emerging from recent posts as the military dictatorship seeks to expunge the past and “create” a future that is retrogressive and authoritarian. The Dictator thinks that Thais have gotten off track by embracing civilian politicians and electoral politics, and he is railroading them back on the repressive, oppressive path of authoritarianism. We gather that he believes “real Thais” are naturally obsequious, hierarchical and brainless.

PPT posted recently on General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s underlings rewriting history to excise that nasty politician who seems to always have the electoral support of the masses. We also posted on The Dictator’s distaste of discussions about any kind of dictatorship, which seems his preferred mode of governance. Banning academics and students from discussing dictatorship is rather like burning books.

Snail Trail

Thammasat royalist administrators

More recently, Khaosod has reported that royalist Thammasat University administrators “have preemptively banned any political events commemorating the massacre that took place inside the university on 6 October 1976, presumably to comply with the military junta’s ban on all political activities.” Of course, these slithering administrators know what The Dictator wants, and they leave snail trails all the way to his highly buffed rear end.

The 6 October Massacre is but one particularly brutal action by the military and ultra-royalists that resulted in the murder of perhaps hundreds of students at Thammasat University.

Rather than honor the dead, Thammasat administrators prefer to honor the dictator and the system that is responsible for thousands of dead Thais, all fallen before the guns of the murderous military.

They dishonor their university.

Thai Rath Newspaper

6 October 1976: Thai Rath Newspaper

Usually, the deaths of the 6 October martyrs is “commemorated by activists and survivors of the incident at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus. In previous years the event has featured religious ceremonies dedicated to the dead, political exhibitions, and academic seminars about the massacre.”

But not this year. The military hates the event and considers that it “saved the nation and monarchy” in 1976 – there’s a theme to their coups, justified as saving the ruling establishment.

Spineless academics join in. Yellow-shirted Nakarin Mektrairat, a deputy rector of the university, justified the unjustifiable, saying that “the ban on political activities is necessary” because “in previous years there have been [activities] that caused problems and division.” This is buffalo manure. Here is a historian, who ought to know better, simply making stuff up in order to ingratiate himself to the military.

The only light in all this royalist claptrap and authoritarian murk is that some students have ignored the political ban and are demonstrating against the military and its coups.

They hung “two banners denouncing the 2006 coup in Bangkok today, on the 8th anniversary of the military takeover.”  One banner was in front of Chulalongkorn University. It read: “8 Years, 19 September, the slain democracy is still dead.” Another was hung “right in front of the headquarters of Thai Rath newspaper.” It stated: “Mr. Thai Democracy, Born 24 June 1932. Died 19 September 2006…”. The bridge is “where taxi driver Nuamthong Praiwan hanged himself to death in protest of the 2006 coup.”

Police officers hurriedly removed the banners.

The “Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) took responsibility for the banner on Viphavadee Road, and said the banner in central Bangkok was hung by an affiliate student group, the Chulalongkorn Community for the People (CCP).” THe students stated:

“Today is the 8th anniversary of the coup, the day that led to the first loss of Thai life because of the coup, Nuamthong Praiwan,” the statement says. “And it is not the only life that was lost. So many other lives were sacrificed in the violence that escalated after the coup.”

It continues, “The TSCD is hereby using the opportunity of the 8th anniversary of the 19 September coup to remind all Thais of the vile and undeniable consequences of military coups.”

These students are brave and defiant. All power to them as they battle enforced historical amnesia!


Academics support lese majeste repression

19 12 2011

As is usual when the political temperature rises in Thailand, and especially since the military coup in 2006, there are academics who regularly come out to support the royalist position. As the debate on lese majeste heats up, several academics have taken up the cause of supporting the draconian law.

In the Bangkok Post, “Nakhon Chomphuchat, a lawyer on human rights cases [PPT: really??], said state mechanisms were to blame for much of the conflict over the law.” The point seems to be that the problem can’t be the law itself!

Nakhon identies a “threat”: “Those who oppose enforcement of the law have campaigned against it so much that it threatens to affect the monarchy…”. And, of course, the average citizen is also partly to blame: “The public’s lack of understanding of the law could be dangerous. Some could criticise court verdicts in a way that offends the judiciary and the monarchy, which could further widen conflicts.”

The well-know yellow-shirted intellectual from Thammasat University’s political science faculty, Nakarin Mektrairat is clearer still: “Section 112 itself, in fact, causes no problems…”. Like Nakhon, he is sure that criticism of Article 112 is a secret attack on the monarchy: “Some groups which criticise Section 112 are trying to undermine the royal institution, by using violent and rude language to stir up hatred…”.

Of course, both Nakarin and Nakhon “agree the lese majeste law is important because Thai society still needs the monarchy.” The argument is the standard royalist one: Article 112 is just the same as defamation. The problem is that neither of them are logical in this claim for defamation cases never result in 15-20 year jail sentences.

It is good to know that yellow-shirted academics are keen to have people locked away for expressing opinions about a political system that is hierarchical and repressive.

We can only imagine that the death of Kim Jong Il and the impact this has on the cult of personality will worry yellow shirts more and cause even more frantic efforts to shore up the existing system.

On the road to dictatorship or already there?

28 06 2010

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak is reported in the Bangkok Post: “Thailand is on the path to becoming a dictatorship…”. Thitinan predicts “further rounds of political violence.”

In fact, PPT would suggest that Thitinan gets it wrong. PPT’s been saying it for months that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has been on a slippery slope to authoritarianism but we now think the regime has arrived at the point where it is a military-backed dictatorship.

Thitinan observes that the “government and the military are working together and exercising state power through the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situations.” He says that “the relationship has led to a state of authoritarianism.” He sees CRES as “new form of dictatorship” that arrests unchecked and is opaque in its operations.

On that he is right. However, this process began well before CRES. It should not be forgotten that Abhisit’s government was born of a coup, with military midwives.

Even the normally yellow-hued Nakarin Mektrairat of Thammasat University, “agreed the country is moving towards authoritarianism.” But he apparently “insisted it is not a dictatorship.”

How little tolerance there is for any dissent is seen in detained social activist Sombat Boon-ngarmanong’s appeal to the (totally hopeless) National Human Rights Commission, where he implores the government “to allow more room for dissenting viewpoints and encouraged the public to speak up against injustice.” He specifically singled out CRES and the emergency decree.

How bad things have become is evidenced by the Bangkok Post editors, who have been highly supportive of Abhisit and his regime. They are also critical of emergency rule (even if they are writing on Egypt’s emergency rule).

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