Land of (no) compromise VI

20 12 2020

The Bangkok Post reported it, but it hardly seems necessary.

As his current regime bosses have done and as his Army bosses have done, red-neck Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae declared his loyalty to the king and the monarchy.

As others have done, he babbled the Royal Thai Army’s version of history that exalts, “over hundreds of years” past Thai kings as “leaders of the armed forces …[who] engaged in battles against enemies to protect territorial integrity and ensure people’s security.” Another version might observe that the king’s considered all land belonged to them and thus tried to preserve their land and trading routes. People had little security.

Asked about Article 112 action, Gen Narongphan said “that it was about law enforcement,” which is an authoritarian’s response and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s lawfare position. Gen Narongphan added: “I am a soldier who has the duty of protecting the country, helping the people and upholding the monarchy…”. Murdering the people has also been a long-term Royal Thai Army task, not to mention massive corruption and unusual wealth flowing to the top brass.

Gen Narongphan’s ideological position is that the Royal Thai Army protects the monarchy and that role allows the impunity to murder and to filch the taxpayer:

We all have a duty to protect [the monarchy] in our way. For the sake of people’s happiness, the monarchy which is the unifying force of the country must remain secure. Therefore, everyone has a duty, and so do law enforcers….

Asked about the idea of a republic, the army chief admitted: “I don’t know. It’s never entered my head.” If that is true, it is a measure of the royalist brainwashing that has been dominant in society and especially in military training and ritual. It has only recently been challenged.





Tooting its own horn

27 11 2020

In another Bangkok Post story by military beat reporter Wassana Nanuam, if we accept the report as accurate, then the Looney Tunes nature of the regime is again on display.

She reports that the “army yesterday officially opened its Security Strategy Development and Research Institute…”.

For no apparent reason, this is “touted to be an independent think tank serving the military and the government in the area of national security.”

Wassana does not question this looney claim but does report that”Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae, chief of the army, presided over a ceremony yesterday to mark the official opening of the institute…” which had been approved by his predecessor Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

The “independent” institute is headed by Gen Thanet Kalaphruek, reportedly “the army’s chief adviser…”. Clearly, in the strange prose of the report, “independent” means the institute is a tool of and for the military. It babbles along:

The opening of the new institute marks the army’s first step toward setting up a think tank to serve the army and the government at the same time. Also, the institute will be an agent coordinating academic work between the army and institutional partners. A number of soldiers and veterans will contribute their knowledge to the new institute.

Sounds about as independent as the 11th Infantry is independent of the Army. Obviously, this is another effort by the military to fully infiltrate all aspects of civilian life.





Updated: Confrontation looms

25 11 2020

The use of lese majeste and the multiple threats of arrest today have mounted. The regime has seemingly calculated that the events at police headquarters and the royal family’s PR blitz and its “demonstrated generosity,” that a crackdown on protesters targeting the king and his wealth may not earn them “too much” public derision.

Police and military are preparing for tonight’s rally at the Crown Property Bureau. Razor wire is up and the so-called “royal” exclusion zone established. That the military has been active with helicopters suggests preparations for a confrontation.

Thai PBS reports that “increased helicopter activity, heard over several areas of Bangkok on Monday night,” and “which went on for hours” was described  by Army Chief Gen Narongphan Chitkaewtae as “part of security arrangements for the motorcade of … the King and Queen…”. We fear it is preparations for tonight, especially when he added that while “it is the police’s responsibility to deal with the rally,” the army is prepared to “help” if “there is a request from the police.”

The Free Youth have also upped the anty, publishing this statement:

Meanwhile the regime is doubling down. Neo-fascist member of the Democrat Party coalition party, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam declared that the regime arrest Progressive Movement’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul for being responsible for the uprising and anti-monarchism.

He “explained”:

“As a Thai citizen and a Democrat MP, I will perform my duty to protect the Nation, the Religion, the Monarchy and the democratic system with the King as the head of state,” said Thavorn, claiming that 90 percent of the Thai population agree with him.

As “evidence” he “showed the media today a video clip of Piyabutr giving a speech at the University of London, on the topic of “Is Thailand in a Deeper State of Crisis?” on June 11th, 2016.” Yes, that’s more than four years ago.

On Thanathorn, Thaworn says that “in several speeches, has stressed the need for reform of the Thai Monarchy, adding that the founding of the Future Forward Party, which was dissolved by the Constitutional Court, was intended to achieve that goal.”

He went on to accuse “Thanathorn and Piyabutr of spending more than eight months brainwashing and inciting hatred of the Monarchy among Thai youth, with the intention of turning the protests into riots and, eventually, civil war.”

In fact, Thaworn is simply reflecting the views of ultra-royalists and rightists who are baying for blood.

It will be a difficult evening as the regime, at this point, seems to have drawn its line in the sand and the rally is likely to test that.

Update: As has happened previously, the anti-government protesters have changed their rally site, reducing the prospect of a clash. The new location is related as the rally will be at the Siam Commercial Bank HQ, with the king being the biggest shareholder in the bank.

We are not sure that the change was to avoid a clash and the inordinate efforts the regime had taken to seal off the area around the CPB, or just a prank to make the regime expend effort and look a bit silly.

The regime has barricaded the area around the CPB, with “[r]olls of razor wire and steel barricades…”, mainly shipping containers stacked end-to-end and two high. These efforts caused huge traffic jams. In addition, “[s]oldiers in plain clothes were seen deployed around the CPB…”.





The king and his rightists II

10 11 2020

The Nation reports that “[t]alk of an impending coup is growing louder online, as the government shows no sign of heeding protesters’ demands.”

But Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae has dismissed this talk as “rumours.” When reporters pointed out that people – all of them are yellow-shirted ultra-royalists – “were urging the military to stage a coup, he responded that the possibility of a coup was less than zero.” All coup leaders have said the same thing before their coups, including Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Thai Enquirer reports that Narongpan revealed that all of those men in short haircuts and wearing yellow shirts backing up police on Sunday were all out-of-uniform army personnel. The Army says that “the soldiers were just there to facilitate and observe and not actively take part in the confrontation between the police and the protesters – clashes which left five demonstrators injured and needing medical care.”

That’s a lie. Anyone who watch the various livestreams saw the soldiers in action.

The “presence of army personnel during violent confrontation between the state and protesters has everybody on edge.” Many think something else is going on, and this is reinforced by Gen Narongphan’s exaggerations, reported by Thai PBS. He rattles on about “provocation” and “violence.”

And he doesn’t mean by the police who used water cannon. He is reported as pointing to “smoke flares … hurled by people among the protesting crowd…” and talks of “elements who are bent on provoking violence…”. And he doesn’t mean the police or military.

Thisrupt reports that: “At every major protest, hundreds of army men in yellow shirts stand watch.” It adds; “They aren’t in uniform. They wear no badge. They never identify themselves. There’s only the yellow shirts, the blue scarves, and the military haircuts.” And it observes: “The deployment of non-police to police the citizens through force and intimidation, in a uniform not authorized by the state nor recognized by the citizens” is a fascist tactic.

According to another Thai PBS report, Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner, Police Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the use of water cannons against the protesters “was done according to the rule of law.”

It seems us that it is the police and military who are those threatening violence.

As usual, the police are looking at how they can tie up protest leaders in legal cases. Police have the “letters and the four red post boxes from the protest…”. They are going through the letters trying to find “content [that] violates any law.” Others will be charged with violations “of the Public Gathering Act.”

More worrying, however, are the yellow-shirted minions being mobilized.

Egged on by the palace, the king, queen and the king’s daughters, the Thai Enquirer reports that “[u]ltra-royalists, pro-military politicians, and some senators are agitating for conflict and said this week that they will escalate the situation themselves unless the authorities take a harsher stance against the pro-democracy demonstrators.”

Krit Yeammaethakorn, secretary general of the People’s Networks to Protect the Monarch, has demanded a “special law” to “shutdown” the country.

The “Center for People Who Protect the Institution said on Monday that they will escalate their protests against the pro-democracy protesters…. They said they will shut down streets, if necessary, to get the government to crackdown and arrest more pro-democracy protesters.”

The quite mad ultra-royalist and military junta appointed senator Pornthip Rojanasunand has accused protesters of being “unThai” and complained that “police commanders are not doing enough to protect the law and suppress [pro-democracy protesters]…”.

Ratbag Palang Pracharath MP and deputy leader Paiboon Nititawan urged “royalists … [to] file complaints of sedition against the students.”

Meanwhile, the palace women continue to promote the celebrity PR model and wed it with intimations of violence. Most recently, it has been the queen going shooting and carousing with yellow-shirted royalists, as reported at Royal World Thailand – รอยัล เวิลด์ ประเทศไทย





King, regime and royalists

23 10 2020

King Vajiralongkorn, Queen Suthida and other members of the royal family have thrown their support behind royalists. Of course, it is natural for the royals to support those who support them. But in the current political climate, this is a statement of the palace’s position. That position is, naturally enough, to oppose those who challenge the king and his palace to reform and become a proper constitutional monarch.

We think this public statement of support for ultra-royalists ranks with previous royal political interventions such as Vajiralongkorn’s support of ultra-royalists in 1976 and the then queen’s attendance at a yellow shirt’s funeral in 2008.

Social media has several video renderings of the royals greeting an arranged crown of yellow-shirted royalists. The picture here is clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page.

This royal outing is a part of the regime’s plan to break the protesters. In our previous post, PPT stated: “PPT looks at the “break” from protests and sees the regime gaining time for organizing rightists and royalists.”

Erich Parpart at Thai Enquirer seems to agree: “What if the removal of the emergency decree wasn’t the government backing down but mobilizing royalist forces.” He says:

The severe state of emergency decree was lifted not because Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s wanted to back down.

It was actually the first step to revitalize the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and mobilize extreme royalist groups against the student-led pro-democracy movement….

The prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, the house speaker, and Wissanu Krea-ngam, the deputy prime minister, are all stalling for time….

There are already PDRC members out on the streets harassing pro-democracy protestors including groups led by Tossapol Manunrat from Acheewa Chuay Chart, Police Major General Rienthong Nanna, and Suwit Thongprasert who is also known as Buddha Issara. It’s like a PDRC reunion.

They are not out and about to protect the monarchy, they are out and about to intimidate pro-democracy protestors and to protect Prayut.

In addition, there are reports that Army boss Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has shown his support for Gen Prayuth’s regime. Of course, many of the yellow shirt groups owe their existence to the Army and ISOC.

The messages from the king, the Army and the regime to the protesters is that they must back down. If they don’t, expect the regime to mobilize yellow shirts for violent confrontation.





The Dictator must go

19 10 2020

Clearly, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s time is up.

Yet the Bangkok Post, which has been atrocious in its reporting of the pro-democracy protests, seeks to throw Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha a lifeline, saying that The Dictator:

… appeared to tone down his stance against protesters.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Sunday the prime minister recognised the right to protest but said demonstrations must be held in accordance with the law.

“The government is willing to listen to everyone ‘s problems and continues to solve problems in all areas,” the spokesman quoted him as saying.

The tone seemed friendlier than on Saturday, when according to the spokesman, Gen Prayut warned people not to attend gatherings and violate the law.

Perhaps the Post is hoping that the ruling class can retain its preferred leader?

Some reports are that Gen Prayuth is open to “discussions” with protesters. Well, he has many of their leaders held in custody. So maybe he could start there? But, seriously, the time for talking with The Dictator is probably gone. Now it is time Gen Prayuth went. Perhaps exile in Germany?

Meanwhile, the Thai Enquirer lists some of the draconian measures introduced by the military-backed regime.

A recently imposed new order has also made it illegal for people to take and post selfies of the protests on their personal social media.

Those found in violation could face 2 years jail term and a fine of up to 40,000 baht.

Local news has reported that more than then ten individuals have already been arrested for violating the selfie-rule as of Friday.

Some of these selfies appear associated with defaced portraits of the king and queen.

More rules:

The new state of emergency rules allows authorities to arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge – suspending habeas corpus.

The police can also confiscate any communication tools, including smartphones and weapons or products that are being used to support actions that are in violation of the emergency orders.

News outlets can be temporarily shut down if they produce fake news or information that can lead to conflict. The state will decide what is and is not fake news.

Soldiers are allowed under the emergency decree to be mobilized in quelling dissent.

Military camps can serve as makeshift prisons.

Speaking of “fake news,” the junta’s poodle that it the reports that Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae “dismissed a report on social media claiming the army had seized parliament…”.

It may not have “seized” parliament, but soldiers were sent to Parliament House and sealed it off. As the same report says, the Army was “deployed to guard important locations such as the Government House and parliament building.”

The soldiers used were brought from Kanchanaburi and Chachoengsao provinces, brought “to support police work in law enforcement under the emergency decree.”

Poodle Post also reports on the police/regime response on the accurate claims that they use water laced with chemicals in their water cannon. Police say “they followed international standards for crowd control and that water sprayed from cannons did not contain dangerous chemicals.”

Thinking himself too clever by half, Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, emphasized: “No dangerous weapons were used in the operation against a crowd of around 2,000…”. We are not sure which crowd he was looking at, but he adds: “The water sprayed at the crowd contained blue dye so that officers could identify rally participants for possible arrest later.”

Reporting him a third time on the same point, the Post says: “Pol Maj Gen Yingyos said the water did not contain dangerous chemicals or cause harm to the lives of demonstrators.”

But, then, he helpfully “acknowledged that some people might experience skin irritation. He said police officials could not confirm exactly what chemicals were used.”

There it is! They used chemicals but reckon they don’t know what they are! Seriously? Lies, deceit, and more. What a hopeless regime.





False promises II

7 10 2020

Less than a week ago newly-appointed army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae stated: “The military will not get involved in politics. I will only answer questions about the army’s affairs.”

We said: This is a lie.

He’s proven us correct. He lied.

The Bangkok Post reports that Gen Narongphan has gone beyond “army affairs” to tell democracy protesters calling for monarchy reform. He spoke threateningly: “They should look at themselves first to see whether they have done everything right before telling others what to do…”.

And, he warned them that there were serious consequences for “breaking the law.” He means speaking of the monarchy. He added: “The use of freedom must not violate others’ rights and you must take responsibility for your actions if you break the law…”.

Gen Narongphan stated that the Army’s role under his command was to protect “nation, religion, the King and the people.” He declared: “I will do whatever it takes to ensure their security…”. Protecting the people has several times involved murdering some of them.

Nothing much has changed. Be very concerned when he says “whatever he does will comply with the creed of the army.” That means lies, murder, corruption, impunity and coups.





False promises I

3 10 2020

Like so many of his predecessors, newly-appointed army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has insisted his Army will not be politically engaged. He is reported as stating: “The military will not get involved in politics. I will only answer questions about the army’s affairs.”

This is a lie.

The military and especially the Army is always involved in politics. At the most basic level, Gen Narongphan automatically has a seat in the unelected Senate. That Senate maintains a regime that was put in place by the 2014 military coup and was established by the military junta’s 2017 constitution. ISOC, the Internal Security Operations Command, links the military and civilian administration making it, as Puangthong Pawakapan says, “a counter-democracy agency.”  Its well-funded operations parallel civilian agencies and has a countrywide network of agents and officials.

It is also a lie in Gen Narongphan’s own words.

He has said:

“Protecting the monarchy with absolute loyalty and supporting the government to resolve national problems and working to advance the country are honourable tasks for [the generals],” Gen Narongphan said at a ceremony to bid farewell to retiring army generals at its headquarters on Sept 23.

“We faithfully pledge to carry [Thai] ideologies and perform our duties to the best of abilities to ensure peace in society and foster national unity and support the country’s government,” he added.

Every word in this is political.

And, by supporting the monarchy, he supports the status quo and places the military as the protector of monarchy and ruling class.

Gen Narongphan is an ardent royalist who has served as commander of the Royal Guards 904, reporting to the king. He’s completed the king’s special training and is a “red-rim soldier fraternity, specially trained to serve as Royal Guards. Those who pass the elite training programme are given a T-shirt with a red rim to signify their completion of the programme.”





King’s men I

26 09 2020

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post’s Wassana Nanuam had another of those posterior polishing articles on the new Army boss, Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae.

Paul Chambers describes Gen Narongphan:

Narongphan’s elevation through the ranks has been extremely rapid since the beginning of the current reign. He is the former commander of the Royal Rachawallop 904 Special Military Task Force and considered extremely loyal to the current monarch. He is rumoured to be much more virulently reactionary than [Gen] Apirat [Kongsompong] and will serve as Army Chief for three years until he retires in 2023.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

As can be seen in the attached photo, Gen Narongphan wears his 904 haircut, red-rimmed t-shirt and proudly supports a chestful of royal symbols of “closeness,” including the 904 and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti badges.

The Post’s story has Gen Narongphan heaping praise retiring generals – almost 270 of them – including Gen Apirat for having “dedicated their time and energy to fulfilling their duties to protect the nation’s sovereignty and the public interest and to maintain law and order.”

Most of these generals have probably been honing their golfing skills, collecting loot from the “sale” of their rank and influence, and shining the seats of their pants, but we acknowledge that some, like Apirat, were dead keen to take up arms against civilian protesters. “Law and order” means maintaining royalist-rightist regimes or as Gen Narongphan succinctly explains: “Protecting the monarchy with absolute loyalty and supporting the government to resolve national problems and working to advance the country are tasks for which [the generals] deserve the honour…”.

Worryingly for those who hope that there might be a more democratic Thailand, Gen Narongphan pledged to support the military-royalist “ideologies and perform our duties to the best of our ability, to ensure peace in society, foster national unity and support the country’s development…”. What does he mean by “peace”? Based on previous evidence, we suspect it means “defeating” civilian demonstrators, again and again.

Reading this puff piece, we were reminded of a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, All the king’s strongmen.

It points out the obvious when it comes to the military and its government:

The seemingly endless cycle of military coups that interrupt democracy. A government plagued with allegations of corruption and nepotism. The former army chief with the suspiciously large luxury watch collection. The cabinet minister who was jailed in Sydney for conspiracy to traffic heroin. The lack of investigation into the disappearance and murder of dissidents. The king who would rather live in Germany.

The anti-government protests, it points out, have been heavy on symbolism. For last weekend, the “sites are significant; a campus massacre by the armed forces in 1976 left [at least] 45 people dead, hundreds injured and continues to haunt the country. More recently Sanam Luang has been subsumed into the giant and opaque Crown Property Bureau (CPB), and protesters have declared their intention to return it to the people.”

While the sudden appearance of naysayer conservatives (posing as liberals) have come out to lecture the students on how to rally and how to demand change, the SMH correctly observes that the “focus is squarely on Thailand’s political class and the powers that have long acted with impunity.”

As might be expected, the SMH points at “cabinet enforcer Thammanat Prompao, who … spent four years in a Sydney jail on a drugs conviction.” It goes on:

When Thammanat was sitting across from detectives making a statement in Parramatta jail on November 10, 1993, the first thing the young soldier put on the record was his connection to royalty.

After graduating from army cadet school in 1989 he “was commissioned as a bodyguard for the crown prince of Thailand” as a first lieutenant. “I worked in the crown prince’s household to the beginning of 1992,” he said, staying until deployed to help suppress a political conflict that culminated in an army-led massacre in Bangkok.

The crown prince is now King Vajiralongkorn, but the name landed like a thud: the judge made no mention of it when sentencing Thammanat over his part in moving 3.2 kilograms of heroin from Bangkok to Bondi.

Since the scandal broke last year, Thammanat not only kept his post but was named among [Gen] Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s deputies within the ruling Palang Pracharat party.

Prawit and the convicted heroin smuggler

The article also points out why the monarchy is a critical target: “As military figures loom large in political circles, they are also pervasive in Vajiralongkorn’s business dealings.”

His personal private secretary is an air chief marshal who is the chairman of two listed companies, a director of a bank, chairs the board of eight other companies and is the director-general of the Crown Property Bureau.

The CPB’s assets are estimated at anywhere between $40 and $70 billion, and were made Vajiralongkorn’s personal property in mid-2018.

Protesters want this returned to the state [PPT: not really; they ask for state oversight], along with greater control and oversight over the taxpayer money spent on the royal family.

Also on the CPB board is General Apirat Kongsompong, the army chief set for mandatory retirement this month who has been at the centre of coup rumours. The son of one of the men who led the coup in 1992, Apirat is known for his ultra-royalist views and is set to take up a senior position within the royal household on leaving the army.

At the CPB, 8 of the 11 directors now carry military or police rank.

All the king’s men.