Updated: School kids vs illegitimate power

18 08 2020

Geriatric rightists are up in arms about high school kids and their acts of defiance, that include three-fingered anti-junta salutes during the national anthem rightist ritual and answering questions in class with three-fingered arm raises.

Clipped from Khaosod

One reaction was from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s Nataphol Teepsuwan, who is now education minister. He declared that school kids expressing political thoughts should be charged: “If students do something illegal, I support administration in pursuing legal matters…”. He added:

If teachers can explain to students, that would be good. Paying respect to the flag is a commendable, beautiful thing that we want to keep. I don’t want demonstrations that cause division. Demonstrating is their right, but delicate matters like these can cause division.

He was supporting school administrators who had called police to clamp down on their students political actions:

The policemen arrived in the morning at Samsenwittayalai School and took photos of the pupils wearing white ribbons in solidarity with the anti-government movement across the country. The students will also hold up blank papers at 3pm to call for freedom of expression amid widespread attempts to silence the protests.

Another school in Nonthaburi province places a ban on political gathering inside its campus – joining a growing number of educational establishments who impose similar policies.

“The school does not have policies to support any activities aimed to create division against the system of Democracy with the King as the Head of State,” a statement released by the Bodindecha Sing Singhaseni Nonthaburi School says.

Some students faced violence from teachers, enraging them.

As a result, the Bad Student activist group plans to “march on the education ministry on Wednesday to protest its perceived reluctance to defend students’ rights to protest.” They are targeting “minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, who failed to condemn acts of violence and harassment against student protesters in recent days.”

Seemingly not understanding much at all, the minister asked: “why are they chasing me out? Is it because I don’t have any administrative skills? Is it because I don’t fix the education ministry’s problems?”

He conveniently forgets that he is a rightist supporter of the military coup, the junta and the illegitimate government. The junta rewarded its PDRC allies following the coup and continues to have several PDRC rightists as ministers and in other positions.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the ministry has “sent a letter to directors of education around the country asking them to let students engage in protest activities within the scope of the law.” This seems a regime strategy to defuse protest, emphasizing legalities and preventing “division.”

With 3 updates: Protesting against the regime

17 08 2020

The very large and festive rally at the Democracy Monument, led by the Free People group – previously the Free Youth group – stuck to their three demands. According to the usually under-estimating Bangkok Post, “at least 10,000 protesters rallied at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on Sunday…”.

The rally emphasized the illegitimacy of a regime born of a military coup and repeatedly “called on the government to stop harassing individuals who are exercising their rights in accordance with democratic principles and set up a charter-drafting body to come up with a new constitution based on the will of the people.”

Clipped from nrc.nl

There were also calls for the “government to dissolve parliament to allow the people to exert their right to elect their own representatives…”.

There was little of the previous rally’s demands for the monarchy to be reformed. That seemed to reflect the panic that set in among the older generation who repeatedly warned and/or threatened 6 October-style clashes and massacre.

This generation mistakes its conservatism for “wisdom” and, as ever in status-conscious, royalist Thailand, feels it knows better than the students. They fail to understand that they are now the people of the past and that a new generation does things differently.

Of course, we are generalizing. There are some who have supported the students, including academics, some politicians, public figures and even the perennial conservative monarchist.

Before the rally, a ragtag clutch of ultra-royalists showed up to “protect” the monarchy. The limpness of this “protest” suggests that the fears of the older generation are, for the moment, overblown. At the same time, it is clear that the ultra-royalists are not yet being egged on by the regime and the military and have limited funding from the usual suspects among the tycoons and military intelligence.

For the moment, the regime seems set on using the law as a means to repress, with the Criminal Court having “issued warrants for the arrests of 15 key members of the Free People movement, in connection with the protest held at the Democracy Monument on July 18th, 2020.”

In addition to those already grabbed and charged (and bailed) –  university student Parit Chiwarak, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and activist Panupong Jadnok, 12 others are being traced. They are:

Ms. Chuthatip Sirikhan, Ms. Lalana Suriyo, Nawat Liangwattanayam, Tadthep Ruangprapaikitseri, Karnnithi Limcharoen, Natthavuth Somboonsap, Chatupat Boonpattharaksa, Ms. Chirathita Thammarak, Korakot Saengyangpant, Mrs. Suwanna Tarnlek, Thanayuth na Ayudhya and Baramee Chairat.

For more on the rally, see here, here, and here.

Update 1: For a flavor of the variety of issues at the rally, including a call for Patani’s “self-determination,” see here.

Update 2: For an example of the aged paternalism of Thailand’s elite and their handmaidens in the media, see the op ed by Veera Prateepchaikul. While he gives the impression of reasonableness, the op ed is critical of the students, demeans them and implicitly calls for action against them. Like so many others of the yellow shirt ilk, Veera is unable to conceive of the students thinking for themselves. He states: “[q]uestions have been raised about the origin of the 10-point list of demands as critics doubt students were capable of crafting such a list or possessed sufficient knowledge of the history of the monarchy.” What a pile of buffalo manure. The intent is to label the students republican pawns and to point the accusing figure at progressive politicians. No wonder the students want to overturn this gerontology.

Update 3: The geriatric rightists will be up in arms again now that high school students have come up with another act of defiance. It is reported that three-fingered anti-junta salutes went up in “multiple schools across the country on Monday” as the students “turned the daily flag-raising ceremony into an act of solidarity with the ongoing anti-government protests.” Some teachers apparently were so aghast that they assaulted students. That could mean dozens more schools seeing similar acts of defiance tomorrow. This goes along with the campaign by university students to refuse to receive their degrees from royals.

Rampant re-feudalization

22 01 2020

The effort to re-feudalize contemporary Thailand has been gathering pace since the 2014 military coup and since King Vajiralongkorn ceremonially took the throne.

The most recent effort to move backwards “students at public schools operated by the City Hall must line up and sing the Royal Anthem in unison every morning per order from [junta-appointed] Bangkok Governor [Pol Gen] Aswin Kwanmuang.”

Indoctrinating the young (from Chiang Rai Times)

Aswin claimed his royalist imposition was because “he wanted to promote loyalty to the monarchy…. Singing the Royal Anthem is just an idea to promote … love and faith in the nation, religions, and the monarch, who are the crucial foundations of Thainess…”.

The report claims that “Thai schools typically require students to sing the National Anthem every morning,” which is well known, and adds that the Royal Anthem “… is played less frequently. In many schools, the Royal Anthem is sung only once a week, at the end of class on Friday.” Even that is a relatively recent royalist innovation.

Aswin now demands that the royal anthem must be sung after the national anthem every day.

The royal anthem was the national anthem until the 1932 revolution. So Gen Aswin’s order is yet another rolling back of 1932.

One of the military junta’s first steps after the coup was to tighten the thought control in schools. That involved both militarism and monarchism.

PAD and the New Politics Party

10 10 2009

There has been speculation on the blogs that PAD and its New Politics Party (NPP) are becoming less “royalist” and more “green” – see their logo. It has also been said that they are moving further from the Democrat Party.

PPT also sees these variations in PAD and its party. However, whether these mark a fundamental change or just niche marketing remains very much a matter for further investigation and the passage of a little more political time.

Reading The Nation (10 October 2009: “Yellow shirts political party seeks one million members”) it seems to PPT that the NPP is seeking to distinguish itself from the Democrat Party for any future election. Both parties occupy a narrow political space that is royalist, nationalist, anti-Thaksin and essentially appealing to the Sino-Thai middle class.

On royalism, there is little to mark out PAD, NPP and the Democrat Party. The Democrats can claim a long heritage amongst royalists that goes back to the party’s founding. So differentiation is probably going to be in the other areas.

Nationalism is of course rolled-up with royalism. Even so, it is very much PAD-NPP turf because it has shown that it can be on-the-ground aggressive and extreme, something that the government is not really capable. Of course, the government can saber-rattle on Cambodia and can produce nonsense like warbling the national anthem. But PAD-NPP is much more street-savvy and has more latitude for extremism. This won’t be attractive to everyone, but it displays characteristics that are seen as a strength by many.

If NPP is to get the one million members it wants, it needs to develop policies and a profile that show how the Democrat Party is “old politics” – and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to be helping them on this – and how the Democrats have failed its electoral constituencies, especially those in the middle class.

One way of doing the latter is to oppose constitutional amendments. The 2007 Constitution is viewed by many in PAD as a reasonable starting point for its “new politics.” Meanwhile, many in the middle class, fearing any return by Thaksin or pro-Thaksin parties, see constitutional amendments as facilitating that or at the very least “benefiting politicians.”

So it is that PAD are considering “street protests against the moves to amend the Constitution” should  that process move forward. (This is also one reason why Abhisit is stalling.)

Having Sondhi Limthongkul as NPP leader is one way for PAD to show the middle class that they will not back down on these issues, even if Sondhi might fall foul of electoral laws now that he has three defamation convictions.

Nationalist yellow shirts invade mini-temple site

30 09 2009

The People’s Alliance for Democracy didn’t manage to get all the way to Preah Vihear Temple about 10 days ago. That was embarrassing for the Democrat Party-led government and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, especially as PAD were particularly aggressive and violent toward locals. Now with Hun Sen and Abhisit rattling sabers,  and with Abhisit having begged PAD to back off, the PAD supporters decided to take over the mini-Preah Vihear Temple at the mini-Thailand deep into Thai territory at Samut Prakarn.

Prachatai (1 October 2009: “PAD vow to reclaim Thai soil at miniature Preah Vihear”; 30 September 2009: พันธมิตรฯ อ่านแถลงการณ์ทวงคืนแผ่นดินไทยที่เขาพระวิหาร [จำลอง]) reports that about 500 yellow shirts arrived at the Ancient City tourist site, read a statement, raised the Thai flag and sang the national anthem. It isn’t clear if they actually invaded, were invited or paid the admission fee. PPT imagines that the somewhat eccentric founder of this site, Lek Viriyaphant, who is said to have made his millions when he was, for many years, the exclusive Mercedes Benz dealer in Thailand, would not have been too put off by rabid nationalists.

The yellow-shirted nationalists, led by Veera Somkwamkid, who also led the violent rally at Srisaket, “vowed to do everything within the bounds of the law to reclaim the Thai territory surrounding Preah Vihear, and prosecute those responsible for the loss of territory and the intrusion.” They also “demanded the departure of the Cambodian people who had intruded onto Thai soil, and condemned the World Heritage Committee for distorting facts and being partial.”

The report also includes the interesting comment that just days after the violence in Srisaket, appointed senator Phaibul Nititawan, who leads a group of 40 senators, “suggested changing the name of the village where clash had occurred to a Thai name, because Bhumi Sarol is Cambodian, meaning ‘a fertile land’. So it is the fertility of the Cambodians, not of the Thais, he said.”

While this is a remarkable comment, it should not be surprising. These senators were appointed by the military and its government to control parliament on important issues. They are recognized as conservative, royalist and nationalist. Their support for PAD has been repeatedly demonstrated with many of them having joined PAD demonstrations from 2005 to 2008.

Right-wing militarists, royalists and the national anthem

29 09 2009

It was about 10 days ago that PPT posted on the “Thai Unity” project that included the bizarre notion that assembled multitudes should be arranged to sing the national anthem, province by province, until the king’s birthday. This was meant to “to ease their [Thais] stress while promoting love, unity and goodness.” PPT hasn’t noticed lots of anthem singing going on yet and has heard plenty of negative comment.

Now the Bangkok Post (29 September 2009: “Sing till you’re hoarse, fellas”) has an op-ed by Atiya Achakulwisut that demonstrates how difficult it is for some to question nationalist nonsense and royalist dictates.

She begins, “I have a feeling I shouldn’t say anything about this. At the back of my mind, I actually know that I am not supposed to harbour any critical thought about the initiative or the idea behind it. I know I would be putting myself up for some real wrath and backlash. I know. I know. Still, from a deep, dark and hidden corner of my mind, I feel obliged to give my honest opinion despite my instinct to keep my mouth shut.”

The fear stems from her entirely reasonable view that this “is not exactly the most brilliant idea.” She adds, “The singing project … is the brainchild of the PM’s [Prime Minister’s] Office…. I don’t think it will achieve either purpose.”

Further, “Thai people have learned to pay respect to the flag and national anthem ever since we were children – it is almost meaningless in itself.”

Aitya then asks the obvious question: “what does the government think will go through our head if we have to do this ‘duty’ [singing the anthem] again?” Indeed, what are they thinking? And, why do they think that this old-fashioned “right-wing, militaristic attitude” means anything?

The author then gets off course, answering this question by accepting the government’s line that the anthem is “quintessentially Thai” and meets the urgent need to “promote a sense of unity.” among Thais quite badly. But she finishes nicely: “The singing project may appear grand, stately and nationalistic but the best it can hope to achieve is to be a gimmick…”.

Presumably the Abhisit Vejjajiva and his office are not a bunch of right-wing militarists? So why are they coming up with right-wing, militarist and royalist campaigns that are such duds? Are debts owed? Or is there more to it?

Bhum Jai Thai, money and Buddhism

24 09 2009

PPT is getting some interesting reports from parts of the southern-most provinces of the northeastern region regarding Bhum Jai Thai Party spending.

In an earlier posts regarding the governments “strengthening” projects for the country, the emphasis has been on nationalism and the monarchy. As we showed in a recent post, these can be combined as in the program that demands and requires the massed singing of the national anthem that ends on the king’s birthday.

While PPT labeled this nationalist nonsense, we are aware of how the trilogy of nation, religion and monarchy has been used by rightest forces in the past to justify political repression that has deteriorated into political murder.

Hence, the reports we have from the northeast adding the third pillar – religion – may also seem trivial nonsense, but they are also cause for concern. PPT hears that Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai are splashing funds around villages, providing funds for villagers take their children to the local temple at least one day a week. The money provides food for the monks and those who show up. As usual, there is considerable pressure on village heads and kamnan to ensure a good turnout.

There are various ways to interpret this. One way is to see it as a reinforcement of the nationalist trilogy. That’s a reason for concern if, as in the past, extreme rightists take control of these programs.

Another take – more likely in our view – would be to see it as a part of the Bhum Jai Thai’s preparations for an election. After all, the Democrat Party gets no support in the region and any visits by its leaders arouse suspicion and resentment.

What is clear is that the Bhum Jai Thai Party, as part of the coalition government, seems to have access to plenty of funds, and the suspicion is that the military is continuing to pour money into the party in order to gain a foothold in the northeast. The budget allocations to the military carry considerable political import.

The Democrat Party and their backers know they can’t win and election without some gains in the northeast. Hence, funds are being carefully directed to building support from village leaderships and hua kanaen, trying to wean them away from the Puea Thai Party. The government parties and their backers seem to still believe that money makes all the difference in Thailand’s politics.

It remains to be seen if this mix of nationalism, religion, monarchy and money will be meaningful for disgruntled voters.

Reactionary royalism, nationalist nonsense

18 09 2009

Also available as ลัทธิคลั่งเจ้าขวาตกขอบ ชาตินิยมบ้าบอ

Thanks to Liberal Thai

Thanks to Liberal Thai

Regular PPT readers will know that we consider Prime Minister’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey a reactionary and royalist who cares nothing for human rights. He is one of the leading forces in driving the return to a political dark age.

Prachatai (18 September 2009: “Government campaign for National Anthem to be sung across the country”) has a story that confirms Sathit’s political positions.

The report states that the Democrat Party-led government “will encourage the Thai people in all provinces to come out to sing the National Anthem at 6 pm every day until 5 Dec to promote unity and patriotism.”

No doubt this bit of royalist display – it is part of the king’s birthday celebrations – will also be a convenient way to identify traitors, republicans and red shirts.

These massed singings will even be broadcast live from each province.

Sathit  said that the “Cabinet had approved the United and Strong Thai Project to urge the Thai people to love the country and act in the best interests of the nation, not of certain individuals.”

Sathit thinks that having people “show their patriotism every day by singing the National Anthem” is meaningful. He proposed it “as Chair of the Committee to Promote the Confidence and Image of Thailand, citing current political conflicts as the reason to implement this project.”

Such events and pressuring people is likely to deepen resentment.

But, of course, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will “preside over the launch … and sing the National Anthem with Cabinet members, sports troops and others at Government House. And then all 76 provinces will take turn to hold the activity each day, with provincial governors leading the singing.” The whole thing will wrap-up on “5 Dec, the PM will host the closing ceremony and sing with representatives from all provinces at Sanam Luang, Bangkok, to celebrate the King’s birthday.”

Before the live daily broadcasts on “all TV and radio stations” there will be “a 2-minute documentary will be shown featuring the patriotic feats of people in that particular province.”

PPT’s favorite rendition of any national anthem is here. Full lyrics here. It begins, perhaps not inappropriately:

God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron

and ends

No future for you
No future no future
No future for you
No future no future for you

Where will it stop?

7 07 2009

The accusations of disrespecting or insulting the monarchy have been an established part of the reactionary arsenal of Thai politics for several decades. In recent years, all of the major contending political elements claim to have been supporting or protecting the monarchy while opponents are accused of damaging the monarchy.

Since the 2006 palace-backed military coup, and especially following the advent of the Democrat Party-led government in December 2008, as PPT has been pointing out, the charges of lesè majesté have been highly political in their application.

With the victories of the pro-Thaksin Peua Thai Party in by-elections over the past few weeks, and with the UDD trying to get a million signatures to petition for a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra, lesè majesté allegations are flowing thick and fast.

To be honest, PPT is having trouble keeping up with them all. In the past few weeks, we can count newspaper reports of allegations against some 40 persons, including a number of foreign journalists.

Now a reader of the Bangkok Post (7 July 2009: “American Embassy plays the wrong tune”) in a letter to the editor signed by “Shocked Thai Citizen” points an accusing finger at the US Ambassador and his Embassy.

STC claims to have attended a 2 July celebration at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in advance of July 4th celebrations. As well as feeling that the ambassador’s speech was “lengthy and … condescending” for its mention of “regrettable violence and political incidents which occurred in Thailand last year and the true merits of American-style democracy,” STC reports shock at what happened next. STC says that “many guests were astounded to hear the Thai National Anthem, instead of the Royal Anthem, being played by the band before the toasts.”

PPT is ignorant of such matters, but would have guessed that the National Anthem was appropriate, but we ask readers’ more knowledgeable to email us on this protocol issue while we wait for the US Embassy’s response in the Post. The US Navy Band’s website states: “If there is an occasion where the National Anthem of Thailand is required, contact liaison or protocol officer before the ceremony to determine which version is appropriate.”

One website has it that: “Thailand is one of a few monarchies (like Denmark and Sweden) that have a separate anthem for the royal family, as opposed to the national anthem for the citizens. The Thai royal anthem is performed during state occasions and public meetings, as well as when a high-ranking member of the royal family is present for a function. The same site (www.nationalanthems.info/th.htm) adds that: “Following the military coup in Thailand in late 2006, there was an initial move to downgrade ‘Phleng Chat’ [the national anthem] to the status of a ‘national song’, making [the royal anthem] the sole national anthem. However, there was public outcry against this and the move was scrapped.”

Back to STC, who goes on to indicate why s/he is shocked: “The Thai National Anthem was composed by the People’s Party after the coup to abolish absolute monarchy in 1932 and is now usually played during the daily flag raising and lowering ceremony at government buildings and schools.” STC seems to imply that there has been an attempt to replace this anthem because of its link to 1932.

Then STC accuses the US Embassy of more than a breach of protocol: “One cannot imagine that this was an unintentional mistake…”. STC continues: “Surely the US Embassy knows that at present there are serious threats to our internal security. For instance, there is a movement initiated by the Red Shirts to demand that the Thai National Day be changed from Dec 5, the birthday of HM the King, to June 24, the day of the coup in 1932.” Finally, STC proudly proclaims: “We, therefore, condemn the action by the US Embassy as demeaning to the people of the Kingdom of Thailand, who revere their Monarch.”

Is it that royalists are so worried for the future of the monarchy that they must protect it from the country with the longest diplomatic relationship of any country in the West? Is Thailand’s closest ally from World War 2 to the present day now an enemy of the monarchy? Hardly, but the more manic royalists are clearly beside themselves with worry and anger that they may be losing the 77 year-long battle to regain their political position.