Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





The junta’s senate

1 03 2019

The process of shortlisting senators by a military regime panel will not be difficult. That’s according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

He says that’s because “[t]hey are likely to be recruited from members of various bodies who were appointed by the junta and from specialists in various professions…”. Wissanu added that those considered will be “drawn from the National Legislative Assembly as well as defunct bodies such as the National Reform Council and National Reform Steering Council.”

Wissanu revealed that “400 Senate candidates will be shortlisted by the recently established panel headed by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.” The Deputy Dictator will then pass these names to the junta. Yes, that’s right, the junta presents the names to the junta.

After the junta gets the names from the junta, it then chooses 194 unelected senators and 50 “reserve” candidates. And, of course, six seats are given to the bosses of each of the armed forces leaders, the supreme commander, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defense the national police chief. All of these are junta supporters, appointed by the junta.

The remaining 50 senators are also selected by the junta “from among 200 candidates who have already been shortlisted in a process supervised by the [puppet] Election Commission.”

In other words, the senate will be the junta’s people and will do the junta’s bidding.





Anti-Thaksinism, extradition and lese majeste

8 10 2017

The military junta continues to give the impression that it is really, really serious about “capturing” Yingluck Shinawatra. We don’t quite know why they do this. On the one hand, if Yingluck did simply stroll out of Thailand and into exile, the junta’s security operations are shown to be utterly hopeless. On the other hand, if the junta was part of a “deal” with Yingluck, then the junta has to show the yellowed anti-democrats that it really was incompetent – or at least those nasty and reddish police were conniving with her and duped the bosses in the junta.

The junta gives the impression that it is struggling to maintain its anti-democratic alliances and there are rumors of internal dissension, although such claims have been constant since the 2014 coup.

Whatever the cause of its actions, the military junta now claims to want to extradite Yingluck “regardless of whether she seeks or is granted asylum in the UK as some media have reported…”. They say that when the find her, they will spring into action. The current line is that she can’t get asylum anywhere because the junta didn’t take her to court on any political charge, so she’s not a political exile. When it comes to shoveling excrement, those associated with the justice system seem especially skilled.

Much of this is in line with The Dictator’s political campaigning, where he believes and hopes that all those who voted for “that woman” will see the light and realize that he’s good while all those Shinawatra and associated politicians and evil fugitives and criminals.

Beyond Yingluck, the junta and its justice system lackeys have, according to a Bangkok Post report, “public prosecutors have decided to indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on a lese majeste charge and vowed to revive pending criminal cases against him under a new organic law that allows for the trials of fugitive politicians to be held in absentia.”

Brand new Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwong is taking the running on these actions. Khemchai is a loyal anti-democrat and a puppet-servant of the military dictatorship, having been rewarded with positions on the National Reform Council and state enterprise boards. He is one of those who thinks apply laws retrospectively is fine and dandy when going after political opponents.

The move against Thaksin years after the case was first made in May 2015, following an interview in South Korea on which PPT has a full report. Thaksin commented on the links between military and privy council in orchestrating the 2014 military coup. He stated that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Khemchai declared that on the various cases against Thaksin, “the next step would be for state prosecutors to request the TCSC issue a warrant for Thaksin’s arrest. Extradition proceedings will be launched if his whereabouts can be confirmed…”.





Death and detention

3 05 2017

Prachatai reports on the military junta’s puppet National Reform Council (NRC) on the rightist plan to bring the media even further under the military boot.

The NRC “has given the green light to a controversial bill that would subject the Thai media to a licensing system.”

During what Prachatai euphemistically calls a “debate over the bill” – it was the usual back-slapping resulting in support for the bill – “NRC whip spokesperson Pornthip Rojanasunand declared: “The media nowadays make video clips to defame people. This is very difficult to control … and is destroying society…”.

She was trumped by Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon who decried Thailand’s “free” media, saying that Thailand needed to be more like “countries such as China and Singapore have similar media regulations…”.

Lt Gen Thawatchai, seemingly drunk on power or just drunk, trumpeted:

Pol Gen Seripisut Temiyavet, a former police commander, recently gave interviews condemning the military…. He has no respect [for the military]. Journalists who report these things should be executed by firing squad.

Reckless chatter from a puppet, perhaps, but we are sure his personal fascism is widespread among the puppets.

Meanwhile, the military dictatorship’s official thugs continue to abduct political opponents. Prachatai reports that the “military has reportedly detained incommunicado two political dissidents one of whom is a human rights lawyer who represented a former lèse majesté convict.” That was Darunee Charnchoensilpakul.

On 30 April 2017 human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul told a colleague that the junta had “summoned him.” He then “disappeared and could not be contacted further…”. Legally, this may be another case of forced disappearance by the junta.

Prawet is known for posting “messages critical of the Thai military government and the use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.”

A day earlier, Prachatai states that “more than 10 police and military officers detained Danai (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), 34, a political dissident from Chiang Mai.”

His disappearance was confirmed by Danai’s father who “reported that the [military] officers searched their house and confiscated two of Danai’s mobile phones and informed him that his son would be taken to Bangkok, but did not disclose other details.”

The official thugs “did not present any warrant for the arrest and did not tell him [the father] why Danai was arrested.” However, the “local village headman later told Danai’s father that his son was arrested for posting political facebook messages critical of the junta.”

Military fascism defines the junta’s Thailand.





It’s strange in junta land

31 08 2016

Life under the military dictatorship has become increasingly strange. Two recent examples are emblematic of how logic, rules and normality have been altered.

The first is of yet another “suicide” in jail. This one an official who is accused of being complicit in handing out perhaps hundreds of parcels of land to the rich and powerful. He’s put in a Department of Special Investigation cell and is found dead. This is no surprise at any time in Thailand. The rich and powerful always seek to silence witnesses and get rid of evidence.

The surprising thing is that, like one lese majeste detainee in another jail, he’s said to have hung himself. No one believes the story, not least because he’s said to have used his socks to hang himself from a door hinge. The reports are that the ” autopsy results indicated that the rupture of liver was caused by forcible contact with a hard, blunt object.”

Can we assume he beat himself up before hanging himself? This is junta land. This is Bizzaro land.

The second story is of fascist royalist Paiboon Nititawan, described in the Bangkok Post as “a former member of the now-defunct National Reform Council…”. He is said to have “proposed guidelines for the Election Commission (EC) to follow when it arranges the election expected to be held in late 2017.”

That might seem kind of interesting, but this is junta land. This is Bizzaro land. Paiboon is the man who recently proposed that The Dictator become the Unelected Premier-Dictator after an “election.” He’s forming a party and telling the EC what to do. Is he their new boss, appointed by The Dictator?

What he proposes is also bizarre. No campaigning, which he thinks is a “Japanese model.” He has no knowledge of Japan’s elections it seems. He wants repression because the charter “referendum” got the result the royalist and military fascists wanted. So, do it again.

Paiboon’s “story” of the “referendum” is a fairy tale (except for the repression), but he brags that the “result was accepted by society at an international level.” So do it again.

This is junta land.





First takes on the junta’s draft constitution

30 01 2016

PPT hasn’t had a chance to look at the draft 270-article, 95-page constitution in any detail, but there are commentators who have (a PDF of the draft can be downloaded, in Thai). While most of the provisions have been flagged in recent weeks – at last the most controversial, we thought we’d combines some of that commentary here.

In the Bangkok Post, the anti-democrat agenda of the drafters and junta is made clear by the aged military flunkey Meechai Ruchupan: “”Given the limited time, we have drafted the best constitution within the 2014 interim charter’s framework. We want it to be the charter that can efficiently suppress corruption and does not whitewash wrongdoers…”. He referred to the draft as a “reform constitution.” In the Khaosod report linked below, Amorn Wanichwiwatana, spokesman of the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee, said the redesigned election system, will “prevent parliamentary dictatorship…”. He added: “It won’t be majority rule…”.

The CDC and junta are pandering to the anti-democrats and the fearful middle class. The anti-democrats will probably be happy (but see below), although the Democrat Party may be less so. However that party is able to lie in any bed.

One of the provisional clauses gives the military an extra three months in power, which The Dictator will have asked for. However, if the referendum dumps the charter, then military rule will be around for as long as the junta wants. In another interesting transition arrangement, if the charter gets up in the referendum, Article 44 remains in place through to a new government being formed. In essence, the draconian Article 44, which empowers the military junta to do anything it wants, stays in place. This allows considerable interference in referendum, election and the formation of any new government.

Pravit Rojanaphruk has an article at Khaosod that has a listing on some of the main (and, by now, well known) aspects of the military junta’s charter, in his sub-headings: Unelected Prime Minister and New Electoral System; Rise of Constitutional Court and Unelected Agencies Over Elected Government; Unelected Senate, Lack of Public Participation and a Less-Than-Democratic Charter. He also has some commentary.

Nipit Intarasombat of the Democrat Party doesn’t quite say it, but the charter tries to take Thailand back to a period of small parties, coalition building and busting, unelected premiers and vote-buying. The old political schemer and chief Privy Council meddler General Prem Tinsulanonda must be as pleased as Punch to have his political system essentially resurrected in this draft charter.

Nipit declares that the outside prime minister a threat: “This is unprecedented, and nowhere in this world can we find [such rules]. It allows for an outsider to become prime minister without being elected,” adding that the voting system “was designed in such as way as to ensure that no single party will ever gain outright majority in election…”.

The Puea Thai Party’s Chaturon Chaisaeng, saw the remarkable political power allocated to the Constitutional Court in legal terms:

“Having the power to define what constitutes a crisis and to use that power [over an elected government] is a serious dismantling of the check-and-balance system of the three branches under a democracy,” Chaturon said. “In getting it to try to solve [political] crises, the court will be increasingly dragged into politics. This is outside the democratic system, and will itself more easily induce crises.”

In fact, the new powers for the Court and for other independent bodies are to create a substitute for the monarchy’s political role, no longer considered reliable. Royalists and the elite figure they can maintain conservative control of the Constitutional Court.

Interestingly, a senior adviser for the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and regularly on their stage in 2014, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, also a former member of the now defunct National Reform Council, told the Bangkok Post that “the structure of parliament set out under the draft charter is flawed and outdated and goes against the principles of democracy.”

We are sure there’s plenty more commentary to come.





Democrat Party promotes anti-democratic charter

9 09 2015

In the fallout from the dumping of the draft charter, one of the telling responses has come from the royalist Democrat Party and its tainted leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

At The Nation it is reported that the “inclusion of the National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Committee … in the draft charter was the main reason the Democrat Party rejected the draft…”. We are told that this is due to a fear that “it would stir conflict in society…”. Abhisit had made this point earlier.

Soracha Weerachartwattana, a former Democrat MP for Samut Prakan province, “added that another reason for the party having rejected the draft was that the current interim charter did not allow for any amendment to the draft. This could have caused more problems in the future…”.

At the same time, Abhisit “had clearly said most of the content of the constitution was acceptable. He fully supported the provisions on anti-corruption measures, the creation of an anti-corruption mechanism and the legal punishment related to the issue.”

In other words, Abhisit supported anti-democratic provisions such as unelected senators, ridiculously complicated voting systems, the empowering of unelected officials and more.

This approach is not that distinct from The Dictator’s views. General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared “that content of the draft constitution voted down by the National Reform Council would help guide the new round of charter drafting.” While Prayuth says that “some NRC members thought it was not democratic,” we have doubts because these “democrats” all seem to have military uniforms.

Prayuth then sounded Abhisit-like, or vice-versa, stating:

People believe that the country faces a major threat and this needs to be handled, so those concerned must find ways to tackle it….

At first, I also thought that it would certainly pass the NRC vote….

For me, I never said anything to the media as I would accept any result, but if it really passed with a new conflict arising, whether or not it was worth reconsidering. There was nothing about my staying in power as people have allowed me to stay because they have confidence in me.

Neither The Dictator nor the Democrat Party make democratic sense.

Also at The Nation, iLaw, a rights group advocating legal reform, declared the whole draft “vague and downright impractical…” and declared the NRC a failure. It claims the NRC “proposed the creation of 100 new government agencies, provided 505 vague legislative proposals and presented a reform timeframe that extends until 2032.”





Further updated: Draft charter dumped

6 09 2015

The big news for the day, already predicted by the media, is that the military dictatorship’s draft charter has been dumped by the military junta’s puppet National Reform Council.

Update 1: According to the Bangkok Post, “The National Reform Council on Sunday voted 135-105 with seven abstentions to reject the draft constitution.” While some of those opposing the military dictatorship will be pleased with the dumping of an anti-democratic charter, it seems the real force behind the defeat was the military itself. As the Post states, “the rejection of the draft charter was as expected following heavy lobbying during the past week, reportedly by NRC members closely linked to the military.”

Because the draft charter has been voted down, the National Reform Council’s term ends and a new 21-memeber charter drafting committee will be established charged with coming up with a new draft within 6 months. That has to be followed within another 4 months by a referendum. This timetable provides the military dictatorship with ample scope for further repression over a long period.

Update 2: As regular readers will know, we are no fans of lawyer for sale Bowornsak Uwanno, the chief author of the now ditched draft charter. The Nation reports that Bowornsak, feeling rejected, has stated that “he would not return as a new Constitution drafter.” He seemed to think that the clause “highlighting the power of the people … would be deleted” by a new drafting committee. Maybe, but that statement meant almost nothing in a draft charter that promised to embed dozens of anti-democratic provisions. He did “thank” the “three generals who voted for the draft. On the other NRC members representing the military and voting No, he said it was natural for them to respect orders.”





Stunt or failure? II

26 08 2015

Now that the draft constitution is available, some opinions are now being expressed. Few seem very satisfied.

Some of the anti-democrats oppose it, preferring “reform” before constitutional change.

Yingluck Shinawatra has made her concerns clear. At the Bangkok Post, Yingluck is quoted as saying “she found the new constitution unacceptable because it is not linked to the people.”

Leader of the (anti-)Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva has “called for the National Reform Council to vote down the draft constitution on Sept 6, saying the proposed establishment of an all-powerful ‘crisis committee’ is unacceptable.”

The Nation has an editorial that slams the draft:

The new constitution would turn back the clock to the authoritarian rule of the late 1970s and ’80s….

The draft constitution, if passed by the National Reform Council (NRC) and then a public vote, would be a serious setback for democracy in Thailand.

Rather than ushering in “Thai-style democracy”, as claimed by Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chief Borwornsak Uwanno, the proposed national blueprint reflects the undemocratic way in which it was created.

In response, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been predictable in his response to criticism; he’s rejected it: “Prayut called on the media not to cover remarks made by these politicians, saying they had failed to solve the country’s problems but insulted his military-led regime, which he said was not fair.” Presumably, leading an illegal coup and overthrowing an elected government and the constitution is somehow “fair” in Prayuth’s jaundiced view of the world.

He went further, threatening: “They should not have been allowed to make such verbal attacks. Many have court cases and have spoken out without fear. If they hit out at me, I must hit back. When they face legal action, do not scream that they do not receive justice…”. The idea that criticizing the draft constitution is an attack on Prayuth indicates how much he has tutored the drafters, to the extent that Prayuth feels the constitution is owned by The Dictator.

Dictators will be dictators.





Our “reform” is not your reform

14 08 2015

Chairman of the puppet National Reform Council Thienchay Kiranandana is reported by The Nation, from a publicity stunt chaired by the Nation Multimedia Group’s Suthichai Yoon, as saying that “he was never concerned the military would use him.”

In fact, this is what he was asked and how he replied:

When you first accepted the invitation to chair the NRC, did you think that there was a risk you would be used by the military?

It’s not a risk, but a must, as the country had no way out. As the time came, we knew that it was such a big bet because if we didn’t do it now, how would we be able to tell our children why we didn’t do it when we had had a chance to do it for them and the country?

That doesn’t sound anything like “he was never concerned the military would use him.” But this is a kind of fairy tale, creating an impression of a “reform” process that was not directed by a military junta. Confirming tutelage he says:

I cannot put it in words, but we at the NRC know how many “orders” we have torn up. Actually, I prefer to call them “requests”.

Thienchay tries to make the “reform” process something other than the military and royalist elite’s “reforms.”

He refers to “public hearings” as if there was an atmosphere where free expression was allowed. He tries to make it a part of a legal process by stating that the “reform blueprint is not isolated, but has been placed under the constitution.” That too is a draft document that has been established and tutored by the military dictatorship. He talks about the “heated debate” on reform and elections by saying this represents the “the beginning of true democracy.” In fact, the debate is limited by the military and is mainly a discussion between the military and right-wing “reform before election” ideologues.

The extent of junta control is illustrated when he is asked about the “referendum and voting on the charter”:

They are sensitive. I will not answer.

He demonstrates how his version of “reform” requires “special powers”:

We want to see every issue placed before us for reform. You don’t have to use absolute power under Article 44 for all issues, but you may have to start working on every issue with a different set of resolutions, so we can more toward a strong democracy. That’s our goal.

When asked if “reform” and those pushing it are “addicted” to special powers (i.e. martial law, Article 44, military coup), he says:

Sometimes we may need a mechanism to help us reset the system or fix long-standing issues. If you say that is an addiction, well, if it’s in small doses, I don’t think we will get addicted.

That’s a yes.

In fact, in a related story, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha tells the real story of how his junta’s “reforms” will be taken forward. The special powers will, in part, be a National Strategic Reform and Reconciliation Commission (NSRRC) [that] … will ensure that the subsequent government continues with implementing reform plans…”. Prayuth “explained:

The future government must implement reforms and this panel would be responsible for making sure that happens. Do you think an elected government would do it voluntarily?… I don’t think they will…”. He will never trust a “politician” and most especially those who are the people’s choice.