Very (North) Korea-like

9 01 2019

It may be just us at PPT, but we feel there’s been a considerable uptick in royal propaganda in recent weeks. Perhaps it has to do with the cool season and the fact that royals seem to mainly be in-country and getting out. Or perhaps it is in tandem with the standoff over “election” timing.

PPT has tended to ignore most of this palace propaganda. As we have posted previously, much of it feels like a 1970s refrain: “Meet the new king, Same as the old king” kind of stuff. But the new king uses image and manufactured aura of the old king to his advantage, and as it is done, it continues mantras that seem cut from the North Korean cult of personality playbook.

The latest “report” is perhaps appropriately (North) Korean in that it is about the Navy and Korean vessels.

Remarkably, a serious newspaper actually parrots Family Kim-style propaganda in declaring it was “a day of overwhelming joy for the navy when Government House informed them early this month that two new ships were named by His Majesty the King in remembrance of the late King Bhumibol.”

The captain of the newly-named HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej blubbered: “We were all overwhelmed. We never thought the vessel would be given a name that means so much…”. The ship, he said, was the “pride of the Royal Thai Navy.”

Like so many non-thinking royalists, the captain declared: “The name has been given by His Majesty the King and it means so much to the Thai people.” How does he know? He’s had it drummed into him from birth.

The fine print is that the new frigate had another name, selected by the Navy, but that’s now ditched. Of course, as many old salts know, changing the name of a vessel brings bad luck. We assume the Navy will perform all kinds of superstitious ceremonies to ward off the bad luck.

Observing the puppets

31 03 2017

Since the military dictatorship established its National Legislative Assembly of the Unusually Rich and Other Puppets, we have been critical of it.

“Critical” is probably the wrong word for we have been dismissive of it. It is not “national” in that it is unrepresentative. Indeed, if it needs emphasis, it is unelected. Worse, it is not an “assembly” that does anything related to legislation.

Rather, it simply does as the junta orders. Legislative decisions are made by the junta. Nothing is ever debated, just agreed. It is an assembly of well-rewarded puppets.

This was again emphasized in the fiasco over the murky petroleum bill and the still not removed provision to set up a national oil corporation. (The provision is annexed “for study.”)

In the voting, the NLA managed yet another almost unanimous decision with 227 voting to pass the petroleum bill on its third reading and one against it. Who is that one hold-out against the The Dictator’s will?

We suppose the best that can be said of the sham Assembly is that the one hold-out distinguishes it just a tiny bit – say by 0.004% – from the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly.

Don’t hold your breath II

18 02 2016

In case you missed it, the Bangkok Post reports that the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) voted 164 to 6 to approve the bill to grant “reform” power to a new committee over 20 years.

Yes, that’s two decades. It is two decades that embeds military political power and the role of unelected elites in directing politics. The reform committee “will deal with unfinished reform plans,” meaning the military junta’s agenda.

Is this establishing a parallel state in an institution? We think so, if Police Major Yongyut Sarasombat, who led a NRSA committee putting the bill in place, is to be believed.

He says the committee “will only serve as an ‘X-ray scanner’ looking for politicians and authorities who do not comply with the strategy.” Yes, this is very North Korean. Conform on conservative “reform” or you are out or worse. He says that “[i]f politicians go against the strategy and cause subsequent damage, the committee will forward their cases to the Senate…” or the “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) while state officials will face disciplinary action…”.

The so-called national strategy committee will have “25 people, including the prime minister, the NRSA chairman, and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) chairman.” The “panel [will]… draft the first strategy, which will last 20 years.”

The junta plans to have its plans in the draft charter. The creation of an institutionalized parallel state involves not just this committee, but elements of the judiciary, “independent” agencies and a bunch of other unelected posts in shady committees.

The Dictator’s world of authoritarianism

8 01 2016

No one can confuse General Prayuth Chan-ocha for a democrat. He’s been involved in two military coups overthrowing elected governments. He was the leader of the 2014 coup. He has established a repressive regime, and for all of the talk of a “roadmap,” that leads to a regime that political scientists might have euphemistically thought of – in the 1980s and 1990s – as a “semi-democracy.” He’s also more comfortable with royalism than constitutionalism, rule by law rather than rule of law and he abhors personal freedoms and liberties. That’s why we call him The Dictator.

Dictators come in various shapes and forms, although it must be admitted that, worldwide, there are fewer of them these days. Some might consider Thailand’s supreme leader as a throwback to the Cold War era of military dictators, and he certainly does look like that at times. As many have pointed out, though, his regime, with its enhanced royalism and the associated personality cult that is still promoted for an almost dead king, does look a bit like North Korea with advertising and a capitalist class. We are pretty sure that The Dictator admires aspects of the North Korean regime.

HairThe other likely model is China. There have been plenty of reports on how the military regime under Prayuth has moved closer to China. There are also indications of admiration based on style and program. Like a good many vain senior Thais, Prayuth would fit neatly into the Chinese Politburo, with rich, dyed black hair.

Like Chinese leaders, Prayuth manages to come up with slogans and aphorisms (as well as songs) that express his views and which are apparently meant to “motivate” others. His most recent is scrolling across the top of a leading state propaganda site: “The Prime Minister has given the motto for the National Children’s Day 2016 …: ‘Good child, diligent, learning, towards a bright future’.”

Appearance and self-obsession aside, there is more sinister learning and emulation at work that is mixed with the Thai military’s great capacity for repression, terror and murder. Controlling, restricting and banning all events it sees as “political” and “oppositional” is something else the Chinese regime does with brutish efficiency. Like the Chinese regime, Prayuth’s seeks to threaten and cajole political opponents. When that fails, it locks them up, often with sedition and lese majeste charges.

At the state propaganda site and also reported by Khaosod is something that is still short of the Chinese approach, but getting there: “The government announced yesterday that it has asked Facebook and Youtube to ban the accounts of users that distribute any offensive remarks about the monarchy on the internet.”

Both companies have previously managed to bow to state pressure on the monarchy, so the response this time will be a test of company backbone. We expect it to crumble, as Microsoft appears to have colluded with The Dictator’s regime. For the moment, both companies have “declined to comment.”

Officials say there are “almost 100 accounts on Youtube and 20-30 accounts on Facebook” that they want banned. There may be more as the dictatorship further encourages “[m]embers of the public … to report any website considered to violate the royal defamation law…”.

Minor prince and military flunkey Panadda Diskul, who chaired the meeting on Wednesday, declared that the “urgent discussion” was a response to concerns expressed by Prayuth. Follow the leader is a well-known Chinese game.

Prayuth’s world is authoritarian. He learns from China, North Korea and plenty of past Thai autocrats.

Loving North Korea

9 08 2015

The North Korea connection with the military dictatorship in Bangkok continues to develop and is becoming warmer and more loving.

We choose that last word carefully, understanding that the military dictatorship’s foreign minister, General Tanasak Patimapragorn has recently expressed his personal love for China and its foreign minister….

At the Bangkok Post Tanasak says a visit by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong will “discuss a range of bilateral issues … especially existing cooperation between two countries.” It is reported that a “government source said his visit was seen as a symbolic trip representing the long-standing bilateral relationship.” Tanasak added that: “It is not unusual for the North Korean foreign minister to visit our country…”. In fact, it is the first visit for 10 years.

Tanasak also explained that “the [military] government is ready to build ties with any country seeking a diplomatic relationship.” The dictatorship seems desperate.

Of course, and in line with his understanding of the cult of personality, Ri “is scheduled to visit several royal projects…”.


Education hub?

4 08 2015

This is a reasonably old story, sent to us by a reader some time ago, but worth posting as an illustration of the delusional nature of the current regime.

The propaganda department reports that the Ministry of Education is in the process of “establishing a center to develop Thailand as the education hub of ASEAN.”

Our eyes widened when reading this. This is the Thailand where the manifold:

… weaknesses in Thailand’s education system are well documented, with O-Nets, Pisa, Timms and World Bank reports all highlighting Thailand’s lack of progress and the urgency with which reforms are needed. These reports have also emphasised the gross educational inequalities which disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, rural areas and ethnic minorities.

This is the Thailand of the military dictatorship that has:

… created a list of “12 National Values,” and since last October has required that every student recite the values at the start of their school day. Critical thinking is conspicuously absent from the list. Instead, the values promote order, respect and honor of authority, discipline of body and mind, economic modesty, and selflessness.

This is the Thailand where the military dictatorship has made the Ministry of Education a North Korea-like Ministry of Propaganda. This Ministry of Propaganda is led by an admiral. That military dunce agreed with the North Korean Ambassador to Thailand that “the education systems of both countries are rather similar…”.

This is the Thailand that arrests student activists who demand democracy. It is the Thailand where real education reformers are intimidated and spied on.

Somehow, the military junta has convinced itself that this Thailand is somehow going to be taken sriously by Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and even Vietnam will take its military propaganda seriously. This delusional vision was explained by a military mouthpiece:

Deputy Government Spokesman Maj. Gen. Sansern Kaeokamnerd said the goal of the ministry’s development of Thailand as the ASEAN education hub was to internationalize education in the junior-high and high school levels. These schools must be prepared to provide education for both Thai and foreign students in ASEAN. The center would also act as a source of information and research on ASEAN and train people for competition in the regional level….

Apparently, The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “agreed with the establishment of the center which was in line with the government’s national reform efforts and preparations for the AEC…”.

Men who have made their lives and careers through loyalty to hierarchy and by polishing the posteriors of their bosses and idols can’t imagine any other “education.”

They are delusional.

The North Korea comparison again

18 07 2015

John Le Fevre at The Establishment Post has a long story that uses the North Korea analogy for Thailand’s military dictatorship and its repression. Yes, Thailand is a monarchy, and the analogy is in danger of being overused, but there is something to it.

He observes:

This week there were amendments to the anti-graft law introducing the death penalty for corruption offences, two Phuket-based journalists put on trial and 10 members of an anti-monarchy group sentenced to jail for producing videos criticising the Thai royal family.

The rest of the articles discusses these acts of repression and threats. It concludes with this:Prayuth

While the eyes of the world may be on Thailand for more reasons than just its failing economy, Thailand is at this stage not giving any indication it cares what the rest of the world thinks.

In fact, it is The Dictator and his military cronies who care little for international opinion, as farmers struggle with drought, the economy declines further and allegations of the junta dealing with international money launderers circulate on social media. The junta remain more interested in Thaksin Shinawatra (it seems they live, dream and fantasize about the man), political indoctrination and managing the monarchy-military nexus than in what foreigners think.

North Thailand or North Korea?

19 06 2015

As we have mentioned several times previously, worshiping Dear or Great Leaders in Thailand and North Korea have some essential similarities.

As the National News Bureau of Thailand reports, in Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand – not North Korea – several “government agencies in Chiang Rai province have convened a meeting to discuss plans to promote the little-known Phaya Phi Phak Forest Park as an important historical attraction.”

Once the area was a site of battles between the Communist Party of Thailand and Thailand’s military. A memorial has been erected at 1,118 m on Doi Phaya Phi Phak to commemorate those who died in the battles. Some details are available in this book (it has a Google books preview) and there’s a CPT version of events available as a pretty slow download of a PDF. The Army was later involved in drug trafficking in the area.

It is apparently Army Region 3 that has led the planning “to develop the national park into a must-see tourist attraction in Chiang Rai, highlighting its forest landscape and historical importance.”

They are managing to convert a one-time battlefield into a royal and military revision of history. That revision commemorates a visit by monarchs: “Their Majesties the King and Queen visited the strife-torn area to boost morale for the soldiers and villagers. During his visit, HM the King also bestowed his footprints, which are now kept in Mengrai Fort.” Of course, this “project” is meant to “celebrate the 88th birthday anniversary of … the King.”

There are several items to be commented on here. First, the use of footprints is remarkable as this implies that the king is being commemorated almost as if he is a living Buddha. Second, the Army is fudging for the king’s footprints in cement are already promoted as a kind of anti-CPT memorial in an Army base in the mountains. And third, the king visited after the cessation of hostilities as part of a royalist ceremony.

But, heck, facts don’t matter when the cult of personality is at work.

Autocratic love

15 05 2015

Prachatai has been regularly reporting the developing relationship between Thailand’s military dictatorship and the vicious regime in North Korea.

In the first instance we recall, in November 2014, Admiral Narong Pipatanasai, the Education Minister under the junta agreed with the North Korean Ambassador to Thailand “that the education systems of both countries are rather similar and plan to develop ties by educational exchanges.” The two apparently agreed that “a few students from North Korea come to Thailand to study.”

Just a few days ago, Prachatai posted on Thailand and North Korea celebrating the “40th anniversary of bilateral ties by issuing special sets of stamps and organizing an exhibition.”

In a third post, Prachatai reports that a Foreign Ministry delegation, led by Deputy Minister Don Pramudwinai, has been “to the North Korea and presented a gift to North Korea Leader Kim Jong Un to celebrate 40 years of bilateral ties.” The gift was officially from Thai Foreign Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn to Kim.

The delegation reportedly “visited Mangyongdae, the birthplace of Kim Il Sung, former DPRK leader…, [and]  he Tower of the Juche Idea, Chongryu Junior Middle School in Taedonggang District, the Mirim Riding Club, the Munsu Water Park and other places.”

The developing warmth of the relationship is interesting, coming as it does on the heels of the reported brutal execution of the North Korean defense chief.

As we noted once before, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s Dictator, seems to think the appropriate propaganda model of propaganda for Thailand is North Korea ++. Like the ++ on Thailand’s bills at hotels and restaurants, the add-ons to the North Korea model are commercial. Even with a commercial spin, North Korea’s approach to The Leader seems to suit The Dictator. We doubt Prayuth is going to execute his defense chief, but autocrats do seem to have a special bond.

Dictators love dictators

16 01 2015

Comparisons have been made between North Korea and Thailand. Mostly this has revolved around the cult of personality and the king that seems so very Kim-like.More recently, comparisons have been made between the military dictatorship in Thailand and the dictatorship in North Korea.

The North Korean ambassador has become a regular visitor to to members of the junta and its puppets. Most recently, he has asked the military dictatorship to set up an embassy in Pyongyang.

Puppet Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam recently met the ambassador and said that it might happen but that there were several considerations.

NK News reports that “Thai telecommunications company Loxley Pacific is already involved with the Pyongyang based Star Joint Venture, and helps administer North Korea’s connection to the internet.” Geoffrey See, managing director at Choson Exchange told NK News that:

“Loxley’s Thai parent company is supposedly run by a very politically connected family in Thailand. The company is influential across commodities, consumer goods and telecoms in North Korea. Their involvement in the telecoms link, a sector notorious for regulation, speaks to their political connections”.

Loxley Pacific’s involvement in North Korea is in spite of poor trade relations “since the early 2000s, when North Korea defaulted on a $120 million rice debt.”

KCNA Watch shows a rising North Korean state media output on Thailand.Thai-NK

Economic cooperation between Thailand and North Korea has also been on the upswing since 2011. PPT reckons that the Koreans see plenty of opportunities with an economically naive and politically unsophisticated military dictatorship. Dictators do seem attracted by other dictators.

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