Dictating IV

10 10 2014

Our earlier Dictating posts are here, here and here.

We pointed out that a dictator is a “ruler who wields absolute authority. A state ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship.” General Prayuth Chan-ocha is Thailand’s dictator.

In a related post, we stated that while dictators were once considered an endangered species,dictators seem to be making something of  throwback-comeback. We noted that there were several “models” for the Thai Dictator to follow. We nominated North Korea where there is a cult of personality.Prayuth

Of course, as several readers have pointed out, that model could equally be the Thai monarchy, which has promoted a personality cult. While lacking any formal qualifications, the king is promoted as excellent at everything he tries, from arts to sciences. He’s also allegedly brilliant at governance and economics. Unbelievable, but if it is these are the only available messages, heard repeatedly, they become significant.

With the king clinging to life but in terminal decline, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is being promoted as a replacement “father.” In our earlier post, we noted that the Propaganda Ministry, also known as the Education Ministry, released a poem that lauded The Dictator’s simplistic “Twelve Values.” Students are now required to memorize these. The sycophantic Ministry of Propaganda wants to use these royalist “values” throughout the curriculum.

Propaganda - CopyJust to add another piece to the personality cult and the replacement of king by The Dictator, the military junta has announced that “announced … that it is planning to produce a dramatisation of Gen. Prayuth’s teachings [sic.] known as ‘Twelve Values,’ which he says all Thais should practice.”

Who better to promote The Dictator as king than a minor royal and Prayuth sycophant Mom luang Panadda Diskul, who doubles as permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office. He met with “a group of film-makers and actors at the Government House,” stating: “This is our first effort to comply with Gen. Prayuth’s policy that called for a production of a film that promotes national identity…”.

north koreans cryingThe royal royalist said that the dictatorship “is looking to produce [using taxpayers’ money] a ’30-minute film’ based on the ‘Twelve Values’ preached by Gen. Prayuth, and asked the film-makers to submit ideas to the government.”

Panadda explained that once completed, this propaganda film would be shown at “all cinemas across the country…”. We imagine that The Dictator expects that there will be tears of joy from The Leader’s loyal minions.

Sycophant Panadda declared that the proposed film would “focus on Thai culture, peace and order, the national identity, and the adaptation of the Twelve Values” Remarkably, Panadda declared that “people of all ages can watch without getting bored.” Perhaps boredom will be outlawed in the pursuit of “happiness.”



Learning from North Korea

20 09 2014

Once considered an endangered species, it seems that being a dictator in the contemporary world is becoming a little easier. At least there are examples available for the new Thai dictatorship to follow as they repress and oppress.

That said, it does seem that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has made himself prime minister and junta leader, while maintaining control of the military and police through proxies, has only one model of propaganda.

As has been the case with the king and monarchy, Prayuth seems to think the appropriate propaganda model 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 approach, North Korea’s approach to The Leader seems to suit The Dictator, as it has suited the king and the palace propagandists.Propaganda Prayuth

In recent days, Nation Books has produced a fawning hagiography of The Dictator that would do the king proud in the way it polishes his posterior in the most unlikely terms.

At the same time, the Propaganda Ministry, also known as the Education Ministry, has released a poem, said to be “based on the Twelve Values Gen. Prayuth said he wants every Thai youth to adopt.” Khaosod reports that “Thai students are now required to memorise the “Twelve Values” bestowed by junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth…”. The twelve “values” are propaganda pure and simple.

The sycophantic Ministry of Propaganda is also considering how to use these royalist “values” throughout the curriculum. The permanent secretary of the ministry states that “”Many experts are already submitting guidelines about practical application of the values…”.

While the “values” are the usual royalist nonsense about “sufficiency economy” and use the old shibboleth of nation, religion and monarchy, it really does look like Prayuth is replacing the king as the focus of this propaganda.

More on succession

10 08 2014

It has to be admitted that Wikileaks, the 2006 coup, the role the palace played in that, the royalist opposition to electoral representation, the infamous birthday video, and the rise of the successionist line in blogs and on social media have changed the way most of the world thinks about Thailand’s monarchy. The recent coup hasn’t helped the monarchy either, and the military dictatorship’s repeated denials of the palace’s involvement only confirms suspicions that the old men of the palace are continually meddling.

Whereas almost all of the world’s media once referred to the “revered monarchy,” that line is now usually accompanied by a note that royalists want to “control” succession and/or that the crown prince is not particularly popular.

There’s been a flurry of articles about the king now that he has gone back to Siriraj Hospital. (Has he come out yet? If he has, PPT has missed it.)

One of these articles was in the UK edition of the International Business Times. It begins: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand who, at age 86, has been readmitted to hospital in Bangkok for a medical check-up.” Of course, the palace and the governments of Thailand have been overstating the case for decades.

It continues: “He’s the world’s longest-serving monarch and perhaps the most revered, hailed as a near-deity in politically turbulent Thailand. His portrait hangs on government buildings, on roadside billboards, in taxis and in living rooms and politicians often seem in competition with each other to proclaim their love for him.” There’s the required “revered” statement, and no questioning of why people in Thailand should behave like this.

When the king dies, PPT reckons the response will be North Korean-like. Succession there was reasonably well-ordered, although the new lad did eventually have to have his uncle bumped off. The report worries about a disorderly succession: “But concerns about who will succeed him after he dies, or abdicates, from his 64-year reign have become the central issue in Thailand’s ongoing political drama, which has seen instability and political unrest rock the country for a decade.”

While the report states that it is “not yet clear who will succeed Bhumibol…”, this is misleading. As the report later adds, it is clear who succeeds to the throne. It is legally sanctioned that it will be the crown prince. What the report means to do is to point to the secessionist argument that looks for signs that the succession will be troubled or contested. It recounts things that have been known about the prince for many years. [Opens a PDF of a Far Eastern Economic Review article from 1988.]

The claim that the “king could also choose not to name an heir before his death,” is a red herring for he has already named his heir, as promulgated in the Royal Gazette decades ago, but this claim allows for the construction of a case for the Privy Council possibly intervening. Such an intervention would be illegal and would be a rebellion unless the prince refuses the throne (note that illegalities seldom bother the royalist elite).

The report then claims that “[a]ctivists and academics are discussing proposals for a different solution – dissolving the monarchy in Thailand altogether.” This is interesting and it must be clandestine or involving people outside Thailand, much as the situation was in the 1970s – see here and here, where clicking the link opens PDFs that may be suspect under the military junta in Thailand.

The monarchy’s and palace’s political meddling and the backlash has seen what might have been a little discussed or debated succession move onto the public stage. If the whole thing goes belly-up for the palace, historians will conclude that its own political stupidity was its undoing.

The North Korean route

9 06 2014

PPT has already noted the military junta’s developing fascism. In posting about that trait we weren’t doing more than looking at some of the defining political moves the dictatorship had made. In recent years there has been a narrative, mosting in social media, including at PPT, that the cult of personality associated with the king and royal family is like that associated with the ruling family in North Korea. The news over the past couple of days, which all point to a hardening intolerance, should be deeply disturbing to anyone interested in Thailand’s political future. The whiff of North Korean-style repression, indoctrination and cultism is strong indeed. Below, we have some links that suggest the slippery slope has become a sharp incline:

At The Nation: As the dictatorship arrest even silent protesters, it is explained that “for protesting against the coup will undergo a process to ‘have their attitude adjusted…’.” That’s according to brownshirt deputy national police chief General Somyos Phumpanmuang. The fascist cop explained that “police had been unable to convince them to change their attitude because ‘the chip was implanted too deep in their brain’.”

At Prachatai: The same brownshirt cop stated that students engaging in a Thammasat University protest, which handed out sandwiches, in response to the military banning some propieters from serving likely protesters, were going to have their names sent to the military for prosecution.

At Khaosod: It is reported that the Office of Basic Education of Thailand has banned “criticism of the military junta … in all Thai public schools.” The order states that teachers must “cooperate with and support the mission of the NCPO in every level,” and teach lessons “that focus on the creation of reconciliation.”

At the Bangkok Post: The junta is calling for government officials to spy on each other. All officials are “urged to report to the Prime Minister’s Office if they know any colleague who is carrying out activities or expresses ideas that are considered a threat to national security…”. This is the word from the permanent secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, princeling Panadda Diskul, who demanded that officials “promote unity by not getting involved in corruption, being friendly to civilians and adhering to His Majesty the King’s advice.” This includes every official all the way down to village heads. To help those who want to rat out their colleagues, the PM’s Office has a hotline.

Also at Khaosod: The military has been closing public parks, riding trains and staking out fast food joints in order to apprehend anti-coup protesters. Plainclothes cops loll about posing “as customers at a McDonald’s on Ratchaprasong Intersection to prevent any political demonstrations from taking place…”. Okay, no McDonalds in Pyongyang, but the routine is familiar, and has been seen in China too.

We are tempted to say that all of this is unbelievable. Yet it isn’t. This is the trend that has been established through successive bouts of opposition to elected governments and the electoral process. This is the almost natural outcome of the anti-democracy movement.

Updated: Moving closer to North Korea

1 12 2011

A couple of times in the past PPT has used a loose analogy between royalist Thailand and North Korea. The analogy essentially has to do with a cult of personality around the family at the apex of the political elite in each country.

Reading the post at New Mandala on the outspoken deputy spokesperson for the Democrat Party, the increasingly notorious Mallika Boonmetrakul, we have to admit that the analogy can be taken a little further.

The Democrat Party attracts some pretty nasty authoritarian types, and Mallika seems to be one of them, with Pavin Chachavalpongpun saying she:

has rushed out to collect political points in the aftermath of the lèse-majesté case in which … Amphon “Akong” Thangnoppakun…. Mallika proposed that in order to curb anti-monarchy elements, she would request the government to seek cooperation with those of other countries to close down websites that allow anti-monarchy messages. In extreme case, she wants the Yingluck Shinawatra government to totally close down all social networking sites, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, citing that the Chinese government has successfully implemented restrictions on these websites.

We were more stunned by the comments appended to the post such as these:

1) TR @MallikaBoon “Welcome little 11-yr-old cyber warriors. Here come the youth with strength of the heart. Spend no more than 3 hour a day on the Net, alright?” Original tweet: http://t.co/vmlYH5fL (she has deleted this tweet following swift criticisms on using 11 year olds in inappropriate work -> see next TR)

2) TR @MallikaBoon “Change from playing [computer] games to surfing the Net, and help reporting illegal websites, including [national] security, porn, gambling, drugs & insulting the institution. Get moving.” Original tweet: http://t.co/phKdA1WI

Maybe these little ones can be made official junior royalists, with yellow scarves and bright eyes, and not just spy for the royalists but march in big orchestrated parades and shout their loyalty in unison. How much worse is this going to get? How much more ridiculous is the Democrat Party to become?

Update: Read more about this story here, where the North Korea analogy is also used and where this outburst from a person in the so-called Democrat Party is described as providing “the voice of extremism [that] speak[s] to us loud and clear in public.”

Prayuth, loyalty and mutiny

29 07 2011

Prachatai has a story that confirms the decidedly odd position taken by Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha. While the story doesn’t necessarily tell PPT readers anything stunningly new, it does confirm that Prayuth believes the monarchy and Army are untouchable and that loyalty to the monarchy is the essence of a definition he has of “Thainess.”

When talking to young secondary school students at propaganda campaign called “Love of the Land Songs,” Prayuth stated: “I have always said that we must not doubt loyalty. If anyone does, he or she is not Thai. So Thais must not doubt loyalty because we were born with this word, and we will die with it, no matter what…”.

This statement is almost Vajiravudhian in its statement of the links between Thainess and monarchy. But King Vajiravudh generally evidenced a reasonably educated opinion, whereas Prayuth seems simplistically demanding and mouthing a propaganda position that has been fixed for decades. Congruent with this reign, he is also reinforcing the Army’s proclaimed position as the guardian of the right-wing conception of Thainess.

Prayuth proclaimed that “he was moved when hearing the songs as they described the graciousness which His Majesty the King had been giving to Thailand, and seeing the young people perform the songs with determination in their eyes.” He added that he “felt relieved that Thailand still had a future with these young people…”. Prayuth proclaims a belief that the monarchy gives its all to Thailand. Of course, he ignores all that they take from the Thai taxpayer and the fact that the monarchy gives less than it takes.

For Prayuth, the message is simplistic: the monarchy is “a pride which is in the hearts of all Thai people. So it will be unacceptable if anyone violates or harms the institution…”. He means unacceptable to him and his Army. One can only wonder what this means for the millions of Thais who now question both military and monarchy.

Apparently all misty of eye, Prayuth goes on and declares: “What I’ve always thought and want to let everybody know is that whenever you can’t figure things out, you can turn to look at His Majesty’s picture, and you will know what to do. When you see the tiredness, smiles and drops of sweat of His Majesty, you will know what you have to do. How much His Majesty has done!  How devoted His Majesty has been! So, please do things with your heart and loyalty, and be confident that what you do is right…”.

Sure, this is all propaganda, but there is a hint that Prayuth is more than a little invested in this ideology of the monarchy. You can imagine him as a general with a chest full of medals shouting his loyalty to the Beloved Leader in North Korea. As would be the case in that dictatorship, Prayuth’s view is that there is “[o]nly one thing which can unite us all is the monarchy. So we have to unite the hearts and minds of the people to hold on to the monarchy…”.

But he also reveals in this statement that he is fearful that his right-wing world of military and monarchy is crumbling. He states: “Now don’t put too much blame on the soldiers. We’re ready to do our best. Please give moral support to the soldiers. Sometimes I appear on TV looking a little bit tough, but it’s normal. This is a role of a leader of an organization. I have to protect the reputation and dignity of the army over my own life. This is what has been instilled [in soldiers].  No one can touch the army. I make it my duty to protect it. I apologize if I’ve been a bit ferocious.” In fact, making this statement is an act of mutiny (yet again) as Prayuth again refuses to make Thailand’s military subordinate to any government.

While Prayuth proclaims, “I’m gentle and innocuous man…”, he is anything but innocuous. He’s a dangerous right-wing ideologue, trying to protect the twin institutions of an authoritarian past. While their time is gone, those at the top of both are scrambling to prevent the decline. We think they are misguided, but that doesn’t mean they won’t manipulate, scheme and undermine those who want to move Thailand into the modern world.

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