Authoritarianism for royalists, monarchy, tycoons, and military

7 09 2022

PPT has been reading some of the commentaries regarding Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s suspension as premier. We thought we better post something on these as Prayuth’s case could be (almost) decided by the politicized Constitutional Court as early as tomorrow.

Prawit and Prayuth: Generals both

At East Asia Forum, academic Paul Chambers summarizes and lists the pedigree and connections that have led to his former boss, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, to become (interim) premier.

A few days before that, Shawn Crispin at Asia Times wrote another piece based on his usual anonymous sources, that assesses the balance of forces. He thinks the Constitutional Court’s decision to suspend Gen Prayuth was a pyrrhic victory and writes of:

… a behind-the-scenes, pre-election move away from Prayut by the conservative establishment, comprised of the royal palace, traditional elites and top “five family” big businesses, he has cosseted both as a coup-maker and elected leader.

One source familiar with the situation says a group of traditional and influential Thai “yellow” elites including an ex-premier and foreign minister, after rounds of dinner talks, recently delivered a message to Prayut asking him to put the nation before himself and refrain from contesting the next general election to make way for a more electable, civilian candidate to champion the conservative cause.

It is clear that the conservative elite are worried about upcoming elections. Pushing Prayuth aside is thought to give the Palang Pracharath Party an electoral boost. Crispin reckons that the Privy Council beckons if Gen Prayuth does as asked. That’s a kind of consolation prize for Gen Prayuth having done his repressive duty for palace and ruling class.

But, as Crispin makes clear, the ruling class and the political elite is riven with conflicts. Indeed, one commentary considers the contest between Gen Prawit and Gen Prayuth.

It may be that Prayuth comes back. Recent leaks suggest that one faction still wants him in place, “protecting” the monarchy as the keystone to the whole corrupt system.  If Gen Prayuth returns to the premiership, where does that leave the ruling party and its mentors in the ruling class?

On the broader picture, an article by Michael Montesano at Fulcrum looks beyond personalities to the system that the 2014 military coup constructed:

The function of Thailand’s post-2014 authoritarian system is to channel and coordinate the overlapping interests of a range of conservative stakeholders: royalists and the monarchy, the military, much of the technocratic elite, a handful of immensely powerful domestic conglomerates, and the urban upper-middle class. This channelling or coordinating function is the system’s crucial defining feature. No individual or cabal of individuals gives orders or controls the system. Rather, collectively or individually, stakeholders or their representatives act to defend a shared illiberal and depoliticising vision with little need for explicit or direct instructions.

He adds:

Understanding these realities makes clear that Prayut’s premiership of eight long years — so far — has not been possible because of his leadership skills, the loyalty that he might command, or his indispensability. Rather, the remarkable longevity of his stultifying service as prime minister is due to the fact that someone needs to hold that office and he has proved adequate. His premiership satisfied the collective interests that Thailand’s post-2014 authoritarian system serves. For all of his manifest inadequacies, keeping him in place has, at least up to now, been deemed less costly than replacing him.

Has that cost risen so much that Gen Prayuth can be “sacrificed” for the royalist authoritarian system he constructed?





Another royalist

27 08 2022

Reuters reports on Acting Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Watchman.

Its main point is that Gen Prawit “represents little substantial change from suspended Prime Minister [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha…”.

Certainly, the military’s dominance of Thailand’s politics continues. In addition, the chair shuffling means a period of relative stability for the regime’s Palang Pracharat Party, “until the Constitutional Court decides whether Prayuth’s time as a military leader from 2014 to 2019 counts towards a constitutionally stipulated eight-year term limit…”.

Gen Prawit, who seems much older than his 77 years, “is a longtime ally of Prayuth and was part of the military junta that ruled Thailand for nearly five years following Prayuth’s 2014 coup ouster of an elected government…”.

Both generals are known for their “fierce loyalty to the monarchy .” It has been Gen Prawit who “has long been seen as a power-broker both within the Palang Pracharat party, which he co-founded, and among the wealthy elite that align themselves with Thailand’s royal family and the military.”

Titipol Phakdeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University considers it likely that “Prawit will help stabilise the political situation and consolidate the ruling coalition and related business interests ahead of the election…”. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, at Chulalongkorn University, is not so sure: “Prawit will be embattled from day one…” and that he’s unpopular (not that that has been a political longevity problem for the Prayuth, who has long been unpopular).

The problem for the allied royalists is how to again manufacture another election victory.





Prayuth’s future

10 08 2022

Coup leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has been on the campaign trail. For the military man, this has involved his royal-like “protection” and “progress.”

Recently, the general was in Kanchanaburi. Look at the photos at The Nation, and it looks like a royal visit-meets-politician. Other social media outlets report that schools were closed and streets cleared to allow the royal general’s progress.

But the people seem far from impressed, with a poll showing that about two-thirds of those surveyed wanting Gen Prayuth to leave office this month, when his own engineered constitution requires that he step down after eight years as premier. It is now up to the royalist backers of the military-backed regime that is the Constitutional Court to concoct a ruling that keeps the general in power.

His supporters claim that Gen Prayuth’s 8 years as prime minister must be counted from 9 June 2019, when his premiership received royal endorsement under the 2017 constitution. This means he’d be able to serve until 2027. This is the ruling that they insist the Constitutional Court should issue.

Yet Prayuth is not only unloved by those Thais surveyed. Even within the ruling Palang Pracharath Party his support is lukewarm. For example, the best his elder “brother” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan can only say he wants Prayuth for another two years. Of course, Gen Prawit sees a chance for himself, no matter that he is decrepit.

With more on the current situation, Pithaya Pookaman at Asia Sentinel has an article on Prayuth’s desire to stay:

Prayuth has sent out feelers to the public and also possibly to the palace about his undisguised desire to maintain his stranglehold on power, imploring for an extension to fix all the nation’s problems, as if he was unable to do so during his previous eight years in office. He has often said that the nation cannot do without him, the kind of narcissism that is repugnant to most Thais….

During his eight years in power, the military has moved repeatedly to use the courts to snuff out popular youth movements, and to hold in check the appeal of Thaksin’s Pheu Thai opposition. Despite falling popularity, Prayuth is not expected to relinquish his power any time soon or in the foreseeable future. As he wrote his own constitution, he can also make amendments to it to allow him to extend his tenure or refer the matter to the subservient constitutional court to rule in his favor. If another general election is to be held, he can always rely on the support of his hand-picked 250 senators and manipulate the MPs by giving cash handouts and other incentives to vote him back to power.

He comments further on the king: “the king often plays an important, if not a decisive, role in determining the choice of the prime minister and other high-ranking officials.” Further on Prayuth and the palace:

Prayuth has served the palace well by providing lavish funds and amenities for the king and members of the royal family while safeguarding the monarchy by ruthless application of the country’s anti lese majeste law, considered the world’s most severe. But Prayuth’s eight years as head of government may be viewed by the palace as too long. Notwithstanding the favors he has showered on the king, his statecraft and performance have been an utter failure. Members of his family and his cronies have enriched themselves and occupied important positions in the country.

Based on its history of politicized decisions, we’d expect the Constitutional Court to (again) support Gen Prayuth. But what does the king want?





Dangerous, barking mad royalist

17 07 2022

Thaiger reports that Tossaporn Srirak a former Puea Thai Party MP faces a sedition charge following a complaint made to police by ultra-royalist Sonthiya Sawasdee, a saying he is “former adviser to the House committee on law, justice, and human rights.” By our reckoning the quite looney Sonthiya knows nothing of justice or human rights, but is an active lawfarist.

He believes that wondering aloud if the troubles on the streets of Sri Lanka, due to food and fuel shortages, forcing the nation’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to flee for his life and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s troubles was facing Thailand under the General amounts to sedition, “whipping up hate against the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha…”.

The mad monarchist “urged police to launch an investigation into Tossaporn because he believes his Facebook post ‘Do you want it like the UK or Sri Lanka?’ could be interpreted as a call for unlawful insurrection against PM Prayut and his government.”

Of course, Sonthiya has a long record of taking up royalist and rightist causes. Back in 2015, Sonthiya, then reported to be “a representative of a political group called the Federation to Monitor the Thai State,” filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division against then US Ambassador Glyn Davies for a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand where he expressed concern about “the lengthy and unprecedented prison sentences handed down by Thai military courts against civilians for violating the lese majeste law…”. He added that “[n]o one should be jailed for peacefully expressing their opinion…”. Sonthiya screamed lese majeste.

In 2018, it was a madder Sonthiya who demanded the Election Commission to investigate the newly-formed Future Forward Party and whether it might amend the lese majeste law.He said Article 112 was off limits.

He was especially “busy” in 2021, trying to see off the calls for reform, including to the feudal monarchy. In April, Sonthiya urged police to investigate Jatuporn Promphan for lese majeste following a speech to a protest for the Sammakhi Prachachon Pheu Prathet Thai (People’s Unity for Thailand). The protest was about ousting the General, but Sonthiya thought anti-monarchism was at work, presumably because Gen Prayuth is a royalist and his regime a lackey for the palace.

Then in May, by then Palang Pracharath Party member, Sonthiya demanded that the Criminal Court review its decision to free lese majeste detainee Parit Chiwarak on bail after the protest leader was accused of violating his bail conditions in a social media post.

By July, Sonthiya was working a tag-team with red shirt traitor and now regime flunky Seksakol [Suporn] Atthawong to bring charges against opposition politician Sudarat Keyuraphan for “wrongly accusing the government of poorly managing the Covid-19 crisis.” This was deemed not a fact but defamatory.

And, in November Sonthiya was (barking) mad that Miss Universe Thailand Anchilee Scott-Kemmis for standing on what looks like a Thai flag in a picture released online in a promotional campaign before Anchilee competed in the 70th Miss Universe pageant in Israel. Sonthiya wnated her investigated for breaching the 1979 Flag Act and a PM’s Office announcement banning the use of national flags for commercial purposes.

The problem with mad monarchists is that they are often taken seriously by royalist regimes, police, judges, and prosecutors.





Targeting Move Forward

29 06 2022

The military-royalist regime rigged the 2019 election. As its political stocks plummet, the regime and its allies are continuing to work on yet another unlikely election victory.

While the Move Forward Party has been cleared of serious charges that might have led to its dissolution, there is still much effort going into a ban before the next election.

As Thai PBS reports, the Election Commission somewhat unexpectedly rejected former adviser to the Ombudsman Natthaporn Toprayoon’s fabricated complaint “accusing Move Forward of taking actions between August 2020 and January 2021 that were aimed at overthrowing Thailand’s rule of democracy with the King as head of state.”

According to the report, Natthaporn’s “petition outlined 10 actions by the party’s MPs and executives, including party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon, that he claimed had breached Articles 45 and 92 of the Political Parties Act, which prohibits political parties from encouraging or supporting anyone to create unrest, undermine social order or oppose the laws of the country.”

Natthaporn essentially accused Move Forward of anti-monarchism. He blasted “party MPs [for] using their positions to bail out arrested protesters accused of lese majeste or sedition” and he complained that “the party’s support for NGO iLaw’s draft bill to amend chapters in the Constitution regarding the monarchy and integrity of the Kingdom, as well as the party’s resolution seeking amendments to Article 112 of the Penal Code or the lese majeste law” were moves against feudalism the monarchy.

He was following up on his earlier successful petition that the Constitutional Court accepted, making monarchy reform treasonous.

The quite mad Natthaporn’s response to the complaint being ditched was to threaten “to sue the election commissioners and seek a ruling on whether their decision to dismiss the complaint was lawful.”

But there’s more to come:

Along with pressure from Natthaporn, Move Forward is also facing other complaints seeking its disbandment, including one filed by Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a politician from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party. In August last year, he filed a petition with the EC to disband Move Forward on grounds that its proposal to reduce the budget allocated to the crown for 2022 was a hostile act against the Thai democratic regime with King as head of state.





Further updated: The 2014 political disaster

22 05 2022

It is now 8 long years since Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda colluded with rightists to seize power from an elected government.

The 2014 military coup was not unexpected. After all, the military brass had been planning it and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee had been demonstrating for months in support of a military intervention. The generals knew they had palace support.

Three army generals in 2019. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Here we recall some of our posts at the time of the coup, with some editing, to recall yet another dark day in Thailand’s political history.

The story of how it happened, from the Bangkok Post is worth recalling:

At 2pm on Thursday, representatives of seven groups began the second day of peace talks hosted by army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The general began by asking all sides what they could do about the five issues he had asked them to consider on the previous day, a source at the closed-door meeting told Matichon Online.

Armed soldiers stand guard during a coup at the Army Club where the army chief held a meeting with all rival factions in central Bangkok on May 22. (Reuters photo)

Wan Muhamad Nor Matha of the Pheu Thai Party said the best his party could do was to ask ministers to take leave of absence or vacation.

Chaikasem Nitisiri of the caretaker government insisted cabinet members would be breaking the law and could be sued later if they resigned.

Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party disagreed, citing as a precedent Visanu Krue-ngam, who had previously resigned as acting deputy prime minister, but Mr Chaikasem stood his ground.

Veerakarn Musikapong of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) said this debate was useless and a person would need a mattress and a pillow if they were to continue with it.

This was like discussing a religious faith in which everyone was firm in his belief. The army chief had a lot on his shoulders now because he came when the water was already waist-high.

If he continued, Mr Veerakarn said, he would be drowned. The army chief should walk away and announced there would be election. That way, his name would be untarnished.

At this point, Gen Prayuth snapped back: “Stop it. Religious issues I don’t know much about. What I do know is I’ll hunt down each and every one of those ‘infidels’. Don’t worry about me drowning. I’m a good swimmer and I’ve studied the situation for three years.

“Back in 2010, I didn’t have absolute power. So don’t fight me. I was accused of accepting six billion baht in exchange of doing nothing. I insist I didn’t get even one baht.”

At this point, Jatuporn Prompan of the UDD appeared more appeasing, saying since an election could not be held now anyway, the best solution was to hold a referendum on whether national reform should come before or after the next election.

The debate went on for a while before Suthep Thaugsuban of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee said political parties were not involved in this.

“This was a problem between the UDD and the PDRC,” he declared.

He proposed the two groups meet in a separate session.

Mr Abhisit said the government should also join in, but Mr Suthep insisted on only the people’s groups.

Gen Prayuth allowed the two groups to meet separately.

In the meantime, Mr Abhisit suggested other participants should go home now that the two sides were in talks, but Gen Prayuth insisted on everyone staying where they were until a conclusion was reached.

The UDD and PDRC sides talked for 30 minutes.

After that, Gen Prayuth led them back to the meeting, saying he would announce the results of the talks.

At that point, Mr Suthep asked for a minute and walked over to say something with Gen Prayuth, with Mr Jatuporn present.

When they were done, Gen Prayuth said: “It’s nothing. We talked about how the restrooms are not in order.”

After that, the army chief asked the government side whether it insisted on not resigning.

Mr Chaikasem said:” We won’t resign”.

Gen Prayuth then declared: “If that’s the case, the Election Commission need not talk about the polls and the Senate need not talk about Section 7.”

He then stood up and spoke in a loud voice: “I’m sorry. I have to seize the ruling power.”

It was 4.32pm.

At that point some of the attendees still thought he was joking.

They changed their minds when the general walked to the exit and turned back to tell them in a stern voice: “You all stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”

He then left the room.

After that armed soldiers came to detain the participants in groups. Notably, Prompong Nopparit who came in the government’s quota was detained with the UDD group in a separate room.

Mr Veerakarn had a smile on his face and forgot his cane.

Mr Abhisit told Varathep Rattanakorn and Chadchart Sittipunt of the government: “I told you so”.

A pale-faced Chadchart snapped:”So what? What’s the point of saying it now?”

The military put the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties in the same room while the rest were put in different rooms.

The senators and election commissioners were let out first.

The rest is history.

The mainstream media essentially welcomed the coup. We observed that the controlled media dutifully announced the junta’s work – arresting people, grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies in the junta, but it was the Army that was in control.

Weng

The establishment Bangkok Post published two op-eds supportive of military intervention. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who congratulated the generals:

Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post who declared felling safer:

Dopey shit

Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post managed an  editorial that polished Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justified military intentions. It concluded with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.

Kasit Piromya, former foreign minister under a fully anti-democratic Democrat Party, propagandized and defended the coup at the BBC. He noted the anti-democrat call for the military to intervene “for quite some time.” He lied that the caches of arms found “amongst the red shirts” meant there was going to be great violence. It has to be said that the Army suddenly finding caches of weapons is a propaganda device they have regularly used in the past. He was fully on board with the military.

His comment on the “problem” of democracy is that his side can’t win, and the majority always win. That’s our interpretation of his anti-democrat tripe. He reckons this is the military resetting democracy. He sounds like he’s still in the yellow of 2006; it was the same story then.

Some of these commentators took years to learn that the military intervention was a huge disaster. Others continue to support military, monarchy and fascism. But really, looking back, no one could possibly have thought that this set of military dinosaurs was going to be interested in anyone other than themselves and the monarchy.

The past 8 years are lost years. For us, the only positive is the widespread questioning of the monarchy and its political, economic and social role.

Update 1: The massive Bangkok electoral victory by former Puea Thai minister Chadchart Sittipunt, with a 60% turnout, Chadchart receiving 1,386,215 votes, ahead of the Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat with a paltry 240,884 votes. Some of the early commentary refers to the lost years since the 2014 coup – see here and here. It seems clear that the Chadchart landslide marks a rejection of Gen Prayuth and his regime. It is also a rejection of yellow-hued rightists, no more so than the abject failure of the PAD/PDRC eccentric and toxic Rosana Tositrakul with a minuscule 78,919 votes. Sadly, we might predict that the radical royalists and their military allies will interpret the results as a prompt for more vote rigging and even coup planning.

Update 2: Chadchart’s election was no fluke. As Thai PBS reports, the Bangkok assembly election delivered an emphatic vote for the Puea Thai (19 seats) and Move Forward (14 seats) parties. The hopelessly flawed Democrat Party got 9, while the regime’s fracturing Palang Pracharath won just 2 seats. That’s a landslide for the opposition.





Welcome to the past

11 01 2022

A couple of days ago, Thai Newsroom had a story that propelled PPT back to an era when elections were about political games known as Thai-style Democracy. Then, policies and local people counted for not much at all. In large part, the 2014 military coup and the 2017 constitution was about winding back to those times.

Former six-time Democrat Party MP for Chumphon Sirisak Onlamai is campaigning in the by-election in Chumphon’s Constituency 1 for Palang Pracharath’s . Sirisak has dumped the Democrat Party and “defected” to the regime’s party. That kind of party horsetrading was common back then, funded by huge corruption.

The malleable Sirisak is complaining that some other party is manipulating village healthcare volunteers as vote canvassers. Sirisak says they “have been quietly helping the unnamed candidate … despite the fact they are not legally allowed to do so in the first place. In the 2019 election it was Palang Pracharath that was using state and military to gather votes.

Sirisak reckons “some of these village-based healthcare volunteers had been coaxed and cajoled into unlawfully helping the candidate in question by recommending villagers that they should vote for him and others had taken kickbacks from his head canvassers.”

Vote buying was a mantra for anti-Thaksin groups, although in recent years the big vote buyers are likely to have been Palang Pracharath and Bhum Jai Thai.

Sirisak says the volunteers have been “pitifully turned into tools to serve such selfish desires of the rogue candidate…” and “called on the authorities in charge of the village-based healthcare volunteers to take a close look at the allegedly unbecoming situation currently prevalent throughout the constituency.”

Welcome to the past.





Crooked business as usual

10 12 2021

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post gets very excited, claiming that the politicized justice system has suddenly given cause for optimism that the courts will get better:

On Wednesday, Thais witnessed justice being served fair and square. In a trial that will be remembered as a landmark environmental case, the Supreme Court handed down jail terms of about three years to construction tycoon Premchai Karnasutra and two accomplices for poaching in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.

The editorial continues:

For those who believe in the much-used local adage that “Thai jails are only for locking up poor people”, the verdict came as a surprise. Understandably, Thais have felt demoralised in the past after witnessing rich and powerful people … running away from court, escaping the country.

Therefore, watching the billionaire being jailed as he was on Wednesday after a long court case, people feel inspired to hope that the justice system will work better….

The Post is grasping at straws and trying to be encouraging. But Premchai’s case is an exception.

Think about the National Anti‑Corruption Commission (NACC). This week it was chirping that it had “closed more than 4,500 cases this year…”. NACC chairman and buddy to The Watchman, Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit claimed great success while Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “pledged to create a transparent government and a society free of corruption…”.

But what of the big cases?

Indeed, as Premchai was sentenced, the Bangkok Post reported that the NACC had “rejected a petition by the Move Forward Party (MFP) calling for a probe into the ethical conduct of Thamanat Prompow over his narcotics conviction in Australia.” Of course, this could not happen, especially given Thammanat’s close relationship with Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

NACC secretary-general Niwatchai Kasemmongkol said that “based on the Constitutional Court’s ruling on May 5 that Capt Thamanat, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP for Phayao and former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister, was eligible to hold his MP and ministerial positions despite having served four years in an Australian prison.”

Niwatchai added that as the heroin trafficking conviction “took place before Capt Thamanat held the positions and before the code of ethics took effect,” no probe could be considered. An ethics probe into ethical conduct can only be launched when an MP or cabinet minister violates the code of ethics while in office…”. And, for good measure, he explained that “[a]ny action committed by an MP or minister before they took office does not warrant an inquiry…”.

Pedophiles, murderers, and drug smugglers all have their slates wiped clean.

Protecting the powerful criminals continued in another report where the NACC said it aimed “to wrap up the hit-and-run case against Red Bull scion Vorayuth … Yoovidhya within 14 months, with the completion expected by the end of 2022.”

We do note that 14 months means 2023…. But, then, this claim by the NACC is just another cover-up. Most of the charges will have expired by then.

Double standards are the rule for the rich and powerful.





Down the royalist rathole

12 11 2021

With the king having decamped back to Germany, the judiciary has stepped up. Some saw this as the deep state at work. However, the judiciary is both obvious and shallow. That said, it is certainly playing the role allocated to it by the regime and its masters.

At Thai Enquirer, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch is quoted: “The ruling today is essentially a judicial coup that replaces constitutional monarchy in Thailand with absolute monarchy…”. That’s exactly what regime and palace have been working for since the mid-2010s.

On the Constitutional Court’s decision, the same paper quotes academic Tyrell Haberkorn on “a fundamentally dangerous moment”:

“The Constitutional Court’s sleight of hand in equating the activist’s call for reform with revolt — defined in Article 113 of the Criminal Code and punishable with up to life imprisonment or the death penalty — is legally and politically dangerous,” she said.

“To put this in the starkest terms, if the Office of the Attorney General were to bring charges on the basis of this ruling, [the pro-] democracy activists could face the death penalty for the peaceful expression of opinion. That the Constitutional Court has made this ruling with the stated goal of the preservation of democracy is both cynical and incorrect. Democracy and criminalization of peaceful expression of opinion are not compatible.”

What is clear is that with all discussion of the monarchy now made illegal – apart from royalist honey and tripe – the most ultra of royalists are buoyant and calling for more. More repression, more charges, more jailings, less bail, longer sentences and more.

Thai PBS reports that ultra-royalist stooge Paiboon Nititawan, currently with the junta-invented Palang Pracharat Party is jubilant, declaring that the “Constitutional Court’s ruling will strengthen the monarchy [as if it needed it!] and is legally binding on the police, prosecutors and courts, as well as the Election Commission in taking legal action against individuals or political parties whose activities or conduct are deemed to be a threat to the constitutional monarchy.”

Expect, he implies, more charges and the dissolving of opposition parties. The first targets will be the Move Forward Party and Puea Thai (again).

Meanwhile, Senator Somjet Boonthanom “warned any legislator advocating amendments to lèse majesté law or reform of the monarchy to exercise extreme caution as they may now be accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.” He added that “amending the lèse majesté law in parliament … is doomed as a consequence of the court’s ruling.”

Jade Donavanik, said to be a legal scholar, told Thai Enquirer “that if a political party is found guilty of supporting an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy system, they could be dissolved and the Constitutional Court’s ruling could be used to support a petition for the dissolution.”

In the Bangkok Post, Deputy Prime Ministers Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan warned student protesters. They were “warned … to be careful as they can no longer cite their rights and liberties for their actions as they did previously because the court ruled that such actions were not an exercise in rights and freedom under the constitution.”

The police are now hard at work and it is expected that more lese majeste, sedition and treason charges will follow.

It is pretty clear where this is all going: down the royalist rathole.

The response from students has been to firmly reject the court. Let’s see where that leads. Royalists tend to react in nasty ways and the students are now left with few avenues for peaceful and legal protest into the future.

 





Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”








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