Silence on monarchy

4 02 2021

We have been trying to get to this post for a week or so. In the meantime, as we have collected news stories, it has grown and grown.

Among the demands of the democracy movement were constitutional reform and monarchy reform. When they come together, it is in parliament, where constitutional reform, law reform and lese majeste reform is meant to be considered.

On monarchy reform and especially reform of Article 112, the usual royalist rancor and “opposition” spinelessness has been on display. Khaosod reported a while ago that “[o]nly one opposition party is planning to raise the issue of the excessive use of the royal defamation offense when the Parliament reconvenes for a censure debate…”.

That is Move Forward, and a couple of their MPs have expressed reservations and fears. Move Forward plans to criticize the use of the draconian law to intimidate political dissidents. The party plans to “push for reforms of libel laws, including lese majeste…”.

Spineless politicians

Other opposition parties panicked, and even walked back on their censure debate which mentioned the political use of the monarchy. Puea Thai stated that while the “formal motion of the no-confidence debate accused PM Prayut Chan-o-cha of ‘using the monarchy as an excuse to deepen the division in the society,’ … the party has no plan to raise the issue of the lese majeste during the censure debate or support the law’s amendment.” A spokesperson added “We didn’t include monarchy reforms in the motion either. We only wrote it broadly, that PM Prayut damages the confidence in democratic regime with the King as Head of State.”

That sounds remarkably like backpedaling with a political spine gone to jelly. Former political prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk observed: “… Pheu Thai still lacks moral courage. It will only worsen and prolong the problem of political divisions.”

Acknowledging the status quo of decades, it was observed that “discussions about the monarchy during a parliamentary session are generally discouraged,” adding: “There are restrictions … we cannot mention His Majesty the King unnecessarily…”.

Khaosod reports that there’s a parliamentary regulation that “bans … ‘referencing … the King or any other person without due cause’.”

The Seri Ruam Thai Party also ran from the lese majeste law and monarchy reform. Thai PBS reported opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng as saying they are “fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding the [m]onarchy, but he insisted that the opposition will refer to the [m]onarchy during the debate while trying to be very discreet and referring to the institution only if necessary.”

The part of the motion causing all the royalist angst states that Gen Prayuth has not been “…upholding nor having faith in a democratic system with the King as the head of state; undermining and opposing democratic governance; destroying the good relationship between the monarchy and the people; using the monarchy as an excuse to divide the people and using the monarchy as a shield to deflect its failures in national administration.”

Of course, the regime’s supporting parties are opposing any discussion of the monarchy and lese majeste. These parties announced they will “protest if the opposition makes any reference to the [m]onarchy during the censure debate…”. Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth said “he would feel uncomfortable with any reference to the Monarchy in the opposition’s censure motion which, in essence, says that the prime minister referred to the Monarchy to deflect accusations of gross mismanagement and failures in national administration.”

In the military’s Palang Pracharath Party royalist fascist Paiboon Nititawan emphasized that the pro-military/royalist parties will invoke parliamentary rules to silence any MP discussing the monarchy. He was especially keen to silence critics of the lese majeste law. He declared: “Our party’s policy is to defend the monarchy.” On the broader issue of constitutional reform, the Bangkok Post reports that Paiboon demands that “any provision related to the royal prerogative should not be changed at all, regardless of which chapters they were in.” No change to anything related to the monarchy. We recall that the last changes made to the king’s prerogatives were made on the king’s demand and considered in parliament in secret.

Democrat Party spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said MPs had to toe the royalist line: “Everyone knows what their duty is, because we’re all committed to the institutions of Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” He said his party will oppose amendment of the lese majeste law. Why? “…[O]ur party has no policy to amend it, because we are not affected or damaged by it directly…”.

The parliamentary royalists were cheered on by mad monarchist and royal favorite Warong Dechgitvigrom who declared “he would regard attacks on lese majeste law – or any move to amend it – as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy.”

Soon after this pressure – and plenty more behind the scenes – the opposition buckled. Thai PBS reported that they “agreed to remove a reference to the monarchy, which the government may find provocative, from its censure motion to avoid protests from coalition MPs.” This came after a meeting  to resolve the conflict over the motion. The meeting was chaired by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Puea Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat was reported as pedaling backwards and was reported to have promised “that he will withdraw the motion and rewrite it.” He later denied that he had made this promise and the opposition pushed on with the motion.

Back at the debate about parliamentary (non)debate, Thai PBS had a story about royalist allegations that Sompong had broken his promise to delete the reference to the monarchy in the censure motion. Palang Pracharat MP Sira Jenjakha “threatened to file a lèse majesté charge with the police against opposition MPs who sign in support of a censure motion…”.

Government chief whip Wirat Rattanaseth “warned today that the opposition‘s refusal to delete the offending reference may lead to protests in parliament, to the extent that the debate may be disrupted and end prematurely.”

The last time the royalists disrupted parliament. A Bangkok Post photo showing a Democrat Party member grabbing a policeman’s throat.

Thai PBS took sides, declaring that “Thailand is bracing for unprecedented chaos [not really, see above] in Parliament later this month when the opposition shatters a deep-seated taboo by citing the monarchy in its censure motion against the prime minister.” It asserts: “Involving the monarchy in the no-confidence motion has sparked angry accusations from the government camp that this constitutes a grave insult to the revered institution.”

In response, the Bangkok Post reports that the regime “has formed a legal team to monitor the upcoming censure debate for inappropriate references to the monarchy…”. The person in charge of this is quisling former red shirt Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister to the PM’s Office whose own 112 case sems to have been forgotten. The regime’s legal team will “gather false allegations made during the debate against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and cabinet ministers and lodge complaints with police.”

The threats have come thick and fast. The regime is furious. Presumably the palace is too. What they want is to roll back politics to the golden era when the king was never discussed, by anyone, except the seditious.





A junta win

28 12 2020

One of the main aims of the long period of junta rule was to produce rules and manage politics in a manner that wound back the clock to a pre-1997 era of electoral politics.

Their efforts meant that the post-junta regime could finagle a national election “victory” and make use of the junta-appointed Senate to ensure that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha could continue as prime minister. At the same time, the regime had delayed and delayed local elections so that it could ensure that it had measures in place that prevented national election-like “surprises.” Of course, it also used the Army and ISOC to control civilian administration and arranged for the Future Forward Party to be dissolved.

When the post-junta regime got around to local elections, the result provided evidence that the electoral wind back had been successful.

While initial commentary focused on the “failure” of Move Forward. In fact, while the party didn’t win any Provincial Administrative Organization chair positions, its candidates took more then 50 PAO seats and received 2.67 million votes.  This was on a voter turnout of just over 62% – low compared to the national election.

As time has gone on, commentators have become more incisive in assessing the results. Thai Enquirer wrote of a return to old-style politics, with political dynasties controlling local politics. A Bangkok Post editorial also focused on these factors, commenting: “About 40% of the winners of the PAO elections, Thailand’s first local elections in some seven years, are old faces, with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party making a big sweep in more than 20 provinces, followed by Bhumjaithai, almost 10, and Pheu Thai, nine.”

Recently, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa is Dean, College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University writing at the Bangkok Post, has explained the big picture. He asks: “Are these elections really meaningful?” He concludes: “The net result is business as usual for PAOs, and Thailand will still be the prisoner of a highly centralised local administration.”

Helpfully, Peerasit lists the reasons for the failure of local democracy, all of them focused on junta/post-junta efforts to turn the clock back. He observes that the junta/post-junta has co-opted “local governments to become agents of the central government…”. He explains:

Following the 2014 coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), under then-army chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha upended a foundation of Thai democracy by issuing an order to suspend local elections. The politically powerful junta then began to co-opt all locally elected politicians and local government officials to become centrally appointed representatives of the central government.

This process began with NCPO’s Order Number 1/2557, in which one prescribed role of the locally elected leaders was to become partners of the military junta in restoring peace and order to the country. This made them complicit in undermining local governments in exchange for being able to legitimately keep their positions for an unspecified period of time without having to undergo the process of competing with other local candidates to secure the consent of the local citizens to allow them to serve. In other words, if they played ball with the junta, they would not need to face elections.

This “co-optation was then delegated to the Interior Ministry. This change obligated the leaders and the executives of all local governments to be accountable to the central government, thus becoming de facto representatives of the central government. Consequently, local leaders then had an allegiance to the powers in the central government.”

His view is that a promising decentralization has been destroyed: “In effect, the central government is — and has been — committed to failure from the beginning, by creating weak local government organisations.”

The people are not fooled and he reports data that “revealed that, when compared to other types of local governments, the PAOs were perceived as less beneficial than all other types of local governments within the surveyed provinces.” PAO level government is a processing terminal for the regime:

… PAO’s primary function has remained: serving as a conduit of budget allocation to be “authorised” by the provincial governor. This budgetary control by the governor is actually a smokescreen for influence by the central government of 76 provincial budgets, accounting for a very large amount of funding.

While yet another decline in Thailand’s democracy can be lamented, the fact remains that this is exactly what the junta wanted when it seized power in 2014.

 





Land of (no) compromise II

17 12 2020

No compromise in the “land of compromise.”

If anyone wanted to stymie “reconciliation” they would appoint those least likely to reconcile with anyone else. And, according to the Bangkok Post, that’s exactly what the regime has done.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government “has named Suporn Atthawong and Terdpong Chaiyanant as its representatives on the proposed national reconciliation panel.”

Suporn is vice minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, appointed as a turncoat red shirt who worked to entice notheastern politicians away from Thaksin Shinawatra and over to the regime’s Palang Pracharath Party. Terdpong is a Democrat Party MP who was among their anti-red shirt partisans.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan explained their appointments, saying: “They know what they should do.” The regime’s bidding and nothing at all to do with “reconciliation.”

The Bangkok Post also reports that there can be no slack for Thaksin. Serial complainer and yellow shirt Srisuwan Janya has asked the regime’s pliant Election Commission (EC) to consider dissolving the Puea Thai Party for Thaksin’s “influence.”

All this because Thaksin supported one candidate in local elections.

It is a beat-up by Srisuwan, but the EC is such a bunch of dullards that, if ordered, they will probably take the case to the Constitutional Court.





Debating lese majeste

13 12 2020

Clipped from France24

While the anti-regime demonstrators are taking a break until the new year, it is appropriate that their last 2020 rallies targeted Article 112 on lese majeste. After all more than two dozen of their members now face lese majeste charges.

The Bangkok Post reports that speakers at the rally “vowed to drum up public support for their call for the revocation of … the lese majeste law.” It is reported that:

In a joint statement read at the 14 October 1973 Memorial [where there had earlier been an explosion], one of the anti-government movement’s three rally sites in Bangkok on Thursday, eight protest leaders facing lese majeste charges insisted they would not settle for anything less than the law being repealed.

The speakers said that this law is “a hindrance to freedom of expression, carries a hefty penalty and is often exploited as a political tool to suppress political opponents.”

As PPT has been posting since 2009, all of this is true.

Parit Chiwarak called for all of the existing 112 cases to “be dropped and amnesty be granted to all suspects and those already punished compensated, for the sake of democracy and for Thailand to be able to move forward and reduce political conflicts in society…”.

Prachatai reports that another action, this led by the 24 June Democracy Group, representatives had been “to the United Nations (UN) office in Bangkok …[on] 10 December … to petition the UN Human Rights Council to pressure the Thai government to repeal Section 112, Thailand’s lèse majesté law.”

Their petition observes that “pro-democracy protests have been met with state persecution and crackdowns, despite peaceful protest being a right under the Thai constitution and international human rights principles.” Hundreds of protesters are facing charges, including lese majeste.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk said “Section 112 is an outdated law which restricts people’s rights and freedom of expression, which is one of the fundamental freedoms, and has been used against the political opposition.” He added that:

since the head of state receives income from taxpayers and is in this position according to the constitution, criticism of the head of state should be permitted in order to resolve the public’s questions about the monarchy. If Section 112 is repealed, the head of state will be able to come to an understanding with the people, which would be beneficial to the monarchy itself and to Thai politics….

He said that using Section 112 against protesters will lead to confrontation between the monarchy and the people. He asked whether the judicial process, where the courts represent the monarch as judgements are made in his name, will be just, because if people are denied bail or if an arrest warrant is immediately issued, it will be a reflection of injustice, which would not be beneficial to the government and the monarchy.

The chicken farmer

Those who want Article 112 to be maintained and used more also rallied, led by chicken farmer and Palang Pracharath Party reactionary Pareena Kraikupt and former senior bureaucrat and now appointed Senator Chadej Insawang, “in his capacity as deputy chairman of a committee on the protection of the royal institution [monarchy].”

They claimed “[t]here are laws similar to Section 112 in all countries including the UK…”, a claim also made by former Democrat Party MP Warong Dechgitvigrom, who leads the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee mob of grey hairs. We should point out that these dopes never do any research about such laws and prefer to make stuff up, and even when corrected carry on with their fake claims.

Making false claims has become a yellow shirt trademark. Those who went with Pareena carried signs that read “Stop threatening the life of the King.”





CPB corruption

11 12 2020

PPT has no idea of the connection between Thanathorn and Sakulthorn Juangroongruangkit apart from the fact that they are brothers. Clearly, though, the House’s committee on law and justice, dominated by the Palang Pracharath Party, reckon they can get some political advantage by summoning “a public prosecutor in for questioning to find out why the department did not indict Sakulthorn … for his involvement in a case in which two people were jailed for taking bribes.”

We are more interested in the agency involved. One of the two convicted “was an official from the Crown Property Bureau…”. The report adds:

The bribery case was sent to the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, which in November 2019 convicted Prasit Aphaiphoncharn, a Crown Property Bureau official, and Surakit Tangwithoowanich, for taking bribes and forging documents while acting as a land-lease deal middleman.

Both were found to have lined up a deal that scammed Sakulthorn. They were “said to have convinced Mr Sakulthorn they could help him bypass the Crown Property Bureau’s land-leasing process in return for a payment of 20 million baht.” They forged documents that claimed they would pay money to “the deputy director of the Crown Property Bureau, who is also a state official, in a bid to influence this official to make a favourable decision in granting a land lease to the Real Asset Development company, without entering the official bidding process…”

The obvious question: was this a one-off deal? We doubt it. How much corruption has there been in the CPB. With no transparency, how could we know and how can we trust such an agency?





No regime compromise

19 11 2020

The regime has delivered its verdict on the waves of demonstrations and calls for constitutional reform. There won’t be any substantive reform and the diddling around the edges will be at the pleasure of the regime.

The Bangkok Post reports that the most democratic iLaw proposal, supported by almost 100,000 and reflecting the core of the protesters’ demands has been dumped, with almost unanimous support of the junta-appointed senators and of the military spawn party Palang Pracharath.

The same unelected senators and regime flunkies “overwhelmingly backed the government-sponsored versions” of (non)reform. The two versions that passed the first reading were the government draft that “would set up a committee of elected and appointed members to write a new charter within 120 days, leaving Chapters 1 and 2 concerning the monarchy untouched,” while the “opposition” version “requires an elected charter-drafting committee to write a new charter within 240 days, also leaving Chapters 1 and 2 untouched.”

The result of the vote is that “a 45-member committee was set up to scrutinise the drafts before their second and third readings.” While iLaw manager Yingcheep Atchanont expressed some optimism that the “door for charter amendments has been cracked open…”, it seems pretty clear that the government’s version will be approved unless something massive happens.

Pro-democracy demonstrators had arrived “in their thousands again on Wednesday at Ratchaprasong Intersection, where they besieged Royal Thai Police Headquarters and splashed paint all over its walls.” It was clear that the protesters “were expressing their anger at police for using water cannon and tear gas on protesters outside Parliament on Tuesday while failing to prevent clashes with royalist counter-protesters. The violence left at least 55 injured, six with gunshot wounds.”

The Bangkok Post reports the protesters’ anger was heightened by “the rejection of the so-called ‘people’s draft’ of amendments to the constitution.” Even so, they avoided direct confrontation with the police, daubing paint and slogans across the wall of the police headquarters.

Another Bangkok Post report is that protest leader Jatuphat Boonpattarasaksa declared that the rejection of the “people’s constitution amendment draft has left anti-government protesters with no other choice but to press on with their street protests to achieve their goals…”. He added that “Wednesday’s decision by parliament was the last chance at compromise.”

His compatriots at Free Youth “posted on its Facebook page accusations of most MPs and senators serving the dictator [inverted commas removed] and ignoring calls by the people.” They added that refusing to deal with the reform of the monarchy, “any new constitution that was drafted would not really serve the people…”.

Ending the rally on Wednesday evening, it was “announced they will hold another rally at the Crown Property Bureau on Nov 25.”

Clearly, as Thisrupt notices, protestors are well aware that the regime is “dragging its feet, using delaying tactics to exhaust the movement.” That means that the “heart of Thailand’s political conflict is the monarchy question.”

The speeches by rally leaders are now “addressed directly to … Rama 10 by his first name, Vajiralongkorn, and openly mock … his rule,” his lifestyle and his wealth.

At the parliament rally, “”[p]rotestors launched red balloons into the air. The words written on them were, ‘I order you to be under the constitution’.” Strikingly, the “derogatory กู (gu) [w]as the pronoun for ‘I’ and มึง (mueng) as ‘you’.”

As never before, discussion of monarchy reform is now widespread across society.

Thisrupt predicted that the regime may crack down harder.

Today, The Dictator has responded. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha lamented that the “situation is not easing in a good direction and there is a tendency for conflict to escalate into more violence. If not addressed, this could cause damage to the country and the beloved institution [he means the monarchy], as well as to peace and the safety of people’s lives and property…”. As a result, he declared that “the government and security agencies [will] … intensify their actions by using all laws and all articles to take action against demonstrators who break the law…”.

No compromise, no stepping back. More of the same and intensified arrests and repression.





With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





Palace PR at full throttle I

13 11 2020

The palace public relations machinery has long had to “manage” Vajiralongkorn’s “problems.” His explosive “divorces,” his erratic behavior and , and the rumors of violence, illnesses, philandering and associations with crime. Generally, the PR exercises revolved around strategies that had “worked” for his father.

The explosion of dissatisfaction with Vajiralongkorn that has been seen recently, reflecting tension over his neo-feudal absolutism, his bahavior and his preference for living in Germany, has seen a new twist on palace propaganda. This involves a rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and the younger royal family members as celebrities. This might be called the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

As PPT has said previously, we think this new PR strategy reflects the influence of the royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem.

After rousing the raucous royalists in Bangkok, and getting good PR in Thailand (always expected and demanded) but also internationally, with that CNN interview contributing to an image of “compromise” and “popularity,” ignoring the king’s unsteadiness and giving him an instant free pass on all his previous black marks, the palace “influencers” have decided to have the king do “populist tours.”

Reuters reports that “Vajiralongkorn wrote messages of national unity and love on Tuesday during a visit to the northeast of the country two days after protesters sent him a letter demanding royal reforms that would curb his powers.”

In a PR stunt, the king wrote a message to the governor of Udon Thani province: “We all love and care for each other. Take care of the country, help each other protect our country with goodness for prosperity and protect Thainess…”. Going full-on celebrity on a “picture of himself and the queen … the king wrote”: “Love the nation, love the people, cherish Thainess, real happiness.” Another message stated: ““Thank you for all the love and support. We love and care for each other. We must take care of the country, and we must help each other protect it with virtue for it to prosper. Preserve the marvel of Thainess…”.

If the protests against the king have been unprecedented, so is the palace PR response, seeking to create a new image for the king. Previous efforts at this kind of image making have been undone by Vajiralongkorn’s inability to stick with the PR plan and messages.

As these reports of “good king” are being managed, there’s also been “bad king” reports. Hype (Malaysia) had this”

King Maha Vajiralongkorn was married to his third wife, Srirasmi Suwadee, in 2001, before divorcing her in 2014.

Since then, the ex-princess is currently under house-arrest and has decided to take on life as a nun.

Back in 2014, Srirasmi’s uncle, parents, sister and three brothers were convicted with several offences, including “lèse-majesté”, which is defamation to the monarchy. They were all sentenced to prison with different offences and Srirasmi got her royal title stripped of the same year.

As aforementioned, Srirasmi is under house arrest as she hasn’t been seen in public ever since she was forced to leave the royal house. As per China Press, Thai royal experts have exposed photos of the King’s third wife in white robes with her head shaved, as a sign of her nunhood, at her house in Ratchaburi province in central Thailand.

In the photos, she can be seen living a simple life of planting seeds and sweeping leaves in her backyard, despite previously living as a monarch. However, it might not be so simple for her as her eyes tell a different story.

According to SCMP, she was forced to leave her son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who is the next in line for the throne after the king. There are photos on the internet of Srirasmi’s last meeting with her son before she was forced to leave the palace.

We’re unsure of the exact reason behind her sadness but being under house-arrest while separated from your child can definitely drain one’s mental health.

But the PR/propaganda rattled on. In a Bangkok Post report it is stated that the king “has been told that many red-shirt villages that used to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are now sworn to uphold the monarchy.” Apparently, the person doing the telling was the queen: “They are from the red-shirt villages to protect the monarchy…” she said as she and the king were “mingling with supporters at Wing 23 of the air force in Udon Thani on Tuesday night.”

Of course, many millions of red shirts never considered Thaksin an enemy of the monarchy, but the queen seems to have taken this position. How does she know? For one thing, the yellow shirts constructed this narrative and clearly Suthida has imbibed the yellow shirt kool-aid. She’s had this view reinforced by the fawning betrayers of the red shirts, Anon Saennan and Suporn Atthawong, both of whom sold out to the rightists long ago.

The king appreciates the turncoats. The regime has rewarded Suporn with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions.

As the report states:

Mr Suporn was prosecuted for disrupting the Asean summit in Pattaya in April 2009, but the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship member evaded the charges because police could not find him before the case expired in April last year.

An earlier Post report adds further detail, stating that Suporn:

a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. His appointment to this political post is said to be a reward for his defection from Pheu Thai to the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party prior to the March 24 election.

We assume the regime and the military are pouring funds into the Suporn-Anon anti-red shirt campaign.





Updated: Nepotism and Thammanat

11 11 2020

How odd that we recently mentioned convicted heroin smuggler and government minister Thammanat Prompao in a post just a couple of days ago. He’s back in the news, with one of his wives – 30 years his junior a former Miss Thailand – suddenly being allocated a position within the Prime Minister’s Office.

Clipped from Thai Newsroom

Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul announced that on Tuesday, “the cabinet approved the appointment of Ms Thanaporn Sriviraj as a government official, with immediate effect.” Traisuree “said Thanaporn has been actively working as her husband’s personal secretary before the proposal was made to the cabinet.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Presumably she thought this claim would remove the awful smell of nepotism and corruption. But that’s difficult with a deputy minister with a heroin trafficking conviction, fake degrees and a gangster reputation, not to mention the murder case he got off.

According to Wikipedia, “Thamanat’s parliamentary declaration of assets in August 2019 listed two wives, seven children, and a net worth of about A$42 million, including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz along with 12 Hermès and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches, and Thai Buddha amulets.” That declaration also listed dozens and dozens of bank accounts.

Funny how the National Anti-Corruption Commission is uninterested in how Thammanat came to be so fabulously wealthy.

Isra News Agency, which has more details on the “interesting” assets declaration, says that Thanaporn drives a Porsche and owns dozens of luxury watches and handbags.

And, how is it that Thammanat is so wealthy? See above and add in gangster lottery contracts and similar shady deals.

So, why does Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration do him favors and appear so hopelessly tone deaf? We have the answer here.

Is this appointment going to look a bit like the Thungyai hunting scandal? It should.

Update: Wissanu Krea-ngam seems to enjoy rolling in slime. Once again, he has come out to support the cabinet’s convicted heroin smuggler. Like a mobster’s corrupt lawyer, Wissanu has defended the indefensible:

Wissanu asked reporters “why can’t it be done?” after being questioned about Tuesday’s controversial move. When pressed if the appointment of spouses and family members into government positions was appropriate, Wissanu said it wasn’t illegal.

Of course, others have also defended the cabinet’s “Don” and Palang Pracharath’s northern enforcer. In 2019, several deputy prime ministers and the prime minister supported Boss Thammanat. Back then, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking after a cabinet meeting, “said that he would no longer comment on legal cases against cabinet ministers because they had been clarified by those involved.” Clarified means denying that anything happened in Australia, despite all the legal documents and Thammanat’s four years in prison.

Nepotism is, it seems, legal in Thailand. Just like unusual wealth, murder (if you are rich or in the military), shoveling funds to Sino-Thai conglomerates, etc.





The king and his rightists II

10 11 2020

The Nation reports that “[t]alk of an impending coup is growing louder online, as the government shows no sign of heeding protesters’ demands.”

But Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae has dismissed this talk as “rumours.” When reporters pointed out that people – all of them are yellow-shirted ultra-royalists – “were urging the military to stage a coup, he responded that the possibility of a coup was less than zero.” All coup leaders have said the same thing before their coups, including Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Thai Enquirer reports that Narongpan revealed that all of those men in short haircuts and wearing yellow shirts backing up police on Sunday were all out-of-uniform army personnel. The Army says that “the soldiers were just there to facilitate and observe and not actively take part in the confrontation between the police and the protesters – clashes which left five demonstrators injured and needing medical care.”

That’s a lie. Anyone who watch the various livestreams saw the soldiers in action.

The “presence of army personnel during violent confrontation between the state and protesters has everybody on edge.” Many think something else is going on, and this is reinforced by Gen Narongphan’s exaggerations, reported by Thai PBS. He rattles on about “provocation” and “violence.”

And he doesn’t mean by the police who used water cannon. He is reported as pointing to “smoke flares … hurled by people among the protesting crowd…” and talks of “elements who are bent on provoking violence…”. And he doesn’t mean the police or military.

Thisrupt reports that: “At every major protest, hundreds of army men in yellow shirts stand watch.” It adds; “They aren’t in uniform. They wear no badge. They never identify themselves. There’s only the yellow shirts, the blue scarves, and the military haircuts.” And it observes: “The deployment of non-police to police the citizens through force and intimidation, in a uniform not authorized by the state nor recognized by the citizens” is a fascist tactic.

According to another Thai PBS report, Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner, Police Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the use of water cannons against the protesters “was done according to the rule of law.”

It seems us that it is the police and military who are those threatening violence.

As usual, the police are looking at how they can tie up protest leaders in legal cases. Police have the “letters and the four red post boxes from the protest…”. They are going through the letters trying to find “content [that] violates any law.” Others will be charged with violations “of the Public Gathering Act.”

More worrying, however, are the yellow-shirted minions being mobilized.

Egged on by the palace, the king, queen and the king’s daughters, the Thai Enquirer reports that “[u]ltra-royalists, pro-military politicians, and some senators are agitating for conflict and said this week that they will escalate the situation themselves unless the authorities take a harsher stance against the pro-democracy demonstrators.”

Krit Yeammaethakorn, secretary general of the People’s Networks to Protect the Monarch, has demanded a “special law” to “shutdown” the country.

The “Center for People Who Protect the Institution said on Monday that they will escalate their protests against the pro-democracy protesters…. They said they will shut down streets, if necessary, to get the government to crackdown and arrest more pro-democracy protesters.”

The quite mad ultra-royalist and military junta appointed senator Pornthip Rojanasunand has accused protesters of being “unThai” and complained that “police commanders are not doing enough to protect the law and suppress [pro-democracy protesters]…”.

Ratbag Palang Pracharath MP and deputy leader Paiboon Nititawan urged “royalists … [to] file complaints of sedition against the students.”

Meanwhile, the palace women continue to promote the celebrity PR model and wed it with intimations of violence. Most recently, it has been the queen going shooting and carousing with yellow-shirted royalists, as reported at Royal World Thailand – รอยัล เวิลด์ ประเทศไทย