The Dictator’s world of authoritarianism

8 01 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Memories of murderous military must be mute II

14 10 2015

The military dictatorship cannot erase memories of its institutional violence but it can try to prevent public memorialization of those murdered by the military. In an earlier post, we commented on this erasure of public memorialization for the 6 October 1976 massacre.

Khaosod reports that the military junta has tried to prevent some aspects of public events associated with a remembrance of 14 October 1973, when students led an uprising against military dictatorship that began in 1957 when the royalist general Sarit Thanarat seized power.

The military as an institution still mourns their loss of power in 1973 and they have constinued to celebrate the vicious generals who were overthrown back then. They resisted, along with a coterie of rightists and associated royalists, the public memorialization of the scores of students gunned down by the military in that uprising.

They still seek to alter memories of the events.

Royalists seek to seize the event as theirs by claims that the king opposed the generals. In fact, their is no solid historical evidence for this claim. Rather, the king and his advisers saw their regime was defeated and sought to make political capital from the events. In essence, this intervention marks the beginning of the palace’s political ascendance over the military, which lasted until the current king’s declining health, which has required the return of the military to top leadership.

As Khaosod reports, to this day, the families of those killed and injured 42 years ago have never been compensated by the state.

In fact, the “government led by Yingluck Shinawatra approved a plan in March 2012 to pay out 7,000 baht per month to immediate heirs of those injured or maimed, but the legislation was never enacted. The Yingluck administration was later ousted in the May 2014 coup d’etat, which brought the current junta to power.”

One of those who lost a family member “bitterly questioned whether there remains any point in marking the uprising when its ideal – ‘freedom from tyranny’ – was far from being achieved.” She went on to upbraid government officials – led by the princeling, M.L. Panadda Diskul – who attended the ceremony: “You are here to commemorate the event, but are you not ashamed? Many of you are the October Generation now sitting in the government. You are sitting on the pool of blood, but you don’t care about us. I have had enough.”

anti-junta

In a like-minded protest, “[m]embers of the Dao Din group, which has protested against the junta and the 2014 May military coup, were also present at the ceremony. Activists unfurled a banner denouncing former leaders of the 1973 uprising who have now shifted to supporting the military’s rule in Thailand.”

Even with government officials attending, Khaosod reports that a “company of police officers was placed around the ceremony to maintain order [sic.] at the Oct. 14 monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.”

ThaiPBS reports that the princeling Panadda tried to hijack the meaning of the event for royalists, declaring that “Thai democracy” is comprised of “four main principles, namely unity, sufficiency, no mud slinging or lying, and no corruption.” That’s the royalist mantra that underpins the repeated destruction of democratic government in Thailand. He even went so far as to describe this “democracy” with the junta’s label: “sustainable democracy.” The princeling is beneath contempt.

The video below, part one of a series at YouTube, is a documentary made a few years ago at Thammasat University, bringing together what remains of the materials of the time. The short note under the video describes 14 October as one of Thailand’s “darkest moments.” That refers to the use of state force to attempt to put down the student-led revolt. At the same time, 14 October is remembered as a rising against military dictatorship that sought to establish a democratic Thailand. The struggle continues:





The lies of dictators

4 10 2015

Every dictator is overcome by the words of sycophants and assorted hanger-on. Politicians have spin doctors so that the best can be made of the uncomfortable. General Prayuth Chan-ocha hs liked to speak for himself, often appearing angry, testy, short-tempered and ignorant.

In recent posts, PPT has wondered whether The Dictator is delusional or an inveterate liar. We now have the answer.

Khaosod reports that, for all of these foibles, Prayuth has now shown that he is more of a liar than delusional.

Some weeks ago it became clear that the military dictatorship was seeking to “funnel all internet traffic through a single, government-managed choke point…”.

After much criticism and an extensive denial-of-service-like attacks on state websites, the military dictatorship has denied that it plans a single gateway and “insists the project has not been initiated despite evidence to the contrary.”

The Dictator himself has lied:

I have not ordered [the government] to go ahead with this. I merely told them to study it, but there has been some misinterpretation…. Right now, this matter is only under study. There’s nothing.

A bunch of junta members, ministers and assorted mouthpieces also lied.

Minister of Information and Communication Technology Uttama Savanayana lied:

Let me insist this is just an idea…. Since I took up the post a month ago, there has been no policy plan, no conclusion of what it will look like, and I have not yet proposed anything for the prime minister to deliberate.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Panadda Diskul lied. He fibs that “the prime minister merely told us to study the facts…”. Of the single gateway panic, he declared: “This is fabricated news created by those who are selfish…”.

Government spokesman Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd lied, “saying the project was only ‘noted’ in cabinet minutes to acknowledge its study.” He fibbed: “I insist that all of these are just studies…. It is not a project yet yet. It is not happening. Will it happen or not, I cannot answer.”

Khaosod doesn’t call these liars by that name. However, it points out that:

Weeks after the cabinet ordered officials to “speed up” development of the single-gateway project, officials from the top down have done an about-face after internet users banded together to bring down at least six government agencies’ websites to protest the plan.

It points to The Dictator’s efforts to accelerate the project:

Prayuth … raised the project as a priority in June, according to minutes of his cabinet meetings. In subsequent meetings in July and August, the cabinet stepped up orders for officials to urgently expedite the project.

It even produces legal evidence to demonstrate the lies:

Section 1.2 of the June 30 Cabinet Resolution, a legally binding document, includes this section: The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology must also work with related agencies, such as Ministry of Justice and Royal Thai police, to proceed with implementation of a single gateway to be used as a device to control inappropriate websites and flow of news and information from overseas through the internet system.

If that isn’t sufficient evidence of deliberate fabrications, the report says:

… at least four published Cabinet Resolutions indicate that Prime Minister Prayuth and his military regime have not only finished discussing and studying the feasibility of a single gateway, but had made it an urgent matter for implementation.

On 30 June, Gen. Prayuth was quoted in the cabinet minutes urging administrators to solve the problem of youth addiction to online games and “access to inappropriate media” by “proceeding to implement a single gateway to be used as a device to control inappropriate websites and flow of news and information from overseas through the internet system.”

On 21 July, Prayuth instructed the telecommunications ministry and “related agencies to urgently speed up the implementation of a single gateway to be used as a device to control inappropriate websites and flow of news and information from overseas through the internet system in accordance with 30 June, 2015, Cabinet Resolution.”

On 4 Aug., the ministry and other related agencies were again instructed to “report about development in implementation of a single gateway.”

Three weeks later on 25 Aug., the cabinet – apparently still waiting for a response – gave a September deadline for the MICT to report back and once again ordered it to “speed up its work on the issue.”

That all seems pretty clear. Prayuth, Sansern, Panadda and Uttama are lying.

In this case, lying might be a way to drop the project.





On May 1992, part II

18 05 2015

In part I, we posted on a speech by the notorious royalist poseur Bowornsak Uwanno, who misused the occasion of a remembrance of the military’s murder of democracy and murder of civilian in May 1992.

In another report at The Nation on a memorial event, it is stated that “politicians and political groups yesterday attended a memorial service to remember those who lost their lives in the Black May 1992 political uprising.” It seems to us that the military dictatorship tried to manage this event as it was attended by “representatives of the junta-appointed agencies known as the ‘Five Rivers’. They included Prime Minister’s Office Minister Panadda Diskul, National Legislative Assembly (NLA) vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai, Ekachai Sriwilat[,] Prasarn Marukpitak and Rosana Tositrakul members of the [puppet] National Reform Council (NRC).”

Even if any of this lot had any reason to be there, it seems they have forgotten the meaning of 1992. All are rabid monarchists and pro-military flunkies. Rosana is a strident yellow shirt who has supported all anti-democrats since 2004. Surachai is one of Rosana’s allies in the anti-democratic Group of 40 Senators, mostly unelected after 2007, who are ultra-royalists and deeply yellow. So is Prasarn. Panadda is a devoted royalist, specialized in self-promotion and a dedicated restorationist, committed to dictatorship and absolutism. They insult the memory of the dead.

Amongst attendees, there were some with a real connection to the events in 1992, including “red-shirt co-leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Jatuporn Promphan and yellow-shirt co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee Pipop Thongchai.”

That the Democrat Party sent representatives is also insulting of those who died in 1992 for the Party was prepared to deal with the military then, if it got them close to power. Nothing much has changed.

The egregious Panadda said that the “incident” in May 1992 – he means the massacre of civilians – “showed the public’s will to achieve democracy.” It did, but to disgrace that resolve by linking it to The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, and to claim that this vandal of democracy “had recognised the people of Thailand’s wish to see real democracy in the country…” is disgusting.

Rosana is as bad, saying that May 1992 “occurred because all the heroic people wanted to see reform of the political system without any influence. They hoped that the election would lead to the development of a strong democracy and that it would not result in a coup.” She’s lost in a make-believe history and she manages to link an anti-military uprising to the 2006 and 2014 military putsches, which she enthusiastically supported.

For those wanting a useful summary of the events of the time, not least as an antidote for the tripe served up by military flunkies, this PDF, available for free download, is not a bad place to begin.





The function of double standards

25 02 2015

The double standards at work in Thailand are so obvious that they hardly need emphasizing. If one is a supporter of military junta, monarchy and/or a member of the royalist elite, then one need not fear the law or judiciary. Unless there has been a falling out, one can expect gentle treatment. If one is considered an “enemy” of military junta, monarchy and the royalist elite, expect harassment and probably jail.

In essence, the double standards are enforced by the judicial system in order to protect the social, political and economic monopolization by the elite.

A current case, relatively small but significant, demonstrates this. Khaosod reports that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, cannot be consider corrupt.

Back in September 2014, PPT posted on the purchase of “unusually expensive” audio equipment for Government House, the seat of the military junta. As the National Anti-Corruption Commission ran away from the case, not wishing to embarrass the military dictatorship or The Dictator, it was the latter who decided to cover things up. As we stated then, The Dictator was clear about his plan to rescue wrongdoers by launching an “investigation.” As we noted, the potential was for a few low-level officials to be thrown to the wolves, but we expressed confidence that it would all be show amongst smoke and mirrors. Prayuth said: “We probe all (suspected corruption) issues. Just be patient. Don’t pressure us and don’t jump to conclusion either…”. The problem is that his probes are conducted by his underlings and sycophants. He has said that a “sub-panel of the 18-member committee” set up by the junta” to probe budget spending of state agencies is investigating the issue…”. The committee is chaired by an Army general….

Khaosod reports that “Thailand’s anti-corruption agency has spared junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha from its inquiry into the government’s 67.9 million baht purchase of unusually expensive microphones and other equipment last year.”

Of course it did.

The spokesperson for the politicized NACC said that “ten officials from the Department of Public Works, including the department’s director Monthol Sudprasert, will be investigated over the purchases.”

The report states that “top executives like Prayuth and [minor royal M.L.] Panadda Diskul, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, will not be investigated because they merely ‘approved’ the purchases…”.

Tell us we are wrong, but wasn’t Thaksin Shinawatra convicted for being premier when his wife won a bid for land? Wasn’t he held ultimately responsible?

 





Cry, scream, laugh

27 12 2014

Each time we read about a new lese majeste case, propaganda about monarchy and royalism or hear about official action on lese majeste, we are never sure whether to cry, scream or laugh.

Under the military dictatorship, royalist propaganda is reaching such levels that it feels like the whole country is in a monarchical straightjacket.

A few days ago, minor prince and Panadda Diskul, who was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office by the military dictatorship, lectured 72 participants in the 8th Junior Spokesman project on “The Importance of Monarchy in Thailand.”

The minister demanded “that all the youth should place importance on the monarch system in order to understand the history of Thailand, history of the nation, as well as creating social unity.” This propaganda has been constant under the military junta.

Sounding like a 20th century throwback, the princely Panadda blathered that the monarchy represented unity rather than nasty politicians: “Thai people should love the nation, and not allow any political factors to divide the population into separate groups.” His royalism is a moralism: “Thai people should be united, uphold good morals and do good things…”.

He added the required obsequiousness before The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, when he “urged the youth acknowledge the importance of the 12 core values and inherit the good mind of ‘Thainess’.”

This all seems pretty much par for the course under the military dictatorship. Boring but predictable. Yet it links with a far nastier royalism that is repressive and suffocating.

In a series of reports, including one at the National News Bureau trumpeting that the “lese majeste law will undergo an overhaul to make it easier for authorities to proceed with legal action.”

PPT hadn’t noticed that the “authorities” were having trouble taking action on lese majeste. Indeed, under the military dictatorship, there has been a massive explosion in the number of cases, all of which involve the repression of political opponents.

Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya reports that agencies have “studied the procedures and content of the lese majeste law … to have it improved.”

We guess that “improved” simply means that the military dictatorship wants to throw even more people in jail. After all, the order for this study came from The Dictator himself.

The agencies want to bring individuals charged with lese majeste back to Thailand and promote “a correct understanding of the law in the global community, to show that the law does not serve political purposes.”

Paiboon might have more success if he didn’t demand blatant lies from his officials. Obviously, no one believes lies about the purpose of lese majeste.

At The Nation, this story is further explained. The action on the lese majeste issue “was reached after Paiboon met with representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry and the Department of Special Investigation.” The Dictator has demanded that lese majeste “be dealt with systematically in an integrated manner.”

This heralds a dark period for Thailand.

The notion of extraditing opponents from overseas, Paiboon explains that “many foreign states did not recognise lese majeste acts as a crime and would not extradite the accused.” But never fear dear royalists, for Paiboon says that “the Thai government would try to convince them that defaming the monarchy affected the Thai spirit that revered the institution.”

Yes, the world is to be told that spirit or soul of Thailand’s people is monarchist and that throwing political opponents in jail is simply about protecting the essence of the nation.

What does anyone with half a brain do with such nonsensical babbling? How will the people of Thailand be protected from monarchical madmen?

General Paiboon, like fascists of the past, manages to turn lese majeste on its head when he claims that his dictatorship’s political opponents have “used” lese majeste charges “as a tool to seek asylum abroad.” In other words, the draconian lese majeste has been used for some kind of advantage by its victims!

Cry, scream, laugh?

The committee General Paiboon is establishing is even going back to the discredited “anti-monarchist mind map” that was previously used to concoct a republican conspiracy.

The Nation’s story also explains that other ministers beat the monarchy drum. The junta’s Interior Minister, General Anupong Paojinda said “it was the government’s duty to honour the monarchy and protect it from violation.”

In fact, it is the actions of ultra-royalists and mad monarchists who are doing the work of republicans. Lese majeste repression by a military dictatorship that is self-serving and simply bizarre is doing more to destroy the monarchy than any republican could hope to achieve.

At the risk of sounding as bizarre as these ministers, maybe republicans should be cheering them on? Cry, scream, laugh? All three?





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.”