Preserving royalism

2 08 2015

With the end of this reign upon it the Royal Thai Army – to give it the moniker it prefers – has a problem.

In an article at The Straits Times, academic Pitch Pongsawat is quoted as saying: “the King is still the living soul of the army. Protecting the King is protecting the nation.”

The modern Army, used to killing those civilians considered a threat to nation and monarchy (and military), will now have to “protect” an idea rather than an individual.

With the great stock of military and palace propaganda expended on promoting the current ailing and infirm monarch since about 1957 having been a backstop for the military’s political interventions and a keystone for the social, political and economic order, most of the barami has been personalized. What to do now to keep all that together with an unpopular successor who is unlikely to generate the same level of propaganda value for the Army and elite?

The successionist view is that the only obvious answer is to get rid of the prince and put a more popular princess on the throne. However, the military dictatorship seems pretty determined to continue with the crown prince and to focus more attention on the “institution.”

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has facilitated the prince’s nasty “divorce” from Srirasmi, jailing her relatives and associates and accepting her seeming house arrest for several months already. Prayuth has even replaced the prince in a rehearsal in the Bike for Mom propaganda exercise. The article asserts:

It is the first time the Crown Prince – who was in the news late last year for the purging of his then wife Srirasmi and her family – will be involved in such a mass public event that appears to be his personal project.

Perhaps the most significant symbol of this move to unpopular prince and to supporting the monarchy as institution is a park of giant bronze statues of seven of the country’s past kings in Hua Hin, reported at The Straits Times.

Hua Hin is interesting as a site as it was where the seventh king was engaged in his favorite activities, holidaying and golfing, when the absolute monarchy was kicked out.

That only seven are chosen may be symbolic of something else. Presumably the kings not chosen for this site are not considered worthy of such adulation.

The article explains that the “site of the pantheon of kings is built by the army on land allocated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.” It is “an army initiative,” and is reported to cost $27 million, which is certainly an under-estimate of the land, statues and buildings involved.

Royalist and military ideologue Panitan Wattanayagorn is described as an “analyst” in this report. (At least, this time, PPT doesn’t have to correct the notion that he is an “academic.”) He comes up with the vacant but appropriately royalist statement that “In the past, there have always been activities to honour the monarchy, but this is a very particular, a very special gesture…”. He adds this adulation park “can be seen as an attempt to be more systematic in uniting people at a critical time…”.

Like his military sponsors, Panitan sees the current epoch as a dangerous one and seems to believe that the monarchy can “unite” people. He may be wrong, although we imagine the death of the king will achieve that for a period.

As was the case when the absolute monarchy was under threat and again when the present king came to the throne, the palace propaganda is about continuity over several centuries of disparate kingdoms from Sukhothai through Ayudhya to Bangkok:

The kings depicted are from different periods, in effect linking them to suggest a continuous, ancient history of Thai kings. The first statue to reach the site last week was of the 13th-century king Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai.

The military regime and the existing ruling class needs the monarchy for they have rejected more modern means of achieving legitimacy.

As a footnote, PPT wonders what the superstitious military leadership makes of the damage done to one of the statues as it was transported to the park. Surely it must be viewed as a dark omen?

A photo from The Straits Times

A photo from The Straits Times

Updated: Still no election II

31 07 2015

In an earlier post we noted that Suthep Thaugsuban’s return to political activism had caused some concern amongst the military dictatorship. Indeed, some have warned him and his anti-democrats to remain politically quiet.

However, despite the fact that the military dictatorship bans political opponents from meeting, it allowed the anti-democrat cabal-cum-“foundation” to meet and hold a press conference.

The double standards were made clear when puppet member of the National Reform Council and long-time Thaksin Shinawatra opponent Paiboon Nititawan supporting Suthep, stating it is “Suthep’s right… to express his opinion…”. Of course, he would not say that for his opponents.

That press conference, led by Suthep, resulted in a declaration that they wanted the military dictatorship to “accomplish its reform goals before elections are held, no matter how long the process takes.”

NRC secretary-general Alongkorn Ponlaboot also supported Suthep and reckoned that some “reform” could be “done quickly, and some may be take many years, such as reforms about corruption.” He added that “reforms of all aspects should not take more than four years, because it’s a mission for this government and the next government.” It remains unclear if the “next government” would be an elected government.

Some in the junta will probably agree with Suthep yet they also drew a response, with the usually rather quiet General Anupong Paojinda mumbling that the junta’s “roadmap” is still in place with an election probably/maybe/anybody’s guess sometime late in 2016.

Update: Thanks to a report at The Nation, the support for Suthep and his “foundation” within the military regime is much clearer. That report is about Suthep’s announcement that the failed former foreign minister and yellow shirt activist Kasit Piromya is to act as a “foreign-affairs representative of the People’s Democratic Reform Foundation with the goal of forging a mutual understanding between Thailand and the international community.”

Kasit was a failure in this role when foreign minister under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime so there is no likelihood that he will be more successful for a bunch of anti-democrats. Yet it is the comments from Panitan Wattanayagorn that are most revealing.

Panitan, routinely described as an “international-relations academic from Chulalongkorn University” when he has no identifiable impact as an academic, is really a stooge for the military, acting as “a key adviser to Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.”

When Panitan says that “Kasit would likely act in favour of national interests and not for any particular group, including the current military-led government” he is stating the military junta’s position. His view on the anti-democrat’s “foundation” is the junta’s position: “It’s not unusual for a non-political, pro-society foundation to help build a better understanding towards Thailand for outsiders.”

Of course, Panitan’s claims are lies and spin, but they are also an accurate reflection of the alliance that exists, and has long existed, between the anti-democrats and the royalist military clique.

Fearing Thaksin II

23 07 2015

In an earlier post we referred to the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra evident in the military junta. A couple of new stories suggest that the fear is real and knee-tremblingly real.

In the first story at the Bangkok Post, we are reminded that Yingluck Shinawatra was impeached as premier by the Constitutional Court that ruled she violated the charter on the transfer of National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri. Thawil was opposed to the Yingluck government, effectively a troll for the royalists defeated in the 2011 election. One transfer and out the door.

That is not the situation for the military junta, which can transfer anyone it likes, and has done so many times. The most recent case is “National Security Council deputy secretary-general Pongsakorn Rodchompoo [who] has been unexpectedly transferred to an inactive post in the latest move to rid the agency of all influence of former prime minister Thaksin…”. The Dictator issued the order.

The Post reports that an “NSC source said the transfer was part of the campaign to eradicate ‘watermelon’ soldiers from the security agency.” Pongsakorn was appointed by Yingluck, so he was suspect.

The Dictator is considering a new boss for the NSC. Who might be in the running? None other than military posterior deep polisher Panitan Wattanayagorn. His appointment would be entirely appropriate as he is nothing more than a military flunkey with limited abilities. The military dictatorship has no other interest than in appointing dull followers.

In a second story highlighting the military’s fear, one of the 155 persons banned from traveling by the military junta, Wattana Muangsuk, a former Puea Thai parliamentarian, sued The Dictator-General Prayuth Chan-ocha over the ban.

He argued that the ban “restricts human rights and breaks international laws, as well as the 2014 interim constitution,” and “is discriminatory and arbitrary…”.

Wattana knows that his efforts are futile because the junta and The Dictator are a lawless bunch. He “is well aware his case will go nowhere since the NCPO chief has absolute power over all three branches of government under Section 44 of the interim charter.” He explained:

I resort to exercising the right to sue to demonstrate a civilised way to solve problems, not by rolling tanks to seize people’s power and then issuing orders arbitrarily….

He’s right, but the military lot are anything but civilized. Essentially, like their predecessors, they are political thugs, knuckle-draggers and afraid of elected and popular politicians.

Human rights horror

24 05 2015

Yes, the case of boat people has been a human rights disgrace, repeated over decades in and around Thailand, but the horror PPT comments on today is about the military dictatorship’s “understanding” of human rights.

To date, the junta has shown no particular understanding of human rights. The regime prefers to trample human rights, national and international.

But in a demonstration of the military dictatorship’s “understanding,” a report at NNT News is startling. The junta’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai has had:

“a meeting in Bangkok with Luo Haocai, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the 9th and 10th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and President of China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) during the latter’s visit to Thailand in order to strengthen cooperation on human rights with academic institutions and relevant organizations in Thailand.

Both sides discussed and exchanged views on several issues of common interest including human rights projects and activities of both governments and civil society organizations in both countries.

In addition, they shared their views on efforts to increase public awareness on human rights, which should start from young children and adolescents, as well as cooperation in researches and studies to promote human rights in the era of information technology and social media.

We can imagine hired “academics” and royalist flunkies like Bowornsak Uwanno and Panitan Wattanayagorn lining up for trips to China and money for “research” and propaganda “public awareness” campaigns.

The idea of a military dictatorship and a one-party state “cooperating” on what they think is “human rights” is not just alarming but horrifying.

Criticism of the draft anti-democratic constitution

7 05 2015

While the military dictatorship is desperately attempting to limit debate and even discussion of its draft constitution to puppet assemblies, the anti-democratic nature of the charter draft is causing widespread concern.

Internationally, a range of criticism has been reported, in quite different sources.

At the World Socialist Web Site, the military dictatorship is described as a “US-backed regime.” This seems a bit of an ideological over-stretch given that recent events would permit it to be called a China-backed or Russian-backed regime. The claim that the military dictatorship “intends to stay in control indefinitely, despite proposing to hold elections next year” might be a little more accurate, although the ways in which this might be handled ned nuanced analysis.

The WSWS is on very firm ground when it states that the “aim of the new constitution is to strip elected politicians of any power” and in claiming that the “Bangkok-based ruling elites—the military, the monarchy and their supporters in the state bureaucracy—want to ensure that the Pheu Thai Party, led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, never regains office.”

The draft constitution is criticized for making the the preserve of “appointees close to the military and the bureaucracy”;  for having parliament “policed by a new National Ethics Assembly, authorised to remove MPs from office for ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ reasons”; and for having provisions that allow the “generals … continue to wield power through a National Reform Steering Committee, which will set the legislative agenda for parliament to rubber-stamp.”

Meanwhile, at the Voice of America, the reporting is “even-handed,” giving space to junta sock puppet Panitan Wattanayagorn who appears to challenge the political parties, saying they “could mount a serious challenge to the draft before it is scheduled to be finalized in August.” He babbles that the path of the draft charter is “not going to be smooth, especially with Pheu Thai members, because they saw themselves as the losers in this constitution. The (former opposition) Democrats are not the same but still they are not happy because the constitution is aimed to reduce their power – at least to create more equal balance…”. We aren’t sure we know exactly what he means in the last phrase, but he probably doesn’t either.

The VOA agrees that the charter “weaken[s] the influence of major political parties, creating a greater need for coalition governments.” It quotes official red shirt leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn who says “it’s not a charter of democracy. They don’t want to ask the people before they can use this charter. They don’t want to have the strong party, the strong government. And especially you see the prime minister can come from other people, not the MP (member of parliament)…”.

Meanwhile, anti-democrat Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the Democrat Party, states that the lack of support from political parties means “that the constitution will have to rewritten again and that would mean a longer stay for the military junta…”. That could be seen as a threat to the parties – accept the draft or you get the military thugs for longer.

One way or another, the royalist elite and the military keep a grip on power and a foot on the neck of Thailand’s majority.

Believe us, we’re from the military

24 03 2015

In recent posts a theme has been lies and impunity. This somehow “naturally” applies to the military and most especially under authoritarian regimes usually run by former military leaders who have made their way to the top by loyalty and attention to hierarchy then through any particular ability and certainly not through displays of even meager intelligence.

We don’t feel the need to harp on this yet the military lads – and they are all men at the top – keep displaying their incapacity for anything other than looking completely moronic and thinking that they might just have gotten away with it.

Stay with us on this…. it gets very silly.

The Bangkok Post reports that “a large quantity of illegal weapons and explosives found in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Huan Hin district…”. The “abandoned” weapons included “41 bars of TNT, four units of C-4 explosives and 31 fire bombs, rifle ammunition and other explosive devices” and were in bags and “labelled with what appears to be the army unit code ‘Phan 1 Roi 1’.”

The implication is that there is a military connection. After all, the military is always selling or stealing its own weapons. Or perhaps someone else stole them or they fell of the back of a truck or tank. Or maybe drunk soldiers decided to have some fun.

Whatever the “excuse,” we expect the military brass to come up with a story to “explain” this current find. Of late, weapons are said to belong to red shirts. Clearly, though, in this case, these were not weapons carefully located to implicate others.

Who would be the best group to investigate the weapons and explosives cache? Well, of course, it is the military itself! We are told they are “investigating any military connection.” What a good idea!

The ever so sharp and quick Army boss Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, who is both deputy defense minister and army chief, said “military agencies are investigating to see if the cache is state property.” He added that “it would be premature to assume based on the bags’ appearance that the weapons and explosives belong to the army…”. As quick as a molasses in January, Udomdej declared that anyone can have military sacks: “bags with military codes and logos are used during emergencies to distribute relief supplies, such as sandbags during floods.” Or, he reckons they could have been bags that “were discarded and later re-used to transport the weapons…”.

He did concede “that some soldiers may be involved in the illegal weapons trade. They would face tough punishment if any link was found.” What about their bosses? In the military, the buck stops with the privates and sergeants. The big boys get the loot, the houses and the cars, not to mention fancy and expensive watches.

With a bunch of military brass-cum-cabinet ministers-cum-junta members mumbling similar things and seemingly playing down the discovery, the Post turned to the military’s adviser and paid “academic,” who decided to buff his bosses’ posteriors by claiming that the weapons were “left over from past regional conflicts.”

That could be true, and we expect that they were just left around a Hua Hin farm by a forgetful arms trader. Such traders usually leave weapons and explosives on the side of one of Thailand’s biggest highways. That way, when they recall leaving them, they are easier to find.

Junta and army spokesman Winthai Suwaree helpfully explained that “illegal war weapons are found discarded in various locations occasionally.” It is those forgetful arms dealers. They get so many weapons from the Thai military that they just forget where they leave them.

We believe the military dictatorship and its minions on this. Clearly the military couldn’t possibly be involved.Fairies

Not a scholar, a fascist

12 02 2015

Long-time readers will know that PPT has little time for “scholars” or “academics” who prostitute themselves to various administrations.

They will also know that most of these “scholars” or “academics” usually have few of the accoutrements usually associated with university scholars such as research, publications and so on.

These readers will also know that we consider academic-for-hire Panitan Wattanayagorn an example of this kind of “academic” charlatanism. He has thrown himself at the feet of various royalist and military regimes, licking their boots, benefiting from salary and privilege, while maintaining the benefits attached to his “academic” position at Chulalongkorn University.Panitan

Often the mainstream media facilitate Panitan’s chameleon role as academic/spokesman/adviser for royalist and fascist rulers.

The Bangkok Post reports that Panitan is a “government adviser” and adviser to the Ministry of Defence. That is, he is working for the military dictatorship.

It also says he is a “political science expert.” PPT guesses that his PhD from a third-tier US university is evidence of some capacity in political science, yet there is no “academic” neutrality or intellectual consideration for Panitan. His “expertise” is in “advising” fascists.

This is why he “has defended the continuation of martial law after a group of lawyers released a damning report that exposed violations of human rights and international obligations under martial law.”

None of this nonsense for the fascist Panitan, who states that “the political situation is not yet stable enough to lift martial law despite human rights concerns.”

We doubt Panitan has any conception of “human rights,” and if he does, he would prefer to trash them. Here’s how he justifies military dictatorship:

Under a country with martial law, you’d expect certain pressure on human rights just to keep peace, order and civility…. Of course the military realises that in the end, in principle, martial law is not good for Thailand because it’s a strong pill. If you take a strong medicine too long, it may destroy your internal organs….

… [But] Thailand is very sick….

PPT reckons the “illness” is the military itself. Panitan parrots military nonsense, not just because he is paid by the dictatorship but because he worships it.

Panitan justifies the military dictatorship that has imposed and maintained martial law summoned 666 people, arrested 134 for peacefully protesting, 362 for “other political charges” and at least 36 people “prosecuted for lèse majesté…”.

Sour wine and old green bottles

13 01 2015

Tan Hui Yee at the Straits Times has a useful discussion of the constitution drafting charade. We at PPT felt that it was a good follow-up to our earlier comments on the charade where we were disgusted by the political toadying of Somchai Wongsawat.

Recall that Somchai babbled about lawyer-for-royalist-hire Bowornsak Uwanno being “respected” and about the military dictatorship’s “sincere effort” to “take care of the country, solve the conflicts, and lead our country forward.” When he asserted that: “We accept and understand it. I want everyone to think of the country, so that the international community will not look down on us…”, he was wrong on every count.

Tan explains why he is so very wrong.

Thailand’s 19th Constitution (depending how you count them) is “being penned under the close watch of the military government, with martial law shielding the drafters from the most contentious of debates.”

While there will be some debates, this is mostly a facade of squabbling amongst a narrow set of options acceptable to the military dictatorship.

As Tan says, the “Constitution Drafting Committee plans to hold public hearings from this month. While the final version will be tabled only later this year … its broad strokes are already apparent to most observers…”.

What is broadly acceptable? “It will crimp the power of erstwhile dominant political parties and make it easier for an unelected person to assume the helm of the country.”

Borwornsak wants “an unelected premier as a last resort that can be used to break a political deadlock and avert military intervention.” This is nonsense, but then that his his stock in trade.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Naruemon Thabchumpon says “This is a ‘retro’ Constitution,” that many know will “usher in a period of unstable coalition governments that dominated Thai politics more than a decade ago.”

PPT has been saying this for several months. And Tan agrees that it is “the 1980s, [when] military strongman Prem Tinsulanonda was prime minister despite being unelected” that seems like the model. He notes that it is “Prem, who now heads the Privy Council … [who] remains an influential elder to the current crop of coup-makers.”

He’s the boss, but is gradually being eased out. Despite this, his ideas a widely accepted by the royalist military, in the palace, by the Sino-Thai tycoons and other members of the elite who know they must rule to protect their wealth and political power.

Academic prostitutes like Panitan Wattanayagorn, who is now advertised as “an adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan” – he does have many patrons all of them right-wing fascists – sounds exactly like Somchai when he asserts the “ideas being discussed by the Charter drafters ‘far exceed expectations’… saying, “everybody needs to compromise…”. By “everyone” he means all who do not agree with the rightist military fascists.

Tan concludes with a note on the uncertainties of succession, pointing out that “some wonder if the drafters would work in a clause or two that would legitimise a role for the junta even after elections.”

We know the answer: yes. The result will be, in Tan’s words “a shiny new Constitution, but exactly the same powers pulling the strings.” Even the wine being poured into the Army’s green bottles is sour.

Listening to military groupies and others

3 01 2015

When an academic is introduced as a “security affairs expert,” PPT usually writes them off as military groupies, not necessarily with a sexual connotation, but in the context of hanging on every word and everything from the most self-important generals, no matter how banal or corrupt they are.

At the same time, because they are groupies, they often hear interesting whispers or provide insights into the usually warped minds of those who expect to be obeyed. A perfect example is Panitan Wattanayagorn at Chulalongkorn University. He’s only interesting when he reveals little secrets he’s picked up while slithering about with his bosses.

We are not sure about “an expert in security affairs from Rangsit University,” Wanwichit Boonprong, from Rangsit University, quoted in a report at The Nation. This academic has previously written on the military (downloads a PDF) and has been quoted in 2014 in the media, yet he is new to us.

Wanwichit says that the “military is expected to have increased political roles in this new year…”. That is hardly worth saying, for the next year will see it consolidate its role as the major political power, in partnership with a weakened monarchy.Nor is the claim that “martial law … is likely to be retained for a long time, to help ensure that the military will have the power to deal with unexpected problems when they arise.” The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has told us that. Martial law is also useful for the quick silencing of dissent on the military dictatorship and the monarchy.

Wanwichit’s statement that “martial law would serve as its [the junta’s] ‘fangs and claws’,” seems entirely appropriate. He observes that “arrangements had been made … to increase the military’s power. These included the junta’s orders to expand the martial court’s authority to try cases involving lese majeste and war-grade weapons, as well as the upgrade of military districts into military circles to allow increased roles in civilian affairs.”

Wanwichit is undoubtedly correct to expect that “many military commanders, as well as senior bureaucrats, [will…] become senators…”. The political future remains in the past. He reckons that the “military should be able to control the [political arena] in 2015. They will continue to get cooperation from many sectors…”. We don’t agree entirely on this for the patern so far has been for increasing disaffection, and as it becomes clear how much control the military will have, even some of the anti-democrats will wince.

More interesting is the claim, attributed to “a high-ranking officer in the armed forces,” that “there is a unity problem among top commanders in the Army…”. We are not convinced, but these reports keep popping up. The source states: “There are uncertainties in the Army.” It is added that “the current Army might seem to be united but in fact potential conflict is brewing under the surface. This is because the Army is now controlled by three different and powerful figures.”

Wanwichit is cited as identifying a “a key weakness in the junta is the fact that all the problems will push towards … Prayut[h].” Why is this a problem in a dictatorial arrangement? Wanwichit says, “The prime minister’s mood changes quite easily and this makes it easy for him to be the target of criticism…. Without relegation [delegation?] of power to other people, particularly over security matters, there will be negative consequences on the government and the Army.”

Wanwichit considers that Army boss General Udomdej Sitabutr, also deputy defence minister, “needed to be given more responsibility on security matters.”

The third figure is General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and defence minister.

One conflict is considered to “stem from a contest to become the next Army chief between two leading candidates – Prayut’s brother General Preecha Chan-o-cha and General Teerachai Nakwanich – who are both assistant Army commanders-in-chief. Teerachai is Udomdej’s former classmate from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.”

Something to watch, but we have the feeling that the big issues in 2015 will be the military dictatorship’s capacity to mange succession and conflicts with broader “civil society,” most especially with the groups that prepared the ground for the military coup in 2014.


10 11 2014

Many royalists have been unhappy in recent years, considering that the monarchy has been under threat from opponents but also by the decline of the health of the king and queen, which prevents them from their former political activism.

Others have been unhappy because they assess that electoral democracy undermines the “cultural” constitution of Thailand that is modified absolutism best represented by Thai-style democracy. Many of these quite extreme monarchists see that all of the political “trouble” goes back to 1932.

This is seen in a report at Khaosod, where it is revealed that “[s]everal prominent academics have proposed reviving the Supreme Council of the State, a decision-making body that superseded all three branches of government during Thailand’s last days as an absolute monarchy.”

One of those cited is Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn, who qualifies as a professional spokesperson rather than an academic. He  reportedly stated “that including a Supreme Council in the new Constitution could help secure a ‘balance of power’ between different branches of government.”

Panitan said that a royal council would join the administrative, legislative and judicial branches in “balancing power.” In Panitan’s world, though, the balance is weighted: “It will be the fourth balance of power…. Under this system, the Supreme Council will wield the biggest power as a sovereign governing body.”

The panel where this royalist spokesperson expounded his reactionary views was “co-hosted by the conservative think-tank King Prajadhipok Institute and the National Reform Council (NRC)…”. The KPI boss and chairman of the military junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), Bowornsak Uwanno, who stated that this was not a KPI proposal but that it was “only a suggestion by Surapol.” He meant royalist Rangsit University’s Surapol Sriwitthaya.

Remarkably, even bizarrely, Surapol said “Chinese political philosophy” as an inspiration for his proposal. He cited republican Sun Yat-Sen, Montesquieu and King Prajadhipok in late 1920s.

One of the reasons cited for the 1932 revolution was complaints that Prajadhipok’s council “was stacked with top palace princes and [was] accused by critics of failing to impose any real reforms.”

You get the picture…. Reading the story shows that royalists are trying to “balance” a system that removes as much power as possible from elected politicians, demeaning votes and elections.