“Uneducate” them young

22 12 2016

This post is a companion piece to our recent post about education.

A Prachatai story states that the Royal Thai Army is training kindergarten students in nationalism, monarchy and military. All dictatorships believe that its important to get at the children and shape their thoughts and ideas as early as possible.

The most recent “training” was on 21 December 2016 in Kanchanaburi Province, where 180 kindergarten children and their teachers were unlucky enough to “participate in a program called ‘Land Defender Battalion’…”. The tiny kids were dressed in the uniform of Thailand’s murderous military and “instructed” in things like “military operations” – a photo with the article suggests they were taught how to throw grenades. The military may think this might come in handy when the tykes become fully-fledged anti-democrats and need to stir up a little “unrest” so the military can intervene again, and again and again.

They were also “taught” the so-called patriotic values that The Dictator thought up, which is a kindergarten-like mantra of “nation, religion and monarchy.” Needles to say, other fairy tales and bogus stories such as “sufficiency economy” were also crammed into the kids, filling them up with propaganda.

We guess these kinds of programs are what the military junta thinks amounts to “education.” It wants ultra-nationalists and ultra-royalists (who know their place in society).





Campaigning for the monarchy

5 05 2011

At the very time that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is demanding not a single mention of the monarchy in an election campaign, he is chairing a committee that spends billions promoting the monarchy as the symbol of the royalist’s Thailand. In other words, in a campaign against those considered republicans, who the regime identifies with the red shirts and Peua Thai Party. Abhisit proves once more that he could not lie straight in bed.

Prachatai reports that on 2 May, Abhisit chaired an Internal Security Operations Command meeting that discussed “activities to mobilize the public to protect the monarchy and national security.” Amongst the measures discussed were the ISOC-initiated “security hotline” – the “report a red shirt hotline” – that allegedly promotes “the public’s knowledge, understanding and awareness of security issues and impacts from various threats, and to seek their cooperation in monitoring and informing the authorities on the threats so that a mass coordination centre in each province can quickly solve problems.”

Just since April Fool’s Day, ISOC has despatched some 100 teams to propagandize on “the duties to protect the nation, religion, and monarchy.” This includes “the protection and worship of the monarchy…”.

ISOC promotes free concerts – and in some areas makes it compulsory to attend – to “promote patriotism and loyalty…”. It also “uses its community radio network for national security, consisting of 700 stations, to broadcast via the internet three times a day, focusing on the monarchy’s great gifts to the people and promoting patriotism and loyalty.”

We would assume that all of these stations are correctly registered, but that is a false assumption as these are pro-regime activities and are not subject to any laws, unlike opposition stations, which are harassed, censored and shut down.

ISOC continues the mass-mobilization of vigilantes, known as the Thai Volunteers to Protect the Country, recently “training 209 students of Srinakharinwirot University to produce educational materials to promote the appreciation of the royal kindness and loyalty, and organizing free concerts.”

The monarchy is only banned from politics for some parties. More of those double standards at work. A just which party would these vigilantes be promoting if there is an election?





Becoming Fascist

8 07 2010

When can we start to really call a society Fascist rather than use the term as some kind of throwaway epitaph? Perhaps it is when its rulers use right-wing nationalism to shape children into warriors for the cause. We know that the Thai state has done this for many decades, most closely Fascist in the 1910-20s and late 1930s.

We wonder about the report in the Bangkok Post, that says that “Ayudhya Allianz CP, in collaboration with King Rama IX, The Great Foundation, and National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec), is running the Thailand Animation Contest 2010 to boost animation skills in the younger generation.” State, private sector and monarchy getting together for this. Sounds reasonable enough, but there is more: “Patchara Taveechaiwattana, Chief Officer of Market Management and Corporate Affairs of Ayudhya Allianz CP Life, said this year’s topic is ‘Be grateful, treasure, and give back to our motherland’ to encourage young Thais to express their patriotism via animation.”

Patriotism. How’s that going to be expressed? Patchara says: “It is time for Thais to share ideas about solving problems peacefully. The basic idea is the importance of appreciating that Thailand is our motherland and has always been our place of happiness. The winning entry will be published on CD and distributed to schools nationwide.” They are asked to be creatively patriotic. Dr. Goebbels would easily recognize this.

And, to round off the sorry story, it seems only appropriate that the winners should “receive the trophy of Her Royal Highness Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and scholarships worth a total of 250,000 baht.”

If it isn’t Fascism, it’s on the road to it.





“Liberal” royalists serve hard line royalists

19 06 2010

PPT was not surprised by the announcement, reported in The Nation, that Prawase Wasi and Anand Punyarachun would lead a national reform effort involving “civil society.”

Describing Anand as a former prime minister  and Prawase as a social critic, they are to create “a mechanism that could help ease the problem of social inequality.” The Nation reports that “Anand will head a committee responsible for mapping out strategies for social reform, while Prawase will head a reform council and sit on the Anand panel…”.

Why these two? The Nation refers to both as “respected figures.” The claim is that when the two met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, they were “informed of their nominations by civil society to head the reform.”It is unclear what “civil society” means in this context – unless it is the yellow-shirted NGOs supporting PAD and the current regime – and the process involved seems opaque.

In fact, they are chosen for their image as “reformers” and their proximity to the palace and royalists.

Anand was twice appointed prime minister and has never faced an election for any public office, so the tradition of appointment for him continues.Both men are sometimes conceived of as “liberal royalists” because of their role in getting the 1997 Constitution accepted over considerable royalist and conservative opposition. That charter remained elite-oriented, but was arguably the most “liberal” of Thailand’s constitutions.

That said, since the 2006 coup, neither man has been particularly “liberal.” In fact, Anand has a record of conservative commentary on politics, participation – he has repeatedly denigrated voting – and neither has taken any noticeable liberal position on human rights or opposed deepening repression and censorship since the coup – which both apparently supported (indeed, Anand supported it and the current regime with considerable gusto).

Hence, what Abhisit is doing is appointing two people who he hopes retain “respect” in Thailand – PPT thinks his guess and that of the palace on this may be wrong – and who retain a smidgen of international credibility. The “soft” royalists are meant to “save” the “image” of the hard line,military-backed regime, just as Anand did for the military regime in 1991-2.

The two met with Abhisit – their preferred premier and favorite son – for e 90-minute meeting, and immediately called a press conference to discuss their new mission. And Anand immediately began with the first act of dissembling: “This is not a government project, but it is in line with government plans for national reconciliation…”.

Anand says: “Civil society will create a mechanism to be implemented by the government. This mechanism will be free from government domination or influence; otherwise, it would fail to win the public trust. The prime minister understands this principle and did not protest it.” This is actually pretty clear. Trusted royalists are being asked to come up with a “mechanism” that is seen to be non-government when, in fact, it will be window-dressing a repressive and murderous regime.

Prawase said the project “combines social and intellectual forces” – read this to include a swathe of yellow-shirted academics and self-anointed intellectuals who regularly prostitute themselves to repressive forces in Thailand.

Contradicting Anand, Prawase says: “This reform committee has nothing to do with the national reconciliation plan.” He argues that reform is the key, not reconciliation…”. But PPT doubts that any reform that challenges the power of the royalist ruling classes is possible. Look for half-measures, window-dressing and verbage from yet another elite-dominated political reform project. Recall the wonderful piece of elite nonsense in the 1997 Constitution that barred members of parliament who didn’t have a university degree and the way that workers were prevented from voting through a rejection of absentee voting.

Expect talk of “reform” and “social justice” says Prawase, adding that this “would lead to national unity and a sense of patriotism.” Immediately the process is compromised because patriotism for the ruling class means nation, religion and monarchy.

To make the point that this is to be royalist window dressing masquerading as “reform,” the two claim that: “In four months, there may be measures to help reduce social inequality. But some complicated issues require a longer time, such as reforming the justice system, because it involves many agencies, such as the police…”.





A country for old men?

22 09 2009

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With so much happening in Thailand’s politics in the past few weeks, it has been difficult to keep up. Seeing the bigger picture is a challenge.

Following our retrospective on Thailand three years after the 2006 palace-military coup, where we attempted to be positive, we now offer some observations regarding the current situation.

We begin with the police chief debacle. Why has this appointment been so drawn out and so conflicted? Of course, there are the related views that Thaksin Shinawatra controls the police or that the police support Thaksin. Another view is that there was a tug-of-war going on between coalition partners. There is truth in both perspectives. However, PPT suggests that there is more to this dispute.

Reports suggest that Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda (b. 1920) is at work. We won’t go into great detail for Bangkok Pundit has collected some of the comment on the police chief saga and most especially on the latest debates on who should get the job, including from ASTV/Manager and the Bangkok Post (17 September 2009: “New twist in police drama”) where there were guarded comments “new influential players.”

Police General Jumpol Manmai, the “alternative” candidate is known to be close to Prem and The Nation (17 September 2009: “Top Cop : Deadlock remains”) had stated that Jumpol “is known to have very strong backing outside the Police Commission, and lobbying was said to have reached fever pitch in the past few days.”

So is it Prem who is lobbying? Probably. Why? We suggest it is because, for some years, the palace and Privy Council have been trying to get increased control over the legal system. There has been a heightened urgency to this in the battle to root out Thaksin and his “regime.” Retired judges have been brought onto the Privy Council.

In what has clearly been a deliberated strategy, five of the last seven appointments to the Privy Council have been from the courts. The odd ones out were Admiral Chumpol Patchusanont (Former Commander of the Royal Thai Navy) and General Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed after he left the army and stepped down to be premier appointed by the military and then went back to the Privy Council when that guest appearance ended.

The former judges on the Privy Council are: Sawat Wathanakorn (appointed 18 July 2002 and a Former Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court); Santi Thakral (15 March 2005, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); Ortniti Titamnaj (16 August 2007, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); Supachai Phungam (8 April 2008, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); and Chanchai Likitjitta (8 April 2008, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice and Minister of Justice). That so many judges are appointed send a clear message regarding intent. The king’s speeches to judges confirm the palace’s intentions. That such links to the judiciary have been put to use in the battle against Thaksin is seen in the ample evidence of meddling in the courts.

The palace has also been keen to have its people at the top of the police. In recent years, Police General Seripisut Temiyavet was said to be a palace favorite. When the military took over in 2006, Seri was made acting and then Police Commissioner and became a member of the junta’s Council for National Security.

At about the same time, long-time palace favorite Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn, once the Chief of the Royal Court Police for the Thai royal family, was put in charge of a review of the police force. At the time, this was reported as an attempt to clean up the notoriously corrupt force and to break Thaksin’s alleged political hold over it. As late as just a week or so ago, the Democrats had Vasit look into corruption in the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.

Michael Montesano says this of Vasit: “Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.” His own background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remains a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief.

Vasit is 79 or 80 (thanks to a reader for this information), been “retired” for years, but keeps popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. For examples of his royalism and extreme views, see here and here.

Meanwhile, over at the Democrat Party, at present it seems that chief adviser Chuan Leekpai (b. 1938) is the power behind Abhisit. In recent years, Chuan has been increasingly outspoken in support of Prem. In recent days, Chuan has become the link between Prem and the government. For example, just a few days ago, as PAD fired up on Preah Vihear, Prem became involved, with the Bangkok Post reporting that “Gen Prem is reportedly concerned about the possibility of tensions spinning out of control if it is not attended to properly. A source said former supreme commander Gen Mongkol Ampornpisit, one of Gen Prem’s closest aides, paid a visit to Chuan Leekpai, the former prime minister and chief adviser of the ruling Democrat Party, at the party’s headquarters in August, to convey Gen Prem’s concern over the border developments.” The Post considers that Prem’s concern nudged Abhisit to send Foreign Minister Kasit to arrange a broadcast “assuring the Thai public that the country has not yet lost a single inch of land area in regard to the Preah Vihear dispute.”

As PPT shown in recent postings, Abhisit has been promoting increasingly nationalist and royalist causes. We won’t detail all of this again, but it is clear that Abhisit is not stupid. His emphasis on right-wing, conservative and nationalist strategies is a reflection of the views of his strongest backers. We see this backing as involving Chuan, Prem and the palace more generally. It seems Abhisit doesn’t have much support within his own party, so this backstopping, is keeping him in his position, has to be acknowledged. So Abhisit, with the support of important and highly conservative and royalists, adopts measures that hark back to a darker past.

Of course, the recently launched project called “Thai Unity” reflects the views king (b. 1927) and currently in hospital. His call for “unity” is a conservative refrain heard since the days when the king feared he might lose his throne to communists.

Abhisit’s calls to nationalism and patriotism may seem anachronistic and even dim-witted but they are an accurate reflection of the fact that the conservatives are bereft of new ideas. Hence, we have loyalist Anand Punyarachun (b. 1932) promoting nonsense like the interview with Stephen B. Young, the “Patronizing White Man With Degree Reassures Thai Elites With Unexamined Rhetoric” upon Thailand and believing that he makes sense and has something to say. What he actually says is that these old men haven’t a clue what the new Thailand is about.

The result is that all they can do is fall back on projects that are emblematic of the military-authoritarian governments of past generations.

Related, the huge effort to protect Prem in recent days is also to be understood as a part of this conservative project (see here and here).

Add in the remarkably expensive efforts to “protect the monarchy” through the use of lese majeste and computer crimes laws and the debt to the elders adds up to a government that is becoming increasingly conservative, more repressive and is normalizing authoritarianism.

While PPT points to this authoritarian slide, we also celebrate and support the courageous struggles of those within Thailand who continue to speak out even as they are watched by the current surveillance state. In 1997, Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi urged those outside Burma to “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” Comparing the current waves of royalism and the increasingly repressive Democrat Party-led state to the Burmese military regime would be factually incorrect and politically dangerous, yet there seems a determination to take Thailand back.

Thailand is now at a precipice between, as we noted in our coup anniversary post, the potential for deepening democratization, and the potential for unbridled repression at the hands of state, para-state, and royal actors. It is important to continually observe and criticize repression, and call for justice – especially for those jailed by repressive laws and those awaiting trial. A democratic Thailand will be a place where these old authoritarian men have a place, but it won’t be a place that celebrates their anachronistic ideas through government programs that enhance repression.

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