Challenging monarchism II

1 11 2020

A couple of days ago Thai PBS wrote that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had “warned anti-monarchy students not to do anything deemed improper or that could offend … the King and Queen as they preside over the second day of the graduation ceremony at Thammasat University…”.

The Dictator was spooked by students promising a “big surprise.” He babbled on about “a long-standing tradition for the Monarch to present degrees to new graduates…”.

The Bangkok Post followed up with its usual pro-regime buffalo manure, using the headline “Army keeps eye on Thammasat University ceremony,” implying the Army is a benign force rather than a murderous outfit under the command of royalist dolts. And we guess that’s the point.

It states that The Dictator’s response was to bring in “[m]ilitary personnel … to provide security at Thammasat…”. They weren’t needed as the “big surprise” was that nothing happened except that the regime got spooked.

But, there was a boycott by students of the “long-standing tradition for the Monarch to present degrees to new graduates.” Only half of the graduating students signed up and less than half turned up for the rehearsal. A rehearsal is required so that all the ceremonial BS that goes with mechanical processes of receiving the certificate from the king goes off without a hitch.

The Post tries to play the boycott down, stating:

According to Thammasat, about 51% of the university’s graduates have registered to receive degrees from His Majesty the King — a similar proportion to most years.

During the rehearsal period, many graduates who boycotted were more interested in receiving their degrees from cutout figures of anti-royalists Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

Clipped from Khaosod

Khaosod adds better detail which corrects the Post’s pathetic reporting and editing.

Using the same Isra news agency report that the Post (mis)used, Khaosod quotes “Thammasat vice rector Chalie Charoenlarpnopparut [who] attributed the low attendance to the ongoing protests, along with other reasons.” He is reported to have stated:

“It may be related to the current political situation,” Chalie was quoted as saying. “There’s a campaign against the ceremony. Some people may find it inconvenient to take coronavirus tests prior to attending the ceremony, while others may not be available due to a short notice given by the university.”

Television news reporting confirmed low numbers attending and also showed the king and queen both being awarded honorary doctorates. Queen Suthida has now received dozens of honorary degrees over a few weeks..

As the report notes, there has been opposition to degree ceremonies in the past, but these have been isolated and without much publicity. Most recently, there was criticism of the high fees paid, which were reportedly handed over to the presiding royal.

Many graduates find the rigid codes that have been implemented for the royals to be farcical. Khaosod quotes one graduate as saying she “found the ceremony, in which attendees have to conform to a strict dress code from head to toe, to be oppressive.” She added: “I don’t want to attach my success to the university or the establishment. I want my graduation to be a chance where I celebrate with my friends and family rather than giving in to nonsense rules.”

Another complained: “I don’t want to sit there for half a day and follow the ridiculous dress code, in which shoes must have no laces and even a banknote is not allowed to be brought in.”

These events were invented as a way for the monarch to establish a “relationship” with graduates and the middle class that “administers” the country. That connection seems strained to breaking point.





Updated: Kids and their influences

12 09 2020

Activists report that, a couple of days ago, the authorities had gone after a 17-year-old high school student over “her role in a recent pro-democracy protest in Ratchaburi province.” It is said she made a speech about education reform.

She was one of five students targeted for protesting on 1 August. It isn’t clear if they have been charged.

Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkiarti claimed: “This is the first instance of pursuing a case against a high schooler…. Likely the first government in [Thai] history to exercise their power in this way.”

The group were summoned for holding an “illegal protest,” despite the fact that the:

Ratchaburi activist group said that they had already asked for and received permission from police officers onsite to hold the protest. Indeed, even the official Ratchaburi Police Facebook posted on Aug. 1 photos of their preparation of 127 officers to take care of the protest’s security.

Such police actions are a common tactic as the regime seeks to dampen support for the student-led protests.

Clipped from Khaosod

Meanwhile, Reuters reports on the “social media influencers.” It refers to the images of exiled academics Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. While the two are quite different characters, both “have openly criticized the monarchy,” and that seems to be what is attractive for the student demonstrators who have repeatedly used their images and memes from Pavin’s Royalist Marketplace.

Students say that it has been their discussion of the monarchy that has provided critical information that has been difficult to come by in Thailand. It is their exile that gives them this influence.

The students’ 10-point demand for reform of the monarchy is said to be “based on a reform proposal by Somsak, which he wrote a decade ago and revised and published on Facebook last year…”. That the two “have been singled out for attack by [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]” adds to their influence.

The report says there are more than 100 Thais who have gone into exile since the 2014 military coup. Some of them who were exiled in Laos and Cambodia have been “disappeared” and others have turned up dead.

In addition to these post-2014 exiles, there are others who fled during the years of political conflict. Together, several of the exiles have maintained a constant criticism of the monarchy.

While some, like Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubon Ratchathani University points to Royalist Marketplace as the current movement’s “real catalyst,” this ignores too much. After all, Royalist Marketplace built on a tremendous and growing anti-monarchism among the young.

Many of those who went into exile did so because of lese majeste and had spoken out on the monarchy before their exile. The students grew up under the junta’s reign of lese majeste terror that sought to stamp out growing anti-monarchism. That repression and the effort to enforce idolization of the previous and current king was part of the eye-opening experience for many of these students. As they have sought new knowledge and have shared it, the anti-monarchism of exiles has been important.

Update: Prachatai reports that teachers are also policing the thoughts of youngsters. It states “a 16-year-old student in Bangkok was summoned by a teacher after making a speech at the student protest on 5 September. She was asked to give the names of schoolmates who joined the protest and not to make any speeches again out of concern for the school’s reputation.” It adds: “Student harassment by teachers is one of the lingering problems in the Thai education system.”





The king and his antics II

11 09 2020

Thailand’s king and his antics in Europe have attracted plenty of unfavorable comment, The most recent is from The Statesman. While we think that most of PPT’s readers will know all of the facts and antics recounted, we consider the article by Francis Pike, with our added illustrations, worth reproducing in full:

The depraved rule of Thailand’s Caligula king
Protestors are risking it all to take on the monarchy

Fu Fu

The Roman emperor Caligula was renowned for his extravagance, capricious cruelty, sexual deviancy and temper bordering on insanity. Most famously, before he was assassinated, he planned to appoint his favourite horse as a consul. This is probably a legend. But King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the Thai throne in 2016, adopted Caligula’s playbook for real. In 2009 the then crown prince promoted his pet miniature poodle Foo Foo to the post of air chief marshal, in which capacity he served until his death in 2015, aged 17. Foo Foo’s cremation was preceded by four days of formal Buddhist mourning.

The poodle first came to the attention of the general public when a video was released showing him eating cake from the hand of Vajiralongkorn’s third wife, Princess Srirasmi, while she cavorted in a G-string at the dog’s lavish birthday party. At a 2009 gala dinner in honour of Vajiralongkorn, Foo Foo was kitted out head to paw in black-tie dress and, according to a WikiLeaks-revealed account by US ambassador, Ralph Boyce, ‘jumped onto the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own’.

When on parade the new king wears crisp, snowy-white, gold-braided, Ruritanian military uniforms or elaborate Thai regalia that make him look like a Buddhist temple in human form. In downtime his dress code can at best be described as kinky: trainers and low-hung jeans paired with the skimpiest of crop tops. His back and arms are festooned with possibly fake tattoos.

Vajiralongkorn is famously lecherous. Indeed, in his youth, Thai aristocrats would pack off their daughters to Europe to get them out of his clutches. Happily for Bangkok’s elite, the crown prince’s tastes, after his divorce from his first wife, an aristocratic relative of his mother, were consistently low-rent. His second wife was an aspiring actress, albeit of the soft-porn variety.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

The marriage did not last. After Vajiralongkorn put posters all over the palace accusing her of adultery, she fled to London and later to the US with her children — apart from a daughter who was kidnapped and brought back to Bangkok. The daughter was elevated to the rank of princess, but her mother and brothers had their diplomatic passports and royal titles revoked by the crown prince. The Thai public was left horrified by his treatment of his family.

Another marriage followed in 2001, to the aforementioned Srirasmi, though it was not publicly announced until 2005 when the crown prince, by then in his early fifties, declared it was time to settle down. How-ever, in 2014 he stripped his wife of her royal titles because of her relatives’ corruption. Srirasmi’s parents were jailed for two and a half years each for lèse-majesté.

Sineenat

Five years later, on 1 May last year, and just three days before his official coronation, Vajiralongkorn married for the fourth time, to Suthida Tidjai, a former Thai Airways hostess, giving her the title of Queen Consort. The Thai people were dumbfounded when just two months later, the new king named his mistress, Major General Sineenat Wongvajira-pakdi, as his Royal Noble Consort; it was the first time this form of address had been used for more than 100 years. The new relationship lasted three months. On 21 October, Sineenat was stripped of all her titles and disappeared from public view, supposedly for being disrespectful to the queen.

The king’s extravagance is no less remarkable than his private life. A monarchy that was impoverished in the postwar period had, by some estimates, increased its wealth to between $40 billion and $60 billion by last year. Most of the wealth resides in land; ownership of some four square miles of central Bangkok makes the Thai monarchy the world’s wealthiest by a large margin. Overseas holdings include a major stake in the Kempinski hotel group.* Indeed, for years Vajiralongkorn has spent months on end at the Munich Kempinski with his harem and servants. In addition, he owns a mansion on Lake Starnberg to the southwest of Munich. In spite of his huge allowances as crown prince, affording him ownership of two Boeing 737s, it is thought that he had to resort to begging funds from the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to cover his gambling debts.

Why do King Vajiralongkorn’s private shenanigans matter? Royal families throughout Europe have long weathered sexual and financial scandals. Juan Carlos may have had to step down as king and go into exile, but the Spanish monarchy has survived. So too has the Belgian monarchy after the former King Albert II admitted to a love child. There is no suggestion that Prince Andrew, cherubic by comparison with King Vajiralongkorn, will bring down the British royals because of the Epstein imbroglio. But the key difference is that, unlike Thailand, all those are constitutional monarchies.

Bhumibol and Ananda

In Thailand the monarchy is integral to the country’s real power structures. This was a 70-year legacy of Vajiralongkorn’s father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bhumibol’s reign started under a cloud following the killing of his 20-year-old predecessor, King Ananda Mahidol, by a single shot to the head with a Colt .45 pistol. After a questionable trial two servants were executed for the murder, though it is widely suspected that the king was accidently shot by Bhumibol, his brother. For the first decade of his rule King Bhumibol was entirely powerless and lived under the rule of the quasi-dictator Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram, who, during the second world war, had allied Thailand with the Axis powers.

Bhumibol, Sirikit, Prem

But gradually, as Thailand inched towards a democracy, Bhumibol won the adoration of the Thai people thanks to his moderating influence and good works, such as paying for medical facilities for the poor. His political power increased. In 1952 he bravely refused to preside over ceremonies for Phibunsongkhram’s new militaristic constitution.** However, Bhumibol’s finest moment came in 1981 when he faced down the ‘April Fools’ Day’ coup d’état by fleeing Bangkok and raising the Thai royal standard at the military base at Khorat, where General Prem emerged as the new military strongman. There followed what is now known as the ‘Network Monarchy’ era, a coalition of military interests and those of the financial and industrial elite based in Bangkok. As a former American deputy-president at Thailand’s Bank of Asia noted: ‘Thai politics has been about dividing up the pie among the elite.’ At the centre of the web stood the Thai monarchy. Elected democratic institutions remained largely an adornment to this oligarchic structure.

In 2001 a business chancer and mobile phone billionaire, Thaksin Shinawatra, later the owner of Manchester City FC, swept to power with his Thai Rak Thai party promising a populist agenda including reform of health and education. Much to the chagrin of the ‘Network Monarchy’, Thaksin won a sweeping electoral victory again in 2005. Bhumibol, who loathed Thaksin, gave tacit support to the coup that first removed him and then sent him into exile two years later. Until his death in 2016, Bhumibol thwarted, either by military or judicial coup, the democratic will of the Thai people, who since 2001 have consistently voted into power Thaksin-backed parties and their proxy leaders. Bhumibol’s historic reputation, albeit tarnished by his thwarting of the democratic will, became an important pillar of resistance to Thaksin’s outsiders. After Bhumibol’s death in 2016, the critical power of the monarchy was left in the hands of his dissolute playboy son.

Will King Vajiralongkorn redeem his dire youthful reputation and do a ‘Prince Hal’, moving to the path of royal righteousness? The signs so far are not good. Just over a week ago, the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat suddenly re-emerged with no information other than an inventive Royal Gazette announcement that ‘It will be regarded that she was never stripped of the royal consort title, military ranks and royal decorations’.

More important than this saga of extra-judicial fiat, the king intervened in the drafting of a new constitution by the military junta in 2017 to grant himself new powers over the appointment of regents. In addition, the new constitution asserted the king’s rights to ‘manage’ during any constitutional crisis. Given that Thailand has had 17 military coups since 1932, this is not trivial. Two crack regiments have also been put under his direct control. As the political exile and professor at Kyoto University Pavin Chachavalpongpun has noted, the king ‘is basically running the country now, though he’s not doing that like his father did through moral authority. He’s using fear to solidify his position and to take command.’

It is therefore interesting that in the past month, demonstrations of up to 10,000 people have called for the powers of the king to be curtailed. Protestors have defied Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté laws — which can incur up to 15 years’ imprisonment — to chant ‘Down with feudalism’. It remains to be seen whether the protests are a straw in the wind of future political instability. The new king’s attempt to transition from a monarch with influence within the ‘Network Monarchy’ to a monarch who rules is fraught with danger. But at least Vajiralongkorn is unlikely to come to Caligula’s sticky end; the king has a ready-made home for an exile in his beloved Bavaria.

*For discussions that reflect changes in ownership, see here and here.

**The refusal to attend was a fit of pique and self-interest.





With several updates: Royalists, recycling and ratbag rightists

31 08 2020

Watching the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group “rally” on Sunday was reminiscent of some of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee events. There was some yellow, some whistles, old head and arm bands, and the white, flag-themed t-shirts all seemed recycled from Suthep Thaugsuban’s efforts to overthrow an elected government and/or provide the political space for a military coup.

Thai PBS reports that mostly aged royalists rallied in support of the absent monarch and the junta’s constitution and to demand strong legal measures against student and pro-democracy activists. It was a full bag of rightist demands, recycled from earlier movements going back to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the military-backed rightists of earlier decades.

Former Democrat Party member, former Action Coalition for Thailand member, and long-term yellow shirt Warong Dechgitvigrom led the rally, and denied he planned and “confrontation” with rallying students and other pro-democracy groups. He did not say that his assigned task is to rally support from the right and royalists and to provide a potential base for further military-backed intervention, should that be deemed necessary by the powers that watch over him and his ilk.

Like his predecessors, Warong blamed all of Thailand’s “troubles” on “politicians,” accusing them of “plunging Thailand into deeper political divide, separating the old and new generations.”

His claim was that his ragtag ratbags had:

come together to protect the [m]onarchy, to retain the Thai identity, to do away with all forms of monopoly, to attain career equality for all Thai people, through the application of technology, and to enhance national prosperity via a sufficiency economy.

He also called for the “Education Minister and all university rectors” repress the student-based activism by not allowing space for rallies and to stop “lecturers, who may harbor anti-[m]onarchy leanings, from ‘brainwashing’ their students.” In this, he is recycling rightism from the 1970s.

In addition, Thai Pakdee planned to recycle rightist demands on the Japanese Embassy to stop Pavin Chachavalpongpun criticizing the monarchy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s Jatuporn Promphan, who has sounded rather royalist of late, said Thai Pakdee had “an extreme right-wing agenda, similar to a combination of the former Nawaphol, Red Guard and Village Scout groups.” We are not sure how Red Guards get into the mix, but his reference to Thai rightist heritage is apt.

The recycling of rightists and their rhetoric is dangerous, often leading to the unexplained/uninvestigated bashing of regime critics, probably by rightists working with the authorities.

It is dangerous also for regime and monarchy critics who live in exile. Rightist rhetoric gives cover and justification for the several enforced disappearances in Laos and Cambodia. These are very likely black ops by the Thai military operating on orders from the regime and the palace.

These acts of violence have been meant as “warnings” to anti-regime and anti-monarchists, to instill fear and to silence them.

Getting away with abduction, torture and murder in “brother authoritarian” regimes is relatively easily arranged, often a quid pro quo for similar operations by those regimes in Thailand.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

But it seems that this is not enough. The regime’s panic about anti-monarchy exiles in Japan, the USA and Europe is heightened, probably provoked by recent activism targeting the king in Germany.

The Nation reports on recent efforts to threaten those overseas based critics. Jom Petpradap, a “journalist living in exile in the United States has accused the Thai government of making veiled threats to his life and safety.” He has received a “package sent to him from Thailand [that] contained threatening materials” that made it clear that he is under surveillance and being followed.

Other exiles and outspoken monarchy critic Andrew MacGregor Marshall have reported similar packages and/or stalking.

Rightists in Thailand are also recycling Alt-Right inspired propaganda.

Thisrupt has a limited report on this development, noting that these conspiracy-based “revelations” of “plots” against the right’s Thailand mirror efforts in the 1970s to link student movements to international communism and efforts to overthrow the monarchy.

Something called “Thailand Vision” has been claiming a “plot,” backed by the USA – claimed to be promoting a “color revolution” in Thailand – and funded by Thai and international billionaires and capitalists. Like racists and rightists elsewhere, George Soros is identified as one of the culprit. Soros is remembered by Thai rightists as a culprit in the 1997 economic crisis. But his real “crime” is support for liberal causes.

In an elaborate concoction, Thailand Vision actually recycles claims made in earlier years by a self-exiled American, yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist who has been writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche. and with connections to Alex Jones and much of the anti-imperialist alt-right.

In earlier times, it was Thaksin Shinawatra who was the “culprit” in motivating the international liberal/globalist conspiracy to bring down the monarchy. Now it is Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and international capitalists “behind” NGOs and international “co-conspirators” like the German newspaper Bild (for its tabloid journalism n the king in Germany), Business Insider, PixelHELPER, Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even Netflix!

In Thailand, “co-conspirators” include almost all of the NGOs and other organizations that are not rightist and sufficiently royalist, including the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Thai Volunteer Service, Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL), Union for Civil Liberty, Prachatai, 101.world and The Isaan Record.

This might all sound bizarre, but in the recent past, such conspiracy nonsense has gained traction among former leftist yellow shirts like the late Kraisak Choonhavan and the regime/junta.

Recycling propaganda is about promoting notions of “threat” and mobilizing rightist reaction.

Update 1: We missed a Khaosod story about the ultras on Sunday. As well as one rally speaker – the youngest – seeming to incite violence and, later, calling for military dictatorship, coupled with a “Down with Democracy” screech, “speakers dish[ed] out conspiracy theories that implicate the governments of the United States and other Western countries in the ongoing anti-government protests.” Celebrity Hatai Muangboonsri said onstage: “Western powers want us to be divided. They encouraged a mindset that hates the pillars of our country…”. The reaction from the US Embassy was predictable. There’s also a strain of pro-China agitation from the ultras, who have mostly opposed Hong Kong democracy protesters.

Update 2: Two stories at The Nation deserve some attention. The first is about a street sweeper attacked outside the Thai Pakdee rally at the Thai-Japanese Stadium in Din Daeng. He was allegedly beaten up “because he was wearing a red shirt.” The story states: “It is assumed that the guard of Thai Pakdee royalist group may have assumed that Sukhon [the man beaten] had worn red to show he was associated with the anti-coup red-shirt movement.” The second story is a most unconvincing “denial” by Warong. Yellow social media is denigrating the cleaner as a “red buffalo” who got what he deserved as a Thaksin supporter. Fascism is on the march.

Update 3: In another story at The Nation, Student Union of Thailand spokesperson Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul insisted that the only people “behind” the student protests were the students themselves. She was logical in pointing out that the use of social media to raise political awareness among students and the young generation means that the students have a lot of supporters: “It wakes up many people. There are a lot of people who think like us.” She added: “It is human nature that if we know that many people share our views, then we have the courage to speak out … our fear is lessened…”. She added that she doesn’t even know all of the groups who associate themselves with Free People. Unlike Russian-paid trolls and yellow-shirted dolts, she’s brave, smart and appears (rather too) innocent.

Update 4: We added a link to Update 1 and corrected a point there.

Update 5: The Nation reports that Warong has “denied that the 15-year-old who posted a message on Facebook Live encouraging dictatorship was a member of his group.” He declared:  “he is not our member. I don’t know. Go ask him. He’s just a kid”.

Clipped from Khaosod

As the above picture shows, Warong is dissembling. He’s shown pulling a Thai Pakdee shirt over the lad’s yellow shirt. He’s applauded and lauded. Warong is trying to mislead people because he doesn’t want Thai Pakdee portrayed as it really is: an undemocratic, pro-military, pro monarchy mob that promotes the dictatorship.





Lug nuts and dipsticks II

27 08 2020

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has sounded daft and predictably reactionary when he babbled about Facebook. His commentary focused on “the Royalist Marketplace page on Facebook operated by Pavin Chachavalpongpun and the Facebook page of Somsak Jeamteerasakul, both of which contain plenty of sensitive issues related to the monarchy.”

“Sensitive” is royalist-speak for anything that is truthful and critical of the long-absent monarch.

As Thai Enquirer reports, he told reporters that student activists “were being led, in-part, by anti-establishment dissidents living abroad who wished to harm the country.”

That report explains that the general’s “statement echoes those of the army chief and other members of the cabinet who say that the students were being guided by a mysterious third hand while other conservative media figures has blamed the United States and the CIA for funding and influencing the students.”

Unlike the students, the geriatrics are lazy, relying on yellow-shirted social media for banal accusations by ultra-royalists and bloggers aligned mad “anti-imperialist” and “leftist” American conspiracy theorists hosted by Russian disruptive media.

In recent days, other geriatric royalists have given their “advice” to students. The Bangkok Post had an interview with failed politician, junta posterior polisher and appointed cabinet member Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Minister Anek Laothamatas.

He deems that the students are ignorant and proceeds to provide a “historical primer” on earlier student movements in Thailand. His paternalism continues as he dismisses their protests as a function of age rather than knowledge and justified political despair. He denigrates them: “The students of today don’t know very much about the past. They have been galvanised by a rather one-sided information passed to them in the social media.”

Presumably, when Anek joined the communists in the jungles, he was similarly dull, led about by the nose, and hotheaded rather than informed and, then, frightened and angry about military massacres. But, no, his arrogance and self-righteousness shines through: “my generation,” he asserts, knew the “real world.”

Like his geriatric leaders, Anek rejects any notion that the students “joined the anti-government protests of their own free will and that they were not led by any political elements or politicians.” Impossible!  Without evidence, he declares “it can’t be denied that some people might try to pull strings.”

His real point is that the students are not “respectful.” Like his yellow-shirted buddies, he considers “they have crossed the monarchy and customs lines, which many people regard as a violation. It’s a blatantly offensive act which might be met with a backlash.” His rhetoric invites rightists to provide the backlash.

Anek then wanders about, praising the general and polishing his posterior.

Thai PBS has another report on ultra-royalist Warong Dechgitvigrom, who also has “advice” for the students he is agitating against, or as the report has it “leading a crusade against anti-government protesters and to protect the country’s most revered institution.”

“Most revered institution” is ultra-speak for the monarchy and the monarch.

The yellowman is apoplectic: “The father of the country is being harassed.… How can Thai people stand by?”

“Father” is ultra-speak for the king. Rarely has Vajiralongkorn had this moniker, previously used for his dead father to instill paternalism.

Warong “has countered these calls with three demands of its own – no dissolution of Parliament, maximum legal action against anyone who seeks to topple the monarchy, and no change to the Constitution except via the proper channels.”

Like Anek, he then rambles about his experience, but he’s more outspoken: “When I was president of Chiang Mai University Student Union, I once wanted to overthrow the monarchy like you, brothers and sisters. But the masterminds were senior students linked with the Communist Party of Thailand…”.

He seems to believe that he was gullible as a student and, therefore, today’s students must be as impressionable and dumb as he was. Perhaps he should reflect on his own conversion and wonder why it is that he has needed an ideological prop throughout his life.

Reflecting the view expressed by Anek and paternalist geriatrics, Warong believes student activists are misled by social media and “fake news.” And, he confirms that there must be people leading the students astray: “scriptwriters are preparing speeches for the protest leaders…”.

The ultras and the regime are petrified. They fear that their corrupt paternalist system is being shaken to its roots. This is why they are even willing to support a king who appears to be more of a nation hater/chung chat than any student activist. After all, he demonstrates his disdain for the nation, sucking up its taxpayer money but living in self-imposed exile, not unlike a fugitive Red Bull scion.





Updated: Lug nuts and dipsticks I

26 08 2020

A reader has provided us with a letter that was given to the Japanese Embassy by a bunch of ultra-royalists yesterday. We haven’t seen a report on this event, but they seem mainly supporting the regime’s attacks on Facebook, which appears to be entirely about Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s wildly popular Royalist Marketplace. This causes them to call for Japan to deport Pavin back to Thailand or for the Japanese government to censor him.

There’s also a Thai-language version where some of the several errors in the English, including the king’s name and Pavin’s university. The English version does, however, display the  deranged thinking that flows from ultra-royalism. And, as in previous ultra-royalist/rightist campaigns, pressuring foreign governments is a part of broadening political hysteria.

As the broader yellow-shirted movement has been doing for some time, it is seen that the ultras blame Pavin for leading students astray. It seems that the aged paternalists are unable to conceive that any Thai can think for themselves. They perhaps draw that conclusion from their own acceptance of and belief in palace and regime propaganda.

Statement

People of Nation, Religion and Monarchy, No. 1

Subject: Friendship between Thais and Japanese People

To: H.E. Japanese Prime Minister

Thailand is under the democratic system with the King as spiritual leader of Thai people. All Thais adore and respect our King above all things so it becomes our longtime culture, the same as the Japanese people do. H.M. the King Vachiraklao Chaoyuhua is kind to every group of Thai people, he is the center of spirit and unity for all Thais. At present, it is known that Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Thai who has committed criminal charge escaped the arrest warrant to Japan and uses face-book under the the name of “Pavin Chachavalpongpun”, “Royalist Market Place”, and posted false articles of lese majesties against the King and the royal families. He posted indictment, and ideology to students with improper words, rude and detest and persuaded students to protest the King and the royal families. He also gave an interview to foreign media that made all Thais felt uneasy to let this man hurt the King’s feeling. Thais felts uncomfortable that you let the man lives happily in your country and to protect this Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun to commit such activities till now.

As a representative of Thai people who love the Royal institute and do not want anyone to hurt the feeling of the King, the same as the Japanese people do toward your Emperor who is your spiritual leader – in case you let this commitment to be continued it will affect the longtime Thai and Japanese friendship from the activities of this Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun. We hope you will understand the feeling of Thai people and we request you as following:

1. To let your government use authority to immediately stop the lese majesties commitment of Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and deport him back to Thailand to face charges in Thailand. This is for keeping good relations between Thai and Japanese people.

2. To remove Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun from the post of teacher in Tokyo University and not to let him no longer act as lecturer in the institute.

3. Your government should act faithfully to solve the problem and not to support this activities of Mr. Pavin Chavhavalpongpun, and report us every step of your procedure.

4. All Thai people hope that our request would get your response and we will keep waiting for your proceeding, and would take some action if we did not get anything from you.

Hope to get your cooperation from your Government

People of Nation, Religion and Monarchy

25 August 2563

Update: There’s brief mention of the ultras’ call for deporting Pavin here.





Updated: Protecting regime/protecting monarch

25 08 2020

If it was needed, two reports today again demonstrate how the political fortunes of the regime and the monarch are tied together.

One report is of student activist Panupong  Jadnok, arrested for (we think) a third time while “protesting in Rayong outside a market being visited by Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-o-cha.” Expecting Gen Prayuth and his cabinet to show up, “Rayong Mike” was protesting “a land reclamation scheme at Ban Phe municipality market when police showed up with an arrest warrant.” It seems the warrant was “issued by Thanyaburi Court over Mr Panupong’s role in the Aug 10 political gathering at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus…”. That’s when the 10 demands were issued for the monarchy to be made properly constitutional.

A second report is about Facebook’s capitulation to threats from the regime regarding Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s dissident Royalist Marketplace group. Facebook has geoblocked it for Thailand, claiming to be acting on legal requests from the regime: “Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.”

As can be seen in the above clip, even though only formed in April, the group had more than a million followers, and it may be assumed that most of these were young people in Thailand. This “demand” certainly makes a mockery of claims that the monarch is revered. Rather, he’s widely disliked.

But, this huge popularity and the sarcasm of the site caused the regime considerable angst.

Pavin responded, saying “Facebook had bowed to the military-dominated government’s pressure.” He added: “Our group is part of a democratisation process, it is a space for freedom of expression…. By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.”

According to Reuters, Facebook is reacting:

Facebook said on Tuesday it was planning to legally challenge the Thai government after being “compelled” to block access to the group.

“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”

Despite being blocked, always the entrepreneurial anti-monarchist, Pavin is said to have a “new group of the same name already had over 455,000 members on Tuesday.”

Update: For more on Royalist Marketplace, its blocking and the new site, see the excellent article at Prachatai.





Squashing anti-monarchy sentiment

19 08 2020

As mentioned in an update to our previous post, we considered the “light touch” by the regime to be a ruse. And so it is.

The Bangkok Post reports that “[a]rrest warrants have been issued for six activists who took part in a demonstration at which students issued a 10-point call for reform of the monarchy last week…”. This refers to the rally at Thammasat.

It seems that the charges are not about the demands for the reform of the monarchy but “for breaching internal security and measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus as well as computer crimes.”

Police “explained”:

Pathum Thani police chief Pol Maj Gen Chayut Marayat said on Wednesday the Thanya Buri Court approved the arrest warrants on Friday after police had conducted an investigation following complaints registered at Klong Luang police station.

Pol Maj Gen Chayut did not give details on who filed the charges with the police. Other charges can be filed against them later if police have evidence….

In addition, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who sent a video into the rally, is also causing the authorities worries:

The Ministry of Digital Economy will file a complaint against exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun for creating a Facebook group deemed critical of the monarchy, ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told Reuters. The group, called Royalist Marketplace, has more than one million members.

“We have filed a request to Facebook to delete the entire group, but the platform hasn’t been cooperative,” Mr Putchapong said. “So the ministry is now going to use the Computer Crime Act.”

Expect more as the regime seeks to squash anti-monarchy sentiment.





Updated: Defying regime, military and monarchy

11 08 2020

Some of the media seems flummoxed by the ongoing attacks on the regime and monarchy and are reverting to “form.”

Thai PBS, in reporting that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “feels uncomfortable with the rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus last night, during which some speakers touched on ‘sensitive issues*’,” promoted the story that the rally had “provoked widespread criticism of the University.”

Thammasat University appears to have panicked and has reportedly “offered an apology for the alleged transgression, which was blamed on non-student protesters.” It is said that “Dr. Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a vice rector of the university, said … he regretted any breaches of the law, allegedly committed by non-student protesters…”. We haven’t heard of any charges, so Prinya seems to have jumped the gun. He did say he had “attended the protest site from 7pm to 8pm … which he found to be orderly and peaceful.”

He added that he had later learned of alleged “breaches of the law” which he described as “some speakers had used some improper wording,” which it is claimed “provoked some public uproar.” From PPT’s survey of social media, the demonstration of 3,000 to 10,000 students (depending on source) also drew considerable public support.

Cod Satrusayang, in an opinion piece at Thai Enquirer sounds staggered that “[f]or the first time in my experience and perhaps the first time since the mid-70s, Thais were willing to address, confront and talks bout the institutions* that many had deemed too cherish and too sacred for so long.” We guess he might have missed the red shirt rallies in 2010. He says the large crowd of “students, workers, activists and everyday citizens cheered and applauded as leader after leader gave speech after speech about the need to transform the country into what could best be described as constitutional royalism.”

He makes some reasonable comments on why it has taken so long for a proper discussion of the monarchy and politics. But he then returns to form, sounding not that different from the military’s various claims of “plots,” claiming “cheerleaders [are] egging the students on to carry out their own grievances…”. He singles out Pavin Chachavalpongpun who “called in to talk about the monarchy and its role in Thai politics.” Cod seems to think that exiles have it easy and that they should be activists in Thailand. He seems to forget that several exiles have been  tortured, abducted, and murdered in exile and he neglects that going into exile is usually a last resort.

He goes further, declaring “what is wrong is cheerleading the students on, knowing full well how the Thai state has historically handled such situations, while not prepared to face any consequence of their own.” This is nonsense and potentially incites rightists and other royalists. And, we’d guess that most students involved would reject all notions that they are the dupes of others. In fact, that’s an ultra-royalist shibboleth. Perhaps Cod is pissed that it has been exiles who have, until now, been the only ones who could raise the very issues that the students now consider.

What was said at Thammasat. In an AP report at Khaosod that “[s]tudent leaders … delivered an unprecedented challenge to the country’s constitutional monarchy on Monday, strongly criticizing the king and demanding changes to lessen what they believe is its anti-democratic nature.” It states:

… the protest’s direction turned when a student went on stage, read out the 1932 proclamation that ended the absolute monarchy in what was then called Siam, and declared that in fact it lives on despite the country’s nominal status as a democracy.

A number of speakers then took the stage and detailed perceived problems with Thailand’s monarchy….

Many in the crowd cheered, clapped and flashed three-fingered salute that has been adopted by Thailand’s pro-democracy movement. Yet others in the audience appeared stunned by the content of the speeches.

The report notes that “[a]iring their grievances in direct language normally expressed in whispers, the speakers criticized the king’s wealth, his influence and the fact that he spends almost all his time in Germany, not Thailand.”** Arnon Nampa told the students: “We shouldn’t have to speak using symbols. Direct discussion is best. That’s what I think, so I choose to speak directly, out of respect to my own dignity, to that of the listeners and of the monarchy…”.

Demands were made:

… The rally ended with another leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, reading out a manifesto with a list of 10 demands for reforming the institution of the monarchy.

Among them were separation of the king’s personal wealth from the royal palace’s vast fortune held by the Crown Property Bureau; forbidding the monarchy from playing any role in politics or endorsing any military coups; abolishing the excessive glorification of the monarchy; and investigating the deaths of critics of the monarchy.

Reflecting on the trepidation of people like Cod, the AP report observes: “Such open defiance of the taboos around speaking ill of the monarchy will infuriate ultra-conservatives and the military, who are unlikely to let it go without a response.” All the more so when activists announced that “a new protest would be held on Wednesday — the Queen Mother’s birthday…”. The king is likely to be in town as well.

*Royalist terms for monarchy and, sometimes, the monarchy.

**The king is scheduled to return to Thailand tonight, for another visit of just a few hours.

Update: The rally planned for today (Wednesday) has been postponed. The special king’s TG taxpayer flight is due in Bangkok just before 8 am today. His daughter, Sirivannavari, has arrived after a delayed TG flight (scheduled as a repatriation flight) from Frankfurt; it hasn’t just been the king and queen swanning about in Europe.





Military, palace, regime and repression

6 06 2020

With the enforced disappearance of military and monarchy critic Wanchalerm Satsaksit, it seems appropriate to post, in full, a recent story from The Economist. It seems to PPT that the “disappearance” of the activist probably has much to do with the palace, the military and the regime in Bangkok wanting to silence criticism:

Voice of treason
The Thai government tries new ways to curb online critics
But the critics are feeling emboldened, too

RUNNING A COUNTRY is much easier if you can silence naysayers. Just ask Thailand’s prime minister, [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha. Having seized the job after leading a coup in 2014, he clung to it through an unfair election last year. One of the secrets to his success has been the severe restrictions on what Thais can say about both their government and the monarchy. More than 900 people endured “attitude adjustment” in the years after Mr Prayuth came to power, according to iLaw, a Thai NGO. Approval of a new constitution in a referendum in 2016 was eased by a ban on criticising the draft. As of 2017 at least 100 people were either detained awaiting trial or serving prison sentences for lèse-majesté. But the authorities are not content with the same old gags. They are always coming up with new ways to silence dissent.

The lèse-majesté law, for example, has fallen from favour. It attracted censure from abroad, as anachronistic and repressive. Since last year those writing rude things about King … Vajiralongkorn … or criticising the government have been targeted instead under laws on sedition, computer crimes or defamation. In November the government also inaugurated an anti-fake news centre. An emergency decree passed in March gives the authorities power to prosecute those deemed to be spreading misinformation about covid-19. At the time Mr Prayuth warned Thais against “abuse of social media”.

Online rabble-rousers are sometimes summoned by police or other officials, but not prosecuted for any crime. The intimidating process is often enough to shut them up. One Thai student describes how local authorities contacted his university last month to complain about his Facebook posts querying government spending, before asking him to visit the police and eventually hand over his iPad and Facebook account details. He doesn’t yet know whether he will face charges. But he believes he attracted attention for helping to lead student protests on his campus earlier this year. “If the most active figures are suppressed by the government then this might also result in the ending of the student movement,” he says.

Even as the government’s approach evolves, disgruntled Thais are also changing how they use social media. Frustration over the miserable state of the economy, the king’s antics and the handling of the coronavirus are boiling over online. In recent months netizens have expressed views that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. “We have never seen this level of open defiance, towards the monarchy in particular, before,” reckons Andrew MacGregor Marshall of Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland.

Notable outbursts include rage on Twitter over traffic jams in Bangkok caused by road closures linked to the movements of royal motorcades. So vehement was the criticism that in January a government spokeswoman announced that the king “has acknowledged the traffic problem and is concerned for the people”. Roads are no longer fully shut for royal motorcades. Another bold move was the creation in April of the “Royalists Marketplace” on Facebook. Its members advertise satirical services to lampoon the monarchy. Its founder, Pavin Chachavalpongpun of Kyoto University, offered pet grooming with a picture of the king’s late poodle, Foo Foo. (In life the animal was made an Air Chief Marshal.) The marketplace has attracted 500,000 members in less than two months. Mr Pavin says at least two of them have lost their jobs for being in the group.

Other Thais are cautious almost to paranoia. Fears last month that Twitter might in some way be sharing information with the Thai government led tens of thousands to switch to an alternative social platform called Minds. “The assertion we’re in co-ordination with any government to suppress speech has no basis in fact whatsoever,” says Kathleen Reen, who works for Twitter in the region.

That will come as a relief to the many Thais who have been using such hashtags as #WhyDoWeNeedAKing and #RIPThailand. “[Thais] have the platforms to release their frustrations,” explains Titipol Phakdeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University, “but it is not easy to translate that to a real movement.” That suits Mr Prayuth.