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.





Hardening lines II

16 08 2020

With another student-led gathering planned for today, rightist ultra-royalists are networking in opposition.

Thai Post reproduces a letter being circulated to oppose the students and their ten demands. This group appears to be the handiwork of Tul Sitthisomwong, the Chulalongkorn University medical faculty lecturer who has quite a history.

Clipped from The Nation several years ago

We think PPT’s first mention of Tul was in early April 2010 when he was a part of a pink shirt – channeling the king – rally, opposing red shirts. Abhisit Vejjajiva, then premier, gave them lots of support. At the time, Tul claimed that the group saw “themselves as a civic group opposing the offensive attempts against the monarchy, an unjustified snap election and runaway protests disrupting normalcy and peace.” Despite his claims that the pink shirts were not linked to the People’s Alliance for Democracy, Tul acted as a representative and member of PAD. The pink shirts later morphed into the “multicoloured- shirt group” and the “Citizen Protecting Homeland Group” or sometimes rendered “Citizen Network for Protection of Motherland.” In 2012, royalists including Tul cheered two thugs who had beaten up Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut because he called for reform of the lese majeste law. In 2013-14, Tul Sitthisomwong joined People’s Democratic Reform Committee rallies.

In other words, Tul’s has been around at the beginning of every royalist movements since the mid-2000s. His beffuddled understanding of monarchy is reproduced here.

The mobilizing of ultra-royalists has been a task often assigned to the Internal Security Operations Command, and has often been a precursor to increased political conflict.

While ultra-royalists are organizing, the media is being censored. In a remarkable op-ed at Khaosod, on the divide between youngsters and the old man royalist-military elite, Pravit Rojanaphruk demonstrates censorship.

The demands are listed here.

Meanwhile, universities have been ordered to prevent students from expressing their views on the monarchy.

Former communist, former academic, former failed politician, opportunist, bow-tied buffoon, and newly appointed Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Anek Laothamatas demanded universities fall into line on royalist boundary riding and indoctrination:

Universities must be strict with their students in this respect and they must take responsibility if they fail to act, Mr Anek said.

“Teachers must explain to their students how important the monarchy is. Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. We must work together to prevent students and outsiders from insulting the monarchy. You can’t afford to turn a blind eye,” Mr Anek said.

Those present at the meeting included the presidents of Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, Thammasat University, Chiang Mai University, Khon Kaen University, and Silpakorn University.

We imagine that this hardening of response, including arrests, represents the regime’s response to “royal advice” received during the king’s few hours in Bangkok earlier in the week.





Rising rightists

30 07 2020

As predicted, the rightists are rising in opposition to student calls for change. The Bangkok Post reported that an unknown “right-wing group calling itself Archeewa Chuai Chart will hold a rally on Thursday [today] in what is seen as a bid to support the government in the wake of protests by student activists.”

Suthep thanks the Army

On social media, this group is widely seen as having been created by groups associated with the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee and Suthep Thaugsuban, who led the rallies that paved the way for the 2014 military coup. Indeed, the group claims to have formed in 2013 to support Suthep’s attacks on the elected government.

This new rightist group” criticised the Free Youth group and the Student Union of Thailand…”. It claimed the “student activists used fake news and false information to cause misunderstanding about the monarchy…”. They vowed to “defend the monarchy.”

Why royalists want to “protect” a monarch who lives in a foreign country is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they hope that another member of The Munsters can take over.

Khaosod adds that many have expressed concern that the rally could be a precursor to political conflict. Even Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has expressed concerns (see more below).

We are not convinced by Prayuth’s alleged concern, especially when he warned: “I have ordered police to prevent them from confronting each other…”.

As Khaosod reports, this is just one element of a broader rightist and ultra-monarchist denunciation of the students as part of a “plot” to bring down the monarchy. This includes the Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong. Last week saw the first counter-protest, at Army headquarters.

As Thai PBS reports, critics include all of the “usual suspects” who have organized all manner of “protests” and groups to “protect the monarchy.” It lists several of them, all yellow-shirts since the days of the People’s Alliance for Democracy:

Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn voiced concern at the presence of protest placards with veiled and direct references to the monarchy.

Sondhi

Sondhi Limthongkul, a media mogul and former yellow-shirt protest leader, said he was convinced the mastermind behind the placards aimed to provoke violent clashes between police and protesters. [We thought he was in jail….]

Academic [Is he? Really?] and media personality Seri Wongmontha said he was convinced that “people pulling the strings” behind the anti-monarchy placards wanted to incite violence between the protesters and angry royalists….

Rienthong

And, as Khaosod reports, fascist maniacs like Mongkutwattana Hospital director and Army officer Maj Gen Rientong Nan-nah is back at work, seeking to mobilize ultra-royalists. He declares that he will support those who “report” student activists to companies, government agencies, universities, and other educational institutes, demanding they never be employed. He called on supporters to “quietly infiltrate [the student protests] and take the photos of these people who joined the god damned protests. Try to make sure the photos have detailed faces that can be traced their identity.” He wanted these photos posted on Facebook, making the protesters political targets and illegally discriminated against.

More worrying are the regime’s moves. Khaosod has reported that “[r]iot police were ordered to mobilize and prepare detention facilities to accommodate student protesters arrested by security officers…”. Most threatening for the student activists, it is the notorious, royalist and heavily armed Border Patrol Police who were mobilized:

Two companies of riot police would be housed at the regional Border Patrol Police headquarters in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district north of metro Bangkok, while about a 100 protesters would be held at a separate building inside the base, the letter wrote.

A “guest house” is also prepared to accommodate 5 protest leaders….

Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, the leader of the Free Youth Movement, suggested the memo might have been intentionally leaked by police as part of their psychological operations.

“They just want to threaten protesters,” Tattep said. “Our movement is not against the law or causing harm to anyone.”

Given the BPP’s murderous history, it is not an idle threat.

As Thai Examiner explains/warns: “there is no denying that conservative forces have now been mobilised by this protest wave which they infer, carry with it, criticism of the monarchy and Thailand’s traditional values.” Those conservatives already have a lot of blood on their hands.





Updated: Amnesty? Why now? II

21 07 2020

We had an earlier note on a new proposal for political amnesty, this time from the yellow-shirted side. Since then, there’s been considerable discussion and speculation regarding the “real” source of the proposal.

The Bangkok Post summarizes some of this discussion. It is worth reading. Some will remark on the “fate” of People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders:

On Feb 13 last year, the court upheld eight-month prison sentences for six former PAD co-leaders for their role in the seizure of Government House during 2008 street protests.

Five of them were later granted a royal pardon on the occasion of … the King’s coronation.

It is also worth noting that it was only last month that Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protest in July 2007 that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, accused of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Given that cases from more than a decade ago continue to drag on, perhaps there’s motivation for some. Maybe something else is going on behind closed doors. We still can’t determine the source of this new amnesty proposal, but it does appear to have high-level support.

Update: Interestingly, amnesty proposer Kamnoon Sidhisamarn is also urging a light touch with student demonstrators. Clearly, something has changed, at least for Kamnoon.





Updated: More political prisoners

28 06 2020

Along with every other media outlet, Khaosod reports that, on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld rulings by lower courts against five leaders of a July 2007 protest that marched from Sanam Luang to the taxpayer-funded residence of the then president of the king’s Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. The rally accused Prem of fomenting the 2006 military coup.

Nattawut Saikua, Veerakarn (then Veera) Musikapong, Weng Tojirakarn, Nopparut Worachitwuthikul, and Wiputhalaeng Pattanaphumthai were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for “illegal assembly and using violence to resist police orders.”

Fellow UDD leader Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn observed that these men are political prisoners. The five were immediately taken from the court to prison.

While the reports refer to the five as red shirts, it needs to be noted that the wearing of the color hadn’t taken off at this time and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship-led rally and march had most people wearing yellow shirts, which was a display of “loyalty” following the 2006 60th anniversary of Bhumibol’s reign.

Another UDD leader, Jatuporn Promphan, reflected on the double standards in the judicial system: “I once said to them that on our way of fighting, it’s either death or imprisonment…. Over the past decade, we took turns getting in and out of the prison.” Jatuporn is “also due to stand trial on the same offense…”.

The double standards refer to the efforts by several royalist regimes supported by the pliant judiciary to lock up red shirts and UDD leaders while those from the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee who also occupied parts of Bangkok and several state properties for extended periods, with considerable violence, get off quite lightly.

Few of the reports said much about the rally at Gen Prem’s free lodgings, so PPT went back and looked at reports from the time.

Asia Sentinel had a perceptive report. It began by observing:

On Sunday night, UDD leaders caught police unaware by marching with thousands of supporters to the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister who is held in high respect by much of the Thai public due to his proximity to the king.

King, queen, Prem and military coup leaders

The protesters accused Prem, who was in the compound at the time, of acting as the puppet master behind the coup last September that ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra. They called on Prem to resign.

The UDD set up a makeshift stage in front of Prem’s house on Sunday afternoon and made speeches for five hours or so, according to witnesses and news reports. But in the evening, after the protesters vowed to permanently camp outside the residence, riot police attempted to break up the gathering and arrest the leaders, prompting demonstrators to hail rocks, chairs, sticks, water bottles and pieces of broken flower pots at the police, who eventually retreated.

Most reports put the UDD crowd at 5,000 to 10,000, with some counting up to 20,000. The police eventually mobilized about 2,000 officers. The police:

made two more attempts to arrest the protest leaders, charging at  demonstrators with clubs, pepper spray and tear gas. Each time the demonstrators fought back with fists, rocks, sticks, bottles and anything else they could find.

Weng said the protesters withdrew when threatened with the army, saying, “We didn’t want anybody killed from this event.”

The police claimed that 200 of their officers and about 70 protesters were injured. Six protesters were arrested and charged with “causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage to state property…. Police were also seeking arrest warrants for eight or so other UDD leaders…”.

The report wonders about the police action, saying:

It’s unclear why authorities attempted to break up the protest this time as many similar
protests had occurred earlier without incident. Some observers said the army may have been spooked by UDD statements that the group would camp out in front of Prem’s house — an unacceptable scenario for generals who swear allegiance to the royal advisor.

It also notes Prem’s coup role:

Although Prem is supposed to be non-political as a privy councilor, coup opponents blast the 86-year-old for a series of speeches he gave a year ago in which he donned full military garb and said soldiers should be loyal to the king instead of the government. Many observers said the speeches set the stage for the coup.

The Irrawaddy (July 23, 2007) carried a report that royalists declared Thaksin behind the UDD. The then president of the Constitution Drafting Committee Prasong Soonsiri, cheered the arrests, saying: “He [Thaksin] is probably responsible for supporting the clash, and he won’t stop there…”. This was a widely held view among the military-installed regime led by former Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Shortly after the event, the Union for Civil Liberty issued a statement:

Declaration concerning the avoidance of violence during a conflict of opinion

During a protest by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DADD) at the home of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda in the Thewes district of Bangkok, there occurred violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Alleging the part played by General Prem in organizing the military coup of 19th September 2006, protestors called for his resignation. As a result of the clashes which took place in the late evening of Sunday 22nd July, according to news media, 106 persons were injured.

The Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) maintains that the holding of non-violent protest to make known a political viewpoint is a civil right and a fundamental component of the democratic system. It is the duty of government to assure that the right of citizens to exercise this right is respected at all times, whether their action is against or in support of government, or to express other political opinion.

It is a matter of great regret that the protest on 22nd July last could not enjoy such a right to free expression due to the action of the police in blocking the protest march to the residence of General Prem in the Thewes district. The action angered some participants in the protest leading to the use of force and many casualties both among the protestors and the police.

To avoid the recurrence of such violence, perhaps on an even larger scale, the Union for Civil Liberty submits the following proposals:

1. Appoint a committee of persons acceptable to the public to investigate the events which occurred on the evening of the 22nd July for presentation to the Government and to the public.

2. Take court action against those who have acted illegally, whether the police or the protestors, in order that justice be done and human rights be protected.

Statement issued on 23rd July 2007
Union for Civil Liberty

So, for seeking to exercise their freedom of expression, these men are jailed. The regime that went after them was a junta-appointed administration that was vehemently royalist and anti-Thaksin. The double standards are as clear as they ever were.

Update: For another take on double standards, especially in comparing red shirts and yellow shirts, read this op-ed.





Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Sondhi’s royal pardon

5 09 2019

The Bangkok Post reports on the not unexpected early release from prison of former People’s Alliance for Democracy boss Sondhi Limthongkul, only three years into his 20-year fraud sentence.

Sondhi Limthongkul (right) in royal yellow

As the Post has it, “Sondhi, 72, was among prisoners granted a royal pardon by … the King on the occasion of his royal wedding with Her Majesty the Queen on May 1. He had demonstrated good behaviour during the jail term and was more than 70 years old, which are among qualifications needed to seek a royal pardon.” He also got special dispensation:

Corrections Department director-general Naras Savestanan said on Wednesday a meeting comprising judges, state prosecutors and himself was held on Tuesday to clarify Sondhi’s legal status. They agreed to his release because his company was not a financial institution.

Naras “explained” that “there were no political motives behind the decision to release him.” Right…





Updated: Bans and banalities

26 07 2019

Many readers will have seen that Facebook has “removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.”

“Coordinated inauthentic behavior” is defined by Facebook here. Note that the action is not necessarily because posts are “fake news.” It is that they are deceptive about their identity and who they work with and for or by hiding where they operate. Another source explains “coordinated inauthentic behavior” as involving multiple account purporting to be unrelated acting in tandem. This behavior uses sock puppets to create the impression that information is coming from multiple independent sources.

Not everyone is comfortable with Facebook’s actions, not least because many of those removed have links with countries the current US administration defines as “enemy” states (Iran, Russia, etc.).

The Thailand details are explained by Facebook:

We removed 12 Facebook accounts and 10 Facebook Pages for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Thailand and focused primarily on Thailand and the US. The people behind this small network used fake accounts to create fictitious personas and run Pages, increase engagement, disseminate content, and also to drive people to off-platform blogs posing as news outlets. They also frequently shared divisive narratives and comments on topics including Thai politics, geopolitical issues like US-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that some of this activity was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow.

    • Presence on Facebook: 12 accounts and 10 Pages.
    • Followers: About 38,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages.
    • Advertising: Less than $18,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars.

We identified these accounts through an internal investigation into suspected Thailand-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our investigation benefited from information shared by local civil society organizations.

For many readers, the examples provided of Land Destroyer, New Eastern Outlook, The Local Revolution and The New Atlas are well-known as purveyors of the work of the pseudonymous Tony Cartalucci. Examples of his anti-democratic paeans to yellow shirts can be seen at Land Destroyer blog. At times in the past, “Tony Cartalucci” was boostering for the likes of Alex Jones, Iran and China, before landing with Russian-funded groups.

Some time ago we noted the remarkable influence “Tony Cartalucci” had had within Thailand’s extreme right and, more significantly, on ultra-royalists:

Thailand’s military junta is composed of royalist rightists who have faithfully imbibed palace propaganda for years. In more recent times, as the military supported and egged on anti-democrat and royalist protesters, these military rightists have accepted a nastier propaganda that combines extreme right and extreme left elements, cobbled together with conspiracy theory….

We noted that (links not updated):

Thailand’s official propaganda agency is now citing the a yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist 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.

Back in 2013 we posted on the links that “Tony Cartalucci” had with the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Former “leftists” associated with PAD and the Democrat Party religiously sent “Tony Cartalucci” posts on to PAD networks that included royals, royalists and politicians. The conspiracies peddled caught on among these anti-democrats.

The Bangkok Post, which has previously had op-eds that trotted out “Tony Cartalucci”-like material, states:

According to a 2014 Asian Correspondent article, Tony Cartalucci is believed to be a pseudonym made up by Michael Pirsch, who in an abbreviated biography on the website Truthout.com, describes himself as a former “union activist and union organizer for more than 25 years and a DJ on Berkeley Liberation Radio, a pirate radio station” who now lives “as an economic refugee from the United States in Thailand.”

Having said all of that, we are PPT are not enthused by efforts to silence critics, even if they are mad right-wing conspiracy theorists. But, then, it is only Facebook and Twitter where this has occurred and all the parent pages – mostly blogs and “news” sites – continue to pump out the drivel. For obvious reasons, we think the notion that “fictitious” identities is a reasonable reason for declaring “coordinated inauthentic behavior” is dubious and dangerous. Anonymity and the use of pen names has been common for centuries.

And restricting the drivel from an expatriate, former leftist, now monarchist and rightist American means little in Thailand where conspiracy theory has run rampant in recent years. Most of the nutters who get oxygen seem to be those who make use of the monarchy in political battles.

The most recent example is the banal conspiracy claims by Natthaporn Toprayoon, “a lawyer and former adviser to chief Ombudsman, [who] accused the FFP [Future Forward Party] of being a threat to the constitutional monarchy, which plays a fundamental part in Thailand’s political system.” He has made several accusations, including that Future Forward’s “logo — an upside-down triangle — is reversed, it bears a close resemblance to the Illuminati’s triangle sign.” He has “claimed that the Illuminati was behind efforts to overthrow monarchies in Europe and that it also played a role in the US Declaration of Independence in 1776.”

How bizarre.

Update 1: Natthaporn has claimed that:

that remarks made by several key FFP members discouraging the act of prostrating oneself to pay respects, pouring scorn on “Thai smiles”, and trying to end the patronage of all religions in the country were in line with Illuminati thinking as well as those of the Nitirat group of progressive-minded law scholars.

He seems misguided at best but seems more like a nutter. The Thaiger describes him as having “gone ‘full woo woo’,” which is a polite way of describing a looney. But the seriously nutty are sometimes taken seriously when their “ideas,” plots and conspiracies match the political aims of the powerful in Thailand.

The idea that “the orange triangular logo used by Future Forward, if turned upside down, closely resembles the symbol used for the Illuminati” is seriously deranged. If there was any “truth” in the claim, then he’d have to also include Google Drive, Google Play, several banks, Alcatel, Kenwood, Delta and Qantas airlines, Caterpillar, Hyundai Engineering, Le Coq Sportif,  CITGO, Aston University, Mitsubishi and more.

You get the picture. Nattahaporn has been imbibing far too much mind-altering kool-aid.

But there’s a link to “Tony Cartalucci”-like ramblings. As can be seen in the nuttier conspiracy theorists that span extreme left gone extreme right, the so-called Illuminati are today associated with “World Government” or a “New World Order” that infiltrates a lot of American-originated rightist propaganda like the “work” or Alex Jones and a range of Tea Party, Neo-fascist, anti-Semitic ideologues. “Tony Cartalucci” has been there.

Update 2: New Eastern Outlook has been quick to defend “Tony Cartalucci.” We suspect that it is “Tony Cartalucci” who wrote the post.





Color coding royal pardons?

4 05 2019

As is usual around supposedly auspicious royal events, “pardons” – a kind of amnesty – have been granted to prisoners and others serving sentences. They include commuted jail terms for serious offenses.

The latest, for the coronation, includes some interesting “pardons.”

Five leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy will be released. They were only convicted a few weeks ago. They are: Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Pipop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk, and Suriyasai Katasila. Sondhi Limthongkul’s position remains unclear, although he may have benefited by having his fraud sentence reduced.

Interestingly, PAD seem to have designed the kit for the king’s royal volunteer “army.”

What of red shirts serving sentences? We haven’t seen any news yet.

Anti-junta critic, sentenced on lese majeste for sharing a BBC Thai report, student activist Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, also known as Pai, has benefited, but not by much. He was due to be released on 19 June.

We might be missing something, but it might be that royal pardons are now color coded.





Updated: Media self-censorship

24 04 2019

It is well-known that self-censorship is an absolute must for mainstream media in Thailand when reporting anything related to the monarchy and royals.

So it is that both The Nation and the Bangkok Post avoid the royal aspects of a weird event at the Rajaprasong intersection yesterday.

Clipped from social media

Clad in a yellow shirt, a man jumped out of an elaborately decorated Mercedes sedan with a large knife and a bag of snakes. Watched by thousands, he was said to have killed some of the snakes and to have cut himself (video here).

If that wasn’t strange enough, the car was heavily decorated with portraits and designs all related to King Vajiralongkorn.

Neither newspaper saw fit to report this royal link and neither reproduced photos showing that royal decorations on the vehicle, although the Post did include links to other sources that included such images.

While the man might have been crazed, the connections between coronation, blood sacrifice and the particular location chosen – the site of the red shirt massacre in 2010 – are not considered. The royal portraits and decorations are deliberately expunged  from the reporting to make the reports essentially faked news but not fake news.

Nor have these media suggested links to PAD demonstrations of the past

The media is crippled by royalist repression and self-censorship.

Update: The Bangkok Post produced another story that again failed to come up with any mention of the royal connections in the story. It even managed to find links that had photos with none of the royal stuff that was in the portraits he displayed or the writing on the car. Bravely, in this context, Khaosod reported that real estate businessman Ganeshpisnuthep Jakphopmahadecha, 42, “placed portraits of King Vajiralongkorn on his vehicle.”

Bonkers he might be, but our guess is that the location, the iconography and the mans history suggest he thought he was doing some purifying before the coronation.