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.





Yellow “justice”

5 03 2019

After the Supreme Court finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 it was thought by some that this was a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

However, that seems to have been a foolish conclusion when writing about the judiciary in Thailand. As reported by Khaosod and the Bangkok Post, a “court on Monday found a group of anti-government protest leaders not guilty of multiple charges for their siege of the parliament in 2008 which turned fatal.”

That protest by PAD sought to topple a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra elected government and laid siege to parliament seeking to prevent it meeting. Police were ordered to clear the parliament entrance, and fired rounds of tear gas at the protesters in the morning of Oct. 7, 2008. Two people died in the clashes and about 380 were injured, including police. One of the PAD dead blew himself up in his car bomb.

In 2012 prosecutors charged 21 PAD leaders and argued that the protesters caused serious unrest in their resistance to the police and using various weapons against police. They were also accused of using threats to block members of the parliament from entering the building, injuring several policemen, locking all gates of the parliament, detaining officials inside the parliament for hours, and threatening to detain MPs.

The Criminal Court now declares that the demonstration “was protected by the constitution and did not constitute sedition despite confrontation with riot police…”. The court flocked to support PAD, ruling “that the leaders of the rally briefed followers on the extent of then-government’s corruption and mentioned attempts to amend the constitution in favour of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”. In other words, the court ruled that PAD supported the 2007 constitution and was protected by that constitution. The court also declared that “violence only broke out after officers fired tear gas at the crowd.”

No court seems to apply the same ruling in the case of red shirt protesters, preferring double standards.

For an accounts of the events, including PAD’s violence, see Nick Nostitz at New Mandala. At Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page there’s an assessment of the ruling and events of the day.





Palace propaganda and the new reign

28 02 2019

As PPT has mentioned in several posts, when succession finally came, there were numerous commentators who had predicted a crisis and even an unraveling of the monarchy. Part of the “crisis” was that King Vajiralongkorn, because of his checkered past and odd personality could not have the same palace propaganda that had made his father’s benign, deified image, even when the reality of his reign was quite different.

The period since Vajiralongkorn came to the throne have shown that for all of his personal foibles and the great fear associated with his erratic and narcissistic behavior, for the palace propaganda machine, nothing much has changed. The monarch is promoted using familiar and what the palace (and junta) considers tried and true methods.

These comments are prompted by a Bangkok Post story that has the junta “urging the public to wear a yellow shirt bearing the royal emblem of … the King from April until July as part of nationwide celebrations of the royal coronation in May.”

This yellow shirt wearing gimmick was really only widely adopted around the time of the dead king’s 60th jubilee which coincided with agitation against Thaksin Shinawatra. Yellow shirts became a symbol of loyalty and was taken up by the People’s Alliance for Democracy as it marked its territory as monarchists.

Even some who were to become red shirts donned loyalist yellow shirts.

When the military coup came in 2006, the troops marked themselves as loyalists by using yellow ribbons.

More recently, we have seen the creation of “royal volunteers for the king,” all of them decked out a loyalist uniform associated with the current king.

It was Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, speaking “after a second meeting of the government’s committee responsible for handling procedures for the ceremony” who revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (The Dictators Office) “will issue a design prototype of the royal emblem for the yellow shirt.”

That design has already been approved by the king but the “committee is now waiting for a letter from the [Royal Householf B]ureau to confirm details of the design so it can be used as the official logo for the ceremony…”. Only that emblem will be permitted to be used.

That emblem will be reproduced in millions and will blanket the country and suffocate its people. Nothing much has changed. And, the events and displays of loyalty play into the junta’s political hands.