Further updated: Suthep re-enters politics

28 07 2015

Much of the media commentary about Suthep Thaugsuban leaving the monkhood has been about his declaration that he will no longer be involved in politics.

Suthep

A Bangkok Post photo

Suthep entered the monkhood not that long after the coup, as a kind of political exile, and after a couple of slaps from the military dictatorship on commentary he made about the coup and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee links to the military’s planning of the coup.

Like others with a penchant for mobilizing people, be it Thaksin Shinawatra, Sondhi Limthongkul or even Chamlong Srimuang, the military is suspicious of them.

Hence, Suthep’s declaration that he is not re-entering politics is something of a ruse.

For one thing, saying he is done with party politics is not saying much when the military dictatorship has sent parties to the wilderness. Parties are more or less defunct and those drafting the new constitution have tried to make them less significant into the future.

Second, during the PDRC campaign against Yingluck Shinawatra’s government, much of the rhetoric was driven by royalist notions that are anti-party and a anti-politician, so an immediate return to party politics would be a denial of that anti-democratic ideology.

Third, it is noticeable that Suthep remains politically engaged. Photographed in his PDRC livery emphasizing monarchy and nation, Suthep stated that he “plans to join a foundation that other former protest leaders have established,” allegedly “to promote vocational education and other grassroots projects.” When he states that “I will work with the Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand. I will never go back to run in an election ever again. But I will be working in civil politics alongside the Great Mass of the People for the benefit of our country.”

In a sense, this is an acknowledgement of the post-politician/post-party politics that will be acceptable to the royalist elite and the military dictatorship. Suthep has re-entered politics in a space delimited by the military.

Update 1: As if on cue, Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr has warned Suthep to steer clear of political organizing.

Update 2: The military dictatorship’s concerns regarding Suthep’s re-entry into politics has been shown in a statement by The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha “admitted yesterday he was concerned that politician Suthep Thaugsuban … has become politically active once again.” Prayuth was expressing concern about a press conference scheduled for Thursday that “will be the first time since the coup in May 22, 2014, that 12 PDRC leaders will officially get together to continue their push for reform.” Prayuth and Suthep

As Chairman of the so-called Foundation of the Great Mass of the People for Reform of Thailand, Suthep will attend the event. So will all of the other anti-democrat leaders: Sathit Wongnongtoey, Thaworn Senniam, Issara Somchai, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Akanat Promphan, Chumpol Chulasai, Chaiwut Bannawat, Puttipong Punnakan, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Natthapol Theepsuwan and Chitpas Bhirombhakdi-Kridakorn.

The “foundation” will consider its “strategy to support ‘reforms’ according to the six-point proposal initiated by Suthep himself…”.

 





Sedition

24 07 2015

“These is no justice in this country, we should be separated as Lanna State”

That’s the message on a banner hung in Chiang Rai in February 2014.

Article 116 of the Criminal Code states that:

whoever makes apparent to the public by words, writing or any other means anything which is not an act within the purpose of the constitution or which is not the expression of an honest opinion or criticism (a) in order to bring about a change in the laws or the government by the use of coercion or violence, (b) in order to raise confusion or disaffection amongst the people to the point of causing unrest in the kingdom, or (c) have people violate the law, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.

In a case of protecting the judiciary, the court ruled that “the claim … that there is no justice in the country after the criminal court in early 2014 rejected to grant arrest warrants against the key leaders of the anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters was false.”

They don’t explain why it was false, but like the rulings of the king and of The Dictator, no debate or dissension is really possible. In any case, the banner hangers were expressing a widely-held view at the time. As everyone knows, including thoise who benefit from it, Thailand’s judicial decision are riddled with double standards.

The judges of the provincial court seemed most miffed that “by expressing such claims, the defendants also insulted the Criminal Court’s ruling to deny the arrest of the PDRC leaders then.” Of course they did, and the court deserved insulting over its politicized ruling.





The land of dictators

19 07 2015

Readers may find a post on Thailand by Craig Moran at the Fair Observer, a site new to PPT, of some interest.

Moran sets out the rise of military domination since the 2014 coup, observing;

There is a stark difference between the government’s proclaimed good intentions and the tangible results of its authoritarian rule. According to iLaw, authorities have called in 712 people for “attitude adjustments,” 159 others for “political offense” and detained hundreds of journalists since the coup. With this in mind, one can imagine why Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s self-proclamation as a “soldier with a democratic heart” was met with derision.

Derision indeed, although we at PPT still wonder and worry about The Dictator’s mental state, for a delusional authoritarian “leader” is a dangerous one.

Interesting too are Moran’s comments on political paternalism:

Thais are eerily familiar with paternalist figures assuming power—the pinnacle of which is their monarch … whose “divine” image is enforced with one of the toughest lèse majesté laws in the world.

Rulers with fatherly attitudes are not new, as dictators have had similar approaches in the past. However in Thailand, this traditional style often goes hand in hand with the monarchy and, even if reluctantly so, it is still widely accepted. This is why admirers refer to Prayuth as “Uncle Prayuth,” a name triggered by his “happiness campaign” that includes a commissioned soap opera and a pro-junta pop song called “Return Happiness to Thailand,” which he penned himself.

The claim, however, that Prayuth took power with ease “points to a resigned population and a weak political culture where coups are almost accepted as facts of life” is rather too simplistic.

For one thing, Prayuth’s royalist coup was not easy. The anti-democrats needed to be mobilized for months to destabilize electoral politics and create the circumstances necessary for yet another coup, and this followed from several other probing anti-democrat efforts that began from the time of Yingluck Shinawatra’s election. The military also sent a considerable time preparing for the coup, identifying opponents and those who could mobilize resistance.

In addition, the Yingluck government was stymied by the alliance of military, monarchy and business elite opposition. Finally, the continuous palace propaganda always presents the king as a reliable alternative to elected politicians at the same time as portraying it as “unifying” and support for the monarchy, rather than elected governments, as “loyalty.” In other words, the monarchy has been constructed as an alternative to the sovereignty of the people.





Supporting anti-democrat political allies

12 07 2015

In another case indicating the uneasy relationship between the junta and its political allies of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the apology issued to PDRC and People’s Alliance for Democracy coordinator Supot Piriyakiatsakul stands out.

As PPT posted a week or so ago, Supot received Mafia-like threats from thugs organized as soldiers, who thought he was supporting the Dao Din students. Supot bleated about his support for The Dictator and the military dictatorship but referred to “an arrogant exercise of power…”.

This event has caused an apology from the Army to its “brother.” At a Korat Army base, “Col. Patikorn Eiamla-or, a senior commander of 21st Army District, said the incident was a misunderstanding.” He apologized: “I would like to apologize to you, brother…. I insist with my dignity as a soldier that I had no intention to use my power or duty to cause conflict in society.” The idea of the Army having anything like dignity and not wanting to cause conflict is a lie, of course. The Army is was obviously concerned about Supot’s organizing capacity but still needs political allies.

Supot’s response raises other questions. He opined: “”Even though I am a Thai of Chinese descent, my heart is dedicated to love for my country. I have been campaigning in politics since 2006 by choosing to stand on the side of the righteousness…. I have always supported the military in all their actions.”

The questions raised by this statement include the issue of ethnicity and why Supot raises it? Was he accused of disloyalty based on his ethnicity? Was there a supposed link to the Communist Party of Thailand that was being investigated and as trumpeted by a member of the Democrat Party? It is entirely within the realms of military possibility that Chinese ethnicity, links to former CPT and even counterinsurgency figures and political organizing in the northeast could be construed as a political threat. Yet the mad anti-democrat from the so-called Democrat Party seemed to be pointing a finger at Thaksin Shinawatra-linked “communists” rather than those linked with PAD or indeed to the Democrat Party itself. Yet the military is seldom used to or using political nuance.

The second question is perhaps not as controversial. Supot’s claim to have “always supported the military in all their actions” may not be entirely accurate, but it is telling of the relationship between anti-democrats and the men with all the guns. The evidence of military links with PAD and PDRC is not difficult to find.





Double standards that protect political allies

11 07 2015

The military junta has an uneasy relationship with the anti-democrats who paved the way for its 2014 military coup.

On the one hand, there can be little doubt that the military brass had numerous political alliances with Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee, as it agitated to provide a pretext for yet another military intervention. On the other hand, the military brass is always concerned about anyone or any group that can mobilize outside its control. (The military does not mind mobilizing its own groups for political purpose.)

Despite this uneasiness, the military junta knows that its relationship with the PDRC was critical for kicking out another Shinawatra government and providing the royalist elite with another opportunity to reorganize its dominant political position.

It is in this context that a recent Bangkok Post story that reports that the disruption of the 2014 election by PDRC protesters was “constitutional” should come as no surprise.

The Criminal Court dismissed the case filed by public prosecutors against PDRC members who surrounded the Din Daeng District Office to prevent officials from distributing ballots to polling places. This action meant that “no voters in the district could exercise their right [to vote]…”.

The court ruled the PDRC action “was legitimate based on a judgement by the Constitutional Court.”

The protest “at the district office was also peaceful and unarmed. Besides, there was no proof all the suspects padlocked the gate of the office as accused by the prosecutors…”. In fact, much violence occurred prior to election day as the PDRC created a situation that was meant to intimidate voters and those election officials who weren’t already aligned with the anti-democrats.

There are other PDRC thugs awaiting trial on similar charges. They can be fairly confident that they will now walk free after having deprived voters of their constitutional rights.





Mafia-like thuggery

5 07 2015

We are sure that quite a few readers will have seen the Khaosod report on People’s Alliance for Democracy and People’s Democratic Reform Committee coordinator Supot Piriyakiatsakul being chased by the military for allegedly supporting the Dao Din students of the Neo-Democracy Movement.

According to Supot, a group of soldiers arrived at his home “in Nakhon Ratchasima province on 2 July and sought to talk with him, though he was not home at the time.” Reportedly, the “soldiers identified themselves to his neighbors as officers from 21st Army District, and left a message for him before leaving the scene.” Supot says that they told his neighbors to warn him: “Don’t get involved with Dao Din group. If you don’t stop getting involved, and if you don’t obey us, we will get involved with you.”

This is surprising and baffling, not least for Supot. As the report states:

In 2005-2006, Supot was a regional coordinator for the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which sought to oust Thaksin [Shinawatra] and his government at the time.

In late 2013, Supot joined the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State – another reincarnation of the Yellowshirt movement – when it launched street protests to topple the government led by Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The campaign came to an end after then-army chief Gen. Prayuth [Cha-ocha] seized power in a coup on 22 May 2014.

In the wake of the May 2014 coup d’etat, Supot was one of the hundreds of activists, academics, and politicians summoned to army camps for up to seven days of “attitude adjustment” aimed at easing the country’s political tensions.

“When the military summoned me for attitude adjustment, I joined it, and I showed my sincerity of wanting to build reconciliation and unity for people in the nation,” Supot said. “Let me insist that I do not know Dao Din students at all. I have only been hearing about them in the news. There is no reason for me to be behind or give support to Dao Din.”

Supot is said to be 69 years old, and has long been an organizer in Korat. His networks with NGOs were the initial link to PAD and while we can’t confirm it, as with most PAD stalwarts in Korat, he probably has connections with organizers trained by and with U.S. Special Forces at Lopburi in the 1960s and 1970s (see about p. 341 of this book). These organizers have had a role in managing farmers and electioneering in Korat, some with links to Chartichai Choonhavan and then with his son, Kraisak. His credentials with PAD are impeccable.

As might be expected, Supot complains:

This is an arrogant exercise of power…. Throughout all this time, I and my fellow [activists] were united in showing our stance of supporting the government of General Prayuth Chan-ocha. We recently asked him to stay in power for a long time to solve the country’s problems and deal with corrupt politicians. We have even traveled to Bangkok to show our support.

He added: “Let me insist that I do not know Dao Din students at all. I have only been hearing about them in the news. There is no reason for me to be behind or give support to Dao Din…. This kind of net-casting is like pushing friends to join the opposition.”

As well as suggesting that the military is either very dull and/or can’t abide any organizing, even by political allies, the thing about this report that struck PPT was that the military is using Mafia-like tactics. We know that the military has used similar tactics with opposition figures, but this report somehow lays bare the nature of the thuggery involved. Mafia-like, members of the military gang intimidate and display their power to the neighborhood. They could be running protection rackets as well.

 

 





Anti-democrats campaign for dictatorship

8 06 2015

A story at the Bangkok Post indicates something of the fervor with which anti-democrats are campaigning for the extension of the military dictatorship and the entrenchment of a Thai-style totalitarianism.

As the report states:

Opinion polls and web pages supporting “reforms before elections” have been popping up, amid criticism the campaign is an attempt to justify proposals to extend the tenure of the interim government.

The Suan Dusit poll which regularly conducts polls that are often push poll-like is one effort, asking questions that support dictatorship. It claims 75% support an extension of military dictatorship.

The poll was conducted “shortly after the two-year delay proposal was floated by a group of National Reform Council members, led by Paiboon Nititawan.”

It is also reported that “several web pages have been launched to campaign for the proposal to extend the military-led government’s tenure, and are asking the public to sign up in support.” Social media has seen a propaganda-like rash of supportive posts, some supporting General Prayuth Chan-ocha to remain The Dictator of Thailand for up to four or five years.

As the report in the Post notes,

Some political observers see the campaign as predictable and designed to reflect the view of the powerful to justify the proposal for the coup-installed administration to remain in power….

Jon Ungphakorn, a former Bangkok senator and social policy activist, has lambasted the proposed referendum on the government’s tenure, saying it is a tradition adopted by countries with an authoritarian rule.

Readers will recall that the proposal on “reforms before election” was the main demand of the anti-democrats who rallied against elected government and against elections in early 2014. That’s why the leading anti-democrat Suriyasai Katasila, a former leader of both the People’s Alliance for Democracy and  the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, both anti-democrat street anti-democrat groups, is urging the dictatorship to continue.

Major General Veerachon Sukonthapatipark, deputy government spokesman, has been quoted as stating that the Suan Dusit poll “has boosted the government’s morale…”. It doesn’t need morale, but craves some kind of manufactured legitimacy for its continuing dictatorship.








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