With two updates: Monarchist madness reaches new heights

11 10 2019

Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has form as a royalist ideologue. On Friday, as Khaosod reports, he “stunned the nation with an 90-minute tirade on anti-government politicians and academics, in which he accused them of attempting to sabotage the country’s constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Khaosod

This is nonsensical, but we must assume that Gen Apirat believes his own rants.

Some readers will recall that it wasn’t that long ago, in February, when we observed that no one should trust the commander of the Royal Thai Army. At that time, Gen Apirat “pledged … that the army will remain neutral in this election…”. That was a lie. Then in July, he doubled down, promising he would:

wash his hands of politics after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] is dissolved once the new cabinet is sworn in…. From then on, I won’t make political comments nor will I get involved with politics in any way. I’ll perform my duty strictly as a professional soldier….

That was also a lie.

The Army even lied about his speech, saying “Apirat’s speech … as being about the situation in Thailand’s deep south, home to a Muslim separatist insurgency.”

In Friday’s deranged rant, Gen Apirat’s “fiery rhetoric and even invocation of Communist threats in today’s news conference took many observers of the armed forces by surprise.” He lied that “the opposition’s campaign to amend the current constitution as a stealth attack on the monarchy.”

His concocted plot is a clear attack on the Future Forward Party and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. He targeted them as “communist politicians” and “extreme left” academics “who had studied abroad.”

Gen Apirat “showed a picture of Thanathorn and Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, albeit with Thanathorn blacked out for an unknown reason. Apirat said he suspects that the pair might be colluding in some ways.” He criticized the young demonstrators in Hong Kong as he accused Thai politicians of colluding with communists.

Oddly, in an anti-communist tirade – for Gen Apirat, the Cold War-era battle hasn’t ended – his criticism of Wong and Thanathorn was joined by the regime in Beijing. Presumably Gen Apirat knows that China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. Even so, he supported the Beijing view, beloved of yellow conspiracy theorists and regime supporters in Thailand, that Hong Kong’s protesters were being supported and egged on by “outsiders.”

He babbled:

Joshua Wong has visited Thailand on several occasions. Who did he meet? What type of people did he meet? Did their meeting have a hidden agenda? What did they plot? Now, there is unrest in Hong Kong. A visit [by Thanathorn] can be viewed as giving encouragement and support….

Bemedaled like a North Korean general, Apirat then attacked the opposition parties as “selfish opportunists” and declared that they “cannot be trusted.” He warned “that politicians, academics and other intellectuals may ‘manipulate’ young people to stage protests like those in Hong Kong.”

Like a rabid dog, he went after academics: “He singled out those who had joined or sympathised with the communist movement in the 1970s, saying they had now become academics ‘teaching students wrong things’.”

“I’m not involved in politics. The army has stepped back now that there’s an elected government. But this is about national security. I will never let anyone separate the country,” he said.

His mad view is that something he calls a “hybrid warfare” that incorporates “methods such as online propaganda and more traditional violent means was already being employed in Thailand to destroy the nation.” He further concocted, claiming “politicians were linked to former communists who he said never gave up efforts to seize power…”.

AP expresses its own confusion on this plot:

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to because Thailand is not at war, the military and its allies are firmly in charge having run the country for the past five years, and a long-running insurgency is limited to the nation’s three southernmost provinces. Apirat’s comments appeared largely aimed at opposition politicians who campaigned on efforts to reform the military but have not advocated war or violence.

AP might have added that many former communists – all of them aged – support the military and its government.

As a staunch royalist, Gen Apirat “at least once Friday appeared to be in tears when speaking of King … Vajiralongkorn.” He claimed: “There is a group of communists who still have ideas to overthrow the monarchy, to turn Thailand to communism…”.

Clipped from Khaosod

Gen Apirat then pointedly made the connection between ant-communism, military and monarchy, saying the king “had helped soldiers fight against communist troops in … Loei province on Nov 5, 1976.” He went on:

“His Majesty was in the operation base, ate and slept like other soldiers. His Majesty visited local residents, gave moral support and fought shoulder by shoulder with brave soldiers.”

The royal institution had always protected the nation and battles went on for a long time before the Communist Party surrendered in 1988, Gen Apirat said.

Gen Apirat declared:

The royal institution, the military and people are inseparable. In the past, kings were on elephants surrounded by soldiers. Those soldiers were the people who sacrificed themselves in battles beside kings….

The general and his king (Clipped from the Bangkok Post)

Gen Apirat argued that it was the military that was “with the people.” He said: “They [the opposition parties] criticize the military as being an obstacle to democracy, when in fact we work for every Thai citizen.” That’s after they have repressed, jailed, tortured and murdered the Thai citizens who don’t agree with them.

The Economist observes:

In theory, Thailand’s army, having seized power in a coup in 2014, has returned to the barracks, after handing power back to politicians. But General Apirat apparently sees nothing inappropriate in railing against communists, student agitators and opposition MPs.

Meanwhile, The Nation quoted a critical academic:

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of Political Science at the Ubon Ratchathani University, said the Army chief was exaggerating the point and acting as if the military owns the Constitution and the country….

Titipol also suggested that Apirat was using tactics allowing the military to make political gains by exaggerating the idea of amending Section 1 and accused him of acting against the principles of freedom of expression guaranteed to the people by the Constitution. He said people should be allowed to voice their opinions constructively about the amendment of the charter, adding that the military does not own the Constitution or the country….

He also said that the Army and the government do not want to amend the charter because it allows the military to stay in power after the military-led coup in 2014….

“This charter largely protects the interests of the political establishment at the expense of the people,” he said.

Gen Apirat is a deranged and armed thug. That makes him dangerous, especially when linked to a fearsome monarch.

Update 1: Naturally enough – we had forgotten – Gen Apirat’s mad tirade came on the anniversary of the previous king’s death and as Vajiralongkorn flew back to Thailand from Germany. The newspapers and media are thus overflowing with propaganda for the monarchy, much of it being concocted stories about “great” achievements. Vajiralongkorn can bask in the reflected glory as his military second in command goes full on monarchy bananas.

Equally crazed is Chairith Yonpiam at the Bangkok Post who suggests that Future Forward must “learn the art of compromise.” In one of the most biased op-eds in the Post for quite some time, Chairith forgets that the 2014 coup came after the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, military and Democrat Party trashed parliament and ousted yet another elected government. He prefers to recall only the red shirt protests while neglecting to mention that the red shirts were slaughtered by the military, including the gun-toting Gen Apirat.

Apirat being “democratic”

And, Chairith goes full yellow saying that the current “political conflict involving the government and the opposition, with the FFP at the forefront, is a clash of ideologies with the former representing the conservative oligarchy and the latter brandishing the flag of liberalism.” That’s a line radical royalists have been peddling. He doubles down by questioning whether the judge in Yala who shot himself is part of “an attack on the judiciary.” He supports ISOC’s use f sedition charges against academics and FF politicians and is warning the party that they had better be careful. The implied threat being that they may end up floating in a river. Why is Chairith not demanding that the military “compromise”? Precisely because his “conservative oligarchy” requires the military’s threats, repression, torture and murder to stay in power.

Fortunately, a Post editorial is far more reasonable, observing that Gen Apirat’s chilling rant “should never have been given by any army chief…”, adding that “the military will not put an end to its meddling in politics.” It observes that “Gen Apirat did not provide a shred of credible evidence for his allegations.” The editorial concludes:

The army chief fails to understand that amending the charter is the job of parliamentarians with input from the public, not his.

Gen Apirat’s remarks yesterday failed to assure the public that he will steer clear of politics. Nevertheless, as the army commander, he must remain politically neutral and avoid orchestrating a political messaging strategy targeting particular groups of people. Gen Apirat will have a hard time convincing many people that he is not engaged in information warfare of his own.

There is zero chance that the Army commander will cease interfering in politics. He’s ambitious, not too bright and a threatening thug. That Future Forward has responded and criticized the thug in green will anger him and his supporters and the conflict will deepen.

Update 2: With the meddling king back in Thailand, things may get even messier. In one report it is stated that Anusorn Iamsa-ard of the opposition Puea Thai Party has said that:

Gen Prayut must set up a panel to look into the matter to assure the public that the government did not use the army as a political tool, and that the army was not trying to support the government so much so that it loses its neutrality….

Of course, Anusorn knows that the Army is not neutral and that the government is infected by military men now in suits and that the Senate has special seats for the military, which means it support the current regime.

The military is clearly frightened by Future Forward’s electoral showing, seeing this as a clear sign that the military are political dinosaurs doomed to repression if they are to maintain their grip on power. This is confirmed with loony complainer Srisuwan Janya petitioning the “National Anti-Corruption Commission to launch an ethics probe against FFP leader Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit after the Chinese embassy last Thursday issued a statement accusing a Thai politician of contacting a group involved in the protests in Hong Kong.” Exactly how and why he is doing this unsaid, but as a mad royalist, he knows who salts his rice.





With two updates: “Law” and repression II

8 10 2019

It gets worse.

Khaosod reports that police on Tuesday (or it may have been Monday evening) arrested Karn Pongpraphapan, 25, a pro-democracy campaigner who they accused of spreading “hatred” toward the monarchy in an online post.

Karn was taken into custody “at his home last night and taken to a police station where he was charged with violating the cybercrime law. Karn now faces up to five years in jail.

As is often the case in the lawlessness associated with rule by law and acts said to involve the monarchy, the “police statement did not specify what Karn wrote, but described it as an ‘inappropriate content on Facebook spreading hatred’ which ‘upset a number of people’ after it was widely shared.”

As usual, Karn is charged under a section of the Computer Crime Act banning content that “pose a threat to national security.”

His lawyer, Winyat Chatmontree denied the charge and said:

the message in question was a public Facebook post Karn wrote on Oct. 2, which asked “How do you want it to end?”

Karn then went on to reference historical events involving past foreign monarchies, such as “shooting like the Russians,” “beheading by guillotine like the French,” and “exiled like the Germans.”

Winyat stressed that “Karn’s writing did not mention the Thai monarchy in any way. He also disputed speculation on social media that Karn was criticizing the recent traffic woes allegedly caused by royal motorcade in Bangkok.” He said: “He was talking about the history of other nations.” He says that it was others who distorted his client’s writing.

The report adds that “[t]he arrest came several days after digital economy minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta announced that the police were on the verge of ‘purging’ anti-monarchy figures on social media.”

It is no coincidence that, at the same time that Karn languished in jail, Minister for Digital Censorship Buddhipongse issued a directive that “cafe and restaurant operators with free wifi service must collect internet traffic data used by their customers up to 90 days, or face punishment.” He “explained” that “officials may need to request for the information under Article 26 of the Computer Crimes Act…”.

It is also no coincidence that this follows that mass outbreak of complaints about the monarchy.

Update 1: Khaosod reports that the watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, wants five people arrested on these (disguised) lese majeste charges of making “inappropriate” online comments about the monarchy.

In an attempt to deflect criticism from the throne, the king has arranged it with the regime that charges other than lese majeste are now used for those considered to have insulted the monarchy. (The regime has also taken to enforced disappearance, torture and murder in dealing with anti-monarchists.)

Prawit babbled “we’ll have to prosecute them, because their wrongdoing involves attacking the monarchy.”

Minister for Digitial Censorship Buddhipongse said Karn was not targeted “for his political beliefs.” He’s fibbing. He invoked rule by law, claiming that Karn’s nighttime arrest was a matter for the courts.

Buddhipongseis an anti-democrat from the People’s Democratic Reform Committee who became a junta spokesman, then a member of the junta’s front party and is now a minister.

(We should add that it was only a couple of weeks ago that Shawn Crispin at Asia Times trumpeted Thailand as being post-authoritarian, erroneously claiming: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. We remain confused how a journalist can whitewash the current regime’s political repression.)

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that Karn was granted bail late on Tuesday.





Judicial politicization

26 07 2019

Thailand’s courts have long been pretty hopeless. In this century they have become highly politicized, with judges doing their “duty” as royalists.

In yet another example of this politicization of the judiciary, The Nation reports that in a trial that began in 2015, the Criminal Court has “acquitted four key members of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee on insurrection charges.” It might be defunct, but as the cheerleaders for the 2014 military coup and for the current military-backed regime, it gets credit and protection from the royalist establishment.

The court acquitted found Sonthiyan Chuenruethainaitham, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong and the bewigged Seri Wongmontha of a huge list of charges “related to the Bangkok Shutdown protests against the Yingluck [Shinawatra] government from May 23 2013 to May 1 2014.” They were:

charged by public prosecutors with insurrection, inciting public disturbances, unlawful gathering, gathering in a group of more than 10 persons to use arms to cause disturbances and to harm others, inciting the public to stop working to pressure the government, and unlawful entries of government offices and others’ properties….

The four defendants were charged with violating Articles 113, 116, 117, 209, 210, 215, 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code and with obstructing the holding of an election by the Election Commission and thus violating Articles 76, 152, and 8 of the 2007 election act. The public prosecutors filed charges against the four in the court in 2014.

With the boss (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Of course, these four were all heavily and publicly involved in the actions that led to the charges. Readers will know that hundreds of red shirts have been convicted and jailed of similar charges. The double standards are obvious and perennial.

The court’s “reasoning” for the acquittals on the spurious “grounds that while they joined the PDRC-led protests against the Yingluck government, they were not leaders who gave orders to the protesters.” All of them were close to the anti-democrat leadership and appeared on the PDRC stages, urging protesters to engage in illegal action. They denied this and the court agreed.

In addition:

The court also cited a ruling by the Constitutional Court on case number of 59/2556 to acquit the four. The Constitutional Court ruled that the PDRC demonstrators had constitutional rights based on Article 63 of the then charter to demonstrate out of dissatisfaction with the Yingluck administration enacting an amnesty law to try to whitewash former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As far as we are aware, no such decision has been applied to red shirts.

Suthep Thaugsuban and other anti-democrats were in the court to cheer the decision.

The Bangkok Post reports that 28 other anti-democrats face similar charges.

Meanwhile, as reported at The Nation, the politicized Constitutional Court seems to be preparing for its decisions that will likely go against the Future Forward Party and its leaders.

 

It has “warned that critics of its rulings could face prosecution for contempt of court if they unfairly attack its judgments or use expletives in public comments.”

The court warned that under junta-enacted law, “criticism of the court should be done in an honest manner, with no use of expletives or sarcastic or vengeful language. This provision also refers to comments made on the Internet or in social media…”.

The court has stated that it “will enforce this law as much as it is necessary in order to ensure justice in an efficient and fair manner…”. In other words, it is prepared to jail those who disagree with the court;s politicized verdicts.





Weaponized “law”

6 06 2019

According to a report at the Bangkok Post a few days ago, police are considering yet another political attack on Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit as if it is a legal case.

We at PPT well understand that law has become deeply politicized and even weaponized in the junta’s Thailand, but this “case” is among the most egregious abuses of the law seen in recent days.

(Weaponizing law is a widely-used tactic by rightist authoritarian regimes.)

The police are apparently considering “a petition calling for a probe against … Thanathorn … and two others for allegedly offending late statesman Prem Tinsulanonda via social media.”

This crazy idea seems to be that it was not the dead Prem who was “offended” but his acolytes and posterior polishers.

The “complaint” comes from the founder of the virtually unknown junta-supporting New Alternative Party’s founder Rachen Trakulwiang.

Rachen’s royalist and military proxy party was “the first newly registered political party to receive the junta’s approval to convene meetings” back before the junta’s “election.” Then, The Nation reported on Rachen’s rightist-royalist background:

Rachen first came to the public’s attention as president of the Federation of Thai Defenders of the Monarchy. In 2011, he led a campaign against a group seeking to amend the lese majeste law in Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He has also filed complaints with police against several red-shirt leaders accused of insulting the monarchy.

In late 2013, Rachen joined anti-government street rallies organised by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), describing himself as a PDRC leader from Nonthaburi, his home province. Rachen also joined monk Phra Buddha Isara, a key PDRC leader, to organise a rally at Government Complex, but later withdrew from the effort.

Rachen has subsequently ended his role as a PDRC leader while continuing his role as president of the Federation of Thai Defenders of the Monarchy. He decided to enter politics two years ago and eventually turned the federation into the New Alternative Party.

In his most recent attack on his political opponents, Rachen barked that he “was referring to posts that he claimed were attacks on Gen Prem…”.

In filing his complaint, it seems Rachen has concocted yet another royalist “group” to allow him to propound rabid royalism:

“Gen Prem was a representative of the King. We should treat him with respect,” said Mr Rachen as his group Khon Rak Pa (“People Who Love Pa”, the nickname of Gen Prem).

Perhaps inadvertently, Rachen linked himself with other thugs by making similarly ridiculous but threatening “complaints” about other he opposes:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, an anti-coup activist who chairs the Student Union of Thailand, and Suphraiphon Chuaichu, a losing Puea Chat Party election candidate for Bangkok’s Bang Khunthian district.

Rachen whined that “he suspected their alleged insults could be the start of attempts to destroy the Privy Council and the military.”He threatened: “We can’t accept that and will never let it happen…”.

PPT suspects that Rachen and his ilk will be used by the junta’s revamped regime to “protect” it as it seeks to “govern” in a polarized political environment. Its threats and the weaponizing of law will be used to undermine and silence critics. It’s an old military strategy, primed by ISOC, to support its governments.





Democrat Party going home?

6 04 2019

It’s likely a homecoming. Reports in both The Nation and Bangkok Post refer to meetings of the Democrat Party or a faction of it. In essence, the reports are of the anti-democrat, People’s Democratic Reform Committee, aligned members electing to return to the junta.

This should come as no surprise, especially as the red/pro-Thaksin versus yellow/junta/royalist divide has been reasserted by the latter group.

While several pundits reckoned the election marked the end of that divide, its muscular reassertion as a series of attacks on pro-democracy parties, now identified as, variously, left-wing, pro-Thaksin, foreign-influenced and anti-monarchy, has been intense.

Some 30 Democrat Party members, including some who were elected, has “voiced support for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue running the country in a government led by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), according to Thaworn Senneam.” The Nation reported that former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai attended part of the meeting.

The group included other PDRC stalwarts Chitpas Krisdakorn and Atavit Suwannapak­dee. This PDRC aligned group is now going to press the party executive to take the party back to its natural political location. That is, with the military, the junta and the anti-democrats.

This is a challenge for the party as disgruntled anti-democrats could easily act as cobras, threatening the existence of the party.





Post-“election” disruption II

20 03 2019

We just posted on pro-junta disruption following the “election.” It seems we were rather too sanguine. The great fear that the junta may not fiddle its way to extending its regime has caused former People’s Democratic Reform Committee whistler Benya Nandakwang, a candidate for tiny Action Coalition of Thailand Party, founded and led by anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban, to use the coup word.

She “slammed anti-junta factions’ dream of winning at the polls as wishful thinking, since the government already has the stage set to its advantage.” She scribbled on:  “Do you really think you can just ‘pick up a pen and kill the dictatorship?’ [referring to a slogan of the pro-democracy camp] … Dream on. Do you know how to play chess? Look at the game. They already have their pieces set on the board.”

Then she got into the anti-democrat uniform of 2013-14, declaring that Thaksin Shinawatra’s money is “hell money” and warning that if the “democracy faction wins the election, eventually there will be another coup.”

There has been a social media storm about her comments. Yet she’s only saying what many of her ilk are thinking. And they have all put their money on Gen Apirat Kongsompong, yet another Army commander who has refused to rule out a coup and stated that he will not provide his or the military’s loyalty to a government he considers “disloyal.” The latter being his code for anti-junta.

Of course, a coup will be the ultimate disruption for the junta’s “election.”





An anti-democrat defines the junta’s “election”

3 03 2019

We at PPT earlier posted on how the abysmal notion of nominating a member of the royal family as a prime ministerial candidate for a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party meant the anti-Thaksin lot could campaign for the “election” around imagined notions of loyalty.

Thai PBS reports on campaigning by Suthep Thuagsuban, founder of the pro-junta Ruam Palang Prachachart Thai Party or the Action Coalition for Thailand Party, former deputy leader of the Democrat Party when he ordered red shirts shot down and also proud leader of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Suthep has declared that the junta’s election “is not a vote between democracy and military dictatorship, but a vote between Thailand and fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”.

Suthep said “he saw the need to remind the Thai public of the misdeeds allegedly committed by the Thaksin regime.” That means he also sees that the pro-Thaksin parties are looking very strong in campaigning. Hence his response is to emphasize Thaksin as the disloyal criminal.

He says there’s a “straightforward question for the Thai people:  Which side they will choose?  Should we allow the Thaksin regime to stage a comeback?” The question carries with it an implied threat: re-elect a pro-Thaksin government and face the consequences. In the period since 2001, the consequences have been street demonstrations and violence leading to two military coups.