Investigating disappearances

3 08 2021

Protesters have kept a focus on two disappearances: people and monuments.On the latter, we assume many readers will have seen Prachatai’s excellent report on its efforts to uncover the truth about the disappearance of the Constitution Defense Monument.

The story begins:

The approximately 4-metre-tall concrete monument located near the Lak Si roundabout disappeared without trace on 28 Dec 2018, even though it was situated in front of Bangkhen Police Station. However, no one has been able to answer – how did the monument disappear even when 5 months earlier it had been registered as a National Historic Site in the Royal Gazette?

The monument lauded those who lost their lives defeating the 1933 royalist rebellion led by Prince Boworadet and defending the People’s Party and its constitution.

Prachatai has used the Official Information Act to seek information from several government agencies. These efforts produced fake claims that no one in any of the agencies contacted knew anything about the removal of a very large monument of great historical importance. It is as if each of the agencies and their senior bureaucrats have had selective amnesia.

Of course, the reason for official amnesia is that the removal was probably done by the military on orders (or presumption of favorable response) from the palace and King Vajiralongkorn.

As with the disappeared, murdered, and presumed murdered activists in neighboring countries, it seems that the dull leadership of the regime, including the dullards of the military and the slow minds in the palace, believe that disappearing people and monuments that cross the official royalist historical narrative will allow those events and counter-narratives to be forgotten.

Interestingly, “[a]lthough government agencies do not know how and where the Constitution Defence Monument disappeared, there is one group of people that heard news about its relocation and went to watch events from the night of 27 into the morning of 28 Dec 2018.”

Those people know who was responsible for official vandalism:

military personnel and police officers order[ed] that no photos be taken. …[a] plainclothes military officer … claimed to be from ISOC (Internal Security Operations Command). Later, journalists and other people began to enter the area. The officials tried to prevent them from taking any photos or recording any videos. They … delete[d] any photos.

We applaud Prachatai for continuing to remember and for seeking to hold official vandals to account.





Thailand’s first constitution

24 06 2021

In celebrating 24 June and the 1932 revolution, PPT reproduces Thailand’s the country’s first (interim) constitution. King Prajadhipok signed it, but scrawled “draft” on it, a first effort to undermine the new regime and setting in train Thailand’s never-ending tinkering with constitutions.

Pridi

Pridi

This translation is from Pridi on Pridi. Apologies for any errors in transcribing it:

PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF SIAM, 1932

King Prajadhipok issues a royal command as follows. As the People’s Party has called for him to be under the constitution of the Kingdom of Siam so that the country may progress, and as he has welcomed the call of the People’s Party, he graciously enacts a law with the following clauses.

SECTION 1: GENERAL MATTERS
Clause 1. The supreme power in the country belongs to the people.

Clause 2. The persons and groups mentioned below will execute power on behalf of the people as specified in the constitution that follows:
1. The king (least)
2. The Assembly of Representatives of the People
3. The Committee of the People
4. The courts

SECTION 2. THE KING
Clause 3. The king is the supreme head of state. legislative acts, court decisions, and other matters as specified by law must be made in the name of the long.

Clause 4. The person who is king of the country is King Prajadhipok. The succession will proceed in accordance with the Royal Household Law on the Succession of 1924 and with the approval of the Assembly.

Clause 5. If there is any reason that the king is unable temporarily to carry out his duties, or is not in the capital, the Committee of the People will execute the right on his behalf.

Clause 6. The king cannot be charged in a criminal court. The responsibility for a judgment rests with the Assembly.

Clause 7. Any action of the king must have the signature of any one member of the Committee of the People that it has been approved by the Assembly, otherwise it is void.

SECTION 3. THE ASSEMBLY OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE
Part 1. Powers and duties.
Clause 8. The Assembly has the power to pass all legislation. Such legislation comes into force once promulgated by the king. If the long does not promulgate within seven days counted from the day of passage in the Assembly and shows reason for not agreeing to affix his signature, he has the power to return the legislation to the Assembly for reconsideration. If the Assembly passes a resolution the same as before, and the long does not concur, the Assembly has the power to promulgate that legislation to have the force of law.

Clause 9. The Assembly has the power to take care of the affairs of the country, and has the power to call a meeting to dismiss a member of the Committee of the People or any official of the government.

Part 2. Representatives of the people
Clause 10. Members of the Assembly of Representatives of the People will be by time period as follows:

Period I. From the time this constitution is enforced until the time when members of the second period take office, the People’s Party which has a military force protecting the capital, has the power to appoint seventy persons as provisional members of the Assembly.
Period 2. Within six months, or when the country has been made normal and orderly, there will be two types of Members of the Assembly working jointly, namely:

Type 1. Persons elected by the people, one per province, or for provinces with over 100,000 persons, one member for every 100,000 inhabitants, and a further one if the remainder is more than half that number.
Type 2. Members from period 1 up to the same number as members of type 1. If the number is in excess, they shall choose among themselves who shall remain members. If the number falls short, those remaining shall choose any persons to make up the number.

Period 3. When the number of people throughout the kingdom who have passed elementary education exceeds half the total, or at the latest within ten years of the implementation of the constitution, members of the Assembly must all be persons elected by the people. Type-2 members will no longer exist.

Clause 11. The qualifications for those standing for election as type-1 members are:

i. passed a political course in accordance with a syllabus which the Assembly will establish;
ii. aged twenty years and above;
iii. not incapable or seemingly incapable;
iv. not deprived of the right to vote by a court of law;
v. of Thai nationality by law;
vi. those standing for election as type-1 members in period 2 must be approved by members during period 1 that they are not people likely to cause disorder.

Clause 12. Election of type-1 members in period 2 shall take place as follows:

i. inhabitants of a village elect a representative for electing a tambon representative;
ii. the village representatives elect a tambon representative;
iii. the tambon representatives elect the members of the Assembly.
For Assembly election in period 3, a law will be passed subsequently on the procedure for direct election of members of the Assembly.

Clause 13. Type-1 members will serve for terms of four years counted from the day of assuming office. But when period 3 is reached, members from period 2, even if they have not yet been in the position for four years, must relinquish the position from the day that the period-3 members assume office. If a member’s position falls vacant for reasons other than the end of the term, the members shall elect another to fill the vacancy, but the new member shall hold the post only for the remainder of the term of the member who is replaced.

Clause 14. Persons of whatever sex who meet the following qualifications have the right to cast their vote to choose village representatives:

i. aged twenty years and above;
ii. not incapable or seemingly incapable;
iii. not deprived of the right to vote by a court of law;
iv. of Thai nationality by law.

The qualifications for representatives of the village and of the tambon are the same as those laid down in clause 11.

Clause 15. The election of representatives shall be by simple majority. If votes are tied, a second election shall be held. If votes are tied on the second occasion, a neutral person shall be appointed to give a casting vote. The candidates shall appoint the neutral person.

Clause 16. Apart from relinquishment at end of term, members must relinquish office if they fail to meet the qualification in clause 11, if they pass away, or if the Assembly decides that the member has caused damage to the Assembly.

Clause 17. Criminal charges against a member of the Assembly must be sanctioned by the Assembly before the court may adopt the case.

Part 3: Regulations for meetings
Clause 18. Members of the Assembly shall select one person as chairman to conduct the affairs of the Assembly, and one vice-chairman to act on the chairman’s behalf when the chairman has temporary reasons for not fulfilling his duty.

Clause 19. When the chairman is absent or unable to attend, the vice-chairman will maintain the orderliness of the Assembly on his behalf and will manage the deliberations according to regulations.

Clause 20. If both the chairman and vice-chairman are not in the meeting, the members attending shall elect a temporary chairman.

Clause 21. Arrangements for ordinary meetings are the responsibility of the Assembly. A special meeting may be held when requested by no fewer than fifteen members, or by the Committee of the People. The chairman or his substitute shall call the meeting.

Clause 22. Every meeting must be attended by no fewer than half of the total number of members to have a quorum.

Clause 23. Motions on any subject shall be decided by simple majority with each member casting one vote. If the vote is tied, the chairman shall have an additional casting vote.

Clause 24. Members shall not be held liable for any statement or opinion made, and shall not be sued for any matter arising from a vote cast in the meetings.

Clause 25. In every meeting, the chairman must command the Assembly’s officials to keep a record; submit it for the members to check, amend, and approve; and the chairman of the meeting must affix his signature.

Clause 26. The Assembly has the power to appoint sub-committees to perform any task, or to examine and report on any matter to the Assembly for further decision. If the Assembly does not appoint the chairman of a sub-committee, the members of the sub-committee shall elect their own. A sub-committee has the power to invite others to offer explanations and opinions. The sub-committee members and such invitees shall be covered by the provisions of clause 24. Meetings of sub-committees must be attended by no fewer than three persons to achieve a quorum, except in the case of sub-committees which have only three members, in which case two persons shall constitute a quorum.

Clause 27. The Assembly has the power to establish rules of procedure in accordance with this constitution (at the initial stage, the rules of the Committee of the Privy Council may be adapted, but only those that are not in conflict with this constitution).

SECTION 4: THE COMMITTEE OF THE PEOPLE
Part 1: Powers and duties

Clause 28. The Committee of the People has the powers and duties to act in accordance with the wishes of the Assembly.

Clause 29. If there is any urgent matter over which the Committee cannot call a meeting of the Assembly in time, and if the Committee sees it fitting to issue a law appropriate to that urgent matter, it can do so but must quickly submit that law for the approval of the Assembly.

Clause 30. The Committee of the People has the power to grant pardon but must first seek royal approval.

Clause 31. The ministers of various ministries are responsible to the Committee of the People on all matters. Anything which infringes an order or regulation of the Committee of the People or is done without the sanction of the constitution, shall be considered void.

Part 2. Members of the Committee of the People and regular officials

Clause 32. Membership of the Committee of the People consists of one Chairman and fourteen other members, totaling fifteen.

Clause 33. The Assembly shall elect one of its members as the Chairman of the Committee, and that Chairman shall select fourteen other members of the Assembly to be members of the Committee. When this selection has been approved by the Assembly, it shall be held that those selected are committee members of the Assembly. If the Assembly considers that a committee member has not conducted affairs according to the policy of the Assembly, the Assembly has the power to invite that committee member to relinquish his duty and to select a new member as above.

Clause 34. If any Committee member for any reason lacks the qualifications laid down for members of the Assembly in clause 10, or has died, the Assembly shall select a replacement. If the Assembly has selected Committee members, and if that Assembly comes to the end of its term, the Committee shall also be considered to have come to the end of its term.

Clause 35. The appointment and removal of ministers is in the power of the king. This power shall be used only on the advice of the Committee of the People.

Clause 36. Political negotiations with overseas countries are the duty of the Committee of the People and the Committee may appoint a representative for this. The Committee must report negotiations on any point to the king. Ratification of any international treaty is in the power of the long, but that power shall be used on the advice of the Committee of the People.

Clause 37. Declaration of war is in the power of the king, but that power shall be used on the advice of the Committee of the People.

Part 3. Regulations of meetings

Clause 38. Regulations of the meetings of the Committee of the People shall be adapted as in section 3.

SECTION 5: COURTS

Clause 39. The revocation of a judgment shall proceed according to the law in current use.

Promulgated on 27 June 1932 and in force henceforth.
(signed) Prajadhipok
Ananta Samakhom Hall
3 July 1932





Clown royalists and the monarchist laundry

11 03 2021

The Bangkok Post had a report that, if it wasn’t from royalist, neo-absolutist Thailand, would seem odd, even crazy. It is about a nutty minor royal, MR Priyanandana Rangsit, “taking legal action and seeking damages of 50 million baht from writer Nattapol Chai­ching and publisher Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky) for alleged slander.”

Minor princess Priyanandana, is “a granddaughter of the Prince of Chai Nat” and in the name of her princely grandfather, has lodged “a complaint with the Civil Court against Mr Nattapol, his two PhD thesis advisers and two executives of the Fah Diew Kan publishing house for disseminating false information.”

All of this stems from the work of royalist/yellow-shirted academic Chaiyan Chaiyaporn at Chulalongkorn University, who spent his time combing through Nattapol’s thesis seeking any error he could identify. He accused Nattapol of “false references,” in the thesis one of which was to a:

Bangkok Post article published on Dec 18, 1950, which said the Regent [Prince of Chai Nat] had been expanding his political role by frequently attending cabinet meetings led by prime minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram. This move was said to have made Field Marshal Plaek unhappy and that he responded by demanding that he be allowed to sit in meetings of the Privy Council if the Regent continued to interfere with the administrative and legislative branches.

The Post later denied it had reported such information, “and said the article merely reported that several cabinet members had voiced concern over 50 senators being appointed by the Privy Council without the government being consulted.” Nattapol has admitted that error in referencing. As far as we know, the Post has not reprinted the article online and we have been unable to find an archive.

In any case, the claim that Phibul had problems with Rangsit and, at the time, actively worked against the royalists and their political machinations is hardly news. But what’s going on here is a royalist laundering of critical scholarship that tells the real story of the royal insurgency against the remnants of the People’s Party.

We were struck by the parallels with current writing on the British monarchy. This one seemed relevant:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish [Thais], it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.





Where are the monuments?

24 12 2020

A pro-democracy Silpakorn Community for Democracy group yesterday called on the House committee on religious affairs, arts and culture to “help locate the missing Khana Ratsadon plaque and the Constitutional Defence Monument.”

It is assumed that both monuments were removed on the king’s orders or by those who thought that he’d like them removed.

The 1932 revolution memorial plaque “disappeared” in 2017, just before Vajiralongkorn signed the junta’s constitution into law. Because everyone went unusually quiet about the nighttime vandalism, it is thought that the king ordered the symbol of civilian rule and constitutionalism removed.

The Constitutional Defence monument, celebrating the victory of the People’s Party government over over a royalist counterrevolution in 1933, “was removed to make way for the construction of the Green Line electric train.” That it was a registered historical site made no difference as the state’s vandals demolished it.

It is time to reveal the culprits. But, in royalist Thailand, this seems unlikely.





Remembering 1932 in 2020

24 06 2020

24 June 1932 is an important day in Thailand. The palace, royalists and military have persistently worked to erase it from the national historical memory.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We do so again today.

On that day in 1932, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

24 June is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country only to see their efforts repeatedly crushed by military and monarchy.

Lopburi vandalism 1

Clipped from Khaosod

For anti-democrats and royalists, 24 June is a day they want to expunge. It recalls a thirst for democracy and is the essence of anti-monarchism in Thailand. The king has been working with the junta-cum-post-junta-regime (of crooks and generals) to destroy memorials and monuments to 1932. History books have been changed. Properties previously removed from the monarchy have reverted to the present monarch.

democracy in ruins

24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely officially noticed, except for the purposes of repression and preventing people from acknowledging the day and its events.

If royalists remember 24 June for anything it is to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and declare that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and he supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime before abdicating.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty.

As we do each year, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2020 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

Pridi

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932





Going backwards IV

28 01 2020

The palace-initiated effort to destroy all symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party has gone up a gear. The campaign is now moving ahead with remarkable speed and determination. Thailand is having its historical memory erased, to be reprogrammed as a royalist fairy tale.

The latest report is from Khaosod. It seems this paper and Prachatai are the only brave newspapers in Thailand, willing to report this tragedy:

Yet another public commemoration of a 1932 revolt that ended absolute monarchy in Thailand was removed without any explanation.

A statue of revolt co-leader Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram at the army-run National Defense College has gone missing when a reporter visited the site on Tuesday….

Royal vandalism (clipped from Khaosod)

It is said that it was Phibun who founded the College, but that does not prevent royal/royalist vandalism. The erasing of Phibun extended even to removing “a wall-size plaque bearing the Field Marshal’s biography…”. The space was painted over.

And you know that the orders for this destruction of some of Thailand’s most significant (non-royal) symbols are being smashed, removed and spirited away when no one wants to talk about it – the fear of the king is all too obvious:

I will not give you the information,” an staff member at the college – founded by Pibulsongkram himself 64 years ago – said when questioned where the statue of its founder went to. The man declined to give his name.

The College’s commanding officers are silent. Meanwhile, Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree and defense ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich both refused to comment.

Expect more of this until someone is brave enough to shout stop.





Going backwards III

28 01 2020

A few days ago, in a post on the removal of symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party, we promised updates when we saw them. Thanks to Khaosod – despite censorship, one of the only outlets reporting these events – we now have more information on royalist vandalism in Lopburi.

It is worth noting that the Khaosod report states: “The mainstream media were also discouraged from investigating or reporting about the disappearances [of these symbols].”

Statues dedicated to Phahol Pholphayuhasena and Plaek Phibulsonggram at the Army’s artillery base in Lopburi have been “removed” – perhaps destroyed – and, as might be expected in this palace-related vandalism, “were replaced with a huge portrait of the late King Rama IX.”

In addition, the name “Phaholyothin” – Phahol Pholphayuhasena’s birth name – has been removed from the name of the base. It is now just “Artillery Center.”

Clipped from Khaosod

Khaosod reports that “[c]onstruction workers were still removing concrete debris from where the statues once stood when a reporter visited the base on Monday afternoon.

Clipped from Khaosod

Two army officers were interviewed but “gave no explanation for the removals.” Perhpas they refused:

“We can’t tell you,” Lt.Col. Suppichai Paorith, an officer at the base’s civilian affairs division, said when asked about the name change and the missing statues.

His colleague, Col. Korn Ittiwiboon, said the new name is not considered official until an announcement is published in the Royal Government Gazette. An earlier media said the base would be renamed Fort King Bhumibol.

Both men said they have no knowledge of where the two statues might be, though one of the laborers working on the field said the statue depicting Field Marshal Pibul was removed “about a week ago.”

Of course, Army spokespersons are as fearful as everyone else in matters related to the erratic and obsessive-compulsive King Vajiralongkorn and his war on 1932 and the origins of parliamentary and electoral politics.





With a major update: Re-feudalization and repression

26 01 2020

Somsak Jeamteerasakul has posted another before and after picture of the destruction of symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party. This time at the Field Marshal P. Phibulsonggram House Learning and History Center in Chiang Rai:

Meanwhile, yet another critical report seems to have been removed from the Khaosod news website.In this case, an opinion piece by Pravit Rojanaphruk titled “Opinion: The Talibanization of Bangkok’s Architectural Heritage” about the erasing of post-1932 architectural style from Rajadamnoen Avenue, has gone.

When one looks for the article at the site, the return is:

It was there.

And it was circulated:

And it was re-posted in Thailand:

Frustratingly, PPT didn’t copy the article before it was taken down. If any reader has a copy, please email us.

The last time this happened it was a news story about the trouble caused by Princess Sirivannavari when she and some rich friends had a holiday in the south and officials closed land and sea to allow her to have fun with “security.” Ordinary Thais lost income and work while taxpayer funds were burned.

As far as we can tell, in neither case has Khaosod explained why the articles have been disappeared. We assume the management and owners came under pressure. But from where? From notions of self censorship? Or from the regime? Or from the palace?

The fear about commenting on anything royal is reinforced. The erasure of memory and history gathers pace.

Update: Thanks to readers, including @barbaricthais and “a republican reader,” we have located the deleted Khaosod op-ed by Pravit. It is clear that the equating of royal vandalism and Talibanization annoyed/scared/worried some. The op-ed is reproduced here, in full, but without the pictures:

What struck me as rather disturbing as I met with people along the Ratchadamnoen Avenue to discuss the upcoming renovation is their sense of fear.

Very few whom I interviewed wanted to be identified. Some even said they did not want to talk at all about what could be the most significant change to the landscape of the historic avenue in 80 years.

The reason is rather straightforward. All of the ten art deco buildings along the avenues are to be replaced with a new “neoclassical” pastiches per instruction from the Crown Property Bureau, who owned the structures since the time when it was still under the oversight of a civilian government that overthrew absolute monarchy in 1932.

In the present time, the agency is a different kind of entity. Following a vote in 2017 by the junta-appointed rubber stamp parliament, the Crown Property ceased to be under the control of state and was placed under the supervision of new monarch, King Vajiralongkorn.

In early 2019, the Crown Property Bureau invited tenants of these art deco buildings along the 1200-meter stretch of the avenue to a meeting, and informed them that a decision has been made to replace the structures with a neoclassical façade.

Words of the meeting were relayed to me by one of the participants, who was apparently at a discomfort of discussing the topic, but I assured him there was nothing to worry; what he told me was perfectly in line with the Crown Property’s very own announcement of the plan on Jan 17.

Not everyone is thrilled by the makeover. Critics like Chatri Prakitnonthakan, an expert and author on buildings from the era of the revolution that toppled the absolute monarchy, told me the new façade will be “fake” because it’s more like applying a veneer on art deco architectural structure which is fundamentally different.

He also suspected a deeper agenda. Chatri said art deco architecture in Thailand symbolized a break from feudal absolutism. He believes there is a sinister attempt by some people to exact revenge on the long-dead revolutionaries by removing any relics related to their memories.

No matter what your political ideology is, Thailand has lost enough architectural heritage when its old capital Ayutthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767; the city was also subject to a series of looting and vandalism by both Thais and Chinese merchants in the centuries that followed.

Bangkok is relatively new, anointed as the capital in 1782. Why, then, are we defacing and deconsecrating the few architectural legacies and monuments that we have?

Let us not Talibanize our tangible heritage, our past, our history – lest we end up not knowing who we are, where we came from and surrounded by Disney-like environ.

In the fast-developing megacity of Shanghai, the Chinese managed to preserve many buildings constructed by former colonial powers despite the bitter history. Thais should also learn to cherish material cultures, buildings included, that speak about a crucial portion in our history, instead of trying to deface what we do not like.

Many have given up, resigned to the fate that one of the most historic landmarks in Bangkok’s Old City will be Disneyfied with the shallow neoclassical veneer.

Some even fear that Democracy Monument, the most visible memorial to the birth of parliamentary democracy in 1932, might be either altered or removed altogether eventually. Some have begun taking selfies with the symbolism-filled monument in a half-nervous jest. Just in case.

And if the renovation is truly inevitable, I hope they save at least one art deco building on Ratchadamnoen Avenue: the imposing Royal Hotel at the southeastern end of the avenue.

It was opened in 1943 by none other than the revolution’s co-leader Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, and has since played a role in several key moments of Thai political history. Like when it was a safe haven for protesters in the May 1992 uprising against the military rulers, until soldiers invaded it, beating and forcefully arresting those inside.

I wonder if anyone will launch any campaign to save these historical relics at all. Given the current climate of fear and sensitivity of the issue, I wouldn’t be surprised if many will think more than twice before lending their signature – or even change their mind afterwards.





Remembering II

12 01 2020

We are pleased that another article on remembering is available. At Khaosod, Pravit Rojanaphruk has an op-ed on resisting the erasure of history and memory.

Pravit refers to “pro-democracy activist Arnon Nampha [who] announced on his Facebook that in 2020, he will keep posting content about the revolt which ended absolute monarchy nearly 88 years ago … because he felt its memories are being threatened.”

Arnon declared that “… we shall continue the mission of the People’s Party to the utmost,” and called on others to “think and act on the matter, adding, “We shall fight together next year [2020].”

His first post reproduced the Announcement No. 1 of the People’s Party (1932).

Pravit says that Arnon was galvanized into (Facebook) action by “the army’s decision to remove statues of two leaders of the 1932 democratic revolt and rename an artillery base in Lopburi province. The statues would be replaced by one depicting the late King Rama IX…”.

Pravit notes a “sinister trend [that] began nearly three years ago, in April 2017. That was when a plaque marking the spot where the [1932] revolt took place was mysteriously removed.”

Actually, it marked the site of the announcement of the People’s Party seizing of power.

He goes on to mention other monuments that have been destroyed or removed to unknown locations. Pravit rightly laments:

Disturbingly, most Thai mainstream mass media simply pretended the theft of such epic proportions was not worth reporting about. Or they were told not to report about it, though I have no hard evidence of that possibility.

More likely is that self-censorship and fear took hold, as it usually does when the monarchy is involved in unsavory events.

Pravit then observes the obvious:

It should be clear by now that there is a deliberate and concerted effort to delete parts of Thai political history, or at least make Thai people forget about them. It was as if five years of junta’s rule wasn’t enough. Now, certain people want to take away our collective memories and replace it with a sanitized royalist version.

And they are so dishonest that they refuse to claim responsibility for their actions, preferring to hide under the shadow of anonymity.

In our view, much of this work emanates from the palace. It is no coincidence that erasure coincide with the king’s land grabbing.

And, Pravit informs his readers that “Arnon is not alone in this campaign.” He refers to:

Some political activists, like Nitirat Subsomboon, are compiling a calendar of important dates related to Thai people’s struggle for a more equal and democratic society over the centuries. These episodes in history tend to be ignored, wilfully or not, with hardly a mention in school history textbooks.

We are pleased to know that:

It’s now clear that there are dissidents who will not just let others tamper with their memories without putting up a fight. They are starting the preservation effort by declaring that certain Thai political history is an endangered species – at risk of being erased.





Erasing history and memory

7 01 2020

PPT is almost a month late in posting on Anna Lawattanatrakul’s Uprooting Democracy: The War of Memory and the Lost Legacy of the People’s Party, which appeared at Prachatai on 19 December 2019. We are posting now because we feel that this is an important article.

We won’t recount it all as readers should look at it in full. We’ll just highlight some basic points, all of them pointing to the efforts by the palace and state to erase the 1932 revolution from history and memories.

It is important to recognize that, from the day of the revolution on 24 June 1932, there most basic schism is Thailand’s politics was between royalists and those associated with the People’s Party that overthrew the monarchy all those years ago.

Because the royalists and the royal family were so incensed by being pushed aside and losing some of their privileges and power, generations of them have been struggling to scrub out the legacy and symbols of the revolution and the People’s Party.

As Anna’s article points out, this process has accelerated:

The war of memory has been more intense since the 2006 coup, through, for example, the demolition of the Supreme Court complex, the construction of the new parliament, the enclosure of Sanam Luang, the Rattanakosin Island conservation and development project and including the disappearance of the People’s Party plaque and the Constitution Defence Monument at Laksi.

That coup also saw the decline of King Bhumibhol and the rise of King Vajiralongkorn. This suggests two items of speculation. First, that there’s a feeling that the monarchy has been under threat from a new generation of republicans, and second, that Vajiralongkorn has inherited a mindset that demands a restoration of the monarchy’s political power and a rolling back of 1932.

The list of the destruction of symbols, including some fantastic modernist buildings, is long (and sad) but not comprehensive. For example, the zoo has been “given” to the king. This is not just a land grab, but is a part of the king erasing all symbols of 1932 from what he seems to think is rightly a “royal precinct” that he taking back (the parliament building, Suan Amphon, the Ananta Samakhom Hall, Royal Turf Club race track, Suan Sunandha, the Si Sao Thewes residence previously occupied by Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, and several large plots of land and bases formerly owned by the military). Interestingly, Sanam Luang, a public space since 1932, has now been fenced off.

Clipped from Prachatai

Then there’s the destruction, by theft and vandalism, of symbols and monuments related to 1932: the People’s Party plaque, The Lak Si monument and many provincial memorials dedicated to the constitutional regime.

Many of the provincial memorials were in the northeast. The region was a political stronghold of the People’s Party and is seen today as politically dangerous for the Bangkok-based ruling class.

Back in the 1930s, the “People’s Party representatives from the northeast played an outstanding role at the time and the population was politically very active.” At the time of the revolution, “in Udon Thani province … the people listened incessantly to the news on the radio…”. They knew that the king was “under the law, citizens had equal rights, government officials were the equivalent of being the employees of citizens with the duty to help relieve the sufferings and maintain the happiness of the people.” Northeasterners flocked to the government side against the royalist plotters led by Prince Boworadej in 1933.

Hence, the rubbing out of symbols and memories has been intense in the northeast: “At present there remain only 5 constitutional monuments in the northeast: in Maha Sarakham, Surin, Roi Et, Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum.”

The military has been a willing accomplice in all of this:

As the legacy of the People’s Party was disappearing piece by piece, on 9 October 2019, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the opening of the Si Sitthisongkhram Room and Boworadet Room in the Royal Thai Army Museum in Honour of His Majesty the King.  The two rooms are named after Prince Boworadet, leader of the Boworadet Rebellion, and Colonel Phraya Si SithiSongkram (Din Tharab), a core leader of the Boworadet Rebellion and the grandfather of Privy Councillor Gen Surayud Chulanont.

Other officials either willingly or out of fear support the great rub out:

In March 2019, the Dean of the College of Politics and Governance, Mahasarakham University, made a request to install a replica People’s Party plaque as a learning resource for students, but the University refused, giving as a reason that it was a symbolic expression and not within educational objectives.  It also feared that it would create division within the University.  Finally there was a compromise that the finished plaque would be placed on a shelf for display.

This process of enriching the palace’s land bank while rubbing out 1932 is likely to continue throughout 2020. Vajiralongkorn seems energetic in these efforts.