Authoritarian speak

3 05 2013

Thailand’s anti-democrats/authoritarians express themselves most clearly when they are most rabid and frothing about those they hate with irrational fervor.

So it is that Khao sod reports on a statement by Kaewsan Atibhodhi, a former member of the military junta-established Assets Scrutiny Committee that was meant to investigate corruption cases against ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. On the ASC, Kaewsan once made the remarkable claim that “evidence and witnesses are useless,” when one of its panels recommended legal action against Thaksin without hearing 300 witnesses or considering 100 additional pieces of evidence (Bangkok Post, 9 April 2008).

Kaewsan has also been a member of the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group and attempted to concoct legal cases against Yingluck Shinawatra during the 2011 election campaign.

Kaewsan and his ultra-royalist buddy Tul

Kaewsan and his ultra-royalist buddies

He has posted an “open letter” at his Facebook pages that joins the long list of increasingly sordid and irrational criticisms of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s  speech in Mongolia on Thai democracy. His claims are not only driven by the irrationality that derives from his extreme personal hatred of Thaksin but by a deep intolerance to electoral democracy. Having served as a minion for the junta, the latter should be no surprise.

In addition, as is often the case when passion takes over from reason, Kaewsan’s grasp of reality is shown to be wanting when he compares Yingluck and her family to the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

As with other ultra-royalists and anti-democrats, Kaewsan declares Yingluck’s speech “lies” and proclaims the Shinawatra clan to be holding a “dictatorship over Thai people.” Yingluck, he says,

came to power via her brother′s influence, “not unlike how Kim Jong Un inherited the throne from his father”. Mr. Kaewsan also [repeatedly]… compar[ed] the Shinawatras to the Kim dynasty that has been ruling North Korea for decades.

He went on to blame the media for the dictatorship of the Shinawatra family:

“The Thai media obediently encourages the mass to be loyal to Shinawatra family, similar to the Korean media [sic]”, according to the open letter, which was written in Thai, “when you go to North Korea, you will see faces of the Dear Leader staring out from billboards. Such is the case in Thailand. The servants of the Shinawatra family are everywhere.”

PPT has its doubts that Kaewsan is a regular visitor to North Korea or that he has thought too much about the misplaced analogy. After all, if he’d thought for even a millisecond he might have noticed that if a comparison is to be drawn between North Korea and Thailand it might better be to the cult of personality between the autocratic family of rulers in North Korea and the monarchy in Thailand.

What is more significant is that Kaewsan’s misplaced comparison is just one more yellow-shirted statement indicating this neo-fascist movement’s rejection of electoral democracy. Kaewsan has probably noticed that Yingluck won a landslide electoral victory in what amounted to an emphatic rejection of his style of politics that links royalism, military and authoritarianism. We can’t recall the Kim dynasty in North Korea winning a free election.  On the other hand, pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2000. And that seems to be the point. Kaewsan and his ilk can’t stand the idea that the majority of Thais have repeatedly and steadfastly supported pro-Thaksin parties. Hence they reject elections and electoral democracy.

Updated: The religion of lese majeste

25 07 2012

At Prachatai Pravit Rojanaphruk picks up on a picture PPT also commented on, where ultra-royalist/neo-fascists referred to an alleged incident involving the king’s photo and a foot.

Pravit says this equation of the king/monarchy with religion and god-like qualities is one of the “newer manifestations of the increasingly religious dimension of how some ultra-royalist Thais regard the monarchy institution, especially HM the King.”

We disagree that this is new, but do think that the battle for hearts and minds in recent years, that has increasingly come to focus on the preservation of the declining monarchy has seen an intensification of the cult of personality.

Pravit notes that:

In a country where politicians are often regarded as corrupt and evil, many royalists feel there is a need to inject a sacred dimension into society as opposed to the supposedly evil and profane corrupt and self-serving politicians. The monarchy institution, and particularly the current HM the King, is thus regarded by ultra-royalists as ‘sacred’.

PPT recalls an article by Thongchai Winichakul some time ago in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, where he made similar points relating to the denigration of politicians as venal and evil versus the alleged sacredness and goodness of the monarchy. Download that article here.

Of course, this is all propaganda, and Thongchai explains the history of the process of ideological development. But that this is all a fairy tale is hardly the point for the ultra-royalists who feel rudderless without the symbolic father figure to lead them in their battle with the evil and venal.

Pravit states that:

Many ultra-royalists think you cannot criticize God and laws such as the lese majeste and Computer Crimes Act will ensure that few will challenge the discourse of the King being purely good and benevolent.

We know that to be true and that lese majeste has become a convenient means to try and protect and prolong a declining social order. This is a rearguard action ultimately doomed to failure but is now an act of faith. This is because of the eye-opening events of recent years that has shown the royal image to be nothing but childish propaganda.

Pravit is right in his observation that: “The notion of good and virtuous person is hierarchical, as it stands in opposition (and above) that of bad as well as ordinary people.” At the same time, the basic failure of a monarchy in a democratic society is that in its very existence it is a medieval notion of hierarchy.

Update: A reader points out this YouTube video of Thongchai discussing “hyper-royalism.”

The most important news in the universe

13 07 2012

To read this report in The Nation, anyone not familiar with the cult of personality in Thailand would be forgiven for thinking they were in a different universe. The fawning of the monarchy in the media is demeaning of “journalists.” This particular example of the royal nonsense begins:

The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) yesterday held a meeting to prepare pilots and helicopters for His Majesty the King’s visit to Ratchaburi on Sunday July 15 to inspect a royal soil-rehabilitation project at Khao Cha Ngum.

Taxpayer funds will be used to ferry the king about on whatever the aged monarch thinks will suit him. Notice too that he does these things at critical political times. There’s no coincidence, as it is the royal palace that mobilized the judiciary for political purposes, from at least April 2006.

At the 201st Helicopter Squadron (Royal Guard), the head of the Royal Helicopter Coordination Centre, Air Vice Marshal Saman Sangkhorn, joined the meeting with the pilots who are to transport HM the King, HM the Queen and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

The RTAF will provide three helicopters – including the Bell 412 EP helicopter number 36303, piloted by Air Vice Marshal Thanomsak Yenpiam and Group Captain Sermkiat Konmanee, for the monarch and royal family members – while the Royal Thai Army will provide one helicopter.

What was that joke about how many air marshal’s it takes to ferry a couple of royal personages about? Fortunately the air force has plenty of them. Another one, indeed, the boss of the whole air force has to be involved too:

Air Force chief Air Chief Marshall Itthiporn Supawong will be the director of transportation for this royal trip.

And the “journalists” provide the most important of details:

The first pilot, Thanomsak, said he was proud and grateful to have a chance to fly the royal helicopter again. He has served in this important job since 1993. The most recent royal flight he piloted was on November 8, 2005, when the King and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited Yang Chum reservoir.

Gee whiz. How great it is to know that kind of detail. It gets even more detailed:

The Bell 412 EP helicopter has been used by the RTAF since 2003. Its 1,800-horsepower engine can achieve a speed of 120 knots, altitude of 20,000 feet and can fly for up to three hours.

Maybe these reporters can become political reporters as The Nation seldom ever seems to provide accurate details in their political reports. We wonder if the helicopters were kitted out in North Korea?

Birthday nonsense

5 07 2012

At the National New Bureau of Thailand, which has an internet site sprinkled with royal propaganda, see here and here, the state propaganda arm has something called a “Special Report” on Princess Chulabhorn’s birthday. Of course, there’s no real “report,” for it is just the usual royal posterior polishing that is required whenever one of the conglomerate has an anniversary.

Buffing the image

NNT is kind of the Thailand equivalent of the Korean Central News Agency or Kabar. To add to its royal burnishing, at the home page of NNB, if a reader clicks something called “royal news,” the stuff served up is not in any shape or form “news.” It is propaganda pure and ever so simple.

It’s report on Chulabhorn is the usual royal nonsense, which has her having “made great contributions to the fields of chemistry and medicine in Thailand with her strong dedication and determination to develop the country in the footsteps of His Majesty the King.” You get the picture: she’s the king’s daughter, so she too must certainly be great. It really is North Korean logic.

The whole report is full of words and phrases like “first-class honors,” “conducted extensive research,” “renowned,” “scientific accomplishments,” and so on. Not to belabor the point, for PPT has made it before, we’ll just point out that she is said to have been “Professor of Chemistry at Mahidol University since 1985,” meaning that she was so prolific and so research excellent that at the very tender age of 28 she was a professor. Find her here and here.

Readers may want to see some of our earlier posts on this person. In one we briefly mention the queen and Chulabhorn being attracted to Mormons and, like many evangelical Americans, Chulabhorn claiming a special bond with Israel. We had several posts on her politics, including her very odd interviews with Woody, letters (here and here) that were the basis of the Army’s lese majeste accusation against Somsak Jeamteerasakul. More relevant to this particular “report,” we posted on Chulabhorn’s academics.

After looking at all of the above, if readers think PPT is being altogether too harsh to another politicized royal, read the last paragraph of the “report”:

HRH Princess Chulabhorn has been following the footsteps of Their Majesties the King and Queen by working for the betterment of all Thais. Her great achievements and dedication for the country are the key to her status as “Princess Scientist” who is the light of Thailand.

Even the Dear Leader would have been hard pressed to beat that.


Who will be teacher of the nation?

17 01 2012

To anyone who knows Thailand well, there can only be one answer to this question. Of course, as The Nation reports, it can only be one person. It reports that “HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been honoured as ‘Teacher of the nation’.”

Why? Because he’s simply “the greatest” at everything he turns his skilled hand to. The aphorism of “the Great” is even added to his name as an honor (thanks to General PremTinsulanonda)!

Titles and honors like this are regularly fabricated for this monarch and his family. That’s why Father’s Day is the king’s birthday (General Prem made it that way), why the king simultaneously gets 10 honorary degrees from the same university and why Thai royalists scour the globe for another honor to the king (for some, see here), even if the awarding organization has to create a new “award.”

So it is no surprise that every other teacher down to the lowest paid village teacher is simply ignored in order to further lavish honors on the one who is already the “greatest.” Few other national leaders have received such personality cult treatment.

Most recent governments have fallen over themselves in such shows of devotion and loyalty, and this time it is Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra who slavishly follows suit and says: “His Majesty has been a kind teacher to his people,”  on National Teachers’ Day, a day that should honor low-paid workaday teachers across the nation.

We guess that one of the things about a personality cult is that there is no need for anyone to think outside a tiny, narrow box. No need to encourage critical thinking, for that would be real teaching.


Academics support lese majeste repression

19 12 2011

As is usual when the political temperature rises in Thailand, and especially since the military coup in 2006, there are academics who regularly come out to support the royalist position. As the debate on lese majeste heats up, several academics have taken up the cause of supporting the draconian law.

In the Bangkok Post, “Nakhon Chomphuchat, a lawyer on human rights cases [PPT: really??], said state mechanisms were to blame for much of the conflict over the law.” The point seems to be that the problem can’t be the law itself!

Nakhon identies a “threat”: “Those who oppose enforcement of the law have campaigned against it so much that it threatens to affect the monarchy…”. And, of course, the average citizen is also partly to blame: “The public’s lack of understanding of the law could be dangerous. Some could criticise court verdicts in a way that offends the judiciary and the monarchy, which could further widen conflicts.”

The well-know yellow-shirted intellectual from Thammasat University’s political science faculty, Nakarin Mektrairat is clearer still: “Section 112 itself, in fact, causes no problems…”. Like Nakhon, he is sure that criticism of Article 112 is a secret attack on the monarchy: “Some groups which criticise Section 112 are trying to undermine the royal institution, by using violent and rude language to stir up hatred…”.

Of course, both Nakarin and Nakhon “agree the lese majeste law is important because Thai society still needs the monarchy.” The argument is the standard royalist one: Article 112 is just the same as defamation. The problem is that neither of them are logical in this claim for defamation cases never result in 15-20 year jail sentences.

It is good to know that yellow-shirted academics are keen to have people locked away for expressing opinions about a political system that is hierarchical and repressive.

We can only imagine that the death of Kim Jong Il and the impact this has on the cult of personality will worry yellow shirts more and cause even more frantic efforts to shore up the existing system.

With 4 updates: CRES, the king and red shirts

3 12 2010

Those who feel the need to protect a so-called universally respected monarch are becoming ever more alarmist. The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situations (CRES) “has ordered city police to hold talks with red shirt leaders on whether it is possible to postpone an event to be held on His Majesty the King’s birthday.” Sombat Boonngamanong has “organised the talk show to discuss injustice…”.

Of course, CRES has no legal right to prohibit red shirts from holding what is essentially a “political talk show … at the Imperial Lat Phrao shopping mall in Bangkok…” but spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said “organisers should take into account if it is appropriate to hold such an activity when the nation is celebrating His Majesty’s birthday.” It is not surprising that the police have sprung into action to “persuade” red shirts not to do anything that might be seen as straying off the straight and narrow path of the royalist propagandists! The stifling of thought is remarkably oppressive and matches the personality cults of other authoritarian regimes.

For an example of the propaganda exercises, see this story in The Nation.

(Sansern added that “security officers normally monitored activities of all political groups.”)

Update 1: There’s more on enforcing conformity on “love” for the king at, where this comment is made, with three photos:

Handing out “We Love The King” stickers – December 1, 2010
A large contingent of police and media are on hand at the freeway entrance to hand out “We Love The King” stickers. Above, a bubbly lady hands stickers to a taxi driver. No further comment will be made about this incident.

Update 2: According to the Bangkok Post, Sombat has capitulated to the pressure to obey. The brief report, which only cites police sources, states:”The red-shirt people group has agreed to cancel its plan to hold talk show tomorrow, His Majesty the King’s birthday, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 1 Pol Maj Gen Wichai Sangprapai said on Saturday. Pol Maj Gen Wichai said he had hold talks with a co-leader of the red-shirts, Somsak Boonngamanong, asking him to postpone the planned talk show on Sunday and Monday.” The policeman continued: “Mr Somsak agreed to cancel the planned talk show on Sunday as the Thai people are on the mode of celebration of the King’s auspicious occasion. However, the red-shirts affirmed to go ahead with the talk show plan for Monday…”.

Update 3: MCOT News has a report on the cancellation. It says, in part: “Sombat Boonngamanong, leader of the Red Sunday group, told a press conference that the UDD had decided to drop their plan to hold a political talk show at a major shopping mall in Bangkok tomorrow following talks with Pol Maj-Gen Vichai Sangprapai, commander of Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police Division 1, assigned by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) to negotiate with the activists to cancel their activity.  However, the UDD will organise polical talks show on Monday as planned, Mr Sombat said. The protest leader said the senior police officer was under pressure and was less flexible in pushing the UDD to cancel the political event prepared for Sunday.  Special Branch police were earlier instructed to closely monitor and videotape Sunday’s planned talk show for use as evidence in case the demonstrators breached the law.”

Update 4: Readers will find this Siam Voices post, on threats against Sombat, of considerable interest.

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