Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Rolling back 1932 one piece of property at a time II

7 04 2018

The palace and Crown Property Bureau have been active in recent months as they seek, for the king, to consolidate what he considers the “royal precinct.” We have previously mentioned assertions of royal control over the Bangkok or Dusit Zoo, Suan Amphon and the Ananta Samakhom Hall. And who can forget the illegal (and still unexplained) removal of the 1932 plaque that the king and the junta must have thought sullied the “royal precinct.”

The most recent territory marking involves the Royal Turf Club and the Nang Loeng horse-racing track, also in Dusit district. It is reported that the CPB has demanded the Royal Turf Club vacate the property in 180 days.

Anant Waiwitaya, a CPB legal affairs officer recently wrote to the club “to demand the departure.”

For many years the very large property has been in the hands of aged military people who benefit from gambling and while having been in operation for more than 100 years, is most recently remembered as the home of anti-Thaksin/anti-Yingluck grey activists under General Boonlert Kaewprasit’s Pitak Siam. This group was supported by all kinds of old royalists and conservatives who began the initial agitation against Yingluck. Boonlert was – maybe still is – secretary-general of the Royal Turf Club.

The CPB’s Anant noted that the lease had expires and that the Royal Turf Club had to vacate the property and its “track, five-storey stand, two six-storey parking buildings, a five-storey management building, a one-storey structure and a swimming pool.”

The CPB stated that it “had to use the land and the buildings.”

The report says: “Initiatives to relocate it were discussed during the previous governments of Chuan Leekpai and Thaksin Shinawatra.” Nothing resulted.

We see the action as another effort to create the “royal precinct,” rumored to include plans for a massive palace. The map below shows that the king’s moves over the last six months have massively expanded his territory.





Police, Prawit, Phajun and Prem

29 02 2016

An interesting report appears in today’s Bangkok Post, and many will be able to speculate rather broadly on the implications.

PPT has a couple of posts that mention Admiral or Vice Admiral Phajun Tamprateep (search by family name). In all of them he is reported to be a close aide to General Prem Tinsulanonda, President of the Privy Council, for over three decades. Phajun has been mentioned in posts about the 2006 coup and when he joined the rightist Pitak Siam.

These things make the report in the Post very interesting indeed, especially when there have been rumors of splits, make-ups and more splits between Prem and the junta (or members of it).

The report states that Phajun is chairman of the NLA’s sub-committee on police reforms, and sent some messages to various people regarding claims that police were paying for promotional positions (which has been normal practice in the police for decades). The allegation, though, suggested “an army general … [was] involved in position-buying in the police force.”

Remarkably, the police have taken (or perhaps threatened) legal action against Phajun. Indeed, police have “issued a summons … requiring Adm Phajun to report to the Cyber Crime Division, under the Central Investigation Bureau, on March 10 to acknowledge a charge of violating the Computer Crime Act.”

Even more remarkable is that Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan “backed” this police action. Prawit said “police were right to take legal action against … Phajun … because the message undermined the police.”

It also undermined Prawit because he reckons he’s in charge of the process and “insisted there had been no position-buying as long as he had been in charge and those who claimed they could secure police posts in that way were lying to get money.”

Presumably it undermined the Army also.

Presumably Prawit’s response undermines Phajun and Prem too.

These are interesting times.





Pandering to the minority?

30 12 2013

The Bangkok Post has joined The Nation in apparently pandering to the anti-democratic movement by naming it as the “People of the Year.” It refers to the “great mass uprising” or “muan maha prachachon” as a kind of middle class revolution that could “go down as a major political landmark and point of progress in Thai history.” The Post adds: “Whether the newly emerged force … will grow into a positive movement that brings about political progress remains to be seen.”

In other words, the selection is, like that of The Nation, either a bit of anti-democratic campaigning, pandering and hope or it is a bit like TIME magazine choosing Hitler as Man of the Year in 1938 which appears as fascination with a demagogue. We don’t know, but we do wonder about the Post’s pitch on this “landmark.”

Let’s look more closely at the claims made in this campaign by the Post (the indented bits are from the newspaper’s story):

Discontent, it is said, is the first necessity of progress.It’s discontent that lies at the hearts of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to Bangkok streets since last month to protest against the amnesty law that sought to absolve all crimes and corruption cases from 2006 onwards without any clear justifiable reasons.

It’s discontent against the flagrant abuse of power by a majority of democratically elected representatives who not only voted to pass a law that would have rendered the justice process meaningless but did so at 4:25am _ unbecoming conduct by parliamentarians for such highly questionable legislation.

This is true, as far as it goes. There is no doubt that the ill-conceived amnesty bill was a disaster for all involved. It is true that the amnesty bill motivated many who have demonstrated. However, it is also true that red shirts, both official and others, were also opposed to the amnesty bill. They are not demonstrating.

As the story later states, the bill has since been withdrawn. It might have been added that it never became law.

It is also true that the opposition movement is not primarily about this bill. The anti-democracy movement is primarily interested in destroying what it identifies as the “Thaksin regime” and prevent an election before the rules of elections can again be changed to allow minority interests to control politics.

The almost spontaneous uprising against the draft law started with tens of thousands who joined then Democrat MP and former party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban at a rally on Samsen Road, and grew into hundreds of thousands within weeks.

It is important to recognize that this anti-democratic movement was formed in 2005 and has been active ever since, seeing various levels of support. The opposition to the “Thaksin regime,” as Thongchai Winichakul points out in an excellent op-ed,  may have begun in late November, but this is “only one battle in Thailand’s protracted political struggle since the violent protests of 2006 that ended with a military coup.”

In fact, the lineage and allies is: People’s Alliance for Democracy (since 2005), Democrat Party (since 2005), Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), Group of 40 Senators (since 2005), palace and military (2006), judiciary (since 2006), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (which began its demonstrations in the same month in 2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), and now the misleadingly monikered People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013). Each of these groups -and we are sure we have missed some of them – has had overlapping membership and leadership. Essentially, a small group of rightist leaders have worked from 2005 to mobilize and bring down elected governments.

The spirit of the 2013 uprising, the will to mass together to challenge injustice and the force for change it engendered, has earned the mass uprising, or muan maha prachachon as it has become known, the Bangkok Post’s 2013 People of the Year distinction.

PPT can’t help thinking about the injustice heaped upon every single elector who has voted again and again for the governments the majority wants, only to see them overturned by unelected minorities. We can’t recall, but were red shirts the Post’s Persons of the Year in 2010 for their campaign for an election?

It is the first time that white-collar working-class people and business entrepreneurs have spoken up and demanded they be treated as informed citizens who are willing to engage in participatory democracy, in activities that go beyond casting their ballot on voting days.

When Sondhi Limthongkul formed the People’s Alliance for Democracy six years ago, only a few thousand people in these classes joined him as the so-called yellow-shirt demonstrators….

This is far from factual. Business people have been funding PAD’s demonstrations since 2005 and have been involved in demonstrations previously – recall the 1992 “mobile phone mob.” The “white-collar working class” is an odd term and seems little more than an attempt to identify middle-class protesters who have come out time and again to oppose elections and pro-Thaksin governments. We have to say we are seriously confused by the claim about Sondhi and PAD. The Bangkok Post’s archives tell a different story.

Indeed, the … movement … is not without flaws.

As the uprising against the political amnesty law grew under Mr Suthep’s leadership, it morphed into a demonstration to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government and so-called “Thaksin regime” _ a term used to refer to the influence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on politics and more loosely to the tyranny of the majority.

It is revealing that the Post uses the term “tyranny of the majority” with no interrogation. The term is usually used to refer to a situation where decisions made by a majority mean its interests are so central that those of an individual or minority are ignored in a manner that constitutes oppression. The anti-democrats, however, use this terminology to refer to the Shinawatra clan and associates getting all that they want. They also use it to complain that legislation the Democrat Party doesn’t like gets passed in parliament.  In reality, the Yingluck government has repeatedly backed down on its electoral promises in order to reduce opposition. Recall what political scientists were saying 6-12 months ago: the Yingluck strategy has been, according to Duncan McCargo, to cool political tensions. Kevin Hewison made similar claims in a 2012 article at Political Insight. None of this sounds either tyrannical or despotic.

While its demand seems to resonate with many people _ hundreds of thousands rose up every time Mr Suthep called on them to march _ it is questionable whether the movement is for a “less flawed democracy” as many demonstrators have claimed, or simply “less democracy” as Mr Suthep’s proposal seems to suggest.

Political analyst Chris Baker is cited by the Post:

He said the movement’s rejection of the one-person, one-vote basic principle of political equality is clear.

“Some supporters have clearly said they think Bangkok people should have more weight in the elections than non-Bangkok people. This is important. We outside observers now know what this movement stands for…”.

Thammasat political scientist Kasian Tejapira is also quoted:

He said what is going on is not different from a putsch. It’s just being done with support from the masses instead of military tanks and weapons. “The muan maha prachachon is a capitalist movement that will lead to the tyranny of the minority…”.

Despite this clarity, the Post still it is fascinated by the anti-democratic movement. Part of the reason for this is explained by Democrat Party stalwart and former ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan:

He said the rural electorate was awakened and made aware of its political power and potency in an open political process over a decade ago.

Now, the other end of the political spectrum including people who were politically passive have become agitated by the ways things are going.

“Deep grievances are being articulated against a rampant and unprecedented level of corruption, abuse of power, cronyism in business, nepotism in the bureaucracy, intervention in the check-and-balance mechanisms, control of government media and intimidation of free and independent news agencies.

“[They are also upset about] pervasive and systematic violations of human and civil rights, impunity for law enforcement personnel, ruinous populist programmes and ill-conceived government projects. All of these lead to a profile of anger, frustration, bitterness, emotional pain and political divide on the streets of Bangkok,” Mr Surin said.

It is a bit difficult to know where to begin with Surin’s position. We do agree on the political awakening of a decade or so ago. However, as we have shown above, the claim that “the other end of the political spectrum including people who were politically passive” is false. It would only be true if there hadn’t been a 1992, a PAD or a coup. The POst adds to this:

There are those who attend rallies because they want “good people” to govern the country, university students who want to rid the country of conflicts of interest, and those critical of the government’s environmental policies.

A common theme of the protests is the crowd’s opposition to corruption.

“It’s the corruption, stupid!” former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala wrote on Facebook.

He was referring to former United States president Bill Clinton’s phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid!” which alerted American voters that the key issue during the 1992 US election was not the war against Iraq but the poor economy.

To be factual, the phrase was not Clinton’s but of one of his campaign strategists. That aside, it is fair to observe that none of these desires are absent from the majority who support pro-Thaksin parties. At the same time, each of these claims has been made since PAD came into existence and the double standards are breathtaking: Suthep has a long history of nepotism and cronyism, not to mention corruption claims; Sondhi Limthongkul has an equally long history of corrupt practices; the Democrat Party had to leave office in 1995 over corruption claims; and when Abhisit was in power, the claims of corruption were from red shirt opponents.

Political commentator Anek Laothamatas is also cited:

The Pheu Thai Party, which has focused on winning votes from the rural base and believed _ falsely _ that electoral victory would silence the minority middle class, must rethink their strategy to regain its support….

He’s right on that. The majority has been repeatedly told by the minority – the middle classes and elite – that electoral victories mean nothing. In democracies that take hold, these classes usually make compromises that allow the poorer majority a say in politics. It seems Thailand’s minority wants another path.





The unelected on elections

7 11 2013

The so-called Group of 40 Senators are a coterie of rabid royalist senators who have mostly never been elected to anything, let a lone the Senate, where most of them sit as appointed senators, the spawn of the military junta’s illegal 2006 coup and undemocratic 2007 constitution.

At the Bangkok Post, we learn that this undemocratic cabal have “called on the prime minister to dissolve parliament and call a general election…”. They argue that this would be to “return the power to the people.” We find it difficult to conceive that a bunch of unelected royalist puppets have any conception of representative government yet they arrogantly demand a dissolution of parliament.

That would mean a new election, and we doubt that many of this lot would stand the test of an election. We also doubt that Puea Thai would lose. We understand that the party’s serious miscalculation on the pathetic amnesty will have cost some support, but the electorate is unlikely to elect the Democrat Party.

But back to the unelected military spawn, who just happened to be speaking in “an interview” with what the Bangkok Post chooses to call the “pro-Democrat Blue Sky satellite TV channel.” We guess they mean the Democrat Party, for Blue Sky is not “pro-Democrat [Party]” but is a creation of the party and is funded by the same elite businesspeople who fund the party itself.

Somchai Sawaengkarn, usually the spokesman for the unelected lot, “described the bill as one of the worst pieces of legislation in Thai political history.” That’s a pretty arrogant call given that Somchai himself owes his position to the military junta’s illegal act in 2006 and its awarding itself amnesty! Indeed, Somchai served in junta’s fully-appointed National Legislative Assembly in 2006.

Of course Somchai realizes this, for he is not a complete fool. It is just that he sees royalist and military illegal actions as good and appropriate and the actions of an elected government as being inappropriate.

Of course, PPT has expressed our disdain for the amnesty bill, but we recognize that an elected government that campaigned on bringing Thaksin Shinawatra home and on reconciliation does not lose legitimacy by withdrawing a bill or losing a vote on it in a half-elected Senate.

Somchai said his group of senators “had passed a resolution agreeing to demand that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolve parliament.” The basis for this was not that the prime minister has lost the confidence of parliament or came to power through manipulation by behind-the-scenes powers (as was the case with the Democrat Party in 2008), but because “the government has lost the people’s trust to the point where it is impossible to regain it.”

Somchai and his unelected military spawn, who have teamed up with fascist groups such as PAD,  Siam Samakkhi and Pitak Siam, should be the last to speak of the people’s trust. They do not even comprehend the concept.





“New” anti-government group is old and tired but threatening

26 07 2013

In recent days there has been talk of a “new” anti-government alliance. The Bangkok Post announces a “newly formed anti-government ‘People’s Army [Against the Thaksin Regime]…’.” It may be new in its current form and alliance, and it may excite the scribes in the mainstream media, but it is dreadfully old and corked wine in a not particularly new or even clean bottle.

This “People’s Army” – as much a misnomer as “People’s Alliance for Democracy” – says that it “hopes to mobilise at least 30,000 people to join a rally in Bangkok when the House resumes next week to deliberate the amnesty bill of Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema.” It plans “co-ordinated” rallies and a “big event” on 4 August, aimed at “overthrowing the Thaksin Shinawatra regime…”. In fact, The Nation describes the “People’s Army” as being “formerly known as Pitak Siam…”. And, the group did meet at General Boonlert Kaewprasit’s Royal Turf Club.

But let’s be just a little more generous and agree that there is more to this than just the old men of Pitak Siam. So who are they? The leaders of the so-called new “People’s Army” include:

  • Thaikorn Polsuwan of the PAD in the Northeast;
  • Pitak Siam group under the new leadership of retired Admiral Chai Suwannaphap;
  • the Thai Patriot Network;
  • Card-carrying old man wanting to run Thailand for the monarchy, Police General Vasit Dejkunchorn of the misnamed Thai Spring non-group, said his (non)group would demonstrate against the amnesty bill. Vasit is able to mobilize royalists associated with the old counterinsurgency and mercenary groups from the Cold War;
  • dull royalist Tul Sitthisomwong, leader of the so-called multicolor movement,that is really a bunch of yellow shirts;
  • Suriyasai Katasila, coordinator of the Green Politics Group, and of PAD; and
  • PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan, who says PAD core leaders are to meet to assess their role.

While the Post says that the “People’s Army” is mobilizing “its” provincial chapters, these are the old PAD  networks.

This coalition is potentially threatening for the Yingluck Shinawatra government. Last time, when Pitak Siam rallied, the the cabinet decided to impose the Internal Security Act in three districts of Bangkok. That was criticized.





Return of the iceman

24 07 2013

With his trademark shiny face and jet black hair, former Pitak Siam leader General Boonlert Kaewprasit has hit the headlines again. This time, it is not for calling for a coup or a freeze on Thai society and politics, but for a sharp attack on the military brass.

Boonlert, who doubles as secretary-general of the Army-dominated Royal Turf Club, is reported in the Bangkok Post as saying that “the armed forces are under the control of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.”icicles2 Boonlert explained:

“The armed forces are in [Thaksin’s] hands,” … “The military is now under his control and it is hard to take it back. I no longer have faith in the armed forces.”

Thaksin’s alleged control of the military brass is, Boonlert said, why he “decided to support the anti-government movement…”. Hmm. Given that he has already called for a coup and ran the Pitak Siam lot around a bit as an anti-government movement, his support for this kind of thing is not unexpected. Indeed, form Prem Tinsulanonda man Adm Chai Suwannaphap now runs Pitak Siam.

Yet his statement on the military suggests splits, at least between the old soldiers and the current brass. As the report notes,

Adm Chai and Gen Boonlert were classmates of Class 1 at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School…. Other Class 1 alumni include Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont and Gen Wattanachai Chaimuanwong, the former deputy army chief who is now president of the Royal Turf Club.

General Boonlert, the Iceman,  called for support from the public to the already failed Pitak Siam “to uproot Thaksin’s system.”





Return of the political zombies

21 07 2013

Just as the white mask “movement” has declined after two weeks of mainstream media frenzy has passed and as the sorry lot at Sanam Luang have split andd most have gone home, the failed Pitak Siam has re-emerged. Is this an accident or are the master manipulators amongst the old men who think they should be running the country again pulling the strings?

If the report at the Bangkok Post is accurate then any suggestion that this is a coincidence is far-fetched. Watch out for all the generals and admirals listed below.

The report states that the Pitak Siam group is now led by Admiral Chai Suwannaphap who was at earlier Pitak Siam rallies and “key figures of the Isan Kuu Chart group announced the formation of a ‘people’s army against the Thaksin regime’ and issued new demands to the government.” The report states:

Isan Kuu Chart leaders who joined a news conference at the Royal Turf Club on Saturday included Gen Preecha Iamsuphan [who once wanted to declare war on Cambodia via PAD], a former member of the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy, Gen Chukiat Tansuwat and AM Watchara Ritthakanee [also associated with PAD].

If PPT’s hazy memory is any good, this group has connections – through people associated with it – that stretch back to the days of the Cold War and counterinsurgency and mercenary training. These men of a past era continue to haunt Thailand like grotesque political zombies.

According to the Post,

They called for action against critics of the monarchy, especially those in the camp of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. As well, they demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa from the defence and deputy defence portfolios respectively.

The protesters also called for stern measures to curb the rising cost of living, the end of the 350-billion-baht water management scheme and the 2-trillion-baht infrastructure investments, and the withdrawal of all reconciliation and amnesty bills aimed at bringing Thaksin home.

If their demands are not met, they promise to rally on 4 August. That may be no idle threat as these old soldiers link into the zombie- and dinosaur-controlled networks of ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists that are able to mobilize several thousand supporters.

Zombies





With a major update: Anti-Thaksinism

31 05 2013

Perhaps the least  surprising news of the past few days has been the announcement that a self-proclaimed “anti-Thaksin Shinawatra group that uses the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol is planning to join up with Thai Spring, another anti-government group.”

PPT hasn’t commented previously on this yellow splinter group as it seemed a bit silly for several reasons. However, now they are teaming up with the newly-formed Thai Spring, which is actually just an evolution of long-standing ultra-royalist groups using different monikers such as People’s Alliance for Democracy, Pitak Siam, multi-colors, and so on. In this sense, “new” is not an apt description of the group but rather a comment on their strategy and the gimmickry associated with the masks and anonymity.guy_fawkes_mask

On the latter, they state:

Whatever our future activity is, safety comes first as we emerge from cyberspace and into the real world. We’re trying to check the number of people willing to join and are waiting to decide on a date to rally for people’s right [PPT: we assume they mean rights rather than the political right]. We also want to demonstrate our refusal to accept parliamentary dictatorship that puts the benefits of corrupt politicians above the interest of the nation and its people….

The rejection of elections and parliamentary democracy is pretty much de rigueur for these royalist groups.

What strikes PPT as ironic in all of this is the Guy Fawkes mask gimmick. While the mask has been widely used by various political groups, the Wikipedia explanation is worthy of consideration:

A stylised portrayal of a white face with a subtle smile and red cheeks, a wide moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin vertical pointed beard, designed by illustrator David Lloyd, came to represent broader protest after it was used as a major plot element in V for Vendetta, published in 1982, and its 2006 film adaptation. After appearing in Internet forums, the mask became a well-known symbol for the online hacktivist group Anonymous. Time Warner owns the rights to the image and is paid a licensing fee for the sale of each mask.

It is ironic that this group seems blissfully (or wilfully) unaware of the Guy Fawkes story. As Wikipedia presents it,

The Gunpowder Plot was a failed assassination attempt against King James VI of Scotland and I of England by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. Their aim was to blow up the House of Lords on 5 November 1605, while the king and the entire Protestant aristocracy and nobility were inside. The conspirator who became most closely associated with the plot in the popular imagination was Guy Fawkes, who had been assigned the task of lighting the fuse to the explosives.

We can’t help wondering why a royalist group chooses the symbolism of a plot to kill a king and much of his nobility and aristocracy.

Update:  A reader points out that Guy Fawkes wanted to assassinate the king and replace him with a queen. That may also interest the apparently political plagiarists of Thailand.

Interestingly, The Nation reports an interview with a self-proclaimed and anonymous initiator of this group.  It is a revealing statement of political positions that are no different from those of the Democrat Party and other yellow-hued anti-Thaksin activists, reproducing positions that go back to 2005.

On the beginning of this particular version of anti-Thaksinism, the interviewee shows the same lack of political and historical knowledge that marks these groups:

We want to cajole people to be aware and create a Thai version of the “Arab Spring” and educate people who do not know about the mask as to the meaning of the mask and why it is being used to oppose parliamentary dictatorship and corruption. It’s a universal symbol known all over the world.

They seem unaware that the Arab Spring was a movement opposing dictatorial and monarchical absolutism rather than popularly-elected governments.

Their knowledge of the origins of the mask are also revealed. They claim that “Guy Fawkes is a symbol of opposition to parliamentary dictatorship, who manipulate the media and shut the ears and eyes of the people.” Maybe they should do a bit more research.

The group’s statement of opposition to the elected government are exactly the same as those of the Democrat Party and all other royalists. There is not an inch of difference. Their alliance with these groups is specified in the interview.

Their call for “people” not to “be afraid of the government” is just another way of expressing a political distaste for the elected government. Their “refusal to accept parliamentary dictatorship that works for the benefit of corrupt politicians above the interest of the nation and the people,” is a claim that PAD has made since its formation and simply ignores all election results since 2000. They clearly state this when they say: “Our group thinks that Thai politics is in a most sham state and it’s just about electoral voice and benefits politicians and big businesses.”

Their Democrat Party political position is clearly expressed:

What we can’t accept is the burning of cities in 2010…. As long as the culprits are still at large and amnesty bill is being pushed and taxpayers’ money being paid to “heal” red shirts, we won’t accept it and a civil-war-like violent retaliation will be difficult to avoid.

This group is just old wine in a new, rather small bottle.





Fighting amnesty

11 03 2013

As PPT has pointed out previously, the royalist right has decided that the next battle with Thaksin Shinawatra and against the Yingluck government is to be on amnesty. Yes, we know that they have always opposed it, but now they see it as the looming reason for undermining the government.

Deputy House Speaker Charoen Chankomol has been busily sending out invitations for up to 10 or 11 political and politicized groups to come together and consider a way forward.

At The Nation, it is reported that the People’s Alliance for Democracy wants to include eight groups:

the Pheu Thai Party, the red shirts, the Democrat Party, the PAD, the people affected by the political turmoil, Nicha Hiranburana Thuwatham – wife of Colonel Romklao who was killed, the Truth for Reconciliation Committee of Thailand and the anti-government Pitak Siam group.

Immediately, it is clear that Nicha is not a “group,” but the wife of royalist “martyr,” intent on pushing an agenda to exclude lese majeste victims from any amnesty. We guess that the royalist dolts from Pitak Siam are included for the same reason. Even so, this bunch of old soldiers and coup plotters wasn’t a group formed until after the events of 2010. Perhaps this lot are included by PAD because they are allies of both PAD and the old men behind the 2006 military coup.

PAD seems to be engaged in dinosaur crowd sourcing.

In the end, Charoen has:

invited representatives from 11 groups, including the Pheu Thai Party, the Democrat Party, the Bhumjaithai Party, the armed forces, PAD, UDD and Pitak Siam. Also invited are Nicha Hiranburana Thuwatham, representing families of state officials killed on duty at political rallies; business operators affected by political violence; the defunct Truth for Reconciliation Commission; and the multi-colour group, led by Tul Sitthisomwong.

Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha demands “representatives from all the armed forces” involved. He set the tone for the combined royalist approach to amnesty: “Before granting amnesty we have to look into what the laws say what to do about wrongdoing…”.

Despite all of this compromising and inviting, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan declares: “I have a sense that there might be a [political] rally soon.” Remarkably, he accused the Puea Thai Party was “forcing other groups to join in.” We assume he understands that the “Democrat” Party has refused to enter any discussions.

The yellow shirts are likely to oppose anything they think or imagine “affects the status of the monarchy, or any law is passed granting amnesty to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his group.” So amnesty for them is nothing more than an excuse for a fight. At the Bangkok Post, the “Democrat” Party believes that the monarchy is under threat from amnesty and that “Pheu Thai’s real motivation was to whitewash fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and co-leaders of the red-shirt group.” That sounds exactly like PAD.

Also at the Bangkok Post, the “so-called multi-colours,” who are just yellow shirts by another name, “will not take part in a planned discussion of a proposed new amnesty bill … because it is not the right time for it, their leader Tul Sitthisomwong said…”. For the dullard Tul, the right time is after “alleged offenders” have been convicted:

He said what should be done first was to speed up the judicial process against alleged offenders of the laws in connection with political protests. Amnesty should be considered individually after the court delivered a verdict on each one, he said.

According to another report at the Bangkok Post, “the Democrats [meaning the party, for it includes few democrats], PAD, Pitak Siam, Ms Nicha and Dr Tul – have announced they would boycott the meeting.”

Another yellow-shirt front group, the Green Politics Group, had its coordinator Suriyasai Katasila announce that the proposed meeting would “fail because it is driven by politicians with hidden agendas who have failed to gain the trust of the public.” He means the popular and elected government….

In the end, as the Post reports, a half-hearted, half-attended meeting was held to agree with a set of platitudes.