Dictators and democrats

31 05 2018

The Deputy Dictator seems unusually distracted by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and the Future Forward Party.

This might seem natural in the sense that dictators are likely to be distracted by democrats who challenge their tales-cum-lies. That’s especially the case with this military junta that was born of anti-democratic movements and its own military fascism.

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “has urged the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether the Future Forward Party has broken any laws.” He means on scrapping the junta’s unfair and undemocratic charter.

This might seem just a little odd when Khaosod reports that EC’s head Pol Col. Charungwit Phumma has stated that there “is nothing wrong with campaigning on a pledge to rewrite the constitution…”.

Thanathorn also “said he would pardon all political prisoners if the party gains power next February, when the election is due to take place.” Well, that date seems unlikely, but you get the picture.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul also “insisted the party would seek to “amend” Section 279 of the charter on its first day in parliament.” That article “legalises all of the orders, announcements and actions of the NCPO [junta].”

Love the diamond ring

The media asked the Deputy Dictator about these things and “whether legal action would be taken against the NCPO in the future…”. By all accounts, Gen Prawit went ballistic.

He’s used to impunity. Just think of his luxury watches and jewelry case and how nothing has transpired. Nothing at all.

So if he’s threatened with even a hint of legal action for his crimes-made-legal-by-the-junta, he’s bound to get a little heated.

Exploding he declared:

What has the NCPO done wrong? It has done nothing wrong. Whatever we do, the prime minister orders scrutiny including budget approval and performance. We cannot do what we want but have to consider the law. I insist the NCPO always follows the law….

Of course, they make up the laws as it suits them. They are unaccountable. That’s what a dictatorship does.





Caving in

1 04 2018

The repression associated with lese majeste is critical for the maintenance of the status quo in Thailand. So critical in fact that even the thought of an amendment to the law is greeted with threats of violence. As it has been for seven decades, the rightist alliance between monarchy and military is a keystone for the establishment order in Thailand, with lese majeste, ultra-royalist ideology and murderous enforcement are the means for maintaining that conservative order.

When the Anakhot Mai/New Future/Future Forward Party was recently formed, ultra-royalists foamed and fumed about a young academic lawyer, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, who had once called for minor amendments to Article 112 of the criminal code. Ultra-royalist Sonthiya Sawatdee “petitioned the Election Commission … to disqualify the FFP. He alleged that Piyabutr’s previous involvement with the anti-lèse majesté group Nitirat had caused conflicts among the country’s population, in violation of the Organic Act on Political Parties.”

Knowing that in royalist Thailand Sonthiya’s banal claim may well carry weight, Piyabutr immediately went into reverse political gear, declaring “he would not press the issue of amending the lèse majesté law in the new party…”. He is quoted: “I insist that I will not involve the party in the issue of amending Article 112 of the Criminal Code and will not press the issue in the party…”.

Piyabutr’s backpedaling has opened debate.

Exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, himself a victim of ultra-royalist and military attacks, “commented that without the issue of amending Article 112, the new party would be just a smaller version of the Phue Thai Party.” He saw a familiar path being taken whereby the young become prematurely old as they flinch on the most significant political issue of recent years, the monarchy.

Somsak believes that the new party didn’t have to say anything:

“When the party’s general meeting (to pass policies, select executives, etc.) happens, and Piyabutr or other important party members see that it is inappropriate to put the issue of Article 112 into the policies because it will lead to the party’s disqualification, then just remove it and register without this issue. So what’s the necessity of yesterday’s announcement [by Piyabutr]? I can’t’ see one…”.

He might have added that the new party has little chance of attracting large numbers of voters, so the strategic withdrawal on monarchy means little more than another ultra-royalist and military victory in its crusade to “protect” the monarchy and, thus, the establishment.

Puangthong Pawakapan of the now-defunct Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 was less critical, saying Piyabutr ‘s vow was unsurprising as “the political establishment never hesitates to suppress those who challenge the royal defamation law, making an amendment to Article 112 through legislative measures nearly impossible.”

Puangthong added:

“The difficulties in this issue are not about the number of votes in the parliament, but it is a sensitive issue that political parties are afraid to touch because they will be easily attacked by anti-monarchy allegations…. This is why all political parties are afraid to fix this issue. This is why people’s signatories and the draft amendment [to Article 112] by the CCAA 112 was immediately rejected by the Parliament Chairperson, who was at that time a Phue Thai MP.”

It is clear that Puangthong “believes that Piyabutr’s statement was a strategic move to ensure that the FFP will wins seats in the parliament, which will allow the party to make progress on other significant political missions, like eliminating the military influence from Thai politics.”

We recall, back in 2004-2005, so-called progressives signing up to the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its royalist agenda, using a similar line of argument. They may have been anti-monarchy or even republican, but saw the need to get rid rid of Thaksin Shinawatra as being so crucial that they could accommodate the royalist stuff, and fix the monarchy later. How did that turn out for them? Most are now ardent royalists.





Further updated: Ultra-royalists united

28 03 2018

As PPT has said before, new political parties are not an innovation in Thailand. Rather they are the norm, most especially when the election rules encourage small parties and fragmented parliamentary power. With the Anakhot Mai/New Future Party, along with initial enthusiasm from a range of reasonably progressive people, the old guard – the old men who consider Thailand theirs – has appeared spooked.

Reuters reports that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is under pressure from ultra-royalists. The latter are keen to destroy the young phenoms by labeling them republicans. Fascist royalist Maj-Gen Rientong Nan-nah has said Future Forward “is the future for those who want to impede the rights of the king…”.

Khaosod reports that another “pro-monarchy activist” has been stung into reaction. Mad monarchist Sonthiya Sawasdee, who leads the Federation of Thais Monitoring the State, demands “the Election Commission to investigate a new progressive party he fears may amend the royal defamation [lese majeste] law.” Sonthiya has previously flung lese majeste allegations at others.

Sonthiya is sure that “any attempt to reform the law, known as lese majeste, will bring about unrest in the country.” This is actually a threat from the extreme right that has previously massacred citizens in the name of protecting the monarchy and with the support of the military, so such threats are taken seriously.

Sonthiya wrote online: “… I do not want anyone, no matter who they are, to put their hands on Section 112.” He added: “They should not intrude on the monarchy.” And he “singled out New Future Party co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul as the reason for his concern. Piyabutr, a university law professor, launched a 2012 campaign calling for lesser punishment and a more measured use of lese majeste.”

Piyabutr is trying to distance the party from ultra-royalist allegations, saying: “I’d like to insist that I will not get the party involved with the issue about amending Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and I will not push for it within the party…”. The Nation has more on Piyabutr’s distancing of the party from Nitirat.

A couple of observations seem in order. One is that the monarchy is off the political agenda for all, but not for royalists. Because they support the monarchy, they may use it at their pleasure to slander and undermine opponents. Meanwhile, those on the other side are hamstrung and timid.

A second observation is that those who might have thought or hoped that ultra-royalism might decline with a new and “unpopular” king on the throne have been shown to be wrong. Mad royalists defend a system based on feudal ideologies, not an individual. That said, the rapid shift to support for Vajiralongkorn has been breathtaking.

Update 1: In the above post we noted that threats from ultra-royalists have to be taken seriously. Confirming this, a Bloomberg report states that Thanathorn and Piyabutr have received death threats. He described his political quest as “a dangerous game,” adding: “We are playing with people who have no respect for human life.” Thanathorn revealed that the threat was “by an ultra-conservative,” where he was referring to a “Facebook post allegedly written by a former deputy police commander.” That ultra-royalist “accused the pair of speaking ill of the royal institution” and added that “he had ‘lost count’ of the number of ‘evil’ people he had killed,” darkly threatening: “you guys would be easy for me.”

Update 2: Prachatai identifies the policeman mentioned as threatening death as Bhakbhum Soonthornsorn.





Ultra-royalists vs. NKOTB

16 03 2018

A little while ago, PPT posted on the attention to the young phenoms threatening to enter politics and to shake up the system. At the time, we reckoned that there would be lots of grey hairs who would work assiduously to undermine them and added that claims of treason, sedition and even lese majeste might follow.

It didn’t take long. Prachatai recently had a story on the rising opposition to the now named Anakhot Mai or Future Forward Party, which is the 58th party to register with the Election Commission.

As Prachatai puts it:

The spotlight of Thai politics is shining on the party’s key leaders, Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit] and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a law professor at Thammasat University. They have claimed that the party will break the vicious circle of Thai politics, where the military claims to be a middleman to solve the political conflict. Piyabutr said the military itself is, in fact, the root of the problem.

Royalist criticism has already been heard. Ultra-royalists accuse the new party of republicanism. The loudest critic has been M.C. Chulcherm Yugala, a nasty and conservative prince and general, or as the loathsome Thailand Tatler puts it, “Maj Gen His Serene Highness.” His blast is that the new party intends “to turn Thailand into a republic” where “the abolishment of the Article 112 was only the first step.” He added that the party had “a connection with the anti-establishment redshirts.”

Maj Gen His Serene Highness Chulcherm thundered: “This land, this kingdom must have the monarchy, and the kings will last forever. Don’t ever think of abolishing it.” He then said he “will run a political party to protect the monarchy as well.” We thought that was the job of the Democrat Party and the military devil parties.

It isn’t Chulcherm’s first political brush. Back then there were thoughts he was a reddish prince, but that’s all gone now and Chulcherm avers a politics that is distinctly driven by 1932 concerns for the monarchy. He seems to claim not just blood links but political alliances with dead king, that king’s dead sister, queen and current king.

In our view, it is somewhat disappointing to read that Piyabutr argues “that his movements in the past with Nitirat was to promote democracy and actually to protect the monarchy so the institution would not be abused as a political tool.” He went on to observe that the “Thai authorities [we guess he means the military junta] nowadays are also aware of the problems under the lèse majesté law and seeking a way to reduce numbers of the prosecutions.”

It’s disappointing because royalists will never believe him or vote for the new party. That ultra-royalists go mad is to be expected. That’s how they play politics.





Worried by the new

8 03 2018

We at PPT might be revealing our collective greying but we haven’t paid too much attention to the young phenoms threatening to enter politics and to shake up the system.

We were watching the reporting about the party-to-be (maybe) associated with businessman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and thinking about the new parties associated with political newcomers.

We thought of the enthusiasm for business people considering political campaigns following the military-perpetrated massacre of May 1992. They looked at existing parties and the Palang Dharma Party was often mentioned as attractive for “new-style” politicians. Interestingly, Thaksin Shinawatra was mentioned in the Bangkok Post (1 July 1992) as “reportedly preparing to run in the election for the Democrat Party.” We also thought of Thai Rak Thai in 2001. Then it was the new party, with new ideas. It also had enormous backing from business and operated under new rules set by the 1997 constitution. And we thought of the short-lived Mahachon Party led by Anek Laothamatas, said to draw on civil society and new ideas.

So new parties come and go.

But the thing that has caught our attention with Thanathorn’s recent efforts is the way his PR has quickly gotten under the skin of The Dictator and his military regime.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has revealed that the military junta he obediently serves is warning and watching “new-generation politicians.”The junta is keen to limit their operations, threatening them with charges if they engage in “political activities and election campaigns.”

The military bootlicker was specifically threatening Thanathorn who “gave an interview aired on The101.world’s Facebook Live account on Monday.”

Because the junta is full of political troglodytes who fetishize hierarchy, it naturally feels challenged by young upstarts. It also has a knee-jerk reaction against Thanathorn that constructs him pro-Thaksin. This is because he is a nephew of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, a former member of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party…”.

But most worrying for the junta is that “Thanathorn’s interview drew more than 100,000 views and was shared more than 3,000 times, with viewers making comments and asking him questions.” Questions! Wow, that’s challenging for the trogs. When he says that an “election can no longer be delayed and the Pheu Thai Party would likely win…” the regime must be getting angry and vindictive.

That Thanathorn seems to be thinking of an alternative to Puea Thai is ignored because the junta’s own strategy is to set up and/or support a swathe of pro-junta proxy parties because it knows that its own new political rules mean that a coalition is the mostly likely outcome of the junta’s “election.”

When Thanathorn says “the military should now stop meddling with politics” and that “[c]oups did not benefit the country’s future…” he’s marked as a junta opponent.

The junta will work assiduously to undermine any group or party it views as oppositional. We might expect a roll out of treason, sedition and even lese majeste accusations.