112 threatens Thailand

16 01 2021

The Nation has a report on a recent statement by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul as secretary-general of the Progressive Movement.

Referring to the youth who have been demonstrating for reform and lamenting the rise of lese majeste repression, he states: “We cannot leave the ‘future of our nation’ to be charged with violating Article 112…. They are sacrificing their freedom and lives to fight for democracy.”

He argues that Article 112 of the Criminal Code is “problematic in all aspects, including the severity of punishment, and its interpretation and enforcement by authorities.”

He went on to urge “members of Parliament, as representatives of the people, to use this opportunity to cancel the criminal offence of defamation, whether it covered royalty, foreign leaders, ambassadors, shrines, or ordinary people.” He believes that “[d]efamation should be made a civil offence rather than a criminal offence…”, which would be inline with international practice, adding “that no one should be jailed for exercising their freedom of expression…”.

Piyabutr added that the “Move Forward Party he co-founded in 2019 had decided to leave the lese majeste law off its agenda, but this had left a scar on his conscience…. However, the situation had now changed and it was time to support the popular push to revoke Article 112…”.

He’s right.





Updated: Confrontation looms

25 11 2020

The use of lese majeste and the multiple threats of arrest today have mounted. The regime has seemingly calculated that the events at police headquarters and the royal family’s PR blitz and its “demonstrated generosity,” that a crackdown on protesters targeting the king and his wealth may not earn them “too much” public derision.

Police and military are preparing for tonight’s rally at the Crown Property Bureau. Razor wire is up and the so-called “royal” exclusion zone established. That the military has been active with helicopters suggests preparations for a confrontation.

Thai PBS reports that “increased helicopter activity, heard over several areas of Bangkok on Monday night,” and “which went on for hours” was described  by Army Chief Gen Narongphan Chitkaewtae as “part of security arrangements for the motorcade of … the King and Queen…”. We fear it is preparations for tonight, especially when he added that while “it is the police’s responsibility to deal with the rally,” the army is prepared to “help” if “there is a request from the police.”

The Free Youth have also upped the anty, publishing this statement:

Meanwhile the regime is doubling down. Neo-fascist member of the Democrat Party coalition party, Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam declared that the regime arrest Progressive Movement’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul for being responsible for the uprising and anti-monarchism.

He “explained”:

“As a Thai citizen and a Democrat MP, I will perform my duty to protect the Nation, the Religion, the Monarchy and the democratic system with the King as the head of state,” said Thavorn, claiming that 90 percent of the Thai population agree with him.

As “evidence” he “showed the media today a video clip of Piyabutr giving a speech at the University of London, on the topic of “Is Thailand in a Deeper State of Crisis?” on June 11th, 2016.” Yes, that’s more than four years ago.

On Thanathorn, Thaworn says that “in several speeches, has stressed the need for reform of the Thai Monarchy, adding that the founding of the Future Forward Party, which was dissolved by the Constitutional Court, was intended to achieve that goal.”

He went on to accuse “Thanathorn and Piyabutr of spending more than eight months brainwashing and inciting hatred of the Monarchy among Thai youth, with the intention of turning the protests into riots and, eventually, civil war.”

In fact, Thaworn is simply reflecting the views of ultra-royalists and rightists who are baying for blood.

It will be a difficult evening as the regime, at this point, seems to have drawn its line in the sand and the rally is likely to test that.

Update: As has happened previously, the anti-government protesters have changed their rally site, reducing the prospect of a clash. The new location is related as the rally will be at the Siam Commercial Bank HQ, with the king being the biggest shareholder in the bank.

We are not sure that the change was to avoid a clash and the inordinate efforts the regime had taken to seal off the area around the CPB, or just a prank to make the regime expend effort and look a bit silly.

The regime has barricaded the area around the CPB, with “[r]olls of razor wire and steel barricades…”, mainly shipping containers stacked end-to-end and two high. These efforts caused huge traffic jams. In addition, “[s]oldiers in plain clothes were seen deployed around the CPB…”.





Legal harassment continues

6 11 2020

The military-backed regime and its minions continue to see the hand(s) behind the latest round of protests as being that of the Progressive Movement.

This has resulted in Pannika Wanich, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul having to front the Phaya Thai police to “acknowledge sedition charges filed against them by a former yellow-shirt co-leader.”

Clipped from Thisrupt

The yellow shirt making the complaint is none other than Suwit Thongprasert, the former People’s Democratic Reform Committee activist monk Buddha Issara. This is not just any PDRC clot, but the one who has been seen a couple of times having things whispered in his ear by the king.

King, queen and ex-Buddha Issara

In Piyabutr’s case, the complaint “against him involved posting in social media his academic work, including his lectures, while he taught law at Thammasat University.” Some of this goes back a decade. Those old posts were connected with more recent “posts supporting solutions to the ongoing political crisis” where he “suggested that the three demands of youth protesters, including the monarchy reform, be brought to a safe zone by setting up a House special committee to hear their grievances.”

To an outsider, all of this must seem rather odd, but the fascist former monk sees it as sedition for commenting on the monarchy.

The allegations against Pannika appear to be “centred around her Facebook Live sessions from rally sites,” while Thanathorn is “accused of his role in connection with Samesky, a publishing house specialising in Thai politics,” a connection that also goes back many years. Apparently, the fascist former monk also found discussing the allocation of huge dollops of taxpayer funds to the royal family to be seditious.

The fascist ex-monk and other neo-Nazis are desperately trying to put the monarchy genie back in the sealed bottle. In other words, the rightists are using sedition as they previously used lese majeste.

Pannika “urged Gen Prayut to stop using the same old weapon he has been relying on for seven years.” She said: “Prosecution of dissidents no longer works. These bullets are blank— they not only fail to stop the rallies but also escalate them…”.





Law as political weapon

31 10 2020

It was only a few days ago that we posted on the ever pliant Election Commission deciding to file criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for the time when he was with the Future Forward Party. It no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds and for posing a challenge to the ruling regime and the ruling class.

The regime’s strategy, managed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the odious Wissanu Krea-ngam is to tie the upstart opposition (and student protesters) into legal knots.

The Thai Enquirer reports on yet another regime move against the former Future Forward and now heading up the Progressive Movement.

The former leaders of the dissolved Future Forward Party – Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanichhave – been summoned by police “to hear charges of sedition and other alleged crimes…”. As the newspaper puts it, this is “continuing a judicial campaign against people thought to be behind the current pro-democracy protests.”

Summoning the three is a step taken before issuing arrest warrants.

Piyabutr pointed out the bias and yet more bending of the rules for the regime:

“If the police take off their uniforms and think back to their second year in law school, they would know very well that almost every warrant that was issued [is not a real violation of section 116],” Piyabutr said.

“Thailand is unlucky because these police officers have to throw away everything they learned in order to become part of the government’s mechanism and serve the people in power,” he added.

A Bangkok Post picture

That the judicial system is now a tool for repression is now widely acknowledged – we have been saying it for years – with even the Bangkok Post’s opinion page scribbler Thitinan Pongsudhirak writing:

When Thailand’s justice system issues decisions that have political ramifications, fewer people are holding their breath these days because conclusions are increasingly foregone. In fact, when the historical record comes into fuller view, it will be seen that the politicisation of the judiciary has fundamentally undermined Thailand’s fragile democratic development and reinforced authoritarian rule that has been resurgent over the past 15 years.

He adds something else we have been saying for years:

The lesson is that Thailand’s political party system has been deliberately weakened and kept weak to keep established centres of power in the military, monarchy, judiciary, and bureaucracy paramount and decisive. No democracy can take root until voters have an equal say on how they are to be governed without the usurpation and distortion of party dissolutions and power plays behind the scenes.

The point of the junta’s time in power was to ensure that there was 20 years of non-democracy.





Updated: Down with Feudalism, Long Live Citizens!

20 10 2020

Rallies today were not as high-profile as over the last few days. Despite a call from Free Youth for supporters to save their energy, large groups rallied in provincial cities and at a couple of sites in Bangkok.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

At the same time, the police look ed silly as they assembled in places where there were few protesters.

Supporters were urged to go to BTS stations and “flash a three-fingered salute after the national anthem ends at 6pm…”. They were also to shout “the protest’s slogan ‘Down with Feudalism, Long Live Citizens’!”

A Free Youth social media post declared:

Let’s rest for the day. For a week, we fought bravely together. But the government is not aware feudalism is about to collapse. Since they ignore out calls, they’d better wait for a big announcement on Wednesday….

On the topic of the regime’s political hearing impairment, readers are encouraged to peruse “The future of Thailand hangs in the balance,” an opinion piece by well-known academics Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker. We think the title slightly misrepresents the content, which really says that the future of Thailand is in the hands of the protesters rater than with the political dinosaurs.

On the topic of feudalism, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement, has called for “the House of Representatives to set up a committee on reform of the monarchy…”.

Piyabutr said:

“Like it or not. Agree with it or not. Until today, nobody can deny the fact that a large number of people have raised a proposal – for the reform of the monarchy.

“But since Gen Prayut (Chan-o-cha) said at a press briefing that he, as the head of government, is duty-bound to protect the monarchy, how can we find a common way out?

“I would like the House of Representatives to pass a resolution to set up a committee on the reform of the monarchy and make it a safe zone for discussing this matter. It is where the people’s proposal can be pushed for implementation to enable the monarchical institution to co-exist with democracy. This is the only way to protect the monarchy in this era.

“The protection of the monarchy does not mean coercion, suppression or intentional evasion of the issue.”

The challenge to the regime is clear.

Update: The Nation reports that “1,118 academics have signed the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights’ petition demanding that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha step down.” More, they demanded that “the Constitution to be rewritten so it is more democratic and for the monarchy to be reformed.”





Updated: Another day of defiance

17 10 2020

The past 24 hours have been a churn. The regime is struggling to control defiant students who appear far more nimble and far smarter than the regime’s leaders. The regime’s response is repression.

The most startling events were the demonstration last evening, where thousands of mostly young people, organized through social media and smart phones, assembled at the Prathumwan intersection, leaving the authorities looking daft as they surrounded and barricaded the Rajaprasong intersection (where they expected the rally).

The chants of “release our friends,” “Prayuth out,” and “ai hia O” were lound, even though the event was largely leaderless.

The police then marched down the road and “dispersed” demonstrators using water cannon laced with dye and chemicals. The police looked comical when their first effort to use the cannon resulted in the police spraying themselves.

The regime denies the use of chemicals, but all reporters at the scene said the water caused itching and irritation to eyes. Police arrested some people, some seen being thrown into police vans. Most protesters decamped via Chulalongkorn University.

The police used were reportedly Border Patrol Police, infamous for their murderous role in 1976. But these are the police the regime considers sufficiently loyal.

Reporters were not safe from the arrests. Prachatai announced that one of its reporters, Kitti Pantapak “was arrested in front of MBK Centre while reporting live on Facebook about the police crackdown…”. He was “wearing a press armband from the Thai Journalist Association, a symbol that separates the protesters and media.” He was taken to “Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters in Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani, where other protesters were also detained.” At 2am he was released after being fined.

Earlier in the day, police invaded a press conference at the headquarters of the Progressive Movement, “with a search warrant, interrupting a press conference called by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.” He was “speaking against the state of emergency and legal action taken against protesters accused of causing harm to … the Queen.”

The search warrant was issued under the state of emergency. (For critiques of the emergency decree, see here and here.)

Because there were so many reporters at the conference, the police raid was livestreamed. Piyabutr was heard urging the police to take the side of the people, “instead of following orders from their superiors.” The officers were clearly embarrassed and were repeatedly on the phone to their superiors. They eventually left seemingly finding nothing, but the threat to the Progressive Movement was clear. The regime sees a plot, with the students being led and funded by the Progressive Movement.

Update: In the post above, we had missed The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s response to calls for him to resign, as reported by Khaosod:

“Let me ask you what I did wrong? What did I do wrong right now? Can I ask you?” Prime Minister Prayut said to reporters in the first news conference since he declared a “severe emergency” over Bangkok.

When a reporter suggested it was because Prayut has been a Prime Minister for too long, the general replied, “Have you listened to monks’ prayer? Have you visited a temple at all? I guess you don’t often visit a temple, that’s why you are like this.”

“Listen to the prayers … don’t be careless, because people can die today, or tomorrow,” Prayut said, hours before a new protest is planned in Bangkok’s city center. “As the prayers go, don’t be reckless with your life. Prepare to die any moment, by illness or whatever.”

He went on, “Do not trifle with the powerful Grim Reaper. Death may come today, or another day. Everyone can die at any moment.”

 





Further updated: Watching the watchman

2 06 2020

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s “borrowed watch” case before the supine National Anti-Corruption Commission was heard while the agency was headed by one of his cronies. No one was surprised when the NACC dismissed the case.

Seventeen months ago, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a member of the Puea Thai Party, wrote to the NACC, asking it “to explain why it did not find Gen Prawit guilty of failing to declare 22 watches he claimed to have borrowed from a friend…”.

He’s now received a reply from Sukij Boonchai, the acting NACC secretary-general:

The letter says the NACC commissioners acknowledged that Pattawat Suksriwong was the owner of the watches and had lent them to Gen Prawit. It also confirmed that Gen Prawit had returned the watches, worth tens of millions of baht, to Pattawat after he used them.

“The borrowing is a ‘loan for use’. While a loan for use is a liability, it is not the type the NAAC requires to be declared in its (asset declaration) form,” Mr Sukit wrote.

The NACC’s definition of liabilities only covers money, not loans for use, in which the assets have been returned to the lenders in their original form (with no money involved), he added.

“Therefore, Gen Prawit is not obliged to declare the borrowed watches as liabilities in his asset declaration form,” he concluded.

Former finance minister, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand, and qualified accountant Thairachai Phuvanatnaranubala has written that the NACC’s “interpretation” of “liabilities” offended “common sense,” noting that the “prevailing interpretation of liabilities is anything of monetary value, not just something where real money is involved.”

He implied that the NACC has concocted something “special” for Gen Prawit.

Some of Prawit’s loot

Meanwhile, law academic Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a leader of the Progressive Movement, observed that the NACC’s Prawit rule amounted to a “trick” that “would open the door for widespread asset concealment.” He said:

The NACC’s interpretation destroys the checks and balances of politicians and government officials and renders useless the requirement that they declare assets and liabilities…”.

Luxury assets such as accessories, rings, necklaces, watches, sports cars, etc need not be declared anymore. “All you have to do is get a rich friend of yours to say it is their assets and then explain the properties were borrowed from him.”…

“The interpretation of the NACC today has given politicians and officials a new channel to hide their assets.

To protect the heart of the military regime, do we really need to trade it with the checks and balances we have so painstakingly built since 1997?”

Not Prawit’s watches

Usually supportive of rightist regimes, Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand pointedly asked: “Are we adhering to the rule of law or do we simply use it to favour some influential people? ” That’s really a rhetorical question; of course, there’s no rule of law in Thailand, just support for the ruling clique and their supporters.

The regime’s efforts to protect the aged Gen Prawit are likely to go up a gear as he maneuvers his way to the leadership of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, giving the military even more control over the party. A couple of days ago:

Eighteen of the 34 members of the executive committee of the main coalition party Palang Pracharath resigned on Monday, paving the way for the election of a new party leader and executive committee in 45 days.

This paves the way for Gen Prawit to take full control of the party, supported by fascists, anti-democrats and crooks like Paiboon Nititawan, Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Thammanat Prompao.

Gen Prawit channeled his inner Sgt Schultz, lying that “he was not involved in the mass resignation of executives” from his party where he’s officially “chief strategist.” He added: “I don’t know…. I’m not involved with them.”

Truly, these dolts seem to “think” the country is composed of people dumber than they are. Everyone in the country seems to believe that this is nothing more than a military power grab. Party members have already declared that Gen Prawit will be nominated for the “vacant” position.

It actually seems that this was a “deal” done when the party was patched together and to minimally camouflage its military base. As MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka explained:

… current party leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, and secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong, who is also the Energy Minister, will no longer have the power to run the party’s affairs.

Asked what was behind “the changing of the guard”, Mr Sira said that this was a deal when the party was formed that the current executive committee members were given one year to work, and their performance would then be assessed.

“They now must admit that it is time for a change,” Mr Sira said.

A cabinet reshuffle will follow and will see a reallocation of lucrative positions as payback for support.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes Paiboon Nititawan on one of the reasons he wants Gen Prawit at the helm of the junta party. He says Prawit “has a lot of influence and prestige and is very generous…”. The generosity of a man who had to “borrow” watches from a wealthy friend raises the question of who funds Prawit’s generosity? There may be several sources. One is the funds that corruption in government provides. Another is the taxpayer funds. And, perhaps, the tycoons who get all kinds of benefits send loot his way. As an example of favors provided, think of the most recent benefit, as land and building taxes are slashed. Who benefits? Not smallholder farmers. Not single home owners. Nope. The beneficiaries are the wealthy:

… the cuts mainly benefit corporate owners of farmland, people who can afford more than one house, as well as owners of vacant land, or commercial/industrial properties.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post appears to confirm that the “generosity” of Gen Prawit has to do with “control the Finance Ministry which is to oversee a 1-trillion-baht Covid-19 relief plan…”. All that loot! It is reported that:

Of the 1 trillion baht, 600 billion is for financial aid and health-related plans for those whose jobs and businesses have been hit by the pandemic. The remaining 400 billion is for economic and social rehabilitation via projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

From the 400-billion-baht portion, the 273 government MPs will receive 80 million baht each while the 207 opposition MPs will receive 40 million baht each. There will still be almost 300 billion baht left over and this is why the finance minister post is being eyed by the PPRP factions….

One of the factions maneuvering for control of Finance is that led by convicted heroin smuggler and serial liar Thammanat.





Rulers and the Future Forward threat

18 03 2020

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a long story that revolves around the challenge that the now dissolved Future Forward Party posed to Thailand’s conservative ruling class.

We won’t repeat all of the story, but will emphasize a couple points that mirror commentary at PPT and elsewhere on “The Threat.”

(Again, we should point out that Crispin maintains a ludicrous definition of Thailand as “democratic” when refers to the rigged 2019 election as “democracy-restoring.” That’s just dumb.)

In discussing Future Forward’s dissolution and the banning of its leaders from politics for 10 years, Crispin does allow that this was perceived “as a highly politicized Constitutional Court decision.” And, he’s right to note that replacement party and associated movement remains “on a collision course with ex-coup-maker Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-ocha’s military-aligned coalition government.”

(We are not sure how a coup-maker becomes an ex-coup-maker? Just sloppy writing perhaps.)

And, as we recently posted, the “collision” could come soon now that the puppet Election Commission has filed “criminal charges that threaten to land Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit], banned secretary general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and ex-spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, widely seen as the ex-party’s progressive triumvirate, in prison.”

Crispin observes that some analysts think that the “slew of other pending legal threats aim to drive Thanathorn, Piyabutr and Pannika into exile from the kingdom, extinguishing their promised new movement’s threat to Prayut[h] before it has a chance to fully coalesce.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth is expendable. What is being “protected” is the broader ruling class. Prayuth is merely its servant.

The Threat is clear, explained by Thanathorn:

The people against the military, the rest against the rich, hope against fear, the future against the past…. If we win the battle of ideas, we will win all other battles…. At it’s core, at the heart of this political crisis, is this question: in Thailand who does the power belong to?

It is noted that, “[w]hile in Parliament, Future Forward took hard aim at the military and its top brass, calling for constitutional reforms and accountability…”. Perhaps even more threatening was that Future Forward targeted the big Sino-Thai tycoons and their enormous and sprawling conglomerates:

including the ThaiBev and Charoen Pokphand Group, that arguably benefitted the most from Prayut’s junta government while poverty rates rose and donated generously to bankroll his rise as an elected leader via the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP).

And then the biggest threat of all:

in October, the party voted against the Prayut government’s surprise declaration of an emergency decree that gave a legal basis for King Vajiralongkorn to take personal control of two elite infantry divisions, the 1st and 11th, nominally to provide better security for the royal family.

It seems – based on anonymous sources – that Thanathorn and Piyabutr were warned by the king but ignored this:

Clipped from Khaosod

That perceived challenge of royal power, two well-placed sources claim, happened despite Thanathorn and Piyabutr speaking with the monarch by telephone from Germany during a September meeting with army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a palace loyalist and son of a coup-maker.

As Crispin explains, it was soon after this that Gen Apirat “launched his now notorious speech, replete with slides of Vajiralongkorn in military garbs during his communist-fighting days in the 1970’s, labeling Future Forward as a ‘leftist’ threat.”

He then makes an important observation:

That raises questions about whether a broad conservative coalition of military, big business and royalists may have been behind the Election Commission’s push and Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve Future Forward and ban Thanathorn from politics, as well as the follow-up threat to imprison the party’s former executives.

Citing a “government advisor, who requested anonymity” – probably the odious Panitan Wattanayagorn – the regime seems to believe that The Threat  may have been seen off:

“They moved too fast and now they’re gone…. It will be nearly impossible for them to come back through the streets,” he added, noting the army’s stern warnings against staging protests in public spaces.





Junta-style business (as usual) I

17 03 2020

While dithering and flip-flopping on anti-virus stuff, it is business as usual for the regime as its junta pedigree “shines” through.

The Nation reports that three members of the Future Forward Party have been charged with “organising a public rally at the Pathumwan Intersection Skytrain station on December 14 without seeking permission, blocking or interfering with train station services, organising a gathering without concern for the public, using speakers without permission and holding a public gathering within a 150-metre radius of the palace.”

We can’t help but see the last charge as definitional of junta style. The others are concocted to destroy the party – already kind of done – and to bury its star performers. It is another pile of junta-like buffalo feces.

How high can the junta pile it?

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Pannika Wanich and head of the Future Forward replacement party, Move Forward Party, Pita Limjaroenrat had to show up at the Pathumwan Police Station and answer the political charges and be fingerprinted and so on. The police aim to have them in court on 7 April, but this case is more about harassment, so expect it to be dragged out.

The three denied the accusations and police aim to file a case in court on April 7.

Piyabutr said the Public Assembly Act caused several problems, including a limitation that did not allow police to grant permission in time. He also said he would continue efforts to establish a political group to campaign on politics.

Meanwhile, former heroin smuggler, alleged mask profiteer and deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao has told reporters he will “spend the next 14 days in self-quarantine after he came in contact with a man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus strain…”. He didn’t seem to say who or where or when. We suspect this is more Thammanat male cow manure and he’s just hiding out. Maybe he could sell masks online?

Related, the embattled head of the Internal Trade Department has resigned “amid allegations that he colluded with the hoarding and profiteering of millions of sanitary masks.” We wonder how well he knows Thammanat and his aide?

He “maintained he had nothing to do with the alleged stockpiling and sales of 200 million face masks to China.”

While on the topic of dipsticks, there’s the fascist Palang Pracharath Deputy Leader Paiboon Nititawan, who is interviewed at Thai Enquirer. How’s the regime being doing on the virus. Better than anyone else he says. Whatever he’s drinking, we want some of it.

Business as usual for the junta-cum-hopeless regime.





Fear, the monarchy and democracy

17 11 2019

We feel the Asia Times interview with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of the Future Forward Party is worth reading in full. We were most interested in the comments – or lack of them – on the monarchy. That’s the fear that resurgent absolutism had created:

Asia Times: Your party has already made waves in challenging military power. What was the thinking behind your party’s voting against an emergency decree to move elite military units into the King’s royal guard?

Thanathorn: I refuse to answer this question. My official answer would be our secretary general Piyabutr (Saengkanokkul) has already answered this in parliament. That is our official answer (related to the decree’s lack of transparency).

Asia Times: Some construed that as a direct challenge to royal power. Was that the intent?

Thanathorn: I refuse to answer this question.

Asia Times: Why do Prayut[h Chan-ocha]’s ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) members consistently try to portray you and your party as anti-monarchy?

Thanathorn: Because we have no corruption cases, we have never been in government before. I think that’s the easiest way to demonize someone in Thailand.

Basically, tyranny anywhere in the world you need to create an imaginary enemy. It was Thaksin [Shinawatra] before, an imaginary enemy of the nation.

So now I have become an imaginary enemy of the state. And the easiest way to build that momentum is to brand the person you want to demonize as anti-monarchy.

Thanathorn is clearly right in his comments on the monarchy and democracy. We fear, though, that democracy is the last thing the grasping king wants:

Asia Times: Is there an inherent conflict between an emphasis on unity and loyalty, and the push, pull and contest of democratic politics?

Thanathorn: Let me put it this way: Everywhere in the world where monarchy still exists, a sustainable and strong monarchy happens to be in a democracy.

However, if there is no democracy and there is a monarchy, the institution creates stress, enormous stress in that society.

So I think the long-term prosperity of the monarchy as an institution goes together with democracy. Unless and until you build a strong democracy, monarchy as an institution will not be sustainable.