Updated: Kids and their influences

12 09 2020

Activists report that, a couple of days ago, the authorities had gone after a 17-year-old high school student over “her role in a recent pro-democracy protest in Ratchaburi province.” It is said she made a speech about education reform.

She was one of five students targeted for protesting on 1 August. It isn’t clear if they have been charged.

Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkiarti claimed: “This is the first instance of pursuing a case against a high schooler…. Likely the first government in [Thai] history to exercise their power in this way.”

The group were summoned for holding an “illegal protest,” despite the fact that the:

Ratchaburi activist group said that they had already asked for and received permission from police officers onsite to hold the protest. Indeed, even the official Ratchaburi Police Facebook posted on Aug. 1 photos of their preparation of 127 officers to take care of the protest’s security.

Such police actions are a common tactic as the regime seeks to dampen support for the student-led protests.

Clipped from Khaosod

Meanwhile, Reuters reports on the “social media influencers.” It refers to the images of exiled academics Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. While the two are quite different characters, both “have openly criticized the monarchy,” and that seems to be what is attractive for the student demonstrators who have repeatedly used their images and memes from Pavin’s Royalist Marketplace.

Students say that it has been their discussion of the monarchy that has provided critical information that has been difficult to come by in Thailand. It is their exile that gives them this influence.

The students’ 10-point demand for reform of the monarchy is said to be “based on a reform proposal by Somsak, which he wrote a decade ago and revised and published on Facebook last year…”. That the two “have been singled out for attack by [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]” adds to their influence.

The report says there are more than 100 Thais who have gone into exile since the 2014 military coup. Some of them who were exiled in Laos and Cambodia have been “disappeared” and others have turned up dead.

In addition to these post-2014 exiles, there are others who fled during the years of political conflict. Together, several of the exiles have maintained a constant criticism of the monarchy.

While some, like Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubon Ratchathani University points to Royalist Marketplace as the current movement’s “real catalyst,” this ignores too much. After all, Royalist Marketplace built on a tremendous and growing anti-monarchism among the young.

Many of those who went into exile did so because of lese majeste and had spoken out on the monarchy before their exile. The students grew up under the junta’s reign of lese majeste terror that sought to stamp out growing anti-monarchism. That repression and the effort to enforce idolization of the previous and current king was part of the eye-opening experience for many of these students. As they have sought new knowledge and have shared it, the anti-monarchism of exiles has been important.

Update: Prachatai reports that teachers are also policing the thoughts of youngsters. It states “a 16-year-old student in Bangkok was summoned by a teacher after making a speech at the student protest on 5 September. She was asked to give the names of schoolmates who joined the protest and not to make any speeches again out of concern for the school’s reputation.” It adds: “Student harassment by teachers is one of the lingering problems in the Thai education system.”





Updated: Constitutional Court’s “logic”

22 09 2019

Wasant Techawongtham is a former news editor of the Bangkok Post. He writes:

I’m no legal expert, so I may not fully comprehend the legalese language of many court rulings, some of which just go right over my head, not because of the language itself but the logic within them.

While the Court has threatened those who question its decisions, Wasant states:

The two latest rulings by the Constitutional Court have just left me scratching my head with bewilderment and frustration. In this, I’m not alone. Many legal experts have had to scamper to their law textbooks to make sure they have not missed some important principles.

He writes of the Court’s 11 September determination that “it has no authority to rule on the question of whether Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has violated the constitution” on his unconstitutional oath.

Despite a clear and precise statement of the content of the oath in the Constitution, the Court said that the oath was a matter between the king and executive.

Wasant points out the constitutional fallacy of this “decision”:

As I understand it, we have three pillars of democracy — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Each provides checks and balances against the others, and each has the duty to respect and protect the country’s constitution.

The fact that Gen Prayut failed to utter a complete oath is no longer in dispute. Such an act is a violation of Section 161 of the constitution which requires that a minister “must” make a solemn declaration as specifically stated before the King.

As everyone in neo-feudal Thailand must, Wasant protects his posterior by trying to “explain” that the king could not possibly have been involved in Gen Prayuth’s unconstitutional oath: “The King cannot be held responsible or complicit in this act.”

He concludes: “I can see no reason why the Constitutional Court could not rule on the matter.” Anyone who is fair and reasonable can only comprehend this ruling as yet another politicized decision by the Court.

Wasant then turns to the other recent ruling by the Constitutional Court on Gen Prayuth’s status as a state official and thus ineligible for the prime ministership. He describes the Court’s rejection of this petition as a “victory for the beleaguered general-turned-politician.” He adds: “it is also one of the most fuzzy and confusing rulings that is extremely difficult for laymen to understand.”

He quotes Political scientist Prajak Kongkirati who asked the right questions:

… [Gen Prayut] uses state power but he is not accountable to the state? He was not appointed by any law but issued and enforced laws concerning all public and private entities as well as the people? He was not legally a state official but received a salary from the public purse? He held on to power temporarily but stayed on for more than five years, longer than any elected government in Thai political history?

Wasant adds a question: “[Gen Prayuth] … wore official [state] uniforms to attend official [state] functions but was not a … [state] official?”

He concludes that:

Bolstered by the two court decisions, Gen Prayut must have felt he could do no wrong. On the day of the House debate, he walked away from the meeting without answering the central question: How would he take responsibility for the constitutional blunder he created after he had said publicly he would solely bear the responsibility?

Thailand is left with Gen Prayuth as The Dictator and prime minister following a coup, political repression, unbridled power as head of a junta, a rigged election and and rules thanks to politicized court decisions.

For several years the Constitutional Court has delivered politicized decisions based on clear double standards. Its attention now turns to the Future Forward Party. We would be hugely surprised if the Court doesn’t consign the party’s leader and the party itself to its dustbin of dissolved political parties. Of course, these dissolved parties are all pro-Thaksin Shinawatra or anti-junta.

Update: While mentioning op-eds at the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul is unhappy with “the prime minister [who] did not himself clarify why he omitted to recite an important part of the oath as stipulated in the constitution…”. He handed over to deep swamp slime mining creature Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to concoct something that sounded legal. As Veera sees it – and most everyone else –

In his clarification … Wissanu was as slippery as an eel as he beat about the bush before referring to the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the swearing-in ceremony was an affair between the government and … the King. In short, he offered no clarification as to whether the omission of the final part of the oath by the prime minister was intentional or unintentional.

And, of course, said nothing about who might have ordered Gen Prayuth to omit reference to the constitution. Veera says Gen Prayuth’s “attitude can only be seen as a lack of acceptance of the opposition’s role as a check-and-balance mechanism of the executive branch, if not his contempt for it.” While that contempt is well-known, the whole story of the unconstitutional oath is also suggestive of the king’s contempt for parliament and the constitution.

Sadly, Veera then gets into some obscurantist royalism:

It is a straightforward and non-complicated issue that could be fixed with an honest explanation, which any good leader should offer. It is not a sensitive issue as claimed by Mr Wissanu because it is separate from the swearing-in ceremony.

Clearly, it isn’t. If this unconstitutional oath was an error, then it would have been easily fixed. Because it hasn’t been fixed and because those involved won’t say anything, the finger is pointing at the king.





Recent academic publications on Thailand’s politics

13 08 2019

Every so often, PPT scans academic journals to see what has been published over the past 12-18 months. Here’s a list of politics-focused research that we located. Some of them are very much better than others. Unfortunately, most are behind paywalls but we have found that authors will often send a copy if requested:

‘Long Live Ratthathammanūn!’: Constitution worship in revolutionary Siam in Modern Asian Studies and by Puli Fuwongcharoen

New Wine in an Old Bottle: Female Politicians, Family Rule, and Democratization in Thailand in Modern Asian Studies and by Yoshinori Nishizaki

Ironic political reforms: elected senators, party-list MPs, and family rule in Thailand in Critical Asian Studies and by Yoshinori Nishizaki

Gold diggers and their housewives: the gendered political economy of Thai labor export to Saudi Arabia, 1975–1990 in Critical Asian Studies and by Katie Rainwater

Dictatorship, Monarchy, and Freedom of Expression in Thailand in Journal of Asian Studies and by Tyrell Haberkorn

Subjects of politics: Between democracy and dictatorship in Thailand in Anthropological Theory and by Eli Elinoff

Thailand: an old relationship renewed in The Pacific Review and by Kevin Hewison

Haunted Past, Uncertain Future: The Fragile Transition to Military-Guided Semi-Authoritarianism in Thailand in Southeast Asian Affairs 2018 and by Prajak Kongkirati

Crisis of Democracy in Thailand and the Network of Monarchy in Paradigma and by Aryanta Nugraha

Thailand’s Traditional Trinity and the Rule of Law: Can They Coexist? in Asian Studies Review and by Björn Dressel

Thailand 4.0 and the Internal Focus of Nation Branding in Asian Studies Review and by Petra Desatova

Uneven development, inequality and concentration of power: a critique of Thailand 4.0 in Third World Quarterly and by Prapimphan Chiengkul

The Iron Silk Road and the Iron Fist: Making Sense of the Military Coup D’État in Thailand in Austrian Journal of South East Asian Studies and by Wolfram Schaffar

Alternative Development Concepts and Their Political Embedding: The Case of Sufficiency Economy in Thailand in Forum for Development Studies and by Wolfram Schaffar

Agents, Principals, or Something in Between? Bureaucrats and Policy Control in Thailand in Journal of East Asian Studies and by Jacob I. Ricks

The never changing story: Eight decades of the government public relations department of Thailand in Public Relations Review and by NapawanTantivejakul

Proud to be Thai: The Puzzling Absence of Ethnicity-Based Political Cleavages in Northeastern Thailand in Pacific Affairs and by Jacob Ricks

Politics and the Price of Rice in Thailand: Public Choice, Institutional Change and Rural Subsidies in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Jacob Ricks

Anti-Royalism in Thailand Since 2006: Ideological Shifts and Resistance in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Anonymous

Coloured Judgements? The Work of the Thai Constitutional Court, 1998–2016 in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Björn Dressel and Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang

Is Irrigationalism a Dominant Ideology in Securing Hydrotopia in Mekong Nation States? in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by David J. H. Blake

Drivers of China’s Regional Infrastructure Diplomacy: The Case of the Sino-Thai Railway Project in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Laurids S. Lauridsen

Thailand’s Public Secret: Military Wealth and the State in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Ukrist Pathmanand and Michael K. Connors

The Unruly Past: History and Historiography of the 1932 Thai Revolution in Journal of Contemporary Asia and by Arjun Subrahmanyan

Worldly compromise in Thai Buddhist modernism in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and by Arjun Subrahmanyan

Memories of collective victimhood and conflict in southern Thailand in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and by Muhammad Arafat Bin Mohamad

The Prayuth Regime: Embedded Military and Hierarchical Capitalism in Thailand in TRaNS and by Prajak Kongkirati and Veerayooth Kanchoochat

Thailand Trapped: Catch-up Legacies and Contemporary Malaise in TRaNS and by Veerayooth Kanchoochat

Expansion of Women’s Political Participation through Social Movements: The Case of the Red and Yellow Shirts in Thailand in Journal of Asian and African Studies and by Duanghathai Buranajaroenkij and others

Constitution-Making in 21st-Century Thailand: The Continuing Search for a Perfect Constitutional Fit in The Chinese Journal of Comparative Law and by Andrew James Harding and Rawin Leelapatana

The political economy of state patronage of religion: Evidence from Thailand in International Political Science Review and by Tomas Larsson

The conundrum of a dominant party in Thailand in Asian Journal of Comparative Politics and by Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee

Generals in defense of allocation: Coups and military budgets in Thailand in Journal of Asian Economics and by Akihiko Kawaura





Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia

20 05 2019

New Mandala has posted a series of videos from a recent conference on Entrenched Illiberalism in Mainland Southeast Asia,” recorded at the Australian National University on 8–9 April 2019.

Coming a couple of weeks after Thailand’s “election,” means that there’s something of a focus on that country. Thai participants included Sunai Pasuk, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Aim Sinpeng, Prajak Kongkirati, and Naruemon Thabchumpon.





Promising the royal decree

22 01 2019

The Bangkok Post reports:

A highly placed source in the EC said Monday the commission was under immense pressure to set an election date. The most viable options for holding the ballot are now either March 10 or March 24.

Without the royal decree calling for the election, the Election Commission (EC) cannot set the date for the poll, said the source.

And, again, The Dictator has declared that the “royal decree calling the election will soon be published in the Royal Gazette.” Previously, 23 January was the new predicted date for the delayed decree for the long-delayed election.

Army commander, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, said to be close to the king, “believes the royal decree announcing the polls will be published soon as required by the constitution…” The comment on constitution seems to refer to the general 150-day deadline set for holding the election after the final organic law.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow, but many are pessimistic.

Political scientist Prajak Kongkiarti “said it will not bode well if the Royal Decree is not issued this week…”. If the decree is not issued, then Prajak predicts the junta’s election “will likely be held after May 9…”. That’s unconstitutional but Prajak predicts the use of Article 44: “However, that would mean we enter a political black hole where the Constitution is meaningless and no rules are the norm other than Article 44.”





Pessimism or optimism?

16 01 2019

Pessimism and optimism are measured in different ways when it comes to politics, depending on where one is standing.

Surasak Glahan at the Bangkok Post joins the pessimists:

Cambodia had a “fake” national ballot in June. Bangladesh held a “farcical poll” blighted by intimidation late last month. Thailand is worse. It can’t event hold a general election as planned.

It is now two weeks since the royal decree “allowing” an election date to be selected was supposed to emerge from the palace. Notions of a constitutional monarchy seem a thing of the past.

If the notion that the “palace, bureaucratic and military elites” won’t be able to “consolidate their hold on power through the establishment of a semi-authoritarian regime,” sounds like a good outcome of a delayed election, then academic Prajak Kongkiarti’s piece at New Mandala is worth a read.

His conclusion is another glass half-full, half-empty proposition:

elections are only the beginning of a new round of struggles to set the terms of a political order that has yet to settle. It will be difficult for the NCPO to establish a robust authoritarian regime, but nor will Thailand transition to a stable, democratic system.

Less optimistic is the increasingly threatening behavior of Army chief and current palace favorite Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

He’s both warned those campaigning for an election date to be set and ordered his troops to “monitor” political parties as they campaign.

On demands for an election, Gen Apirat warned activists: “you should also draw the line on your own actions and don’t step over that line…”. He said he would “deploy security forces to maintain peace and order during the rally” by activists planned for Friday.

No one seems to know if a royal decree will emerge and it is the lack of the decree that causes pessimism on an “election.”





No coup

16 02 2015

As we have posted several times, the core of resistance to the military dictatorship is with students. They have consistently been at the center of opposition. Giles Ji Ungpakorn has some pictures of recent events.

Many readers will have seen that they have been active several times lately. Most recently, on 14 February, Prachatai reports that “a large crowd” turned out for a Valentine’s Day event called “The election that was loved (stolen).” This was an anti-coup activism.

The organizers from the Resistant Citizen group and participants “called for an election and commemorated the latest election on 2 February 2014.”

They were joined by about 100 police officers who “maintained tight control at the event, held in front of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC), Siam Square.”

Prachatai states that Natchacha Kongudom, an anti-coup student activist from Bangkok University said: “Nothing has changed since the coup, martial law is still imposed and of course the election is nowhere in sight. This implies that the military doesn’t have any idea how to govern without martial law.” Natchacha added: “Many people have shown up today which is a good sign. It proves that many are still calling for an election.”

Natchacha called on others for support: “I want Thai students and the foreign and Thai media to do more in pressuring the junta, especially foreign governments who can use diplomatic channels to pressure the regime…”.

Police arrested four activists for organizing the anti-coup event “and charged them with violating the junta’s orders.” They are “Sirawit Serithiwat, a student activist from Thammasat University, Pansak Srithep, a red-shirt activist and the father of a boy killed by the military during the 2010 political violence, Anon Numpa, a human rights lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), and Wannakiet Chusuwan, a pro-democracy activist.”

While arrested by police , the case will be heard in a military court. They were eventually bailed.

Some 20 anti-coup activists and student activists gathered in front of the police station to provide support for those arrested.  In addiion, “Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, Thammasat University’s Assistanct Rector, Prajak Kongkirati, a lecturer of Thammasat’s Faculty of Political Science and advisor of Sirawit, and Pongkwan Sawasdipakdi , also a lecturer of Thammasat’s Faculty of Political Science, went to the police station to help negotiate with police and give moral courage.”

The four were told told not to hold any more political gatherings or their bail would be revoked.





Dopes, censorship and repression

21 10 2014

The military brass has again declared its loyalty to its boss. Why these dolts bother beats us, but there’s always a chance that one of the dopes gets sick of the dopes above him and tries to change things. But declaring loyalty means nothing for when they do decide to act, they are unlikely to declare it. What they did declare was: “We not only give our support and encouragement to the prime minister, but we will also translate his orders into actions. We will do our best.” Their “best” may be everyone else’s “worst” as the military brass engages in a political feeding frenzy.

At Prachatai it is reported that the military has “ordered the editor of anti-establishment socio-political Same Sky journal to delete a Facebook status which states the military’s attempt to censor the publishing house.”

The military ordered editor Thanapol Eawsakul “to delete the Facebook status on the conversation with Prajak Kongkirati, a renown[ed] political scientist from Thammasat University, at the annual Book Fair in central Bangkok.” Apparently the dunderheads in the military “mistook the fan meeting [with author Prajak] as [a] political seminar and requested the book fair organizer to videotape … the event which the book fair organizer declined.”

The deleted post “stated that the night before the opening of the fair, the military officials came to search the Fah Deaw Kan’s booth, claiming that some of the books have contents that could be deemed as defaming the …. Thai monarchy.” We deleted a word at … to protect our readers from royalist nonsense.

It is reported that “Same Sky … deleted the status and said it was forced to delete the status because the military felt ‘upset’.”

Also at Prachatai, it is reported that the military arrested and detained a red shirt who attended Apiwan Wiriyachai’s funeral. Military officers arrested Nueng Katesakul for allegedly taking part “in the anti-coup protest at the Victory Monument on 28 June…”.

The repression and censorship continues.





Silencing academics

19 09 2014

The May 2014 military coup has send a chill through all those who think and talk about politics.

The military dictatorship, which has strong support from royalists and other anti-democrats, is no different from other authoritarian regimes. It fears freedoms of expression, assembly and thought. Early on, the military junta specifically targeted academics considered unreliable.

While most academics in Thailand are quiescent in the face of repression and threat, and some academic prostitutes applaud repression, it is reported at the Bangkok Post reports that a tiny group who, with students, organized a forum entitled “Democracy Classroom: Chapter 2 – The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries,” have found the forum closed by the police. In addition, the organizers and academics were taken in for questioning and “re-education” on their defiance of the military.

Naturally enough, the academics had chosen not to speak of Thailand’s military dictatorship. But even the doltish cops realized that any opposition to military dictatorship was potentially dangerous. Well, maybe not, but their military bosses managed to notice.

The result of this intolerance and rising totalitarianism was that retired and well-known academic Nidhi Eowsriwong, Chaowarit Chaosangrat, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri and Prajak Kongkiratiand were hauled off to a police station. So were the student organizers who are a “group of Thammasat students who call themselves the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, or LLTD.” They were subjected to an “attitude adjustment” session from the cops.

The University might have also been in trouble as “soldiers had earlier submitted a letter to the university asking it to prevent such activities.” Yet to date the royalist administration of the once politically-thriving university has prevented politics on campus. In fact, the University’s administration slithered about and “responded to the military’s request by locking a lecture room used to organise LLTD’s last seminar, but the group went ahead with the seminar in the foyer of the building.”

The” police would release the lecturers and students once they reached an understanding with them.” Usually that means signing an agreement to not discuss any politics that offends the prickly leaders of the military dictatorship.





Thailand is screwing up

23 05 2014

That’s some of TIME magazine’s headline: “Thailand Is Doing a Great Job of Screwing Up Its Potential.”

Moody’s agrees, according to documents posted by Andrew MacGregor Marshall:

The deterioration of the political situation in Thailand to the extent that the army felt compelled to impose martial law reflects the heightened degree of political uncertainty, as seen in repeated delays to hold national elections, the unchanged intention of the main opposition party to boycott a future poll and the unwavering desire of the main anti-government opposition group to dismantle democratic governance in Thailand. We see the latest development as further weighing on the economic and financial performance of the Thai economy.

From AP: “Countries including the United States, Japan and Australia expressed concern and disappointment over the coup, with the U.S. saying there was “no justification” for the takeover, Thailand’s second in eight years.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary stated: “I am extremely concerned by today’s coup…. The UK urges the restoration of a civilian government that has been democratically elected, serves the interests of its people and fulfils its human rights obligations.”

Military arrests a red shirt activist

Military arrests a red shirt activist

PPT reckons that the hardening attitude of anti-democrats to “outsiders” will probably lead to verbal attacks on these “stupid foreigners.” But what do they say about Thais? Perhaps the military will lock them up?

Academic Prajak Kongkiarti at Prachatai: “People will soon rise up against the military, coup lead to deeper conflict and violence.”

Prajak

Prajak

They are arresting more and more red shirt leaders. According to Andrew Spooner, others like Abhisit Vejjajiva and his anti-democrat Democrat Party leaders have been “released” from protective child minding.

Just to make things more confusing, The Nation reports that:

Leaders of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee have been taken to a safe house in Bangkok, a military source announced on Friday.

They were taken from the First Infantry Regiment to a safe house after the coup makers released representatives of the ousted government and the Democrats who attended the failed seven-partite meeting at the Army Club on Thursday.

The coup makers also released three Pheu Thai representatives but detained two – Pheu Thai secretary general Phutham Wechayachai and party spokesman Prompong Nopparit – and took them to the safe house along with the UDD and PDRC leaders.

Sombat

Sombat

One red shirt – always at the forefront of dissent – Red Sunday Group leader Sombat Boonngamanong has, according to The Nation, become:

the first person in the list of 114 summoned to report to the military junta who has publicly refused to do so, citing that staging a coup is illegitimate and challenging the junta on Twitter and Facebook to catch him if they can.

“Hilarious. Not reporting [to the junta] is considered a criminal offense. But when they deploy tanks to seize power and tear down the constitution, it is not even a violation of the Criminal Act,” Sombat tweeted at around 1.40pm yesterday (Friday) ….

The Bangkok Post says “the coup-makers warned those defying the summons will be arrested and face legal action.” It also reports that he junta has called in 155 people, and we reckon this does not include those being arrested elsewhere.

Arresting people, setting up “safe houses” under military control, imposing strict censorship and tramping about in big boots makes Thailand look like it is doing far worse than just screwing things up. We’d like to be wrong on this!








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