The 1932 spirit

27 06 2022

For those interested in the non-governmental response to the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution, there are a few stories to notice, with brief comments below.

Of course, the royalist government response is to ignore the event as if it never happened.

Thai Enquirer has a photo essay on the rally to celebrate the day. Some of the photos are quite something, and together they show how 1932 is intimately linked with contemporary struggles for democracy and monarchy reform. All of our photos here are clipped from Thai Enquirer.

Thai PBS reports on a seminar at Thammasat University’s Pridi Banomyong International College on 24 June, held “to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution.” Those attending and speaking included Sulak Sivaraksa and newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

Various groups organized activities and events on June 24 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the revolution which turned the country from absolute to constitutional monarchy. While academics and politicians discussed the future of Thai democracy at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus, youthful groups and activists gathered at Lan Khon Muang Townsquare, calling for the restoration of the revolutionary spirit, reform of the monarchy, abolish the lese majeste law, as well as make June 24 the National Day….

Thammasat University student activist Parit Chiwarak told Thai PBS World earlier that students and political activists had grouped together under the name of People’s Party 2020 a couple of years ago to carry on the revolutionary spirit. Their objective was to remove the gulf between Thai citizens and the established elite.

“One of the six principles laid out by the 1932 People’s Party is equality, which has never been achieved,” he said.

The report notes that in 1960,Thailand’s National Day was changed by the then military dictatorship, and in concert with the king, from 24 June to the then king’s birthday on 5 December. That change was just one part of the restoration of the monarchy that continues through the 20th century.

Monarchy reform and democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said in a phone interview that she and her associates continued to demand reforms to the monarchy, despite being prosecuted for lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

In another event, former red shirt leader and Puea Thai politician Nattawut Saikua, in a talk show hosted by the Pridi Banomyong Institute, “said the people’s movement which fought for democracy before and after the 1932 Revolution shared the same spirit — to have equality and democracy.” He added: “I do believe that such a fighting spirit has been transferred from generation to generation,” acknowledging that “red shirts admired and expressed their gratitude to both People’s Parties, in 1932 and 2020.”

There’s more in the article.

Meanwhile, at Khaosod, there’s an op-ed by Pravit Rojanaphruk, commenting on the long period of divisions between royalists and anti-royalists. He begins:

The 90th anniversary of June 24, 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy, was only celebrated by those who believe Thailand has yet to achieve genuine democracy and aspire for more freedom and rights.

Conspicuously absent were the government, including Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and royalist conservatives who did not observe the day and probably would rather forget that June 24, which falls on Friday this year, was not just arguably the most important day in modern Thai political history once a national day and a public holiday celebrated from 1938 to 1960….

For royalists who wish to see the monarchy … play a greater role in Thai society, to see the military continue to act as the state within a state, to limit the powers of politicians and the electorate whom they distrust, June 24, 1932 was a day of infamy….

Pravit notes that other countries “settled their differences through a bloody revolt.” He prefers a peaceful road to a democracy that provides for and accepts differences.

That’s all fine and good, but Pravit does not mention that the military has been all too willing to spill the blood of those who stand in their path and those who they consider challenge the monarchy and their Thai-style democracy. It has killed hundreds and jailed thousands.





Silencing the media II

17 01 2022

If any confirmation of the regime’s efforts to silence any media that it doesn’t like or trust was needed, it is now provided.

Thai Enquirer reports that the regimes bullyboys have “raided the homes of multiple reporters, accusing them of being involved in the ongoing anti-government protests…”. Three “journalists who were targeted have been covering the political unrest since July, 2020, when anti-government demonstrations broke out.”

Observers believe the “raids were conducted under a new decree signed on July 29, drafted to allegedly stop the spread of ‘fake news,’ and information that incites fear or causes instability to the state.”

Sirote. Clipped from Thai Enquirer

This is another state effort “to muzzle free press and infringe their rights, effectively blocking their ability to publish.”

Voice TV’s Sirote Klampaiboon regularly reported from the rallies and demonstrations. His home was raided. He released a leaked document which had his name on a regime watch list.

Sirote revealed that he has been previously charged with participating in a rally when he was doing his job as a reporter. And, he stated this “is not the first time police raided his home,” and pointed out that this “police intimidation has created an atmosphere of fear for his family.”

The state deliberately targets aged parents of those it wishes to silence.

As pointed out by Pravit Rojanaphruk, the media is is serious danger in Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime.





Updated: Music vs. the walking dead III

19 11 2021

Update: Pravit Rojanaphruk at Khaosod has an op-ed on Defying Decay, based on an interview with its lead singer.

Our third music choice is via social media posts:





Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Students vs. the feudal regime I

24 10 2021

As Pravit Rojanaphruk points out in a Khaosod op-ed:

A year has passed since the students-led monarchy reform movement descended to the streets of Bangkok and beyond in large numbers. One year on, over 140 have been charged with lese majeste crimes, or defaming the monarchy. It’s punishable by a maximum imprisonment term of 15 years. Around half a dozen of them are currently … incarcerated….

Scores of others face hundreds of other charges. Some are in jail, others have bail, others await more charges.

While the media face censorship and with “self-censorship are the norm, combined with self-denial or silence to due fears of repercussions or political expediency,” the students continue to push for change.

Thai PBS reports that the Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match procession will be different this year. The executive committee of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Union is unanimous in canceling the Phra Kieo coronet, Chulalongkorn University’s emblem. Why? They see “it to be representative of a feudal culture and a symbol of inequality.”

As the most royalist of universities, with many connections with the monarchy and royal family, the message is clear.

In his  article in support of other students who suffer feudal repression – lese majeste – Pravit calls on the media to support them:

The press could continue to watch and simply report about more prosecutions as more youths take the risks, are taken to jail, repeatedly denied bail, and refrain from questioning the anachronistic law . Such stance means the Thai press continue to be part of the problem for their lack of courage and commitment to greater press freedom.

It means the mostly young political activists feel the need to express themselves publicly on the streets or on social media, despite the risks as they regard the current situation as not just abnormal but unacceptable, untolerable and undemocratic…..

The least that journalists and media associations can do is to call out publicly and say we need to talk about the lese majeste law and something needs to be done about it. Even if they do not support the abolition of the law, there are crucial details worth reforming: the severity of the law which is disproportionate and more.

In fact, from our observation, the media has not been comprehensive in reporting of these arrests and charges and the reporting is so sporadic that we feel the regime and its supporters have cowed the mainstream media.

The students deserve better. Thailand deserves better.





Further updated: A violent interlude III

16 08 2021

More on political protest.

Thai Enquirer has a series of photos and videos of the weekend’s protests. Thai PBS reports:

Young hard core anti-establishment protesters, many of them vocational students, clashed with crowd control police at Bangkok’s Din Daeng intersection again this evening (Sunday), as they tried to breach a wall of shipping containers and a police cordon blocking access to the out-bound side of Vibhavadi Rangsit highway.

These protesters did not join the three “car mob” convoys, organized by former red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar, Sombat Boonngarm-anong and the “Talu Fah” group, which were separately heading for the Ratchaprasong intersection, the Democracy Monument and Lat Phrao intersection, after travelling through the streets of Bangkok and Thonburi.

The young protesters gathered at Din Daeng intersection during the afternoon and, at about 5.30pm, tried to remove one of the shipping containers, in order to march toward Prime Minister Prayut Chan-op-cha’s residence inside the nearby barracks of the First Infantry Regiment of the Royal Guards.

Crowd control police responded, starting with teargas and followed by rubber bullets and high-powered water cannons. The protesters reportedly fought back with “ping pong” bombs, flares, giant firecrackers, bricks and sling shots.

We are reminded that it was only a few days ago that the media was calling for less police violence. Chairith Yonpiam, a news editor at the Bangkok Post, suggests that the “state’s heavy-handed approach suggests the authorities are confident that the anti-government movement has lost substantial public support.” He goes on to say that protesters  risk losing support if violence continues. Clearly, though, the state is violent. Across the globe, resurgent authoritarians have learned that they can easily out-wait and defeat peaceful protesters. Where does this leave protesters?

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk posted today on Facebook, with some important observations:

Three brief observations about the young protesters clasing with police over the past two weeks.

1) They are mostly working class teenagers (a number of them have small motorcycles making them very mobile when confronting police), their families are among the most affected by the economic crisis due to COVID-19 mismanagement. They are not middle-class intellectuals or students from Chulalongkorn or Thammasat Universities like those leading the call for monarchy-reform.

2) They don’t take order from middle-class protest leaders and arevmore that ready to use the calls for prostests by whichever anti-government groups to assemble and continue the protest onward and further by confronting with riot police long after the protest organisers have called it a day.

3) They have their own way of expressing themselves and it is through the willingness to violently confront riot police with slingshots, fireworks, rocks, bricks, water bottles, wooden and metal sticks and burn symbols of police that they manifest themselves. Middle-class’ theory of nonviolence does not apply to them and is not attractive. What’s attractive for them is to be together in state of ‘communitas’, anthropologically speaking where they feel empowered and express their collective anger about their bleaked future prospect in Thai society as they are close to the bottom of the social echelon with little or no light at the end of the tunnel.

Meanwhile, The Standard had some breathtaking photos, We include some below:

Update 2: A reader sent us links to what are said to be recent protest videos, focused on police aggression, here and here.





Updated: Trampling remaining freedoms V

11 08 2021

It has been a busy few days and PPT is catching up on some of the reports, in this case, from Thai Enquirer.

In one report, there’s an account of a “document that was leaked to the press on Monday evening purportedly show[ing] a government watchlist of dissidents that is under government surveillance and facing travel restrictions.”

The document, initially said to be “fake” by a military source, it listed “some of the most prominent anti-government protesters along with opposition parliamentarians and journalists.” Some of those included were “Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat, former Future Forward Leader Thanathorn Juangruangroongkit, protest leader Anon Nampa, and journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk.”

The report refers to “the list is real is a worrying escalation of the administrations war on civil liberties.” It cites political analyst Arun Saronchai who states:

Not only is the administration using continuous violence and arrest against peaceful protesters but this document is troubling because it includes members of the press and politicians as well….

That means to the government, they will paint anyone that opposes them with the same brush. What we need to understand now is what membership on this list entails and what kind of surveillance is being done against them….

A second report is of the police “seeking software that would help it monitor chat applications and social media private messages…”. The report states that the “Royal Thai Police have reached out to several companies selling software similar to the Pegasus software developed by an Israeli defense company.” The reason for this is that they want to digitally snoop on those using “popular chat applications like LINE, WhatsApp, and Telegram.”

Police want to “prevent political protest as well as go after members of organized crime and drug smugglers…”. We can guess that the main reason would be to crack down further on anti-monarchism.

This kind of news explains why protesters are targeting police. They are becoming the regime’s Stasi.

Update: The document mentioned in the first report above now seems genuine. The police’s Immigration Bureau seem to say it is their document but they did not release it. They seem to want to deny it is a political blacklist, saying it is an immigration blacklist. They say it is people who are watched on leaving and entering the country. But that lame claim fails to explain why, for example, a reporter with no warrants for his arrest is on the list or why political figures without warrants are also there. It is a political blacklist for harassing people and making their life difficult and to demonstrate the state’s arbitrariness and power.





Making palace propaganda

27 02 2021

Australia’s contribution to royalist propaganda has been posted to the Australian Embassy’s Facebook page. The “documentary” is released in Thai and English versions. Our link is to the English version that covers King Vajiralongkorn’s time as a high school student in Sydney, an officer cadet at Duntroon Military College in Canberra and training with Australia’s Special Air Services Regiment in Perth.

The embassy introduces it thus:

The Australian Embassy, Thailand proudly presents “His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua in Australia” documentary as a gift to Thai people.

Our Embassy is deeply honoured to have His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua and Her Majesty Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana to preside over the premiere screening on Monday 15th February 2021.

There will be a lot of Thais who will look this particular gifthorse in the mouth.

Some days ago, Australia’s most trusted news outlet, the ABC had a story on this propaganda piece, saying that the embassy “has produced a documentary showcasing historical footage of the King of Thailand’s six-and-a-half years in Australia at boarding school and with the Australian Defence Force.” It shows the then prince marching, running obstacle courses, studying, in the cadet’s mess, practicing patrols and “graduating.” It is added that the embassy Facebook post said it “highlights the shared history between the Thai Royal Family and Australia”…”.

The ABC notes that this propaganda piece comes as “dozens of protesters face up to 15 years in jail for allegedly defaming [the king].”

The story cites journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, who said the timing was “unfortunate to put it mildly,” with “59 monarchy reform activists had been charged under the lese majeste laws,” adding:

It’s sending a very awkward message because we are in the middle of unprecedented calls for monarchy reform and then you see the government of Australia simply behave as if, you know, there is no controversy.

Embassy’s are not usually so tone deaf, with Pravit reminding them:

Australia is supposed to be a democratic government that stands for freedom of expression…. Australians have the freedom to criticise … Queen Elizabeth … the Australian people could entertain the future without the monarchy in London, right? Well, this is not the case in Thailand.

The propaganda piece “includes interviews with the King’s classmates including the Governor-General of Australia David Hurley, former governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove, and Major General Duncan Lewis, the former director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).” They all have good things to say.

Political commentator Greg Raymond said he felt it “not the right time” to release an “effusive commemoration of our relationship with this particular monarch.” He added:

They’re producing this documentary in a social and political context where the place of the monarchy in Thailand is becoming increasingly a fraught question.

For the real (but still redacted) details of the then prince’s time in Australia, click here.





With 3 updates: Violence and double standards I

15 02 2021

There has been some banter about students, protesters and violence, mainly on social media. For example, Cod Satrusayang has an op-ed at Thai Enquirer stating:

On Saturday, student protesters confronted police officers in front of the Bangkok City Shrine. Led by vocational students and the We Volunteer protest guards, the protesters hurled rocks and homemade firecrackers at the police.

The police responded with batons, mass charges, and mass arrests. The security officials were indiscriminate in their response – infamously beating high school students, volunteer medics, and journalists in their bid to get to the agitators.

There was no excuse for the action of the police that night. Numerous “international norms” were violated by the security operations.

But there was no excuse for the student guards to needlessly confront and provoke the officers either….

There has been an increasing and alarming tendency in recent weeks by protesters to resort to violence or threaten violence in their confrontations with the police.

Is this reasonable? Should protesters simply remain punching bags and targets for arrest and jails? And is it reasonable to compare “student guards” tactics with those of heavily armed and aggressive police and military, including the use of plainclothes officers on the student side, provoking and arresting?

The protesters “reiterated its peaceful stance but said protesters had a right to retaliate against violence by authorities.”

Even the conservative royalist commentator Veera Prateepchaikul refers to Saturday as involving “a minor scuffle during in which stones, smoke bombs and firecrackers were hurled at the police by the protesters.” Did such a “minor scuffle” need a violent response? Should a volunteer medic have been attacked, kicked, beaten and arrested? These are, of course, rhetorical questions.

Others have been more willing to question the imbalance of power. For example, the Rural Doctor Society demanded “an explanation and legal action against the officers involved [in the beating of the volunteer], saying it was a violation of human rights.” Why is it that mainstream media aren’t showing some of the truly violent police responses?

Pravit Rojanaphruk has posted a considerable amount of it on Facebook, but none of it has yet appeared at his newspaper. Why does Cod post a link to video of a few rocks being thrown, most of them not even reaching the main police line, but nothing of consequence about police violence?Newspapers report 20-25 police officers injured but say little about protesters, some of who have been dragged off to a secret prison.

Double standards? We think so.

Prachatai has a report worth reading. It is balanced, covers the whole event and is a useful account of the ways that the authorities provoke and how protesters respond.

Update 1: Khaosod finally has some updates posted. One report is of the top Bangkok cop saying “a police officer was behaving properly when he shot live rounds over the weekend in a bid to fend off a crowd of pro-democracy protesters.” Of course he does. But, the same cops have charged the volunteer health worker they beat to unconsciousness and arrested at the same rally. The charge is that he breached the virus emergency decree. The cops really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Double standards? You bet!

Update 2: Further to our point above about the inequalities in comparing protesters and state authorities, Prachatai has a useful report on the events of the rally and confrontations, with numerous examples of “crowd control police carrying firearms,” contradicting claims by “Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra, the Metropolitan Police Chief, that the police did not use tear gas or rubber bullets against protesters on 13 February.”

Update 3: For a video showing the large numbers of military/police infiltrators and “third hands,” look at this video at Facebook.





Updated: 112 = 55+

22 01 2021

The tally of known lese majeste cases has now shot past 50 and is heading for 60. These known cases involved almost 100 counts of lese majeste.

The graphic is from Prachatai:

Update: Pravit Rojanaphruk’s comments in an op-ed are fitting: “Draconian, disproportionate, anachronistic, outrageous, barbaric, unjust…”.

So are the BBC’s Jonathan Head’s comments, in the same article, commenting on Anchan’s bail application being rejected :

“This sums up the madness of lese majeste, and the warped reasoning it produces. How many royalists were ‘traumatized’ by the podcasts this lady posted? How many even heard them? Does the judge know?”








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