More “good” person nonsense

3 06 2017

One of the problems of Thailand’s politics is that there are a few aged men who think they know everything better than anyone else. Most of them have been cast as “liberals” but the fact is that most are royalists first and then conservatives second. Some of them are authoritarian, vile and nasty.

They are used to being heard partly because Thailand’s culture has respect for the aged, even when they are fruitcakes. They are often heard because they are aligned with the powerful, including the military and the palace.They think of themselves as “great” and “good.”

So when the Bangkok Post reports a meeting attended by executives of media organisations like “the National Press Council of Thailand, the Thai Journalists Association, the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the Isra Institute and the Thai Press Development Foundation” coming up with ideas about “training members of the media to ensure they are not influenced by politicians or big business” you start to wonder.

You wonder first because several of these organizations have been remarkably biased in their reporting of political events in recent years. Second, that so-called prominent social thinker Prawase Wasi “has thrown his support behind a proposal to set up an institute” for this purpose suggests that it is just another old man’s nonsense idea that imposes views based on a hatred of people’s sovereignty.

The greatest control of the media is by business interests. After all, the media is a business and its mostly owned by businesses. So unless the proposal is to nationalize the media, this seems silly. The next most significant control of the media over time has been by the military. And then there’s the control over palace propaganda that prevents real reporting about that business conglomerate and social institution.

Prawase reckons an “institute to train at least 1,000 reporters to a high standard will be set up in three years…”. You can bet it will look like other “great” and “good” organizations like the King Prajadhipok Institute. KPI is a royalist joke and reality and history bending propaganda school.

Thai journalism has its ups and downs, but so does the media everywhere. Making it more royalist and more conservative is hardly a recipe for independence or better reporting.





Another 20 years of military bossiness

15 03 2016

The Dictator has log babbled about a 20-year “reform” agenda, beating the previous post-coup record established by the royal favorite Thanin Kraivixien, who set a 12-year time frame.

In the bid to keep the military in power or in a place where it can trump any elected or vaguely constitutional regime, The Dictator has returned to this 20-year “plan” which he calls “Pracha Rat,”  and developed for him by the likes of royalist conservative Prawase Wasi and multiple NGO anti-democrats who remain skeptical of people power and of the capacity of the grassroots to engage in politics. Electoral democracy scares the silk pants off middle class do-gooders and the military.

The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha* has declared that 20 years is “essential to ensure sustainable development of the Kingdom…”. In this, “sustainable” is another genuflection to the anti-democrats and an attempt to coax them across to support for ongoing military interference and bossiness.

Prayuth stated that to sustain “Pracha Rat and its goals … there should be an emphasis on judicial assurances, the integrated participation of all sectors of society, the empowerment of state agencies, and continued public support for the national strategy.” All of this is anti-democrat code, telling them that if they do not agree to military oversight, their “reform,” fixing the judiciary, weakening elections and boosting the power of the state’s agencies, then Thaksin Shinawatra, the red shirts and the “uneducate” will be back.

He blamed “politicians” for having made people “colour-blinded and short-sighted,” conveniently forgetting that the yellow shirts – the first of the colors – developed with palace and military connivance, the support of politicians in the senate (all the unelected swill) and in the Democrat Party.

*Oddly The Nation refers to Prayuth as a “retired general.” This is a bit much, given that no general ever retires, keeping their moniker, their uniforms and their position in the hierarchy.





For friends and supporters

19 01 2016

The Dictator has been forced to back down twice in a week, here and here. He must be as peeved as hell. Yet he has had to fall in line with supporters.

Atiya Achakulwisut at the Bangkok Post reports on the latest political accommodation. She begins:

It must have taken an exceptionally strong force to make a feisty character like Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha flinch.

What is more remarkable is the strong-minded prime minister did not just recoil but that he apologised, deeply, three times in a row.

The words he chose to use, krab khor aphai, conveyed not just regret but expressing it in a most respectful way, as if he would prostrate himself in front of the person to show how sorry he was.

That is quite a remarkable step down. Atiya states that “Gen Prayut took people by surprise when he made a U-turn and told the remaining board members of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) to get back to work.”

Prayuth’s about turn followed the “strongest reproach” from “senior doctor Prawase Wasi, considered the brains behind ThaiHealth.” Readers may recall PPT’s comments about Thai Health and Prawase in earlier posts, here and here.

Prawase declared that “the military government’s move to dismiss Thai Health’s seven board members and accuse them of corruption was a ‘strategic mistake’ that will dissatisfy a wide range of people.” That’s a warning of a potential loss of important supporters and friends of the military dictatorship.

Another reproach came from “former health minister Mongkol na Songkhla who said he had made a grave mistake in joining protests to oust the Yingluck government.” He declared: “The situation now is much worse but we do not have an opportunity to go out and protest because of fear of military power…”. That’s a warning of a political ally.

Atiya makes a point we tried to make:

the ThaiHealth fiasco has exposed the military regime’s weakness. Right-wing conservatism may be the only force prevailing in the country right now. But under the same ideal, there are still shades of difference.

The military regime may have based its power on a coalition of conservative forces that seeks to maintain certain social orders that suit their interests. The truth, however, remains that this is a coalition of expediency.

The … ThaiHealth saga has shown the united front of right-wing conservatism will last only as long as their interests remain aligned….

The bickering at ThaiHealth has shown the only force that can make Gen Prayut flinch, that will stand any chance to rock the regime that has kept such a tight grip on the country, is the coalition of right-wing conservative groups that set conditions for the coup to happen and has served as its support base.

Atiya makes an final observation:

It is ironic, and deeply sad, that there is no real force in the country, be they political parties, leading figures or organisations, that can mount a serious challenge to the military dictatorship which at the end of the day may be curbed only by its own undoing. The lack of spirit to fight totalitarianism does not bode well for Thailand after the military regime, if such a scenario ever happens.

She’s not entirely wrong, although we need to point out the relentless acts of opposition. We can point to the brave members and supporters of the Neo-Democracy Movement and some academics.





Making up

9 01 2016

Yesterday PPT post on the ongoing kerfuffle over ThaiHealth. In that post we noted that the junta’s attacks on the organization had something to do with shifting funds to the military dictatorship’s own projects and that there was a decided political dimension to the attacks. On the latter, we noted that some of the NGOs and foundations involved were clearly on the side of the junta, had supported the coups of 2006 and 2014 and thus were unlikely “opponents.” We guessed that the junta might be needling them for potentially being too liberal.

It seems we were wrong, and that the military dictatorship and its junta have quickly rectified their mistake and are quickly restoring funds to tame and royalist NGOs.

The Dictator has reportedly “ordered Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) to immediately release funds for projects based on the Pracha Rath or ‘state of the people’ concept, as funding-approval difficulties have caused many projects to be delayed.”

It seems that one of the key NGO bodies supporting the military junta’s Pracha Rath projects is the Local Development Institute, and General Prayuth Chan-ocha met with one of its yellow-hued leaders, medical doctor Poldej Pinprateeb to sort the matter out among political allies.

Poldej served the previous junta-appointed government led by palace flunkey and Privy Council member General Surayud  Chulanont.

LDI is an institute chock full of aging yellow shirts and military supporters, and is closely linked to royalist “liberal” Prawase Wasi and longtime academic and “development promoter” Saneh Chammarik. It has links to the Rural Doctor Foundation and ThaiPBS, which were also on the junta’s hit list at ThaiHealth. For more on this network, see the academic article here. (We can’t find a free copy.)

Poldej praised The Dictator: “I would like to applaud the PM for making swift decisions to tackle this problem and letting the Pracha Rath projects move forward again…”.





Article 44 used for money-making by the junta

8 01 2016

There has been quite a bit of debate and editorial comment on the military dictatorship’s move to neuter and take over the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth). PPT hasn’t followed the mini-coup all that closely, but a few lines in a report today suggested a reason for increased interest.

As far as we can tell, ThaiHealth has been quite successful. Yet a couple of days ago, The Dictator used the draconian Article 44 to suspend seven board members of ThaiHealth along with 52 other “state officials ordered to leave their duties pending probes, mostly concerning alleged irregularities and malfeasance.”

A junta “investigation” reckons that the organization’s budget last year was misused.The junta claims conflicts of interest. (PPT can’t imagine the junta turning the same lens on itself, for the regime is riddled with such conflicts. Just another example of double standards.) In fact, a Bangkok Post report makes it clear that the board members followed the “rules” on conflicts of interest.

Rabid rightist-royalists have condemned ThaiHealth [clicking this link takes the reader to a very strange conspiratorial world linking Oregon and Bangkok] as a kind of NGO-cuddling cabal somehow linked to international and US-based organizations undermining the world and Thai sovereignty. Even the Puea Thai Party has got into the act on ThaiHealth.

According to the Bangkok Post story linked above, a government source says that ousting the board members will “provide an opportunity for the government to change rules governing the agency’s spending so it can use the money to fund the regime’s projects.” No conflict of interest there….

As well as getting its hands on the “sin taxes” that funded ThaiHealth, this move also allows the junta to twist a knife into some of the organizations it sees as too liberal and thus untrustworthy or as oppositional.

Vichai Chokevivat, the ousted deputy board chairman, sees that the junta has targeted ThaiHealth: “He said the charter writing panel headed by Borwornsak Uwanno attempted to take away the earmarked taxes from ThaiHealth last year and force the agency to obtain funds from the fiscal budget in the future.” When the charter writers backed down “the Office of the Auditor-General and the military regime’s panel investigating suspicious spending of state funds stepped in…”.

While not all anti-military, a bunch of groups targeted in this move include irritant groups like Isra News. It has been received some funding from ThaiHealth and has exhibited an interest in the junta’s wealth and military spending. ThaiPBS has been seen as unreliable for the junta and it also received some funding. The Komol Keemthong Foundation also received some funds, and that is associated with Sulak Sivaraksa, considered a thorn in the side of palace and military for many years. Also funded was the October 14 Foundation is generally considered a pain for the military, who, of course, have never massacred students.

More interesting are the foundations from the royalist side that have been supportive of the 2006 and 2014 military coups and which have been funded by ThaiHealth. The Rural Doctor Foundation has supported both military coups and is associated with the aged royalist busybody Prawase Wasi. That said, it tends to be supportive of the universal health program the junta would dearly love to scrap. Then there is the Thai Rural Reconstruction Movement, which is now miles removed from the ideals it was set up to achieve more than 40 years ago. Now run by a bunch of aging bureaucrats, minor princes and royalist propagandists for the loopy sufficiency economy idea.

It will be interesting to see how these organizations respond to the use of Article 44 to target them in a “case” that would appear concocted in order to serve the junta’s interests.





Platitudes on the military dictatorship II

25 09 2015

One of the striking aspects of the formation of the People’s Alliance for Democracy a decade and more ago was the involvement of “civil society,” and particularly the leadership of several NGOs. The link between anti-democratic movements and those who were then leading NGOs and managing the national NGO bureaucracy has not been seriously challenged.

Of course, civil society everywhere is reflective of the society in which it exists, meaning that the calls to develop civil society or to listen to civil society are rather blunt and politically naive as civil society includes some very nasty groups indeed. In Thailand, some of the space of civil society has been filled by noxious rightists and fascists.

Over the past 20-30 years, there has been a kind of competition for control of NGOs, with royalists like Prawase Wasi seeking to domesticate NGOs after the elite feared that many of the early NGOs were falling under the control of returnees from the jungle after the defeat of the Communist Party of Thailand.

More recently, as Sanitsuda Ekachai at the Bangkok Post points out, when Thaksin Shinawatra “was looking for innovative policies to launch his Thai Rak Thai Party, he looked for inspiration from activists leading social movements…”.

As is well known, he “was not disappointed.” He was delivered ideas on universal health care and community funds that “became his landmark policy successes…”.

Sanitsuda points out that, now, self-appointed premier and the country’s dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha is moving down this path. It is no accident that The Dictator has turned to “civil society movements” for an “innovative policy product to win the hearts and minds of people on the ground,” and that this coincides with his hiring of former Thaksin minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

She says that The Dictator has “apparent support from many civic groups” as he grabbed Prawase’s idea for his “Pracharath (citizens and state) policy drive…”.

In campaign mode, The Dictator declared that he would “strengthen the grassroots economy to bridge inequality while civil society leader Dr Prawase Wasi, the owner of the Pracharath development concept, lectured on what it takes to rescue the nation from the ‘black hole’ well beyond a massive one-time financial injection.”

Sanitsuda points out that The Dictator’s event saw “[h]igh-minded phrases such as holistic development, livelihood rights, people’s participation, bottom-up planning, environmental conservation, green farming and community banks fill… the air.”

Noting that so-called grassroots and civic groups “have been pushing every government” for many years to address what they have determined are the “people’s real needs,” Sanitsuda says that the groups are dealing with the military dictatorship and hoping it will deliver.

Elmer and DaffyIn most parts of the world, and in Thailand for most of its modern period, only a looney would think that the military would deliver for the “grassroots.” But in the Thailand where elections are “undemocratic” and where universal health care is “populist,” these self-proclaimed representatives of the people, none of them ever elected to anything, say that “[w]ith strong military blessing, many activists hope it might be possible to make community groups part and parcel of community fund management to strengthen the local economy, transparency and grassroots democracy.”

Yes, these NGO and civil society leaders think that a military dictatorship can deliver “transparency and grassroots democracy.” They can only think this by ignoring the real world and the people at the grassroots.

Sanitsuda notes that these “leaders” “risk of being attacked as coup cheerleaders.” That’s true, but many of them did cheer the coups in 2006 and 2014, so they’d hardly be worried about supporting the military dictatorship.

We agree with her that “having Dr Prawase, the respected [sic.] development guru and reformer [sic.], on its side is the best legitimacy it [the junta] could ever have hoped for.” However, it is also a fact that Prawase has joined each of the anti-democratic cabals in recent years. His views are royalist to the core.

None of these self-proclaimed representatives seems to worry too much about working with a military junta that is, every day, working against the grassroots, kicking people off their land, throwing them out of forests, supporting cowboy capitalists doing mining and timber deals, proclaiming the rights of elites, using double standards in courts and repressing every person who wants to vote.

 





Academic and other stuff of interest

18 03 2015

Several readers have alerted PPT to some recent publications.

The first is a new article at the Journal of Contemporary Asia website by Duncan McCargo and Peeradej Tanruangporn. It examines the Nitirat group, who have intervened in legal issues resulting from the country’s decade of coups and protests. “Branding Dissent: Nitirat, Thailand’s Enlightened Jurists” examines, according to the abstract:

… the political role of a group of academic lawyers based at Thammasat University who have been seeking to reform various aspects of the Thai legal and judicial system. The seven-member group started out by criticising the illegality of the 2006 coup. After the 2010 crackdown against redshirt protestors, the group named itself Nitirat and started to hold seminars, draft legal proposals, and campaign to amend various laws. Nitirat has repeatedly challenged the legal and constitutional underpinnings of three key elements of the Thai state: the judiciary, the military, and the monarchy. In doing so, the group has gained a mass following, drawn mainly from those sympathetic to the “redshirt” movement which broadly supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Informally led by scholar Worajet Pakeerat, Nitirat has created a popular branding which is reflected in huge audiences for public events, and the sales of souvenirs. The article aims to answer the following questions: How does Nitirat combine the roles of legal academic and political activist? How does it differ from the traditional mode of Thai public intellectuals? How significant is the Nitirat phenomenon?

The article is behind an expensive pay wall.

The second article is “Thailand: Contestation over elections, sovereignty and representation,” by Kevin Hewison, and is behind the pay wall at the journal Representation. The abstract states:

Thailand’s politics in the early twenty-first century has seen considerable contestation. Underlying the street protests, military interventions and considerable bloodshed has been a struggle over the nature of electoral politics, popular sovereignty and representation. The military and monarchy have maintained a royalist alliance that opposes elections, popular sovereignty and civilian politicians, proposing Thai-style democracy as an alternative. Those who promote elections and popular sovereignty argue that these are a basis for democratisation.

The third publication is free and is a book review. The review is by Michael Montesano and looks at Innovative Partners: The Rockefeller Foundation and Thailand, published by the Foundation, allegedly detailing its 100 years of collaboration with mainly military regimes and royal interests. The blurb for the book, which can be downloaded for free, states:

For nearly a century, the Rockefeller Foundation and its Thai partners have been engaged in an innovative partnership to promote the well-being of the people of Thailand. From the battle against hookworm and other diseases to the development of rice biotechnology and agriculture, the lessons learned from this work offer powerful insights into the process of development. On the occasion of its centennial in 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation has commissioned a history of this innovative partnership.

The book is packed with royals and conservative royalism. It promotes minor royals as important and tends to ignore civilian politicians as if 1932 didn’t happen. This is another example of how royals capture and use willing foreign institutions to promote royalist ideology and control. The Foreword is by royalist scholar and anti-civilian politician activist Prawase Wasi. In one sense, though, the detailing of the links between the Foundation and the monarchy is revealing, if nauseating.





Networks

28 03 2014

With all of the discussion recently regarding “neutral” prime ministers and “neutral” cabinets, we want to point to a recent article on networks in Thailand’s politics.

In the context of kicking out another elected government, “neutral” meaning a bunch of royalist flunkies hoisted into position by opaque power structures that operate beyond public scrutiny as networks.

In a new article by Boston University sociologist Joseph Harris, “Who Governs? Autonomous Political Networks as a Challenge to Power in Thailand.” The abstract for his article states:

Recent scholarship examining political contestation in Thailand has emphasised concepts such as “network monarchy,” while pointing to the populism and enduring political influence of Thaksin Shinawatra. While this descriptive work has helped shed light on the architecture of governance in Thailand, it has not been embedded in a broader theoretical approach that might help to train our attention on other powerful actors that play important roles in shaping Thailand’s political and institutional landscape. In this article, I outline one such approach and advance the term “autonomous political networks,” to refer to collections of people who share strong value commitments and political goals and who operate in the space between the country’s dominant political institutions – often straddling positions in the state and civil society simultaneously. This theoretical discussion is grounded empirically in a description of one such network whose power is derived from sources other than electoral legitimacy or long-standing historical tradition. The article discusses the enormous influence this network has exercised in reshaping Thailand’s political order, all while remaining largely invisible to the public eye. It suggests the need to use this approach to elaborate other hidden political networks that play important roles in governance in Thailand and beyond.

Of course, it was Duncan McCargo who used the notion of “network monarchy” that has gained considerable currency in academic writing on Thailand. PPT has pointed out previously that the notion of networks in Thailand’s politics and economics goes back to G. William Skinner’s work from the 1950s.

Harris tries to be more theoretical in the use of “network” and “networked governance” by examining the Dusit 99 network and Prawase Wasi and the Sampran Forum. Both have been political players. Dusit 99 included a bunch of future premiers, military brass and top business people, many with links to the monarchy and Crown Property Bureau. Prawase’s network may be seen as having links to the “network monarchy.”

Unfortunately, the article is behind a pay wall, but open to those who subscribe or are at an institution that subscribes.





Interviewing Anand

11 02 2014

PPT is about to embark on yet another critique of a boring but influential old royalist. We thought that such old men would have gone to pasture by now and would have given up interfering in the affairs of state. However, that doesn’t seem to happen in Thailand. Put it down to “Thai culture” or just a remarkable ability to put up with the same old men saying the same old things again and again.

Anand

Anand

So here we go, with Anand Panyarachun intervening yet again for the royalist position on the way politics ought to be. If only the plebs would listen to the patriarchs, things would be better….

Yet, even if we are dismissive, we think we detect an elite attempt to draw back their street troops a bit, to seek “discussions,” and to seek what PPT might call a traditional royalist compromise that protects the old elite.

Earlier efforts by Anand on politics that have been this kind of “royalist best outcome” include his 1991 appointment as premier by the coup junta, in 1992 when he was brought back by an arguably extra-legal intervention by the then speaker and king on premier, taking control of the 1997 constitution along with fellow royalist Prawase Wasi, and those two teaming up again for Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government to run reform and reconciliation talkfests. He supported coup-making in 1991, 2006 and apparently also in 2008. He’s recently made statements supportive of the anti-democrats.

In other words, Anand is the “go-to guy” when the royalists want an intelligent and Western-savvy face for “reform.”

He’s got a cultivated chat about democracy, but he is also promoting a particular and limited version of democracy, which is sometimes seen as the royalist compromise position on democracy.

Asked how he would you describe Thailand’s overall political situation, Anand complains that crises in the past were solved quickly. Often this was because the fight was within the elite. When it wasn’t, the elite was usually prepared to sort things out before they got too complicated. Anand says the current situation is way too complicated:

But this time the unrest has been going on for years…. Now there are two, five or six opposing sides – you never can tell. But the issues now are multifarious and the players are far too many…. And I think that we have now reached an impasse. I do not see a quick end in the near future. And if this is allowed to continue much longer I fear that the economic and financial situation in our country will become much worse.

The unrest has been extended because the royalist elite has been unwilling to accept the electoral system that returns governments they can’t abide.

Anand makes much of the threat to the economy, a point recently made by Philip Bowring when he talked of an economic crisis forcing compromise. Interestingly, Anand doesn’t talk of compromise in this situation but of crisis, which he seems to sheet home to the caretaker status of the current government:

But I think we cannot be complacent…. What is crucial is the impact on the current account deficit. If the current account deficit is six per cent of the GDP, that would be a grave crisis. Now that would mean, or it would imply, that the country is deep down in the pit. And that would bring down everything.

Perhaps he is thinking of the 1997-98 crisis that nearly undid the entire business class and damaged the monarchy’s wealth quite substantially. That crisis allowed Thaksin Shinawatra to emerge, initially to save the economy and local business with expansionary policies, a dose of nationalism and political concessions to the poor and ignored classes. Maybe that is what nearly brought down everything. He continues:

I am not a doomsayer but I think we should be alert to the possibilities of some kind of grievous deterioration of our national economy that will affect unemployment and reduce incomes…. The farmers are suffering. The more well to do are not spending as much as they should.

We continue to be amazed at how the royalist elite and other anti-democrats have suddenly “discovered” the concerns of farmers!

Anand worries because “the issues that are being debated now about politics, democracy, reform will be automatically relegated to the background, which is a shame. That would be another lost opportunity for Thailand.”

It seems to us that he’s on the anti-democrat “reform” bandwagon. He’s then asked for his take on the status of Thai democracy. He immediately goes into anti-democrat stage-speak:

Before I answer that let me say that even though the political warfare started many years ago, it only became very serious and critical in the past eight or nine months with the push for the Amnesty Bill. That opened the Pandora’s box. And on top of that people had been questioning the validity and effectiveness of the rice support programme…. That had the effect of imploding by itself. The farmers who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the programme, many of them have been suffering.

As we mentioned above, it is amazing that the royalist elite, after speaking for years about rural people as a bunch of thick-headed buffaloes, have all suddenly embraced them!

Anand continues on the problems of democracy:

the general feeling is that there has been a lack of transparency, accountability and a mismanagement of policies. All these reasons have had a multiplying effect.

He is again speaking of the middle class paranoia and claims made. PPT has been waiting for the anti-democrats to actually produce some verifiable evidence. There is a spreadsheet on the rice scheme circulating, claiming to show corruption, but PPT hasn’t seen it. On the stage, claims and assertions seem sufficient. Indeed, Anand seems right when he says there is a “general feeling.”

He declares:

During this political warfare, it is obvious that neither side can win. And neither side is in the position to govern the country. No side would be able to function in a full and proper manner because of legal and political restrictions. Some are self-inflicted and some are not. But that’s beside the point. The point is Thailand needs a government that can function normally, fully and effectively. We cannot afford to continue to live in limbo like this much longer.

The point here is to accept the activities of the anti-democrats for it is they who have made the country “ungovernable.” Or at least, through legal nonsense, parliamentary shenanigans and now street politics they have been determined to send yet another elected and popular government down the drain. Anand should rail against that. He doesn’t but he goes on to make what we consider a useful point to the anti-democrats: “You need two to do a tango.” Indeed, politics requires compromise, but the anti-democrats refuse all opportunities for compromise and simply demand the ousting of the government. Anand fibs a bit:

I do not have any inside information or know what is going on behind the scenes, but apparently the two sides are not prepared to see and meet each other in a more placid and reasonable and objective manner.

Of course, he wouldn’t be speaking if he wasn’t a part of some behind-the -scenes shenanigans; we know that from his past public performances. He talks of “quiet talks” and this may be a signal to Suthep to step back from the no compromise position. The royalist elite are never too comfortable with mass mobilizations.

Our guess is that an interim government is desired in order to prevent the economic troubles that worry Anand:

The only thing that could prompt them, shall we say, to reform their thinking or to change their mindset is to convince them that what you are debating about today, what you are fighting about today, will no longer be relevant compared to the crisis in the future that we have to face.

He is then asked about Thailand’s democratic process and sounds anti-democrat when he says: “I don’t think we’ve had one for a long, long time.” Really? We wonder what the basis for this judgement is from a twice unelected prime minister? Is it that his preferred party can’t win? Or is it that he can’t believe that a majority would vote for pro-Thaksin parties in every national election since 2001? He explains:

To me, a democracy is not merely a matter of going into the polling booth and casting your vote. Yes, it is an essential part of the process. That is quite definite. But there are also many other aspects in democracy: be it the rule of law, transparency, good governance, independent judiciary, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, open society, accountability.

Well at least he acknowledges that voting is a part of a democracy. And can we expect him, based on his support of freedom of expression, to campaign against lese majeste? We guess not. Clearly that is the major threat to freedom of expression. Freedom of assembly hardly seems an issue in Thailand where legal and illegal demonstrations and rallies are a daily event. On the other items, Anand needs to look in the mirror.

Rule of law has been undermined by the royalist courts and there is no independent judiciary because of this. The other aspects need work, but throwing out every government you find distasteful is not promoting any of this agenda.

He then rambles about what democracy means and should deliver, and readers can plow through that at the Post.

One remarkable question is put by the Post editor-in-chief, so bizarre that we reproduce it:

Would you say we have learnt something from the past? In May 2010 there was violence and the city was torched. There was violence, bloodshed and death. Violence and death has occurred this time around but to a lesser extent. Now we don’t take over the airport, for example. There is restraint.

Restraint? Occupying government offices is restrained? Attacking people who want to vote is restrained? Trying to prevent voting is restrained? We’d have thought that Anand would have felt some need to dispatch such nonsense, but no, and he makes another equally bizarre statement:

Yes we have learnt and must give credit to both sides. We have to give credit to the protesters who are apparently peaceful and unarmed, and have not taken over the airport and transport services.

Peaceful and unarmed? Anand must know that this is a lie. So why make such a fabricated claim? Is it his essential support for the anti-democrats that makes him a propagandist? It seems so and he rambles about reform that matches the anti-democrat rhetoric:

… You have to engage in the reform process seriously and objectively…. When I was chairing our committee we did conduct a thorough study of many aspects and areas and came up with some very positive recommendations, in particular in areas of decentralisation of power and agriculture. Of course at that time we did think it would be wise to deal with the reform of the political system. And what I mean here [political system] is the electoral reform. Since then, and now, it has become a real priority and not because the protestors want it but for the practical reasons. If you want to move to free and fair elections you need consensus and agreement on the electoral process.

Anand seems to forget that the current rules were set by the military junta’s demon seed constitution committee because they were unhappy that pro-Thaksin parties kept getting elected under the 1997 rules (for which Anand bore a great deal of responsibility). Now his lot want to change them again. We assume that the anti-democrats will only be happy with rules that make the Democrat Party the government at every election.

Anand then refers to the current government as “dysfunctional”:

The government by dissolving the House and transforming itself into a caretaker government, by law it cannot do so many things. It cannot engage in new programmes. Of course there are political obstacles and economics constraints that have been put in its path. When I say it (the government) has become dysfunctional I am not saying that it’s entirely the government’s fault but because of forces of circumstances any government that is in this circumstance … would be a dysfunctional government. I am saying this is the situation in Thailand now. And we cannot afford to have this kind of dysfunctionality continue without any end in sight otherwise we would be courting a disaster.

It seems that preventing voting and boycotting elections after demanding them is the cause of this “dysfunction.” Anand does not appear to acknowledge this. He ends with a warning: “I would like to end this conversation by saying we will be soon reaching the tipping point.”

It seems to us that the “tipping point” owes much to Anand and others in the royalist elite who are fully prepared to create and/or facilitate crises that undermine elected governments. It is they who are responsible for “dysfunction.” It is they who need to make the required historic compromises.

So far they have not only refused compromise but have been reactionary in their politics, seeking royal solutions, the maintenance of hierarchy and privilege. The old men who revel in behind-the-scenes string-pulling seem incapable of providing leadership.

Chulalongkorn University’s Thitinan Pongsudhirak once stated:

Thailand’s monarchy-based establishment finds itself hard-pressed to maintain the status quo. Yet it has too much at stake to simply give way to the challenges that Thaksin (in his faulty and not-always-democratic way) spearheaded during a premiership that began with his election in 2001 and was cut off by the coup….

That still seems correct and Anand reflects this.





Updated: Coup and reform

9 02 2014

While denying that the whistle-blowing farmer rallies are not [corrected] funded by him or backed by his legal teams and have nothing to do with the anti-democrats, Suthep Thaugsuban has again talked of “reform.”

A reasonable observer would have thought that the antidemocratic movement would have a plan or strategy for “reform” in place by now, but apparently not.

The Bangkok Post reports that on Saturday – yes, yesterday – “Suthep held a seminar with public health representatives to discuss national reform plans.”

With whiteboard, with all the expensive overseas education of his team, and with all the brains of trained medical professionals, here is what he came up with:

Ideas on national reform should be crystallised within 18 months. If it’s taking too long, the Yingluck government will still try to cling on to power….

After all these months of rallies and speeches, in 18 months, someone will have some idea of what “reform” is required…. And we think he means after getting rid of the current government.

Perhaps Suthep didn’t need to think when he hoped for the military coup “solution.” Now that a judicial coup looks the more likely option, what then? Just leave it to the old dolts who think they run the country? With the old codgers in place, then presumably Suthep’s thugs can get on with “cleansing.”

Update: The Nation reports that the meeting with doctors came up with these areas for reform: “political process, graft and corruption, decentralisation of government, social and economic inequity, and judicial reform.” We assume that Prawase Wasi is involved.

Of course, none of these areas were addressed by Suthep when he was in power, so welcome to the royalist reform agenda! Of course, they were there in 1992-97 when the 1997 constitution was debated under the royalist patriarchs. It is a pity that that basic law was ditched by the same lot demonstrating now when they supported the 2006 coup.

It is not as if these areas are apolitical or not likely to result in struggle for the royalists define these reforms in ways that protect them.