Fear and unintended consequences II

19 04 2017

Most of the breaking stories on the fate of the 1932 plaque are on social media, including the Facebook accounts of Andrew MacGregor Marshall and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Another Facebook account worth following is that by Pravit Rojanaphruk, one of the bravest of local journalists.

The mainstream media is publishing material but because it is now widely assumed that the king had the plaque removed, that media is treading very carefully and fearfully.

Marshall claims that the plaque was removed on 5 April, the evening before the announcement of the military junta’s 2017 constitution. That, of course, would be symbolic vandalism.

When thinking about the king’s reason for moving against memories and symbols of 1932, it is important to recall that all he would know of that revolution would have been gained from his grandmother and father, both of whom were anti-People’s Party and anti-Pridi Phanomyong, or from disgruntled royals who mostly hated the events and people of what they consider a travesty of (their) history.

Reuters reported that The Dictator and the junta have been getting a plausible story together.

Self-appointed royalist premier General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “warned people not to protest against the mysterious disappearance of a plaque commemorating the end of absolute monarchy, a theft some activists see as a symbolic threat to democracy.” He’s also been working on “protecting” the replacement plaque “celebrating the monarchy.”

Prayuth babbled something about “police … investigating…”, but also diminished the significance of the theft, the plaque and the 1932 revolution. Essentially, Prayuth’s message was a mafia-like “forget about it.” He said that it was all in the past, history, and not worth the effort.

The idea that the junta doesn’t know what happened in an area that is usually crawling with police and military and is watched by dozens of cameras beggars belief. As Reuters says, the “square where the plaque went missing is close to parliament, to a royal throne hall and to an army barracks. The area is also surveyed by several police posts.”

Prayuth knows what happened. He is now worrying about the political fallout and the boot he may get up the backside if he says or does anything wrong.

Meanwhile, at The Nation, the police claim sudden attacks of brain death. Deputy police chief Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul “admitted yesterday that he had no idea how to proceed with the case involving the mysterious removal of a plaque marking a 1932 revolution that ended absolute monarchy.” He knows he can’t move on this without some kind of “insurance” that he won’t end up shaven headed in the Bhudha Monthon Temporary Prison.

His babbling seemed like a man crazed or crazed by fear. In any case, while Prayuth declares the police are investigating, the police say they aren’t.

A group of activists filed a complaint, part of which explained to the police what they should be doing and why. We doubt the police, knowing the risks, will get of their ample posteriors.

What the police did do, according to several reports, was throw up a protective fence around the new royalist plaque, with a sign declaring it “royal ground.” You get the picture.

Reporters didn’t get the picture, however, as the police with some military support tried to prevent them from filming in the area.

They would not have done this without orders from The Dictator or from Tutzing.

Srisuwan Janya, arrested yesterday while trying to complain about the removal of the plaque, was released from military custody. He proclaimed that he would continue to complain, saying the new constitution gave him that right.

It remains to be seen what the full consequences of royal vandalism will be for the junta and the monarchy. It is certainly a damaging fiasco. Yet the junta knows it can manage fiascos – it has in the past. The question for the junta is whether they can manage the king.





CIA documents released and accessible

22 01 2017

The automatic declassification provisions of US Executive Order 13526 (formerly EO 12958, as amended) require the declassification of non-exempt historically valuable records 25 years or older. At the CIA this meant that it maintains a program operating out of the CIA Declassification Center to review records under the purview of EO 13526 before they reach their automatic declassification deadline.

Since 2000, if one visited the National Archives College Park, Maryland in the USA, the CIA had installed and maintained an electronic full-text searchable system named CREST (the CIA Records Search Tool), with about 11 million pages of data.

However, in January 2017, the CIA published the records of the CREST collection online, and they can be searched and downloaded online.

Helpfully, Andrew MacGregor Marshall has done a bit of a search through the material and provided his initial impressions, especially searching for material related to the monarchy and posted. Readers will surely find this of interest

One document we at PPT found of considerable importance is in regard to General Sarit Thanarat’s 1957 military coup. A few pages into the report, it provides what we think is a first-hand corroboration of the king’s involvement. It has always been known that the young king found Sarit a father figure and supported him, as Sarit supported him and the monarchy. This document says something more:

king-and-1957-copyHe did not become disillusioned with Sarit or the military and the military-monarchy political partnership was born. That the king played “an active role in the events leading to and subsequent to the army coup” is a revelation that blows another hole in the palace’s now shredded propaganda that the king was “above politics.”

Not mentioned by Marshall in this particular post is another document PPT found interesting for its resonances with recent events:

khuang-1khuang-2Khuang was a founder of the Democrat Party in 1946, which was then, and is now, a royalist party of anti-democrats. After the shooting death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, it was Khuang and the Democrat Party that accused Pridi Phanomyong of having been a mastermind of the king’s death, leading to Pridi’s exile until his death. The palace and royals hated Pridi for his role in the 1932 revolution and they never forgave him.

However, it is the phrase that Thailand “would never be secure until Pridi and his chief followers were eliminated” that caught our attention. We guess that similar words have passed around the yellow-shirted cabals and we would assume that General Prem Tinsulanonda and the 2014 coup leaders said very similar things with Thaksin Shinawatra now the mortal enemy of their royalist Thailand.





Updated: On June 24 and the monarchy

24 06 2016

June 24 is an important day. On that day in 1932 the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed its well-planned Revolution. It marks the overthrew absolutist royal power.

This date used to be celebrated. In recent years, the event is barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries. Of course, for many years, the royalist aim has been to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and to “forget” all but their false claim that King Prajadiphok was the “real democrat.”Pridi

We invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong. It remains available from the Pridi/Phoonsuk website.

In addition, we link to two posts on the monarchy in Thailand today, each taking different views on the role of the monarchy under the military dictatorship. The first is by “Llewellyn McCann” at New Mandala and the second is from Ji Ungpakorn at Uglytruth-Thailand.

Update: Political repression associated with this anniversary is not unexpected. At the small 1932 Revolution Memorial, located in the middle of a royal plaza, meant to overpower the 1932 memorial, it was reported that an unknown man “denounced the revolution, saying that it was an event that caused damage to the Thai monarchy and religious institutions.” This was as students and others were gathering to commemorate the event that royalists want expunged from their Thai history.

When those remembering 1932 assembled, “police officers briefly detained Sirawit Serithiwat, a prominent anti-junta activist, who led a number of people to commemorate the 1932 Revolution at the memorial to the revolution…”.

Lak Si monument

Lak Si monument

Others, mostly from from Ramkhamhaeng and Kasetsart universities, gathered at the Lak Si monument, which commemorates the defeat of the restorationist rebellion led by Prince (and General, what else?) Boworadej in 1933. Police officers detained students at this event too.

Seven activists were arrested. They were from the two universities and Chanoknan Ruamsap, a youth activist from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) was also arrested. According to reports, the “police accused the seven of violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings and on Saturday will request permission from the Military Court to detain them.”

1932 continues to drive some aspect of royalist and reactionary politics for the military junta.





It is personal

4 09 2015

One of the striking elements of recent political conflicts has been the deep and highly personalized nature of the opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra. Indeed, many of those close to the palace, in the military junta and in the leadership of the various anti-democrat movements have expressed a deep personal hatred of the man.

While this hatred is not the only element in anti-Thaksin politics, it has seen several former “leftists” align with and become supporters of the military, monarchy and other rightists.

Royalists have been particularly keen to remove any royal “honors” that still adhere to Thaksin, considering these a personal affront to their world of status, hierarchy and royal stamps of approval.

In this connection, the Bangkok Post reports that the saga of removing Thaksin’s police rank and royal decorations continues. Driven by The Dictator’s personal hatred of Thaksin – he cannot bring himself to mention Thaksin’s name – General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “signed the order stripping fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra of his police rank,” which now goes to the king for ratification.

This particular move, long hoped for by anti-Thaksin activists, is said to have been prompted by Thaksin’s comments accusing “privy counsellors of playing behind-the-scene roles in street rallies that led to last year’s coup.” The report states that the “revocation of Thaksin’s royal decorations [is] likely the next target of his detractors.”

Prayuth indicated that this revocation was a punishment, spitting: “This person has not stopped and (the public) cannot escape his presence. Everybody gets excited every time this person makes a move…”. Lying, Prayuth stated: “I’m not fighting anybody…”. More truthfully he added: “he will be arrested (if he comes back)…”.

Thaksin recently “told a red-shirt meeting in Finland … that he couldn’t’ care less about his police rank…”. Yet he knows that these moves are driven by royalist hatred for a man they see as a traitor who tried to upset the hierarchical order.

While they are very different figures, this hatred for Thaksin and the desire to “unThai-ify” him reflects a similar treatment of Pridi Phanomyong in the past. The royals, including the princes ousted in 1932, hated Pridi and could never forgive him for upsetting the hierarchical order.





Updated: Erasing 1932

24 06 2015

Pridi

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong. We do so again today.

In 2009 we noted that in recent years the anniversary of the event was barely noticed amongst the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries. More recently the determined royalist efforts to erase an event they consider horrendous for reducing royal powers and granting sovereignty to common people has made the anniversary less significant. Of course, for many years, the royalist aim has been to push the events of 1932 from the public agenda and to “forget” that the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy. To a certain extent, red shirts reclaimed the legacy of 1932 in opposing the amart, but this was short-lived.

Today, under the military dictatorship has decreed that the anniversary should not be “used” as a political act. In other words, the dinosaurs running “modern” Thailand prefer a feudal Thailand.

As we did in 2009, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

PPT has extracted and lightly edited this document from the excellent book Pridi on Pridi, translated by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, and published by Silkworm Books. It is available from the Pridi/Phoonsuk website.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon
[People’s Party]
24 June 1932

Update: Prachatai has a series of reports regarding the 1932 anniversary, all worth reading: Anti-coup activists and the police, arresting an activist in hospital and remembering 1932 under surveillance.





A sad day for Thammasat University

25 02 2015

Black

Thammasat University has a long and proud history of being at the center of reformist politics in Thailand. Established to be the national university on 27 June 1934, the university was the brainchild of Pridi Phanomyong, who called it The University of Moral and Political Sciences. In other words, it was born of the 1932 Revolution that overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932.

It has been a hub of political thought, radical, liberal and reformist political movements and has proudly maintained its links to the founding ideology. Student leaders have become political leaders and its academics have shaped political debate. The triumphant events of 1973, overthrowing a military dictatorship, and the terrible events of 1976, when the royalists and militarists brought a savage revenge for 1973, are events that make Thammasat a centerpiece of modern political history.

Today, taken over by royalist administrators, the once proud university has abandoned its history and failed its people. We hope it can eventually be won back from the royalists and made great again.

Black





New year barbs III

4 01 2015

As well as barbs to the military dictatorship in the media (here and here), red shirts have also sent some new year jabs Thaksin Shinawatra’s way.

A report at the Bangkok Post begins with an observation that “[o]pposition to the military-led government could gain momentum this year…”. We think that’s true, and it doesn’t simply depend on “economic stability, actions by Thaksin Shinawatra and the fate of Yingluck Shinawatra…”.

As PPT noted yesterday, we think that there is a potentially broader anti-coup/anti-military opposition that will emerge. We agree with Verapat Pariyawong, “an independent law expert and a red-shirt supporter who has remained outside Thailand since he was summoned by the coup-makers,” who states that “the junta’s strategy of suppressing dissent against students, activists, reformists and academics would only trigger more critics and sympathy from around the world,” and, we think, in Thailand; and that is most significant.

The Post’s report contains several points worthy of consideration including the view that “former prime minister Thaksin will have to weigh his steps carefully…”. Double-dealing with the military and palace is unlikely to resolve his political problems. As one red shirt leader opines, “If he lets time pass and does not make any big moves, his fate would be like that of Pridi Banomyong…”. Pridi failed to build a people-based opposition to military domination and spent 34 years in exile, dying in Paris.

The leader pointed out the obvious, declaring that “many red shirts are disappointed that Thaksin and Pheu Thai Party leaders have gone quiet, instead of fighting for peoples’ civil liberties.” The leader adds, “If Thaksin compromises with military leaders for his own benefit, he will lose the people’s support and will not be able to mobilise people power again…”.

Some have argued that Thaksin and Puea Thai are waiting for more widespread opposition to the military dictatorship to emerge or that they await an election and an electoral comeback. The former might be reasonable but the latter is a pipe dream, for the military won’t allow it to be a replay of 2007.

Jaran Ditapichai, described as “a leading red-shirt intellectual,” acknowledges the power of the military dictatorship by observing that “the power of those in exile against the government is limited.” He notes that “[m]ost of the exiles remain scattered … [and that] he future for those facing lese majeste charges is even more cloudy.”

Another exile is Watt Wallayangkoon, an intellectual and writer is clear and defiant: “A coup is coup. You can’t wait for nice things to happen. And as an intellectual, you can’t produce your work in a dictatorial environment…”. He added that the “mentality of many in the middle class and elite who support the coups, calling them ‘blinkered apologists’.”

Will Thaksin make yet another political comeback in 2015? Does it matter? In 2007, the initial anti-coup activism was muted. But that limited response grew as opposition became more widespread and various groups – including many who were no supporters of Thaksin – came together to oppose the military’s political tutelage. The military junta doesn’t want that to happen this time and so they have been harsher and harder. In our view, that is likely to make the eventual response stronger and more determined. Thaksin might have to hitch a ride.