On coronation II

4 05 2019

One of the most noticeable things among the bland and sometimes downright posterior polishing masquerading as reporting today was the censoring of journalists.

Khaosod reports that the BBC was taken off the air in Thailand yesterday and today.

Self-crowned

As the report notes, this came just a day “after Thailand marked its ‘press freedom day’.” As usual, no reason was provided, but everyone knows that it had something to do with reporting of the king.

The Thai provider, TrueVision, owned by Sino-Thai monarchists, “has blacked out broadcasts by the BBC and other foreign media agencies that touched on sensitive subjects in the past.”

That means monarchy.

One of the most interesting aspects of reporting is that, despite claims about joyous crowds, most of the photos of the coronation that we have seen so far do not suggest crowds extending much beyond those the regime ordered to show up. Of course, the diehard royalists also showed up to cheer.

Clipped from The Nation

Another noticeable set of social media reports showed photos of the royal family, including Ubolratana being hugged by her brother.

Also present, in addition to the new queen, was one of the king’s concubines.





Anurak and Ubolratana

27 04 2019

PPT have already posted on the harassment of and assault on activist Anurak Jeantawanich (Ford Redpath). Here’s some more background.

Soon after this, Anurak was charged with computer crimes.

He went in to hear the charge at the appointed day, and went alone, and he says there were men in SWAT gear standing by while he heard the charges. He felt he would be arrested at any moment. He was allowed to keep only the last page of the charge sheet as a photocopy including the supposed law-breaking post. Anurak has posted a copy of the Facebook post in question to show people what happened and had it translated to English.

Here it is, as shared with reporters.





Updated: The king “votes” again II

30 03 2019

King Vajiralongkorn has signaled that he will not have a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai led government.

Matichon reports on a new royal announcement, commanding Thaksin to relinquish all of his royally-bestowed decorations.

Of course, this probably has to do with Thaksin’s liaison with (former) Princess Ubolratana, but the political message is clearer than anything that has emerged from the Election Commission.

Update: All major English-language media (here, here and here) now have this story on yet another of the king’s political interventions.

The Post notes that the ostensible reason for removing Thaksin’s royal decorations was the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions sentencing of Thaksin on 21 October 2008 over the Ratchada land case. It also notes that the statute of limitations on that case “has already expired…”.

As The Nation does, Khaosod also observes the connection to the election and the Army’s removal of Thaksin’s “name … from the school’s hall of fame and stripped him of his Chak Dao alumni achievement awards.”

The Nation’s story, which is from AFP, also makes these points:

King Vajiralongkorn had issued an announcement on election eve calling for Thais to support “good” people to prevent “chaos” — a declaration replayed right before polls opened on March 24.

The monarch also sent jitters across the country in February after a party linked to the Shinawatras nominated Princess Ubolratana as a candidate for prime minister — which he swiftly called “inappropriate” in a royal rebuke….

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, but the palace holds unassailable powers and is shielded from criticism by a harsh royal defamation law [lese majeste].





With a major update: The king “votes” again I

24 03 2019

“Vote early and vote often” is a phrase used in relation to elections and the voting process that encourages corrupt electoral activity.

King Vajiralongkorn “voted” once already when he forbade his older sister and Thaksin Shinawatra’s significant other, resulting in the dissolution of yet another pro-Thaksin party. His second “vote” came last night, at 8.44 pm, 2 hours and 44 minutes after campaigning was meant to cease.

As the Bangkok Post has it:

the King had the Lord Chamberlain deliver a part of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s message 30 years ago urging the promotion of good people to govern so they can prevent bad people from creating trouble.

It cites the dead king:

Maintaining national peace and order is … not about making everyone good; it’s about supporting good people so they can govern and prevent bad people from grabbing power and creating trouble and unrest.

According to the announcement, the king expressed hope that:

all citizens and government officials, including civil servants, the military and the police who are duty-bound to ensure national security and people’s happiness, to consider the royal message.

The announcement stated that the king

is concerned about national security and the feelings and happiness of citizens. The reference to the royal message is aimed at giving moral support and encouraging the performance of duties for the sake of unity, national security and people’s happiness. It is also a reminder of the great contributions of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty the Queen of King Rama IX, the announcement read.

It seems likely that this “vote” was and absentee vote as it seems the king had already left Thailand for his home in Tutzing, near Munich.

Channeling his father, this message will give great heart to the junta and its devil party, Palang Pracharath. The announcement’s message is an extended version of that party’s campaign slogan and mirrors The Dictator’s campaign message.

It may also be a response to his sister’s most recent personal political intervention.

What was that about a constitutional monarchy?

Update 1: Prachatai has a fine and brave discussion of the king’s statement and related events. It makes the point – one we neglected – that the term “good people” is “not neutral in Thai political lexicon.” Indeed, it is a terminology used by royalists and anti-democrats for several decades as a defining characteristic of “Thai-style democracy,” a royalist-inspired notion that promotes anti-democracy. It notes that in the battle with Thaksin, the “military junta and non-elected institutions have been using this word to justify their actions, and oftentimes at the expense of democracy.”

Update 2: For those interested in democracy, the Election Commission has had yet one more massive failure. Spineless EC chief Ittiporn Boonpracong supported the king’s unconstitutional intervention, saying:

I call on all Thais as well as officials to be mindful of King Rama X, who expressed his concerns about the election and choose good people to manage and move the country forward. I want everybody to exercise their voting rights while keeping the Royal announcement in mind….

In other words, vote for pro-junta parties! And this is the agency supervising the “election” and will have responsibility for dealing with perhaps hundreds of complaints. It’s pretty easy to see that the EC will do all it can to support pro-junta parties.

Update 3: It is beginning to look like the king’s announcement may have been a coordinated effort to change voting intentions with the EC boss, military brass and senior officials reinforcing the king’s “advice when electing their representative…”.

In a supposed constitutional monarchy, this kind of intervention should be unthinkable.

Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong was primed and “urged voters … to consider [the king’s]… advice, saying that following this advice will keep the country peaceful.” He clearly believes that this is a win-win intervention; he can support the king and the junta’s devil parties.

Armed forces supreme commander Gen Ponpipat Benyasri joined in, mimicking Gen Apirat, “saying the military has called on voters to elect ‘good people’ to become their MPs.” Military and monarchy! He stated: “The military adheres to the Royal advice and relevant regulations and orders…”. The orders come from the junta and Apirat.

Kanchanaburi Governor Jirakiat Phumsawat “also called on voters to consider …[the king’s] advice,” adding “I believe Kanchanaburi people will vote for ‘good people’ to run the country.”

One thing is clear in all of this unconstitutional interference: the monarchy remains deeply involved in Thailand’s politics.





Further updated: Cat among the pigeons

22 03 2019

Matichon Sutsapda has an “interesting” story on a wedding in Hong Kong.

It is likely to set the cat among the political pigeons just a couple of days prior to the junta’s election.

Clipped from Matichon

Update 1: While social media has this story everywhere, the mainstream news outlets have been just a little more self-censorial. Even so, the Bangkok Post reports that “Princess Ubolratana on Friday presided over the wedding reception of Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest daughter in Hong Kong.” Yingluck Shinawatra was there as well.

The story adds: “Other Thai guests were former members of the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart Party — former leader Lt Preechapol Pongpanich, co-leader Sunee Luangvichit, and MP candidate Khattiya Sawatdiphol. The Thaksin-affiliated party was disbanded by an order of the Constitutional Court for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate…. Tida Tavornseth, a red-shirt leader, was also present at the Hong Kong reception.”

There’s none of the obvious questions: What does the king think of this? Is Ubolratana in open revolt against her brother and/or family? Is this her payback for the previous month’s embarrassment? What next?

Update 2: More photos are emerging in the mainstream media and on social media that suggest further questions awaiting answers. At the risk of appearing Hello-like, here are some of them, in this instance, both clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page:

 





Defending the Constitutional Court as farce

11 03 2019

Little things sometimes matter. For example, we noticed that the state’s propaganda arm did not officially report the king’s objection to (Princess) Ubolratana’s nomination by the Thai Raksa Chart Party until 9 March. Our quick search of its English-language website turned up a report of her nomination but no reporting of the king’s response (at least not as a headlined story). A quick search of the Thai-language part of the site produced nothing about the king’s response.

We may be over-reading this, but it seems to us that this lack of reporting until after the Constitutional Court’s decision is a remarkable piece of self-censorship and the now-required deference born of fear.

Meanwhile, in an effort to limit the damage of the whole affair to the monarchy, and especially for an international audience, hoary royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaigner, Veera Prateepchaikul has been wheeled out.

Veera is a former editor of the Bangkok Post. His task in his most recent op-ed is to “explain” why the Court was right and “foreigners” are wrong to criticize the verdict.

He views it as no “surprise that most foreign media and human rights advocacy organisations” got the decision all wrong. He particularly ticked off by Amnesty International. He’s miffed that these “foreigners” see the Court’s decision as politicized.

He reckons the “foreigners” got it “wrong.” As “evidence” for getting it “wrong,” failing to consider “the role of the monarchy in society dating back to 1932 and its status of being above politics and being the symbolic soul of the nation…”. Of course, this is the usual blarney that royalists spew out when considering their beloved monarchy, ignoring the facts of history.

Veera relies on a written statement from one of the nine Constitutional Court judges who just happens to be his yellow-shirted buddy Nakarin Mektrairat. Now, Nakarin should know better as he wrote a history of 1932. But he sold his historian’s soul to the anti-democrats quite some time ago. A yellow-shirted historian, a 2014 coup supporter and constitution drafter and supporter of the lese majeste law, there seems little to assure “foreigners” that Nakarin is anything other than a junta quisling.

Still, Veera reckons Nakarin’s “enlightened explanation about how the court viewed the TRC’s nomination of Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate and the possible repercussions towards the monarchy if this ‘highly inappropriate’ act was not nipped in the bud.”

Oddly, Nakarin apparently recognizes that Ubonratana was unencumbered by being a member of the monarchy but was still “undermin[ing] the basis and value of the constitution,” by her status as a member of the royal family and that it is the royal family that is “above politics” and this was “mandated in the first constitution of Thailand and enshrined in following charters.”

Indeed, Article 11 of the 1932 constitution did declare members of the royal family with status of Serene Highness and above were not to be involved in politics. However, by the time of most recent constitutions, this provision is not evident, having first been revised in 1946.

It is unclear which article of the constitution she was undermining or which law she was bending. In fact, even the Court relied on a half-baked notion of “culturalism” rather than law aand, of course, the king’s own pronouncement.

The real problem for Veera is that the person “dragging” this “member of the royal family into politics” is Thaksin, and therefore the move ” is simply unimaginable.”

It is not “electoral fraud,” that the “real motive” was to win the election. Indeed, this constituted a “wicked idea.”

We agree that the whole idea was daft and evidenced a kind of desperation, but to conclude that the “Constitutional Court’s verdict …has set a precedent … that the institution is politically impartial and above politics” is farcical. Just look at the repeated demonstrations of partiality by monarchs since 1932.





Updated: Media on Thai Raksa Chart and Constitutional Court

8 03 2019

We thought it useful to provide a list of reactions to the dissolution of the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Thai Raksa Chart Party by the Constitutional Court. The dissolution was allegedly based on a series of “cultural” and “legal” reasons. We will probably update the list in about 12 hours:

Prachatai, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court rules to dissolve TRC party

The Nation, 7 March 2019: “Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart, bans party’s executive board for 10 years

Bangkok Post, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court disbands Thai Raksa Chart

Thai PBS, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court orders Thai Raksa Chart dissolved

Thai PBS, 7 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart supporters urged to vote for Pheu Thai

Amnesty International, 7 March 2019: “Thailand: Dissolution of political party highlights authorities’ abuse of power

AFP, 7 March 2019: “Thai Constitutional Court dissolves key Shinawatra party

Reuters, 7 March 2019: “Thai Court Bans Party for Nominating Princess for PM

The Guardian, 7 March 2019: “Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

The Telegraph, 7 March 2019: “Blow for Thai democracy as opposition party is disbanded for nominating princess as prime minister

New York Times, 7 March 2019: “Thai Political Party That Nominated King’s Sister Is Dissolved

CNN, 7 March 2019: “Thai party that nominated a princess for PM has been dissolved

The Washington Post, 7 March 2019: “Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolves party that presented a princess as its candidate

Khaosod, 7 March 2019: “Thai Net Reacts to Party Dissolution With Pungent Memes

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart plans ‘Vote No’ strategy

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “SET unfazed by party’s dissolution

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “TRC dissolution turns up political heat

The Nation, 8 March 2019: “Banned party’s supporters urged to vote for ‘democratic camp’

The Nation, 8 March 2019: “‘A threat to monarchy’

Update: We promised to add to this list, and we do so here with some local stories but also a selection that indicates how widely this news has been consumed. Some a wire service reports so duplicate others on the list:

Deutsche Welle, 7 March 2019: “Thai court bans party that nominated princess for PM

France24, 7 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves Shinawatra-linked party over botched princess bid

The Times, London, 7 March 2019: “Thai princess’s party is abolished weeks before poll

CGTN, Beijing, 7 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves party for nominating princess for PM

Taipei Times, 8 March 2019: “Thai court dissolves party that nominated princess

NDTV, New Delhi, 7 March 2019: “Thai Princess Calls Order To Ban Party Linked To Her ‘Sad And Depressing’

The Express Tribune, Karachi, 7 March 2019: “Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

Bloomberg, 7 March 2019: “Thai Court Disbands Thaksin-Linked Party That Chose Princess

Los Angeles Times, 7 March 2019: “Thailand bans political party that nominated ex-princess for prime minister

The Age, Melbourne, 7 March 2019: “Thai court bans party for nominating princess for PM

Al Jazeera video report

National News Bureau, 7 March 2019: “Constitutional Court dissolves Thai Raksa Chart Party

Khaosod, 8 March 2019: “Thais Overseas Kiss Their Thai Raksa Chart Votes Goodbye

Bangkok Post, 8 March 2019: “Ex-TRC execs can help other parties campaign, says EC

Thai PBS, 8 March 2019: “Thai Raksa Chart party members can campaign for other parties