Difference I

15 11 2012

It does seem that having a democratically-elected government and prime minister in Thailand makes a difference.

A few days ago, PPT commented that the Englishman in former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva must have been sour that the British queen met the sister of the man his administration cast as a disloyal republican and slapped with a record number of lese majeste charges. In the same post, we commented that ultra-royalists were busy trying to downplay the significance of the visit by U.S. President Obama.

The picture of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in front of No. 10 must be driving the royalists crazy.

Worse for them, Yingluck’s government appears to be developing important policy: “Thailand and the United Kingdom have agreed to establish a new mechanism for high-level bilateral discussions to boost cooperation in various dimensions in the future…”. It is reported that the two prime ministers “agreed to intensify efforts to elevate the already excellent state of their relations to an even higher level.”

When the ever-so-English Abhisit went to Europe and Britain, not only did he sometimes appear groveling, but he was also dogged by questions regarding his accession to power and the legitimacy of his regime.

It is interesting that the royalist posterior polishing of associated with former U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce and U.K. Ambassador Quinton Quayle increasingly seem like ancient relics. Of course, relics of the past can still be found, but their polishing does appear somewhat less enthusiastic.

Further updated: UK embassy criticized

2 02 2011

Yesterday PPT posted a snippet from a Bangkok Post report that stated:  “In another development, Phayaw and Natthaputt Akkahad, mother and brother of Kamolket, a volunteer nurse who was found shot dead at Wat Pathum Wanaram after the protest dispersal operation on May 19, 2010, have failed to obtain a visa to Britain after they received an invitation from the House of Lords to discuss the controversy surrounding the death of Kamolket. The hearing in London will be held tomorrow.”

There has been a huge amount of internet traffic highly critical of the UK embassy in Bangkok, with several claims that this is the “old boys’ network” conspiring to prevent the free discussion of the murder of Kamolkade and many others. There have been several demands for the embassy to explain, and their response is usually: “We don’t comment on individual cases.” But really, what are they up to in the embassy? We thought that with the retirement of the former elite hobnobbing ambassador, things might have improved, but it seems not.

Former Ambassador Quinton Quayle (right, with Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, in fancy dress) sucked up to Abhisit Vejjajiva from the day he was made prime minister and supported the government very strongly in all its actions. That policy seems to continue by denying access to the means of securing justice for this mother of a murdered girl.

There’s perhaps some consolation in a report in the Bangkok Post on the Truth for Reconciliation Commission claiming that it is intensifying its efforts to reveal the truth of the killings in April and May 2010: “Tomorrow’s session will hear from Phayao Akkahad, the mother of the nurse killed at Wat Pathum Wanaram.  Ms Phayao said she had been invited to give information about the mysterious death of her daughter, Kamolket.  She said that it was the first time she had been summoned to testify before the TRC.  Kamolket was among six people who were found dead at the temple after the protest crackdown on May 19.  Ms Phayao yesterday slammed the Department of Special Investigation and its investigation of the six deaths.  She said DSI investigators had questioned her when they wanted information but had not kept a record of her statements.” She adds: “I never expected anything from the DSI anyway…”.

Update 1: A footnote really. Quayle left his diplomatic post and went off to an “honorary” position with one of Thailand’s biggest companies, Thai Beverage, owned by tycoon and royalist Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi. See how The Nation reported it.

Update 2: Read Prachatai’s reproduction of the statement for the House of Lords by Santipong Injan, “who lost his right eye during the clash on 10 April last year, has been denied visa by the British Embassy in Bangkok on grounds of the lack of sufficient fund, despite an official invitation to testify before the House of Lords.”

The elite entertains itself

23 11 2010

The Bangkok elite is back to its jolly best now that it seems to be feeling pretty well protected by the military and its civilian government. This link to the Bangkok Post is not the most recent but is a wonderful portrayal of a class that is celebrating its money and power in suitably innane ways. Ruling class, the idle rich, and especially royals, seem to do this kind of stuff all over the world.

PPT particularly liked the picture of then British Ambassador Quinton Quayle, who sucked up to Abhisit Vejjajiva from the day he was made prime minister and supported the government very strongly in all its actions. The picture seems to portray Quayle as an old-fashioned “foreign adviser” to a royal Thai government of the 19th century. That may well be an accurate representation.

PPT understands Quayle has since resigned to work for a British company “with interests in Thailand.” We guess that repayments of good will should be expected.

Panic and coup round-up

11 03 2010
As for yesterday, PPT offers a summary of some of the many news stories doing the rounds, and is by no means comprehensive. Readers should know that all reporting now is heavily biased and many stories are clearly manufactured or reporting manufactured claims. If anyone says they know what is going to happen over the next few days, they are probably not worth listening to. This is a work in progress for the royalist government and their opponents.

Abhisit says don’t panic: As several other commentators have pointed out (see Thai Crisis), it seems truly odd that, after days of stoking fear and panic over the forthcoming red shirt rally in Bangkok, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva suddenly says not to panic (Bangkok Post, 10 March 2010). This after he and ministers have spoken of terrorism, sabotage, grenade and bomb attacks and talked incessantly of violence. Abhisit himself seems in quite a flap.

Kasit’s baggage: The Nation (10 March 2010) reports that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya spoke to diplomats and was reported to have stated: “Thai people have freedom of expression – but toppling the government in an undemocratic way is against the law and hurts Thai society…”. Of course, Kasit was and is a great supporter of the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy who held a record-breaking, non-stop demonstration, occupied the airports, saw their own car bomber blow himself to pieces and celebrated him, called for political changes even the king rejected as unconstitutional and wanted changes to political arrangements that would do away with many of the basic principles of democratic representation.

Warning the already frightened: As PPT pointed out previously, there are a rash of emails and blog postings that are frantic and frightened. The don’t-panic prime minister and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have both said the grenade and bomb attacks are possible. Now there are many versions of the 30-40 sites considered possible. One list even states (keeping their spelling) that there will be “snipers around Skytrain and Subway stations” and adds, for good measure that “UDD men are going to burn down Grand Palace to pacve the way to turn Thailand to Republcian regime!” and that they will attack “Siriraj Hospital to Commit Regicide against His majesty.” Add to that the comments about Central World and Central Lardprao being “Main target for looting” and the claim that Chulalongkorn will be stormed and there will be “lots of hostages,” and the picture of stoking fear and possibly attacks on the red shirts is clear.

Journalism and the red shirts: The Nation (11 March 2010) reports that Thai Journalists’ Association president Prasong Lertrattawisut has “admitted that some media outlets were indeed being manipulated and urged the print media to be careful about the tone of its headlines.” He also called “on broadcast media to not vilify those whom they disagree with.” An interesting statement from the TJA which has been heavily pro-yellow shirt in the past and many mainstream journalists remain so.

Take, for example, the yellow shirt supporter Nattaya Chetchotiros in the Bangkok Post (11 March 2010). She is said to be an Assistant News Editor at the Bangkok Post and former President of the Thai Journalists Association, but still comes up with this unsourced (not even the “unnamed source” so prized in the press) comment: “One factor that could be a game changer, however, is growing dissatisfaction among rank-and-file protest leaders who have not been fully reimbursed for the expenses they footed beforehand. Each group has reportedly to spend at least 10 million baht a day for mobilisation. The more than one hundred grass roots leaders have begun to turn against one another and family members of the ‘Grand Master’, such as Payap Shinawatra who is supervising the movement from the Northeast, and Yaowapa Wongsawat and her husband Somchai who are taking care of the North. These relatives of Thaksin have approved the budget for former MPs or people who wish to run in the next election and they reportedly have not paid up in full, asking the protest leaders to make advance payments out of their own pockets. This money factor was also at play during the bloody Songkran riots and which the Thaksin side could not win. As this same factor has come in to play in this impending red march, it remains to be seen if the reds will see victory.” For Nattaya, there can only be money involved and nothing else. This is the standard middle class and elite perspective on the great unwashed who are marching on Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Supalak Ganjanakhundee (The Nation, 11 March 2010) has a bit of a surprise for Nation readers when he claims “The government, with collaboration from the mainstream media, managed to portray itself as an angel and the red-shirt group as former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s evil lackeys – ready to use all violent means to bring their boss back to power. Visions of last April’s bloodshed have been planted in the public mind many times a day to show the red-shirt group is nothing but a bloodthirsty monster.” Exactly. And by doing so, they make violence far more likely.

Supalak even states that it is not just Thais who fall for this propaganda: “Even a foreign diplomat like British Ambassador Quinton Quayle subscribed to such discourse as he rushed to see Pheu Thai Party leader Yongyut Wichaidit on Tuesday, to urge the party with its strong links to the red shirts not to use violence in the weekend demonstrations.”

Stop the red shirts: According to television reports, the efforts to stop red shirts getting to Bangkok have been increased. The television news claims that railway and bus stations are under heavy security. It is also reported that police and provincial officials have been ordered into to villages to have phu yai ban stop red shirts from leaving for Bangkok. It is also reported that the roadblocks are being made tighter between red shirt assembly provinces in nearby provinces and Bangkok. One claim is that the police and military are not going to stop red shirts, but intend to delay them so long that many will turn around and go home. Another claimed possibility is that there may be serious clashes at these roadblocks as red shirts break through. This would mean considerable violence even before the red shirts get to Bangkok proper.

Raising funds, preparing to retreat: The Bangkok Post (11 March 2010) reports that the red shirt rally organizers are raising funds for their rally. In fact, PPT has seen solicitations for some weeks now, and red shirts, despite the regular claims that it is funding by Thaksin Shinawatra that keeps them mobilized, have been selling merchandise and asking for donations for some considerable time. The Post claims the red shirts are short of funds, so their rally may be only 3-5 days. It is claimed that it costs 30 million baht a day to keep a large rally going – so just how much money did it take to keep the People’s Alliance for Democracy rallying for months, and where did that money come from?

The Post says “sources close to the movement” claim that the red shirts are “preparing to retreat to the provinces if its mass rally against the government in Bangkok this weekend falls flat…”. When they retreat, they are said to be aiming to “seize provincial halls.”

A safe place: The Bangkok Post (11 March 2010) reports that the 11th Infantry Regiment “would accommodate VIPs and emergency cabinet meetings…”. It is understood that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will stay at this base for the duration of the rally. Meanwhile, morning television reported that the queen has joined the king at Siriraj hospital and people have been asked to “not bother them.” Is Siriraj a safe house too?

A coup?: Acting government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn is reported in the Bangkok Post (11 March 2010) as saying there is “no substance to a report that there would be a military coup before this Sunday…”. He claims the “government has double-checked the story and found that it has no grounds.” PPT wonders how that conversation went?

Apparently this rumor developed “after people saw troops moving out of their barracks to maintain peace and order under the Internal Security Act, which came into force today…”. A spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command said “soldiers early this morning began manning checkpoints in Bangkok and seven nearby provinces.” In fact, troops have been out on the streets and working roadblocks for several days already. ISOC says more troops are being deployed today.

As far as PPT can see at present, a reason for a coup would be to dissolve parliament, but not for an election. Rather, the aim would be to reshuffle government seats and allow a civilian government to stay in place with even stronger military backstopping. Elections would be off the agenda. If there is considerable conflict over the next few days, anything is possible.

Abhisit, king, red shirts, rallies

10 03 2010

As readers can imagine, there is lots of news to follow at present. Here we present some summaries of those that caught our eye. Readers might want to follow the links for more details.

Abhisit meets the king: The Nation (9 March 2010) reported the royal audience and dissembling or revision. It was earlier clear that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva made a special visit. Now The Nation says: “There was no official word on the meeting, particularly what was discussed, but it was understood that the simmering political situation was included in Abhisit’s routine briefing to the King.” Hardly a routine visit. By the way, aren’t there health regulations about dogs in hospitals?

Some have suggested that Abhisit postponed his trip to Australia following the meeting with the king. That seems not to fit the timeline of events.

Fears expressed and made: In the report cited above, Abhisit continues to share his rumors with the ever eager media. This time he reveals that unnamed “people” have been calling him – who has his number apart from colleagues and friends? – and “told me a lot of military fatigues were bought at the Chatuchak Market and bullets at gun shops in the Phahurat area were sold out. Water pipes were also bought to make guns…”. It may be true, but why is the country’s leader spreading unverified rumor? To instill fear and loathing perhaps?

Meanwhile, and along the same lines, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban states: “Our intelligence shows that many of the [red shirt] groups show a tendency to use violence…”. He also claimed that “some of the red shirts planned to besiege government offices and residences of important figures, like Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda.” He added that “many groups were likely to ‘operate’ … [and] threaten normal life and the welfare of city residents.

Just for good measure, The Nation (9 March 2010) reports that the Democrat Party-led Bangkok administration has stated that it fears grenade attacks during the rallies. Why do they have this fear? The answer seems to be that Prime Minister Abhisit “informed them about intelligence pointing to violence in the capital.” That intelligence apparently concludes that there will be “bomb attacks in at least two locations and grenades would be thrown at 30-40 locations, particularly ‘important places’.” The police are reported as expecting “worse violence than before.” PPT assumes they mean worse than the Songkhran Uprising last year for there’s been no violence at red shirt rallies since then.

There are also a myriad of rumors being spread by email and text messages. The Nation reports on university students receiving warnings of a big riot and urging them to “stock up on food and to withdraw money from banks.” PPT has received similar emails, usually forwarded from unknown sources that have all kinds of advice for Bangkokians on how to oppose the red shirts.

The Nation in full froth: The Nation (9 March 2010) is in full panic mode, frothing over the upcoming red shirt rally. It expects a “huge” rally and comes up with the idea that the red rally is “Maoist tactics of the ‘forest surrounding the town’…”. That should cause apoplexy amongst the already frightened middle class who tend to see the red shirts as a Khmer Rouge-like danger.

Overthrowing the royalist government: In the same report, red shirt leader Nattawut Saikua is quoted as saying that “low-rank military officers from the lower class and grass-roots would work to help the red shirts topple the aristocrat-backed government.” He adds: “We call it the watermelon army – meaning they wear a green uniform but have a red heart inside. They will come out to help us…”.

The red shirts have circulated an email in English to various people and groups in Bangkok headed “A Message to the Good People of Bangkok and International Communities.” It says, in part: “On Friday the 12th of March, a campaign aimed at ending the age of the Thai military dictatorship and restoring freedom, democracy and justice to our beautiful nation will begin. At this very moment, hundreds of thousands of people from all across our country not already in Bangkok are preparing to make their way to the capital, in defiance of a regime that has proven its willingness to commit violence and strip away the human rights of those who speak against it.”

On the red shirt beliefs, it says this: “These people are united by a few key beliefs. The belief in our constitutional monarchy. The belief in the power of non-violent change. The belief in double-standards-free justice. And the belief that, as Thai citizens, they deserve to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed. These people are united under the banner of the … UDD. And they are not to be feared- because if you believe in these things, then you are one of them as well.”

Recognizing the fear of people in Bangkok, it says: “We are convinced that for the coming struggle we need no guns, bullets or blades, but only solidarity and sincerity in our hearts. We have learned from the mistakes of the past, and will allow no repeat of them. We will stand together, we will remain vigilant against troublemakers, and we will take care to ensure that no foreigner is harmed or intimidated. We will stare defiantly down the barrels of the guns of the soldiers who remain loyal to the men who wish us to remain silent and submissive, and we will embrace with open arms those who wish to put down their weapons and join us.” The red shirts call on Bangkokians to join them in their struggle.

Internal Security Act: As expected, the royalist government has decided to use the Internal Security Act that puts the army in charge. The ISA is to be enforced from 11 to 23 March for all of Bangkok and Nonthaburi, and some districts in Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Chachoengsao and Ayutthaya.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep is reported in The Nation (10 March 2010) as referring to protesters wanting to “paralyse Bangkok traffic and some may even carry out violent actions, throwing grenades or burning down government buildings in a bid to provoke the use of force.”

Suthep also made the remarkable claim to cabinet that “the international intelligence community also agreed that the red shirts’ moves were undemocratic and that their protests could be regarded as terrorist acts.” PPT wonders which international intelligence sources Suthep has access to? Maybe the British as their ambassador Quinton Quayle, who has expressed his admiration for Abhisit, came out on television last night supporting the government. He’s reported in The Nation (10 March 2010) as having “yesterday expressed his concern over the red-shirt demonstration.” Presumably he won’t be chastised for interfering in domestic political affairs.

Meanwhile, PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey has been assigned to come up with a television program “on the state-run TV Channel 11 from 10pm to midnight to explain the security measures being taken.” Sathit is one who has a tendency to propagandize, so this will be an interesting intervention. While Channel 11 has limited viewers, it is nationwide and presumably bits of the program will be relayed via other channels as news.

Fleeing the country?: The Bangkok Post (10 March 2010) and The Nation (10 March 2010) have roughly the same headline but significantly different stories on what the Post headlines as “Shinawatras flee country before rally” and “Family said to fear being held hostage.” The Post says that “Members of Thaksin Shinawatra’s immediate family have left or are leaving the country ahead of this weekend’s rally by supporters of the fugitive former prime minister.” It says Potjaman and the three Shinawatra kids will have left by Wednesday night. The Nation’s headline is “Thaksin’s family not fleeing, but flying out.” It says only the two daughters will have left, on business in Zurich. It states: “Thaksin’s ex-wife Pojaman na Pombejra, their son Panthongtae, will remain in Thailand though they plan to leave the country soon…”.

Abhisit saw a political opportunity and in The Nation (10 March 2010) is reported as noting that it “was intriguing as they had done the same thing before last year’s Songkran mayhem.” Abhisit added: “I would like to ask the protesters to think carefully about what and for whom they are rising and fighting…”.

PPT is not entirely sure that this Songkhran Uprising is correct for that event, but recalls reports of some of them leaving. Readers may know better. Our record show PM’s Office Minister Sathit making this claim on 8 April 2009, but this was denied a day later, suggesting that only some members of the family had left and some even appeared at a red shirt rally in subsequent days.

In any case, why are the Shinawatra’s accused of “fleeing” but not, say, Newin Chidchob? The Nation says “de-factor leader of the Bhum Jai Thai party, has reportedly left for London where, according to Pheu Thai Party’s chief adviser Chalerm Yoobamrung, he has set up a war room to order a crackdown on the red shirts.” A party spokesman said he was only in London on a private visit. He visits while Shinawatra’s flee…. And when the premier and other government ministers are offered “safe houses,” presumably this is prudent rather than fleeing to safety (Bangkok Post, 10 March 2010).

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