Prayuth as racist

12 07 2015

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the darling of the anti-democrats and favorite of (some parts of) the palace has proven himself not just a political thug but a racist.

Readers may recall his repeated attacks on migrants and migrant workers. His denigration of the ethnically distinguished people of the north and northeast as ignorant added to the racist profile. His repeated claims that “foreigners” can’t understand Thailand because they are not Thai were further proof of his xenophobia. His racism is confirmed by his recent comments on Uighurs.

Coconuts Bangkok has a report on a “visibly angry Prayuth [who] used coarse language while responding to questions over Thailand’s decision to send more than 100 Uighurs back to China against their will…”. The coarse language implicitly compared the refugees with animals.

Prayuth asked reporters: “”If we don’t do this [deport them], what else are we gonna do? Or do you want to feed them until they produce three litters of offspring?”

Thais should be embarrassed that they have such a base leader, even if he chose himself and came to the position of premier through an illegal coup.

Tears and silences

22 11 2011

It has been interesting to observe how those who claim to be anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and also the bastions of true democracy in Thailand have shown themselves to have more than their fair share of anti-democratic values and ideas.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy showed that democracy was only really meant for an educated few. The PAD stage was often a site of pure right-wing xenophobia that sometimes descended into racism, usually directed at Cambodians. The crusty royalists, who have never even been pretend democrats, have also shown themselves capable of racism and anti-foreign comments.

A few days ago PPT commented on the “throwback male chauvinism” of an article by a senior editor at the Bangkok Post when referring to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. That comment could apply to much of the mainstream media.

In the Bangkok Post today there is a malicious piece of chauvinism disguised as an opinion page. You get the picture when you read: “… our lady prime minister‘s leadership style might not be well-suited to the situation. A flood is best managed with military-style leadership and centralised decision-making, with decentralised execution.” Note the Army is great refrain as well. Then this: “The prime minister’s matronly style and her aristocratic charm hardly fit the bill.” And, finally: “All of us were smitten by her demeanour, her glamour and her charisma.” This is a sexist call for a tough, manly leader dressed up as a call to Yingluck to bang heads and be a “real leader.” That it comes from Prapai Kraisornkovit “Lifestyle Editor” of the same gender as Yingluck doesn’t make it any less sexist.

One central element of this antediluvian chauvinism and a call for testosterone-laced leadership has been the focus on the premier’s alleged capacity to shed a tear when faced by the tragedy of the floods. That is nowhere better demonstrated than in the cartoons from the yellow-shirt mouthpiece known as ASTV/Manager, reproduced here, here and here at It is pretty nasty stuff and totally outdated. It can be nastier still, as Sanitsuda Ekachai commented in an article a few days ago.

In addition to Sanitsuda, there have been other critiques. We reckon that expressions of compassion has been sadly lacking in Thailand’s politics for some time. Think of all the political massacres that have been the work of a few men who were ever so manly in their violence.

Nowhere has the political divide been clearer than in the stunning silences that punctuate the discussion of leadership and tears, not least from people who claim to be feminists. They are the ones who should be most offended and very angry about this reassertion of women are weak trope.

We use that last word deliberately as a pointer to the claim that so-called new social movements were to be the leading edge of progressive politics in the 21st Century. That notion appears to have fallen on its postcolonial face in Thailand, where “new politics” is royalist, class-bound and anything but progressive.

Korn on class

19 08 2010

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij was recently interviewed in Newsweek. Pretty mundane stuff, but two selections caught PPT’s eye.

Towards the end of the interview, Korn is asked: “How will your government address the underlying social and economic problems brought to light by the so-called red-shirt protesters?”

He responds, stating inter alia: “A second approach is addressing the issues that were raised: social inequality and poverty, issues that the government takes very seriously. For instance, we are working to refinance all loan-shark debt, which has been a cancer in our system. We’ve refinanced over 400,000 individual accounts. We need to do more of this and make people realize the government makes them a priority. They don’t need to protest.”

He seems to be saying that people protested because of economic issues – poverty, inequality, loan sharking. But then the interviewer asks: “The Western narrative of the protests this spring was that it was a class struggle between urban and rural Thais. Is this accurate?” Confusing given Korn’s statement above, he answers this racist question by saying: “I don’t believe the Western narrative is correct. There is a genuine income-distribution gap. There are genuine differences in people’s access to resources. All of these need to be addressed as quickly as we can. Arguably this government has done more for the poor than any recent government [sic.]. The big truth is these inequalities do exist, but the big lie was that this was what the conflict was about. It wasn’t. The conflict was really [deposed prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters wanting to regain power, wanting to overturn the corruption conviction against him, and wanting to get back his ill-gotten assets.”

So why did Korn initially say that inequality, poverty and so on were economic issues “that were raised” by the red shirt protests? He seems to have is argument confused. But he gets back on the royalist track when when he adds: “What we’re really facing is a small group of instigators trying to overthrow the core pillars of Thailand.” PPT presumes he means the monarchy. Or does the Democrat Party now rank as a “core pillar”?

Racism: PPT calls this a racist question because there’s nothing peculiarly Western about the discussion of class struggle in Thailand. Making it a “Western” construction is demeaning of Thais (amongst others). Worse, Korn unambiguously accepts the racist construction when he knows that many Thais, including some close to his government, have had the same narrative. He says it himself, before backtracking.

Now for the migrant workers…

16 06 2010

After dealing with the challenges of “terrorists,” Marxist-Leninists and republicans, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva now has time to turn his attention to another group seen as a threat to royalist Thailand: illegal migrant workers.

Authoritarianism combined with racist xenophobia is a heady mix on the road to Thai Fascism, but Abhisit remains determined not to let any obstacle stop the descent into this state. According to the Irrawaddy, he signed “an order on June 2 calling for the establishment of a ‘special center to suppress, arrest and prosecute’ alien workers who illegally entered Thailand and are working underground.”

According to the report, the “Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), a labor rights group, the ‘Order of the Prime Minister’s Office No. 125/2553’ will impact up to 1.4 million migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos who are currently working in Thailand illegally.”

Once a government – and especially one that was born of a coup – tastes suppression and repression, it is like a narcotic drug. That government just wants more power to repress. Abhisit proves this. He’s become a proponent of all kinds of illiberal politics.

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