With a final update: Arrests and state of emergency

15 10 2020

Matichon reports that, early in the morning, Bangkok time, Parit Chiwarak and Arnon Nampa have been arrested.

Update 1: The Guardian reports that Arnon and Panupong Jadnok have been arrested; the report does not refer to Parit. That report also states:

Thailand’s government has banned gatherings of five or more people and the publication of news or online messages that could harm national security early on Thursday under an emergency decree to end Bangkok street protests….

“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” state television announced.

This declaration was made at 4am in Bangkok. It seeks to “ban big gatherings and allowing authorities to ban people from entering any area they designation.” In addition, it prohibits “publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reproduces the above Reuters report.

Update 3: Prachatai reports movements of police riot squads and troops. It says that at “05.48 … at least 7 people reportedly [had been]… arrested.” They included Arnon, Parit, Panupong and Prasit Karutarote.

Update 4: Social media reports are that soldiers have closed parliament. Police are currently surrounding the Rajaprasong intersection (3pm) anticipating another demonstration. Plenty of people milling around after the students called for supporters to show up. Protest leaders there now facing off with police, using white bows. Social media reports that Panupong has not been captured. Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has been arrested. With more than 20 now arrested, some are being transferred to Chiang Mai, and students there are organizing.

Update 5: Back at Rajaprasong, chanting continues, demanding the release of those arrested and the ouster of Prayuth.

Update 6: There so much going on that it is impossible to do more than watch it. Various online broadcasters are livestreaming the huge rally at Rajaprasong. Commentators say the crowd extends to from the Rajaprasong intersection to Pratunam and Paragon. The rally is a direct challenge to the regime’s declaration of a state of emergency. Students in uniform everywhere. This is a young crowd, sitting down peacefully waiting and listening. More than that, they are participating in a remarkable series of events over just more than 24 hours.

It is remarkable to hear them abuse the king, something only done privately a couple of months ago or on social media (with the associated risk of arrest).

The arrest of the movement’s most recognized leaders has had no impact. Other leaders mushroom, having cut their teeth in the many smaller demonstrations across the country in recent months.

What happens next? The next step is probably the regime’s. What does it do in the face of mass disobedience?

What’s the future for the monarchy? That depends on what happens next, but social media says the king and his family have decamped to a palace in Sakon Nakhon. (The last big change in government system came in 1932, when the king was an absolute monarch and he holidaying and golfing in Hua Hin.) Is it the beginning of the end?

Update 7: The rally ended without major incident, with a promise to come back together on Friday. Meanwhile, the regime is using the emergency decree to refuse bail for those arrested and it goes after others.

Updated: Rajaprasong and Peterloo

23 11 2018

PPT has been slow in getting to the film Peterloo by Mike Leigh. Obviously enough, it is an epic about the Peterloo massacre, considered “one of the defining moments of its age” as ordinary people demanded parliamentary reform by the electoral law reform:

Constituency boundaries were out of date, and the so-called rotten boroughs had a hugely disproportionate influence on the membership of the Parliament of the United Kingdom compared to the size of their populations.

Representation was not vested in the people but in a few important and wealthy people.

We couldn’t help comparing England’s Peterloo of 1819 and Thailand’s Rajaprasong of 2010 and the rotten system that gave rise to the Peterloo rebellion and the rotten system now in place under the junta’s electoral system. No historical comparison is direct, but a lot of the movie had Thailand resonance.

Update: We just noticed that Ji Ungpakorn also had a post on Peterloo, a matter of a few days before our post here. We only check his blog every week or so, so hadn’t seen this, but it is interesting that we separately had the same thoughts.

Anti-monarchy graffiti and royal wealth II

19 10 2013

This post continues PPT’s summary of the academic article “Working Towards the Monarchy and its Discontents: Anti-royal Graffiti in Downtown Bangkok,” that is authored by Serhat Ünaldi of the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is available (for a fee, free to subscribers or through universities that subscribe) at the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

Our earlier post concentrated on the graffiti, whereas this post is on royal ownership of valuable property. We earlier noted that the article’s analysis of the ownership of the Rajaprasong area was interesting:

The space examined here is a major part of downtown Bangkok and borders the Khlong Saen Saeb canal in the north, Ratchadamri Road in the east, Rama I Road in the south and Phaya Thai Road in the west. Based on land ownership the area can be divided into two. The western part is privately owned by Princess Sirindhorn who, as the landlord, earns the income generated from property rents directly. The eastern section is owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) which manages the assets of the monarchy as an institution but whose generated income is “paid at the King’s pleasure” (p. 8).

As few researchers have ever dared publish on the private assets of the royals, the following bits and pieces from the article deserve attention. The dates are about acquisition/building/registration of the property or company:

An AP Photo

An AP Photo

The land owned by the princess comprises her palace Wang Sra Pathum (completed in 1916) and the sites of the surrounding commercial buildings: the Siam Kempinski Hotel (2010), the Siam Paragon shopping mall (2006), the Siam Center shopping mall (1973), the Siam Car Park (1994), the Siam Tower offices (1998) and the Siam Discovery shopping mall (1997).

 The CPB-owned land encompasses: the Isetan department store (1992), the Centara Grand Hotel (2008), the CentralWorld shopping mall (1989/2006), Zen department store (1989), the Offices at CentralWorld (2005), Chumchon Lang Wat Pathumwanaram (a slum community), Suan Pathumwananurak (an unfinished park) and the Wat Pathum Wanaram school (2007).

The dates are about acquisition/building/registration. There’s more:

… in the Siam-Ratchaprasong area the commercial interests of the monarchy are served not only by income from its properties, for Princess Sirindhorn and King Bhumibol are also major shareholders of the retail company Siam Piwat which operates the Siam shopping malls on Princess Sirindhorn’s land. The king holds 180,000 shares in Siam Piwat and the princess holds 4.32 million shares, most of them acquired from the Ministry of Finance and BankThai (now CIMB Thai Bank) in 2003 and 2005, respectively. This makes the royal family the second biggest shareholder of Siam Piwat. The family thus earns twice: from leasing out land to Siam Piwat and from their shares in the company. The princess could earn an estimated 1.68 billion baht (US$52.5 million) in annual rents from the mall and hotel operators in the “Siam” area, calculated on the basis of recent estimates of land prices in downtown Bangkok of 600 million baht per rai (1,600 m2), a total plot size of approximately 70 rai and a policy – followed by the CPB next door (Grossman 2011, 297) – of raising annual rents of 4% of a property’s market value. Moreover, in 2010, Sirindhorn’s share of Siam Piwat’s net income amounted to 145 million baht (US$4.7 million) or almost a quarter of the company’s total net income attributable to shareholders for that year.5 Siam Piwat itself subleases part of the land to the Siam Kempinski Hotel. The Siam Kempinski is owned by Kempin Siam, a joint venture between the Bahrain-based Al Manar capital group (49%), the Thai property developer Natural Park (35%) and Royal Wealth (16%) which, again, is co-owned by Al Manar and CPB Equity, a holding company which looks after the share dealings of the CPB. Interestingly, by setting up the aptly named company Royal Wealth together with Al Manar, the CPB helped the foreign capital group to increase its shareholding in Kempin Siam beyond 49% to become a majority shareholder in a Thai company. Moreover, the CPB not only co-owns Siam Kempinski, it also owns 86% of the shares of Kempinski Hotels S.A., a world-wide operating luxury hotel chain which manages the Siam Kempinski. In the mid-1990s the Dusit Thani Hotel Group and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB, of which the CPB holds a dominating 23.69%) invested in the ailing Kempinski group. After the 1997 financial crisis the CPB bought the shares from Dusit Thani and the SCB to “face-lift” the bank’s portfolio.

On the political economy of royalism and consumption, the author observes:

Royals often frequent the “Siam” malls whose appeal, through physical proximity to a royal palace, can hardly be replicated elsewhere in the city. Therefore, business success in the Siam area partly depends on the continued power of the monarchy’s sacred charisma. But while the monarchy lends its barami to the shopping malls it also symbiotically profits from them – and not just in terms of income generated from rents and shareholdings. Subtle references to the royal ties of the malls link the monarchy with the material progress of the Bangkok populace, yet carefully avoiding revealing the royal family’s direct financial interest in these commercial operations. As a place of conspicuous consumption, of Louis Vuitton and Ferrari, and as a “royal” mall, Siam Paragon is a double source of social distinction.

All-in-all, this is one academic paper that deserves broad attention and careful reading.

500 black shirts

27 06 2011

Prachatai has a wonderful summary account of a story at Matichon online that presents the views of one military officer on the events of April-May 2010, in which he participated.

The account carries considerable weight as it reports an article that “ appears in the Army Training Command’s Senathipat Journal, Vol 59, Issue 3, September–December 2010, as part of the army’s guidelines and case studies on military operations to solve urban unrest.”

In its reproduction of the first part of the article, Matichon helpfully posts the first part of the article and highlights “several interesting points…”.

The first relates to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claim at the Democrat Party’s Rajaprasong election rally last Thursday that it was he and not Teflon Mark – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva – who “gave the order” for the crackdown on red shirt protesters.

However, “the article clearly states ‘the Prime Minister gave orders at the CRES meeting on 12 May for the military to start the operation as planned’.” We imagine that Suthep is dissembling or is saying something about the official chain of command. If Abhisit wasn’t giving orders, it would seem very strange. First, he was at the military base for a very long time and presumably wasn’t just hiding under the bed. Second, Abhisit made claims that he was in charge and so got little sleep as he was deeply involved in operational matters.

The second important point the article makes is that “the government always had a clear policy to use military measures to pressure the red shirts, and the policy of ‘tightening the circle’ was to end the demonstrations, not to open a dialogue.” It adds that this policy contributed the rejection of “a group of senators to offer themselves as mediators on the night of 18 May…”.

Third, the article claims that “part of the reason for the successful military operation was the withdrawal of Chair of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship Veera Musigapong and the death of Maj Gen Khattiya Swasdipol or Seh Daeng, because the UDD was deprived of its political and military strategists.”

Veera’s withdrawal has never been adequately explained. Other sources are less sure of Seh Daeng’s role, but if the military identified him as the red shirt military strategist, then Suthep’s bizarre claim that the red shirt leadership did him in makes no sense at all (not that it ever did for PPT). Suthep’s credibility has sunk below zero.

A fourth note of interest relates to the deployment of military units. Many commentators seem to have forgotten that this began with “sniper units … deployed in high buildings on Wireless Road, including the Kian Nguan and Bangkok Cable buildings.” Given the predominance of head and chest shots amongst the murdered, the use of military snipers is pretty clear.

A fifth claim about so-called black shirts is remarkable. It is stated that “CRES intelligence” had it that “there were about 500 armed terrorists among the red shirts, and they were equipped with war weapons including M79s, M16s, AK47s and Tavor-21s.”

Given the very low death and gunshot injury toll that is reported for the military, figures like this are startling. Were more military killed than the government has reported? If not, where are the weapons and the dead black shirts with their weapons? Wouldn’t the military snipers have had ample targets?

The report makes fascinating reading.



Democrat Party and dirty politics I

19 06 2011

Some time ago, PPT wondered if the Democrat Party had the political stomach for some old-style dirty politics. As the polls have continued to show Puea Thai in the lead, albeit with a large undecided category, in recent days we have posted on how the Democrat Party strategists have decided that attacking red shirts as the violent ones who burned the country is a way to woo some undecided voters. Red shirt and Puea Thai Party responses to these charges have been reasonably measured and even-tempered.

After watching the news reports on television on Saturday evening, we are wondering if this tactic is now being combined with a much more provocative Democrat Party stance and a large dose of very dirty politics.

PPT here looks at provocation in the first of two posts.

Perhaps dissatisfied that Puea Thai have not lashed out at all the Democrat Party charges, as the Bangkok Post reports, the latter are now trying to directly anger red shirts by planning to hold a major election event at Rajaprasong. This plan was announced by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is fully on-board with this current aggressive election strategy.

Abhisit “said his party would hold a rally in front of CentralWorld shopping complex on Thursday in its last major address in Bangkok on the final leg of its election campaign.” He added: “On that day, we will focus on the party’s reconciliation plan. We invite everyone to come and listen to our plan to douse the fire in the country…”.

This is aberrant nonsense. Abhisit and his chums are trying to provoke violence. Rajaprasong is one of the killing grounds of 2010, and has been the scene of numerous red shirt remembrance rallies.  PPT is sure that the Democrat Party wants to provoke red shirt hot heads. It feels it needs to demonstrate red shirt violence in order to regain some electoral ground. It is desperate for red shirts to show up and that there will be clashes.

As Abhisit says Rajaprasong is “the perfect place” for his party’s to campaign “because of the political unrest that took place there last year.” And, a perfect provocation for a perfect storm. Suthep Thaugsuban, who was deeply involved in the murderous events of April and May 2010, added that at the rally Abhisit disingenuously claims is about “reconciliation,” adds to the provocation by stating: “I will take to the stage next Thursday to tell the truth about what really happened [during last year’s unrest]…”. In other words, he shows Abhisit’s claim about reconciliation as being nothing more than a pathetic lie.

Natthawut Saikua called “on red shirt supporters not to fall victim to the Democrats’ plot to provoke confrontation.” That may not be enough, however, as it is easy enough for Democrat Party backers to provide their own “red shirts” ready to show up and create political mischief.

PPT wonders whether the Rajaprasong traders’ association with come out to oppose the Democrat Party’s plan. After all, they claim that red shirt rallies are bad for business. Will they close their stores to the Democrat Party supporters as they do for red shirts? Will they sue the Democrat Party? Will they be consistent or just show their double standards? We won’t hold our collective breath.

The Democrat Party’s brinksmanship portends future conflict, no matter who wins the election. While some bloggers claim that the “old men” have no stomach for further battles, we think this is misguided. By their actions, by the life being given to PAD-like groups and elements of PAD itself, by the statements of the military brass and the various palace demonstrations, if Puea Thai win the election, they are to be opposed. If they lose, the provocations can’t be forgotten.


Saturday red shirt rally

20 02 2011

In The Nation it is reported that the red shirts again brought out tens of thousands of demonstrators. This time they marked the the 10-month anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s crushing of the red shirt demonstration at Rajaprasong and the jailing without bail of most of the red shirt leaders and many of their followers since then.

The Nation reports that “Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan told an estimated 20,000 red-shirt demonstrators yesterday the group would hold an even bigger rally on March 12 if hundreds of detained red shirts, including seven of its leaders, were not granted bail next week.” Other estimates were of up to 40,000 red shirts, with rallies in other parts of the country as well. The 12 March date is symbolic as this date marks the anniversary of the red shirt rallies in 2010.

From The Nation

Jatuporn made the comparison between the concern the regime has for a few ultra-nationalists when they are jailed in Cambodia and the disdain it shows for the red shirts who have been jailed for month after month. These are political prisoners. This is clear when the differential treatment of yellow shirt leaders facing similar charges is examined; they get bail within hours.

The red shirts gathered at Rajaprasong, moved to the Supreme Court and finished with a rally at the Democracy Monument. The Thai Report has some video and links.

The Nation reports that it “took over an hour for the red-shirt motorcade to leave Ratchaprasong as they travelled slowly along New Phetchburi Road to the Supreme Court and then on to Democracy Monument. The parade was led by red-shirt motorcyclists, who shouted and honked their horns.”

Earlier, at Wat Pathum Wanaram, Red Siam leader Surachai Sae-dan called for “changing the old elite”.

Meanwhile, in MCOT News, it is reported that Bangkok will remain under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for at least another 2 weeks. It is getting hard to remember a time when Bangkok wasn’t under a state of emergency or the ISA. Abhisit, sounding Mubarak-like, stated: “The ISA doesn’t affect the daily lives of people or limit their freedom…”.

Tampering with evidence

4 02 2011

The Nation has a useful article that links with two PPT posts, one on Phayao and Natthaputt Akkahad  being refused visas by the UK embassy in Bangkok and the second on seemingly stalled investigations into the events of April and May 2010.

Medic Kamolkade Akkahad was shot in front of Wat Pathum Wanaram when state forces “dispersed” red shirts from Rajaprasong on 19 May. Her mother, Phayao, appeared before a sub-panel of the regime-established  Truth for Reconciliation Commission chaired by lawyer Somchai Homlaor. This was the first time Phayao had been called before the Committee, 8 months after her daughter’s murder.

Phayao told the that she “has lost faith in the government, especially the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and forensic expert Khunying Porntip Rojanasunand.” She accused the “DSI and Porntip of trying to cover up crimes allegedly committed by soldiers. She believed they had a conflict of interest, as they were also part of the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), which was in charge of the crackdown but has since been disbanded.”

Phayao “accused Porntip of tampering and altering evidence relating her daughter’s death, such as forensic records of bullet wounds. She said the bullets had somehow disappeared.” Pointedly, she added: “And now Porntip is quiet…”. Referring to DSI chief Tharit Pengdit’s role in CRES, “Phayao accused the organisation of trying to say most deaths were caused by red shirts themselves.”

Phayao said she had been threatened and offered bribes to cease pursuing her daughter’s case. She remained committed to seeking the truth.

As a footnote, sub-panel chair Somchai re-confirmed that the military still refused cooperation in its investigations: “We have yet to receive the [military] cooperation. There’s no answer [from the Army].”… He added that he had now asked “the government to help it get Army officers involved in the crackdown to speak to the subcommittee.”

With 3 short updates: Red shirts at Rajaprasong

19 12 2010

As usual, The Thai Report has a fine collection of  reports and links to video and photos of the latest red shirt rally. PPT simply pasted them here from The Thai Report and we urge readers to see more of them at TTR. TTR has them in reverse time order.

The first link is to an interview with Sombat Boonngamanong.

PPT particularly liked this set of pictures:

18:30 – Picture: Night shot…

17:30 – Video 2…

17:00 – Video…

16:00 – Picture: Green light for reds…

15:30 – Pictures: Photo Set…

From MCOT News

15:30 – Picture: Ratchaprasong sign…

15:15 – Picture: Intersection filling up…

15:15 – Picture: Fences around Ratchaprasong taken down…

15:00 – Picture: Plain clothes officer…

The increasingly visible Liar-land flag in distinctive pink, yellow and blue

14:00 – Picture: Sombat…

Security significantly increased, 3rd hand worries…

1600 police deployed for red shirt rally…

U.S. Embassy issues warning…

Update 1: Here’s another set of pictures that caught PPT’s attention.

Update 2: Interestingly, the Bangkok Post comes up with a rally size of just 10,000. The paper has almost no details, so far, of the protest and its demands. The Nation has a report but no estimate of numbers, just “thousands.”

Update 3: More pictures at Horriblethailand.

Red Bull not red shirts

17 12 2010

It seems that the king has a penchant for Formula 1 racing. Maybe it passes the time when he’s “physical therapying” hospital if he watches it on the TV. The Bangkok Post has a remarkably long report on the visit of Red Bull’s Mark Webber. The rport fails to mention the king wanting to see his car, but the picture attests to it.

Here’s part of the report and the photo:

More than 10,000 people are expected to book their places along the sides of Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue to see Red Bull racer Mark Webber drive his RB26 car on the 107-year-old road.

The idea of turning Ratchadamnoen Avenue into a race track is not new. Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanuban – better known as Prince Bira – planned to close roads in the Sanam Luang and Ratchadamnoen area in 1939 for a “Bangkok Grand Prix”. But Prince Bira’s dream was dashed when World War II broke out. [PPT: his F1 results are: Races 19, Championships 0, Wins 0, Podiums 0, Career points 8, Pole positions 0, Fastest laps 0]

Australian Webber, who finished third in the world championship this year, arrived in Bangkok yesterday. He then went to sign a get-well book for His Majesty the King at Siriraj Hospital….

Red Bull Beverage managing director Saravudh Yoovidhya said the exhibition is part of the celebrations of the King’s 84th birthday and Red Bull Racing’s drivers’ and constructors’ world titles.

Today’s three-lap course will get under way at Phan Fa Bridge, pass Democracy Monument and circle at Khok Wua intersection where the race will also finish.

After the king himself, Red Bull owner Chaleo Yoovidhya is one of Thailand’s richest men. PPT has no idea what his links are to the palace, but it ranks as a very big deal to have the long-hospitalized king come out for a Red Bull car. There’s something going on. And it probably works both ways. The king annoits an event (on what he probably thinks is royal real estate) and Red Bull get local publicity and its bosses are seen as good royalists.

There’s also a whiff of the royals wanting to “take back” Rajadamnoen and Khok Wua from the red shirts. This does it with an alleged royal heritage to a racing prince on ground where the royal family has landholdings.

Meanwhile, red shirts are planning to rally at Rajaprasong on Sunday.

Was the writing on the wall for the monarchy?

23 09 2010

Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation has a report well worth reading and considering on the topic of reality and denial. He refers to the thousands of red shirts who gathered at Rajaprasong on 19 September to mark the “fourth anniversary of the 2006 coup and the fourth month since the military cracked down on the movement.”

He notes that the media coverage missed “the angry messages emblazoned on the corrugated iron wall outside CentralWorld…”. PPT has earlier mentioned reporting of angry chanting here and here. Pravit says the wall outside the burned out shopping complex was previously filled with “colourful feel-good propaganda calling for national unity…”. For the red shirt rally, this was replaced “by angry messages aimed squarely at the established old elite saying things that cannot be reproduced here or anywhere else without the risk of violating the lese majeste law.”

The messages on the wall were, Pravit says, ” unprecedented.” However, “[t]he very next day, these messages were removed and life went on as if they were never there to begin with. The 25-metre long wall of corrugated iron is still there, with absolutely no sign of there being any colourful messages written on it – it’s just bare and grey.”

For Pravit it is clear that the “gap between what many Thai people want to believe about certain issues [PPT assumes the monarchy] and the reality of the beliefs held by some red-shirt Thais has never become wider…. The gap between what is spoken and admitted privately, and what is recited and dismissed publicly is widening and exacting an increasing cost on Thai society.”

Surakiart Sathirathai, “who was foreign minister under Thaksin Shinawatra … said in a speech at Siam University that ‘people who defame and attack the [royal] institution’ are ‘becoming more visible’. He acknowledged this to be one of the two root causes for the current political divide…”.

For Pravit, denying “what a substantial number of the population thinks and believes will not pull the country out of the current political impasse.”

The 2006 coup has opened a schism in society that, at least in PPT’s view, has long been there, through ebbs and flows of anti-monarchism, but has been trampled since 1976 by a stampede of propaganda and increasingly repressive lese majeste legislation and by the military’s jackboot. It is impossible to brush this rising anti-monarchism/republicanism aside or to simply repress it again. The elite has to give ground and to accept a new political era.

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