Updated: Absurd defenses of feudalism

16 10 2017

Update: A reader rightly points out that our headline is potentially misleading. Let us be clear: the absurdities are all on the side of those implementing, using and defending the feudal lese majeste law.

PPT has had several posts regarding the efforts of a couple of retired generals, public prosecutors and a military court’s decision to go ahead with investigations of a lese majeste charge 85 year-old Sulak Sivaraksa. He dared to raise doubts about a purported historical event from centuries ago. (In fact, the prosecutors have until 7 December to activate the charge or let it lie.)

We have been interested to observe how parts of the media seem to far braver in pointing out the absurdities of this case than when it is workers, farmers, labor activists or average people who are charged in equally absurd cases. If these people are red shirts or fraudsters, there’s often barely a peep from the media.

Conservative, middle class, aged, royalist and intellectual Sulak, who has also been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, is far easier to defend than those in more uncomfortable political and social locations for some reporters and writers.

His case also generates more international attention, as his cases have always done since 1984, when international academics supported him (and an alleged communist) under the administration led by General Prem Tinsulanonda.

Just in the Bangkok Post, there have been three op-eds and one editorial that each point out the ridiculousness of the case against Sulak. These include:

Yellow-hued, anti-Thaksinist Veera Prateepchaikul writes that the latest case is “unique in its absurdity.” He says he sees two troubling issues with the case:

First, … why did it take police three years to decide to send this case to the prosecutor — a military prosecutor in this case because we are now under the junta regime?

The second issue concerns the police interpretation of the lese majeste law or Section 112 of the Criminal Code in a way which makes the law look like it has an infinitely long hand which can delve into an event which took place some 400 years ago. The land on which the elephant duel was said to take place was not even called Siam.

Kong Rithdee, who has been pretty good and brave in calling out the lese majeste fascists, points out the absurdities of the case:

Another day, another lese majeste story. This time the interpretation of the contentious law goes back much further, to 1593 to be precise, to a dusty battlefield somewhere before “Thailand” existed.

The use of a military court to possibly sentence an 85 year-old to 15 years in jail is also mentioned as absurd.

Kong makes some connections that warrant more attention:

The scope of interpretation of Section 112 has been one of the central bristles of modern Thai politics, and while there have been cases that raised your eyebrows and body temperature (that of Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, to name just one), this wild reading of the law to cover an event from 400 years ago borders on dark comedy.

He asks if the absurdity of Sulak’s case tells Thais that they must not discuss or adopt a critical perspective on history. It seems Thais are expected to accept schoolbook nationalism and the jingoism of royalist film-makers.

Ploenpote Atthakor takes up the blind royalist nationalism. She observes that, in Thailand, there is no “dialogue” about historical events, “especially the parts concerning historical heroes or heroines, or even villains, hardly exists. Anyone who dares to question particular historical episodes may face trouble.” She notes how the history that got Sulak into trouble has changed several times and is disputed by historians.

Ultra-nationalism blinds Thais. The red hot pokers have been wielded by feudal-minded royalists and military dictators.

The Bangkok Post editorial extends the discussion to law and injustice:

In what appears to be an attempt at law enforcement, authorities in the past two weeks have taken legal action against two prominent public figures by resorting to what appears to be a misuse of both the law and its principles.

One is Sulak’s case and the other person is Thaksin, one of his lese majeste cases and the retroactive application of a law. The Post states that the cases “not only put the Thai justice system under the global spotlight but will also jeopardise law enforcement in the country.”

The editorial questions the police’s interpretation of the law, saying it:

is worrisome and has prompted questions about how far such a law should be applied. If Mr Sulak is indicted, it would create a chilling climate of fear and hurt the credibility of Thailand’s justice system….

In proceeding legal actions against the two men, the authorities must realise any abuses of the law can set bad precedents with a far-reaching impact on Thai citizens.

All these perspectives are right. We applaud these journalists for daring to defend Sulak and, in one instance, even Thaksin. At the same time, it would be brave and right to point out the absurdities that face many others charged with lese majeste. The military dictatorship has gotten away with being absurd for too long.





Updated: Yet another anti-monarchy “plot”

3 10 2017

Thailand’s recent politics has been awash with rightist and royalist claims of “plots” against the monarchy. The military dictatorship claims to have “discovered” another such “plot.” This time the plot is claimed to be a plan to disrupt the funeral for the dead king.

PPT can only express disdain for this political ploy and we can only wonder if anyone still believes such nonsense. As much as we’d like to see an an anti-monarchy plot in Thailand, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is one in the works now.

One of the first “plots” was the entirely concocted “Finland Plot.” The claim peddled by many associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and fabricated by notorious royalist ideologue Chai-anan Samudavanija and others. It claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra and former left-wing student leaders had met in Finland and come up with a plan to overthrow the monarchy and establish a communist state. These inventions were published in the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned newspapers and repeated many times by PAD.

As bizarre as this nonsense was, Wikipedia notes that the allegations had an “impact on the popularity of Thaksin and his government, despite the fact that no evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of a plot. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers. The leaders of the 2006 military coup claimed Thaksin’s alleged disloyalty as one of their rationales for seizing power.”

Back in 2015, even the politicized courts held that ultra-royalist Pramote Nakornthap had defamed Thaksin with these concoctions. Not surprisingly, many ultra-royalists continue to believe this nonsense.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Equally notorious was the anti-monarchy “plot,” replete with a diagram, that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government concocted when faced with a red shirt challenge in April 2010.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution to Emergency Situations claimed to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the monarchy and said “intelligence” confirmed the “plot.” Indeed, the bitter Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council “confirmed” the “plot.” The map included key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, members of the Puea Thai Party and former banned politicians, academics and hosts of community radio programs. Then Prime Minister Abhisit welcomed the uncovering of the “plot.”

CRES spokesman and then Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who just happens to be the current dictatorship’s chief propagandist, repeatedly declared this plot a red shirt effort to bring down the monarchy.

We could go on, but let’s look at the current “plot,” which not coincidentally comes from the same military leaders who were in place in when the above “mapping” of a republican plot was invented. It is the same coterie of coup plotters (and that was a real plot) that repeatedly accused Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul of various anti-monarchy plots and he was “disappeared” from Laos, presumably by the junta’s henchmen-murderers.

In the new “plot,” Deputy Dictator General Wongsuwan has declared:

Anti-monarchy cells are conspiring to disrupt the funeral of His Majesty the Late King this month, deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said Monday.

Gen. Prawit described the alleged agitators as those who “have ill intentions toward the monarchy.” Although he gave no details, he said full-scale security measures would be implemented throughout the rites to place over several days culminating with the Oct. 26 cremation.

Prawit added that “[a]uthorities have learned of threats inside and outside the country, especially from those who oppose and have negative thoughts about ‘the [royal] institution’…”. He put “security forces” on “full alert.”

Careful readers will have noticed that the first mention of this “plot” came from The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha almost two weeks ago.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart “refused to elaborate in detail on the supposed threat in the latest intelligence report” but still declared that “[t]hose involved were among the ‘regular faces’ abroad wanted on lese majeste charges, but who still incite negative feelings towards the monarchy among supporters through social media.”

The fingerprints on this concoction are those who have regularly invented plots for political purposes. That’s the military. They read all kinds of social media and put 1 and 1 together and come up with anti-monarchy plot.

We tend to agree with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is reported as saying:

The cremation provides an opportunity for the security forces to strengthen their position politically using critics of the monarchy as an excuse to increase the state’s heavy handed policy to control society more tightly…. Critics of the monarchy hardly pose a threat considering how much they have been suppressed since the coup….

The cremation and the coronation that will follow are critical political events for the military dictatorship. They want to be seen to be ensuring that everything runs smoothly for both events as the junta moves to stay in power, “election” or “no election.”  Finding a “plot” can make them look even more like the “protectors” of the monarchy.

Update: We don’t know why, but Khaosod’s most recent report on this “plot” seems to be supportive of the the junta’s claims. The claims this report makes amount to little more than reporting chatter. Similar chatter has been around for some time, encouraging individual acts that do not amount to anything like rebellion or disruption.

Some of the material that has been circulated may well derive from the state’s intelligence operatives seeking to disrupt and identify red shirts.  The thing about concocting a plot as a way to discredit your opponents is that there has to be elements in it that seem, at least on a initial view, feasible and believable. That was the point of the diagram produced above, naming persons known to be anti-monarchy. Putting them in a plot is something quite different.





On Democrat Party hypocrisy

24 09 2017

The Democrat Party has a long history of political hypocrisy. For most of its history, it has been conservative, royalist and cooperative with military regimes. There have been brief periods where it has attempted to be a democratic Democrat Party, but these periods appear as aberrations.

(For an official history of the Democrat Party, written as fairy tale, see here.)

Under Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has led the party since March 2005, it has become a raucously anti-democratic party, losing all elections that it did not boycott, damaging parliament, supporting and leading anti-democratic street protesters, happily boostering two military coups and presiding over the gunning down of red shirt protesters.

On the latter, on the 2010 massacre, after getting off murder charges again and again, Abhisit’s ego seems to know no bounds. In a display of narcissistic hubris, Abhisit was reported as miffed that red shirts were pressing on with trying to get the 2010 murders properly dealt with. He “hit back against the red shirts, urging them not to turn the loss of life suffered in the 2010 crackdown under his administration into a ‘political game’.”

A “political game”? As far as we can tell, it is only Abhisit and his ilk who have treated the murders as a political game.

Then, remarkably and unbelievably, Abhisit said “he felt sympathetic towards relatives of the victims who wanted to know the truth in order to see justice…”. Not only does that feel like a blatant lie, but the former prime minister then doubled down with a statement he used intentionally for the purpose of deception.

He declared that these red shirts – those who had lost relatives to military bullets – “had not opposed the controversial blanket amnesty bill when it was tabled by then-Pheu Thai MPs and supported by the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, even although the proposed measure would have granted amnesty for those who were involved in the crackdown.”

This is what the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship declared at the time:

Speaking on the eve of the final House debate Thursday on the controversial bill, UDD chairwoman Thida Thavornseth on Wednesday reaffirmed the red-shirt movement’s opposition against the blanket amnesty. She said that the UDD did not want the amnesty to cover both Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thuagsuban whom the movement held accountable for the deaths of red-shirt protesters in May 2010.

Mrs Thida said that the Pheu Thai party would have to be responsible for any consequences which follow after the endorsement of the bill by the House….

Abhisit has lied (again).

He’s not the only member of the Democrat Party prone to lies and flights of fantasy.

Ong-art Klampaibul, a deputy leader of the Democrat Party, recently babbled about an “election” held under the military junta. He said: “I hope the people’s voice will be respected this time…”.

Of course, it has been the Democrat Party that has refused to accept each election result since 2005. He probably meant to say that he hopes that his failed party can ride on the military’s coattails to a position in a military-dominated government.





Updated: Us yes, UDD no

14 09 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the “National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] has warned [the official] red shirts against holding a press briefing planned for Thursday on ways they will pursue justice for red-shirt demonstrators affected by the deadly military crackdown in 2010.”

Junta spokesman Colonel Piyapong Klinpan said that “questions must be asked” on “whether the press event is a political activity. If that is the case, the NCPO may have to ask them not to go ahead.” The mouthpiece added that “political activities cannot be allowed during this sensitive period. Once the country’s situation returns to normal, the NCPO would ease restrictions on such gatherings…”.

Got it?

Easy, right? Even the Post gets it, observing:

The regime warning to the red shirts came despite the former leader of the now-dissolved People’s Democratic Reform Committee Suthep Thaugsuban discussing political matters with reporters in July and the People’s Alliance for Democracy holding a press conference on Aug 2 after the Supreme Court acquitted ex-PM Somchai Wongsawat and three others for the deadly dispersal of yellow-shirt protesters in 2008.

The Post is observing the double standards involved.

It might have also noticed that The Dictator denied such double standards in the justice system. At the time, we did suggest that he lied. Now one more piece of evidence affirming his lies is in place.

UpdateThe Bangkok Post reports that, despite the threats, the UDD did hold its press conference. It revealed that “lawyers will next week file a formal petition for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to consider ‘new evidence’ regarding the 2010 crackdown on protesters.” Interestingly, red shirt leaders “said the UDD will also consider distributing information regarding comparisons of the different ways the NACC has treated legal cases involving yellow shirts and red shirts to both domestic and foreign media.”





The Dictator and his law

12 09 2017

The Dictator and his military junta are particularly keen on the law. They have used it extensively in their self-initiated battles against Shinawatras, red shirts, the Peau Thai Party, students, local communities, republicans, and anyone else conceived of as an enemy or potential threat.

This is why The Nation reports that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “stressed that justice is a crucial part of human rights protection, saying that everyone must go through the process equally and face the consequences if they are found guilty of wrongdoing, regardless of their social status.”

On the face of it, none of this would seem to apply to General Prayuth and his military dictatorship or their allies. After all, the junta seized state power in an illegal coup, it has abused human rights and it has lasciviously bathed itself and its allies in rule by decree, martial law, impunity and double standards.

A Bangkok Post picture

But, then, one must remember that all the junta members and supporters think the law is a tool for repression and order that falls to those who control the state.

But even then, when The Dictator states that his “government [he means the junta] pays attention to human rights protection and instructs investigations into allegations concerning the issue,” he’s lying. In fact, his regime has repeatedly affirmed that it has little understanding of human rights.

Clearly, however, when General Prayuth, who also commanded troops that gunned down dozens of civilians in 2010, spoke of law and justice, he was thinking of those now declared “fugitives” – Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.

He did, however, get closer to truth when he acknowledged that human rights “allegations need to be delicately handled when it comes to the performance of state officials.” What he means is that impunity is the rule and that state officials only get into trouble when their actions don’t help their bosses or when they forget to pass on required loot.

On double standards, the general mischievously declared:

It’s not that the poor commit wrongdoings and they will definitely go to jail, while the rich will not. The fact is that the rich have often fled the scene, and that’s why we see that they don’t go to jail. It’s not a problem with the justice system…. The law is not there to bully anyone. If one commits wrongdoings, he or she must go through it and fight for justice….

Prayuth’s regime has shown that this is untrue. Yes, some of the rich do flee, but sometimes that suits the regime and sometimes it suits the rich. But it is the double standards that are most evident. Slow investigations, withheld evidence, cover-ups, and so on. And, significantly, the regime uses (and abuses) the law to bully and silence opponents. It also uses it to benefit itself and its allies.

Thailand’s justice system was wobbly before the coup. Since the coup it has become an injustice system.





Supreme Court confirms double standards

31 08 2017

The only standards promoted by Thailand judiciary are double standards. This has been demonstrated time and again, and most especially since the illegal 2014 military coup. (Illegal because it was unconstitutional, but ruled legal by the courts.)

Who was that who stated this?

There is no tyranny more cruel than that which is perpetrated under color of the laws and in the name of justice—when, so to speak, one is drawn down and drowned by means of the very plank which should have borne him up and saved his life.

Montesquieu was writing in the 18th century and of martial Rome, but his view matches Thailand, where a kid can be murdered by the Army and it doesn’t get to court and that Army can operate on foreign soil and enforce the disappearance of a regime enemy, presumably murdered. It is a country where even mild or hinted criticism of the regime or The Dictator warrants a sedition charge. It is a regime where opposition politicians get decades in jail for “malfeasance” where The Dictator is protected by a “law” that allows him to do anything he wants with no fear of the law.

Shooting red shirts

We could go on and on but to the point of this post. Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have been, in the words of Prachatai, “whitewashed” on their role in ordering two violent military crackdowns on red shirts in 2010, leaving around a hundred people dead and thousands injured.

We at PPT are not at all surprised by this. After all, all the Supreme Court was doing was confirming the double standards established by the lower courts and the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

As if to confirm how warped Thailand’s judiciary has become, on 9 June 2017, the very same Supreme Court “accepted a lawsuit against Tharit Pengdit, former director-general of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), and three other persons” for bringing murder charges against the ruling elite’s stooges.

An AP photo from the Telegraph: Protesters surround the coffins used for the bodies of red shirts killed in clashes with troops.





Updated: Loving and loathing the military dictatorship

30 08 2017

Yingluck Shinawatra has gone missing but politics is seeing some new life. Perhaps the two are related.

Anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban worked hard to get a military coup from 2011 to 2014. He claims he and The (now) Dictator worked together for some time planning the coup. He’s said several times how much he loves the military and its coup-making.

In the wake of Yingluck’s no-show and the criticism of The Dictator and the regime for, as consensus seems to have it, abetting her “flight,” Suthep has come out in support. He seems to think the Puea Thai Party has had it, and that the way “forward” is more dictatorship.

Caesar, the Prefect of the Morals, and Crassus?

Suthep declared his ongoing love of General Prayuth Chan-ocha. He reckons The Dictator is “loyal to the monarchy, has integrity and the courage to make decisions … to solve problems facing the country.”

On the other side, Thaksin Shinawatra “broke his long silence on Wednesday, with a single sentence…”. He tweeted:

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of the justice…”.

Thaksin was citing Charles de Montesquieu. The point is clear.

Following his own exile, Thaksin linked with the nascent red shirts and saw the rise of a political movement to oppose the anti-democrats. Is he hinting at that?

For those interested, this is a longer version, from Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans, written in 1734:

There is no tyranny more cruel than that which is perpetrated under color of the laws and in the name of justice—when, so to speak, one is drawn down and drowned by means of the very plank which should have borne him up and saved his life.

And, as it has never happened that a tyrant has lacked instruments for the execution of his tyranny, Tiberius never failed to find judges who were ready to condemn all whom he might suspect.

Indeed, Twitter is just a bit too short to make broader political points. And there’s more in the original:

After Caesar had vanquished the party of the republic, both the friends and the enemies which he had in the senate concurred equally in removing all the limitations which the laws interposed against his power, and in conferring excessive honors upon him. The former sought to please him, the latter to render him odious. Dion tells us that some went so far as to propose that he should be permitted to have access to all women at his pleasure. The result of this obsequiousness was that Caesar had no suspicion of the senate, and that he came to be assassinated in its presence; and a further result was, that in the succeeding reigns there was no excess of flattery which was without precedent, and which might revolt the minds of men.

Update: We had quite a bit of unclear writing in this, so we have edited.