Thailand and Myanmar’s generals

25 02 2021

Oren Samet has a useful article at The Diplomat. “The Myanmar Public Fights Not to End Up Like Thailand” makes some points that need attention. It begins:

A week after overthrowing Myanmar’s elected civilian government on February 1, coup leader [Gen] Min Aung Hlaing sent a letter to Thai Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha asking – with no hint of irony – for his help in supporting “democracy” in Myanmar. The letter was revealing not for what it said, but for who it was addressed to. Prayut is, himself, a former general, who overthrew Thailand’s elected government in 2014 and has been in charge ever since. When it comes to coups, Thailand’s generals know what they’re doing.

As we know, and despite initial silence and opacity, in recent days, representative’s of Myanmar’s military junta have been meeting with Thai counterparts – most of whom were a part or associated with Thailand’s own military junta in 2014-19.

As far as we know, this is the first overseas visit by a Myanmar government representative since its hugely popular and elected government was thrown out by the coup.

According to Samet, the Myanmar generals are following a Thai script:

When Min Aung Hlaing made his first televised statement since taking power, he repeatedly emphasized that government policies would remain unchanged and welcomed continued foreign investment. Despite the disastrous consequences of previous military takeovers in Myanmar, he promised that this coup would be different.

He might as well have said, “this time we’re doing it Thai style.”

Samet rightly points out that Gen Min Aung Hlaing:

has close connections to the Thai military. He received multiple high-level honors from the Thai authorities, even after orchestrating the Rohingya genocide in 2017. Prem Tinsulanonda, a previous Thai general turned prime minister, considered Min Aung Hlaing his “adopted son.”

Thailand’s royalist military and the interfering Gen Prem has, from the ashes, helped in bringing authoritarianism back to Myanmar.

But, as the world knows, the Myanmar generals are facing stiff opposition. This is not, as Samet claims, being unable to follow the Thai example, but different circumstances. In 2014, the Thai generals didn’t face widespread opposition because they had eliminated, through repression and jailings, the red shirt opposition and its leaders. At the same time, like Thailand’s yellow shirts who hated Thaksin Shinawatra, in Myanmar, several public intellectuals with civil society links have gone over to the generals and express an intense hatred of Aung San Suu Kyi and her alleged arrogance.

The other thing that the Thai military might have shown their buddies across the border is that it is possible to wait out civil opposition while picking off some of that oppositions leadership. The men with guns know that peaceful protest can often be waited out.





112 bullies

19 02 2021

Reuters reports that one of the regime’s clown princes, turncoat red shirt, and highly rewarded political opportunist, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and lese majeste bully, Suporn Atthawong, has “reported Amarat Chokepamitkul from the Move Forward Party to the cybercrime police on suspicion of breaking the [lese majeste] law with her Facebook posts.”

Ratting out those the regime considers political opponents and branding them with lese majeste accusations seems to be the dullard Suporn’s main work. We wonder if, like a gig worker, he gets paid per charge?

112 bully-in-chief Suporn claimed Amarat was “posting offensive things and we have found evidence that this lawmaker is involved with other 112 offenders by providing funding and joining demonstrations…. We also found many posts related to the monarchy or mocking the king…”.

In response, Amarat “told reporters she was not worried about the complaint.” She said: “I am doing my duty as a member of the opposition, and I want the prime minister to answer the accusations inside parliament rather than resorting to this tactic…”.

It is no coincidence that the allegation against Amarat following her speech in parliament that “accused {Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha] of abusing his power…”.

 





Bogus 112 case dropped

30 01 2021

A couple of days ago, Prachatai’s Facebook page reported that on 28 January 2021, the Nonthaburi Provincial Court dismiss a lese majeste charge against Nattathida “Waen” Meewangpla.

Her case was always a fake one, concocted by the military to cover up its murder of red shirts.

When she was arrested, Nattathida was a 36 year-old volunteer nurse, accused by the military junta of terrorism and lese majeste.

She was essentially abducted by the military some time in mid-March 2015 and was held incommunicado for six days. She was then charged with “terrorism,” and was later accused of lese majeste.

Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) pressed the charges and said Nattathida copied a text that insulted the monarchy from one chat room and posted it in two other chat groups.

This charge was simply meant to get her jailed as quickly as possible. Her particular threat to the regime was that she is a witness to the murder of six individual at Wat Pathum Wanaram Temple by soldiers during the crackdown on red shirts on 19 May 2010.

The court dismissed her 112 charge for lack of evidence. It said the only evidence provided “was a picture of the messages, and the person who was talking to Natthathida does not know her.”

As had been the case with all of her court appearances, the court met in secret: “The Court did not let anyone into the room when the ruling was read but Natthathida, claiming that it is a Covid-19 prevention measure.”





Army impunity

24 01 2021

The impunity enjoyed by officials has a long history in Thailand but it is undeniable that it has expanded and deepened since the the 2006 military coup. Under the current regime there is essentially zero accountability for officials. Sure, there are occasional “crackdowns” and the odd prosecution, but the rule that officials can get away with stuff – even murder – holds.

In a Bangkok Post editorial, questions are raised about the Royal Thai Army, which celebrated “its strength and solidarity” on Armed Forces Day.

The editorial asks the public to “keep in mind that military officials still owe a few explanations on its pledge to reform, following several cases, including the Korat mass shooting last year that left a huge stain on its image.”

Clipped from Khaosod

It points out that on 8-9 February 2020, a disgruntled soldier “shot and killed 29 innocent people and wounded 57 others in Nakhon Ratchasima…”. The killer’s problem was “a property dispute” with “the soldier’s senior officer and his mother-in-law…”. In other words, “the army’s side dealings [were]… the root cause.” It adds that “analysts” say that “some army officers enter into private business dealings — and it’s an open secret.”

A few days later, “then army chief Apirat Kongsompong promised to investigate the problem…”. In fact, he did nothing to change the underlying situation. Indeed, this corruption continues. The Post mentions an alleged “illegal allocation of over 70,000 rai of forest land in Nakhon Ratchasima for a real estate project involving senior army officers.”

Yes, the very same province as the mass shooting. The Post adds that there “have been no reports of an investigation, let alone progress and punishment of culprits.”

The Post then recalls the unexplained death of a military conscript – there’s been more than one case – and asks: “How can the RTA restore public trust when it is entrenched in scandals? Why should the public trust a force of armed men who can barely be transparent in their affairs?”

How many times have we heard such pleading. In fact, it is as many times as reform has been rejected by the military as the Army maintains it impunity and its control.

We should note that the Post editorial mistakenly states that the Korat shooting “is considered the deadliest mass shooting in the kingdom’s history.” This mistake reflects some big omissions.

The biggest is the murder of almost a hundred red shirts and bystanders in April and May 2010. Who has been held accountable? No one from the Army.

Who killed protesters in 1992? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered civilian protesters on 14 October 1973? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

Who murdered people at Kru Se in 2004 and Tak Bai the same year? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

What about the enforced disappearances of activists and unexplained murder of civilians like Chaiyapoom Pasae? Who was held accountable? No one from the Army or police.

The list could go on and on and on.





Updated: Jatuporn’s meltdown

13 01 2021

One of the not very well hidden tasks of the regime, sometimes supported by the mainstream media, has been to nitpick at the protest movement and exacerbate divisions and differences.

That follows a tested junta tactic of trying to divide and conquer former opponents in Puea Thai and among red shirts. This involved buying off red shirt leaders like the detestable Suporn Atthawong, who has been rewarded with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions. Those turncoats have assisted the military junta to transform into the current post-junta regime.

A more activist Jatuporn

Over the past couple of months we have watched United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, leader Jatuporn Promphan say some odd things and, finally, have a meltdown. His story is told by a seemingly gleeful Thai PBS.

Jatuporn’s role as a red shirt protest leader resulted in numerous criminal charges and several arrests, and he eventually served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts. Jatuporn’s defamation was to call Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

He was also seen court orders for 100 million baht “in civil rulings stemming from riots and arson attacks by red-shirt protesters.” We won’t go back over the details of these false charges. In addition, he faces charges of “terrorism, illegal phone-tapping, and provoking public disorder, as well as other libel offences.”

Many activists looked differently at Jatuporn when, in July 2020, he “warned student activists not to cross a line, by infringing upon the [m]onarchy…”.  Some took this as a warning that the students should be wary of yet another murderous military attack on protesters. Others, however, wondered why Jatuporn appeared to be defending the monarchy. Many red shirts who joined with the student demonstrators calling for monarchy reform were stunned by Jatuporn’s statements.

In September 2020, his commentary was taken up in an op-ed by the notorious anti-democrat journalist Tulsathit Taptim who used Jatuporn’s “advice” to demonstrators to call for them to back down. Referring to campaigns against royalists, it was stated:

According to Jatuporn, it is all right for dictators to seek to destroy or suppress opposite or different opinions because it’s what they do. But it’s not democratic, he says, if minority or unpopular opinions are condemned, insulted or forced to undergo changes.

Oddly, in 2010 and during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it was Jatuporn who was accused by yellow shirts of supporting “majoritarianism” – in this case, supporting an elected government.

Two further outbursts by Jatuporn suggest that he has had a political meltdown. He has seen increasing opposition from former comrades, with accusations that he is a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.”

Staggeringly, Jatuporn has called for the UDD “to disband and pass the baton on to the young-generation protesters now battling for democracy. That push drew another barrage of criticism – this time that he was betraying fellow red shirts.” Some wondered aloud about Jatuporn’s motives and asked why, in 2014, the red shirts went off stage with a whimper. Was Jatuporn complicit in demobilizing red shirts? Some disgruntled observers suggested that Jatuporn’s paymaster had changed.

Then, he drew more criticism when he campaigned for the re-election of Chiang Mai’s provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chief, Boonlert Buranupakorn, himself considered a turncoat. Boonlert lost to a Puea Thai candidate who also had Thaksin Shinawatra’s support. Even other red shirt leaders spoke out against Jatuporn.

Just a few days ago, Jatuporn’s meltdown and slide to the other side was illustrated when he filed “a police complaint against some 200 netizens he accused of posting false information and defamatory abuse against him” during the [PAO] election campaign.”

Jatuporn said the “online attacks part of a concerted attempt to destroy his reputation,” something he seems to be doing for himself. Sounding like the regime’s nastiest of lying, cheating politicans, he vowed “many hundred more cases.” He seems to be taking a leaf out of Thammanat Prompao’s playbook.

We can understand that all those legal cases and the threat of more jail must weigh heavily, but it does seem that Jatuporn is doing the regime’s work.

Update: Khaosod has more on the UDD. It concludes with comments by red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich, saying “he would oppose any attempt to dissolve the UDD.” He correctly points out that “the large number of Redshirt protesters at anti-government rallies in 2020 prove that the movement is still a force to reckon with, and what the UDD needs is a new leadership with new strategies.” He adds: “Redshirts are against the dissolution of the UDD,” he said, citing an informal online survey that he conducted. “

As for Jatuporn, Anurak states: “I don’t want to use the word fired, but I’d like to ask him to leave.”





Land of (no) compromise II

17 12 2020

No compromise in the “land of compromise.”

If anyone wanted to stymie “reconciliation” they would appoint those least likely to reconcile with anyone else. And, according to the Bangkok Post, that’s exactly what the regime has done.

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government “has named Suporn Atthawong and Terdpong Chaiyanant as its representatives on the proposed national reconciliation panel.”

Suporn is vice minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, appointed as a turncoat red shirt who worked to entice notheastern politicians away from Thaksin Shinawatra and over to the regime’s Palang Pracharath Party. Terdpong is a Democrat Party MP who was among their anti-red shirt partisans.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan explained their appointments, saying: “They know what they should do.” The regime’s bidding and nothing at all to do with “reconciliation.”

The Bangkok Post also reports that there can be no slack for Thaksin. Serial complainer and yellow shirt Srisuwan Janya has asked the regime’s pliant Election Commission (EC) to consider dissolving the Puea Thai Party for Thaksin’s “influence.”

All this because Thaksin supported one candidate in local elections.

It is a beat-up by Srisuwan, but the EC is such a bunch of dullards that, if ordered, they will probably take the case to the Constitutional Court.





Memes, communism, and a republic

8 12 2020

Thailand’s social media and its mainstream media is awash with hysterical commentary about ideas, logos, and republicanism. We will present some examples.

At the usually sober Khaosod, Pravit Rojanaphruk is worried about what he thinks are “drastic ideas.” One such idea comes from the mad monarchist

Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of royalist Thai Phakdee group, made a counter move. The former veteran politician proposed that absolute power be returned to the king, “temporarily.”

“Isn’t it time for royal power to be returned temporarily in order to design a new political system free from capitalist-politicians for the benefit of the people and for real democracy?” Warong posted on his Facebook page.

In fact, though, Pravit spends most of his op-ed concentrating on “Free Youth, a key group within the monarchy-reform protest movement, [that recently] sent out a message to its followers on social media urging them to discuss the idea of a republic.”

Pravit thinks that both sides are getting dangerous:

It’s clear that the majority of the Thai people, over 60 million, have not expressed their views on the on-going political stalemate.

It’s time for them to speak and act. Continued silence would be tantamount to forfeiting their role as citizens in determining the future course of Thai society. If the silent majority do not speak or act soon, there may be no other options but to allow demagogues of different political stripes to dominate and plunge Thailand deeper towards conflicts and confrontations.

In fact, conflict is normal in most societies, and in Thailand it is mostly conservatives who bay for “stability,” usually not long after slaughtering those calling for change and reform. And, neither Warong’s monarchical rule nor the call for a republic are new. They have been regularly heard in Thailand over several decades. But we do agree that one of the reasons these ideas have resurfaced now is because of the political stalemate, bred by the refusal of the regime to countenance reform. We might also point out that when the silent majority has expressed its preferences in recent years – say, in elections that were not rigged – their preferences have been ignored by those with tanks.

Republicanism has been a topic for a considerable time. Academic Patrick Jory states: “republicanism is deeply ingrained in Thailand’s political tradition. In fact, Thailand has one of the oldest republican traditions in Asia.” Republicanism was around under the now dead king as well. In the late 1980s Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was disliked in the palace and was believed to be a republican for his statements about Thailand’s need of a “revolutionary council” (sapha patiwat) in 1987.

For PPT, republicanism has been regularly mentioned in our posts from almost the time we began in early 2009. Often this was in the context of royalists and military-backed regimes accusing Thaksin Shinawatra of republicanism. This was a theme during the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, with Suthep Thaugsuban often banging this drum. Back in February 2009, it was said that “Bangkok swirls with rumours of republican plots.” There was the Finland Plot and, later, the Dubai Plot.

One statement of plotting and republicanism came from royalist scholar and ideologue, the now deceased Chai-Anan Samudavanija. Presciently, he worried in 2009 that if the republicans expanded, the monarchists have little in their arsenal [army, tanks, guns, prisons, judiciary, lese majeste??] with which to counter-attack. He considered the monarchists’ arguments as only holding sway with the older generation, while the under 30s seem uninterested in nation and monarchy. He seemed to think the regime was a house of cards.

There was considerable debate about republicanism in Thailand in 2009. Nor should we forget that, in 2010, there was a spurt in republican feeling, a point obliquely made by Pravit back then. Republicans have cycled through PPT posts: Ji Ungpakorn and Rose Amornpat are examples. And no one can forget the idea of the Republic of Lanna.

Perhaps ideologues like Veera Prateepchaikul, a former Editor of the Bangkok Post, could recall some of this long and important debate and conflict. No doubt that his “it can never happen” was also a refrain heard around Prajadhipok’s palace (or maybe they were a little smarter) and in Tsarist Russia.

Meanwhile, at the Thai Enquirer (and across social media) there’s a collective pile-on to point out how silly/dangerous/childish/unsophisticated the the pro-democracy Free Youth were to come up with a new logo that uses a stylized R (sickle) and T (hammer) for Restart Thailand. Many of the armchair commentators, including local and foreign academics, suddenly become experts on protest strategy and many of them seem very agitated.

Fortunately, Prachatai has the equivalent of a calming medicine, showing how the young protesters have played with symbols, redefining, re-engineering and using irony and parody. We recall, too, that red shirts and other opponents of the military-monarchy regime are regularly accused of being communists – think of 1976 and that the current opposition, attacked as communists in 2019.

Put this together with threats and intimidation: lese majeste, intimidation, lese majeste, gross sexual assault and intimidation, lese majeste, and royalist intimidation and maybe, just maybe, you get a better picture of what’s going on.





Disarm the monarchy

30 11 2020

Anti-regime demonstrations are doing the rounds of institutions associated with the monarchy. Last evening it was the military’s turn.

The regime spent hours fortifying the 1st Infantry Division headquarter when the protesters diverted to the 11th Infantry Regiment, known as “the main force used in the dispersal of United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters in 2010.” The 11th Infantry Regiment base was also the site where the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime holed up during the red shirt protests and planned its attacks, coordinating with the military.

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010

It was also a place that held a “black site,” detained lese majeste prisoners, some of whom died in custody, acted beyond the law, and has an altogether unsavory reputation.

As far as we recall, a royal proclamation, dated 19 September 2019, moved command of Army’s 1st and 11th Infantry Regiments units to the king. The Bangkok Post reports that, today, the “205-rai area inside the barracks is a training centre for volunteers initiated by the King.”

Yesterday, it bulked up from a volunteer training center to military fortress, surrounded by rusted out buses, razor wire and thousands of riot police: “Rolls of barbed wire were laid in front of the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters, blocking the entrance and exit gates. Black plastic sheets were used to cover the unit’s name sign to prevent it from being vandalised with coloured paint.”

The speeches made by demonstrators were rousing and concluded with a declaration, read in Thai and then English. While the English is a little shaky the version we have from social media makes entirely reasonable demands for an unarmed monarchy.





Palace PR at full throttle I

13 11 2020

The palace public relations machinery has long had to “manage” Vajiralongkorn’s “problems.” His explosive “divorces,” his erratic behavior and , and the rumors of violence, illnesses, philandering and associations with crime. Generally, the PR exercises revolved around strategies that had “worked” for his father.

The explosion of dissatisfaction with Vajiralongkorn that has been seen recently, reflecting tension over his neo-feudal absolutism, his bahavior and his preference for living in Germany, has seen a new twist on palace propaganda. This involves a rebranding of Vajiralongkorn and the younger royal family members as celebrities. This might be called the Hello! strategy. Obviously, this follows the model of royals in some other countries.

As PPT has said previously, we think this new PR strategy reflects the influence of the royal family’s younger women, including Queen Suthida, Princesses Bajrakitiyabha and Sirivannavari, and some of the harem.

After rousing the raucous royalists in Bangkok, and getting good PR in Thailand (always expected and demanded) but also internationally, with that CNN interview contributing to an image of “compromise” and “popularity,” ignoring the king’s unsteadiness and giving him an instant free pass on all his previous black marks, the palace “influencers” have decided to have the king do “populist tours.”

Reuters reports that “Vajiralongkorn wrote messages of national unity and love on Tuesday during a visit to the northeast of the country two days after protesters sent him a letter demanding royal reforms that would curb his powers.”

In a PR stunt, the king wrote a message to the governor of Udon Thani province: “We all love and care for each other. Take care of the country, help each other protect our country with goodness for prosperity and protect Thainess…”. Going full-on celebrity on a “picture of himself and the queen … the king wrote”: “Love the nation, love the people, cherish Thainess, real happiness.” Another message stated: ““Thank you for all the love and support. We love and care for each other. We must take care of the country, and we must help each other protect it with virtue for it to prosper. Preserve the marvel of Thainess…”.

If the protests against the king have been unprecedented, so is the palace PR response, seeking to create a new image for the king. Previous efforts at this kind of image making have been undone by Vajiralongkorn’s inability to stick with the PR plan and messages.

As these reports of “good king” are being managed, there’s also been “bad king” reports. Hype (Malaysia) had this”

King Maha Vajiralongkorn was married to his third wife, Srirasmi Suwadee, in 2001, before divorcing her in 2014.

Since then, the ex-princess is currently under house-arrest and has decided to take on life as a nun.

Back in 2014, Srirasmi’s uncle, parents, sister and three brothers were convicted with several offences, including “lèse-majesté”, which is defamation to the monarchy. They were all sentenced to prison with different offences and Srirasmi got her royal title stripped of the same year.

As aforementioned, Srirasmi is under house arrest as she hasn’t been seen in public ever since she was forced to leave the royal house. As per China Press, Thai royal experts have exposed photos of the King’s third wife in white robes with her head shaved, as a sign of her nunhood, at her house in Ratchaburi province in central Thailand.

In the photos, she can be seen living a simple life of planting seeds and sweeping leaves in her backyard, despite previously living as a monarch. However, it might not be so simple for her as her eyes tell a different story.

According to SCMP, she was forced to leave her son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who is the next in line for the throne after the king. There are photos on the internet of Srirasmi’s last meeting with her son before she was forced to leave the palace.

We’re unsure of the exact reason behind her sadness but being under house-arrest while separated from your child can definitely drain one’s mental health.

But the PR/propaganda rattled on. In a Bangkok Post report it is stated that the king “has been told that many red-shirt villages that used to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are now sworn to uphold the monarchy.” Apparently, the person doing the telling was the queen: “They are from the red-shirt villages to protect the monarchy…” she said as she and the king were “mingling with supporters at Wing 23 of the air force in Udon Thani on Tuesday night.”

Of course, many millions of red shirts never considered Thaksin an enemy of the monarchy, but the queen seems to have taken this position. How does she know? For one thing, the yellow shirts constructed this narrative and clearly Suthida has imbibed the yellow shirt kool-aid. She’s had this view reinforced by the fawning betrayers of the red shirts, Anon Saennan and Suporn Atthawong, both of whom sold out to the rightists long ago.

The king appreciates the turncoats. The regime has rewarded Suporn with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions.

As the report states:

Mr Suporn was prosecuted for disrupting the Asean summit in Pattaya in April 2009, but the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship member evaded the charges because police could not find him before the case expired in April last year.

An earlier Post report adds further detail, stating that Suporn:

a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. His appointment to this political post is said to be a reward for his defection from Pheu Thai to the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party prior to the March 24 election.

We assume the regime and the military are pouring funds into the Suporn-Anon anti-red shirt campaign.





Beware of fascists

13 10 2020

With reports that the regime is mobilizing up to 30,000 police – previously it was 15,000 – while claiming that less than 10,000 protesters will attend, Thailand’s fascists are at work stoking hatred.

One of the regime’s hired turncoats, former red shirt and now Vice Minister Suporn Atthawong has been discouraging red shirts from participating. The real red shirt leaders are ignoring him, so he has ratcheted up his incitement of the ultra-royalists he now claims to love and support.

Suporn claims to have”learned that Monarchists will line the avenue [where protesters will be rallying], to welcome and express good wishes to the [k]ing, adding that some of them will help police to protect Government House from the protesters, who have threatened to lay siege to it.”

As Suporn now attends “intelligence” briefings, we can only presume that ISOC and the Army are encouraging and supporting fascist royalists to face off against protesters. Such incitement can easily descend into violence.

These are becoming dangerous times for peaceful protesters who must now be on the lookout for state violence, fascist ultra-royalist attacks and third hands.