1976 in the news

7 10 2021

The Bangkok Post reported on the memorial rally, but little more. On that memorial event it noted:

Little has changed in the 45 years since students and activists were massacred by the military and rightwing radicals at Thammasat University….

This point was made by speakers when activists and members of the victims’ families gathered on Wednesday at the memorial at Thammasat University….

The Thalufah group said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that they would never forget the events of Oct 6 1976, and said violent means were unacceptable nowdays.

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said students continued to fight for democracy 45 years later, with the country still divided with no political solution to the problem.

Despite the efforts of the state and especially the bureaucracy, military and monarchy, the events of 1976 have never been forgotten. The state’s success has been in preventing any meaningful investigation, covering up the events, and in providing impunity for the murderers who stalked the students at Thammasat and for several years after. Yet another effort is being made to rectify this, although the International Criminal Court is a high hurdle.

Kudos to Thai Examiner for its several reports on 6 October 1976. It did much better than most of the mainstream media. We are especially grateful for their interview with Sutham Saengprathum who was Secretary-General of the National Student Center of Thailand in 1976. As we recall it – correct us if our collective memory is faulty – Sutham was jailed as a political prisoner for a long period, and there was an international campaign for his release.

We especially like hearing from other students of the period as much of the “heavy lifting” on 1976 has been done in English by Thongchai Winichakul. See recent efforts here and here. Without other voices in English accounts, 1976 risks becoming Thongchai’s 1976. His major contribution is Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok, available from Library Genesis.

 





2006 military coup

19 09 2021

The army’s real task: coups and repression

It’s the anniversary of the 2006 coup, the event that cast Thailand into a political crisis that continues until today.

The Bangkok Post felt it appropriate to interview Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the leader of the coup that gave Thailand the junta that named itself the Council for Democratic Reform under Democracy with the King as Head of State.

Sonthi was always dull with limited intellectual capacity. Some call him the coup “mastermind, but he could not have planned and conducted a military coup, but he was a useful tool for the military he commanded and for the palace.

He adds to this reputation as a dullard when he says: “if you ask me if it is a success or a failure … people were in a joyful mood and gave flowers to soldiers…”.

Sonthi and his shadows. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

To recall yet another disastrous military intervention, we went back to an academic article that summarized the outcome of the coup in 2008, and which is free to download. Here’s its assessment:

It is clear that a large proportion of the Bangkok-based middle class, the royalist elite, a swathe of political activists, some business people and large numbers in the south believed that the military conducted a ‘‘good coup’’ to rid the country of the Thaksin government and to rescue them from authoritarianism. Representative of such thinking was the renowned liberal and former liberal Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan (2006): ‘‘The Sep 19, 2006 coup in Thailand was necessary – a corrective measure – in that it saved the country from the clutches of authoritarianism.’’

Undoubtedly, for millions more, largely from the north and north-east, this was a ‘‘bad coup,’’ for it removed from office the one government that had largely delivered on its electoral promises and provided them with a political voice….

The coup also led to a reprise of highly conservative and nationalist discourses regarding the nature of Thai democracy, of national forms of capitalism, and to new state-led education campaigns teaching people the ‘‘proper’’ exercise of citizenship. It also raised the volume of royalist propaganda to a level not seen since the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932.

Of course, things have become a lot worse, Following the military’s murder of scores of red shirts in 2010, the 2014 coup sought to roll back the political clock, rid the country of Thaksinism, cripple parliamentary representation, and make the monarchy paramount, using draconian lawfare. Thousands have been detained, threatened, jailed, beaten and disappeared. That’s the nature of Thailand’s military and its politics.





Wages and sin

17 08 2021

Suporn Atthawong was once a red shirt. He was once charged with lese majeste. But about the time that the junta was hoovering up possible allies in the northeast, his 112 case was dropped after Suporn gave his support to the junta party and was rewarded by being made an “assistant minister.” The wages of sin, treason, and grassing-up your former comrades. He also changed his name to Seksakol, apparently meant to whitewash his bad karma.

His “job” as turncoat, weasel, and snitch has been to bribe former allies across to the post-junta side and to run regime legal errands such as making complaints that lead to charges of lese majeste and more. He’s not a person with morals or scruples and presumably his chameleon qualities are not recent. Some on social media reckon he was a regime stooge when a red shirt.

Adding to his rubbish reputation, according to the Bangkok Post, “Seksakol” has run another legal errand for the military-backed regime, targeting red shirt “Nattawut Saikua over his role in Sunday’s car mob rallies.”

Weasel

The complaint he filed with the Crime Suppression Division “accused the red-shirt leader of violating the emergency decree, the communicable disease control law and Section 116, the provision for sedition.” It seems “sedition” is that “Nattawut had plotted to instigate unrest, noting that the red-shirt leader urged the anti-government protesters to join the rallies even though the recent demonstrations have been marred by violence.”

Seksakol said he would also “ask the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to examine Mr Nattawut’s financial transactions since 2010 because he was suspicious that the protests could be sponsored by people overseas.”

The claim is a repetition of deep yellow shirt social media accusations that Nattawut is in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra. It is also a claim that the yellow shirts directed at Seksakol when he was a red shirt. Now he’s in the pay of the authoritarian regime that is populated by those who murdered his (supposed) comrades in 2010.





Failure upon failure

2 08 2021

One of the things about a military and palace-backed regime is that, except in the most dire of circumstances, it tends only to get shaky when it loses the support of the upper crust. Is the regime led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha reaching that point? It should be as failure after failure piles up, while the regime concentrates on political repression rather than virus suppression.

As infection numbers look set to go over 20,000 a day in the official tally, the government stumbles along like a drunk without shoes. Just this weekend, it has extended the lockdown after earlier extending emergency powers. The problem for many is that these powers seem to do nothing to stem the virus but do seem to add to repression. In addition, the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed swell by the day. The regime seems to lack a plan for any other measures to mitigate the virus or to help those impacted.

But the failures and fumbles keep increasing. The botched vaccine rollout continues to suffer supply constraints – thanks in part to the failures at the royal Siam Bioscience. On the weekend, a “shortage in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines led to the weekend closure of 25 vaccination centres in Bangkok, while the “Mor Prom” app also cancelled all bookings scheduled for Friday and Saturday and has yet to resume offering new appointments.”

This horrid effort is made worse by corruption. Most recently, it is reported that “[a]t least 7,000 people have bought Covid-19 vaccination slots at Bang Sue Grand Station that were illegally acquired through a loophole in the the national vaccine recipient’s database…”. Forgive our cynicism, but the cops said several days ago that they had cracked the case, so should anyone be surprised if this isn’t a higher-ups scam? It seems 7,700 shots have been sold at 1000 baht each.

Despite the increased repression, nationwide protests were held on the weekend, mainly involving people in cars and on motorcycles. On protester spoke for many:

“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai”, for fear of government repercussions.

“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”

Red shirts back. From Thai PBS

According to Thai PBS, the “car mob” rally saw:

the gathering together of well-known leaders of anti-government and anti-establishment groups, such as Nattawut Saikua, former secretary-general of the now defunct United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red-Shirt movement, Ratsadon leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Anon Nampa, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa, aka Pai Daodin of the “Thalu Fah” group, Sombat Boon-ngarmanong of Sombat Tour and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the We Volunteer (Wevo) guards.

Nattawut said “the Red-Shirt movement is back in business and demanding the ouster of the prime minister.”

What will the powers-that-be do as the movement gains support as the government flails in failure?





Protesting on 24 June

22 06 2021

cropped-1932-plaqueThe regime’s police are warning protesters that they should not rally on 24 June. They are relying on the Emergency Decree but will also be looking to arrest rally leaders for lese majeste and sedition.

Protest groups are lining up to rally on the day that marks the 1932 revolution.

The New Generation of Democratic People of Nonthaburi is planning to demonstrate at the Democracy Monument at about 11am, demanding that the government resign. Another group – Samakkhi Prachachon – is led by red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, which plans to rally at Government House. A third group is planning to demonstrate at the October 14 Memorial at about 1pm. A fourth group – Prachachon Khon Thai – led by yellow shirt Nittithon Lamlua, also plans to rally in front of Government House at about noon. The latter group is calling for Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to stand down.

In warning protesters, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai said:

Those taking part in the protests should avoid gathering in large numbers. They might benefit from the political protests but the country as a whole will suffer from their action.

They should consider staging the rallies after the pandemic has subsided….

We doubt they would let anyone protest then, either.

Interestingly, Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman, has revealed “that since July 2020 a total of 150 people have been arrested on charges in connection with political rallies. They included people who instigated illegal gatherings over social media.”





Remember the Battle for Bangkok

19 05 2021

19 and 20 May 2010 saw the military complete its violent extinguishing of the red shirt rebellion. While many of the links are dead, we still recommend that readers remind themselves of these events at our page of links from the period.

No politician, official or soldier has been held responsible for the murder of red shirts.

Snipers

A statue of Buddha and a torn Thai national flag remain in front of Bangkok's Central World shopping mall, as it burns





All about repression

8 04 2021

Yesterday, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that “[a]n adviser to the House Committee on Law …[had] filed a complaint with police against protest leader Jatuporn Prompan for allegedly violating the lese majeste law.”

The culprit is Sonthiya Sawasdee, who “asked police at Chana Songkhram station to look into Mr Jatuporn’s speech that he delivered on Sunday at the Santiporn Park … — where he held a mass protest for the Sammakhi Prachachon Pheu Prathet Thai (People’s Unity for Thailand) — to see if it violated the lese majeste law.”

The protest was in fact held to demand the resignation of coup leader and Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, and as far as we could tell, tried to avoid commentary on the monarchy.

Still, royalist “protector” and regime lackey Sonthiya said “he believed Mr Jatuporn’s speech violated the lese majeste law but added that it was up to the police to decide whether or not to press charges against him.” Quite oddly and in the face of all evidence, Sonthiya claimed “[t]he authorities enforced the lese majeste law out of good intentions to create peace in the country…”.

In fact, we all know that the use of 112 is as a tool of political repression.

That repression is the regime’s main task is is illustrated by another Bangkok Post today which has police summoning 36 people “involved in Sunday’s protest … to answer a slew of charges that could also include lese majeste.” The report states that:112

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, who organised the mass gathering on behalf of the “Thai Mai Thon (Impatient Thais)” group and Adul Khiewboriboon, leader of the Samakkhi Prachachon group, will be among 14 people summoned to meet investigators and answer charges next Thursday, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau said on Wednesday.

The other 14 people will be summoned to answer charges the following day, he said.

Twelve other people who had a role in the rally at Santiporn Park that spilled over into Monday were also found to have violated several laws and will soon be summoned to face charges as well, he said.

Pol Maj Gen Piya “reiterated that all public gatherings are now considered unlawful under the emergency decree and the disease control law, being implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19.”

This is an increasingly bizarre claim, but one that’s been made several times. In fact, it is ministers slipping off to bars for a bit of sexual stimulation and gratification is demonstrably a more serious virus threat, as is poor policy. and bizarre behavior.

In any case this emergency decree has mainly been used as another tool for political repression.

Police confirmed that they are “examining a recording of a speech Mr Jatuporn delivered at Sunday’s gathering to determine whether comments made violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code…”.

By our rough calculations, there are currently about 80 active lese majeste cases and another 30-40 “under investigation.”





Updated: Jatuporn, Nattawut and the protests

4 04 2021

Today, the recently erratic official red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan is tentatively rallying his supporters to oppose Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. This is surprising and somewhat difficult to understand.

Part of the reason why this is a surprise is that, as we observed back in January, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn had been saying some odd political things and seemed to have had a political meltdown, as enthusiastically reported by Thai PBS. Part of the meltdown involved a dispute with Thaksin Shinawatra over local elections.

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

As everyone knows, Jatuporn has a long pedigree as a political activist dating back to the 1992 uprising against another military power grab. For his leadership of red shirts, he had faced numerous criminal charges and several arrests and 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 in 2010. Jatuporn’s defamation was to aptly label Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

Despite his history of political activism, his recent outbursts saw Jatuporn labeled a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.” There was muffled cheering from royalists when Jatuporn suggested that the UDD be disbanded and that the student protesters should refrain from calling for reform to the monarchy.

All of that had observers scratching their heads when Jatuporn urged the public to join a political forum at Santiporn Park to “kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut’s prolonged stay in power.”

According to Jatuporn, “the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims,” and he hopes it leads to a sustained campaign against Gen Prayuth. He even called on former political opponents – yellow shirts – to join if they opposed Gen Prayuth.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn “is proposing to bring Prayut down as well as write a ‘people’s constitution’.” He is cited:

Jatuporn blames the prime minister for the current aggressive deployment of the kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law against activists, which just worsens the political crisis. He reiterated that this is all the more reason why Prayut must go.

To avoid more violence and casualties, as seen in recent demonstrations, Jatuporn said that either Prayut must step down or the coalition parties must withdraw from the government.

Jatuporn says that his “new group of political activists is called Samakee Prachachon, which literally translates as ‘the people united’, to support an end to the current divide and rule strategy, wherein the Prayut regime exploits political division to hang on to political power.”

Today’s event has led to much speculation.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn is responding “to the call, by Adul Khieuboriboon, leader of the relatives of the victims of the ‘Black May’ event in 1992, for mass protests.”

On the right, there have been mixed responses. Some thought that an anti-regime movement that did not attack the monarchy might have political traction, whereas other rightists thought that Jatuporn remained Thaksin’s puppet.

One of the mouthpieces of the anti-Thaksinistas, former ideologue at The Nation and now writing op-eds for Thai PBS, Tulsathit Taptim, describes Jatuporn “ unpredictable” and asks: “Who is Jatuporn working for?” He promotes the idea that Jatuporn “has patched things up with Thaksin…” and that Thaksin wants to move now to prevent the regime further embedding itself through the (rigged) election processes:

The Thaksin-Jatuporn theory means Prayut will face a two-pronged attack. The current youngster-led campaign will go on, dealing with all kinds of sensitive subjects such as Article 112. Jatuporn’s army, whose size remains to be seen, will deal with the prime minister directly and push for relatively less sensitive constitutional changes like the origin and powers of the Senate. One of rare positives for Prayut in this case is that a Thaksin-Jatuporn combination would keep the Democrats more firmly in the fold.

Thaksin’s name will return to the center stage, according to this popular theory….

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protester leaders told Thai Enquirer that while “the student-led movement have not yet to discussed whether or not it would join a rally called by Jatuporn,” ousting Gen Prayuth was also one of the movement’s goals. However, the students said there “should be no division [between the groups]…”.

In other words, the students insisted the attention to the monarchy to remain. Benjar Apun, a protest leader from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said:

We will not interfere with what they are doing…but our goals are aligned, with or without the demand to reform the institution….

However, the UFTD will continue to demand for the reformation of the royal institution and Jatuporn’s movement also do not have the right to interfere with this demand….

She said her group would consider joining the rally but would never drop their demands to reform the institution [monarchy].

In line with that, it is interesting to observe that Nattawut Saikua, another UDD leader, just out of jail and just this week off electronic tagging, said that he “had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn…”.

Jatuporn-nattawutt

Nattawut and Jatuporn in red shirt days

However, on Tuesday, he called on the “government to release pro-democracy protesters from jail and seek a peaceful resolution to the political conflict.” He then went on to affirm that “sovereign power in the country belonged to the people as everyone is equal.”

He noted that he had been charged, arrested and jailed several times, saying: “I have no regrets over the path I chose. I have been sentenced to jail three times, but I can handle it if I have to face such punishment again.”

Nattawut reaffirmed his support for the pro-democracy protesters, saying:

The country can’t move forward if the new generation is still in jail, so the government should talk with the [young protesters] to seek a peaceful solution for the country….

These two red shirt leaders might have different aims, but the thrust of their current words and activity may further promote political struggle.

Update: Few of the mainstream media reported on the rally last night – perhaps it finished too late for stories to be filed? That said, the rally was livestreamed by various outlets, including Voice TV. Various reports were of a few hundred to 3,000 attending. Based on the broadcast PPT saw, it was very much a red shirt crowd and certainly much grey hair was evident.

Thai Enquirer did editorialize:

Jatuporn’s position also means that he is estrange politically. Having moved way from the Pheu Thai Party, Jatuporn has no ready allies in parliament. Move Forward, Palang Pracharat, Bhumjai Thai all have reason to not engage with the former red shirt leader. Ironically the party most closely aligned to his views might be the Democrat Party, the very party he once took to the streets to try to overthrow.

It is unclear how much traction this new movement will gain in the coming weeks and months or whether it will at all.

But what is clear is that if Jatuporn wants to create a stir and regain the support he once had, he is going to have his work cut out for him.





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…”.

 








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