And now lese majeste

27 03 2017

One of the things we should have predicted about the “weapons seizure” said to involve junta critic and renegade red shirt Wuthipong Kachathamakul or Ko Tee was further lese majeste charges. We should have predicted this, but as Ko Tee already faces a charge, we became negligent of the junta’s modus operandi when dealing with such cases. After all, the dictators have claimed a “republican plot.”

Prachatai reports that the junta has “accused one of the nine people arrested over the alleged plot to assassinate the junta leader of lèse majesté over Line messages.” The report states:

On 24 March 2017, Maj Gen Wicharn Jodtaeng and Col Burin Thongprapai, legal officer of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) took nine people accused of involvement in the alleged plot to assassinate Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Bangkok….

Most of them, who are anti-establishment red shirts, are accused of terrorism and possessing unauthorised or illegal weapons, and involving in a criminal association. The nine were detained for seven days at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok after their arrest before being handed to the police.

One of those arrested, Suriyasak Chatphithakkun, 49, is now “accused of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law and Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, a law against the importation of illegal content.”

According to the military snoops, Suriyasak is a “local red shirt leader from Surin Province…”. They claim that on “13 July 2016 allegedly wrote a message deemed defamatory to the Thai Monarchy in a Line chat group called ‘People Outside Coconut Shell’.”

He will go to a military court.





Updated: Suthep demands more dictatorship for longer

18 03 2017

The People’s Democratic Reform Foundation (PDRF) is the legalistic renaming of the anti-democratic People’s Democratic Reform Committee to allow it to keep operating under the junta it helped seize power in 2014.

It is still led by Democrat Party stalwart Suthep Thaugsuban, who “left” the party to arrange his anti-democratic actions opposing elections and the elected government led by Yingluck Shinawatra. Its bosses remain those anti-democratic elite and Democrat Party (former) members, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Akanat Promphan, Chitpas Kridakorn (Bhirombhakdi), Thaworn Senniam, Nattapol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Julsai and Sakoltee Patthippayakul.

It was this group that recently met with representatives of the military junta for “reconciliation talks.”

Readers might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) that, almost three years after he got the coup he wanted, Suthep “remained firm in its stance of ‘reform before election’, saying it did not mind a delay in the holding of the next election.”

Suthep and his clutch of anti-democrats also declared their full support for “absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter” and claimed it “was not a problem for reform. Suthep said it as an opportunity for the junta to effectively reform the country.” We know he supports the murderous military and we guess he would also support military courts, torture and all manner of draconian measures against his political opponents.

Of course, we also know that Suthep hates elections, not least because his party never won one in its own right, and repeatedly hung off the military and royal coattails.

Likewise, it is no surprise that this group of anti-democrats “admitted to being fans of junta head General Prayut Chan-o-cha and the desire to complete key reforms.” Why wouldn’t they be? It was Suthep who claimed that he had worked since 2010 with General Prayuth on ways and means for preventing a Thaksin Shinawatra-aligned government from getting elected and then, if it did, on bringing it down.

Suthep and his cronies met with the junta’s people for “four hours of reconciliation talks” after which Suthep declared or maybe even threatened: “We’ve made the point in the meeting that the masses expect the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta] and the government led by [Prayuth] to finish the reforms so the country can continue as a democracy with the monarch as the head of state.”

Suthep, who spent many years as a Democrat Party powerbroker and politician chortled about “politics” being a problem: “Politics has to serve the people. In the past, it was [dominated by] politicians and financiers as well as interest groups. It’s never about the people…”. Because his party was resoundingly defeated time and time again, we can understand his reluctance to accept the will of the people.

Remarkably, as if Thailand’s elite is still under threat, he grasps the monarchy shibboleth by the throat and thunders: “Most importantly, political parties must be run by people who support democratic rule with the monarch as the head of state, not a republic.”

That purported danger justifies for Suthep, and his gaggle of anti-democrat scions of the elite, continuing military dictatorship. He reckons “the people” don’t want an election any time soon.

If the message wasn’t clear, Suthep stated: “The PDRF has no concerns over the NCPO staying in power so long as it works to push reforms.” He added that his support for “the military and Gen Prayut … was never hidden…”.

Update: And just in case anyone was wondering, the Bangkok Post reports that Suthep declined “to say whether his group would accept the outcome of the next election in the event that the Pheu Thai Party wins the poll.”





It’s the republicans (or its a junta ruse)

4 02 2017

Yesterday we posted on the talk of assassination threats against The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator.

We thought that the claims, when put together with coup talk, might suggest that there was some dissatisfaction with the junta, perhaps even in the military.

Then there was talk of those nasty “politicians” causing ill-will towards the military dictatorship over its ham-fisted flood relief operations in the south. Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd says “[s]ome politicians in Songkhla are behind a move to stir up dissent against the government…”. In the last election – remember that? – each seat in the province was won by a Democrat Party politician. Could they be getting their gun sights re-calibrated from red shirts to military dictators?

It seems that it is neither military nor anti-democrats. Rather, The Dictator has let it be known that the culprits of “an assassination plot targeting Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon could originate from lese majeste suspects who are living abroad.”*

Of course! It’s the rascally republicans! Or, more correctly, it could be them.

Perhaps they did offer a threat for they have no capacity for much else. At the same time, perhaps the junta is framing them for a “crime” that does allow for extraditions from foreign jurisdictions.

They are that desperate and such a pathetic lurk is in line with other cowardly acts by the junta, most notably in targeting the children and families of its opponents.

The junta’s desperation to shut down every single critical reflection on the monarchy borders on a mental illness; it is a paranoia and an obsession.

_________

*One part of the latter report that struck us as laughable was the mention of (fraud) academic-for-sale Panitan Wattanayagorn, “adviser to Gen Prawit,” and quite capable of authoring a fake plot. In one part of the report this dolt is quoted as saying: “It [death threats] is not unusual and security agencies will respond to it…”. A couple of lines later, this: “He said assassination plots against government figures in Thailand are rare…”.





Thai republicanism

19 07 2016

In a post at New Mandala, academic Patrick Jory writes of the history if Thai republicanism. Much that he mentions will be known to those who study Thailand’s modern history. However, by bringing this into a story about republican roots, its development and links to the present, Jory provides a useful and revealing account.

Republicanism itself has a long history in political philosophy and its political usage and understanding has changed over time.





Future of monarchy in Thailand is uncertain

21 09 2015

That is part of a headline in the New York Times for an article by Thomas Fuller on the king’s declining health. The article will certainly anger the military junta and rabid royalists.

It will be especially galling as the article quotes persons identified by the junta as “anti-monarchy.”

The article begins:

After nearly seven decades on the throne, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 87, the keystone of Thailand’s identity and a major unifying force for the country, is in declining health. With increasing frequency, the palace has issued medical bulletins detailing his ailments, and in recent days his youngest daughter has led prayer sessions following a Buddhist rite normally used for terminally ill patients.Senile king

PPT doesn’t think the king unifies, unless this means a murderous alliance with the military, palace propaganda and rightist vigilantism.

That line of buying the propaganda and repression continues: “While reverence for the king was once the only thing that this fractured country could agree on, today the future of the Thai monarchy is uncertain.”

That’s also untrue, and there is plenty of history to demonstrate that there has always been opposition to the monarchy.

The article talks of the prince:

The king’s heir apparent, the jet-setting crown prince, has a reputation as a playboy and faces an uphill battle to win the trust and adoration his father has achieved. Many Thais hoped that Princess Sirindhorn, the crown prince’s sister, who has won hearts through her charitable causes and dealings with the poor, might succeed her father, but palace law bars women from the throne.

Happy togetherThe prince gave up trying to emulate his father years ago and left the space for his sister to fill. She’s been the center of the (almost) post-Bhumibol propaganda, and has benefited from limited scrutiny. The prince seems to not care for this limelight. Meanwhile, the military junta has been cleaning up for his succession, sorting out his personal inconveniences by jailing his former wife’s family and replacing her with a woman who will probably be queen.

The article has a link to six recent lese majeste cases, noting that the law restricts discussion of succession and the future of the monarchy. Even so, the article refers to a “growing underground republican movement…”. The article states that:

The republican movement was precipitated in part by the rise of Thaksin Shinawatra, a business tycoon turned populist politician whose influence and popularity in rural areas were seen as threats to the royal establishment and Bangkok’s urban elite.

It quotes Sulak Sivaraksa:

The current anti-monarchy movement is due to the very fact that the monarchy is now made into almighty god…. The more you make the monarchy sacred, the more it becomes unaccountable and something beyond common sense.

The strength of the movement is unknown, but as author Fuller states:

One way to assay the strength of the anti-monarchy movement might be by sizing up the military government’s efforts to counter it. The junta, which claims legitimacy from the king’s blessing, has positioned itself as the institution’s ultimate defender.

The ruling generals have been aggressive in jailing critics of the monarchy and this year alone are spending $540 million, more than the entire budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on a promotional campaign called “Worship, protect and uphold the monarchy.”

The campaign includes television commercials, seminars in schools and prisons, singing contests and competitions to write novels and make short films praising the king. The military also erected giant statues of past kings in the seaside town of Hua Hin, but said they were financed by private donations.

“This is not propaganda,” Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the junta, said several months after seizing power last year. The youth, he said, “must be educated on what the king has done.”

It is also a part of preparing for the succession. Former Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is quoted:

Mr. Kasit, the former foreign minister, said the bicycle tour was a “turning point” for the prince.

There are no more doubts inside the military establishment as to who will be the next monarch of Thailand,” Mr. Kasit said.

PPT thinks that’s accurate and it is one of the few times we have agreed with the erratic Kasit. And, it is in the military’s interests to maintain the critical link to the monarchy:

Rejecting the 1997 constitutionThe military’s backing of the prince, indeed its alliance with the monarchy, is seen as mutually beneficial. The king is the head of the Thai armed forces and must endorse all new governments and major appointments. Critics say the military and Bangkok establishment are leveraging the king’s power to bolster their own.

Fuller observes that the political divisions of recent years remain:

Military rule has papered over those [political] divisions, silencing critics and jailing former members of the government. But unifying the country remains the most pressing challenge for both the junta and the future king.

While the article concludes with advice from Thailand’s 5th and most absolute of its “modern” kings, which he didn’t necessarily follow himself, the real final word belongs to critic-in-exile Somsak Jeamteerasakul:

The situation of the Thai monarchy will not remain like this for many more years…. There are two options for the future. Either transform to a modern monarchy like in Europe or Japan or don’t change and become definitively demolished (a republic). There is no third choice.





Cry, scream, laugh

27 12 2014

Each time we read about a new lese majeste case, propaganda about monarchy and royalism or hear about official action on lese majeste, we are never sure whether to cry, scream or laugh.

Under the military dictatorship, royalist propaganda is reaching such levels that it feels like the whole country is in a monarchical straightjacket.

A few days ago, minor prince and Panadda Diskul, who was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office by the military dictatorship, lectured 72 participants in the 8th Junior Spokesman project on “The Importance of Monarchy in Thailand.”

The minister demanded “that all the youth should place importance on the monarch system in order to understand the history of Thailand, history of the nation, as well as creating social unity.” This propaganda has been constant under the military junta.

Sounding like a 20th century throwback, the princely Panadda blathered that the monarchy represented unity rather than nasty politicians: “Thai people should love the nation, and not allow any political factors to divide the population into separate groups.” His royalism is a moralism: “Thai people should be united, uphold good morals and do good things…”.

He added the required obsequiousness before The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, when he “urged the youth acknowledge the importance of the 12 core values and inherit the good mind of ‘Thainess’.”

This all seems pretty much par for the course under the military dictatorship. Boring but predictable. Yet it links with a far nastier royalism that is repressive and suffocating.

In a series of reports, including one at the National News Bureau trumpeting that the “lese majeste law will undergo an overhaul to make it easier for authorities to proceed with legal action.”

PPT hadn’t noticed that the “authorities” were having trouble taking action on lese majeste. Indeed, under the military dictatorship, there has been a massive explosion in the number of cases, all of which involve the repression of political opponents.

Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya reports that agencies have “studied the procedures and content of the lese majeste law … to have it improved.”

We guess that “improved” simply means that the military dictatorship wants to throw even more people in jail. After all, the order for this study came from The Dictator himself.

The agencies want to bring individuals charged with lese majeste back to Thailand and promote “a correct understanding of the law in the global community, to show that the law does not serve political purposes.”

Paiboon might have more success if he didn’t demand blatant lies from his officials. Obviously, no one believes lies about the purpose of lese majeste.

At The Nation, this story is further explained. The action on the lese majeste issue “was reached after Paiboon met with representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry and the Department of Special Investigation.” The Dictator has demanded that lese majeste “be dealt with systematically in an integrated manner.”

This heralds a dark period for Thailand.

The notion of extraditing opponents from overseas, Paiboon explains that “many foreign states did not recognise lese majeste acts as a crime and would not extradite the accused.” But never fear dear royalists, for Paiboon says that “the Thai government would try to convince them that defaming the monarchy affected the Thai spirit that revered the institution.”

Yes, the world is to be told that spirit or soul of Thailand’s people is monarchist and that throwing political opponents in jail is simply about protecting the essence of the nation.

What does anyone with half a brain do with such nonsensical babbling? How will the people of Thailand be protected from monarchical madmen?

General Paiboon, like fascists of the past, manages to turn lese majeste on its head when he claims that his dictatorship’s political opponents have “used” lese majeste charges “as a tool to seek asylum abroad.” In other words, the draconian lese majeste has been used for some kind of advantage by its victims!

Cry, scream, laugh?

The committee General Paiboon is establishing is even going back to the discredited “anti-monarchist mind map” that was previously used to concoct a republican conspiracy.

The Nation’s story also explains that other ministers beat the monarchy drum. The junta’s Interior Minister, General Anupong Paojinda said “it was the government’s duty to honour the monarchy and protect it from violation.”

In fact, it is the actions of ultra-royalists and mad monarchists who are doing the work of republicans. Lese majeste repression by a military dictatorship that is self-serving and simply bizarre is doing more to destroy the monarchy than any republican could hope to achieve.

At the risk of sounding as bizarre as these ministers, maybe republicans should be cheering them on? Cry, scream, laugh? All three?





Thai-style repression

11 09 2014

Authoritarian regimes are pretty easy to identify. Usually they spend a lot of time trying to repress political opponents. They usually do this for several stated reasons: protecting the nation, national security, racial purity, ideological conformity, and so on.

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has decided that “Thai-style democracy” demands a peculiarly Thai-style of political repression.

Prayuth has long believed that there is a republican plot to overthrow the monarchy and, hence, the system that maintains the social, political and economic power of the royalist elite. In this context he is determined that his dictatorship must give its top priority to “dealing with” the “suspected anti-monarchy network.”

Prayuth’s speech to “his puppet parliament, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Friday” and will outline “a strategy to ‘defend’ the monarchy…”.

Not unexpectedly, The Dictator will describe” the monarchy as an important element of Thai-style democracy and an institution that the Royal Thai Government is obliged to uphold ‘with loyalty and defence of His Majestic Authority’.”

To be sure, this is ridiculously slimy posterior polishing, but it is representative of a broader desire for the reinforcement of the existing social order. The fear that drives the increasingly fascistic Prayuth and his ilk is seen in his speech:

We will use legal measures, social-psychological measures, and telecommunications and information technology to deal with those who are not mindful of their words, are arrogant at heart, or harbour ill intentions to undermine the important Institution of the nation….

In addition to this extreme repression, Prayuth’s speech says his regime will:

also strengthen Thais loyalty towards the monarchy by publicising “correct understanding about the monarchy and His Royal Works for the people” and by supporting “projects that have been derived from His Royal Ideas, encourag[ing] officials, educational institutions, and other state agencies to study and understand His Royal Working Principles so that they can apply the aforementioned Principles in bureaucratic function and development.”

Oddly, Prayuth seems to acknowledge previous failures of the heavily subsidized royal projects that are often rat holes for huge amounts of taxpayer funding, suggesting that wads of baht will continue down the same rat holes:

Furthermore, we will urgently expand the projects to which His Majesty has laid foundation in order to demonstrate [their effectiveness] to the public, and develop benefits in a wider circle, which will eventually help create prosperity and happiness for the people….

Whatever way one looks at it, the world’s richest monarchy, which already consumes massive amounts of taxpayer funds, is going to consume even more. Protecting the military-monarchy social order is so significant for The Dictator that he is willing to wind back the political clock several decades while opening the state pipeline even further in a flood of funding for fanatical ultra-royalism.