Republic vs. the regime

9 12 2020

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared: “Thailand is not and won’t be a republic. That’s impossible…”.

The royalist general, responsible for managing the military-monarchy regime, crowed that his “government will do everything in its power to thwart any such system of government in Thailand.”

He was responding to the Free Youth group’s call for discussions about a republic.

As Free Youth has said that “a republic is a state in which the masses are the boss,” Boss Prayuth and Boss Vajiralongkorn are clearly targeted with a radical call for democracy.

Referring to Thomas Paine and calling for equality, Free Youth emphasised “the decentralisation of power, with rulers coming from free and fair elections — not determined by bloodlines” or rigged elections.

The group emphasized that such a radical democracy required “the people rising up to dismantle all the shackles…”.

The Restart Thailand campaign builds on these ideas:

This is a new movement where nothing will be the same. Awareness of the oppressed working class will be awakened, whether you are students, office workers, non-uniformed staff, farmers or civil servants. We are all oppressed workers.

…there will be no leaders, no guards, no compromises or negotiations….

Fearful of what for Thailand amounts to radicalism, Gen Prayuth ordered the regime’s “legal team” to decide if such a call is “against the law.” He’s thinking of sedition and the constitution:

Section 49: No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering the cessation of such act.

Meanwhile, the charges against the regime’s opponents continue to pile up.





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.





Save Faiyen

20 05 2019

Readers may have seen several social media memes referring to saving the exiled Faiyen band, who are in Laos. They went into exile following the 2014 coup and are regarded as anti-monarchist. One meme is attributed to the band itself:

The band members fear that they are now being hunted by those who are responsible for the forced disappearance and murder of several of their fellow exiles. Most are assuming that Thai paramilitary forces responsible for these extra-judicial actions against those considered “threats” to the monarchy and its political regime.

In fact, these exiles should pose little threat to a powerful military and a wealthy and increasingly powerful monarch. However, it seems both have come to the view that their ideological hold over the population through the promotion of the monarchy is now somewhat shaky and that drastic action is necessary. Before Vajiralongkorn became king, the lese majeste law was vigorously used to eradicate growing anti-monarchism. After he came to the throne, this use of lese majeste ended. What we now see is enforced disappearances and brutal murders.





Republicanism means 50 years in prison

27 07 2017

Talking or posting about a republic or republicanism is considered and act of lese majeste. Governments for sometime, including the ultra-royalist military dictatorship, once “defended” lese majeste by saying that it was just like defamation but for royals. The case of human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of the Stolen history 6, clearly show that such bleating was a concoction and expressed as blatant lies.

On 25 July 2017, Bangkok’s Criminal Court “accepted charges filed against [the]… human rights lawyer facing five decades of imprisonment for royal defamation and sedition.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have said that Prawet is accused of posting Facebook comments that are deemed to have asserted that Thailand should become a republic.

Even Prachatai uses the term “defamation” when reporting this case. Clearly lese majeste is not defamation. Rather, it is a law that represses political opponents and jails them for daring to think about and discuss alternative forms of government.

Prawet stands accused of importing digital content “deemed defamatory to the [m]onarchy and seditious.” He is alleged to have done this from 25 January- 23 April 2017 and this probably relates to Facebook posts made by exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

As well as being charged under Articles 112 (10 counts) and 116 (3 counts), Prawet is “also charged with Article 14(3) of the Computer Crime Act for importing illegal information online and violation of the Council for Democratic Reform (the 2006 coup-maker) Order for obstructing … the police [in]… obtain[ing] his fingerprints.”

It is easy to see that the military junta is determined to lock him away for decades, with 50 years being the legally maximum cumulative sentence. The lese majeste and sedition charges alone, if proven, amount to 171 years of jail. Few who go to court on these charges are ever exonerated by the royalist courts.

Prawet and the other five (for whom there is precious little information that PPT can locate) have been held in jail since 29 April 2017.





The Ko Tee “plot” and extradition

20 03 2017

In our last post on the military junta’s marvelous story about a mammoth plot to accumulate war weapons, assassinate The Dictator using a sniper rifle and cause a rebellion based on Wat Dhammakaya, we stated:

While Ko Tee [Wuthipong Kachathamakul] has denied the arms belonged to him, the cops admit he’s been on the run since early 2014…. “Pol Gen Chakthip said police had tried to contact … Cambodia … for Mr Wuthipong’s extradition, but had received no helpful reply.”

Now the police can claim that Ko Tee “allegedly played a leading role in gathering weapons to support the temple and as such must be considered a threat to national security…”. This “plot” will presumably help with gaining his extradition.

Bingo! The Bangkok Post reports that the junta “has vowed to seek the extradition of hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, alias Kotee, from Laos following the discovery of a huge cache of weapons by authorities in a house in Pathum Thani.” (Like everyone else, we thought he was in Cambodia.)

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “he wanted Mr Wuthipong brought to justice given the weapons were found in his home, adding officials will contact Laos authorities to seek Mr Wuthipong’s extradition.”

They really want him for lese majeste and seem prepared to go to extreme devices to get him.

In our earlier post we also stated:

The next step for the police will be to parade the “suspects” before the media where they will presumably admit their guilt and “confirm” the “plot.” They may even be made to re-enact some “crime.” That’s the pattern.

Bingo! The same Bangkok Post story quotes a senior policeman as stating; ” The nine arrested suspects were questioned by military officers and they confessed to keeping the weapons for a particular mission…”.

Now we await the parade of “suspects.”

As a footnote to this story, readers might recall earlier posts, beginning in early February, about a junta desire to extradite anti-monarchists from Laos. This morphed into an alleged “death threats” against The Dictator, which were then said to come from republicans, and which saw attempts to push the Lao government to extradite the alleged conspirators. This effort went on for some time.

Does it seem like too much of a coincidence that yet another plot has suddenly been “revealed”?





As we said… a junta ruse

7 02 2017

Just a couple of days ago PPT posted on the sudden revelations of “death threats” to The Dictator and Deputy Dictator and their claims that the “assassination” social media posts came from red shirt, republicans “overseas.”

We speculated that the claims were whiffy and suggested to us a plot by the junta to go to the Lao government with “crimes” against the anti-monarchists that did allow extradition. (Lese majeste is not covered by the current extradition treaty.)

As the Bangkok Post reports, that speculation turns out to be pretty accurate.

The junta has determined that “Thai people who fled to Laos to escape lese majeste changes have issued the death threats against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon…”,

That’s according to National Security Council chief General Thawip Netniyom.

We can add at this point in the discussion that General Thawip was appointed only a little over a week ago “to seek a meeting with Laotian officials and work out a deal, which could include the exchange of people sought by each country.”So we can assume, if our speculation is good, that it is General Thawip who has come up with this “brilliant” plot.

So it is no surprise that Thawip says “up to six” Thais in Laos are involved. That’s probably the six he was told to get.

And, of course, “Gen Thawip plans to visit Laos to follow up on the government’s extradition request…”. He adds, “[d]eath threats against important people could lead to another criminal charge.”

Of course they are, whether real or concocted.





Ultra-royalist fingerpointing

24 11 2016

A couple of days ago we mentioned “motivational speaker” Orapim Raksapol, hired by the junta earlier in the year to speak for the monarchy in the northeast.

Essentially she declared northeasterners less “loyal” to the monarchy than the junta’s anti-democrat constituency based mainly in Bangkok’s condos, townhouses and shophouses. She reckoned the northeasterners lacked sufficient “gratitude” to the monarchy’s supposedly good works in the region.

We also noted that the anti-democrats trust the northeasterners and many have racist responses when confronted by people from the region and their politics.

Khaosod has more details. But while its story concentrates on the use and power of social media, we thought there were a few other things to highlight.

One is Orapim’s “loyalty” that involves a remarkably hopeless knowledge of the monarchy that she claims to “love.”

She “implored” northeasterners “to remember the works … the King Bhumibol had done for their region.” She stated: “Isaan people, the King visits you so often, he helps you so much. The king loves you…. But isn’t it strange, that you forget the King? It is strange.”

Armed kingWhat’s strange is that Orapim thinks the king, essentially bedridden since 2006, thinks the king has been visiting the northeast. While we don’t keep a diary of these things, it must be a couple of decades since the king went to the region. We can’t think of the last time the palace in the northeast was used by the king or queen. If she means an earlier era, then she’s talking about the period of counterinsurgency, which was hardly filled with love.

She continued, expressing a bunch of yellow shirt stereotypes and ultra-royalist fairy tales:

There was no water – he gave it. There was no forest – he grew it. Millions of trees…. Pardon me. Isaan people had no jobs, the land was arid. It was all due to the King. He gave you water. He gave you forests. He gave you jobs.

We don’t quite know what to say. This is simply buffalo manure. Yet we imagine that this is what yellow shirts have chosen to believe. It is a story that warms their hearts and allows them to write off the  darker skinned northeasterners as ignorant, gauche and ungrateful for the ruling class’s charity.

The second point to note is the deeply-felt conviction among ultra-royalists and yellow shirts, along with those in Bangkok’s condos, townhouses and shophouses, that northeasterners are hopelessly radical and republican.

Yellow shirts have defended Orapim, agreeing with her claims. They say that “anti-monarchists are the ones who are creating conflict.” Yellow shirt activist Therdsak Jiamkijwattana supported Orapim as simply speaking the truth: “These people are connected to a movement to overthrow the monarchy…. The people who violate lese majeste law, they are all Redshirts!”

The civil war continues to simmer and the ultra-royalists keep the monarchy at its dangerous center.





How many “intelligence” officers?

12 01 2016

It seems the answer to this question is “[a]t least 1,600 officials … belonging to seven Thai agencies: National Intelligence Directorate, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Supreme Command Headquarters’ Intelligence, Special Branch Police and National Security Command Headquarters.”

This number doesn’t include cyber-vigilantes and other volunteers recruited to snoop on neighbors, whether locally or via the internet. We are unsure why the Internal Security Operations Command is not listed separately as it is critical in catching regime opponents.

That number is in an article by Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation. We don’t read his stuff much as it has tended to be yellow-hued and sometimes nonsensical. Yet this article brings some attention to the National Intelligence Strategy (2015-22), which Kavi says was recently approved by the Cabinet.Spy-VS-Spy

Thailand’s “intelligence” services, like their controllers who mostly inhabit the military or have military backgrounds, are organized for domestic operations. Once tracking down communists and other opponents of the state they now seek opponents of the royalist state, monarchy and junta. They have tended to rely on blunt instruments such as torture and murder. More recently, they have gotten interested in digital technologies as they see opponent lurking in cyberspace.

This is apparently acknowledged in the “Strategy,” which states that “Thailand needs new corps of intelligence officials who have a broader knowledge of their country and of events abroad, especially of neighbouring countries.” Recruiting such persons is going to be difficult as the education system is focused on delivering propaganda and “leaders” are not known for accepting advice that challenges the tropes and shibboleths of the royalist state.

The strategy acknowledges this with “old priorities,” with “those related to monarchy, the separatist movement in southern Thailand, political division in Thailand … and threats from extremists.”

Kavi reckons the “last category is something new. Thailand used to have a naive view that it did not have enemies and it is never the target of any group.”

That’s absurd when one recalls, for example, the ways that the military cooperated with oppositions to the Vietnam-backed regime in Cambodia in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Khmer Rouge, dealt with opponents of the regime in Burma over several decades. Then there were various “terrorist” events including the 1972 negotiated the release of six Israeli Embassy officials in Bangkok held hostage by Arab terrorists, the January 2000, storming of a hospital in Ratchaburi by 20 armed rebels from the Karen militia known as God’s Army, the murder of Saudi diplomats, several bomb plots against the Israel Embassy and more.

Under the military dictatorship the threats to Thailand are likely to be identified as republicans and “unfriendly” Western governments who refuse to believe the junta’s narratives.





Busy days for the protectors of the monarchy

17 08 2013

The media has been full of reports in recent days of authorities and self-appointed protectors of the monarchy seeking out anyone who dares to speak of the monarchy in ways that royalists don’t like or to challenge royalist propaganda.

Much of the “work” has been in response to critical, satirical or joking comments on the monarchy  following the sudden move by the king and queen to Hua Hin. Some have even dared to joke that the whole was a bit like Weekend at Bernie’s. So the protectors have been hunting down the jokers, considered dangerous republicans.Wax king

Many readers may have already seen the widespread reports that the police are drilling down further in their work to find those guilty of

An AP report tells of police asking the operator of “Line” instant messaging “for access to records of online chats…”.

Technology Crime Suppression Division boss Pisit Paoin said “… police want to review the data of users they suspect are involved in crimes, including making statements against the Thai monarchy…”.

While Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has commented that “the government did not intend to limit people’s freedom…” everyone knows that when it comes to the monarchy, there is no such freedom.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports on the unofficial protectors getting their underwear in a knot over the eel,  Department of Special Investigation (DSI) Tharit Pengdit.

About  30 anti-government white masks – that’s probably all of them at the moment – rallied at DSI to allege that Tharit had committed lese majeste.

The white masks “were dissatisfied that Mr Tarit, the DSI chief, has accepted for investigation as a special case a complaint against Mallika Boonmeetrakul, the deputy spokeswoman of the Democrat Party,” alleged to have doctored a picture of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, implying she is a slut.

Malilika has a history of trashy allegations against Yingluck and in using lese majeste for political gain.

But the complaint is now about Tharit for referring to the premier as “the head of state”. As every Thai is meant to know, the king is the “constitutional head of state” even when he abuses the constitutional role.

For this “slip,” Tharit is accused of lese majeste. It is kind of ironic as DSI is one of the agencies that zealously “protects” the monarchy. In line with that, the despicable Tharit “claimed that those who accused him in public could themselves also be seen as committing lese majeste.”

Let’s have all the royalist throwing each other in jail!

All of the chatter about the monarchy has prompted the palace to action. The Bangkok Post reports that a royal doctor has been wheeled out to state that the king and queen are in “excellent” health and are “enjoying the seaside weather at the palace in Hua Hin district in Prachuap Khiri Khan.”

The doctor added that a “team of royal doctors is on hand around the clock to look after Their Majesties…”.

And royal health spokeswoman Princess Chulabhorn, despite the PR disasters of her previous appearances, is to “appear on Channel 9’s Woody Kert Ma Kui talk show on Saturday to discuss the health of Their Majesties.” That will get lots of viewers just to look at the astonishing fawning and odd behavior.





On the Phibun threat (1957)

14 03 2013

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has another useful posting including archival material from 1957 at Zen Journalist. In another post we referred to material that showed clear palace involvement in the 1957 coup planning. In this we refer to a document that has the young king explaining his position on Prime Minister Phibun, who had been overthrown by General Sarit Thanarat.

The cable we refer to in this post can be downloaded as a PDF. Much attention will undoubtedly focus on Australian Minister for External Affairs, Sir Richard Casey, who is said to have known the king for some time and sees him as engaging in “baby talk.”

Casey

PPT doesn’t know what the relationship between Casey and the king was. However, British Ambassador Richard Whittington tends to agree with Casey’s assessment but does see “some progress” from a shy lad.

Arguably more significant is the king’s comment on Phibun:

Phibun

This perspective reflects the view of the old princes, his mother and the royalists such as Kukrit and Seni Pramoj. Phibun was hated almost as much as Pridi Phanomyong, and the king was imbibing from the waters of the anti-1932 royalists. Criticisms of Sarit and military regimes appear designed for the foreigners for the palace and royalists were in the political bed with Sarit and the royalist faction in the military.

Also revealing is the anti-communism exhibited by the king and his observations on politics in the northeast (where political opposition was seen as communism) and at Thammasat University, the latter considered to be influenced by Pridi.

Commies

These views were to influence much of the king’s and palace’s activism in the years that followed. Conservative kings will certainly worry about communists yet it is the congruence of fears about the northeast, poverty and communism that see U.S. get deeply involved in Thailand and in promoting the monarchy as a bulwark against communism.

Alleged communists and republicans are a feature of the post-1932 period and define much of the palace’s political shenanigans (even in 2010!).