Suthep still ranting on republicanism

9 03 2013

Readers who have been following PPT for some time will recall that the infamous and concocted “republican map” was largely the work of then Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban. This “map” was little more than a rather dull and clumsy attempt to brand red shirts and their supporters as republicans, paving the way for the brutal and murderous crushing of the red shirt protests and the jailing of hundreds.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

The Democrat Party’s republican plot scam

Despite the trashing the Suthep and his “map” received, he seems intent on pushing the republican plot propaganda. In fact, as reported at The Nation, the governing Puea Thai Party “is considering filing a complaint with the Election Commission to try to disqualify Bangkok governor-elect Sukhumbhand Paribatra over statements by Democrat [Party] leaders that allegedly framed its candidate…”.

One of the video clips collected by the Puea Thai Party shows Suthep saying: “They have set this: their group will take over the country to establish a new Thai state where the political system is not a constitutional monarchy.”

Suthep is nothing if not bloody-minded.





Old aristocrats bemoan the Western press

2 03 2013

For several decades the old princes and aristocrats that circled the palace and promoted the monarchy and present king as the fount of all that was good for Thailand had it pretty much their own way. Supported by massive U.S. funding during the Cold War, the Western media, some of that also funded by the same source, engaged in reporting on Thailand that mirrored the palace’s blarney.

In recent years, however, the old royalist elite has become disgruntled as some media reports have begun to question the old received “wisdom” that amounted to posterior polishing and often was simply propaganda. Part of this questioning has to do with more information being available thanks to a handful of critical academics and journalists. Much of it has to do with Paul Handley’s effort in getting out a book that blew away some of the smoke and and reset some of the mirrors.

Some of the old royalists have become so angry that they have entertained some of the crankier ideas about international conspiracies and even turned on some former friends. Others have sought to wheel out Western flunkies who can still peddle the old palace nonsense with a straight face.

Sumet Jumsai

Sumet

And so it is that we come to a letter to The Nation by one of the royalist elite protecting his and their patch. The letter is by Sumet Jumsai, who is listed as being at  Cambridge University where he has recently provided a seminar, and who usually has “na Ayudhya” attached to his moniker. In his letter he gets hot and frothy about an article in French by Bruno Philip in Le Monde and which PPT posted in English.

Sumet has been a staunch royalist but is one of those who some might see as a “liberal royalist,” once acknowledging that republicans exist in Thailand and adding that he doesn’t mind “so long as we are not taken to the guillotine…”. He added, tellingly, that the “spirit of the age, of the new generation who spurn the 19th century hangover…” and is “tempted to agree, seeing that our monarchist role model England has moved on, while we are marking time.” On another occasion he joined eight “people with royal lineage” to sign a letter sent to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking the government to change the lese majeste law because it was doing damage to the monarchy.

In his latest bout of letter writing he wants to take on Le Monde: “The biased view of the article, as in much of Western reportage on Thailand, needs correction.” Essentially, Sumet tells the Abhisit Vejjajiva version of events of 2010, and bemoaning the fact that red shirts weren’t put in jail. Of course, they were, and by the eager Abhisit regime, but that fact gets in the way. He avers that the “red-shirt riots in 2010” were worse than the 2006 military coup.  And he rants about all the people killed who were not red shirts, again ignoring the facts of the body count in 2010.

Finally Sumet gets prickly about the article’s attention to the monarchy and king:

The article also tries to involve the King, putting him in the same camp as the military (at present controlled by the ruling government) and the Bangkok elite. In this regard it should be noted that the King has publicly declared that he is not above criticism and that he is against the lese majeste law, which he regards as detrimental to the institution. He even proposed that those arrested or jailed because of this law should be released. The question now must be why the present red-shirt government does nothing about it.

On the latter question, it is pretty clear why the present government doesn’t do anything substantial for those currently charged or in prison. However, Sumet ignores the fact that this government is not throwing this charge at every one of its political opponents and locking them up. That is not doing nothing, even if it isn’t enough.

Regarding the claim about the king and lese majeste, the last time Sumet and his blue-blooded lot made this claim, PPT wrote about this version of the king’s speech, and we challenged readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.





Updated: Les Mis / Lese Maj

9 02 2013

PPT has been watching the social media reaction to the film “Les Miserables.” After all, the movie has the military shooting and killing lots of poor people in red shirts rebelling against a ruling elite and singing a rousing “Do you hear the people sing.” And its heritage is in Victor Hugo, a dedicated republican whose novel is about the unsuccessful, Parisian republican uprising in 1832.Les Mis

Kong Rithdee at the Bangkok Post has a useful take on the movie. He points out that “a romantic vision of popular revolt for the poor and the disenfranchised, and that sentiment has been taken up by some audiences halfway across the Earth.” He adds that “Do you hear the people sing”:

… has been translated into Thai by the guys called Art Bact’ & Ardisto, and the sound clip has gone viral in the past week. The Thai verses impressively retain the meaning of the English original, and also its romantic spirit (it could tip over into naivete) that seems to fire up most revolutionaries, or those who dream the dream of one day becoming revolutionaries.

Interestingly Kong says that an “activist photo-shopper has made a face-match putting Jean Valjean … next to that of the jailed editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk.”

Ultra-royalists may feel the need to protest the film and protest its explicit anti-monarchism.

Update: Here’s the Thai version of the song/anthem mentioned by Kong, preceded by an English version.





“Reforming” lese majeste to save the regime

29 01 2013

The Bangkok Post is a conservative newspaper. It has been the preferred newspaper of the English-reading Thai elite and tends to reflect their interests. In recent years it has demonstrated the royalism of that elite, hoping that the relatives and friends in military- and palace-backed governments (under on-again-off-again Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont and elite scion of the royalist elite, Abhisit Vejjajiva) could get royalist rule back on track.

So it is significant that the recent lese majeste conviction of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has caused the Bangkok Post to issue a call for “reform” of this draconian, medieval law. We assume that this call represents one thread of discussion within the higher echelons of the royalist elite who now see lese majeste as a problem for royalist rule.

We make this assumption because the Post editorial begins by observing that the “trial and conviction of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has once again put Thailand in an uncomfortable spotlight.” We can imagine that the fact that “Thailand is increasingly criticised as a nation where authorities trample on the media and on freedom of expression” bothers the elite. We guess that some of them are tired of having to defend Thailand and its “protection” of a fabulously wealthy and privileged monarchy as somehow “culturally unique.” They probably get prickly at having to defend the sentencing of chained and caged journalists, aged men and political activists as being “culturally appropriate.” The idea that two men are sentenced for things they didn’t say and articles they didn’t write is probably causing them to squirm in their bespoke suits and Thai silk designer dresses.

Hence, the editorial demands action be taken to address the discomfort felt by some of the royalist upper crust about the lese majeste law (the editorial also briefly mentions the Computer Crimes Act). To be sure, Article 112 is defined by the Post as “a special law about the most special high institution,” and it makes no political or class mistake by demanding that the law is required, necessary and foundational:

The purpose of a lese majeste law must be to protect the monarchy and the royal family. They are otherwise defenceless against libel, slander, defamation, and against attacks on the system of democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

So the Post’s argument is that the lese majeste law might be reformed in ways that maintain the status quo and continue to “protect” the monarchy and the system of elite rule that it underpins. [Of course, “defenceless” is a bizarre term when referring to a body that wields huge political and economic power, but the monarchy continues to fear a situation where normal law might be applied to it and its privileges.]

The Post appears to be calling for a thinking person’s royalist “reform” of lese majeste as the “ultra-nationalists” are too hardline [read this as meaning: ultra-royalists are a nasty lot only good for street demonstration at needed times to protect our ruling class] and “advocates of legal change too often play into the hands…” of the yellow-shirted “knee-jerk” protection-of-the-monarchy lot. Hence, the “key to any reasonable amendment of the Criminal Code cannot proceed rationally from simple opposition to a law. The question is what the country needs, and what best serves the nation and all its institutions.”

In other words, how do “we” keep the law, “protect” the monarchy which “we” maintain as foundational to our class rule and not have to be “uncomfortable” and seen as knuckle-draggers locally and internationally.

Reflecting this ruling elite position, the editorial then claims to speak for all Thais:

… there is no disagreement among Thais. All citizens want to protect the national institutions. Protection of the monarchy, in particular His Majesty the King, is the aim of all citizens. No rational person or group has called for abolishing laws which protect His Majesty and the royal family. So any discussion of legal change can start on level ground:

This is pompous upper class nonsense. Of course there is disagreement! Clearly, there are rational Thais who do wish to abolish the law. Others, for reasons of political limitations, powerful threats and extant fears of attack, demand thoroughgoing reform rather than going the extra step.

The Post is right to observe that “[r]easonable people also can agree that Section 112 of the Criminal Code is out of date and deserves careful and factual study.” It observes that “it is obvious that the law is sometimes used by unscrupulous people in a political manner to harass those with whom they disagree.” This charge must include Abhisit, Suthep Thaugsuban and a gaggle of Democrat Party politicians, pretty much everyone in the leadership of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, Tul Sitthisomwong, Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha, several high officials in the Interior ministry, a number of politicians associated with pro-Thaksin Shinawatra political parties, amongst many others.

Tacitly acknowledging that many of the charges currently going through the courts were politicized charges brought by the Abhisit regime, the Post calls for an “amended Section 112 [that] would cause lese majeste charges to be brought only in cases where legal experts were certain that the offence was indeed against the monarchy _ not against a political ideology.” The editorial advocates “… change to make it relevant to the current situation.”

Without acknowledging that  lese majeste charges have declined very significantly under the the Yingluck Shinawatra government, the Post blames politicians for being tardy on lese majeste reform and its abuse. Yingluck’s timidity on lese majeste is based on a fear that “an amendment to Section 112 could be political suicide.” To then compare her political reticence with “silence” by her predecessors is disingenuous. Surayud and Abhsit weren’t “silent” on lese majeste; they used it again and again to repress political opponents and to demonstrate loyalty and their royalist credentials. They were deafening in their use of this political weapon. They spawned hundreds of other knuckle-draggers on monarchy and lese majeste through their collaboration with those who considered the monarchy and monarchy’s state under threat from republicans.

The ruling class is trying to save the royalist state it has constructed.





Updated: Protecting kings and courts

26 01 2013

The reaction to the lese majeste sentencing of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has unleashed a torrent of negative international criticism and, while muted by various laws, domestic criticism has been heard as well.

Predictably, the ultra-royalists reaction has been one of  exultation, for the madder PAD types believe that the monarchy is under threat. Rather than recognizing that royalists are destroying it by their demented actions, they prefer to conjure Thaksin Shinawatra as the financier of republicans. Thus they defend the kangaroo courts and cheer when enemies are locked up for years. They attack each and every one of those who criticize lese majeste convictions with xenophobic zeal. They damn foreigners for failing to understand “Thai culture” and denigrate Thai critics as dangerously “un-Thai.” They justify repression and censorship as absolutely required to “protect” the monarchy.

That the conviction of Somyos further extends the repressive scope of lese majeste is cause for royalist celebration.

The Nation notes that his conviction was the “first time a magazine editor has been sentenced to jail for violating the lese majeste law…”. In a sense, though, this chilling application mirrors the manner in which webmasters are held responsible for each and every comments posted on their sites.

The judgement deserves consideration for the way that the courts, as a bastion of royalist reactionary politics, interpret and broaden the scope of the law and how they justify this unconstitutional extension of “their” law.

The Nation says that:Jit

… the four judges ruled that although the two articles never directly mentioned the name of HM the King or Rama I, their context suggested the fictitious name of “Luang Naruebarn” was in fact a reference to HM the King.

An unofficial translation of the summary of the verdict is available from Prachatai. Rather than reproduce it in full, PPT merely offers some commentary:

The plaintiff charged that in the period between the daytime of 15 February 2010 and the daytime of 15 March 2010, the defendant defamed, insulted and threatened His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Head of the Kingdom of Thailand….

We looked at the Thai version and it doesn’t say “head,”  but refers to the monarch of the kingdom.

A first Voice of Taksin magazine article, which did not mention the king by name or title, defamed, insulted and threatened him because it:

conveys the message that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the person who gave the order for the massacre in the 6 October 1976 event, and had been planning situations to slaughter a number of people mercilessly after the verdict to seize Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets.

The judges this was “unfounded.” In fact, while a good historical case can be made that the palace fomented murderous right-wing vigilantism that saw royalists go on a killing spree, no single order is ever likely to be revealed. Another article, which also did not mention the king by name or title, was construed offensive as it:

… conveys the message that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was implicated in various conflicts and bloodshed in Thailand, and that His Majesty masterminded initiatives which dismantled pro-democratic movements.

This was also said to be “unfounded.” Again, though, very good academic accounts of this king’s failure to promote democratic progress while supporting military coups and authoritarian regimes are already available. Ignoring this, the court decided that while neither of the articles mentions the king by name, they were:

written with the intention to link past events together. When events of the past are brought together, it can be implied that they refer to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

“Implied” lese majeste has now been used against Somyos and Jeng Dokchik or Yoswaris Chuklom. This is a chilling interpretation of an already draconian law.

The court defends this real expansion of the law with threats. In another story at The Nation, it is reported that the “Criminal Court’s chief judge yesterday countered criticism by foreign organisations…”. Thawee Prachuablarb “warned that the court might take legal action against those who unfairly attack it.” We aren’t sure why “fairness” is used here, for this is the last concern of the court. He added that

the lese majeste law reflected Thailand’s culture, which is different from those of other countries. “It is narrow-minded to describe the court as barbaric or as an organisation that protects the monarchy,” he said.

Of course the culturalist argument is the usual royalist nonsense also peddled in palace propaganda. The idea that the court is not “an organisation that protects the monarchy” is simply ludicrous and a lie of royal proportions. However, we agree that the court is not barbaric; it simply serves and protects its feudal masters.

Update: Several readers have asked PPT to post the charges against Somyos. THese have been at the page we maintain for Somyos, now under Convictions. For ease of access, we reproduce our links here: His charges may be seen in this PDF in ไทย or this unofficial translation in English (Warning: readers should note that this document includes reproductions of the material determined to be in breach of the lese majeste law. Downloading it and/or distributing it may lead to a similar charge of lese majeste).





The old gang gets a crowd II

28 10 2012

The Nation and the Bangkok Post estimate 20,000 attended the the military-royalist Pitak Siam rally at Royal Turf Club. Police claimed 6,000, but photos suggest it was larger than this.

The report says that this is a “surprisingly successful first rally…”. Not really. As PPT pointed out earlier, Boonlert said his “organisers hope to draw about 25,000 people to fill up the Royal Turf Club stadium…”. We don’t believe seasoned coupsters and ultra-royalist organizers like Chamlong Srimuang and Prasong Soonsiri were about to allow a small rally. In addition, the links to former classmate and privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont and with links to his boss General Prem Tinsulanonda were always sure to mobilize ultra-royalists.

Now the challenge for the Yingluck Shinawatra government is the Pitak Siam plan “for a bigger demonstration at Government House…”. The challenge for the old soldiers and yellow-shirted coupsters is to find reasons for people to rally with them. One strategy is the claim that the “government had done nothing to stop several people from attacking and violating the royal family…”. This is fabricated nonsense, but ultra-royalists have always been sure that “red shirts are republicans.” So the search will be on for acts of “disloyalty.”

In our original post, we noted that we expected yellow-shirted intellectuals to increase their sniping; it seems that has begun as the aged anti-Thaksin economist Ammar Siamwalla has rejoined the political fray. The Post report refers to “Surachai Sirikrai, a political scientist from Thammasat University” damning the government and making bizarre claims that Pitak Siam could grow to be a “Thai Spring.”

Meanwhile, the Democrat Party has coordinated with the Pitak Siam events by launching a campaign to “save democracy.” Again plagiarizing red shirts, the idea-less DemoPADs have begun “opening political schools and calling on their supporters to fight against Thaksinomics.” The conservative elite’s pin-up boy Abhisit Vejjajiva made an opening speech entitled “Major institutions in a democratic system in Thailand’s constitutional monarchy.” As we noted above, the monarchy will again be front and center in the renewed attempts to overthrow an elected government.

Abhisit apparently “said the reason the party decided to launch the political schools was that the country’s political fighting had intensified and the objectives of opponents were different from the past. Democracy was being used as a tool for self gain.” None of this is new and, in fact, Yingluck’s politics have been so timid that there is simply no intensification. This is a beat-up by Abhisit and his military-royalist allies.

Old and failed former Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai expresed his support for the military and designated the main threat to the country as not the murdering royalist military but “… a new political disease since Thaksin has joined politics and bought political parties with majority votes…”. In other words, the majority vote amounts to nothing for the anti-Democrat Party. And, as expected, Chuan declared: “… there is a move to topple the monarchy with the committing of lese majeste offences…”. As we said, nonsense, but the plan is to destabilize, again with palace and royalist support.

The picture is pretty clear. This is a coordinated and planned move against the elected government.

As a footnote, PPT thinks it worth observing that yet another royalist overthrow of an elected government is likely to mean the end of the monarchy as republicanism will be the only alternative for those who want elections as expressions of political will to be respected.





British Republicans on fearless speech

12 04 2012

Readers may be interested in a post at British Republicans where they reproduce a post from PPT from a couple of years ago. It begins:

The barbaric sentencing of pro-Thaksin’ ‘red shirt’ democracy activist Daranee Charnchoengsilapakul (Da Torpedo) to 18 years in prison, for her anti-2006 coup ‘offensive’ speech and ‘insult’ to monarchy under draconian lese majeste law, shows Thailand to be a land of ‘make believe’ democracy with a European fascist will to control every aspect of life as a national security issue.





No anti-monarchy plot

31 03 2012

The Nation reports that the Department of Special Investigation is “expected to conclude before Songkran its investigation of an alleged conspiracy to topple the monarchy, and recommend that the case be dropped for lack of evidence.”

That there is a “lack of evidence” and “unclear evidence” should be a damning criticism of Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban, the Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situations, and the military brass who shouted so loudly that there was a Thaksin Shinawatra-red shirt republican plot to overthrow the monarchy (ล่มเจ้า).

The “evidence” submitted by these royalists, who seeking to destroy others with rash and politically-charged accusations of “disloyalty,” was based on little more than circulated yellow shirt conspiracy theories and politically-motivated fabrications.

PPT has long pointed out that the Democrat Party-led coalition government, put in place by the military and elite, traded in lies and fabrications.

 





Updated: Yingluck, constitution and monarchy

1 03 2012

At the Bangkok Post Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said: “Personally, I don’t think the entire constitution should be changed. The important thing in the amendment process is to protect the monarchy.” What Yingluck doesn’t say is why this is important. Why does the monarchy need to be “protected” in amending the constitution?

AP Photo

Royalists think Yingluck’s government is about to bring the monarchy and the ruling class edifice that the monarchy sits atop and propagandizes that Yingluck, her brother and the Puea Thai Party are emending the constitution to establish a path to a republic.

Of course, this is royalist nonsense, using the monarchy for its own political purposes.

But what is Yingluck’s excuse for making (repeated) inane statements regarding the monarchy?

Update: The Nation reports that the Democrat Party told the panel vetting the charter amendment bill that “proposed that the charter amendments should not touch on four topics – the monarchy, the independent organisations, the judiciary and the amnesty for a certain individual, a veiled reference to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” The panel apparently agreed “to leave the monarchy out of the charter debate.”





Where are the republicans?

23 02 2012

According to Apichart Sakdiseth, a Democrat Party MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat and chairman of the second subcommittee of the House committee on security of the state, quoted in the Bangkok Post, anti-monarchy campaigns are underway in nine provinces.

Apichart says that representatives of the National Intelligence Agency have told the Ministry of Interior that there are groups “actively campaigning to undermine the monarchy.”

The nine provinces involved are listed as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nakhon Sawan, Udon Thani, Nong Bua Lamphu, Loei, Songkhla and Bangkok.

Apichart reckons that “undermining” takes several forms, including “citing the monarchy for self-interest and fabricating news detrimental to members of the royal family.”

PPT is shocked! Well, no we’re not, because all this seems to say is that the usual rumor mill is operating as before and that now it is being done in a highly politicized environment.

The NIA helpfully added that “most of those campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy were doing so in foreign countries.” If that makes any sense, then it would suggest that either, there are hundreds or even thousands doing this overseas or that there are only tiny campaigns against the monarchy in country.

Frankly, we don’t think the NIA has any clue about what a campaign is or what being anti-monarchy really constitutes or where they are.

Interestingly, it is a Democrat Party MP making these points, only a few days after his disingenuous boss was calling for the monarchy not to be used as a political tool. Maybe Apichart realizes that Abhisit was dissembling.