Military media

11 10 2021

A chilling report at Prachatai suggests that in October 2021 the military’s media is revamping itself for ultra-royalist, extreme rightist agitation, much as it did in 1975-76.

The military’s TV Channel 5 is hiring “four ultra-royalist hosts from Top News … [to] host 7 hours a day … from 3 January 2022.”

The hosts, Kanok Ratwongsakul, Teera Tanyapaibul, Santisuk Marongsri, and Sathaporn Kuasakul, claim they will be “delivering impartial and accurate reports.” That seems unlikely.

Channel 5 or the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station is a free-to-air television network owned by the Royal Thai Army, and was launched on 25 January 1958. It is not a particularly popular broadcaster, ranking about 18th in ratings, and one motivation for this rightist move is to increase the broadcaster’s popularity. Becoming bellicosely ultra-royalist is seen as a way to do this.

Lt Gen Rangsi Kitiyanasap, Managing Director of Channel 5, says that the new programming “will provide information that will end the public division and help Thailand out of the economic and health crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19…”. That is code for supporting regime and monarchy.

Lt Gen Rangsi babbled, channeling Fox News:

The goal of presenting news on Channel 5 will emphasize news which is the truth in all aspects, with in-depth detail, and importantly, which does not create division in society, and does not add fuel, but pulls firewood out of the fire. We will be a mainstream media outlet which will not judge who is wrong or right, but presents comprehensive information and lets the people decide….

The general claimed the new contract was with “GMC, with Chaiwat Techapaitoon as Chair of the Executive Board, [and] was a different legal entity from Top News Digital Media Co Ltd, which has Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham as its founder.” As Prachatai explains: “Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021.”

Military and military-backed media were notorious in the 1970s for their agitation against students and democracy advocates. Sound familiar? Back then, that media promoted the forces who assassinated activists and massacred students at Thammasat University.





Constitutional Court and Thai-ness

15 09 2021

We wanted to draw reader attention to a short academic article at I·CONnect, the blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law. “Determining What is ‘Thai’: Thailand’s Constitutional Court and Identity Polarisation” is by law professors Rawin Leelapatana and Suprawee Asanasak.

As there is again talk of the Constitutional Court being mobilized once again in a political battle, we felt that the perspective provided by this article worthy of consideration for the attention it gives to authoritarian pasts and the rightist/royalist notion of “Thai-ness”:

Having experienced authoritarian pasts, the attempt to consolidate liberal constitutionalism, however, inevitably comes into conflict with the traditional notion of authority, i.e, Thai-ness, which emphasises the unity of Thai nation embodied in a righteous Buddhist monarchy, rather than a commitment to legality and individual rights…. As an integral part of the Thai nation, the holdover elites, the military, and royalist supporters therefore commonly assert that threats to the monarchy constitute sources of a political crisis. For them, liberal constitutionalism is a foreign – alien – product which seeks to replace the notions of strong leadership, national homogeneity, and social hierarchy underlying Thai-ness with those of legality, human rights, and equality, thus potentially threatening royal hegemony.

They conclude that:

Overall, the Thai experience has revealed how the mechanism anticipated as the guardian of liberal constitutionalism, the CC [Constitutional Court], might be manipulated and abused by conservative and nationalist actors whose values and ideology are rooted in their self-proclaimed national pride and moral superiority. The CC has embedded authoritative Thai-ness into the heart of Thailand’s liberal constitution. Nevertheless, as the CC’s judgments imply, even Thai-ness itself has to be constructed under the logic and language of liberal constitutionalism.

It is worth reading the whole article.





Royalist “scum”

4 08 2021

A Reuters report explains that “103 people from Thailand’s youth-led anti-government protests now charged with insulting or threatening King … Vajiralongkorn or his immediate family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Hundreds more face other criminal charges.” Knowing the exact numbers is difficult because not all cases come to public view.

Arnon on the left

Commenting on the charges and jail time, one of those charged, lawyer Arnon Nampa commented “I think it has been worthwhile. Now the society can move forward and people can talk about the monarchy…”.

While some might say that nothing much has changed and the king remains politically and economically powerful, a crack in the royalist hegemonic discourse has been established and anti-monarchism is more widespread than royalists wish to admit.

Indeed, royalists are fighting a battle seeking to paper over the cracks in the kingdom.

Thai Enquirer reports that an “ultra-royalist group [has] asked the criminal court to revoke the bail of pro-reform leaders … saying they are repeatedly breaking the conditions of their release by continuing to speak out against the monarchy.”

Jakkapong Klinkaew, the leader of the People’s Centre Protecting the Institution, says “The protestors have caused chaos within society, affecting the private sector and damaging public property…”. He added that “many business owners and royalists” consider the protesters “scum.”

Jakkapong went into a meltdown-like rant, admitting the regime was pretty hopeless, but railed against protesters causing “social conflict” and “unrest,” being “violent,” and spreading “fake news” and the virus (the latter being fake news).

His group demanded that courts revoke the bail of:

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Arnon Nampa and Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa, who have all been charged with lese-mejeste and sedition for organizing pro-democracy rallies since June 2020.

The letter said the protest leaders have continued to join protests and making speeches against the royal institution in breach of their bail conditions.

The group is panicked by the support being gained by protesters, even in the lockdown.





Looking right

1 08 2021

There’s a lot of social media attention to political instability. There’s even rumors of a coup continuing to circulate.

In the English-language press, Chairith Yonpiam, assistant news editor at the Bangkok Post, wonders about Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s future as premier. He points to the “harsh words by MC [a princely title] Chulcherm Yugala, a staunch royalist, against the Prayut Chan-o-cha government, denouncing its poor handling of the Covid-19 outbreak…”. Chairith reckons that the old prince’s words “have stunned political observers and supporters of the prime minister” as the “prince’s criticism has triggered wild speculation over a possible new prime minister endorsed by the palace.”

Chulcherm reckoned “he would even consider joining the pro-democracy movement after its high-profile series of street protests, should its leadership drop their anti-monarchy stance.” Other rightists have been urging this as well, even in a poorly written and anonymous political piece in the same Bangkok Post.

Much of this speculation and urging reflects a perception that Gen Prayuth’s failures threaten the the royalist regime the Palang Pracharath Party. The rightists seem to be moving to a position where Gen Prayuth might be sacrificed in order to save the rightist-military-monarchy regime. As Chairith puts it:

It could be argued that a palace-endorsed PM is the last hope for the right-wing conservative camp in their efforts to maintain power. But having an outside PM rise to power via non-parliamentary means — once an accepted solution to political crises — would be an anachronism in this day and age.

Apirat (r)

The betting seems to be that the alternative premier is Gen Apirat Kongsompong, now a palace groveler-in-chief. But, his ascension would again demonstrate all that is wrong with the monarchy, even if the rightist-royalists may paint the change as another case of a monarch intervening to stem a crisis.At the same time, Gen Apirat is as hopeless as Gen Prayuth, with many of the same characteristics, suggesting that Tweedledum would be replacing Tweedledee, but that’s what the rightist-royalists seems to want.

Meanwhile, General Prayuth says he’s going nowhere. He’s “insisted he will neither resign nor dissolve the House as the country struggles to contain Covid-19… [and] warned politicians [MPs] not to exploit the crisis and incite hatred as that will only worsen the situation.” But it isn’t MPs who are his problem. It’s those who have been his ideological allies.





Updated: Ultra-royalist cartography

29 06 2021

In recent days there has been justified alarm regarding royalist vigilantism mapping the names, addresses and photos of about 500 people, many of them children.

Reuters reports that in this Google-based mapping some of the photos showed students in their university and high school uniforms.

Google has taken “down two Google Maps documents on Monday that had listed the names and addresses of hundreds of Thai activists who were accused by royalists of opposing the monarchy…”. According to Reuters, a spokesperson for Alphabet’s Google said “the issue is now fixed”, adding: “We have clear policies about what’s acceptable for user generated My Maps content. We remove user generated maps that violate our policies.” But these maps had received at least 350,000 views while they were available.

The maps showed the “faces of those named had been covered by black squares with the number 112, in reference to the article under the country’s criminal code [lese majeste] which makes insulting or defaming the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Songklod as Fascist

Rightist vigilante Songklod

Reuters located one ultra-royalist, rightist, activist claiming to be running this vigilante operation. “Retired” army captain Songklod Chuenchoopol said “he and a team of 80 volunteers had created the maps and planned to report everyone named on them to police on accusations of insulting the monarchy.”

Songklod said that he and his team “sought to highlight those they accused of breaking that law.” He said that his “volunteers” hunt “something offensive posted on social media,” and they then log it to the map. He referred to his vigilante work as a “psychological warfare operation,” was meant “to dissuade people from online criticism of the monarchy.”

He described his “operation targeting opponents of the monarchy” as a “massive success.”

Songklod has a history of rightist/royalist activism. He was previously reported as being the “founder of the right-wing ‘Thai Wisdom Guard’ [and] spends most of his day trawling for evidence to file a case under the strict computer crimes act or other laws.” He was said to have then brought a case “against more than 100 people for sharing a post he deemed critical of the Constitutional Court.”

His history suggests that he probably has support from military groups like ISOC, which has a history of supporting rightist/royalist vigilante groups.

These vigilante operations are meant to silence critics through fear of attack and violence, an outcome seen several times in recent years.

Update: A report at Prachatai links Songklod to the so-called Thailand Help Centre for Cyber-bullying Victims. THis seems a reasonable link to rightist, royalist, child abusers.





Compromise/threat

2 11 2020

The biggest news of the past 24 hours has been the video of an unsteady and sickly looking King Vajiralongkorn talking of “compromise.” CNN reports that when asked “about what he would say to the protesters who have been on the streets calling for reform,” he first said “no comment,” before going on to say: “We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.” A follow-up question was “whether there was any room for compromise with protesters,” Vajiralongkorn declared, “Thailand is the land of compromise.”

It is worth watching the whole thing, not least for the king sending his daughter on a political errand.

The problem with the “interview” is that despite the reporter’s efforts, it is decontextualized. It didn’t show him greeting and speaking with fascists who are working to undermine the students, accusing them of “overthrowing the monarchy,” and some of whom have promised violence:

The gathering was in response to calls by staunch royalists, such as Dr. Warong Degitvigrom of the Thai Pakdee group, Buddha Isara and the twin brothers Bin and Aekkapant Banluerith, former actors, to protect the Thai Monarchy, as anti-establishment protesters demand sweeping reforms of the institution.

AFP at the Bangkok Post notes that this is a “growing show of force from royalists — as well as their increasingly harsh rhetoric online against the pro-democracy bloc…”.

It is not a show of compromise when the king engages in political acts:

Actor and volunteer rescue worker Bin Banluerit said the gathering was held with no political agenda. They merely wanted to show the King and Her Majesty the Queen their loyalty. He was among several famous figures urging people to come out to show their respect for the monarchy amid calls for its reform from some anti-government leaders.

Bin was allowed to prostrate at the King’s feet when the King came out to meet royalists outside Wat Phra Kaeo after he finished changing the Emerald Buddha image’s attire. “It is my first time to touch and prostrate at the King’s feet. He has relieved my tiredness. I am feeling overwhelmed to meet [him] and see his face….

“The King also thanked me for helping the people. I consider this the highest merit of my life…”.

This is the king boosting the forces on the right, thanking them for their ultra-royalism, and encouraging them, a la 1976. Hence the signs declaring, “We will die for the king.”

The rally showing loyalty to the king and his “visit” was a statement not of compromise, but of threat.





Updated: Royal family on the rightist warpath

24 10 2020

In our last post we stated the royal family’s public statement of support for ultra-royalists ranked with previous royal political interventions such as Vajiralongkorn’s support of ultra-royalists in 1976 and the then queen Sirikit’s attendance at a yellow shirt’s funeral in 2008.

The king praising an ultra-royalist: “Very brave, very brave, very good, thank you,” with the queen adding: “We’re so proud of what you’ve done. Thank you so much,” was more than a nudge and a wink. With the queen fist-pumping as she smiled broadly and urged the royalists on, and the king greeting fascist (former) monk Buddha Isara was a clear declaration of war against the protesters seeking reform.

Update: By the way, it is disgusting that the Bangkok Post chooses to view this dangerous and threatening royal intervention as “King, Queen thank supporters.”





King, regime and royalists

23 10 2020

King Vajiralongkorn, Queen Suthida and other members of the royal family have thrown their support behind royalists. Of course, it is natural for the royals to support those who support them. But in the current political climate, this is a statement of the palace’s position. That position is, naturally enough, to oppose those who challenge the king and his palace to reform and become a proper constitutional monarch.

We think this public statement of support for ultra-royalists ranks with previous royal political interventions such as Vajiralongkorn’s support of ultra-royalists in 1976 and the then queen’s attendance at a yellow shirt’s funeral in 2008.

Social media has several video renderings of the royals greeting an arranged crown of yellow-shirted royalists. The picture here is clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page.

This royal outing is a part of the regime’s plan to break the protesters. In our previous post, PPT stated: “PPT looks at the “break” from protests and sees the regime gaining time for organizing rightists and royalists.”

Erich Parpart at Thai Enquirer seems to agree: “What if the removal of the emergency decree wasn’t the government backing down but mobilizing royalist forces.” He says:

The severe state of emergency decree was lifted not because Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s wanted to back down.

It was actually the first step to revitalize the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and mobilize extreme royalist groups against the student-led pro-democracy movement….

The prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, the house speaker, and Wissanu Krea-ngam, the deputy prime minister, are all stalling for time….

There are already PDRC members out on the streets harassing pro-democracy protestors including groups led by Tossapol Manunrat from Acheewa Chuay Chart, Police Major General Rienthong Nanna, and Suwit Thongprasert who is also known as Buddha Issara. It’s like a PDRC reunion.

They are not out and about to protect the monarchy, they are out and about to intimidate pro-democracy protestors and to protect Prayut.

In addition, there are reports that Army boss Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae has shown his support for Gen Prayuth’s regime. Of course, many of the yellow shirt groups owe their existence to the Army and ISOC.

The messages from the king, the Army and the regime to the protesters is that they must back down. If they don’t, expect the regime to mobilize yellow shirts for violent confrontation.





The Dictator and violence

23 10 2020

We found the iron bars and violence that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha babbles about, and it is the royalists being violent.

The incident at Ramkhamhaeng University resulted in at least one injury to a young student.

PPT looks at the “break” from protests and sees the regime gaining time for organizing rightists and royalists. Thai PBS sees the lifting of the state of emergency and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s sudden interest in parliament as a tactic. Thai Enquirer points out that The Dictator is not to be trusted or believed.

The unelected dross in the Senate have “rallied” behind the monarch.

The junta’s satanic seed, the Palang Pracharath Party has ordered its MPs to organize activities “in their constituencies to show loyalty to the monarchy.”

Regime-organized royalist rallies are popping up. Among the first in this recent round of mobilization saw soldiers and police disguised as loyalists for the queen. The video tells a story.

For more on the forces of the right, see this academic account.





Mainstream media campaigns against activists

12 10 2020

At Thisrupt, Porntida Tanjitpiyanond observes:

The ongoing pro-democracy movements in Thailand are primarily led by young people who do not conform to the stereotypical obedient, compliant, and quiet Thai kids. As a result, the student protestors have been labeled by several traditional media outlets as angry, violent, self-righteous, and outright disrespectful.

Initially, this wasn’t the case, but it certainly seems that the regime has got the mainstream media to change its tune.

Porntida says:

This portrayal can have adverse effects. Not only does it make a large portion of the public dislike the students, but it distracts them from the actual cause of the social movement: the fight for democracy and social reform in our country.

This is the point. It is an effort to make the students appear as demons for demanding changes to a corrupt authoritarian system. To understand how that system operates, look at three op-eds that appeared in one day in the Bangkok Post, ranging from moderate rightist to throaty rightist to extremist.

The latter expresses Thai fascist views, declaring: “What we find totally unacceptable is the scornful act against the monarch…”. It is extreme to defend a misogynist, erratic and dangerous king who extracts billions each year from taxpayers to pay for his luxury lifestyle in Germany.








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