Nationalism, slavery and conflict

20 10 2019

Some reading for our followers, in place of a long post:

An article worth reading is “Nationalism and Anti-Statehood in Thailand” by Gabriel Ernst at a site new to PPT: “New Bloom is an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in Taiwan in 2014 in wake of the Sunflower Movement. We seek to put local voices in touch with international discourse, beginning with Taiwan.”

The Irish Times has a story by Ian Urbina which, for all we know of the fishing industry’s cruel hunt for profit is still eye-opening. “Thailand’s sea slaves: Shackled, whipped and beheaded” is sub-headed: “Every year, tens of thousands of migrants to Thailand are sent to brutal lives at sea.”

Then there’s “Is Thailand risking another massacre?” by Sheith Khidhir at The ASEAN Post, writing of the militant right-royalist saber-rattling.

Finally, readers who like free access to academic articles might like to look at almost 40 articles by various editors of the Journal of Contemporary Asia, from the 1970s to today. There’s some of Thailand interest.





Updated: Flashback 6 October 1976

6 10 2019

As we do each year, we recall the events of 6 October 1976, where military, right-wing thugs and palace came together to murder protesters and unleash a rightist authoritarianism led by a palace man that was soon replaced by a direct military regime.

Those events have had sad resonances over the decades and the blood continues to drip from the hands of those who have been the military’s leaders and its ideologues.

This year we remember 1976 with a reproduction of a booklet that came out on 2008 from the Pridi Banomyong Institute.

Download the 16-page PDF here.

Update: For those who haven’t seen it yet, the article by Puangthong Pawakapan and Thongchai Winichakul, “The desecration of corpses on 6 October 1976: who, how and why” at New Mandala is well worth some contemplation.





Rabid royalists battle “liberalism”

7 09 2019

This Reuters report has been widely distributed, but deserves attention.

It notes the rise of a rightist ultra-nationalism as those who are insufficiently royalist are attacked as “chung chart” which “translates roughly as ‘nation-hater.’ Here, nation equals monarchy and support for the military and its current political regime.

Opposing that regime, the military or being considered insufficiently royalist means being seen by royalist-rightists “as a threat in a kingdom…”.

Royalist-rightists are identified as “waging an increasing battle against the opposition on social media and in the courts, illustrating the deepening political divide in the southeast Asian nation.”

Sound familiar? It should. Nothing much has changed in this royalist-rightist agitation since recently-released Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy signed up with the monarchy for ousting Thaksin Shinawatra in 2005. He and PAD were followed by royalist-rightist groups such as the Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), the so-called Rubbish Collection Organization (2014), and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013-14).

This is just a selection of ultra-rightists, many associated with the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). All have been anti-Thaksin. The current lot say:

they are acting in the name of the palace and the army also say they get no direct support from those institutions. Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat declined comment on the issue and said Thailand is a free country.

We are sure that there are ultra-rightists who act independently in the cause of promoting the world’s wealthiest monarch, a grasping playboy as a symbol of “the nation,” but we doubt that the military and ISOC are uninterested. After all, they’ve manipulated or arranged most of these groups over five decades.

Claims by by Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich that the “military is not behind any groups…. The military does not support anyone engaged in activism outside parliament” are false.

The report claims that “chung chart” was made popular by The Democrat Party’s Warong Dechgitvigrom, who says:

I see this as liberalism that destroys traditions and the monarchy by claiming to be democratic…. We need to fight them through ideology. The New Right is a political ideology.

Akechai. Clipped from TLHR

The ideological fight usually leads to legal actions and violence. Indeed, there was plenty of political violence in the last days of the junta. Think of the repeated attacks on Sirawith Seritiwat and Akechai Hongkangwarn, among others.

As the report notes, “army chief Apirat Kongsompong … has described Thailand as being in a ‘hybrid war’ against enemies of tradition” and the rightist-royalists are working in support of his “war.”

The current targets of rightist-royalist angst and wrath include the Future Forward Party – who Warong considers false democrats and nasty “liberals.” That party also worries Gen Apirat as they are too popular; the military fears popularity that translates into votes.

The report cites former PADista and Democrat Party minister Kasit Primya as saying: “The two sides are becoming more entrenched…”. There might be more than two “sides,” but as far as we can tell, the “sides” have been deeply entrenched since PAD.

So it is that Future Forward and its supporters are painted by ultra-nationalist rightist-royalists as “want[ing] to destroy the Thai system [monarchy] and change it to the Marxist-Socialist system…”.

On social media, hatred of identified opponents is fanned. Such hatred has long proved useful of the military when it mobilizes violence to support military-backed regimes or to destabilize elected governments.





Updated: Nothing seems to change

19 02 2019

The reporting over the last few days seems to suggest little has changed in over a decade of military coups, elected governments illegally thrown out, scores of deaths and mass street demonstrations.

In observing this, we are leaving aside the continuing speculation regarding Thaksin Shinawatra’s failed bid to make a (semi-) royal fruitcake a prime minister. Those guesses range on a spectrum from the events were out of the box to ordinary, that they weakened the king or made him stronger, that the king knew what was going on or he didn’t, and even resurrect some perspectives from the 1950s to try to explain various scenarios. And there’s still the misleading view that Thailand is somewhere on a road to democracy. And that’s all from the same source in several articles.

But back to the nothing-much-changes idea.

First, we see The Dictator showing himself for his Palang Pracharath Party and the party using his picture on campaign posters while he remains deeply engaged in all kinds of state activities, spending and so on.

Meanwhile, his former boss, brother-in-arms and Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda has “defended his [now] boss … by insisting that junta leader-cum-Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha should not step down before the royal coronation takes place in two months.”

Here the point being made to the electorate is that only The Dictator and the military can be “trusted” as loyalists. It was the anti-democrats of the People’s Alliance fro Democracy that proclaimed loyalty as a political issue of the era by donning royal yellow.

Second, to make the point about loyalty, none other than anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban is quoted as declaring that only a vote for his party (and pro-junta parties) “can prevent Thaksin Shinawatra from returning to power through its proxy parties…”. That’s a refrain widely heard from the anti-democrats for over a decade. And, Suthep appears to be admitting the electoral strength of the pro-Thaksin parties, something seen in every election from 2000 to 2011, when elections were free and fair.

Suthep’s claims that the anti-democrats could keep Thaksin’s “proxies” out saw him drawing on the experience of the repressive actions of the junta in forcing through its 2016 constitution draft in a “referendum.” Perhaps he expects/hopes for similar cheating in the junta’s “election.”

And third, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who himself wielded war weapons against red shirt protesters in 2010, and who refuses to rule out another coup, has again declared that he will not be controlled by “evil” politicians.

After the military budget increasing 24% under the junta, the notion that it might be cut by an elected government prompted the evil but loyal Gen Apirat to order the “ultra-rightist song ‘Nak Phaendin’ [Scum of the land] to be aired every day on 160 Army radio stations across the country…”. This anti-communist song from the 1970s – another period when the military murdered hundreds in the name of the monarchy – was to be played twice a day. It was also to be played at the Ministry of Defense and and in all Army barracks:

The Army chief reasoned [PPT thinks that word is incorrect] earlier that the anthem broadcast was aimed at encouraging everyone to be aware of their duties and responsibilities towards the country.

The “duties” he means are to protect the monarchy and murder opponents of the military-monarchy alliance.

He was supported by Deputy Dictator, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who supported the notion that politicians are “eveil” and deserve death at the hands of murderous loyalists. He said: “Listen to the song that the Army chief mentioned. Listen to it.”

Apirat partially revoked the order later, with the song continuing to be broadcast inside the Army Command at noon. As former Thammasat rector and historian Charnvit Kasetsiri expressed it,

Other than calling for a return to absolute monarchy, they’re now rehearsing ‘Scum of the Earth,’ too? History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. And where will that path take us? Better or worse?

It leaves Thailand in its ultra-conservative, ultra-royalist time warp.

Clearly, the Army commander and the Defense Minister are campaigning against pro-Thaksin parties and for The Dictator and the party of the rightists, Palang Pracharat.

That’s not new. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, then head of the Army, demanded that voters reject Thaksin parties in 2011. However, this time, the threat is louder, nastier and very, very threatening.

Nothing much changes.

Update: PPT noticed that the Election Commission has issued a warning that “posting text, sharing or commenting on messages that defame political candidates violates the Computer Crime Act.” So how will the EC respond to Gen Apirat’s condemnation of Puea Thai and other pro-Thaksin parties as “scum” and actively campaigning against them? As a puppet agency our guess is that it will do nothing.





Updated: 6 October 1976

6 10 2018

PPT waited a few hours before posting our tribute and remembrance to the victims of royalist-rightist violence  in 1976. We waited because we wanted to link to any stories we saw in the English media. So far, we have seen one at the Bangkok Post, about an event at Thammasat University. We were also reminded of the website launched a couple of years ago from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, and established and maintained as an archive about the massacre of 6 October 1976.

We draw on our post from last year as a way of recalling those terrible events and the loss of so many lives.

On this day in 1976, royalists and rightists were mobilized with and by the police and military in a massacre of students and others they had decided were threats to the monarchy. With claims of lese majeste and communists at work, these “protectors” of the monarchy and royal family engaged in an orgy of violence, killing, injuring and arresting thousands. Central to this royalist rage was the then crown prince, now king, Vajiralongkorn.

For a radio program on the events, listen to the BBC’s Witness story on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey on the terrible events by following the links here.

The king and the royal family fully supported the massacre at Thammasat University.

In remembering this massacre in the name of the monarchy, we are reminded that the current military dictatorship bears many of the characteristics of the dictatorship that resulted from the murderous events of 6 October in 1976.

Thanin Kraivixien was a dedicated fascist judge who served the king. His government was established to turn back the political clock and established a 12 year plan to do this. Today, four years of military dictatorship is meant to be followed by 20 years of rewinding under military, royalist and rightist tutelage.

Mercifully, Thanin’s extreme authoritarianism only lasted a year but military-backed rule continued until 1988, first with General Kriangsak Chomanan as premier. He was replaced by the more reliable royalist posterior polisher, General Prem Tinsulanonda. Even after 1988, when Gen Prem was seen off, he retained considerable political influence as he moved into the Privy Council and he has repeatedly supported military coups. His support for the current dictatorship has been given several times.

The current military regime remains exceptionally prickly about this event of 1976. And justifiably so in that military fingerprints are all over one of Thailand’s worst massacres of civilians. So it is that last year Khaosod reported that a film about the event was prevented from being screened on the anniversary. By the Time It Gets Dark or ดาวคะนอง is a 2016 film directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong.

The only good military regime is the one that has been defeated. Until Thailand’s military dictators and military dictators are defeated, the country remains in a recurring pattern of political crisis and darkness.

Update: We should have mentioned the excellent account of the 6 October massacre and associated events in a story at the Los Angeles Review of Books by Suchada Chakpisuth and translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.





On dictatorship

27 11 2016

This from the Bangkok Post:

Foreign media and observers continue to regard our present government as a “dictatorship.” They have ignored [the] Prime Minister[‘s] … explanation about the necessity for building a democratic society on a stage-by-stage basis.

The Bangkok Post was supporting a dictatorial regime in an editor’s comment on a story from 25 November 1976. Little would appear to have changed from the period of the dictatorial and palace-picked prime minister and monarchist Thanin Kraivixien to the period of the self-appointed and palace-endorsed prime minister and monarchist General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The story, however, is of the rightist and youthful Interior Minister and palace favorite Samak Sundaravej and his approach to “establishing” what he called “democracy” in Thailand, in line with Thanin’s 12-20 year plan of stage-by-stage political change. There was an appointed assembly and elections were seen as “divisive.”

Prayuth has few youthful types in his military-based “government” but he has plenty of rightists and royalists. And he has a 20-year stage-by-stage plan. Prayuth’s military junta also has a puppet parliament of military appointees and views elections as dangerously divisive.

But there’s a difference. Samak stated (clicking opens a PDF of a 1976 press clipping):

Democracy of the past began at the Ananta Samaggom Throne Hall (traditional site of Parliament). lt then tried to seek roots in the villages. That was why it was unstable…. Democracy has to begin at the village council, then move up to the district council, the provincial assembly and then the House of Representatives.

Samak went on to declare: “We are now building up democracy from the villages.”

That sounds nothing like the current regime under The Dictator. No “bottom-up” democracy for them for they have learned that villagers simply cannot be trusted. Those at the local level don’t know what’s good for them and elect governments associated with Thaksin Shinawatra. These uppity villagers even dare to think that they should have some say in government, which is the preserve of the great and the good (and those of the military brass who don’t happen to fit these categories).

In fact, though, the comparison is false. Samak was no democrat in 1976. Reading the story it is clear that the “democracy” he boosts is, like Prayuth’s, no democracy at all. It remains top-down, with officials involved all along, directing, managing and funding a bureaucratized village planning process that knits neatly into the preferred hierarchical model of Thailand’s administration and politics. Anti-democracy and authoritarianism runs deep among the great, the good and the military brass.





Rock bottom

29 10 2016

Thailand’s military junta is composed of royalist rightists who have faithfully imbibed palace propaganda for years. In more recent times, as the military supported and egged on anti-democrat and royalist protesters, these military rightists have accepted a nastier propaganda that combines extreme right and extreme left elements, cobbled together with conspiracy theory.

The result is bizarre yellow-shirted views that the U.S., long a supporter of palace and military in Thailand, had somehow become a tool of Thaksin Shinawatra. Crudely concocted networks were constructed to “demonstrate” the takeover of U.S. foreign policy by Thaksin and his lawyers and lobbyists. For the dullards in the military, this seemed to explain why the U.S. administration wasn’t keen on giving 110% support to a military dictatorship in Thailand. After all, it had supported dictators in Thailand “before,” so why not now? Conspiracies provided the answer.

As if to announce just how official this mad rightist conspiratorial line has become, Thailand’s official propaganda agency is now citing the a yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche.

We written before on the author of the article who portrays himself as a leftist but who has connections to Alex Jones and alt-right. It was this writer, who has links with the Democrat Party, who recently called for a campaign to oust a BBC reporter from Thailand through harassment by ultra-royalists.

An online magazine, New Eastern Outlook (NEO), published an article depicting the importance of the constitutional monarchy in Thailand and how it fosters national unity.

The article entitled ‘Why is the Passing of Thailand’s King a Big Deal? was written by Tony Cartalucci, who is an American geopolitical analyst [sic.] and a writer for NEO.

He said the Thai constitutional monarchy helps strengthen and stabilizes the nation by serving as a unifying force. In his article, he also claimed that there had been attempts by some powerful nations to destabilize Thailand through their media reports which painted the current situation in the country in a negative way.

They, however; only received negative responses in return from Thai people after their news stories were published. Cartalucci also wrote that one foreign journalist was called back by his news agency for reporting wrong information about political conflicts in 2010 [sic.]. His report had triggered aggressive opposition that led to his departure from Thailand.

The Thai political world is becoming weirder than it ever has been before.