Unleashing extremism

2 11 2015

Unleashing extremists has long been a tactic employed by the military when dealing with political opposition. This was especially clear during the 1973-76 period when rightists associated with the palace and often led by military figures were used to create unrest and destroy opponents. This often led to murder and what are now called enforced disappearances. The role of the Red Gaur and Village Scouts in the 6 October 1976 is available in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (clicking downloads a 70 page PDF).

The Red Gaur was led by Army intelligence officer Maj. Gen. Sudsai Hasdin. For a time, under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s administration, Sudsai was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He and his supporters were often used to pressure opponents with the threat of more mayhem and violence.

Also in that period, rightist monks were active, including the notorious, palace-linked Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not much of a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster. More recently, the military supported the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which had rightist and royalist monk Buddha Issara as one of its leaders.

In other words, rightist extremism is not unusual in Thailand, and has long been supported by both palace and military. Such extremism is promoted by the aggressive notions of the trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy that has been promoted in society, producing xenophobia as well as ultra-royalism and ultra-nationalism.

This is a long introduction to a disturbing report at Prachatai. It states that the monk “Aphichat Promjan, chief lecturer monk at Benjamabophit Temple, a Bangkok temple under royal patronage” has “suggested that the government should burn a mosque for every Buddhist monk killed in the restive Deep South.”

He also urged the government to “arm the Buddhist population in the Deep South as a measure to protect ‘defenseless’ Buddhist monks and people in the area from being targeted by what he called ‘Malayu bandits’.” That aligns with a program that was implemented from about 2004 and saw the arming of Buddhists at the queen’s urging. The aligning of extreme nationalism, royal urging and rights is seen in a Wikileaks cable from 2005.

While this monk probably draws some inspiration from right-wing nationalist monks in Burma, with a dangerous military dictatorship in power in Bangkok, working hard to eliminate all political opposition, the emergence of such rightists and extremists is, sadly, to be expected. The support they receive from military and palace emboldens them.

Silenced memories of 6 October

9 10 2015

After we posted on 6 October, remembering the terrible events at Thammasat University, when the military, police and rightist thugs massacred students in the name of protecting the monarchy, a reader sent us a link to a documentary we had not seen. We embed it below:

Anand’s change of mind

5 08 2010

The Bangkok Post recently reported that former appointed prime minister Anand Panyarachun has urged fellow Thais to embrace reform “by moving beyond debates on ‘good and evil’ and by accepting the voting rights of the majority.” He said: “We, therefore, have to respect their voting rights whether or not we may disapprove of their choices.” PPT has added the emphasis as the chair of the National Reform Commission appears to have changed his mind on elections.

Anand is reported to have “insisted the political rights of certain groups must firstly be respected by all, otherwise reform efforts were bound to fail.” He adds: “I believe people in rural areas have suffered inequalities and thus want political space…”. He was speaking at a dinner reception organised by the royalist-aligned Population and Community Development Association, so these changed views represent a liberal-royalist understanding.

In an attack on the yellow-shirted rightists associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy, Anand said “people had no right to control other people’s opinions, and those who oppose the political choices of this group [pro-Thaksin Shinawatra voters] might one day have to live with it.”

Why does PPT say he has changed his mind? Back in the days around the 2006 coup, Anand was a defender of intervention and questioned the notion held by “some Westerners” that equated democracy with voting. He said this at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand when launching a new edition of The King of Thailand in World Focus (p. 274). The point of this statement was to whitewash the trashing of Thai democracy by the PAD, the military and the palace.

That he now seems to accept that voting matters perhaps reflects a liberal-royalist recognition that electoral processes can be one way of moderating political demands from the lower classes and a way of disciplining the ruled. To do that, the ruling elite needs to make concessions. Will the army, now back in the driving seat, agree? Will the conservatives agree with Anand and seek to make the historic compromises necessary to maintain their class hegemony. So far they haven’t shown much willingness.