The Prasit affair

23 05 2021

Readers may recall our recent post about the fraudsters who bore remarkable similarities to the massive Mae Chamoy scam of the 1970s and 1980s. The similarities were royal and military.

Prasit 1

Prasit displaying loyalty

Following the negotiated surrender and arrest of fraudster-in-chief Prasit Jeawkok, the Bangkok Post had a recent editorial calling for the military to reveal its links with Prasit. As ever, self-censorship, fear and misplaced loyalty prevents the Post asking about palace links.

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS provided some background on Prasit. For those who can read Thai, we suggest going to the source of much in this report – the grifter’s own website. All of our photos are clipped from that website, where there are plenty more.

The report observes that the “wealthy businessman” was once considered “a saint and a model of success” by the yellow-shirted brigade. He is now outed as a fraudster who may have nicked more than a billion baht. As seen in the Mae Chamoy scam, such fraudsters usually share with influential people in military, police, and even palace.

As can be seen at his website, Prasit made much of his links to the palace and its activities and displayed the loyalty expected of  “good people.”

Prasit 10

Prasit claims he is a “reformed gangster” who abandoned his criminal past to establish a “billion-baht business empire” from which he now “gives back” to society. He claims a rags to riches story.

Like so many of his ilk, he’s made many influential connections.

Prasit 8

Prasit has also “given back” as a royalist and as a supporter of the military and its ruling regime.

He’s “been linked to the Thai military’s so-called ‘information operations’ (IO), which critics say target the government’s opponents and propagandize for the powers-that-be.” Opposition politician Pannika Wanich of the Progressive Movement accuses “Prasit of being instrumental in the Army’s IO by allowing free use of computer servers under his control.”

Prasit admits “”to owning phone applications and servers used by the military but said his goal was to combat fake news by spreading facts about His Majesty the King’s kindness.”

Like many rogues, Prasit promotes “his royalist credentials. Appearing on a talk show in early December, he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the words “Long Live the King” tattooed on his chest.”

Prasit also makes much of his relationship with the late Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, former Cabinet members and, of course, senior military leaders.





Fake military

25 12 2020

The Bangkok Post tells us that the “Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTARF) is preparing a three-year operation plan for safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and national interests.”

This “plan” is said to have been “unveiled after a meeting between Chief of Defence Forces Gen Chalermpol Srisawasdi and leaders of the three armed forces and the national police chief…”. We guess they could have just chatted in the Senate as all of them have nominated seats there, to defend Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime.

Fake military

The operations plan is said to be “in accordance with the national strategic plan…”.

So what does it cover? No prizes for  guessing that this ridiculous military “plan” has little to do with anything recognizably military.

The Royal Thai Army babbles about recruitment while continuing to conscript slaves young men from poor families to “serve” the brass.

The Royal Thai Air Force will “enhance cyber technology and prepare its personnel to deal with space security.” In fact, the main activities of the RTAF is transporting VIPs, including taxpayer sponging royals. Getting the right on-board loo seems far more important than territorial defence.

The Royal Thai Navy is more interested in royals than anything else. It “plans to promote Sat Phra Racha Su Kan Phatthana Yang Yangyuen (The King’s Knowledge for Sustainable Development) among its personnel and the general public by setting up learning centres at 10 naval units across the country, including Bangkok, Chon Buri, Phangnga and Trat.”

In Thailand, the words “professional” and “military” cannot be used in the same sentence. In many ways, Thailand’s military is a fake military, focused on monarchy, politics, internal repression, ceremony and corrupt money-making.





Domestic and foreign ultra-royalism

21 08 2020

Whenever political attention turns to the monarchy, the ultra-royalists get rolling.

A pattern has emerged since the mid-2000s.  Emphasizing that the current wave of anti-monarchism is not new, in the past, the ultras respond to rising anti-royalism with ragtag and aged ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists holding small rallies. As the broader establishment lumbers into action, these royalists tend to sprout like weeds and the military and other security agencies tend to choose the most viable for support. Ultras usually seed acts of violence, often with support from these agencies. Before that sharp response, however, there is usually a media blitz of ultras and other rightists and conservatives promoting royalism and “Thainess.” Often that includes trusted foreign commentators who are mobilized to “explain” royalism to a foreign, mainly Western, audience. Of course, the extremist version is peddled by other contractors.

Warong

In recent days, these initial moves have been in evidence. The Bangkok Post recently reported that some “200 Thai right-wingers launched a group on Wednesday to counter student-led protests…”. The so-called Thai Pakdee (Loyal Thai) group of mostly middle-aged wealthy ultras was predictably launched at a Bangkok hotel. Its proclaimed leader is ultra-royalist and “prominent right-wing politician Warong Dechgitvigrom, who said His Majesty the King’s monarchy was under attack.”

Warong is a former member of the Democrat Party, People’s Democratic Reform Committee member and now runs with Suthep Thaugsuban’s pro-military/pro-junta micro-party Action Coalition for Thailand,

He reckons the “father of the country is being harassed…”. Well, maybe, but it is an absentee father. The king lives in Germany and is being harassed there. In Thailand, the call is for reform.  But he then makes the usual call for rightist support: “How can Thai people stand by?” Despite his claims to the contrary, Warong is effectively encouraging violence.

Young

Speaking for his “new” group – all who seem to have a pedigree in PDRC and the broader yellow shirts, Warong made three demands: “No dissolution of parliament, maximum legal action against anyone who seeks to topple the monarchy, no change to the constitution except via the proper channel.”

On the token foreigner wheeled out to support the ultras and the status quo, it is again Stephen B Young, recycling his old and tired lines about “Thainess.” Previously a favorite at The Nation, this time it is the Bangkok Post that carries his babbling. As we have commented previously on Young and the things he recycles now, we’ll just link to those earlier posts.

 





Academic freedom

21 05 2020

We are used to seeing rankings. A relatively new one that PPT recently came across, thanks to a post at New Mandala, that led us here, and then to a ranking on academic freedom. On that last post, we noted Thailand’s abysmal performance.

PPT decided to get to work on the data made available by the efforts of researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the V-Dem Institute, the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Global Public Policy Institute. The full report can be downloaded as a PDF. Some might quibble about the ranking and what goes into it, but it is worth thinking about why Thailand does so badly. The result is the graph below:

We were selective, including Thailand’s ASEAN partners, some other countries in the Asian region and Germany as an example of a highly-ranked country and Taiwan and South Korea as highly-ranked countries in the region.

It is obvious that Thailand does very badly indeed, ranking well below all of its ASEAN partners except Laos (we couldn’t locate a score for Cambodia). Thailand even ranks below Vietnam, usually considered a pretty authoritarian state, but where public policy on education is taken quite a lot more seriously than in Thailand. Thailand even ranks behind Saudi Arabia, a despotic monarchy.

Thailand’s low score is no surprise. Thailand’s academics have long suffered state repression, censorship and academics have been prone to self-censorship. And, not a few academics have considered themselves servants of the rich and powerful and promoters of conservative royalism. Most of this latter type are seldom true academics, conducting fearless research and publishing high-quality papers. Rather, they crave lucrative advisory posts and proximity to power. Think of the execrable Panitan Wattanayagorn who grasps his academic position in a claw-like grip while being the servant of murderous generals.





Royalism trumps virus

27 03 2020

When it comes to the virus, the regime remains muddled and dopey. When it comes to pleasing the king, the regime is conducting business as usual.

Khaosod reports that the absent and silent king has “approved a name change for two military bases, ditching the names of two revolutionaries behind the 1932 democratic revolt.”

The “Phahol Pholphayuhasena Artillery Center and Fort Pibulsongkram in Lopburi province are hereby known as Fort Bhumibol and Fort Sirkit, respectively, after the names of King’s Vajiralongkorn’s parents.”

By his repeated actions, it is obvious that the king feels the need to roll back 1932. At the same time, he feels the need to build his legitimacy by drawing on the status of his dead father and ill mother.

The change was made “retroactively effective from December 2019.”





Rampant re-feudalization

22 01 2020

The effort to re-feudalize contemporary Thailand has been gathering pace since the 2014 military coup and since King Vajiralongkorn ceremonially took the throne.

The most recent effort to move backwards “students at public schools operated by the City Hall must line up and sing the Royal Anthem in unison every morning per order from [junta-appointed] Bangkok Governor [Pol Gen] Aswin Kwanmuang.”

Indoctrinating the young (from Chiang Rai Times)

Aswin claimed his royalist imposition was because “he wanted to promote loyalty to the monarchy…. Singing the Royal Anthem is just an idea to promote … love and faith in the nation, religions, and the monarch, who are the crucial foundations of Thainess…”.

The report claims that “Thai schools typically require students to sing the National Anthem every morning,” which is well known, and adds that the Royal Anthem “… is played less frequently. In many schools, the Royal Anthem is sung only once a week, at the end of class on Friday.” Even that is a relatively recent royalist innovation.

Aswin now demands that the royal anthem must be sung after the national anthem every day.

The royal anthem was the national anthem until the 1932 revolution. So Gen Aswin’s order is yet another rolling back of 1932.

One of the military junta’s first steps after the coup was to tighten the thought control in schools. That involved both militarism and monarchism.





Another year of PPT

20 01 2020

Eleven years have passed for Political Prisoners in Thailand. We admit our disappointment that we remain active.

By this, we mean that PPT should have gone the way of the dinosaurs, being unnecessary as Thailand’s political prisoners, its military dictatorship and political repression would have been a thing of the past. But political dinosaurs flourish in Thailand’s fertile environment filled with fascists, royalists and feudalists. Sadly, the political climate in  the country is no better following last year’s March “election,” which was rigged to return a junta-based regime.

When we began PPT on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor, publicizing a spike in lese majeste cases to an international audience. Instead, a decade later, we are still at it and dealing with the outcomes of royalist politics gone mad.

We now face the repressive reality of the continued dominance of a military dictatorship-turned-military-backed regime, initially brought to power by an illegal military coup in 2014. This regime is underpinned by a nonsensical royalism that protects an anti-democratic ruling class and efforts by the king to enhance his political and economic power, cheered on by the regime. This royalist state lavishes privilege, wealth and power on a few.

In “protecting” monarchy, regime and ruling class, the military junta and its “elected” spawn have used a politicized judiciary, a rigged constitution and blunt military and police repression to maintain power.

Last year we argued that the junta’s rigging of an “election” that would embed a military-royalist constitution and lead to a political nightmare, maintaining military political domination for years to come. Sadly, we were right.

A better, more representative and more democratic politics remains a dream.

When we sputtered into life it was as a collaborative effort to bring more international attention to the expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the then Abhisit Vejjajiva regime and his anti-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s tenure saw scores die and thousands injured in political clashes and hundreds held as political prisoners.

The royalism and repression that gained political impetus from anti-democratic street demonstrations that paved the way for the 2006 military coup and then for the 2014 military coup have become the military state’s ideology. Those perceived as opponents of the military and the monarchy were whisked away into detention, faced threats and surveillance and some have died or been “disappeared” in mysterious circumstances.

This royalism and repression has also strengthened the monarchy. The junta supinely permitted King Vajiralongkorn to assemble greater economic and political power. It colluded with the palace in aggregating land for the monarch that was previously set aside for the public. It has colluded in destroying symbols of the 1932 revolution, emphasizing the rise of neo-feudal royalism that leaves democracy neutered.

On this anniversary, as in past years,  we want an end to political repression and gain the release of every political prisoner. Under the current regime – as military junta and then “elected” regime – hundreds of people have been jailed or detained, subjected to military courts and threatened by the military.

The 2006 and 2014 coups, both conducted in the name of the monarchy, have seen a precipitous slide into a new political dark age where the lese majeste law – Article 112 – has been a grotesque weapon of choice in a deepening political repression.

From 2006 to 2017, lese majeste cases grew exponentially. Worse, both military and civil courts have held secret trials and handed out unimaginably harsh sentences. And even worse than that,  the definition of what constitutes a crime under the lese majeste law has been extended. Thankfully, since 2017 we were unable to identify any new lese majeste cases and some in process were mysteriously dropped. There remain several persons held or charged with lese majeste and cries of lese majeste still emanate from royalists and ministers.

These days, other charges, including sedition, are used to repress political opponents.

As for PPT, we have now had more than 6.5 million page views at our two sites (one now closed). PPT isn’t in the big league of the blogging world, but the level of interest in Thailand’s politics has increased. We are pleased that there is far more attention to political repression and lese majeste than there was when we began and that the international reporting and understanding of these issues is far more critical than it was.

Tired after all these years, we did take a break in late 2019, but we are now back.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

As in the past we declare:

The lese majeste, sedition and computer crimes laws must be repealed.

Charges against all political activists must be dropped.

All political prisoners must be released.

Royalism and neo-feudalism must be opposed.





Hyper-royalism dogs Thailand

10 10 2019

As the king moves to embrace economic and political power not seen since the days of the absolute monarchy, hyper-royalism is again on the rise, stoked by the palace’s propaganda machine. Nowhere is this clearer than in the linking of the dead king and the new one. In its more bizarre forms, this draws on dead dogs as well.

Khaosod reports that the long dead palace bitch Thong Daeng, complete with royal title, described in the report as “iconic,” has been resurrected through artificial insemination. Yes, “scientists” are mimicking Dr Josef Mengele, they do work to please the higher ups. Of course, we are exaggerating somewhat, but the image is of scientists making their work fit the regime.

The the royalist sycophants at the “Faculty of Veterinary Science at Kasetsart University revealed Tuesday that eight grand-dogs of Khun Thong Daeng were birthed earlier this year via artificial insemination with frozen semen from two of her dead sons. All of the eight puppies are healthy, and have been bestowed royal names from … the King.”

Not Thong Daeng. Clipped from Bohemian.com

The article then establishes the “royal” family tree of the Thong Daeng line. And, we learn in breathless reporting, the whole business “was approved by King Rama X…”. Official pictures of the mutts were released.

The palace promised “[m]ore information about the eight dogs … for a public release at a later time…”.

Thong Daeng is described as “the most eminent pet of … the [deceased] King” and is claimed to be “held in high regard in Thai society.” Not bad for an old soi stray.

Royal dogs were little heard of except for King Vajiravudh’s favorite pooch which apparently deserved a statue. In recent years, they have been considered newsworthy as royal insanity has infected many royalists and others. We’ve seen dopey journalists eating cake with a princess’s yapper, the prince’s poodle promoted in the military and the king’s bitch made into a model dog and a model for the Thai people to somehow emulate.

But the point of all this sycophantic nonsense is to show how everything associated with the kings is fabulous, erasing their huge wealth and the fear associated with the palace. Royal dogging seems a bigger deal than any normal human being would have thought. Thong Daeng, Fu Fu and other royal pooches get more protection than any of those normal humans.

The report notes this fear by mentioning that in 2015, Facebook user and political activist Thanakorn Siripaiboon was charged with lese majeste for comments about Thong Daeng. The last we heard of this case was that, even though the lese majeste law only applied to a few palace humans, this case would be heard by a military court. Even dead royal mutts get the full support of Thailand’s (in)justice system.

It gets worse from here as neo-feudalism takes hold and throttles the country.





Updated: Constitutional Court’s “logic”

22 09 2019

Wasant Techawongtham is a former news editor of the Bangkok Post. He writes:

I’m no legal expert, so I may not fully comprehend the legalese language of many court rulings, some of which just go right over my head, not because of the language itself but the logic within them.

While the Court has threatened those who question its decisions, Wasant states:

The two latest rulings by the Constitutional Court have just left me scratching my head with bewilderment and frustration. In this, I’m not alone. Many legal experts have had to scamper to their law textbooks to make sure they have not missed some important principles.

He writes of the Court’s 11 September determination that “it has no authority to rule on the question of whether Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has violated the constitution” on his unconstitutional oath.

Despite a clear and precise statement of the content of the oath in the Constitution, the Court said that the oath was a matter between the king and executive.

Wasant points out the constitutional fallacy of this “decision”:

As I understand it, we have three pillars of democracy — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Each provides checks and balances against the others, and each has the duty to respect and protect the country’s constitution.

The fact that Gen Prayut failed to utter a complete oath is no longer in dispute. Such an act is a violation of Section 161 of the constitution which requires that a minister “must” make a solemn declaration as specifically stated before the King.

As everyone in neo-feudal Thailand must, Wasant protects his posterior by trying to “explain” that the king could not possibly have been involved in Gen Prayuth’s unconstitutional oath: “The King cannot be held responsible or complicit in this act.”

He concludes: “I can see no reason why the Constitutional Court could not rule on the matter.” Anyone who is fair and reasonable can only comprehend this ruling as yet another politicized decision by the Court.

Wasant then turns to the other recent ruling by the Constitutional Court on Gen Prayuth’s status as a state official and thus ineligible for the prime ministership. He describes the Court’s rejection of this petition as a “victory for the beleaguered general-turned-politician.” He adds: “it is also one of the most fuzzy and confusing rulings that is extremely difficult for laymen to understand.”

He quotes Political scientist Prajak Kongkirati who asked the right questions:

… [Gen Prayut] uses state power but he is not accountable to the state? He was not appointed by any law but issued and enforced laws concerning all public and private entities as well as the people? He was not legally a state official but received a salary from the public purse? He held on to power temporarily but stayed on for more than five years, longer than any elected government in Thai political history?

Wasant adds a question: “[Gen Prayuth] … wore official [state] uniforms to attend official [state] functions but was not a … [state] official?”

He concludes that:

Bolstered by the two court decisions, Gen Prayut must have felt he could do no wrong. On the day of the House debate, he walked away from the meeting without answering the central question: How would he take responsibility for the constitutional blunder he created after he had said publicly he would solely bear the responsibility?

Thailand is left with Gen Prayuth as The Dictator and prime minister following a coup, political repression, unbridled power as head of a junta, a rigged election and and rules thanks to politicized court decisions.

For several years the Constitutional Court has delivered politicized decisions based on clear double standards. Its attention now turns to the Future Forward Party. We would be hugely surprised if the Court doesn’t consign the party’s leader and the party itself to its dustbin of dissolved political parties. Of course, these dissolved parties are all pro-Thaksin Shinawatra or anti-junta.

Update: While mentioning op-eds at the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul is unhappy with “the prime minister [who] did not himself clarify why he omitted to recite an important part of the oath as stipulated in the constitution…”. He handed over to deep swamp slime mining creature Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to concoct something that sounded legal. As Veera sees it – and most everyone else –

In his clarification … Wissanu was as slippery as an eel as he beat about the bush before referring to the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the swearing-in ceremony was an affair between the government and … the King. In short, he offered no clarification as to whether the omission of the final part of the oath by the prime minister was intentional or unintentional.

And, of course, said nothing about who might have ordered Gen Prayuth to omit reference to the constitution. Veera says Gen Prayuth’s “attitude can only be seen as a lack of acceptance of the opposition’s role as a check-and-balance mechanism of the executive branch, if not his contempt for it.” While that contempt is well-known, the whole story of the unconstitutional oath is also suggestive of the king’s contempt for parliament and the constitution.

Sadly, Veera then gets into some obscurantist royalism:

It is a straightforward and non-complicated issue that could be fixed with an honest explanation, which any good leader should offer. It is not a sensitive issue as claimed by Mr Wissanu because it is separate from the swearing-in ceremony.

Clearly, it isn’t. If this unconstitutional oath was an error, then it would have been easily fixed. Because it hasn’t been fixed and because those involved won’t say anything, the finger is pointing at the king.





Deep harassment for the monarchy

13 06 2019

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have released a report that must be read in full. “Silent Harassment: Monitoring and Intimidation of Citizens during the Coronation Month” is a brave and important account of how royalism is enforced.

Of course, there are many loyalists and royalists in Thailand, with the most fanatical ever eager to harass, attack and slander. But this is a report of how perceived “opponents” are identified and repressed.

Here, we simply quote some bits of this seminal piece of work on “violations of personal freedom through constant monitoring and intimidation by state authorities … [conducted] in secret throughout the course of the [coronation events” for King Vajiralongkorn.

Authorities involved in harassing included “police, military, and special branch police…”. They “identify” groups categorized as “target groups” or “monitor groups” and “track their movements and restrict their political activities…”.

TLHR reports at least 38 instances “of monitoring and intimidation…”. In addition, activists have also been harassed.

In fact, “the groups of people being monitored during this period were quite diverse, as they had not necessarily previously expressed anything about the monarchy.”

The harassment has included home visits by authorities who ask about travel plans, take photos and are seen by other family members and neighbors. They are:

warned by the authorities not to do anything during the coronation period. Some were threatened by the police and told that if they did not comply, they would be handed over to the military and that the military might “abduct” them. In some cases, if the wanted person was not home the authorities talked to his/her family member instead.

Monitored groups get more regular harassing visits and are tracked and followed. For some “special” individuals, the harassment is continuous and involves family and harassing phone calls often from an officer assigned to trail and monitor. Former Article 112 prisoner Somyos Prueksakasemsuk found his residence monitored around the clock. On 5 May 2019, activist Akechai Hongkangwarn revealed that “police took him to the cinema in order to keep a close watch on him all day.”

All were warned not to do or say anything during the coronation period.

Vigilantes were also at work, on the internet, tracking “people who posted their opinions about the coronation online” and reporting them to the authorities.

Royalist Thailand in 2019 is a dark and fearful place.