No democracy! Hagiography!

6 10 2021

Remember the recent ranting by ultra-royalists and dinosaur bureaucrats and senior regime dolts about a series of of eight illustrated children’s books called Nitan Wad Wang, or “Dream Tales?” So incensed were the authorities that they began a probe looking for themes deemed critical of the government and sympathetic with the pro-democracy movement. They were also looking for anything negative about the king or monarchy.

Education Ministry spokesperson Darunwan Charnpicharnchai was especially “worried” that the booklets contain information that misleads children.

The story of this is retold at Thai PBS.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Meanwhile, the hopelessly inane Ministry of Culture “has released a cartoon book featuring biographies and stories about the contributions of the 10 monarchs of the Chakri dynasty.” No prizes for guessing that this is a pile of buffalo manure meant to prime kids with royalism.

The 237-page comic is meant to “honour of the 10 monarchs of the Chakri dynasty,” so can’t be truthful. We guess – couldn’t find the book at the Ministry website – that the chapter on the current king is well and truly padded out because he’s achieved so little in his 68 years.

Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome – whose father was a gangster and killer – “said … the cartoon format is partly aimed at promoting interest among the younger generation in the royal institution [monarchy].” He added to the manure pile by saying that “the monarchs have ruled under the Ten Principles of Kingship and devoted themselves to improving people’s livelihood through preserving and promoting cultural heritages and ensuring peace and prosperity.”





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.





Fascist-like culture wars

6 09 2021

Thana Boonlert of the Bangkok Post has an op-ed on the junta-appointed Senate that is worth considering.

Hardly noticed, the unelected senators convened to consider “a motion for the virtuous council…”. Huh? Yep, the unelected swill of military backers, ultra-royalists and assorted conservatives “sought to reform the national culture to ensure its progress, discipline, and morality.”

Senator Sirina Pavarolarvidya “attributed the current social conflict to the generation gap and proposed that the virtuous council be established to provide role models for every sector of society.” By this she means the youth have lost “gratitude, discipline, honesty, sufficiency, and a volunteer spirit…”. That all of this is imbued by thick-headed royalism is revealed when she says these “virtues” “are born out of the love for nation, religion, and king.”

Berlin, Germany….. Two heads that bow as one, Herr Adolf Hitler, Dictator of Germany (left), bids bon voyage to King Prajadhipok of Siam, when the latter, accompanied by his queen, left Berlin following their extended visit to Germany’s capital. This modern ruling family does all its traveling by airplane, while in Europe, at least.

She sounded decidedly Fascist when she said that “…[w]hen people are virtuous and healthy, they acquire knowledge and skills.”

Thana sees historical links with “the government of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram issued cultural mandates to strengthen Siam in the context of the global war.” That Phibun was attracted by Fascist models was not unusual, with many entranced by authoritarianism, militarism and strong leaders.

The morality demanded, Thana says, “is like a balm for those in power who are under threat from the pro-democracy movement.” Such a “campaign for virtue justifies and sustains the regime that rose to power from a military coup in 2014,” which Thana sees as an effort at “refashioning itself into a bastion of virtue…”. It’s the ridiculous “good people” justification for all political and social repression and corruption. Thana expounds on this.

Than observes that “the virtuous council is an expression of fantasy of those in power.” For PPT, it sounds a bit like a version of the “deep state” argument that the judiciary was needed to carry on the then (near dead) king’s interventionism. In this version, it seems like an effort to replace the (now) dead king’s alleged “moral” leadership.

None of the “blatant misconduct, nepotism, and corruption” is necessarily negated by culture wars directed by “good people” royalism and moralism.





Royalism corrupts

4 09 2021

The judicial system has lost much of the precarious public support it once had. Now, the only standards used are double standards.

Admittedly, the police were never held in high esteem, known to be murderous and thoroughly corrupt. But judges and prosecutors also display wanton corruption and never-ending double standards.

While some judges still try to hold some standards and to adjudicate the law, the deepening royalism of the judiciary has overwhelmed them. Political cases litter the judicial playing field, with judges taking decisions based on notions of “Thainess,” “good” vs “bad” people, on orders from the top or made for reasons that seem to bear no relationship to written law. Not a few judges have been shown to be corrupt.

A Bangkok Post picture

Meanwhile, prosecutors do as they are told and, in some cases, as they are paid. Wealthy killers get off with the support of corrupt prosecutors. Kids get prosecuted for political crimes. Working hand in royal glove with judges, prosecutors oppose bail in political cases, seeking to damage “suspects” through lese majeste torture and, now, the threat of virus infection in prison for political prisoners.

On the latter, as the Bangkok Post reports that “activist Chartchai Kaedam is one among many political prisoners infected with Covid-19.” His condition is cause for much concern.

A petition has been lodged with the National Human Rights Commission “demanding an investigation into how a Karen rights activist contracted Covid-19 while imprisoned,…” pointing out that “he is not a criminal and should be allowed bail, especially given his health condition…”. The petition added that “bringing innocent people into a contagious environment such as a prison during a deadly virus outbreak violates their rights..”.

The NHRC has been pretty hopeless since it was politicized under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, but in this case, Commissioner Sayamol Kraiyoorawong says “staff have made some ‘unofficial’ attempts to get information from the Department of Corrections about his [Chartchai’s] condition and treatment.” But guess what: “Under the Covid-19 crisis, we [NHRC] have not been allowed access to the prison to see people…”. Other concerned by his condition are also denied information. Prachatai reports that the “his family and lawyer were not able to speak to his doctor or obtain information on his condition.”

The impression is of a callous, deliberately dangerous, and unjust system seeking to punish even those not convicted of a crime and held without bail on trifling charges. Of course, they are political charges.

In another branch of the royalist swill, the police are still at it. Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” has reportedly been charged “with premeditated murder by means of torture, unlawful deprivation of liberty and malfeasance.” Despite all the evidence leaked, Joe now claims “he just ‘assaulted’ the victim, and did not torture and murder him.” He’ll probably get off. The pattern will be for witnesses to be paid off or strong-armed, for the case to be drawn out for years, and with public attention having moved on, and judges gingered up and rewarded, Joe might get a suspended sentence. That’s how the system rots.

All in all, this is a sorry tale of how royalism corrupts, money corrupts, and political preferences corrupt.

But never fear, “good” people are at work. Into this fetid swamp masquerading as a judicial system, come the Education Ministry, “planning to modify the history curriculum in schools to strengthen learning amid recent moves by youth groups against the kingdom’s highest institution [they mean the monarchy].” Yes, cleaning up Thailand means pouring palace propaganda into children. We suppose that this is an admission that the never-ending and expensive royalist buffalo manure over 50 years has failed to get sufficient cowering acquiescence. We do know that those who have drunk most at the fount of royalist propaganda are the most corrupt.

 





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.








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