Academics, posterior polishing and freedom

11 01 2019

Readers might recall a brief flurry of posts about the lackadaisical discussion of academic freedom in Thailand from an Australian-based historian. We complained that the events that saw several people associated with a conference in Chiang Mai being tried (since dropped) and with the situation of academics in Thailand could not be viewed as just another example of the ordinariness of academic (non/un)freedom in Thailand or that surveillance of academics is something to be viewed as somehow normalized.

In a recent article at East Asia Forum, “The fate of academic freedom in Thailand,” academic Tyrell Haberkorn takes a more serious look at the case of those who were charged in Chiang Mai and the rule of law in Thailand. Well worth a look.

For examples of how unfreedom, repression and military dictatorship has cowed academics and commentators in Thailand, read just about anything written in the past couple of weeks about the now undated “election.” So intense has been the junta’s efforts to crush any semblance of criticism of the monarch and monarchy, that when it is obvious that the king is land-grabbing, including turfing out parliament and leaving it homeless, and that it is he who has caused the current “election” imbroglio, what is seen from commentators and academics? Nothing. Deafening silence. And when the silence is broken it is to posterior polish.

Take as an example a recent op-ed for the Bangkok Post. Thitinan Pongsudhirak complains about the election delay, but blames no one. He pussyfoots about, claiming that 24 February was not the day: “An election date that many thought would be Feb 24 has now gone into limbo without clarity.” He’s afraid to say that this was the day the junta chose and worked and cheated and rigged towards, but that it is now off the table because there’s no royal decree. Stating the facts might be dangerous. Perhaps, but his piece is royalist and new reignist, declaring the coronation and the junta’s rigged election as linked and glorious. Buffing posteriors is easier, safer and likely to be rewarding. Freedom, though, is crushed, aided and abetted by complicit royalist “academics.”





Pathetic royalist “university” V

11 09 2017

Having panicked several times, the people administering Chulalongkorn University seem to be spooked again. The problem is that it is their own actions, and the reactions to them, that cause the panic and spooking.

Worried about the reaction to events over a lecturer putting a student in a headlock and the university’s royalist reaction – blaming students – the administration released a statement for the international media. The statement essentially told that media to butt out of an “internal” affair, accusing foreigners of failing to understand “Thai culture.”

According to a report in Khaosod, these same duffers administering the royalist kindergarten have decided to “revise” their statement, toning it down.

Saying the statement hadn’t been properly vetted, officials said stronger language about the “shameful” actions of Ruengwit Bunjongrat, a professor and administrator, was removed after it was originally published.

“We published it on the website without careful deliberation,” Supawan Pipitsombat, a university spokeswoman said by phone. “It was the fault of our team.”

Getting its story straight seems to be rather too challenging for the dullards “administering” the university.





Pathetic royalist “university” III

3 09 2017

Chulalongkorn University’s concocted royalist initiation ceremony for first-year students that descended into chaos into chaos sees the university’s royalist administrators going royalist beserk.

When a group of students staged a walk out from the ridiculous prostration ceremony, one of them was put in a headlock by botany assistant professor Ruengwit Bunjongrat. The thug “professor” hid in a hospital and the university administration defended him.

Blaming the head of the Student Council, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal for the kerfuffle and barely concealing the administration’s desire to be rid of the student activist, it is replacing him and his colleagues with, they hope, appropriately royalist puppet Student Council.

The administration’s royalism is defended. They proudly declare that the students are not just renegades but unThai. The latter being a dangerously vicious attack on opponents usually the stuff of military thugs:

Disrespect to Thai morality, failing to maintain the university’s prestige and performing practices against Thai culture are among accusations faced by former student council president Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and other seven students for allegedly misbehaving during Chulalongkorn University’s (CU) oath-taking ceremony.

As a result of breaking these rules, Netiwit and his colleagues have had their behaviour points deducted by 25 points. Since Netiwit and four others had served in the CU student council, they were removed from those posts.

The royalist administrators list the transgressions based on their kindergarten’s 1984 regulations on student discipline:

Article 4: “Students must always strictly follow all laws, rules, regulations, announcements or orders of the University or their faculty”;

Article 5: “Students must follow Thai good moral, ethical and cultural principles on all occasions”;

Article 6: “Students must maintain unity, orderliness and the University’s image and prestige”

Article 7: “Students must behave themselves gently and not behave in ways that may damage themselves, their parents, their guardians, or the University” and

Article 12: “Students must not perform any tradition or practice deemed inappropriate to Thai culture.”

The students are guilty of causing the royalist world to tremble ever so slightly:

Instead of sitting on the ground and paying their respects like all other students, they chose to walk away from their positions spots, and stood and bowed before statues of the late King Rama V and VI.

That show of respect was insufficient, causing the royalist administrators’ berserk reactions. As well as assaulting one student, the students are now accused of “misconduct.”





Pathetic royalist “university” II

1 09 2017

Just over two weeks ago, PPT posted on Chulalongkorn University’s terrible publicity over its concocted royalist initiation ceremony for first-year students that descended into chaos.

As a group of students staged a walk out, one of them was put in a headlock by a royalist botany assistant professor Ruengwit Bunjongrat. The thug “professor” hid in a hospital and the university administration defended him while blaming the head of the Student Council, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal.

The university’s “leadership” wants to be rid of because he has taken positions contrary to the royalism promoted by the administration. That “leadership” said it was “investigating.” But, taking its lead from the military junta, “investigating” involves blaming victims and those it sees as “enemies.” That meant investigating Netiwit, who was accused of “violating two university regulations.”

At the time we stated: Make no mistake, like the lese majeste case against Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, this is an attempt to frame Netiwit.

And he has been now been framed and ousted.

Netiwit has been thrown out as president of the “university’s” Student Council having had his “behaviour points were cut following the showdown at the [concocted] oath-giving ceremony for King Rama V on Aug 3.”

Four of his fellow council members, all a part of Netiwit’s activist group, “also faced the cuts and were disqualified too…”. They are “Thornthep Maneecharoen and Thatthep Ruangprapaikitseree, also from the Political Science Faculty; Supalak Bamrungkij from the Economics Faculty; and Chinnawat Ngamlamai from the Education Faculty.”

The removal of “behavior points” – who knew such a system existed! – disqualified “him from sitting in the council, according to its [the ‘university’] regulations.”

So far, no action has been taken against thug-assistant professor Ruengwit, who has gone very quiet. That’s a royalist tactic, hoping that his impunity can be maintained.

Thailand’s double standards are everywhere. Under the military dictatorship, royalist dolts and thugs are empowered to repress and order society, in all of its institutions.





Students vs. hirelings and anti-democrats

31 05 2016

The Nation recently had an “analysis” article on the student movements against the military junta. It refers to “student groups such as Dao Din, the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and the Liberal League of Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD)…”.

It says that “[a]t first, people barely noticed them.” But then, “[s]lowly people learned more about them, and realised that their rebellion was not merely against the coup, but embraced a wider range of policies and social issues that were of concern to everyone.” The report notes how these groups have been politically innovative. They have had to be as their main opponent is the military dictatorship which has massive coercive power.

The report quotes activist Rangsiman Rome who is a key member of the NDM and who observes that the “movement has been ignited by the coup…”. He says that “the students could not tolerate abuses of power – such as tearing apart the 2007 Constitution and allowing members of the junta to go unpunished.” At the same time, they “fight for what ‘should be’ rather than accept what ‘will be’…”.

The article acknowledges that these students have been “at great risk,” but have not hesitated to rally and challenge the junta.

It is sometimes forgotten that these students were active before the 2014 coup. As Rangsiman states, “In 2013 we protested against the amnesty bill proposed by the previous [Yingluck Shinawatra] government…”. Khon Kaen University’s Dao Din student activist Panupong Sritananuwat says his “group has worked with villagers for more than 12 years. Their activities involve environmental issues and educating people on their rights to protect the community.”

The student activists argue that “across the country [students] are increasingly aware of their roles as citizens…”, with Natthisa Patthamaphonphong of the Chulalongkorn Community for People (CCP), saying that “the students wanted to demonstrate they cared about the country.”

The students also “challenged emerging allegations that their activit[ies] are insincere after people questioned whether they were sponsored by particular political factions.”

The article then gets bizarre by going to the source of such claims, reporting academic prostitute (again, apologies to sex workers) and a yellow-shirted “former activist” who has been made an “academic” in a yellow-shirted “university,” even when he lacks the usual credentials associated with academics.

The first is the decidedly slimy Panitan Wattanayagorn, described as “a long-time security lecturer at Chulalongkorn University,” which is probably a reasonable description although he spends most of his time doing tricks as “national security adviser to Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit Wongsuwan…” and before that being the ventriloquist’s dummy for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Panitan has probably never been an activist on anything. The best the article can do is say that he “has been close to a number of student activists…”. Perhaps he was the bagman for the military in this? We suppose that advocating the shooting down of civilian protesters counts as activism. As someone who has long been on the payroll of political masters, it is probably logical for him to declare that “it was inevitable for such questions to arise” about being “sponsored” by a political faction. Indeed, that is Panitan’s own position; he’s always sponsored by the military and right-wing royalists.

Panitan declares that “the public needed to keep an eye on youth-led movements to determine in the long run whether they are independent or not…”. He isn’t, and the public should watch him, for he’s dangerous through his connections with military thugs.

The other quotable “academic” is former People’s Alliance for Democracy co-leader Suriyasai Katasila, now transformed into a “deputy dean of Rangsit University’s College of Social Innovation…”. He isn’t a historian, erroneously comparing the students of 1973 and today’s students, saying “Today’s political condition is so complicated that students cannot straightforwardly do whatever they want, like students did in the past, in 1973…”. Clearly, he has no understanding of the conditions in 1973 that led to a corrupt military regime murdering students in the street.

We could go on, but what’s the point. These “commentators” have political axes to grind while being paternalist and denigrating the current student movements. Panitan blathered: “They should consider if their movements are appropriate and favourable for the society or not, otherwise the public will wonder about [the purpose of] the movements…”. We imagine there are no mirrors in the cheap Chula apartment he occupies.

The students in these groups have more mettle, more integrity and more principles than a herd of Panitans and Suriyasais.





Academic boycott I

29 05 2016

Thongchai Winichakul has a post at New Mandala asking questions about three academic conferences to be held in Thailand in 2017 and using the word “boycott.” Clipped from his post, these are:

  • The 13th International Conference on Thai Studies (ICTS), hosted by Chiang Mai University, 15-18 July 2017 (deadlines for proposals: 30 August 2016 for panels, and 30 November 2016 for individual papers);
  • The 10th International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), hosted by Chiang Mai University, 20-23 July 2017 (deadline for proposals: 10 October 2016);
  • The 2nd Conference for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia, by the Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia (SEASIA), hosted by Chulalongkorn University.

Thongchai Winichakul

Similar questions were raised in 2007 regarding the 2008 ICTS at Thammasat University. (Reading the responses to that post are enlightening of the darkness that haunts academia, both local and international.)

There is no academic freedom in Thailand. Calls have been made for academic freedom, but the military dictatorship brooks no interference in its reactionary work. The few activist students and academics are continually threatened by the junta and in the “suspect” areas of the country, the military actively police campuses. Several Thai academics have been forced to flee the country and yet their families are still harassed. The control of all universities in the country is effectively in the hands of royalist academics and administrators.

Given all of this evidence, it is reprehensible that the 10th International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) and the 2nd Conference for Southeast Asian Studies in Asia should decide to hold their events in Thailand well after the 2014 military coup and when Thailand is the only military dictatorship in the world. After all, the debate that took place in the International Studies Association in 2014 and 2015 saw its ISA Global South Caucus Conference removed from Chulalongkorn University and Thailand (see here, here and here). Yes, sigh, they moved it to another state where academic freedom is restricted, but at least they were not meeting under a military dictatorship.

Academics are a broad and usually pretty divided and politically weak “group.” In many ways, the “group” is if representative of anything, reflecting a broader set of interests in society, often connecting with the powers-that-be.

Think of Thailand, where academics have tended to consider themselves a part of the bureaucratic section of the elite. Thai academics have a history of sucking up to and supporting military regimes and salivating over positions with governments that provide money and prestige. When General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected prime minister, he surrounded himself with prominent professors keen to promote “semi-democracy,” military and monarchy. In more recent times, royalist academics have donned yellow shirts and supported all kinds of fascist ideas. Others serve the military dictatorship, including Panitan Wattanayagorn and Bowornsak Uwanno.

Academics are also lacking in political intestinal fortitude.

Think of Singapore, which has some of the world’s top-ranked universities, but where academics almost never challenge the status quo. If they do, they are quickly punished.

Nothing much came of the call to boycott ICTS in 2008. One of the commentators on the boycott opposed it, saying: “These days you have to be Swiss and drunk and in possession of a spray can to be charged with les [sic.] majeste. Most academics do not fit this profile, at least during working hours.” How wrong that was, then and since.

The opposition to the ICTS was “bought off” by special offers. As New Mandala’s Andrew Walker stated then:

At the time I was substantially in agreement with the call for a boycott. But subsequent events have persuaded me to attend. The key events have been the organisation of a series of panels in which the Thai monarchy will be subject to concerted academic scrutiny. As far as I know this public scrutiny is a first for Thailand (if not the world).

This is something like the call made by Thongchai in his New Mandala post. He suggests that “[a]nother approach to support our colleagues in Thailand is to make these events as vibrant, academically rigorous and critical as possible, to help push the boundaries of debate further.”

That was the “compromise” in 2008. Not much came of that brief and controlled moment of “freedom.” Academics are always suckers for such political maneuvers. Yes, there were some papers on the monarchy, but the academic environment has deteriorated remarkably since. The political environment in Thailand is far worse than in 2008.

Should there be a boycott? Absolutely. Will there be an organized boycott? No. Will some academics boycott. Yes. Some of this will be enforced as several academics, including some Thai academics living overseas, are effectively banned from Thailand and fear arrest if they attend a conference.





Not a scholar, a fascist

12 02 2015

Long-time readers will know that PPT has little time for “scholars” or “academics” who prostitute themselves to various administrations.

They will also know that most of these “scholars” or “academics” usually have few of the accoutrements usually associated with university scholars such as research, publications and so on.

These readers will also know that we consider academic-for-hire Panitan Wattanayagorn an example of this kind of “academic” charlatanism. He has thrown himself at the feet of various royalist and military regimes, licking their boots, benefiting from salary and privilege, while maintaining the benefits attached to his “academic” position at Chulalongkorn University.Panitan

Often the mainstream media facilitate Panitan’s chameleon role as academic/spokesman/adviser for royalist and fascist rulers.

The Bangkok Post reports that Panitan is a “government adviser” and adviser to the Ministry of Defence. That is, he is working for the military dictatorship.

It also says he is a “political science expert.” PPT guesses that his PhD from a third-tier US university is evidence of some capacity in political science, yet there is no “academic” neutrality or intellectual consideration for Panitan. His “expertise” is in “advising” fascists.

This is why he “has defended the continuation of martial law after a group of lawyers released a damning report that exposed violations of human rights and international obligations under martial law.”

None of this nonsense for the fascist Panitan, who states that “the political situation is not yet stable enough to lift martial law despite human rights concerns.”

We doubt Panitan has any conception of “human rights,” and if he does, he would prefer to trash them. Here’s how he justifies military dictatorship:

Under a country with martial law, you’d expect certain pressure on human rights just to keep peace, order and civility…. Of course the military realises that in the end, in principle, martial law is not good for Thailand because it’s a strong pill. If you take a strong medicine too long, it may destroy your internal organs….

… [But] Thailand is very sick….

PPT reckons the “illness” is the military itself. Panitan parrots military nonsense, not just because he is paid by the dictatorship but because he worships it.

Panitan justifies the military dictatorship that has imposed and maintained martial law summoned 666 people, arrested 134 for peacefully protesting, 362 for “other political charges” and at least 36 people “prosecuted for lèse majesté…”.





Silencing academics

19 09 2014

The May 2014 military coup has send a chill through all those who think and talk about politics.

The military dictatorship, which has strong support from royalists and other anti-democrats, is no different from other authoritarian regimes. It fears freedoms of expression, assembly and thought. Early on, the military junta specifically targeted academics considered unreliable.

While most academics in Thailand are quiescent in the face of repression and threat, and some academic prostitutes applaud repression, it is reported at the Bangkok Post reports that a tiny group who, with students, organized a forum entitled “Democracy Classroom: Chapter 2 – The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries,” have found the forum closed by the police. In addition, the organizers and academics were taken in for questioning and “re-education” on their defiance of the military.

Naturally enough, the academics had chosen not to speak of Thailand’s military dictatorship. But even the doltish cops realized that any opposition to military dictatorship was potentially dangerous. Well, maybe not, but their military bosses managed to notice.

The result of this intolerance and rising totalitarianism was that retired and well-known academic Nidhi Eowsriwong, Chaowarit Chaosangrat, Janjira Sombatpoonsiri and Prajak Kongkiratiand were hauled off to a police station. So were the student organizers who are a “group of Thammasat students who call themselves the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, or LLTD.” They were subjected to an “attitude adjustment” session from the cops.

The University might have also been in trouble as “soldiers had earlier submitted a letter to the university asking it to prevent such activities.” Yet to date the royalist administration of the once politically-thriving university has prevented politics on campus. In fact, the University’s administration slithered about and “responded to the military’s request by locking a lecture room used to organise LLTD’s last seminar, but the group went ahead with the seminar in the foyer of the building.”

The” police would release the lecturers and students once they reached an understanding with them.” Usually that means signing an agreement to not discuss any politics that offends the prickly leaders of the military dictatorship.





Handmaidens of the military junta

5 08 2014

At University World News, there’s a useful account of the salivating anti-democratic “leaders” of Thailand’s academic institutions who have thrown in their lot with the military dictatorship.

These handmaidens to the junta have been variously denigrated on social media as dogs having their stomachs rubbed, spineless royalists, academic jewelry for the junta, and as horrible examples for their students. Most of this is true, but hardly gets at their betrayal of what many consider to be the independent and critical role of academics. (Of course, there have been plenty of academics in many places who acquiesce to and support horrid regimes.)

Thai “academics” have a very long history of sucking up to and supporting military regimes. When General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected prime minister, he surrounded himself with prominent professors keen to promote “semi-democracy,” military and monarchy. In more recent times, royalist academics have donned yellow shirts and supported all kinds of fascist ideas.

As PPT noted some time ago, the presidencies of universities have been a bit like the judiciary, targeted and taken over by royalists in a planned “coup” that gave them control of universities across the country. Under the military dictatorship, they have already been moving to shore up military fascism.

This most recent report notes:

Rectors from nine of Thailand’s top public universities have joined the junta-picked lawmaking assembly established three months after the military staged the country’s 13th coup d’état on 22 May….

The nine rectors are from some of the country’s top universities including Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Chiang Mai, Kasetsart, Ramkhamhaeng, the National Institute of Development Administration, Srinakharinwirot, Khon Kaen and Mahidol.

… Also appointed was Thammasat University council Chair Noranit Sretabutr.

Some of the universities’ websites carried congratulations posted by their administrations on the appointment of the rectors.

Naturally enough, with their administrations being so supportive of military fascism and with a repressive military regime in place, critics of these spineless “academics” have had to bite their tongues.

Former Thammasat University rector Charnvit Kasetsiri who wrote an open letter “calling on Noranit and Thammasat Rector Somkid Lertpaitoon to ‘refrain’ from associating with bodies created by the junta.” Too late, really, as these two have long been associated with anti-democratic positions.

More outspoken was Yukti Mukdavichit, “an anthropology lecturer at Thammasat University, published an online open letter to the university’s rector and faculty, saying the decision to join the assembly was a ‘disgrace’ for a university known in the past for resistance against authoritarian regimes.”

Thongchai Winichakul, a history U.S.-based history professor, president of the Association of Asian Studies, and a former Thammasat student leader, “criticised the rectors’ decision to join the assembly as ‘shameless’ and likely to affect the credibility of the institutions and the academic profession.”

He’s correct to observe that: “these rectors have … overtly played a leading anti-democracy role, against electoral democracy, and in creating a justification for the latest coup…”. He added:

As of now, it appears that the majority of Thai academics prefer serving the establishment because, after all, they are the privileged ones in Thailand’s hierarchical society. Most of them support their rectors in playing such a disgraceful role….

These handmaidens of the military dictatorship will be unaffected by such criticism. They signed up to military fascism and royalist anti-democracy a long time ago, and they owe their positions, wealth and esteem to support from the military, palace and associated anti-democrats, not to any notions associated with academic work.





Further updated: Capturing universities

25 06 2014

What happens when a university comes to be controlled by yellow shirts who become anti-democrats? As you’d expect, they promote yellow shirts and anti-democrats.

PPT posted on how the so-called Council of University Presidents had been captured by royalists and ultra-royalists. Some “academics” also got involved with the anti-democrats as speakers and leaders, often reproducing misogynist rants. Not all academics are anti-democrats, but like academic medical departments, many university leaderships have been taken over by anti-democratic royalists.

Naturally enough, at Chulalongkorn University, the ultra-royalist takeover wasn’t required. It was always in the hands of the royalists. Hence, a regular reader informs PPT of a royalist stunt, supporting the anti-democrats and the military coup at this venerable sink hole of academic yellowness.

Chulalongkorn seems to have an event that Americans refer to as “Commencement” and those of the British persuasion might call “Graduation.” These events usually involve getting some venerable soul to come along and say useful and/or sage things to the graduating class, wishing them a thoughtful future based on all of the learning they are meant to have done. Admittedly, there are times when some dopey university administration decides to invite a looney or some politically partisan speaker. Yet, most good universities will usually try to stick with people who have something useful and wise to say.

So who would you guess the royalist coven that administers Chulalongkorn would decide to get for this event this year? The answer is that Chulalongkorn have decided to invite the young, filthy rich anti-democrat Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, once a spokesperson for the decrepit Democrat Party and then a celebrity protest leader for the anti-democrats. Naturally enough, she is also from a family that is fabulously endowed and that was reported several times as being one of the big funders of the very expensive anti-democrat rallies that paved the way for the current military dictatorship.

Our reader tells us that she’s a speaker at the Chula commencement ceremony on 3 July. The reader observes that this is another case of Chula sycophants/supporters of PDRC doing their bit for the anti-democrat/pro-royalist cause. This reader explains that there is a lot of opposition but it looks like Chula’s administration “is in on it.” Of course they are.

It seems like another case where wealth is more important than capacity. And it is certainly a case where anti-democrat royalism and airheadedness trumps all.

Update 1: We got this a little wrong. She has been selected as the student to make a speech. This is because, somehow, in amongst all of the protesting and whistling, she completed an M.A., even without attending class too much. Many of her peers aren’t too happy, some will boycott. The yellow-shirted academics are beaming.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports that lecturers at Chulalongkorn University have announced that they will boycott the graduation ceremony where the anti-democrat Chitpas will speak for her fellow graduates.