Malls and the status quo

13 07 2022

Archinect is not in PPT’s usual reading list. But it is this week after we found “Architecture, Consumerism, and Human Rights: On ​‘Subverting the Narrative of Power Systems in Thailand’ with Shopping Malls.” The story and interview begins:

Thesis projects offer an exciting glimpse into the minds of emerging designers and their unique architectural perspectives as they navigate through their careers. This is the case for Syracuse University B.Arch graduates Pin Sangkaeo and her collaborative research partner Benson Joseph. Together they explore the practice of merit-making and how political tactics and consumerism have impacted Thailand’s social and political agendas through their thesis project, Temples of Consumerism.

According to Sangkaeo, the project “investigates the role of shopping malls as physical tools of maintaining the status quo, used by those who hold political powers in order to superimpose their ideologies on the collective citizens and perpetuate the systems.”

Reproduced from the linked article where it is placed with the permission of Pin Sangkaeo





The weight that is 112

6 07 2022

Article 112 is stifling not just dissent, but Thailand itself. The weight of Article 112 is felt by the young, the innovative, and just about everyone who is interested in a more open politics. Blame the regime. Blame the royalist drivel taught in schools and paraded through the media. Blame ultra-royalists and their infantile attachment to symbols of a feudal path. Blame a judiciary that has lost its way as it protects neo-feudalism.

Of course, as everyone knows, there are attempts to change things. Such efforts are usually met by repression doled out by a blood-thirsty military.

The most recent effort to change things and to roll back neo-feudalism began two years ago. La Prensa Latina has an article about this anniversary and meets up with some of the leading protesters and the manner in which the military-monarchist regime has sought to silence them with lawfare and the legal weight of lese majeste and other serious charges.

Clipped from Prachatai

The article begins with Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. She now attends university classes wearing an electronic monitoring (EM) device on her ankle. The 23 year-old has been charged with 10 counts of violating the lese-majeste law and a 16 other charges.

The regime’s idea is that semi-house arrest, EM, a 9pm to 6am curfew, and a myriad of legal cases means she’s got no time or opportunity for much else.

Maynu Supitcha, a 20 year-old university student from Thaluwang “has conducted street surveys on the monarchy, and other peaceful protest actions, for which they said authorities handed them three lese-majeste charges.” Maynu also has EM.

Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jardnok, “said he has been slapped with more than 40 charges, including 16 related to lese-majeste, which could see him spend nearly a lifetime in jail.”

 

According to recent data there are now some 210 Article 112 cases since November 2020.





Silk and shaky royal power II

31 05 2022

Following up on our last post, the media has been reporting that the state has been especially energetic in promoting silk royalist ideology.

Thailand is not at all short of royalist celebration days, but yet another has been added. According to The Nation, August 12 has been declared “Thai Fabric Day,” in another posterior polish for the Queen Mother, Sirikit.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting was brought forward to approve Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome’s proposal “to declare the birthday of … Queen Sirikit as ‘Thai National Fabric Day’ to mark the 90th of birthday of the Queen Mother…”.

Clipped from The Nation

Itthiphol also revealed that “the Cabinet also instructed government agencies to carry out PR campaigns on the royal activities of the Queen Mother so that Thai children and people would learn from various royal projects.” In another report, he claimed the old queen played a “role in boosting the country’s prosperity and raising people’s standard of living.”

Prime Minister and one of the old queen’s acolytes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha chimed in, blathering about “her tireless promotion of Thai textiles [and]… the revival of the domestic industry.” He claimed that Sirikit had “advised local weavers on ways to improve their skills as well as the quality of their fabrics…”. In essence, it is the great, the good, and the all-knowing who tell the lower classes how to do the things they’ve done for centuries.

All of the time, effort, and taxpayer funds expended on this event was “rewarded” with an appearance by the king and queen, suggesting that the palace has been heavily involved in yet another propaganda event.

There were some seriously weird “fashions” on show. None more weird than the king’s suit. While the king has repeatedly demonstrated a strange fashion sense, this fashion travesty resulted from his daughter’s design “skills.” Sadly, as bad as the suit is, we can only assume that it will now be taken up by the sycophants in government and in the higher reaches of the business community.

Clipped from The Nation





Updated: On graduation boycotts

29 01 2022

The Guardian has taken notice of the boycotts of royals at graduation ceremonies: “a growing number of young Thais who are refusing to attend their graduation ceremonies because they are presided over by members of the royal family.”

The article cites one student who: “identified as ‘anti-royalist’ and [stated] that attending her graduation ceremony would have been ‘a waste of time’.” She added: “I don’t know why the royal family has anything to do with our graduation.”

Academic Paul Chambers suggests an answer: “The monarchy makes a great deal of money overseeing graduations so I doubt this practice will end any time soon…”.

Responding to royalists who want to punish students, a student observed: “They don’t know that people have already changed, that our culture has changed, so they just keep saying the same things that worked before, but it doesn’t work any more.”

Update: A reader correctly observes that while royals can make money from the graduation ceremonies, the real reason for royal involvement has been to establish and maintain ideological hegemony, particularly of the middle class.





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.”





Updated: Lese majeste as blasphemy

28 04 2017

Prachatai reports on yet another weird legal charge and conviction involving long dead royal figures.

On 25 April 2017, the Provincial Court in  Lamphun sentenced 23 year-old Songpol Phoommesri to one year in prison and fined him 5,000 baht for having “violated” the Computer Crimes Act. The court suspended the sentence.

He was accused of having posted a Facebook message deemed by some localist and royalist zealots as defamatory of a legendary “queen” of the ancient Hariphunchai “kingdom.”

Songpol was deemed to have violated Article 14 of the Act. That article states:

Whoever commits the following acts shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Baht or both:
(1) input into a computer system wholly or partially fake or false computer data that is likely to cause damage to another person or the public;
(2) input into a computer system false computer data in a manner that is likely to undermine national security or to cause public panic;
(3) input into a computer system computer data that is an offence against national security or terrorism according to the Criminal Code.
(4) input into a computer system pornographic computer data that is accessible to the public;
(5) publish or forward any computer data with the full knowledge that such computer data is under paragraph (1), (2) (3) or (4).

As far as PPT can determine from the information available, Songpol did not violate any of these five items. There was no fake or false computer data, there was no threat of public panic or likely to create panic,no terrorism, and no pornography.

Rather, it seems that he has been convicted of something closer to blasphemy (“the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk”).

His blasphemy related to a posting on “Facebook on February 2016 deemed defamatory to Chammathewi, the queen who is believed to be the founder of Hariphunchai Kingdom in the 7th century located in the present day Lamphun.”

Indeed, Prachatai confirms this when it states:

After he posted the message on his Facebook account, a group of local people in Lamphun filed a complaint against him, accusing him of using obscene language to defame the queen who is widely regarded as a matriarch of Lamphun.

In fact, is simply impossible to definitively prove that Chammathewi ever existed or that she was a “queen.” The only “evidence” is found in an ancient chronicle. No chronicle is necessarily reliable as they were repeatedly copied and re-written. Rather, the story of Chammathewi is a legend.

It seems that in royalist Thailand, even the legends of ancient “royals” and founding myths are to be protected. That is, blasphemy is effectively recognised by the royalist courts.

Update: A reader says our headline is misleading. We understand her point. The conviction discussed above was under the Computer Crimes Act. Yet many lese majeste charges are coupled with the computer crimes law. Both are used to repress and oppress.





Self congratulations

25 04 2017

There’s very little scope for humility among the members of the junta and its minions which together constitute the military dictatorship.

The latest example of arrogance is in an “interview” with charter junkie and career anti-democrat Meechai Ruchupan by The Nation’s Suthichai Yoon.

A couple of decades ago, Suthichai portrayed himself as a journalist opposed to military dictatorship. Now he is an ardent supporter and his “interviews” and columns are propaganda pieces for anti-democrats.

Breathlessly, Suthichai asks how many times Meechai has been involved with writing constitutions. Of course, Meechai has been the rightists most important assets in opposing democratization, and this is why he claims roles in writing five charters, all military-backed constitutions. He also claims he “had parts in writing of the 1997 and 2007 charters.” He adds: “I did not help write them but I was in the Parliament and I helped checking and correcting. I also countersigned them after the royal endorsement.”

That’s quite a record of getting things wrong. Meechai’s task has been to ensure that royalist ideology is maintained and that popular sovereignty has been limited.

The aged Meechai complains that writing the military’s latest charter was exhausting for him: “It takes a lot of effort. Every day after work I always have to lay down very still. This is because it is not only the Constitution but also other legislation that is my job. This takes a lot of brainpower.”

We doubt the latter. Meechai essentially followed orders (orders he would have mostly agreed with). In fact, it was the military junta that dictated the terms of the charter, and with a puppet Constitution Drafting Committee and a puppet National Legislative Assembly, getting the required document approved was a doddle.

Suthichai then asks a seemingly rhetorical question that is is for the yellow audience. He asks if the new charter will keep those nasty “politicians” in line.

Yes, says Meechai.

He then asks if the military charter is durable. Meechai’s response is revealing:

Some said that when His Majesty the King presided over the ceremony to promulgate the Constitution it was the first time in 48 years. I thought to myself that this charter could be around for at least 48 years, too. I take it as a lucky number and think it is how long the charter will last.

He says this because the military makes it almost impossible to change the charter. Only a truly democratic revolution will change it, and the junta reckons they have seen this off.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to highlight his own greatness by asking how influential Meechai was in the process:

… I admit the wordings are mine because I was the one typing it for everyone to see in the screens. And we debated until we reached agreement. Also, we had to think about people outside the room, too. We tried to compromise.

Compromise and debate were actually missing from the process, along with any notion of public consultation. Debate was in a narrow circle of military and royalists.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to lie a bit when he asks, “Are you worried about criticism that you did this for the junta? Meechai’s response is a fairy tale:

No. We have treated the NCPO as everyone else. We sent letters to gather opinions from them. The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) members had never seen PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. And the PM also left us alone.

We might believe that The Dictator stayed away, but only because he had a puppet drafter and puppet assemblies. But everyone knows that The Dictator is a meddler and there can be no doubt that he directed and coached, and the public record shows it. In fact, when Meechai states, “… there were no orders from the NCPO, I insist,” he is lying. He then adds:

… in the meeting we have Maj Gen Veera Rojanavas who is close to the PM. He only took notes and reported to the PM. I also told him to report to the PM too, assuring that the charter would be done in time.

Meechai then engages in considerable propaganda for the junta: no, the military won’t form a political party; the junta does not have a political base; the “election” will be held as soon as possible; The Dictator works hard and he does not want to stay on.

We can’t wait to see what further role the aged Meechai gets in a military-dominated future government.





The ideological crisis

12 04 2017

Eugene Mark is identified as a Senior Analyst with Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). He claims “a deep interest in Thailand’s political and security affairs.”

He writes in the Diplomat that “Thailand’s military-led reconciliation talks … have again wrongly perceived the country’s crisis as an elite competition played at the top of a hierarchical society.”

He thinks “the military elites are trying to seek a negotiated deal with opposing politicians while further entrenching their political control.” He sees this as a mistaken perception that may fit with the military’s past efforts to co-opt politicians while giving them little power.

Mark reckons the thing that’s really wrong with Thailand is a “fundamental ideological crisis.” This crisis pits a changing society against “official ideology, which forms the basis for the military elites’ authoritarian control.”

The threat is from electoral politics:

A demand for electoral democracy by the rural populace poses a significant threat to the ideological basis upon which the military elites can exist in the political realm. It essentially rejects the role of the King and his “few good men” in providing for the nation.

Mark thinks that this “ideological crisis can get more severe over time…” due, he asserts, to the end of the last reign: “In other words, the way in which King Bhumibol’s personality cult was formed set the military on the course of failure right from the start.”

The “attempt to strike a negotiated deal with politicians from the opposite end while entrenching their control suggests military leaders do not understand that their justification for authoritarian control has reached an expiration date.”

He predicts more instability unless the elite can come to terms with the people by coming up with a new social contract that is more than an elite arrangement for more exploitation and resistance to change.





Whose morals?

2 01 2015

Whenever members of the elite and other anti-democrats starts talking about morals PPT understands this to be a part of a royalist ideology that promotes the monarchy as a political alternative to elected politicians. In this ideology electoral politics is undermined by claims that politicians are evil and corrupt.

When the puppet National Reform Council (NRC) proposes “a special body to foster moral values and good governance among public-office holders,” alarm bells should be sounded.

Reported at the Bangkok Post, chairman Thienchay Kiranandana says the NRC wants a “national council of morals…”. The agancy, if formed, would “oversee the standards of morals, ethics and good governance for public figures, state agencies and private companies doing business with state agencies…”.

Thienchay points out that “election candidates are considered public figures, so the agency will also disclose background information about them.” The idea that a “morals agency” will assist “people to make informed voting decisions” is what the elite thinks is necessary to prevent “evil” people becoming electorally popular.

Naturally, Thienchay wants the body “to be protected from prosecution in order to do carry out its job effectively.” While he adds that “efforts would be made to ensure it does not disseminate false information that could harm public figures,” the idea that an unelected body of “moral” authorities could decide what and when to say about politicians is dangerous.

There have already been many demonstrations that so-called independent agencies are unaccountable in Thailand.





Kavi on Abhisit by Abhisit

30 10 2012

Kavi

Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation has never been shy about promoting Abhisit Vejjajiva as his most loved politician. In a post not that long ago, we pointed out Kavi’s unreserved admiration for Abhisit and the distaste he felt for elected politicians who seemed to be more popular with voters than the man he admires most. Hence it is no surprise that Kavi should produce a wholly uncritical and  syrupy appreciation of Abhisit’s recently published book that claims to set the story straight and tell the truth of the events of April and May 2010.

While the book is titled “Truth has no color,” and Kavi claims it is a “tell-it-all” account, Kavi doesn’t actually tell his readers if there is any truth in Abhisit’s account or whether it is simply a self-serving gloss. PPT hasn’t yet seen the book although the cover apparently claims that the book rebuts the claims of all the “liars.”

We can only assess Kavi’s account of a 174 page “memoir” that has, astoundingly, 44 chapters. This alone suggests that, at less than 4 pages a chapter, the book is not providing any deep analysis. So much for Abhisit the “academic.” A reader tells us it is “so badly written, so poorly substantiated … it’s actually impossible to satirise as it sets a new benchmark for unconscious self-parody.” At least Kavi explains that the book contains “simple thoughts.” Nowhere is Kavi even close to being critical, being accepting of every claim Abhisit makes, including the notion that the brave leader worked “to ensure that Thailand would not become a failed state.” The regime Abhisit created, built on royalist ideology, brute force, repression, and censorship and rejecting opponents as ignorant, duped and paid buffaloes says more about a failed ideology and ruling class than a failed state.

Referring to Abhisit as a “young leader,” Kavi claims that Abhisit struggled with “fears of losing innocent lives…”. He says that Abhisit includes “his thoughts and surroundings along with his close aides and soldiers who guarded him” at the headquarters of the 11th Army Regiment which became the offices of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations during the events of April and May 2010, and where Abhisit and his team sort the military’s protection.

In fact, Abhisit’s military protection included his being hoisted to power in a deal concocted by the military and he is apparently unhappy that he was criticized for not having won government via the ballot box. This causes him to claim his “premiership was legitimate and went through the parliamentarian approval as in other countries.” Nothing new there, as this was his claim from the beginning. That it also hides the military’s role in his rise haunts Abhisit.

Abhisit expresses his personal disdain for Thaksin Shinawatra and believes that his “only serious mistake” was in rejecting Thaksin. Like a spoiled child, Abhisit blames his failures and his unpopularity on the evil mastermind of every single thing, Thaksin. His claim that his infamous “televised negotiation [sic.] between … Abhisit’s government and opponents … was a publicity stunt for the opponents even though he thought the government could reach agreement with them.”

Our memory of the event is that it was Abhisit who decided to make the televised meeting with red shirt leaders a stunt. He had repeatedly refused any negotiation and abruptly changed his mind at the last minute. In the talks, he repeatedly denied the red shirt claim for a new elections, saying that “elections will solve nothing.” While Abhisit was intransigent, in the book he blames Thaksin.

The good old days

Kavi makes claims regarding the book that has Abhisit portraying himself as following “rule of law” or following international standards on military engagement with protesters and the like. This leads Kavi to claim that Abhisit displayed “strength and decency.” Unfortunately, Kavi provides no evidence from the book for this and fails to reflect critically on these claims by a man accused of ordering the military to establish live fire zones and to use snipers. That evidence suggests that the idea that Abhisit was “a concerned leader constantly fearing bloodshed and tried to prevent the loss of lives” is a self-serving nonsense.

There are other claims that are apparently from the realm of fairy tale. Abhisit says that “with all the propaganda that went on against the government, Abhisit and his team were not able to counter them efficiently and sufficiently.” How ludicrous is this when it is considered that the state controlled all media or had it on side and shut down virtually all of the red shirt media.

Abhisit is living in a fantasy world where he now believes his own propaganda. Kavi wants to live next door.








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