Short on good sense and vaccine

14 06 2021

The regime’s vaccine rollout is spluttering and seems to have pretty much failed to meet expectations.

Let’s be clear on the reason for this. It is because Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and, we suspect, the palace decided that they could get some excellent royalist propaganda by betting on the AstraZeneca vaccine and the ill-prepared and tiny Siam Bioscience. By producing AstraZeneca at the king’s company, they reckoned – like dams, water supplies, roads, rain and more – they could convince the public that the king had saved the country from the virus.

VaccineAs they were warned ages ago, this was a fraught strategy.

Now it is looking like a PR failure for regime and palace. The reports of shortages are everywhere.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has postponed Covid-19 vaccination for people who have registered via Thai Ruam Jai website.

Hospitals across the country are in trouble on vaccines, causing Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to deny “that the Public Health Ministry has anything to do with the postponement of vaccination appointments, scheduled for this week, by numerous private and state hospitals and health centres in Bangkok and other provinces.” As in previous buck-passing, he cannot tell the truth: that Siam Bioscience can’t produce sufficient vaccine. To do so would be to criticize the king.

The vulnerable are being left behind in vaccine rollout as it becomes more privatized and it is dog-eat-dog in getting a shot, meaning the rich are okay but the poor, the aged, and such groups are left behind.

Now, the “Rural Doctors Society is demanding that the government, and the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), tell the truth about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines…”.

Truth is not the regime’s usual approach to problems. When it involves the monarchy, PR/fake news and silences are standard. The more usual approach in dealing with criticism is repression and threats, not transparency.





Propaganda personified

8 10 2020

Recently retired army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has a new job with the king, certainly rewarding his “loyalty.” Yet, according to the Bangkok Post, he has entered the monkhood for one month, at Wat Hong Rattanaram, classified as royal temple. It is the same temple where retired national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda was ordained last week.

The Post report is odd, saying his “ordination was a simple ceremony,” but then reporting that all the “chiefs of the defence forces and police” were there for the event and a bunch of Army “slaves” are on call to help the newly ordained Apirat. That hardly counts as “simple” – unless describing the collective mind of the chiefs – and seems to have been a media event as well.

Why? Because it was yet another piece of royalist propaganda, with “Gen Apirat [having] earlier announced he would enter the monkhood … to make merit for King Rama IX, … Queen Sirikit … and [the current] King and Queen.”

As many of Thailand’s old men have shown for a couple of decades, their post retirement propaganda activities are significant.

We doubt that Apirat is making merit for his leadership failures or for the deaths of civilians at the hands of his forces.

 





Piling it high

29 09 2020

In a recent post, PPT observed that the country’s Defense Council was almost entirely focused on monarchy. Defense now means “protecting” the monarchy, led by an erratic, super-wealthy, egocentric and absent king.

In that post we noted that self-selected prime minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had “instructed the armed forces to also support activities organised by other units in promoting … the King’s work…”. He also “urged government agencies to promote … the King’s royal projects, particularly the applied New Theory Agriculture…”.

It didn’t take long for the propaganda machine to change up a gear, with the Bangkok Post placing a “story” exactly following Gen Prayuth’s demands.

The “story” reports something called the “Khok Nong Na model” which is promoted as something “new,” even if slavishly claiming to be following the so-called New Theory and the Sufficiency Economy “philosophy” promoted by the dead king.

(For those who have forgotten this bit of palace propaganda, look here, here, and here.)

The Khok Nong Na project is delivered by the largely irrelevant Community Development Department and is being piloted in Phitsanulok, Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet. These projects are said to be “[f]inanced by the department’s 2019 budget…”. At least the CDD is truthfully explaining that something attributed to royals is paid for by the taxpayer.

Remarkably, the “ideas” in the Khok Nong Na project are attributed not just to the dead king, but these “ideas” are claimed to have been “further developed by … King … Vajiralongkorn…”. There’s no evidence for this and there’s no track record of Vajiralongkorn ever having had an “idea” that wasn’t self-serving.

In essence, the Khok Nong Na project draws on 1980s notions of “indigenous farming wisdom,” and applies it to “modern-day farming.” By “modern-day,” the CDD seems to be actually talking about big farms, intensive marketing, tourism (!), and farmers taking out loans, practices which were never a part of the dead king’s Sufficiency Economy.

The CDD has big plans. Assuming “success,” it will be “expand[ed] nationwide,” and then become part of a “university that teaches a degree in the New Theory Agriculture and other agricultural concepts developed by King Rama IX.” The Department plans to call it “The University of the King’s Philosophy”, establish campuses nationwide, and will teach about “over 4,000 royally-initiated projects, 40 agricultural concepts and the Khok Nong Na model…”.

The result? “With the Khok Nong Na model, we believe that everyone in society will be happy and the country will prosper.” Further, “the Khok Nong Na model could solve almost all problems related to agriculture in Thailand such as drought and flooding.” Wow! But there’s more: “we will not live in poverty and will live a happy life if we follow the Sufficiency Economy concept.” Fantastical nonsense.

The propaganda result? “The Khok Nong Na model attests to the monarchy’s generosity to share his agricultural concepts and theories based on the principle of self-reliance…”. But there’s more! “What King Rama IX gave us and … King [Vajiralongkorn]’s determination to further develop the late King’s work will benefit humanity, not just Thai people…”.

The cost? Not stated, but it will be funds drained from the taxpayer.

How much more of this royalist buffalo manure can be spread?





Military, monarchy and their nation

5 08 2020

With criticism of the king, monarchy and regime increasing, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha sounded old-fashioned and tired in his claim that the absent king and queen “are concerned over the safety of flood victims and have ordered volunteers in affected provinces to supply meals to them.”

That kind of claim was standard for the dead king and usually resulted in taxpayer funds putting cheap goods in bags with the king’s moniker on it and handing them out in stage-managed ceremonies. This king has continued that, but his absence from the country makes it a lame exercise and one that is very mid-20th century.

Speaking of throwbacks, Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong could no longer keep his mouth shut on calls for reform of the monarchy-military alliance. He seemed agitated and must feel that Gen Prayuth is being too “conciliatory.” He’s issued (more) threats against those he calls “nation-haters,” which is also “a term frequently used by pro-establishment figures to describe pro-democracy activists.”

The Army chief, speaking to the cadets at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, “slammed unidentified individuals who kept criticizing their own country, saying they are an ‘incurable disease’.”

Apirat “protecting”

His threat and warning was clear: “Those who hate their own country are not recoverable because they keep mocking their own country.” The general “told the cadets that it is preventable by cultivating a patriotic mindset early on from their childhood.”

Activist Arnon Nampa reportedly described Gen Aprirat as “lacking maturity” in “coming up with new discourses to belittle citizens.” He stated: “It’s nonsense. He’s just ridiculing those who are fighting for democracy…. We don’t hate the country, it’s the dictators we detest.”

One of Gen Apirat’s problems is that his own “patriotic mindset” instilled from  childhood by his military family and his military indoctrination means that he is unable to distinguish between monarchy, military and “nation.” For him, military and monarchy are twinned as the nation and he is incapable of imagining anything else.





With 3 updates: Corrupt military

15 02 2020

The calls for reform of the Army following the Korat murders are almost deafening. Some are from those who previously more or less supported the 2006 and 2014 military coups. Other critics are ardent yellow shirts.

But, really, wasn’t all of this corruption known before? It was for us, and we have posted on it dozens and dozens of times. The unusual wealth, free digs for senior officers, the use of the lower ranks as slaves by the top brass, “commissions,” scams, nepotism, the impunity on torture and murder, etc. It has all been widely known.

Clipped from Khaosod

Naturally enough, the criticism of the military flows across into the military-backed regime, led by generals. One reported comment was an expression of “hopelessness” at responses to Korat from both Army and regime. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was seen as gruff and uncaring in his response while Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s tearful media conference was seen by some as theatrical.The two are seen as part of the same regime and they are both men who have benefited greatly from the corrupt system.

Of course, Apirat’s response is also political as he is angling to take the premiership after Gen Prayuth, to continue the Army’s political dominance.

One of the public responses has been skepticism that “the army chief’s vow to bring transparency to the barracks” is real. As one person commented to reporters, “there is no reason why those in power will make sacrifices…”.

We at PPT are not so skeptical because Gen Apirat obviously views the current criticism as an opening for critics and a threat to the Army’s role in the economy and politics. For the moment, he is unable to shut down critics. And, he needs to respond. He’s said:

There are many projects among army personnel who collaborate with businessmen including real estate and loan sharking businesses. I know that and there will be generals down to colonels who will go jobless this month and in the coming months….

Sacking underlings is one thing. Attacking the toxic culture of a feudal military requires much more that this.

But the political threat to the military is acknowledged by Gen Apirat and he knows he has to be seen to be doing something.

As the Bangkok Post reports. “[p]olitical activists are pushing for an investigation into what they describe as the army’s administrative errors, which they believe was the root cause of the massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima…”.

The Future Forward Party and other opposition parties are demanding investigation and reform.

A group known as The People’s Party for Freedom, Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) called on the “House of Representatives’ committee on military affairs” to conduct “an investigation into the army’s alleged mismanagement” of armories and poor security. More significantly, it also demanded “that businesses run by the army, especially those managing army-owned land for commercial purposes” be investigated.

This is a big deal. Consider, for example, the role of the military in the Eastern Economic Corridor, controlling the airport and port in the project as well as tracts of land that are being converted to commercial use. And, the military controls millions of rai of land.

The group also demanded “that the authorities look into certain members of top brass, who have abused their authority for the benefit of themselves and their families.” Here the group is pointing to the “military housing project … in which the gunman was reportedly cheated by his superior and his superior’s family, [as]… clear evidence of blatant abuse in the army…”

But there’s much, much more. Think of the crony Senate and the nepotism of Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, among many, many others. Consider how it is that Can anyone remember the Rolls Royce corruption case and how nothing happened? Does anyone recall the corruption allegations over the Army’s expensive Rajabhakti Park homage to dead kings?

And then there’s the declared wealth of the military members of the junta’s administration, showing huge and unusual wealth in 2014:

If a general in the armed forces, your assets average about 78 million baht.

If you managed to become an admiral in the navy, you sail away with average assets of about 109 million baht.

The top money secretes to the top police …[where] the average for the top brass in the police is a whopping 258 million baht.

Even declared unusual wealth was never investigated. For confirmation of this, for readers with access, a recent academic article detailed some of this. This is what the paper’s abstract states:

After the military coup of 2014, 143 serving and retired generals of the Royal Armed Thai Forces submitted asset declarations to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on being appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. By analysing these declarations, this article demonstrates that a cohort of wealthy generals has emerged, which leads to the article’s central concern: how is it that despite the political reform project of the 1990s, military leaders were able to evade scrutiny and become wealthy? It is argued that behind the lack of scrutiny of the military’s wealth accumulation was a structure of fear that severely undermined the capacity to enforce regulations and which enabled the military to evade the constitutional forms of scrutiny elaborated in the 1997 Constitution. That structure of fear emerged in a context of an elusive political settlement when the apparatuses of the state were occupied by competing regime framers, leading to a re-assertion of military power.

The Korat event has led to an outpouring of accusations and complaints, some of it from soldiers:

Lawyer Atchariya Ruangrattanapong said he was compiling a list of soldiers who had made similar complaints about being caught up in shady loans or real estate deals with superior officers.

“There are plenty of cases at the moment…”.

Atchariya also praised the military for transferring Col. Uthai Fangkratok and Lt. Col. Tee Permpol to “inactive duty” within the Second Army Region, which covers Thailand’s northeastern region where the rampage took place.

“Thank you commander of the Second Army Region for the actions after we exposed the scam,” he said in a Facebook post on the Help Crime Victims Club page.

Despite our comment above, there’s ample reason for skepticism about the “optics” around “doing something.” Critic Titipol Pkadeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University declares: “It is just a show…”.

For one thing, Gen Apirat is not allowing any independent investigations. He has:

… ordered 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Thanya Kiattisan to conduct a “straightforward” and speedy investigation into the shooting, said a source who asked not to be identified.

Two other working teams have been told to look into soldiers’ welfare provisions and businesses run within the barracks as well as take action against any personnel found to be involved in dishonest deals, the source added.

Maj Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, chief of the Army Welfare Department, and Lt Gen Ayut Siwiset, chief of the Directorate of Personnel, are in charge of the two panels.

While he has “threatened to suspend any business-oriented army projects that are found to have irregularities,” again, it is an internal investigation.

Bolstering skepticism, it has been widely reported that Gen Apirat’s statement that “retired army officers must move out from their official residences…”, has exceptions. No prizes for guessing that Gen  Prayuth, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda will be first among those keeping their Army-supplied houses. This is because they make a “contribution to society.”

Other “retired generals who now serve as Senators; and retired army generals in the Privy Council” also have taxpayer-funded free accommodation on bases, cloistered from the rest of the population, feeling comfortable among the groveling and hierarchy of the forces, using military slaves and more.

While they suck on the public teat forever, they are being “recognized” for their “contributions” to the military, conducting military coups, strengthening impunity and slaughtering red shirts. And, they have strengthened the military’s systematized corruption.

Who can forget the taxpayer-funded years of free accommodation  for now dead Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in a house that the Army has since “donated” to the king. Where does current Privy Council President Gen Surayud Chulanont live?

It is not just that those at the very top engage in nepotism, corruption and sweet deals, setting a poor example, but it is systematized: those at lower levels engage in corruption that funnels funds up into the higher ranks.

Update 1: Is it only a coincidence that Gen Prayuth has ordered the Fine Arts Department to produce “shows” on “Thailand’s war history to bolster patriotism among Thais.” The aim is to strengthen “unity” and promote “awareness of the roles of key institutions — the nation, religion and monarchy — in helping overcome crises…”. Given that most of the propaganda will be about the military, their “reputation” will also be bolstered.

Update 2: The op-eds criticizing the military are raining down like political confetti. Some of them seem to express surprise at the size of corruption revealed, while neglecting to mention some of the biggest military scams or to ask why it is that the military brass gets away with murder and crime. Other op-eds get right to the point: “The Thai army is a closed system governed by feudal authoritarianism which breeds corruption and abuse of power.” Read them all.

Update 3: Prachatai reports on a rally of:

a hundred people [who] gathered in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) yesterday (13 February) for a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims of the Nakhon Ratchasima mass shooting … and to demand that Gen Apirat Kongsompong take responsibility by resigning from his position as army chief.





No shots at the king’s butt in neo-feudal Thailand

4 11 2018

Readers may recall that back in 2017 the king got shot in the bum or was shot at and missed while cycling in Germany. This was by so local kids using BB guns or something similar. In the end, the king didn’t press any charges, although it is not clear that the kids were old enough to be charged. In Thailand, of course, it would have been very different. The lese majeste law has been used against a juvenile.

It is known that, later in life, the fit king took up cycling. Anything a king does becomes a big deal in Thailand as promoting palace propaganda makes every royal fabulous and everything a royal does “important” for a time.

So bike riding is promoted and military ministers have to get their minions to go out and buy them expensive cycles, helmets and Lycra so they can waddle around looking like cyclists and even get on a two-wheeled means of transport that they may not have even used when they were kids. All of this for palace propaganda and displays of loyalty to whatever fad, whim or hobby the royal has.

Another example is pétanque, which was promoted hugely because it was said the then princess mother liked the European game played by oldsters.

Obsequious officials and royalists watch aged princess mother pitch a boule

In royalist Thailand, her “interest” meant that all the royal slitherers joined in, with “creation of petanque teams for the police, army, and civil service.” She dies and pétanque is not news any more. The police, army, and civil service are now all on bikes. But we digress.

It is reported that the king “will preside over the official opening of a 23.5-kilometre cycling lane at Suvarnabhumi airport on Nov 23…”. That will be almost two years after the lane was first opened. We guess the king has been busy, cycling in Germany , re-ordering the palace and so on, so the royalizing of the thing has had to wait.

The brief report states: “To make preparations for the royal visit, the Happy and Healthy Bike Lane … will be closed from Nov 12 to Nov 24 and reopened to the public on Nov 25 after the opening.” We can’t imagine what the preparations might entail, but certainly every little bump and crack will have to be smoothed out by officials for fear that the unpredictable king might stick a royal boot up an official posterior.

When opened, the track was known as Sky Lane, but the royal propagandists have had the king rename it the Happy and Healthy Bike Lane. Nothing of any significance in feudal Thailand is permitted to be unroyalled. Not even a recreational cycling track.

We also learn that the “cycling park is jointly operated by Airports of Thailand Plc and Siam Commercial Bank Plc, with the aim of making it one of the world’s best cycling tracks.” Now it’s royalled, it must be the best. Expect UN awards for the king and the cycle track. We note that the AOT is a state body and the king is the largest shareholder in the SCB.

It really is a sad spectacle when a nation is steamrollered by such propaganda. That said, we expect no pot shots at the royal butt. If there are even rumors of it, watch out!





Lese majeste ≠ democracy

3 11 2018

In a rather bizarre junta “election” story, which we will post on separately, Foreign Minister and junta lover Don Pramudwinai defends the lese majeste law.

We know that all regimes have defended this odious law. In the past, defenses have ranged from declaring lese majeste a part of Thailand’s cultural bedrock, comparing it with defamation laws, claiming it as essential for political stability, asserting that lots of countries have such a law, to claims about Thailand’s “uniqueness.”

Anti-democrat Don, however, invents a new and preposterous story. He claims that the draconian lese majeste law has popular support, seemingly making it a “democratic” law:

Some ambassadors discussed with me and raised the lese majeste law issue, and asked why there exists such a law which limits free expression. I asked whether their countries have no specific measures and said Thais are well aware of the lese majeste law…. If you count the number of people who oppose it, you will discover that it’s just a handful. So how can it be a problem when a majority does not see it as a problem?

This is nonsensical but, then, Don is a ridiculous propagandist for the military dictatorship and a feudal monarchy.

The fact is that as Thailand’s politics became more vigorous and divided following the 2006 military coup, arrests and imprisoning through accusations of lese majeste and acts against “national security” became increasingly common, reaching a crescendo under the military Junta that seized power in 2014 and continues to reule and oppress.

Lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act are used by Thailand’s royalist regimes to denounce political opponents and protect privileges and positions.





Propaganda for the junta and monarch(y)

29 08 2018

While PPT was posting of Fascism and academic accommodations to it and for it, a couple of interesting stories appeared in The Nation and Khaosod that seem to reflect on the issues of academic (un)freedom, indoctrination and propaganda.

With the so-called succession crisis seemingly never really materializing, royalism and royalist propaganda for the king has moved into an even higher gear, fertilized by the junta’s fervent monarchism and anti-republicanism.

Khaosod’s story is of blunt force propaganda inflicted on students at Thammasat University by junta and royalist university administrators:

Eight people, six women and two men wearing yellow neckerchiefs and blue baseball caps, marched on stage with the precision of a military parade. Taking turns speaking over the next two hours, they described the benevolence of the Chakri dynasty in bringing peace and happiness to the people of Thailand.

The propaganda for the monarchy began with the shameful groveling of “rector Kesinee Withoonchart …[who] prostrated herself on the ground before it [a portrait of the king].”

The propagandists, “drawn from the armed forces and police” are “volunteers” in the pay of the state and are known as “Volunteers Unit 904. The number 904 is derived from the former radio call sign of the king before he was king.”

Endless palace and junta propaganda wrapped up “with people being asked to stand for a song newly written for the new king and the traditional royal anthem.” The message seems to be that the population will now endure double doses of forced erect standing that Fascists mistake for obedience.

This gross effort concluded in an entirely appropriate manner: “a question-and-answer session saw no takers from the audience.” Fascists and royalists – many of them combining these proclivities – mistake this for orderliness and attention to hierarchy.

The Nation has a more on propaganda, this time for the junta’s Deputy Dictator, the Watch Man, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Like magic, a “new Facebook page has been created to support and defend Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit …, who has been embattled with damaging scandals recently.” It seems this page is to support “Uncle Pom’s Lovely Side.” We are unsure which side that is, but we guess it is his right side.

The creation of the page is more or less an admission of guilt because of its need to manufacture “messages in support of Prawit, news reports in favour of the ruling junta, and video clips defending Prawit against allegations.” The syrupy propaganda reckons the dumpy general is “a reliable man who has been trusted by the armed forces for over five decades, and also a former commander well loved by his colleagues and ‘brothers’ in the Army.” No recommendation at all! But is does suggest that the Army is at work creating the page.





Weird and freaky I

11 05 2018

That’s a title clipped from an article about Harit Srikhao’s art work. We have posted on him before. His art reflects his discovery “that his life was built on the lies of state propaganda. Returning to temples, museums and schools, he quickly learnt that everything he was taught growing up pushed Thai nationalism, and heralded Thailand’s longstanding monarchy.” He found it an absurd fiction.

What drew us to another story about his art and the absurdism of military junta’s and monarchist politics was another story, at Khaosod, that demonstrates how expressing politically inappropriate thoughts about the monarchy is defined as a madness.

The newspaper reports on a woman “held involuntarily for three nights and drugged at a state-run mental hospital after encouraging the monarchy’s support for the people at a recent pro-democracy rally.”

Encouraging this intervention suggested to police that she was mentally ill and they escorted her away “for a psychiatric test at the hospital.”

We have no idea of this woman’s state of mind, but is it not absurd that the police have not thought that calling on the monarchy to support anti-democratic actions and military coups – as has been common for yellow shirts – has not resulted in similar police action.

The thought of state hospitals packed with royalists having their mental fitness assessed for their calls to the monarchy seems absurd. We imagine that the powers that be and associated royalists consider the idea of the monarchy supporting democracy a crazy idea.





Royalist propaganda for the new reign

23 12 2017

Royal and royalist propaganda has not decreased with the new reign. Indeed, there has been a dogged determination to make the new reign look a bit like the old reign,

One of the reasons for this is that the military dictators view royal myths and propaganda as the keystone of the conservative political order.

The Nation reports reports on a new and permanent exhibition at Museum Siam that claims to display “the evolution of Thai culture” but which is little more than royalist propaganda.

The exhibition is claimed to explore “diverse aspects of Thainess” but there’s little “diversity” in the underlying codes of royalist determinations of “Thainess.” It does this “through 14 rooms spread across two floors.”

While the exhibitions play with notions of “Thainess,” there is nothing but standard and approved views of monarchy. One curator is quoted:

It is believed that the King has divine status and the architecture related to the monarchy is traditionally fashioned around this belief. To Thais, the King is the heart and soul of the nation….

So all of the playing with “Thainess” is okay when it is popular culture but not when it comes to the keystone of official “Thainess.”

The “Thailand’s Three Pillars” room has official “Thainess” in its invented traditionalism:

The core concepts of Thailand’s three deeply rooted institutions, nation, religion and monarchy, which collectively reflect the expression of Thainess, are featured in the “Thailand’s Three Pillars” room.

Using trendy gimmickry visitors are “invited” to accept this royalist traditionalism in a periodization straight out of school textbooks hammered into reigns.

In all of this standardization of “Thainess,” the 1997 economic crisis is highlighted as leading “many Thais to recognise the wisdom of the ‘sufficiency economy’ espoused by … King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”.

Royalism is “hipsterized” and made “normal” and “standard.” No alternatives views allowed. That’s royalist propaganda for a new reign.