Updated: The anti-monarchy virus

5 06 2021

Seemingly worried that the nation lacks herd immunity, the royalist regime is increasing its efforts to prevent infection by the anti-monarchy virus. The latest effort involves enlisting the royalist courts to ban eight social media pages.

The Ministry  of Digital Economy and Society which only seems to work on banning free expression and thought, has had the courts order these pages closed “because their content allegedly violates the Computer Crime Act.” We assume it is not “alleged” as they have been banned.

The Ministry “announced that the Facebook pages of Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Royalist Marketplace, Suda Rangkupan, ป้าหนิง DK, Aum Neko, KTUK and Pixel HELPER will be removed.” The Nation report says “[t]hese pages carried politics-related content and were critical of the Thai government.”

This is not entirely accurate. They have been banned for their anti-monarchy content.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Ministry describes these sites as having “posted fake news…”. Some might suggest that these sites do sometimes post rumors and guesses about the monarchy. But that reflects the medieval secrecy associated with a monarchy that gulps taxpayer funds, regularly intervenes in politics, has an unsavory reputation, and has a nasty, symbiotic relationship with the military.

Thai PBS gets the reason for the ban right, adding that the Ministry “summoned internet providers to acknowledge a court order to block or delete eight Facebook accounts, groups and fan pages, known for their criticism of the Thai monarchy.”

The court order apparently also applies to “[a]ny new or other accounts related to the same users, providing similar content…”.

This is one step in a process of getting Facebook to take down these pages. In an increasing ly authoritarian capitalist world, it seems likely that Facebook will fold. In seeking to enforce royalist silence on the monarchy, a “working committee has also been set up to pressure platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to ban accounts which feature content which violates Thai laws…”. You see the issue here. A mad or medieval regime can have all kinds of regressive laws and thus pressure the huge internet businesses.

In Thailand, the Ministry announces that it “…

© Shutterstock

now gives importance to prosecuting violators to the fullest extent of the law…”. The court order requires ISPs “to remove or block information posted by the individuals on websites and social networks, along with their passwords and IP addresses, from their computer systems.”

The Bangkok Post story cites Sunai Pasuk of Human Rights Watch, who “called the court order a censorship order instructing Facebook to ban critics of the monarchy. That will put a chokehold on people’s ability to express themselves as well as on the social media platform’s open space…”.

The royalist regime believes such a chokehold will prevent the anti-monarchy virus from spreading further.

Update: Prachatai reports:

On 2 June, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES) Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn invited Internet Service Providers to acknowledge a court order to restrict access to or delete computer data of 8 allegedly illegal users on Facebook within 24 hours. Four days on, the pages of the targets remain accessible.





Royal teflon

19 09 2019

The Chakkri dynasty’s tenth reign is currently the most obviously interventionist since 1932. This is not just seen in King Vajiralongkorn’s interventions on the constitution and election, but in the manner in which the military-backed, post-junta regime is, for the moment, being given a political polytetrafluoroethylene coat that is, in PPT’s view, unconstitutional.

One of the reasons that the regime is teflon coated is that the “independent agencies” have been anything but independent. Most egregiously, the Constitutional Court has made itself a power that ferociously defends the interests of the royalist ruling class. Remarkably, it now ignores the constitution when this suits those ruling interests. At least two recent decisions are sad examples of royal and royalist injustice that confounds law and constitution: the decision on Ubolratana’s foiled candidature in the March election and the recent decision to ignore the junta’s own constitutional requirements and effectively place the king above the constitution.

In the past couple of days there’s been more judicial decisions that undermine law and that raise the monarchy out of its constitutional status.

Buffalo manure

First, the Criminal Court ruled that the ultra-royalist prince Chulcherm Yugala, who declared the Future Forward Party dangerous republicans “seeking to overthrow the monarchy,” had not libeled that party.

In royalist Thailand, it now seems that royals can do and say anything they want. Remarkably, the Court ruled his outlandish fabrications were “positive criticism” and “intended to warn the plaintiff against royal defamation.” Buffalo manure, but that’s what the courts deal in.

Second, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a serving general when he led the 2014 coup, then self-appointed prime minister for more than 5 years, “was not a state official when he ruled as head of the junta…”.

How did the Constitutional Court conjure this stunning piece of nonsensical “logic”? It made up a story that “Gen Prayut was not a state official when he was the National Council of Peace and Order chairman as it was an interim position which was not under any state agencies.” Continuing a long “tradition” of upholding the “legality” of the military coup, it ruled that the “NCPO chairman was a product of the administrative power seizure…”.

Third, it seems the king helped out with the incomplete and unconstitutional oath debate in parliament by yesterday. After all of the scheduling and disputes about the debate, suddenly it was announced that the “debate” had to finish several hours earlier to let every single minister in the country could “attend a ceremony for the late King at Dusit Palace.”

Yet this royal sleight of political hand was little more than just another anointing of the regime by the king as Gen Prayuth refused to say much at all about the unconstitutional oath. For The Dictator, parliament is now little more than an annoying itch to be scratch every now and again.

Thailand now has a political system where the king gets anything he wants and is above the constitution, where the law is a mish-mash of double standards the support the royalist ruling class, parliament is an annoyance and where the constitution is ignored. Nothing will stick for the royalist ruling class.

Of course, if one is on the wrong side of the regime, the law, constitution and courts are used to repress.





Good rich king, bad rich king

25 10 2017

Are we the only ones who have detected a change in the way that critics of the monarchy are writing about it?

While we recently posted on the ninth reign as a bloody era where thousands of citizens were disappeared, jailed, tortured and killed by the state, usually operating in the name of the monarchy and, for the most part, supported by the king, other commentaries seem to be eulogizing that reign.

An example, and it is one of several, is a New York Time op-ed by Matthew Phillips, a historian in Wales.

Phillips repeats several of the lines from Bhumibol hagiographies and palace propaganda:

Thailand’s previous king … is credited with transforming Thailand into a modern nation-state and unifying the country during times of political turmoil.

The author might acknowledge that this is pure propaganda that ignores real history.

Then in 1946, Bhumibol ascended to the throne, and after a discreet first decade….

The author doesn’t seem to think it important to mention the death of King Ananda Mahidol or the royalist efforts to pin that on innocents and to send political opponents into exile. We would have thought that period was pivotal for the rise of a royalist military.

A military coup in 1958, pro-American and high on Thai pride, placed the (U.S.-born) king at its center, and the Thai public reacted enthusiastically.

We can’t help wondering about how public enthusiasm is measured? By the bodies that piled up under General Sarit Thanarat’s despotism?

King Bhumibol is often credited with foiling a Communist movement during the Cold War, liberalizing the Thai economy and keeping the country together despite its often-fractious politics.

Again, he is “credited” with these superhuman feats, but it is usually palace propagandists making these points.

The rest of Phillip’s article is quite good, so we are not sure why he repeats these lines of hagiography. In other stories, it seems the authors are pining for the past 70 years, comparing that era with what they think is going to be an awful reign under the erratic and narcissistic Vajiralongkorn.

The good bits seem to us to build on several insights from Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles. The previous king and his advisers came up with the propaganda device that made its wealth a sign of merit and allowed others to share in it.

On the funeral, he notes that “… there is little discussion over the expense of King Bhumibol’s cremation.” He adds that, “for the monarchy, has been to make royal wealth seem sacred, and any contribution to it appear virtuous.”

He notes the growth of royal wealth under the dead king.

The royal family, thanks in part to a raft of projects with business, academia, the arts and charities, has implanted itself at the center of Thailand’s cultural and social life — apparently far from the messy, brutal realities of capitalism and political gamesmanship. Giving money or labor to a royally endorsed project has come to be seen as a good deed, and so an opportunity to improve one’s chances of an auspicious rebirth in the Buddhist reincarnation cycle.

… Bhumibol’s material legacy also is great. The Crown Property Bureau, the agency that manages the royal finances, has vastly expanded its business portfolio. Neither the bureau’s assets nor its operations are entirely known, but the Thai monarchy is now thought to be the world’s richest, with an estimated fortune of at least $30 billion. Under … Bhumibol, the royal family of Thailand has become fabulously rich….

No debate there, although the figure is probably closer to $50 billion now. And the new king has control of it. The “fun” is about to begin.





Even more surveillance

28 11 2016

Using the mourning period as a “cover,” the military dictatorship seems intent on more censorship and increased surveillance. The authoritarian state is deepening and darkening.

One report states that all mobile operators will be required “to introduce an online fingerprint ID system for new prepaid and postpaid mobile SIM card registration” from early in 2017.

The authorities claim this has to do with ensuring “greater security of the mobile banking channel and prevent the risk of fraud, which is likely to increase in a cashless society,” yet fingerprint verification for mobile SIM card registration also allows the military to hugely expand its capacity to monitor citizens. All fingerprints will be maintained by the state.

Possibly related, “citing urgent cyberthreats,” the junta is considering using Article 44 to impose a “temporary authority to police online content before supporting legislation is passed.”

A report from the National Reform Steering Assembly claims that:

computer and internet systems were in such peril that a proposed body, the National Cybersecurity Committee, must be urgently empaneled by the authority of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the ruling junta and serves as prime minister.

The report warns of imminent threats that “may cause damage to national security and the government’s digital policy…” and suggested that the “National Cybersecurity Committee step aside and grant full authority to the military in cases of severe threat.”

These efforts suggest a regime determined to control everything in the name of “national security.” That means “protecting” the monarchy and the royalist regime.





Sufficiency and corruption

12 10 2014

Readers may not have noticed that on of The Dictator’s younger brothers is said to work at the Crown Property Bureau. Readers might also have missed noticing that the Prime Minister’s Office deputy spokesperson is the now promoted Major-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd. The latter was the spokesman for the murderous Thai Army who went about fabricating and concocting information throughout the life of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations.

We mention these two links because it was Sansern who was reported at the Nation as announcing that General Prayuth Chan-ocha will be at the Crown Property Bureau to “discuss strategies to promote development based on the King’s sufficiency philosophy … – with 18,594 villages targeted for various activities.” That’s apparently about a quarter of Thailand’s villages.

The “meeting would be held in accordance with government’s policy to implement sufficiency measures up until 2017.” Yes, the sufficiency economy is back for the poor because the military dictatorship believes that the “promotion of a sufficiency economy went hand in hand with the inculcation of moral ethics.”

Of course, the military junta believes that villagers need morals and ethics because they vote for populist politicians. The military and police brass now inhabiting the higher (appointed) positions don’t need morals or sufficiency because they are corruptly rich and prefer a coup to an election.

Sansern said that villages near the hugely expensive royal projects would be “targeted.” This royalist nonsense is being recycled by yet another military government because of the belief that it is a rhetorical device that demands loyalty to the monarchy and the royalist regime. In other words, it is a political project.

Because of this, Sansern said the sufficiency economy will be forced on “the education sector, in business administration, public relations and the security sector.” Sufficient funds for this sufficiency project are 8.7 billion baht. No doubt some of those unusually wealthy generals, admirals and air chief marshals will get their hands into this pot as well.





With two updates: Using lese majeste to maintain the social order

17 09 2013

Siam Voices has an account of the university uniform campaign at Thammasat University. That story begins:

The ongoing debate on student uniforms takes a racy turn, as one student’s poster campaign challenges the necessity of uniforms at Thammasat University.

It seems that campaigning against uniforms can lead to lese majeste charges!

These are the posters:

Thammasat_unif

Prachatai recently interviewed Aum Neko, a nickname for a 20 year-old transgender Arts student majoring in German. She’s the student in high heels in two of the three images above.

It is now reported at Khaosod that Aum Neko is the subject of a lese majeste complaint. This complaint has been made by “Ponnipa [Pontipa] Supatnukul, 41, the host of a talk show called “Best of Your Life” which is broadcast on a satellite TV channel, filed the complaint to the police in Nonthaburi Province, invoking Article 112…”. Her complaint relates to events three months ago.

Aum was allegedly interviewed for Pontipa’s talk show. The host claims that Aum “shocked everyone” by “talking outside the topic” and “insulting the higher institution…”. She further claims that Aum′s was “so shocking we could not broadcast the show”, however Pontipa “stored footage of the interview.” She handed the video to police.

So why now, three months later, shout lese majeste? Pontipa says “she decided to pursue a legal action against Ms. Aum because she was incensed by the student′s continued defamation of the monarchy. Ms. Pontipa also alleged that Ms. Aum is encouraging other students to commit similar crimes.”

The royalist Manager ASTV reports that Pontipa told police that “a lecturer in Thammasat University had informed her that Ms. Aum′s student network in Thammasat is funded by unknown sponsors.” Aum says it is “a free group with no name.”

In the Prachatai interview, Aum is asked:

Prachatai: So where is your Thammasat identity? If not in student uniforms, where is it?

“Aum”: It’s in respect for others’ freedom, adherence to democracy, and no support to any form of dictatorship, in particular coups d’état.

The main identity of Thammasat is the 24 June 1932 revolution. Then we had the first constitution on 27 June 1932. Next we had the establishment of Thammasat on 27 June 1934. Therefore, our stance should be preserving the constitution. But these days as it turns out the [university] management is preserving authoritarian power, even making us wear student uniforms; they are preserving the sacredness and power instead of rights and freedom according to the philosophy of the university.

Perhaps this is what is so threatening to the powers that be. The wearing of uniforms is a demand made to enforce and maintain the social order, its hierarchy and the authority of the royalist regime. Those who benefit from this system see a threat to uniforms as another challenge to their power, where the keystone is the monarchy.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that the police have accepted the case.

Update 2: Siam Voices has a useful post on this lese majeste case, with some additional information. First, it is noted that Pontipa seems to have publicized her accusations:

The complainant made sure that the filing of her charge was well-documented as she let somebody film the process at the police station and posted it later on Facebook. She also had a few press members in tow.

Second, an unnamed lecturer at Thammasat has apparently disclosed considerable data from Aum’s university record to Pontipa. Third, it seems that a part of the accusation relates to a Facebook post that “criticized the pre-screening of Royal tribute movies at cinemas, where standing up is mandatory.”





Backing other royalist regimes

17 04 2012

Gulf News reports that the royalist regimes of Thailand and Bahrain are getting together for “trade deals” and”to strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation in several areas.” Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa met with Prince Vajiralongkorn and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

PPT notes that, as in Thailand, the Bahrain royal government sent troops out to kill protesters demanding more democratic forms of governance. Bahrain, like Thailand, as a major U.S. allies, didn’t get the human rights condemnations for brutal and bloody crackdowns, that Washington seems to reserve for “enemy” regimes like Libya, Syria, Nicaragua, Cuba and Iran.

King Hamad is on a tour of mainly monarchies in Asia, focused on Thailand and Japan, rebuilding support for his repressive royalist regime. In Thailand he met Prime Minister Yingluck and talked “stronger ties and higher levels of cooperation, mainly in the trade and business sectors.”

We’re sure that while the royalist regime of Abhisit Vejjajiva may have been more to the king’s liking, Yingluck has done enough and said enough to warrant the Bahrain king’s confidence that he was dealing with royalists.

Yingluck “will visit Bahrain from May 13 to 15. She will be accompanied by a delegation of businesspeople who will explore with their Bahraini counterparts opportunities to invest in Bahrain.” In March, she had met with another member of the ruling royalists when Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman al-Khalifa visited.

That the bilateral politics of repressive royalist regimes was on the agenda is confirmed in the report, where Yingluck is reported to have condemned what the Bahrain regime calls a recent “terrorist” attack. Readers can get the flavor of that event and the rampant royalism of the regime here. Apparently the attack “aimed to endanger people’s lives, destabilise the country and hamper His Majesty’s efforts to promote developments…”.

A more detailed report, including the political nature of the event, is here. Interestingly, Amnesty International has just published a report far more critical of the royalist regime in Bahrain than we ever saw from AI in Thailand.

It all sounds a bit Thailand 2010. Perhaps Yingluck missed that connection. Or perhaps she doesn’t care.





Wikileaks: Junta and the slippery slope of censorship

11 03 2012

In a Wikileaks cable dated 22 September 2006, a few days after the military junta used U.S. tanks to make yet another coup, this time throwing out elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Ambassador Ralph Boyce comments on post-putsch censorship.

The cable offers interesting insights from reporters who talked with the embassy about the events of the night of the coup, as the military quickly sent its troops out to media houses:

State-owned MCOT Channel 9 reporters said they aired Prime Minister Thaksin’s emergency statement only after ITV refused. After Thaksin had been on the air for a couple of minutes, armed army personnel burst into the Channel 9 studio, asked where the Control Room was, and demanded that the technicians cut off the broadcast. The screen went blank for a few minutes, and then Channel 9 began running the Channel 5 stock footage paying homage to the King.

In fact, by the time Thaksin was cut off at Channel 9, all Thai free-to-air TV was required to use “the same feed from army-owned and operated Channel 5…”. The embassy seems happy to report that “by mid-morning the next day they had returned to ‘regular’ programming…”. That this only included “positive” news about the putsch seemed not to bother the embassy too much.

Embassy staff are said to have visited various television stations:

At ITV, … armed soldiers lined the front gate, front door, and newsroom. A huge truck and armored vehicle were parked near the entrance, with more vehicles at the exit. ITV reporters and anchors said the military asked them not to broadcast material that might have a “negative impact” or “cause any resistance or disturbance.”

ITV staff stated “they felt the soldiers’  presence had an ‘oppressive’ effect on their work.”

The “entertainment-oriented Channel 3 has only a few soldiers guarding the entrance and news building, with no trucks or equipment.” At Channel 3 it was reported that a “producer said the military has requested that the station not air negative comments about the CDRM.”

Interestingly, the Nation Channel also had a” significant military presence, with armed guards and trucks at the gate and five soldiers with rifles (with the clips out) outside and inside the newsroom.” This was not to intimidate.

The president of the Nation Channel, Adisak Limprungpatanakij, is described as “avidly anti-Thaksin,” claimed the “coup has not affected press freedom.” He said the military commander told him:

the troops were to provide security to the Nation Channel and assist in linking to Channel 5 pool coverage. Nation Channel staff happily keep the soldiers well-fed during their stay.

The cable continues to note that “there is no troop presence whatsoever at ASTV, the free satellite TV network owned by anti-Thaksin campaigner Sondhi [Limthongkul].”

Foreign news was censored:

 For two days after the coup, pictures of or interviews about Thaksin triggered an interruption…. For example, UBC cut a BBC interview with Pasook Pongpaijit [Pasuk Phongpaichit], an academic mildly critical of the coup, and a CNN interview with Paul Handley, author of a book critical of the King.

The embassy says that after two days, “CNN, BBC and MSNBC are now broadcasting normally.” Normality was also claimed for the print media. Indeed, the claim is made that this media is “freer” than before the coup!

This claim is laughable, especially when the cable cites The Nation’s Pana Janviroj, who says that self-censorship is not even at work because: “We sympathize with the CDRM, so there is (no need for) self-censorship.”

Turning to radio, without noting that most stations were controlled by the military, the embassy bleats that a “well-known radio personality noted on air that, in contrast to past coups, no one tried to review or censor broadcasts.”

But outside the sphere of military control, it is acknowledged that “community radio stations have been temporarily banned in the provinces; local military officials have said this is because these stations are difficult to monitor and control.”

On the internet,

the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) called in all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to try to control website content, under threat of closure. Thus far, the CDRM has not closed any website completely.

… All of the major Thai chat sites have announcements posted that the country is under Martial Law and postings should be “careful and constructive.”

The “Politics Board” of Pantip.com was shut down yesterday following an influx of strong anti-coup messages. The board is back up, and even now, roughly half of the messages are mildly critical of the coup, although opinions are expressed in a sarcastic way.

In the face of all this censorship, the embassy doesn’t warn of the slippery slope of censorship. Sure, the embassy might have mumbled to junta something about “press freedom,” but seemed more interested in giving the impression that the censorship was light or even less than under Thaksin, and that everything was getting back to “normal.”

Of course, the military and royalists took to the slippery slope like Olympic downhill racers, and under the military-backed, royalist regime led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, censorship became especially intense as a regime of repression was put in place.





Prayuth fumes and froths on Nitirat

26 01 2012

PPT is unsure whether this story in the Bangkok Post (we also cited it in an earlier post) is referring to new comments by Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha or whether the Post is making a point by repeating and elaborating an earlier report. Clearly the Post thinks Prayuth is telling Nitirat to “Shut up!” as the internet version of the story is headlined at the Post’s front page.

Prayuth seems decidedly put out by the notion that anyone should suggest amending the lese majeste law. His spiraling blood pressure suggests that the law is of deep significance for the royalist regime that is rapidly coming together to attack, denigrate and threaten Nitirat.

Prayuth is quoted as declaring:

Law professors who demand amendments to the lese majeste law must realise the great contribution which the royal institution has made to the country and learn to help their motherland….

While PPT doesn’t recall Nitirat saying anything that challenges this royalist position, it seems that calling for a reform of the draconian lese majeste law is considered to negate the royalist trope.

Then Prayuth makes a claim for hierarchy based on age:

They [Nitirat] must realise His Majesty the King has reigned for so long that he is 84 years old, and ask whether academics who are 30 or 40 years old and have only furthered their own studies have done any good for the land….

We are sure everyone is aware that the king has reigned since his brother’s unexplained death in 1946. But here Prayuth is trying to denigrate Nitirat as a group of youngsters challenging a very old man. In fact, though, Nitirat are not attaching the king but calling for reform of a law that royalists repeatedly claim the king doesn’t like. Prayuth might do well to also recall the challenge of youth in 1973.

It seems that Prayuth has convinced himself that Nitirat are attacking the king for he feels the need to defend the monarch:

But if you speak negatively of the monarchy, then I must speak negatively of you, because you refuse to see the good in Thailand

Of course, Nitirat are not speaking negatively of the monarchy but of a law. The distinction seems lost on Prayuth and those of his ilk.

He said Thailand owes its presence on the world stage and the respect it commands within the global community to the role of the monarchy. His Majesty the King has done nothing to harm the nation and everything to help it.

This is Prayuth seeming to believe the never-ending royalist propaganda. That might seem rather too North Korean but it does suggest a dangerous turn of mind for Prayuth that is confirmed when he rages:

Today, I do not know where some people come from, or if their ancestors were even born in Thailand.

Where do you go from there? Racist nationalism and monarchism spiraling down into fascism? And wasn’t the king born outside Thailand? Prayuth’s mouth seems ahead of his thought processes here, spitting fury and hatred with little forethought.

His final comment seems tame compared with this when he says that Nitirat “is hurting people’s feelings.” But recall that this from a man who commanded troops in murderous attacks on protesters.

Meanwhile, police chief General Priewphan Damapong has “vowed to take action against those who violate Section 112” as special branch police are said to be “monitoring comments by academics and would take swift action if anyone breaks the law.”

Yet another threat to Nitirat. Readers may recall that even under the horrendous censorship regime led by Abhisit Vejjajiva there were statements that claimed legitimate criticism of the monarchy by academics was tolerable. As we have pointed out several times, the Nitirat academics aren’t even criticizing the king but are calling for legal and constitutional processes to amend a law.

Why is that point so difficult for royalists to comprehend? Is it because the law is critical for the prestige of a monarchy? Is the law the keystone of the royalist regime that will bring the whole structure down if removed? PPT would have thought that the response by royalists to both questions should be negative. That it isn’t suggests that the foundations of the system are considered weaker than we would have guessed.

As a footnote to this post, we add a link to Asia Update TV’s report on Prayuth’s claims, which includes responses from Nitirat (in Thai/ไทย):





Military and monarchy, together in perfect harmony?

18 05 2011

Jon Ungphakorn’s column in the Bangkok Post is well worth a thorough read. He comments on a recent post at New Mandala that has caught attention in the blogosphere for the unstated comparison it draws between allegedly reformist monarchs and the current conservative royalist regime.

There are some controversial interpretations as well. Jon says: “It has always been the military that has been keen to enforce absolute reverence towards the monarchy, and all military coups in recent history have cited alleged threats to the monarchy as justification for military rule.” He adds: “It is the kings themselves who, from time to time, have made attempts to reform the monarchy to be more in line with democratic society.”

PPT was scratching its collective head on this. Yes, the military has often played the royal card in maintaining and reinforcing its role in Thailand’s political system. But what are the reforms that enlightened kings have brought. We assume that Jon is referring to the post-1957 period. This means that there has been not “kings” but one king; the present one. What great democratic reforms has he fostered?

Jon refers to “the maximum prison sentence for lese majeste was increased from SEVEN to 15 years after the military coup of 1976; while on the other hand our present king is on record in his birthday speech of 2005 as requesting that lese majeste be used judiciously and that criticism of the king should be allowed.”

Well, yes, but wasn’t that 1976 government headed by Privy Councilor and a king’s favourite in Thanin Kraivixien? Wasn’t it this monarchy that was involved in supporting the coup. Wasn’t it the king and queen who welcomed a former dictator back and set off the events of massacre and coup? Wasn’t it the current price and princesses who provided moral support for the perpetrators of the massacre? And hasn’t lese majeste gone through the roof since a coup that was clearly implemented with palace connivance in 2005 and 2006? Need we go on?

Jon is right when he observes that the “present actions of the military [on lese majeste] are clearly intended to influence the results of the elections by once again implying that a threat to the monarchy is involved. In their actions, they have moved the boundaries of lese majeste accusations to an extreme never reached before at a time when demands for reform of lese majeste law are reaching a peak.” He adds: “This is a very tense and explosive situation which, as history clearly tells us, cannot possibly be beneficial to the monarchy.”

PPT agrees, but doubts many of the old duffers in the palace see it this way. We doubt that those responsible for royalist political ideology and propaganda see it this way. We think that those who protect and “ancient institution” that is also the country’s largest and most conservative capitalist conglomerate believe that reform is in their interests. Rather, they have shown a capacity for support to the most reactionary elements and an incapacity for making historically significant compromises with the subaltern masses.

Commenting on the lese majeste charge against Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Jon argues that “critical comments among academics and intellectuals on the monarchy as an institution have been tolerated. This is why Sulak Sivaraksa has never gone to prison for his consistently outspoken observations. Now, there seems to be no refuge left.”

PPT has a vague memory of Sulak being arrested and in jail. Sulak’s website says this: “In 1984 he was arrested in Bangkok on charges of criticising the King, but international protest led to his eventual release.” That international protest was led by international academics and Buddhist organizations, amongst others. Sulak has been charged several times and currently has charges pending. That said, it is true that Sulak has never been convicted. But he is also not the only academic to have been threatened. Think of Giles Ji Ungpakorn who now lives in exile.

Jon goes on to refer to the “unfairness of the lese majeste law,” commenting, as many reformers do, that a problem is that “anyone can file a complaint and there are no guidelines as to the interpretation of the law.” He then makes this observation: “The only peaceful solution to the political explosion that is building up as more and more people are charged and sentenced under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, is to reform the lese majeste law and the monarchy as an institution in line with democratic principles.”

That’s not the only solution: abolishing the law and allowing the monarchy to use existing defamation laws, just like anyone else is also a peaceful solution.

Jon argues that the reason there is not reform is that politicians “don’t dare to do anything [because] … they are afraid of reprisals from the royalist movements such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the multi-coloured shirt activists and, in particular, the military establishment.”

He concludes with these observations: “It is the avowed protectors of the monarchy who are actually destabilising the monarchy and preventing the reforms badly needed to sustain the monarchy. Will the military establishment recognise this fact in time and learn to stop meddling in Thailand’s political affairs?”

PPT can agree with the first point. No doubt about it. They are bringing themselves undone. But the protectors are necessarily blind to this. The second point is one that can also be agreed. At the same time, it is not the monarchy that binds the military to intervention. After all, when its commanders were pretty much anti-monarchy the military also took a prime political position.

It seems to PPT that in the current period there is probably a pretty good alignment between the ideas of the military leadership – General Prayuth Chan-ocha is known to have excellent links to the queen – and the palace and monarchy. Chulabhorn’s recent comments on the threats being akin to the Burmese sacking of Ayudhya attest to the kind of thinking and discussions that must be going on in both military and palace circles. We see considerable harmony of interests.

And, just as a footnote, this post began with the New Mandala story on prostration and the reforms Chulalongkorn made. For all of those who are touting him as the great reformer, add to this the fact that his regime was probably the most absolute of the Chakkri dynasty….








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