2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.





2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.





How many “intelligence” officers?

12 01 2016

It seems the answer to this question is “[a]t least 1,600 officials … belonging to seven Thai agencies: National Intelligence Directorate, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Supreme Command Headquarters’ Intelligence, Special Branch Police and National Security Command Headquarters.”

This number doesn’t include cyber-vigilantes and other volunteers recruited to snoop on neighbors, whether locally or via the internet. We are unsure why the Internal Security Operations Command is not listed separately as it is critical in catching regime opponents.

That number is in an article by Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation. We don’t read his stuff much as it has tended to be yellow-hued and sometimes nonsensical. Yet this article brings some attention to the National Intelligence Strategy (2015-22), which Kavi says was recently approved by the Cabinet.Spy-VS-Spy

Thailand’s “intelligence” services, like their controllers who mostly inhabit the military or have military backgrounds, are organized for domestic operations. Once tracking down communists and other opponents of the state they now seek opponents of the royalist state, monarchy and junta. They have tended to rely on blunt instruments such as torture and murder. More recently, they have gotten interested in digital technologies as they see opponent lurking in cyberspace.

This is apparently acknowledged in the “Strategy,” which states that “Thailand needs new corps of intelligence officials who have a broader knowledge of their country and of events abroad, especially of neighbouring countries.” Recruiting such persons is going to be difficult as the education system is focused on delivering propaganda and “leaders” are not known for accepting advice that challenges the tropes and shibboleths of the royalist state.

The strategy acknowledges this with “old priorities,” with “those related to monarchy, the separatist movement in southern Thailand, political division in Thailand … and threats from extremists.”

Kavi reckons the “last category is something new. Thailand used to have a naive view that it did not have enemies and it is never the target of any group.”

That’s absurd when one recalls, for example, the ways that the military cooperated with oppositions to the Vietnam-backed regime in Cambodia in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Khmer Rouge, dealt with opponents of the regime in Burma over several decades. Then there were various “terrorist” events including the 1972 negotiated the release of six Israeli Embassy officials in Bangkok held hostage by Arab terrorists, the January 2000, storming of a hospital in Ratchaburi by 20 armed rebels from the Karen militia known as God’s Army, the murder of Saudi diplomats, several bomb plots against the Israel Embassy and more.

Under the military dictatorship the threats to Thailand are likely to be identified as republicans and “unfriendly” Western governments who refuse to believe the junta’s narratives.





Martial law and the royalist state

17 08 2014

When Western governments call for an end to martial law and a return to democracy and freedoms, these governments misunderstand the nature of Thailand’s military dictatorship.

In fact, as the dictatorship itself makes clear, these restrictions are critical for the regime as it destroys its enemies and those it views as threats to the royalist state and “Thai-style anti-democracy.”

A military boss has stated that martial law “is still necessary to combat opponents intending to derail the work of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)…”. General Theerachai Nakwanich says that marital law will “keep them [opponents] in check…”. Revealingly, he adds that martial law is an important “tool” for the military dictatorship and facilitates its repression of opponents.

It is now almost 3 months since coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared martial law as a prelude to the military coup.

Martial law is not critical for the existence of the military dictatorship, but it is reflective of the repressive character of the regime and its intolerance of any signs of dissent. In fixing the cracks in the royalist state, martial law is important for it grants the military dictatorship impunity in its political mission.

It will be removed when the military dictatorship and the powers-that-be feel that the rules of politics have been changed in ways that prevent any further challenge to the existing order of economic and political power.





Did the military work against Yingluck?

9 06 2014

A reader asked us a question based on a report PPT missed in the Bangkok Post. Did the military work against Yingluck Shinawatra when she led her elected government?

Our immediate answer was: Of course it did. Junta boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha campaigned against pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties and red shirts for several years.  Just prior to the 2011 election he grabbed television time on a national feed to tell voters that they should vote for the royalist Democrat Party. It makes sense, then, that the military brass would be constantly scheming and plotting to bring down the government the Army boss hated. Think of all that coup talk and then the support to Suthep Thaugsuban’s anti-democrats.

Yet the report our reader noted says more. It begins:

Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is ramping up public relations efforts, establishing an “information operations” (IO) task force to shore up the military’s image and counter criticism…”.

Yes, the military needs lots of good PR and to plant and create news that makes it look other than a thuggish and repressive regime that has ground into the dirt by the military boot.

The story then notes that this PR campaign “has secured cooperation from the mainstream media in putting across its message,” it is going to focus on social media. The social media campaign is to be largely “covert.” Yes, that is the word used in the report. It continues:

The covert operations, according to the source, will involve ways to prevent the spread of false information. “The information campaign was introduced about two years ago and has largely involved counter-intelligence operations in that time,” the source said. “

… According to the source, Gen Prayuth has had personal intelligence and information operation teams working for some time, but has decided to set up a formal task force after seizing power on May 22.

 Counter-intelligence is defined as:

information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons or international terrorist activities….

This really does seem like the Army boss, now dictator, was conducting operations against the elected government and its supporters, considering them terrorists.

That fits neatly with Prayuth’s description of them in 2010 and his belief that there have been anti-monarchy campaigns that threaten the royalist state. We may assume that his Army has worked to destabilize the elected government.





Five years of PPT

21 01 2014

It is with a large measure of melancholy that we mark 5 years of PPT. When we sputtered into life as a collaborative effort to bring more of an international spotlight on the hugely expanded use of the lese majeste and computer crimes laws by the government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva and his not-so-democratic Democrat Party. That regime’s use of the laws was to silence and jail political opponents.

On our second and third anniversaries there was not much celebration. Indeed, on the second anniversary the lese majeste situation was at one of its peaks of repression and harassment and on the third, there was great controversy regarding the law as royalists struggled to maintain it as a foundation for the royalist state.

In the fourth year we were able to say that having a popularly-elected government has made a difference. The huge spike in charges that began following the 2006 military-palace coup has been reduced under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, elected in July 2011. The remaining red shirt political prisoners are in a special prison where conditions are improved for them.

That said, the Yingluck government did not dare touch the draconian laws, and the political trials of lese majeste victims continued, and the intimidation of those who speak out against a wealthy and politicized monarchy continued through the use of these draconian laws.

The past year has been a disappointment. Under the Yingluck government, new lese majeste cases went forward and the politicized courts made decisions that were, frankly, bizarre. And being bizarre in the strange and loopy world of lese majeste is quite a remarkable feat. By “remarkable” we mean really very, very strange to the point of grotesque.

When we began Political Prisoners in Thailand on 21 January 2009, we hoped it would be a temporary endeavor. Instead, 5 years later, we are still at it. We get tired, frustrated and angry at the nonsensical actions of the judiciary, its hopelessly royalist bent and the failures and timidity of the Yingluck government, but we hope that we can keep going until every political prisoner is out of jail. With Darunee Charnchoensilpakul serving a massive 15 years, we could be at it for a long time to come.

In recent years, not only did the number of cases grow exponentially between 2006 and 2011, with especially harsh sentences handed down but we have recently seen the definition of what constitutes a crime under lese majeste extended to include implied lese majeste. The high-profile case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, jailed since 30 April 2011, continued through unsuccessful appeals. And there have been more cases.

The anti-democratic lot currently protesting are the same ultra-royalists who we have opposed since we began, and we are sure that any success for them will result in worse outcomes for political freedom, and especially on the lese majeste front. We hope they are soon defeated.

Over the past 5 years PPT has had more than 1.35 million page views. That doesn’t make us big league in the blogging world, but the level of interest in lese majeste internationally has certainly increased and there is far more attention to the issue than there was four years ago. In addition, the international reporting of issues related to lese majeste and the monarchy is not as trite as it was back when we began. We hope that we have contributed something to this.

We want to thank our readers for sticking with us through all the attempts by the Abhisit and the Yingluck censors to block PPT. We trust that we remain useful and relevant and we appreciate the emails we receive from readers.

The lese majeste and computer crimes laws must be repealed.





On “implied lese majeste”

18 01 2013

Thomas Fuller at the New York Times has an account of the conviction for lese majeste of Yoswaris Chuklom or . Fuller begins: “It has become almost routine in Thailand for judges to hand down jail sentences to those convicted of offending the country’s king.”112.jpg

In fact, it is not “almost routine.” It is not just routine, it is an essential requirement in the maintenance of the royalist state and the privileges that state doles out to the elite. Fuller goes on to note that yesterday’s verdict was “… an unusual ruling … [that] appears to considerably broaden the interpretation of Thailand’s already restrictive lese majesté law.”

The reason for this is that Jeng was sentenced to two years in jail after the “court ruled that the defendant was liable not only for what he said, but for what he left unsaid.” Fuller observes:

The criminal court’s ruling said the defendant … had not specifically mentioned the king when he gave a speech in 2010 to a large group of people who were protesting a military-backed government of the time.

But by making a gesture of being muzzled — placing his hands over his mouth — Mr. Yossawarit had insinuated that he was talking about the king.

Jeng’s lawyer points out that this judgment “appears to have been the first time that someone was convicted for implying an insult…. There was no mention of the king’s name in the speech…. It’s all interpretation.”

The court ruled that Jeng must have meant the king when he refused to speak the words. Remarkably, the NYT report indicates that people “with no apparent connection to the case were called to the stand and asked to whom they thought Mr. Yossawarit was referring. All of the witnesses said the king.” This is quite amazing and even bizarre stuff!

Many Thais use various, often derogatory, terms to refer to the (now apparently unmentionable) royals because of the fear induced by the lese majeste law and its enforcement by police and (kangaroo) courts. That threat and resulting fear has now been ratcheted up to by several degrees.