The royal(ist) mess that is Thailand

3 04 2018

The success of palace propaganda, reinforced by decades of fascist-military domination, promoted by a royalist lapdog media, both state and private sector, and buttressed by draconian laws and belligerent royalist agencies like the military and ISOC, has been so sweeping that there’s little overt opposition these days (we note the linked article is no longer free to download). That which does exist has been firmly under the military boot in recent years.

Some wondered if the succession would temper there would be some cutting of the strings that tie Thais to the palace. Wonder no longer. Almost nothing has changed. As evidence, we cite two news stories from the last day or so.

The Nation reports that “Thai Heritage Conservation Week” is upon us. Like the recent noe-feudal celebration of the repression under pre-1932 absolute monarchy, this week royal posterior polishers get another chance to dress in feudal style – “traditional costumes.”

The useless Culture Ministry “kicked off the week with Thai Heritage Conservation Day on April 2…”. That day “has been celebrated annually since 1985, honouring … Princess … Sirindhorn, who was born on April 2, 1955, and her contributions to the conservation of the nation’s heritage.”

We can’t immediately recall her “contributions” but there must be plenty claimed for her by palace propagandists.

More worryingly, The Nation also reports on the kerfuffle in Chiang Mai over the mansions being built on forested – now deforested – hills that will be handed out to judges and others in the Ministry of Justice.

What do the people opposing this project do to protest? They “will petition … King … Vajiralongkorn for help.”

A network of those opposed to the project will gather signatures before petitioning the king.

Why? Get publicity? Look doltish? Look loyal? Who knows and who can blame them in the current ideological straitjacket of royalism.

Apparently they “would also lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court in early May,” which seems far more grown up.

Yellow shirts among the opponents blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his clan for the problem. Perhaps that says something about the feudal fawning.





Further updated: Ultra-royalists united

28 03 2018

As PPT has said before, new political parties are not an innovation in Thailand. Rather they are the norm, most especially when the election rules encourage small parties and fragmented parliamentary power. With the Anakhot Mai/New Future Party, along with initial enthusiasm from a range of reasonably progressive people, the old guard – the old men who consider Thailand theirs – has appeared spooked.

Reuters reports that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is under pressure from ultra-royalists. The latter are keen to destroy the young phenoms by labeling them republicans. Fascist royalist Maj-Gen Rientong Nan-nah has said Future Forward “is the future for those who want to impede the rights of the king…”.

Khaosod reports that another “pro-monarchy activist” has been stung into reaction. Mad monarchist Sonthiya Sawasdee, who leads the Federation of Thais Monitoring the State, demands “the Election Commission to investigate a new progressive party he fears may amend the royal defamation [lese majeste] law.” Sonthiya has previously flung lese majeste allegations at others.

Sonthiya is sure that “any attempt to reform the law, known as lese majeste, will bring about unrest in the country.” This is actually a threat from the extreme right that has previously massacred citizens in the name of protecting the monarchy and with the support of the military, so such threats are taken seriously.

Sonthiya wrote online: “… I do not want anyone, no matter who they are, to put their hands on Section 112.” He added: “They should not intrude on the monarchy.” And he “singled out New Future Party co-founder Piyabutr Saengkanokkul as the reason for his concern. Piyabutr, a university law professor, launched a 2012 campaign calling for lesser punishment and a more measured use of lese majeste.”

Piyabutr is trying to distance the party from ultra-royalist allegations, saying: “I’d like to insist that I will not get the party involved with the issue about amending Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and I will not push for it within the party…”. The Nation has more on Piyabutr’s distancing of the party from Nitirat.

A couple of observations seem in order. One is that the monarchy is off the political agenda for all, but not for royalists. Because they support the monarchy, they may use it at their pleasure to slander and undermine opponents. Meanwhile, those on the other side are hamstrung and timid.

A second observation is that those who might have thought or hoped that ultra-royalism might decline with a new and “unpopular” king on the throne have been shown to be wrong. Mad royalists defend a system based on feudal ideologies, not an individual. That said, the rapid shift to support for Vajiralongkorn has been breathtaking.

Update 1: In the above post we noted that threats from ultra-royalists have to be taken seriously. Confirming this, a Bloomberg report states that Thanathorn and Piyabutr have received death threats. He described his political quest as “a dangerous game,” adding: “We are playing with people who have no respect for human life.” Thanathorn revealed that the threat was “by an ultra-conservative,” where he was referring to a “Facebook post allegedly written by a former deputy police commander.” That ultra-royalist “accused the pair of speaking ill of the royal institution” and added that “he had ‘lost count’ of the number of ‘evil’ people he had killed,” darkly threatening: “you guys would be easy for me.”

Update 2: Prachatai identifies the policeman mentioned as threatening death as Bhakbhum Soonthornsorn.





A catch-up I

27 03 2018

As readers will know, PPT has been a little quiet as we moved location. We have seen a few articles that we would have posted on, but didn’t have time and access, so here they are, in brief:

From Australia’s Green Left: After having taken a principled stand against the 2014 coup, Australia’s conservative government has capitulated to the military junta in a series of steps. The latest and most significant was the welcome by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha (and several other authoritarian leaders) at a Special Summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations in Sydney last week. This after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had previously pledged, in writing, that Australia would “put in place a mechanism to prevent coup leaders from travelling to Australia.” Australia’s coalition government has been charging further to the political right and recognizing an illegal regime in Thailand is just one more example of this rightist frogmarch.

From The Nation: A report on a panel featuring politicians Anutin Charnvirakul, Sudarat Kayuraphan, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Parit Wacharasindhu. All were reported to have “agreed that democracy, and not a coup d’etat, was the key answer to the problems facing the country.” They also reportedly agreed that the “Constitution must be undone to ensure that it does not paralyse future governments and prevent them from delivering meaningful policies…”. Hooray! Absolutely correct. But then they are reported to have said that “effective democracy would require participants to respect both rules and election results…”. Yes and no. We understand these points. However, because so many of the “rules” derive from the junta, some of these must be overturned too.

From Erich Parpart, Senior Reporter, Bangkok Post’s Asia Focus: He gets  basic facts are right. But some claims are warped. He says ” that the law in Thailand has long been abused for political purposes by those on both sides of the political spectrum.” In fact, by far the vast majority of lese majeste accusations have come from rightists and royalists damning their political opponents. (How many royalists are in exile escaping lese majeste charges? None.) Like others he says “[s]ince the coup of 2014, more than 90 people have been prosecuted for lese majeste and 43 have been sentenced.” This is wrong. As we have said several times, our data shows far higher numbers. He says the “most egregious application of the law in recent memory involved Sulak Sivaraksa.” This is completely wrong. Sulak got off. The cases of those who didn’t and were sentenced to jail for decades for saying “nothing,” for graffiti, for Facebook posts are far more egregious. When he writes of lese majeste in Cambodia he needs to read our recent post.

More catch-up soon.





Dictatorship permeates universities

16 02 2018

We have previously posted on the takeover of university administrations by royalists and ant-democrats. The motivation for this concerted effort at control was to prevent students becoming political activists who challenge royalist and military regimes.

The most recent example of this reactionary administration comes from Khon Kaen University, often described as an island of yellow in a sea of red.

Despite two rulings by courts that the People Go/We Walk march should be unhindered, administrators have “denied a request to host an academic seminar on the last day of the ‘We Walk’ long march tomorrow…”. The administrators say this is “to protect the university’s reputation…”.

We guess they mean their reputation with the military dictatorship.

It is reported that the university administrators felt the need to “consult” with the military on their decision.





More on elections and U.S. policy

9 02 2018

Yesterday we mentioned Gen Joseph F Dunford, Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Department of Defense and how delighted he said he was that Thailand’s military dictator was babbling about “democracy.”

U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies is now in on the act, but a little more nuanced in his approach. He is quoted as saying: “American policy remains much as it has been. We believe that democracy is the great way to keep working together…”. But nodding to the realities of working under the Donald Trump administration, he adds: “[Between] old and new administrations there will be a different emphasis put on issues … but I think for the most part, our relationship and priority will be balanced on strategic interests … and on our principles that will continue under any administration.”

In our words, a return to electoral politics in Thailand would be welcomed, but the reality is the White House doesn’t really care.

Davies made his comments at at an exhibition marking 200 years of Thai-US relations. Davies says that his favorite piece in the exhibition is a “golden cigarette case that King Rama VIII gave to former US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 to convey a covert message to Washington…”. Now, this is a Thailand-ism demanded by self-censorship. As the somewhat garbled report makes clear, it was the regent Pridi Phanomyong who dispatched the gift, with an OSS officer. The young king was ensconced in Switzerland.

Given the loathing for Pridi in the palace and royalist circles, this being the favorite piece may well be seen as an implicit poke at anti-democrats and military dictators.

While on dictators, The Dictator is quoted in the first report above:

“I insisted that we would move forward to democracy. The US also understands our necessity,” [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha] said. “I also told the US that Thailand has its own problems. We’ll have to have measures to ensure the country becomes firmly democratic in the timelines,” he continued. “That could be designated by either me or by laws.”

To us that sounds like a declaration of ongoing dictatorship.





For royalists, “protection” is paramount

11 01 2018

Prachatai has an interview with Pipathanachai Srakawee, President of the Thailand Association of the Blind.

It was Pipathanachai who filed the lese majeste complaint against Nurhayati Masoh that resulted in her conviction. She is also blind.

Pipathanachai claims to have filed the case to protect not just the monarchy, but to”protect” all blind people. By “protect” he means that blind Thais need to be seen as “loyal.”

In seeking to “protect,” Pipathanachai was driven to file his “complaint against her at Chokchai Police Station in Bangkok.” Later, he says, he “sent a copy of my complaint to Yala Governor, who assigned a representative to file a complaint against her.” Even this was not sufficient for “protection.” He explains:

I don’t want this case to be shelved. I kept pushing for progress. At that time, there was the Police Taskforce for the Southern Border Provinces, I called the then-deputy commander, who was assigned to oversee the case. Initially, the police considered not to prosecute her. I told them that she only losses her slight; apart from that, she is similar to a sighted person. The fact that she is blind should not prevent the police from prosecuting her.

I think the police should proceed with the case. I have contacted and requested many high-level officials and figures to prosecute this case. They thought it is a crucial matter. Finally, the public prosecutor ordered a prosecution. I want to see this case being prosecuted. I do not want to file a complaint with the police, only to hear that the case is shelved.

For a man who claims he did not know the woman involved, this mania for “protection” becomes a cruel and driven psychological mania. In the interview he shows no sympathy for Nurhayati as he spouts royalist ideology. Likewise, this President of the Thailand Association of the Blind shows no sympathy for blind and disabled persons who are jailed.

Following the sentencing, his view is that the court has been “too lenient.”

The interview is revealing of the motivations of those royalists who patrol lese majeste.





Political loosening now a political tightening

17 11 2017

All of that talk about local elections and loosening the restrictions on political activism turns out, as we had suggested, to be a steaming pile of buffalo manure.

Prachatai: reports that the military dictatorship “has ordered the police to tighten surveillance on anti-government groups and report about their activities every 15 days.”

All police have been ordered “to tightly monitor anti-government groups…”. By “anti-government” they mean anti-junta and so-called anti-monarchy groups, which the royalist junta sees as one in the same.

The junta conspiracy concoction magicians reckon that “certain groups of individuals are trying to incite conflict and stir up chaos against the government [junta] through social media and other means, adding that the groups are active both domestically and abroad.”

The Bangkok Post adds some further detail. The orders for this intensified repression have come from General Udomdej Sitabutr and Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan. The orders apply to all security agencies.

The police say they “have not yet detected any suspicious activities from leaders of anti-coup elements…”. The police helpfully added that many in the anti-junta movement “have already been detained.”

Those concocting another plot imagine that “anti-coup groups both in Thailand and abroad were attempting to undermine the government’s stability by using various online and other media to spread false information to local communities and villages.”

The targets of increased suppression are “networks of people who provide ideological and financial support…”. We think they are making this up (again).