The 1932 spirit

27 06 2022

For those interested in the non-governmental response to the 90th anniversary of the 1932 revolution, there are a few stories to notice, with brief comments below.

Of course, the royalist government response is to ignore the event as if it never happened.

Thai Enquirer has a photo essay on the rally to celebrate the day. Some of the photos are quite something, and together they show how 1932 is intimately linked with contemporary struggles for democracy and monarchy reform. All of our photos here are clipped from Thai Enquirer.

Thai PBS reports on a seminar at Thammasat University’s Pridi Banomyong International College on 24 June, held “to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution.” Those attending and speaking included Sulak Sivaraksa and newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

Various groups organized activities and events on June 24 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the revolution which turned the country from absolute to constitutional monarchy. While academics and politicians discussed the future of Thai democracy at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus, youthful groups and activists gathered at Lan Khon Muang Townsquare, calling for the restoration of the revolutionary spirit, reform of the monarchy, abolish the lese majeste law, as well as make June 24 the National Day….

Thammasat University student activist Parit Chiwarak told Thai PBS World earlier that students and political activists had grouped together under the name of People’s Party 2020 a couple of years ago to carry on the revolutionary spirit. Their objective was to remove the gulf between Thai citizens and the established elite.

“One of the six principles laid out by the 1932 People’s Party is equality, which has never been achieved,” he said.

The report notes that in 1960,Thailand’s National Day was changed by the then military dictatorship, and in concert with the king, from 24 June to the then king’s birthday on 5 December. That change was just one part of the restoration of the monarchy that continues through the 20th century.

Monarchy reform and democracy activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “said in a phone interview that she and her associates continued to demand reforms to the monarchy, despite being prosecuted for lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code.”

In another event, former red shirt leader and Puea Thai politician Nattawut Saikua, in a talk show hosted by the Pridi Banomyong Institute, “said the people’s movement which fought for democracy before and after the 1932 Revolution shared the same spirit — to have equality and democracy.” He added: “I do believe that such a fighting spirit has been transferred from generation to generation,” acknowledging that “red shirts admired and expressed their gratitude to both People’s Parties, in 1932 and 2020.”

There’s more in the article.

Meanwhile, at Khaosod, there’s an op-ed by Pravit Rojanaphruk, commenting on the long period of divisions between royalists and anti-royalists. He begins:

The 90th anniversary of June 24, 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy, was only celebrated by those who believe Thailand has yet to achieve genuine democracy and aspire for more freedom and rights.

Conspicuously absent were the government, including Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, and royalist conservatives who did not observe the day and probably would rather forget that June 24, which falls on Friday this year, was not just arguably the most important day in modern Thai political history once a national day and a public holiday celebrated from 1938 to 1960….

For royalists who wish to see the monarchy … play a greater role in Thai society, to see the military continue to act as the state within a state, to limit the powers of politicians and the electorate whom they distrust, June 24, 1932 was a day of infamy….

Pravit notes that other countries “settled their differences through a bloody revolt.” He prefers a peaceful road to a democracy that provides for and accepts differences.

That’s all fine and good, but Pravit does not mention that the military has been all too willing to spill the blood of those who stand in their path and those who they consider challenge the monarchy and their Thai-style democracy. It has killed hundreds and jailed thousands.





Updated: On graduation boycotts

29 01 2022

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

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

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

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

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





Royalist regime fighting for the past

24 01 2022

While not a new revelation,

He explains:

Self-crowned

On a recent visit to a cinema in Bangkok, I was reminded of the dual role that movie theaters play in Thailand. One, of course, is to show films, local and foreign. The other is to reinforce in the audience a belief that their monarch serves as a unifying pillar in the Southeast Asian kingdom. That lesson plays out just before the main feature, when the screen in the darkened auditorium displays a message requesting the audience to stand as the strains of the king’s anthem fill the hall, accompanied by images of the king’s achievements….

The response of audiences — standing up for the anthem — was almost universal until the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in late 2016 ended a 70-year reign.

We think this is something of an overstatement. We recall that in the mid-1970s, when the royal stuff came on at the end of the film, many bolted for the exits to escape the hagiographic kitsch. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, audiences at movies and concerts often waited outside until the royal propaganda was finished and then rushed to their seats. But back to the story today:

But something quite different is now going on in cinemas….

[A]t Siam Paragon, a high-end mall in Bangkok’s upmarket shopping district…, [w]hen the familiar request to stand flashed across the screen to the strains of the royal anthem, only a middle-aged Thai couple stood up. The rest of the audience, which mostly consisted of younger Thais, sat impassively through the entire anthem as if it were perfectly normal.

… The display of silent defiance has gathered momentum in recent months; it has been noted by many Thais on social media and is discussed openly….

For the moment, the government appears at a loss on how to respond to this discreet but public challenge to the cinema reverence ritual. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the ex-army chief and former junta leader, has appealed to young people not to give in to peer pressure.

Yet, Thai cinemas have emerged as a new frontier for a generational zeitgeist. They have given a decisive answer to the question of whether or not to stand, something that seemed inconceivable just two years ago. From this perspective, Thai cinemas provide an inflection point in which the simple act of going to the movies becomes a political statement.

The royalist response to this anti-monarchism – or at least the rejection of the palace propaganda – is deepening. As they have for many years, it is the regime and the military are taking the lead.

Former red shirt, now paid turncoat, Seksakol/Suporn Atthawong, a vice minister attached to the Office of Prime Minister continues his boss’s conspiracy theory-inspired campaign against NGOs. Amnesty International is his main target. He claims – and it is a lie – that “NGOs that are supporting the three-hoof mob [he means the 3-finger salute] to destroy the country’s stability and abolish the royal institution…”. He means the monarchy.

He salivates over the AI target:

Amnesty International is an illicit organization that must be held accountable for its actions, and must be prosecuted to the fullest…. We should not give in to organizations that undermine national security.

Here, by national security, he means the monarchy. What did happen to his lese majeste charge? Oh, yes, he sold himself to the military rightists.

As in so many other places struggling with authoritarianism,

Seksakol’s gambit is typical of Thai ultra-royalist fringe politics. But as his position in the prime minister’s office attests, the fringe has migrated gradually to the center and the top of the Thai governing establishment since the military coup led by Prayut 2014. Facing a legitimacy deficit, Prayut’s current military-backed administration (direct military rule technically ended with the holding of a flawed election in 2019) has relied heavily on the blunt force of Thailand’s controversial lese majeste law, which outlaws any critical comment about the king or the monarchy, to silence critics and quash protests.

The regime is planning to stay. Forget all of the parliamentary realigning. This is about maintaining the political status quo well into the future through another rigged election. And just to help it along, the regime has extended its state of emergency. Thailand has been under this kind of draconian control for most of the period since the 2014 coup. This situation allows the military, police, ISOC and the judiciary to keep a lid on anti-royalism.

How it deals with the more passive rejection of the monarchy and the regime requires more propaganda, more surveillance and more repression. It means keeping Thailand in its past and rejecting the future. All in the name of the monarchy.





Silencing the media I

16 01 2022

The regime has congratulated itself on its ability to repress anti-government/anti-monarchy protests. The king must feel confident returning to Europe later in the month.

But at what cost? In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says:

Thai authorities have prosecuted dissenters, violently dispersed peaceful protests, and censored news and social media…. Respect for human rights in Thailand has gone from bad to worse while the government’s promises of reform remain unfulfilled.

Read HRW’s World Report 2022. We assume that HRW is in the regime’s sights for repression next year.

The regime’s moves to shut down political expression has been going on for several years, and much of this has been posted by PPT. Of late, we have had several asides regarding the apparent constricting of the media. Some of this has to do with business decisions – look at the Bangkok Post where the “news” is obliterated by advertorials and “stories” that are promotional. Some of it has to do with the political proclivities of owners.

But much of it has to do with repression, censorship and self-censorship. That screw has been being wound down for some time, but the Constitutional Court’s support of the regime in its ludicrous judgement on political reform now seems like a turning point, sending the country further down the repressive royalist rathole. That decision silenced much of the media reporting on monarchy reform.

With that stimulus, as Khaosod recently reported, the regime has conjured “a draft law that would allow suspension of media license on grounds of publishing contents deemed against ‘good morals of the public’.”

The bill,  formally called “Draft Media Ethics and Professional Standards Promotion Act,” was proposed by the government’s Public Relations Department and approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday. The department is chaired by Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who served as the spokesman for the junta….

We all know how the regime defines “good” and “good people.” It has nothing to do with goodness, but with supporting the regime and monarchy. And, we also know that morals have no meaning for a regime full of shysters and murders, not to mention a convicted heroin trafficker. Of course, they are all “good.”

The new law establishes a new licensing and watchdog agency called “Press Profession Council.”

The law will limit press freedom: “It stipulates that while freedom of the press is guaranteed, ‘the exercise must not go against the duties of Thai people or good morals of the people’.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the “draft bill on the promotion of media ethics and professional standards has cleared the cabinet…”.

Supporters of media repression

Regrettably, the Post is already under control, choosing to suggest, in Orwellian style, that an obvious effort to silence the media is, about “the rights, freedoms and independence of media organisations and practitioners.” This is buffalo manure, and the Post’s owners know it, but they have chosen to support repression.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, chairman of the National Press Council of Thailand, is equally supine, describing “the bill as the best media-related piece of legislation to date.”

With the backbones of jellyfish, such support bodes ill for Thailand’s political future.





Another year of repression

27 12 2021

Even with the virus, most people have been celebrating the holidays. But, as Prachatai reports, nothing of the sort is possible for those jailed without bail on lese majeste charges.

Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa have again denied bail in an act of lese majeste torture. The four have already spent some 3-4 months in jail pending trial.

Of course, in line with lese majeste torture protocols, the courts are in no hurry to get these political prisoners into a trial.

Clipped from VOA News – a Reuters photo

A bail request was submitted to the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court on 17 December.  As expected from the royalist courts, on 24 December the court “ruled to leave its former order unchanged out of concern that the four, if released, would commit the same offences again.”

The court rejected an undertaking by the “four detainees [who] affirmed that, if released, they would abide by previous Court conditions to not engage in any activities damaging to the monarchy, take part in protests causing public disorder, flee the country, or violate Court-mandated travel restrictions.”

The regime and, we assume, the absent monarch, prefer to keep these young people locked up. They fear the anti-monarchism that has grown and that is (temporarily) repressed.

From Prachatai’s Facebook page

Protesters had gathered at the Court to support the political prisoners. After bail was refused, the protesters “burned a judge uniform and the Criminal Code textbook and sprayed paint all over the Court entrance area.” Meanwhile, “Thatchapong Kaedam, another prominent figure in the protest movement, said that next year, the people will continue to call for change and the intensity of the demonstrations will escalate.”

This is now the normal court contribution to political repression: at least another 16 people “are being detained pending trial or police investigation of their participation in political protests and confrontations with the police over the past year.”

Over the longer period from July 2020 to October 2021, according to the Thai Enquirer, 1,636 people in 896 cases have faced lawsuits for their political participation and expression, including 258 minors.

Of that, 1,337 are being prosecuted for alleged violations of the emergency decree which came into effect in March 2020, 107 are being prosecuted for the alleged violations of the Public Assembly Act, 97 for alleged violations of the Computer Crime Act, 112 for sedition and 154 for lese-majeste.

In addition to the politicized judiciary, the royalist regime has also used violence to repress anti-monarchism. According to a report by the Thai Enquirer, in 2021, more than “500 people were injured from protest-related violence in 2021…”. Dozens of them were children, with one 15 year-old was killed.

Of the total, 347 civilians, including 88 minors were injured. Reflecting the regime’s attempts to also suppress the media, 29 journalists were injured, including several who were targeted with rubber bullets. In addition, three medical volunteers and two bystanders were injured. Many more injuries went unreported.146 police officers  and one soldier were injured.

The police have become especially aggressive, having replaced the military as the frontline troops in repressing protest. Emphasizing this, as Prachatai reports, another “20 protesters and activists have been charged with violation of the Emergency Decree for participating in the 28 November 2021 rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection to call for marriage equality.” They are also charged with obstructing traffic.

LGBTQ protesters are now seen as threatening and in need of repression. Of course, pro-monarchy and pro-regime groups face no such police action,

The activists of the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality say “that the rally was an exercise of their legal rights and freedoms, and that the charges against them amount to a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP.”

They add that they are “willing to fight the charges to show that they are free to think and are protected by the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution. They are also considering filing complaints against the officers who file charges against them.”

For a perspective on Thailand’s authoritarianism, see this article.





Back to “normal”

5 12 2021

After months and months of calls for monarchy reform, the arrest of hundreds, plenty of political prisoners, the massive use of repression, and hundreds of lese majeste, sedition, and several other charges, what has changed?

If we look at King Vajiralongkorn’s behavior, we guess he’d be content to answer that nothing much has changed. He’s back to his erratic, self-centered “best.”

Readers will recall that when the students first made calls for monarchy reform, the king eventually had to interrupt his long residence in Europe to return to Thailand and engage in a bit of royalist rabble-rousing. That involved a mobilization of his daughters and wives. The king had to spend an extended period in-country, more than he’d done for years.

At the same time, the regime deepened it political repression, emphasizing lawfare.

By early November, it appeared that king and regime figured that they had seen off anti-monarchism, and the king sent a huge number of people, dogs, and royal stuff to Germany. He jetted out in secret in the second week of November. As the the SCMP had it: “He’s back and is feeling at home with his poodles in his favourite kingdom of Bavaria,” Bild wrote, adding he had brought 30 poodles with him from Thailand. The Guardian adds that the king and entourage “booked an entire [4th] floor of the Hilton Munich airport hotel for 11 days.”

The king has quickly re-established his old pattern of quick trips back to Thailand to perform “important” kingly tasks. As far as we can tell, he was back in Thailand, for about 24 hours, when he was required at Wat Phra Kaew, just a few days after arriving in Germany.

And, today, he’s back, again for about 24 hours. This time it is for his dead father’s birthday where he is “scheduled to plant a tree at 4pm on Sunday in a ground-breaking ceremony for a monument to King Rama IX in Bangkok’s Princess Mother Memorial Park.”

We have no idea how much this costs the long-suffering taxpayer. But Metropolitan Police Bureau spokesman Pol Maj-Gen Jirasan Kaewsaengaek revealed that “some 1,300 police officers will be deployed to provide security and control the traffic around the area.” One tree, one king, 1,300 police.

Lots of roads closed and plenty of encouragement for royalists to show up and show support the itinerant monarch.

All pretty “normal.” Obviously, regime and palace feel they can get back to fleecing taxpayers for the royal house.





Mad, mad monarchism II

13 11 2021

Priyanandana is seeking compensation of 50 million baht for the “damage” done to the dead relative, Prince Rangsit:

She initially asked the Court for a temporary injunction stopping the circulation of both books, but later withdrew her request, noting that there was no point to a temporary injunction as the books have been widely circulated. She is also suing Nattapol’s PhD thesis supervisor, former Faculty of Political Science lecturer Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead; Chaithawat Tulathon, editor for “Dream the Impossible Dream”; Anchalee Maneeroj, editor for “The Junta, the Lords, and the Eagle”; Same Sky Books, the publisher of both volumes; and Same Sky Books editor-in-chief Thanapol Eawsakul.

Apart from the usual royalist nonsense, why Prince Rangsit? Essentially because the Prince is seen as one of the driving forces for the political and economic restoration of the palace and for steering it through the difficult times after the abdication and then the death of Ananda Mahidol and the rise of Bhumibol.

Rangsit spend several years in detention, accused of treason and of plotting a coup in 1938, but was released at the end of WW2. He became regent in 1946 and was quick to support royalists and military men opposed to the People’s Party. Even if the original claim – that Rangsit interfered with cabinet – is not supported by the Bangkok Post story in 1950, it is clear in several accounts that Rangsit repeatedly interfered, seeking advantages for the palace and for royalists.





Further updated: Absurd court reaffirms its royalist credentials

11 11 2021

Section 49 of the junta’s constitution states:

No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering
the cessation of such act.

In the case where the Attorney-General orders a refusal to proceed as petitioned or fails to proceed within fifteen days as from the date of receiving the petition, the person making the petition may submit the petition directly to the Constitutional Court.

The action under this section shall not prejudice the criminal prosecution against the person committing an act under paragraph one.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Constitutional Court surprised no one yesterday with its absurd decision that those calling for reform of the monarchy were seeking to overthrow the political system and the monarchy. Its ruling, following the first paragraph above, was all the more bizarre given that many of the reforms were a call for the status quo ante of the previous reign and of the post-1932 regime.

The Court ruled on a petition from Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman, who prompted the court to rule on whether “public statements, made by leaders of anti-establishment groups concerning the monarchy at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10th last year, amount to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Even among the deranged among royalists, Natthaporn stands out as quite mad. His earlier efforts with the Constitutional Court in 2019 involved a bizarre claim that the Future Forward Party was attempting to overthrow the same “democratic regime with the king as the head of state” under the very same Section 49. The lame lawyer claimed, among many odd things, that party members were “anti-monarchy and anti-religion, is that they are part of the Illuminati.” In other words, the FFP was a part of a (fictitious) global anti-monarchist conspiracy. Many mad monarchists believed this rubbish. That action failed, so he took the same nonsense to the Election Commission, claiming an “alleged violation of the Political Party Act.”

This time, the Constitutional Court, by majority (8-1) decision:

ruled that the calls for monarchy reform and monarchy-related activities organized by Anon Nampa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and associated organizations were, are and will be abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to ‘overthrow’ the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.

Remarkably, the court determined “hidden” intentions and “inferred” meanings:

The Court ruled that Anon’s speech and Panussaya’s statement at the 10 August 2020 protest, and their participation in the protests afterward and other symbolic actions have the hidden intention of overthrowing the regime, which would cause public disorder and unrest in society….

The word ‘overthrow’ can be inferred from actions that cause a serious threat to the constitution and regime in a decisive and irreversible manner that completely obliterates them.

The court considered the demand for the repeal of Section 6 of the constitution “which guarantees the monarch’s authority, as Head of State, which no one can accuse or violate is an explicit act with an intent to annihilate the monarchy.”

Rather, the demand was:

Abolish Article 6 of the constitution, which dictates that no one can make legal complaints about the king. Add an article to give the parliament power to perform checks and balances on the king, similar to the Khana Rasadon’s constitution.

This is a call to reform and a return to a previous status quo. As an op-ed at Thai Enquirer states: “If you carefully listen, what they are asking for is the modernization of the royal institution so that it can continue to peacefully exist along with the development of a democratic system.”

And the court objected to the tone of speeches:

To demand such changes and make such attacks in public, by claiming that it is an exercise of rights and freedoms according to the Constitution, not only is bad conduct, with rude words spoken, but also violates the rights and freedoms of other people who think differently….

For good measure, the court trotted out the palace and military propaganda line on the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s history. Essentially they accused the reform movement of being offensive to (ruling class) Thai culture.

The court also ordered the three respondents and others to end their movement: “The three respondents, other organisations and networks must cease their actions…”.

The ruling carried no penalty for the three respondents but it potentially unleashes a cascade of royalist repression and cases for the royalist courts that, the regime and palace appear convinced will be the end of the monarchy reform movement.

It is worth noting that, like the hurried and politicized dissolution of several parties in the 2008 judicial coup, the court dispensed with witnesses. As Prachatai explains:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that, despite a request by lawyers for the three activists for them to be summoned for an inquiry along with several other witnesses to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, the ruling was made without examining witnesses and based only on the complaint itself, the objection to the complaint, and documents that the Court requested from the Office of the Attorney General, Khlong Luang Police Station, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Office, the National Intelligence Agency, and Thammasat University.

The Court then ordered the inquiry concluded, claiming that it has enough evidence to issue a ruling.

TLHR also said that, in addition to the three activists themselves, they had requested that several academics be summoned as witnesses. They had planned to summon historians Nithi Eoseewong and Charnvit Kasetsiri to testify on Thai political history, and legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang to argue that the activists’ actions do not qualify as using their rights and liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.

They also planned to summon writer Sulak Sivarak to speak about the role of the monarchy in Thai politics and President of the 1997 Constitution Drafting Assembly Uthai Pimchaichon to speak on the intention of Section 49 of the Thai Constitution, which is modelled after the same section in the 1997 Constitution.

None of the aforementioned witnesses were given a chance to testify.

On the ruling, Natthaporn gloated: “The ruling today is a starter, that peace will finally be returned to society…”. He claimed the ruling bans all activities that might be construed to threaten the monarchy. His next target is the Move Forward Party: “He said the court’s decision would lead to the Election Commission deciding whether to move for the disbandment of the Move Forward Party. Mr Natthaporn claims the party supported the protests.”

In an interview cited by Prachatai, academic lawyer and former FFP member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul saw three impacts from the ruling:

Firstly, the ruling’s broad interpretation of the law has closed the door for those who want to reform the monarchy.

Secondly, the ruling prohibits many acts, both those which have been done and those not done. This will allow those who oppose proposals for monarchy reform to flood the courts with petitions similar to the one today. Civil society organizations and political parties that rally for the amendment or abolition of the royal defamation law might be affected by this.

Thirdly, this order to gag people will not bring about reconciliation between those who think differently. It will exacerbate tensions between the old and the new generations who have different ideas about the monarchy.

“If you don’t want to enter the red zone, then don’t do it. Don’t speak. Don’t touch. Don’t do anything. Then, you will be in the safe zone. Your party won’t be disbanded. Your MPs can stay. Criminal charges won’t touch you. In public rallies, you mustn’t speak about this. Just talk about ousting Prayut. Don’t speak about these [monarchy] issues and you will be safe.”

Indeed, this decision will, despite the wording of Section 49, will be used to lock up protest leaders and it will provide justification for a regime purge of those it can now say are anti-monarchists.

Finally in this absurdist “legal” world of the country’s protectors of the status quo, we must go back to the Thai Enquirer and its comments:

Asking for the amendment of the lese-majeste law is not treasonous in any way. Overthrowing an elected government by a military coup like what General Prayut Chan-ocha and his friends did in 2014 was.

It was also unconstitutional and unlawful. But the courts have regularly sanctioned military coups. The op-ed lists other unlawful acts sanctioned by courts:

Jailing and persecuting elected parliamentarians….

Arresting, cracking down, violently using force against unarmed protesters….

Shutting down public debate, installing an unelected senate, using the judiciary to go after dissidents….

Abducting and murdering political activists….

The op-ed concludes:

The verdict was almost like the final nail in the coffin of space for fair discussions in our society. And it was perpetrated by the same court system that has done nothing for the last six years but carry out the junta’s whim and reinforce the junta’s rule.

Update 1: Usefully, Prachatai has provided a translation of the Constitutional Court’s decision. Read it in all its bizarre detail.

Update 2:The Constitutional Court has defended not hearing evidence, saying it was too late and that the investigation was complete. Interestingly, in its decision, the court does not refer to any evidence that was not from the complainant or an official security agency.





Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Students vs. the feudal regime III

7 11 2021

Jirapreeya Saeboo is a third year Political Science student majoring International Relations at Chulalongkorn University and writes at New Bloom about the controversy over the Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match procession and the executive committee of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Union’s canceling the Phra Kieo parade.

Of course, that brought a predictable royalist backlash.

Jirapreeya points out the huge (electoral) support the current Student Council has and how its statement was supported by student groups:

The statement issued by the student union framed the event as the symbol of feudalistic culture and reinforcing social inequality. Likewise, it asserted that because the parade was just 30-year-old, it was an invented tradition. It also raised skepticism regarding the selection of the privileged male and female students seated on the palanquin, carried by roughly 50 male students, who were forced to participate in exchange for eligibility to stay in the university’s dormitory. The statement ended by closing with the phrase, “For the equality of man.”

In the article there’s more about the royalist backlash. For example:

Chaiyabhak Chanwilai, the head of the so-called “Chulalongkorn University Dignity Conservation,” claimed on Facebook that the cancellation of the parade is a grave abomination towards the monarchy. He pressured the university’s administration to punish the members of the student union and affirmed that if no action of punishment is taken, the university’s administration should just be fired.

Soon after, the “university administration issued a statement saying that the student union’s resolution was an attack on … worshipped figures…” and promising punishment for the students and the university demanded that it be able to censor all Student Council statements and publications.

Jirapreeya writes that:

This is a serious menace to freedom of expression in the academic field, drawing parallels with the authoritarian military government Thais have been subordinated to for decades. For our part, we are fighting and resisting authoritarian acts in our university. We gained a number of supports not only from Thai civil society but also from the international arena. But our university is going to hold us back and punish us for trying to make changes. This is why we need more international attention, and actions towards them.

And there’s a call for help:

We are proposing to the United Nations to recognize October 6th as the “International Day for the Protection of Students’ Freedom of Expression.” This matters because Thai student activists and youth protesters are being captured and incarcerated for demanding equality and freedom. The repressive regime silenced and killed untold family members and friends. This is why we need to resist.

If you are media, press, news reports, please do publicize, and write about this incident to your platform. The University is afraid of losing its international credit which is going to affect its rankings.

If you are a student organization, student union, committee, you can publish a statement in solidarity with us. You can do that by:

    • Support the Student Union’s stances.
    • Condemn the authoritarian acts of Chulalongkorn University’s administration.
    • Demand Chulalongkorn University to terminate all further trials on the Student Union and other associated students.
    • Ask your university, if they are associated with Chulalongkorn University in some ways, to consider the withdrawal of the partnership agreement.

It is time that students stand by each other and aim for the fight for justice and equality.

If you were to write to the university, publish it on your platform and please send the statement or letter pressure to these emails:

    • Associate Professor Natcha Thawesaengskulthai, Ph.D. , Vice President for Strategic Planning, Innovation and Global Engagement, Chulalongkorn University
      natcha.t@chula.ac.th
    • Assistant Professor Chaiyaporn Puprasert, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs, Chulalongkorn University
      chaiyaporn.p@chula.ac.th







%d bloggers like this: