Hear, see no anti-royalist “evil”

14 11 2022

Efforts to silence anti-royal protesters have been expanded. This is not the silencing that comes from the use of Article 112, but the physical efforts by police to prevent royals for hearing or seeing protests that might offend their delicate ears and eyes.

For the latest effort, read Prachatai.

In fact, if anyone wants to know anything at all about such events or Article 112 cases, one must go to Prachatai or social media because the main news outlets simply no longer report on such events. We assume they have been ordered not to report, and suspect that the owners and managers of the major news companies are only too happy to accede to such censorship. It is not so much self-censorship or state censorship, but jumping on the royalist/palace/regime wagon.

Back to Prachatai, which reports on an effort to bring attention to monarchy reform in Nakorn Ratchasima:

On Wednesday (9 November), the activist group Korat Movement went live on their Facebook page while they were holding protest signs saying “Free our friends” and “Person = person. Everyone is equal” while surrounded by a group of plainclothes police. The protest took place while Princess Sirindhorn, King Vajiralongkorn’s younger sister, was traveling to visit nearby Boonwattana School. The 15-minute video clip also showed the police trying to pull signs out of the activists’ hands.

The protesters were mainly very young, One of them stated:

… while Princess Sirindhorn was visiting Nakhon Ratchasima, the activists had been followed by plainclothes officers and that officers were stationed near their homes. She also claimed CCTV cameras were put up near the house ahead of the Princess’ visit.





Royalist determination

9 11 2022

There are now at least two cases where royalist “academics” have shown quite dogged determination to shut down normal academic debate and expression.

One is the mad case against historian Nattapol Chaiching, accused of having “falsified information in his PhD thesis” years ago at Chulalongkorn University. In this case, the royalist fervor can be attributed to Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, of the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, who has proclaimed himself a defender of everything royal. He claims “errors” in Nattapol’s work (since corrected), but himself makes errors. In the mad world of royalists, Nattapol’s error is grievous, while Chaiyan’s is ignored.

Another, recently reported by Prachatai, is of royalist and former Chiang Mai University dean of Fine Arts Asawinee Wanjing and the vendetta against students and lecturers who defied him when he sought to ban student theses considered anti-royal or potentially so. This is a story of a royalist determination to punish anyone who defies royalist hierarchy and values.

After several cases have failed, Asawinee has filed complaints of trespassing against Faculty of Fine Arts lecturers Sorayut Aiemueayut and Thasnai Sethaseree and Faculty of Fine Arts student Yotsunthorn Ruttapradid. They broke open a gate to allow students to exhibit their work, as required by the university.

Royalist determination becomes royalist vendetta. All Asawinee seeks is to harass, intimidate and silence.





Free detained monarchy critics

20 07 2022

Human Rights Watch media release on the continuing detention of Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom and Nutthanit “Bai Por” Duangmusit:

(Bangkok) – Thai authorities should immediately drop the charges and release pro-democracy activists detained for insulting the monarchy (lese majeste), Human Rights Watch said today.

Two of the activists, Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom and Nutthanit “Bai Por” Duangmusit, have been on a hunger strike since June 2, 2022 to protest their pretrial detention at Bangkok’s Central Women Correctional Institution. Pending their release, they should immediately be transferred to a hospital where they can receive appropriate medical attention. On July 18, the two activists collapsed during a witness examination at the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court due to severe stomach pains and fatigue.

“Thai authorities should drop the politically motivated cases against Netiporn, Nutthanit, and others charged for their peaceful protests to reform the monarchy,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government is harshly punishing these activists by unnecessarily holding them in prolonged pretrial detention instead of releasing them prior to trial.”

Netiporn, 26, and Nutthanit, 20, who are affiliated with the pro-democracy Thalu Wang group, have regularly advocated reforming the monarchy. The authorities have charged them with various criminal offenses, including lese majeste, for conducting a public opinion poll on February 8 about royal motorcades. Since May 3, the authorities have held them in pretrial detention, and that detention has been repeatedly extended.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste cases were not brought before the courts, in November 2020 the prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged more than 200 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should permit peaceful expression of all viewpoints, including questions about the monarchy,” Sifton said. “The authorities in Thailand should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with international human rights standards.”

Netiporn (l) and Baipor (r), clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports on the two women and their continued detention: “Monarchy reform activists Nutthanit and Netiporn, who are being held in pre-trial detention on … [Article 112] charges, have once again been denied bail despite being hospitalized after collapsing during a witness examination hearing from severe pain and fatigue from their hunger strike.” It adds: “On Tuesday (19 July), the South Bangkok Criminal Court denied bail for Nutthanit and Netiporn, claiming that their physical examination report shows that their health is normal.”

What is abnormal is the royalist judiciary.





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.








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