Updated: Pathetic royalist “university” IV

6 09 2017

Chulalongkorn University seems to be panicked, having realized that its international reputation is being self-trashed by its administration’s reaction to kerfuffle over its concocted royalist initiation ceremony for first-year students that descended into chaos a royalist botany assistant professor assaulted a student who was walking out.

Blaming the head of the Student Council, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and barely concealing its ’s desire to be rid of the student activist, the administration kicked him and his colleagues off the elected Student Council. It was an administration coup.

Perhaps the administration has noted that Chulalongkorn’s international ranking in a recent list has it languishing in the 600-800 level, which is probably being generous and where its been languishing for the past three years. Given that reputation matters, its recent royalist ritual suicide is not helping that ranking.

At its royalist website, hidden away under an “archive,” the administration has several announcements, all trying to repair “damage” but actually revealing how puerile it is.

We won’t reproduce it all, but highlight a couple of points. It begins:

This statement is written in response to many news reports, articles and commentaries that appeared in the international press in relation to the recent ruling at Chulalongkorn University on a group of students for their disciplinary misconduct associated with their disruptive behavior at a university’s function in early August.  While we appreciate that members of the international press see our internal matter as newsworthy, there are a few clarifications that may deserve your consideration.

The implication is that Thais don’t need a “response,” that there was “disruptive behavior” and that the foreign media should butt out of  an “internal matter.”

None of this is true. Thai university administrators should not have impunity when they do stupid and costly things, even if it is in the name of royalist exaltation, and the international media will report such events that illustrate Thailand’s descent into feudalism. Watching the video of the event, the only disruption seems to be by university staff like the botanist.

At least the administration admits that “university is obliged to get its story straight…”. It might help if that story wasn’t a concoction. It claims to not have revealed student names; it has done so from the beginning. (Not that the students seem concerned by this, releasing documents and suchlike themselves.)

The administrators then claim that its ruling against the students “followed all routine procedures of the university’s disciplinary protocols.” It claims “[i]ndependent facts-finding and deliberation” which hardly seems likely. A bit like the rest of Thailand’s “independent” agencies.

It then tries to argue that “paying obeisance (thawai bangkhom)” is different from prostration. Readers can decide if this is fudging the issue.

Most remarkably, the administrators then seek to manipulate the role of the thug-professor, saying,

… an investigation and disciplinary procedure are underway for the lecturer who lost his temper and restrained [they mean assaulted] one of the students during the incident on 3 August.  While what happened was a shameful episode for the university, it is an act of one person and bears no relevance to the university’s policy.  This lecturer resigned from his position as assistant to the president (student affairs) since 7 August 2017, a few days after the unfortunate incident.

Of course, the same leniency cannot be given to the students and the administration seeks to separate the then assistant to the president (student affairs) from the university.

They then grumble that (foreign) journalists have not been “accurate, unbiased, and fair to our situation.”  And they again claim that this is a “purely an internal affairs that should not be linked with divisive politics and suppression of dissent which seem to be the dominant discourse or news frame presented in western and local English-language media.”

The impression is that the administrators think that “divisive politics and suppression of dissent” is an invention of foreign reporters.

Remarkably, they then appeal to conservative and royalist notions of “Thainess,” a favorite claim by all of Thailand’s anti-democrats, fascists and ultra-nationalists, including The Dictator:

Our university has a long history and a royal lineage that are imbued in our tradition and beliefs that may be uncommon to western liberal values.  Much that we support liberalism and freedom of expression, we also have our cultural roots and harmony to balance.

Their “position,” they say, “represents difference and diversity that is much valued in the West,” except that no difference and diversity was permitted from the students involved.

Administered by dunces, it is little wonder that this royalist kindergarten rank so low among the universities of the world.

Update: For more discussion of the illiberal royalism of Chulalongkorn University, see Prachatai’s take on the university’s anti-democratic declaration.





A sham democracy

4 09 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that the anti-democrats were loud in their criticism of electoral democracy as no democracy at all.

Those rants neglected the fact that the rules for elections in 2007 and 2011 that brought pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties to power via the ballot box were conducted under rules set by military-backed governments packed by royalists.

Now it is PPT’s turn to complain about empty elections. There’s a ridiculous trend in some media suggesting that any election the military junta decides to allow will herald a return to “democracy” for Thailand.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to a report at the Bangkok Post, the latest to fall into this trap is Yves Leterme, the secretary-general of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).

IDEA’s aims include this:

We develop, share and enable the use of comparative knowledge in our key areas of expertise: electoral processes, constitution-building, political participation and representation, and democracy and development.

So you’d think that its secretary-general would be able to distinguish real electoral democracy and sham democracy. But, no.

He says that “[a]s Thailand transitions towards a democracy, it is critical to keep in mind that not only the elections but the government itself must meet citizens’ expectations for leadership, security and socioeconomic development…”.

Leterme appears to praise Thailand, saying “that demonstrating a clear intention to reinstall democracy through electoral processes is a positive step for the country.”

How could a “democracy engineer” get it so wrong? After all, the military dictatorship has fixed any upcoming election to ensure that only its approved “politicians” can gain seats in government. It also seems highly likely that a general will be prime minister and may not even be an elected member of parliament.

Perhaps the reason for Leterme’s democracy clanger has to do with his Board of Advisers, where the chair is none other than the (anti)Democrat Party’s Surin Pitsuwan, who joined campaigns to bring down elected governments.

Make no mistake, no “election” under the junta’s 2017 constitution and the junta’s electoral rules can be free or fair.





Updated: Ultra-royalist professors attack students

4 08 2017

The desire of royalists to see everyone kowtowing to monarchy has become a crusade for many, egged on by the royalist regimes of recent years. The ballooning use of lese majeste is only one element of this. There’s also the multitude of “little” enforcements, many aimed at students, making them acknowledge hierarchy and status.

One might have thought that by the time students got to university, such childish royalism might have been more limited. But in Thailand’s infantile world of royalists who think they need to make the “children” kowtow to the seniors/teachers/royals, there’s uniforms, royalist ceremonies (many “invented” recently and said to be “traditional”) and royalist propaganda deluging universities (not to mention military thugs and other “authorities,” in uniform and plainclothes).

One of the saddest stories we have seen coming out of Thailand under the military dictatorship is from Chulalongkorn University, a bastion of ultra-royalists and political yellow shirts.

The Bangkok Post’s story is of the “freshmen initiation ceremony at Chulalongkorn University,” itself a ridiculous effort to enforce hierarchy and to instill royalism, said to have “descended into chaos and controversy when a group of students staged a walk out and one of them was put in a chokehold by a lecturer.”

Yes, you read that right, a university-level “lecturer” attacked a student. It is Khaosod that identifies the “lecturer” as “assistant professor Ruengwit Bunjongrat.” We clipped this picture from his page at the Botany Department, where he is listed as holding a Masters degree.

Khaosod also has some video of the event, where another unnamed professor tries to stop it being filmed, cursing the student filming as an “asshole.” It says the student who was assaulted by the royalist Ruengwit was Supalak Damrongjit, who is a fourth-year student at the Faculty of Economics and also vice president of student council.

This royalist assault took place at one of the invented traditions at Chula which had students dressed in white uniforms made to sit on the ground in a very light rain and “prostrating themselves to pay respect to the monument of the university’s founder, King Rama V, and take an oath before the monument.”

Student activist and president of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Council Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who “has campaigned against sitting on the ground and prostrating during the ceremony,” claimed “a deputy university rector promised that the university would provide an area for students who did not want to sit on the ground.”

He says “the lecturers broke these promises as all students were ordered to sit on the ground to pay their respects…”.

Netiwit walked out. That was when the assistant professor grabbed another student in a headlock and abused him.

One of the university’s deputy rectors, Associate Professor Bancha Chalapirom, babbled that “the university did not force students to sit while it was raining. He said there was a slight drizzle and students agreed to carry with the ceremony and were given raincoats.” He says no one was forced to sit or prostrate.

That seems neither here nor there as the professors tried to stop students leaving the ceremony.

Bancha “described” the events leading “up to the professor restraining the student…”. He says:

“The freshmen paid respects three times, recited their oath and sang the song. But during the ceremony, Netiwit and his friends came out to pay respects in an awkward way as the student council. This made the officials overseeing the ceremony come out and pull them aside, and though it looks like an assault, it wasn’t…”.

Bancha said royalist Ruengwit is “hospitalized for stress after the incident went public.” We have no sympathy. But Bancha went further declaring the attacker as “a person who loves students and didn’t want anything to happen, so he went to pull out the students…”. Royalist love can be tough love. Ask those who have survived murderous royalist attacks in the past.

When all Thais should be ashamed, yellow shirt social media is fulsome in its praise of the royalist thug professors.

Update: Kong Rithdee at the Bangkok Post has an insightful op-ed on this shameful royalist assault

… you just can’t manhandle your students like that, no matter how many wrestling matches you’ve watched or how detestable you find youthful activism. Physically restraining a student who might or might not have shown disrespect, by a professor of all people, and in a public gathering being observed by reporters? What can we expect next? Baptism by fire? A crucifixion?…

Like everything in Thailand these days, the Chulalongkorn incident is symptomatic of a heavily polarised nation. Every dispute, every conflict, every argument reignites the debate between tradition and progress, between the reactionary and reformist, between the headlocker and headlocked. Even the most respected institute of higher learning, supposedly the nation’s cradle of intellectualism, has become a mud-filled, gladiatorial pit where underdog fighters face the wrath of their Roman rulers. They got the thumbs-down and look what happened….

Like everything in Thailand these days, the Chulalongkorn incident is symptomatic of a heavily polarised nation. Every dispute, every conflict, every argument reignites the debate between tradition and progress, between the reactionary and reformist, between the headlocker and headlocked. Even the most respected institute of higher learning, supposedly the nation’s cradle of intellectualism, has become a mud-filled, gladiatorial pit where underdog fighters face the wrath of their Roman rulers. They got the thumbs-down and look what happened.

And that’s fine. A university should be a battleground for ideological contests. What isn’t fine is anger manifesting itself through violence. Without being alarmist, sometimes it’s good to remember that Oct 6, 1976 didn’t happen in a vacuum. One thing lead to another, and another, and then to something that could never be undone.





Punishment

29 07 2017

The military junta and its minions have been hard at work in recent days, punishing people it sees as political opponents or threats to the royalist-tycoon military regime and its plans for control into the future. All of this political “work” has been around the period of the first birthday “celebration” for King Vajiralongkorn, which seems appropriate, in the reign of fear and threat.

The junta just hates it when the lower classes complain, especially when they are in areas considered politically suspect, like the northeast. So its obedient servants have charged and now prosecuted seven women who have been campaigning against a mining concession extension for Tungkum Co Ltd, a gold mine operator in Loei province. The seven are Phonthip Hongchai, Ranong Kongsaen, Wiron Ruchichaiwat, Suphat Khunna, Bunraeng Sithong, Mon Khunna, and Lamphloen Rueangrit.

Somyos and his money

The Tungkum Company has had significant regime support and the junta see the villagers as having support from anti-regime activists. The case goes back a long way, with the company supported by the usually wealthy (never explained or investigated) former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers opposing mining and environmental degradation.

The women involved are now charged with “breaking the public assembly law and intimidating public officials.” The so-called act of “intimidation” involved “leading more than 100 people to gather in front of Wang Saphung District Administration Office on 16 November 2016 while officials were holding a meeting…” that was to rubber stamp the company’s application.

Business elites and the junta don’t want these little people getting out of hand, especially women (we say more on this below).

In a similar case, the junta’s bureaucratic thugs and something still referred to as the “Supreme Court” – better called the military’s civilian sentencing machine – has sentenced a husband and wife to six months in jail “for trespassing on protected land six years ago.” The court seems quite deranged in its “thinking” sentencing the elderly Den Khamlae and his wife Suphab Khamlae. Deranged in that Den has been missing since April 2016, believed to have been forcibly disappeared by the same authorities that charged him and his wife.

Den’s case goes back to 1985, when “his Chaiyaphum farmland was taken by the government. They were promised land to use elsewhere, but Den and his neighbors later found the area designated for them was already occupied.” His crime is that he wouldn’t bow down to the “authorities,” and with the junta in power, these thugs decided to get rid of him. Suphab’s “crime” seems to have been her campaign to learn what has happened to her husband. As the linked article explains, “Suphab, who has campaigned about forced disappearances since Den’s disappearance, will immediately go to prison.” Campaigning against the royalist-tycoon-bureaucratic state is not just a “crime,” but the dictators are angered by the uppity lower classes and especially those who don’t accept their “place” in the hierarchy.

The court babbled something about Den being “convicted” because he is not proven dead. We can only hope that there are sufficient horrid and vicious ghosts from the disappeared who will haunt these morons in robes for in this life and the next.

The popular Yingluck

Then there are the political punishments meted out to those the junta considers as challenging its right to rule and dictate.

The most obvious example of this is Yingluck Shinawatra. Early in the week, she made the mistake of complaining about the junta’s minions acting against her in ways that she considered foul. Worse (for her), she had a social media exchange with The Dictator. The result has been the sudden revelation that National Anti-Corruption Commission, which essentially works at the behest of the military dictatorship, has 11 other cases against Yingluck that it is “investigating.”

The junta has been keen to punish Yingluck for several reasons and not least because she remains popular. In this instance, though, it seems to us that the junta is punishing Yingluck for speaking up for herself. The Dictator has a habit of punishing those who pick a fight with him but in this case it is also clear that the strong misogynist ideology of the royalist political elite is playing out. The Dictator thinks “that woman” should “know her place.” He’s “teaching” her to know her submissive place. Of course, other royalist lads have derided Yingluck for being a woman in their man’s world.

Finally, at least for today, there’s the is the arrest warrant for Watana Muangsook. It seems that Watana, “a Pheu Thai Party key figure and former commerce minister, and two other suspects on suspicion of provoking rebellion…”. Did we read that right? “Rebellion”? That seems to be how the men who control most of Thailand’s legal weapons view the prospect of hundreds turning out to “support” Yingluck when she’s next in the (kangaroo) court. The junta is giving the impression that its is so frightened that it is suffering collective and premature incontinence.

In this “case,” the so-called “suspects were found to have been inciting people to come to a gathering planned for Aug 25 when the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is due to hand down a ruling in the rice-pledging case in which former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is charged with dereliction of duty…”. The junta reckons this alleged “incitement” can be “deemed a violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code,” meaning sedition!

In Watana’s case, his “sedition” appears to be challenging The Dictator: “In a series of messages posted on his Facebook page from July 19 to July 26, Mr Watana criticised the government and urged members of the public to come out to support Ms Yingluck, also on Aug 1 when she is due to verbally present her final statement in the rice-pledging case to the court…”.

In response, “Watana said on Thursday he has never posted any message urging Ms Yingluck’s supporters to turn up at the court.” So his “crime” would seem to be his violation of the dictum that allows no arguing with The Dictator.





Repression and the nature of dictatorship

23 07 2017

About a week ago we posted on the statement by 176 of the 500 or so academics who attended the International Conference on Thai Studies. Later, we posted on how the military junta’s thugs could not ignore the “challenge” posed by the academics and their mild call for the return of freedom of expression.

According to a Bangkok Post editorial, the testy dictatorial regime can’t help itself in “responding”with negatives. It is its nature as a dictatorship.

That Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart has dismissed the academic call “comes as no surprise.” As the Post states: “His response perfectly reflects the military regime’s unreasonable fear and outrageous blockade of ‘different’ opinions.”

We have occasionally agreed that the junta is fearful of losing its power but we think the political repression is the nature of the dictatorship.

The “[m]any people [who] have been harassed, threatened, arrested and detained…” is the way a dictatorship deals with anyone considered “oppositional.”

The academics “asked” the junta to “give people back the freedom to express their opinions without fear of punishment or reprisal.”

It also asked they be granted full and free access to information and facts, and that prisoners of conscience — those jailed for their religious, political or other views — be released from jail or detention, among other issues.

None of this is going to happen under a military dictatorship.

Indeed, “at the Chiang Mai conference,” the junta had “[p]lainclothes officers record… who was in attendance and what they discussed.”

From Ugly Thailand

There can be no academic freedom and no freedom of speech. Indeed, the Post says, “Thai society has fallen under strict military control.”

We’d say it didn’t “fall” under military control. In fact, it was a planned military coup, planned by the current junta and coordinated with its tycoon, royalist and anti-democrat allies. Those groups don’t want a “democratic” politics that they are not sure that they can control.

Where the Post goes seriously wrong is in thinking that “democracy looms after the promised elections next year.” What looms is years of elite, royalist and military control of politics camouflaged as an electoral “democracy.”

After all, that was the very point of the coup in 2014.





What went wrong in 2475?

26 06 2017

There’s been a lot of discussion about 1932/2475 and what went wrong and what went right. One of the big questions asked is whether 85 years is a long time to wait for electoral democracy.

Academics can debate all kinds of things about 2475. How was it that a military faction gained the ascendancy?What was the commitment to democracy and equality? And so on.

But the real issue that needs to be recognized is that the People’s Party proved unable to rid itself of the royal family and royalists.

The path to a new society – and, yes, we do benefit from hindsight – is to establish a republic. Notice that we use the present tense.

Getting rid of royals and their hangers-on is arguably far more difficult now than it was in 2475, because the failure then has allowed them to be stronger now.

If the history of the royalist re-establishment is considered, it is clear that the royalists were far less squeamish in dealing with their foes than were the progressives of 2475. Today, as they have been over the last 85 years, royalists are vicious and retributive.





Overthrowing royalist regimes

24 06 2017

The 24th of June is an important day. On that day in 1932 the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed its well-planned Revolution. It was the first time that Thais overthrew royal power.

It is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country.

It is also important for anti-democrats and royalists. They have opposed and successfully rolled back the changes the People’s Party implemented 85 years ago. They want to expunge and erase the memory of anti-monarchism in Thailand. To do this, since the 1940s, they have worked in alliance with an increasingly ultra-royalist military.

24 June  used to be celebrated. In recent years, however, the event is barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries made big and expensive.

For many years, the royalist aim has been to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and to forget all but their bankrupt discourse that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty. It is no surprise to see that, after supporting the removal of the 1932 plaque around the time that the junta’s constitution was promulgated as a royal event, the military dictatorship has banned any gathering at that spot today.

We invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2017 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932