Virus of double standards III

12 04 2021

As the virus surges across the country, even more double standards are revealed. One is highlighted in a Bangkok Post editorial that questions Thailand’s lagging vaccination program, where the king’s company, subsidized with taxpayer funds, is still several months away from producing any vaccine.

The program was, in principle, meant to target “frontline health workers [as]… the top priority, followed by vulnerable groups such as patients with acute and chronic diseases, people with possible exposure to Covid-19, those who live in particularly at-risk areas, and also people living and working in tourism destinations set to open for foreign visitors.”

But, as usual, the powerful are cutting in and grabbing the shots ahead of everyone else. The expected “celebrity” shots have included The Dictator and some royals – we guess that the rest of the latter have been vaccinated. When the execrable Princess Sirivannavari got her first AstraZeneca shot, the accompanying story “explained” that the shot was “suitable for those who have a high risk of infection from interacting with patients or those who travel frequently and interact with many different people,” suggesting an odd reason for the Princess jumped the queue.

But it is the generals and other junta-appointed supporters of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the Senate who get the Post’s attention.

Japanese cats

Senators voting

The Post reports that “wrong priorities sparked an outcry from several MPs who raised the matter with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, asking why MPs have not been vaccinated, like those in the Upper House.” This complaint revealed “that those 250 military-appointed senators have received their jab, while many more deserving groups have missed out.”

While almost everyone in the country thinks politicians should join others in getting the vaccine when it is due to them, the Post points out that elected MPs “who have to meet their constituents think they deserve early vaccination. That’s quite different from appointed senators who are not responsible to voters in any constituency.”

In fact, the unelected senators are responsible to The Dictator they dutifully selected as prime minister and to their bosses in the military.

Of course, there’s now considerable speculation that, “[a]s all Covid-19 vaccine distribution is controlled by the government,” there must be “someone powerful” who allocated “500 doses of the vaccines (two doses a person) to a group not on the priority list.”

The editorial concludes:

The privilege afforded this special political class is appalling…. It’s a shame that the 250 senators acted selfishly, taking supplies that would have been been saved for those on the frontline. And anyone who had a hand in this happening must also be condemned.

Indeed, but this is just another example of the double standards that infect the royalist-military cabal.





Cleansing and coronation

25 06 2018

Some PPT readers may know more about these stories than we do. We’d appreciate and advice at our email: politicalprisonersinthailand@hushmail.com.

Our guess is that the stories we discuss below are probably linked with the big “cleansing” at senior levels of the Buddhist sangha that began with the crackdown on the Dhammakaya sect, then saw senior monks jailed or fleeing the country, and also saw fascist, royal amulet making monk Buddha Issara jailed.

We noticed a further cleansing trend in some rather cryptic media reports that can be seen in the tone of reports at The Nation.

The Nation reported the case of the Lawyers Council of Thailand criticizing police for their violent and forcible detention of a lawyer acting for a client. The client was “a self-proclaimed spirit medium [seeking] to file a defamation complaint against another person…”.

Amid the chaos, the 49-year-old medium, Saengsuriyathep Phramahasuriya, slipped out of the precinct without filing the complaint against Atchariya Ruangratanapong, a lawyer and chairman of the Facebook group for assisting crime victims. She later returned with a new lawyer to file the complaint. That complaint was about accusations that the medium was “insulting the monarchy [by claiming to be a medium of past kings’ spirits] and promoting false information to the public – both accusations denied by her [the medium].”

Soon after, ThaiPBS reported that “Police of the Crime Suppression and Technology Crime Suppression divisions have been ordered to launch a nationwide clampdown on mediums, especially those who claim they have connections with members of the royalty.”

Central Investigation Bureau commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak “said the police had been instructed to first approach the mediums and to tell them to stop the practice…”. Police said “that people … should be told not to believe the mediums as the practice of mediumship is un-Buddhist.”

The police claim to have “nabbed at least three mediums who claimed to have supernatural powers.  One of them was removed of his strange hairstyle from which he claimed to derive his supernatural powers … adding that not one medium has faced criminal litigation.”

This report was confirmed in another at the Bangkok Post. That more detailed report states that many mediums “claimed to be possessed by the spirits of the past kings and their followers lost a huge amount of money to these psychics…”.

It added that the “crackdowns have been carried out secretly over the past two weeks with at least three mediums netted.” The report confirms that no charges had been laid by police.

Police said “the issue connected to people’s faith and belief can be sensitive…”. It was added that police “do not want people to see that police are intimidating these mediums…. However, if we let this situation go on any longer, the mediums could exploit their victims by asserting their claims they are vested with supernatural power, which is not real.”

Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nonghanpitak, a police commissioner “said police were enforcing the law swiftly as some mediums were posing as the spirits of those in the high institutions ‘which is completely inappropriate’.” Well, harassing, warning, cutting hair….

Police say they “nabbed a couple who claimed to serve as a medium for King Rama IX in Nakhon Pathom after they organised a rite which was widely shared on YouTube.” Another in Chachoengsao claimed to be a “medium for King Rama V…. This person, who applied makeup and dressed like King Rama V, ran an unlicensed clinic which doubles as a fortune telling outlet.”

Yet another man “claimed to be the medium of Phra Sri Ariyametrai, who was the fifth life in the Lord Buddha’s past, police said. He claimed he could foretell people’s future and cleanse them of their sins.”

Some mediums went further and “claimed they could be possessed by the spirits of multiple kings.”

The mediums detained by police, who did not name them, were given a “talking to” and were released after they “agreed to stop the spiritual possession business.”

The Technology Crime Suppression Division is also being used “to track down the mediums who are operating businesses online. They would be summonsed for talks with the police.”

Such efforts do seem congruent with the broader cleansing that is taking place prior to the king’s coronation.

Perhaps surprising is the fact that, as with Buddha Issara, such use of royal names is not being treated as lese majeste. That might be a good thing and represent a change in “policy,” although there’s also the relationship between the mediums, their supposed powers and those in power.





Updated: Keeping royal secrets

28 07 2016

Update: We added the missing link.

Thailand’s elite and the elite’s regimes keep many secrets. According to Freedom of Information Around the World 2006 (clicking downloads a 200-page PDF) the best kept secrets are royal secrets:

Information that “may jeopardize the Royal Institution” cannot be disclosed. There are discretionary exemptions for information that would: jeopardize national security, international relations or national economic or financial security; cause the decline of the efficiency of law enforcement; disclose opinions and advice given internally; endanger the life or safety of any person; disclose medical or personal information which would unreasonably encroach upon the right of privacy; disclose information protected by law or given by a person in confidence; other cases prescribed by Royal Decree. Information relating to the Royal Institution is to be kept secret for 75 years. Other information should be disclosed after 20 years which may be extended in five years periods (p. 147).

Reading this assessment, we can only ponder just how deep and dark are the secrets of the royal family.





Princess on tour

10 04 2014

We are taking bets that Democrat Party loudmouth Mallika Boonmetrakul is not going to be charged with lese majeste. Of course,  no one should be charged with lese majeste, but this loudmouth has often called for others to be charged under the draconian law. In addition, the royalist dolts at the Democrat Party have been ranting in unison with others about lese majeste in recent days. So it would be some kind of poetic justice of the one standard variety if Mallika, so often struck down by foot-in-mouth syndrome, was actually hauled over some lese majeste coals for a grievous attack on a royal.

Yes, we know that Article 112 does not apply to lesser royals, but that has never stopped the toady Democrat Party from screaming about lese majeste when lesser royals are “insulted,” usually with the truth.

Mallika

Mallika

Why are we ranting?  According to Khaosod, the “ruling Pheu Thai Party has lashed out at a deputy spokeswoman of the Democrat Party who falsely accused Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of attempting to flee the country.” It adds:

In a Facebook post – which has now been deleted – Ms.  Mallika Boonmetrakul published a photograph showing rows of baggage and boxes at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, and alleged that the baggage may have belonged to Ms. Yingluck who is attempting to flee Thailand amid the ongoing political crisis.

Nothing lese majeste there you say! Certainly not. Mallika was just insulting Yingluck and the doubtful intelligence of those who would read her Facebook page. Those “fans” didn’t pause to consider if this claim could be true, but “commentators also posted comments criticising the owner of the baggage for displaying such apparent luxury and unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The problem was that the expensive bags and tons of them at that actually “belongs to Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, who was flying to a fashion event in London.”

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

Of course, neither Mallika nor these dopey “commentators” then turned their attention to the “apparent luxury and unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money” involved when a minor princess traipses around the world in a “career” that is just one on a list of the rich kid’s bucket list of “great” things she will be “great” at. She certainly seems to be great at spending the taxpayer’s money.

The Puea Thai Party didn’t call for lese majeste to be used, but the party did urge that wimpy Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva “take disciplinary action against Ms. Mallika and make her take responsibility for her dissemination of false information.”

Perhaps Mallika should be taken to the court of double standards for her bollocking of Yingluck as a leech on society while refusing to criticize a minor princess for the same “crime.”





Opposing amnesty for royal reasons and right reasons

5 11 2013

PPT should not be ever surprised by the shenanigans of royalists. However, we were just a little surprised by the recent report about royals publicly politicking.

The Bangkok Post has reported that a group of persons who claim to be lesser royals but who be ratchasakul, meaning  they have a surname that indicates they are descendants of members of the royal family (and perhaps by this trickery avoid Thailand’s declining descent rule) have weighed in on the amnesty issue.

Apparently, their view is that the “amnesty bill has a flaw and should not be forwarded to His Majesty the King for endorsement.” Aged former Police Major General and princeling (mom chao) Chulcherm Yukol claimed to be speaking on this for 50 families with royal lines.

Ignoring the law, Chulcherm said the raskuls:

… are concerned that the amnesty legislation is being opposed and disagreed to by many sectors in society as doubts have been raised about the government’s intention behind passing it into law. Therefore, it was not appropriate for the government to forward a flawed bill to seek royal endorsement from His Majesty the King.

Members of ratchasakuls would oppose the forwarding of such a controversial bill to His Majesty.

The raskul’s spokesman got lyrical:

“This bill is like a mountain run-off and members of the ratchasakul are like a weir to prevent it from hitting [His Majesty],” Pol Maj Gen MC Chulcherm said, adding the group will discuss and announce their next move later.

This lot seem opposed to the bill for all the wrong reasons, including protecting a position they consider privileged: “There has been too much infringement on the royal institution and the government is not being careful.” We are not at all sure how the amnesty bill infringes the king, but we get the idea that this lot feels threatened by anything to do with Thaksin Shinawatra.

Proclaiming his group ninnies, Chulcherm declared: “Our group does not play politics, but politics does not play with us…”.

Also in the Bangkok Post, there’s a much better attempt at explaining support and opposition. It begins:

There is nothing that unites the “We Hate Thaksin” brigade more than the possibility of an amnesty for the exiled former prime minister.

All of a sudden, the usual suspects, such as retired generals with empty nest syndrome, senile political has-beens and of course, the perennial “one-trick pony” party, start coming out of the woodwork for another day in the sun.

Mentioned are Chamlong Srimuang Sondhi Limthongkul, and “the leaders of ‘the one-trick pony’ party itself, namely Suthep Thaugsuban and Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The antics of this lot, who “colluded with undemocratic forces to bring us the 2006 coup, which led to an illegitimate Abhisit administration, ended up mimicking all of Thaksin’s populist policies, and now want us to believe they’re Aung San Suu Kyi fighting for liberal democratic values!”

PPT seldom agrees with the author of the op-ed, Songkran Grachangnetara, but his declarations this time make some useful points:

Let me be clear. I’m profoundly against the Thaksinisation of Thailand, and can think of nothing more repugnant. But honestly, I simply refuse to follow this bunch of invertebrates into protest, because you’ll end up being used and tossed aside like a dirty handkerchief once they get what they want.

He goes on to make a good point about the amnesty and lese majeste:

Firstly, it is not and should never be called a blanket amnesty, because none of the versions of the amnesty bill give an amnesty to those who were slapped with criminal charges under the Criminal Code’s Section 112, otherwise known as the lese majeste law….

He argues that the 112 victims are being traded down the river for an amnesty deal. Puea Thai people should be ashamed. And, he adds: “The Democrat Party, needless to say, has been the greatest beneficiary of Section 112, because it is their most potent weapon of mass destruction.”

Songkran then observes that it is the courts that may eventually decide the fate of the amnesty:

It is a bizarre situation that the courts will face. If this amnesty bill is unconstitutional then what of the previous amnesty clause that the military junta granted itself in 2006? And what of the many other amnesty clauses after each previous military coup?

So potentially we could see an amnesty bill that has been passed by parliament deemed unconstitutional by our Constitution Court, while a military junta seizing power through the barrel of a gun that subsequently writes its own amnesty clause into our constitution is deemed totally legitimate.

For PPT, the right reason to oppose the bill is because it is an act that does little more than make impunity law. THe state and its officials should not again be given to believe that they can wield their brutal power without consequences.





VIPs and royal charity

9 11 2012

Buddhists are often interested in charity. In Thailand, the very rich have been interested in charity for its ideological and political significance. This has increasingly meant charity directed to royals and their foundations. The lines of Sino-Thai tycoons lining up to throw money at the rich royals in exchange for being seen to be loyal and charitable is standard fare on television and in the newspapers diligently reporting royal affairs.

Such shows of royal merit making and charity have been important in tying the ruling class together through the now huge official royal charities. This was one of the revealing parts of Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles. The opportunities for “donating” to things royal have expanded considerably to allow for these mutually beneficial events to show how charitable and good the very rich are.

Collecting the meritorious money has become quite a task, as the ritual of handing it over takes up considerable time, as anyone who still watches the televised royal news knows. So it is that Matichon reports on a rather more efficient congealing of royals, charity and Buddhism. As Christine Gray noted some time ago, “Merit ceremonies are the primary context in which economic power is converted into religious prestige…” and royals and the other rich make much use of this. Joining with royals to make merit is good business and good sense, especially as one may bathe in the reflected glory and just enough of the vaunted barami might rub off.

For a mere 500,000 baht each, 100 of the rich can buy a seat on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Khon Kaen piloted by Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. Billed as a chance to make merit at a forest temple in Khon Kaen, while raising money for scholarships. And they get to be seen in the royal news as well.

While 49 seats are reserved for Thai Airways and related VIP guests, the other 100 seats are up for grabs and this seems like an opportunity too good to miss for rich royalists who want an efficient way to demonstrate loyalty, be royally charitable and to be recognized for this.





Further updated: A disaster plan

21 10 2011

Perhaps related to PPT’s previous post, it is now reported in The Nation that:

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday issued a disaster warning for Bangkok, consolidating power for flood control and drainage.

Yingluck invoked the 2007 Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act to oversee flood control in lieu of declaring a state of emergency.

Under her instructions, the topmost priority for flood control is to speed up the drainage of run-off into the sea via East Bangkok.

The government is to coordinate with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to operate all sluice gates in the capital in order to rein in the water flow.

The armed forces would be in charge of maintaining and defending the royal-initiated dykes and levees. The military would also be responsible for protecting key installations, including the Grand Palace, Siriraj Hospital, the tap water system, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

The Transport Ministry would take charge of ensuring road traffic in the capital. Relevant agencies would map out plans for evacuation and setting up shelters.

The Bangkok Post’s account of the declaration is here.

The role of the military is highlighted by PPT to give the gist of how things royal skew even disaster operations. While on the military, it is interesting to note that Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha is reported as saying: “Some 40,000 troops have been deployed to help flood victims but the number of troops was still inadequate to help flood victims in all areas.” A couple of days ago we saw a 20,000 figure and thought this a misprint or a mistake by a reporter. Wasn’t it Prayuth who, just a week ago, was reported to have claimed that:

“There are not enough soldiers. People must help. If you need help from soldiers, please tell the government to increase the number of soldiers,” Gen Prayuth said. He said there were only 250,000 soldiers in Thailand, but actually the country needed 450,000 soldiers to fullfil all its tasks.

Is he really saying that he can only mobilize 40,000 out of 250,000? Is Prayuth holding back or is there something missing in the equation? Are we misreading this and other troops are deployed on other flood-related activities?

Different sources have different accounts of the size of the Army and the armed forces. Total active (305,860) and reserve forces for the whole Thai armed services is about 550,000 according to Wikipedia and GlobalFirePower.com.

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk has a story at Prachatai that seems to link to PPT’s comments on the Army. Essentially, the story is that a red shirt radio station has raised the question of whether the Army is using the floods to undermine the Yingluck government. Pravit cites two political scientists as refuting the claim. Sirote Klampaiboon, a Mahidol University political scientist, says: “It makes no sense…”.  He claimed that

such theories- including one held by yellow shirts that the government intentionally neglected the alleged advice of His Majesty the King to allow water from dams to be released much earlier – are simply not plausible. The academic said people must accept that the amount of rainfall this year was unprecedented. Even though he feels the government isn’t doing a good job at protecting some areas from the flood, the theories should still be regarded as “cheap conspiracies.”

Oddly, he doesn’t say why they are implausible. Accepting there is a lot of rain does not make either claim implausible. Also cited is:

Kasetsart University red-shirt political scientist Kenkij Kitirianglarp … saying it’s most unlikely that anyone, be it the Army or the government, would want to see such damage incurred on the Kingdom. Kenkij said the blame game should stop as it is clear Thailand lacked an integrated system to deal with flooding and that’s not a problem of just this administration.

Kengkij is right on the latter and this kind of points at the flaws in the the yellow shirt claim. But what of the claim that no one would want to inflict so much damage on Thailand for political purpose? Frankly, after the events of recent years, we find that claim barely plausible. PPT thinks we are still at square one on this issue.

Readers might find this series of flood pictures of interest.

Update 2: On the Army, there is further information available in this Bangkok Post story. This report has 40,000 soldiers in Bangkok. The report also states: “Meanwhile, the army has been working to prevent flooding at Chitralada Palace and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered the Defence Ministry to provide 24-hour protection for important sites, Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa said. He was speaking after a meeting of the Flood Relief Operations Command at Don Mueang airport yesterday. Gen Yutthasak said these places include the palaces, Government House, parliament and all power plants.”





Fallout from Chulabhorn’s “Woody” interview

7 04 2011

We have had two posts at PPT that have commented briefly on the interview between Princess Chulabhorn and Bangkok personality Woody Milintachinda (see here, here and here).

In recent blogs and stories we note some buzz around particular aspects of the interview. At New Mandala, Guest Contributor Skye Phu-ngarm has a post entitled “A Thai response to Princess Chulabhorn’s interview.” Ignoring the allusion to “Thai-style” anything, it does present a sympathetic position on royalty. This comment deserves attention:

Woody was then brought to tears upon the Princess’s recall of the King’s declining health condition as a result of the Bangkok riots last year.   His displayed emotion only reiterated the common appreciation of the Thai public for the monarch.

PPT disagrees that there is anything like a “common appreciation” on this point. The continued repetition of statements like this amount to royalist propaganda. We certainly agree with the point that follows:

As a Thai citizen living in Thailand, I beg to differ with the Princess about the inadequacy of royal publicity.  What she should regularly be reminded is the very fact that Thai people, especially the young, have a mind of their own.  While the bombardment of  royal publicity has been successful in maintaining the royal strength, it could eventually prove futile if this institution is unwilling to strive to stay relevant within modern Thai society.

Bangkok Post photo

Skye tells readers that the next installment of this interview will have Chulabhorn telling viewers about the king’s health.  Skye adds: “Having been hospitalized in Siriraj Hospital since September 2009, the 84-year-old King’s health has become the center of national attention.” And of the rumor mill. Why is he still there? Fear? Ill-health? Declining capacity? People will speculate until the end.

But back to the first paragraph cited above. Prachatai highlights this point, drawing on the Manager, where politics is clearly on display. Remember this is meant to be a constitutional monarchy above politics. Hence, no royal should make public political comments:

She is asked about the playing of the royal anthem in movie theaters, which is a political issue because it has resulted in lese majeste allegations. Chulabhorn thinks there needs to be more! She wants increased attention to her dad’s “good works.” She adds: “However little it is, I’m proud that 20-year-old youngsters come to know what HM has done. This is not to promote myself as a royal. But I want HM to receive the justice he deserves, and also HM the Queen. They’ve worked so hard.”

Note the use of the term “justice.” There is no justice for critics of the monarchy, however.

She goes even further on the idea of more recognition of the monarchy: “Indeed, I’d like to ask for something, but haven’t dared to. I’d like to ask for 10 minutes of TV time after the news each day, to show short films about the royal duties to show what HM the King and the Queen have been doing. Please pity them. When they work wholeheartedly for the Thai people, both of them are very attentive. HM the King has followed irrigation works. He sends for officials to come to the hospital every day.”

Doesn’t she watch television? During the news on every station there is a daily rundown of royal activities, often stretching to well beyond 10 minutes. However, she seems to want an additional 10 minutes. Maybe she doesn’t get those channels that are non-stop royal propaganda, almost 24 hours a day? What she is asking for is increased propaganda. PPT thinks this would be a great way to develop the anti-monarchy movement further and faster.

Woody says: “The young generation has the perception through the media that the Bureau of the Royal Household has done everything. HM…”. Chulabhorn says: “HM gives the orders himself.” So we can also assume that he knows what the Crown Property Bureau is doing and what is going on with lese majeste.

She then talks more on politics:

Frankly, both their majesties are concerned with unity among Thai people, because if there are divisions, enemies can easily attack us. The Thai people must be strong, be friendly to each other and be united, so that the country will progress. In fact, I don’t get mixed up in politics. I don’t want to say who is good or bad. I don’t know. Because I’ve never associated with politicians.

Well, the news is she is involved in politics and so are most royals, as WikiLeaks has shown.This statement is in itself political. She goes further:

But I know that what happened last year, when the country was burnt, brought great sorrow to Their Majesties the King and Queen. HM the King had been able to re-learn to walk, and then he collapsed. He had a fever, had to be put on a saline drip and was confined to bed. HM the Queen was also very sad. She said that it was even sadder than when our country, Ayutthaya, was burnt by the Burmese because this time it was done by the Thais ourselves.

This is a remarkable statement, linking the palace and herself to the anti-red shirt movement.Of course, informed readers will have already known this, but now it has been clearly stated. And, just before a (promised) election! Is she campaigning for the Democrat Party?

How does she see a way forward? She says: “Actually, being divisive is not good for the country. We should try to talk. Don’t use violence. Divisiveness and blocking roads makes traffic jams, and people are moody. I do not side with anyone, or any colour.” Right. She didn’t say anything like this after the People’s Alliance for Democracy divided the country, occupied Government House, occupied the airports, etc. In fact, she supported that group back then!

Playing politics is the norm for the royals and the palace.





Reform required but is it likely or possible?

27 03 2011

The New Straits Times has this call for reform from Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University and a visiting professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in the U.S.

As he implies, all the talk of an “early election” is really a bit of a snow job as “Thailand has arrived at the point where it will need to hold new elections, as the current term of its national assembly expires this December.” It remains to be seen if the elections are held; there remain many skeptics. And, the royalists appear to remain jittery about the outcome (see here and here).

Thitinan points out that “Thailand remains locked in conflict and polarisation between an entrenched regime propping up Abhisit and burgeoning new voices clamouring for enfranchisement. Any peaceful outcome to this conflict will require far-sighted concessions and compromises.”

PPT wonders if this possible? After all, the Abhisit government seems to hope that an election victory for the royalist Democrat Party will entrench the royalist regime by delivering electoral legitimacy.

Thitinan sees a deep “structural schism.” He observes: “Thailand’s six-decade-old incumbent regime, which relies on symbiosis between the monarchy and the military, is unable to tolerate elections that empower the rural masses unwittingly awakened by Thaksin’s premiership.”

He is correct. This is a point PPT has made several times and it is a reason why reform is resisted.

However, Thitinan sees some light as the rural masses and urban poor clamor for increased voice, refusing “blatant disenfranchisement and the formation of governments like Abhisit’s, which was brokered in an army barracks.” He says that “Thailand’s military-political axis and its supporting pillars in the judiciary and bureaucracy, suppressing these voices has become increasingly unworkable. Moreover, Thailand already attracts unwanted attention for its draconian security laws.” He adds other draconian laws into the repressive mix – lese majeste, Internal Security Act – and notes the “now unprecedented scores of political prisoners” and rabid censorship.

All this establishment effort he sees as “untenable,” adding, the “electorate is no longer passive…”. PPT agrees, but is this royalist regime about to make the historic compromises that are required, even for it to maintain its rule? Is it, for them, us or death? Are they prepared, as in Bahrain and other places, to continue and deepen repression and killing of opponents?

Thitinan then engages in a bit of royalist nonsense of his own, remarkably crediting the aged king with all kinds of unwarranted capacities related to defeating communism and economic development. Such nonsense ignores the whole rest of society and giving credit to engorged royals who have been politically manipulative, and it ignores decades of repression and military-backed corruption, killing and impunity.

Thitinan then lists the required reforms: “elections that are not subverted by judicial decisions,” a “revamp” of the junta’s 2007 Constitution, “reform” of the lese majeste laws, transparency for the fabulously rich Crown Property Bureau, and “the question of royal succession also needs clarification…”.

PPT has a sneaking feeling that such reform, required decades ago, or even as late as 1997, is unlikely. The stubborn old men who retain control in Thailand see the masses as ignorant, to be used, and perhaps quaint if they are farmers. As in absolute monarchies, it is the right of a few to rule while the masses must know their lowly place and stay in it. Reform is no longer as “easy” as it once might have been had the conservative royalists been prepared to be seen to be compromising.





Navy submarines resurface

23 01 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Royal Thai Navy wants to buy two second-hand submarines at a cost of 6-7 billion baht.” This is a new take on a story that keeps coming back. For PPT’s first mention of it, see here (also see this), but the desire for underwater goes deeper than this.

The PAD preferred option on a used sub

It is great news (perhaps) to know that the “navy has set up a committee to conduct a feasibility study.” The odd thing, without such a study the greedy sailors seem to want Cabinet to approve the funds “in principle.” Picking up second hand submarines is not as simple as buying a Mercedes (preferred land transport of navy commanders in Thailand), unless the official pirates want one of these. And we trust these submariners-to-be have read this important post.

The navy brass wants subs, this time, because they want “Thai sailors have little knowledge of submarine technology, which is constantly upgraded.” Have the captains been spending too much time with bottles of rum? They say: “We are still backwards in terms of submarine technology.” That sounds odd to us: they don’t have any subs but they need to be familiar with them, so buy some. Circular logic (or lack thereof)? However, the rum gurglers are thinking of the country because they only want used subs at 6-7 billion baht because the current government has been dishing out money trying to win an election sometime in the future repairing the economy.

To be serious, however, this is a story that has been about for a considerable time, and has a royal connection and a link to Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer. And, we recognize that buying used submarines can be a way of training crews for a serious purchase (but is Thailand able to consider a serious purchase?).

Thai navy purchases - like an aircraft carrier - sometimes are as useful as this submarine

Siam Voices has a useful take on the story, pointing out that the navy is keen to get German Type 206 diesel-electric submarines that were designed for use in relatively shallow waters (important for the Gulf of Thailand). Submarines have  topped the navy’s wish list for some time.

Some would suggest that the rise of China’s blue water navy is causing a mini-arms race amongst Southeast Asian countries. Malaysia has French submarines and the Singaporeans have several Swedish submarines. Burma seems interested in a submarine, but hasn’t progressed a deal with North Korea, the Philippines doesn’t have submarines, and Cambodia’s navy only uses patrol boats. The Indian navy has some 15 Russian-designed and German-designed submarines. Vietnam has 6 Russian-built submarines and Indonesia has similar vessels and German-built submarines also. It is claimed that “Thailand had four Japanese-made submarines in the past, but they were never replaced after decommissioning because newer models were too expensive.”

While there may be an arms race going on, there is also a plan to invest more in the Thai armed forces. There’s no doubt that a major motivation in this – said to be costing up to 400 billion baht – is a desire to defeat domestic political opposition, including southern insurgents and (currently) red shirts (as pointed out in the Post story). Hence, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is a supporter of his backers.

Perhaps the stumbling block for the navy’s subs is not just cost but also the king’s stated opposition several years ago. As usual, until he withdraws his objections, then the deal is likely to stagnate, along with the under-the-table commissions that come with all these arms deals.