Law vs. king

4 10 2020

We want to draw attention to a thoughtful article at Boston Review. “The Law Ought to Be King” is by Peera Songkünnatham. This is a story about the underlying motivations of recent protests and deserves a “long read.”

Here are some of the highlighted bits of the text:

Thailand has been gripped by the largest wave of protest in years, forcing a reckoning between the country’s dual structures of democracy and monarchy.

Thailand is formally a constitutional monarchy, but in recent years the king has made it clear that he is above the constitution rather than bound by it.

The fearful wait-and-see attitude toward the new reign that pervaded Thailand four years ago has been superseded by a decisive impatience: we’re sick of waiting; we’ve seen enough; let’s get it over with now.

With the ceiling of acceptable criticism blown off, language has taken on a particularly charged political power.

The hard fact is that the monarchy’s undoing comes from inside the house. Vajiralongkorn’s actions have become increasingly hard to defend even to the monarchy’s die-hard, born-again supporters.

Leaders are careful to frame their demands in terms of monarchical reform rather than anti-monarchical revolution. But in effect the two are joined in an ultimatum to the king: either you rehabilitate yourself, or your entire establishment will fall out of the people’s good graces forever.





Regime preparations

18 09 2020

The regime’s preparations for Saturday’s rally suggest that it is feeling the heat. The activism of rabid royalists is meant to support the regime and to threaten the students.

The Bangkok Post reports that so serious is the “threat,” that “Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon will run the Operation Centre monitoring the anti-government rally on Saturday, when protest leaders expect at least 40,000 people to attend.”

In addition to some 2,000 police, the regime is mobilizing more than 8,550 “crowd control officers.” Exactly who they are – military? other officials? – remains unclear.

The Thai Enquirer reports, in ironic terms:

Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-ocha, who came to power in 2014 after deposing of a democratically elected government in a military coup and proceeded to rip up the constitution, said on Thursday that anti-government protesters must respect the rule of law and be appropriate during their demonstrations.

They have a point in their irony, for when Gen Prayuth avers that Thailand is “a country is governed by the rule of law and if you do not respect the law other people might find that unacceptable,” seems to express the double standards that the regime is infamous for.

This is reinforced when the general who was in charge of troops that gunned down protesters in 2010 said that “Thailand’s economy is suffering and the protesters should understand that their rallies may hurt other people.”

He’s gone further, invoking virus techno-fascism:

I would like to take this chance to tell various groups that want to protest for various reasons, that protesting is exponentially multiplying the risk of infection and will create a new wave of COVID infection in Thailand…

He added that “the protests could damage the gains achieved by doctors and nurses who worked hard to contain the virus.”

Gen Prayuth was also loud in warning” “protesters know what is appropriate and not appropriate in the Thai context and that they should respect the boundaries of Thai society.” He means that the protesters should not “touch” the absent king.

Meanwhile Thailand’s yellow shirts are morphing into a version of America’s Alt-Right, blathering about color revolutions and US oligarchs joining with Thai oligarchs and the CIA to bring down the regime and the monarchy. Such claims have previously been mainly limited to Russian sites but are now being widely circulated. Part of the reason for this is that the mainstream media in Thailand has been less critical of the current student protesters than was the case with the red shirts.

The yellow ones are quite deranged, but their concocted claims of “plots” have been effective before. Expect more of this.





“Law” and repression I

8 10 2019

The current discussion of a biased and politicized judiciary should not be separated from the use of “law” for political repression. In fact, the military junta of 2014-19, under the direction of the evil, rightist lawyer-for-military-hire Wissanu Krea-ngam and the military’s ideologues, worked harder on establishing rule by law – quite different from rule by law – than most previous rightists regimes. The military junta recognized that its laws could be used for ongoing political repression once the regime it self transmogrified into a corrupt civilian front organization now sometimes erroneously referred to as an elected government.

Rule by law has been an increasingly favored means of political repression adopted by rightist regimes worldwide and is also infecting electoral democracies as well.

Human rights lawyer Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen recently observed that “the authorities’ main method of suppression has evolved into the use of laws and state orders to enable them to cling on to power.”

In essence, the law is used to repress the regime’s opponents, whether they be journalists who step outside the bounds of self-censorship, elected opposition politicians or democracy activists.

Anurak. Clipped from TAHR

Recent cases involve a Belgian freelance journalist Kris Janssens,taken into police custody “for inquiries because our intel suggested that he might have been a threat to national security…”. In fact, he was detained because he planned to interview an anti-government activist Anurak Jeantawanich. He was warned not to and advised to leave Thailand. The Immigration Police claimed this was “normal procedure” and cited immigration law. But they could not specify how the journalist was a threat to this vague but useful notion of national security.

A second example of the authorities using the law to repress opponents is the case of the 12 speakers – academics and opposition politicians – at a public discussion of constitutional reform who have all been slapped with sedition complaints by the shadowy Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

Behind a “national security” law, ISOC lies that “it is persecuting opposition political parties in laying a sedition complaint over their public forum in the far South…”. Unbelievably, “Isoc spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng said … no one ordered that legal action be taken.” We do know the action was taken, so this being the military, someone ordered it. We also know that the nasty watchman Gen Prawit Wongsuwan approved the action.

Maj Gen Thanathip continued his charade by insisting “Isoc was not abusing its power to persecute the opposition parties.” In a warped sense, he’s probably right on this because the military junta allocated ISOC powers to repress its opponents before it metastasized.

He then babbled in a manner that explains how authoritarian regimes use the law for repression: “Isoc does not see the people as an enemy, but it does abide by the law. Words spoken at the constitution amendment forum in Pattani caused concerns…”. He doesn’t say for who. Obviously the person who did not order the legal action.

Obviously and unreservedly, the military and other authorities supporting the present regime are using the law for repression. We can expect much more of this abuse of the law. Meanwhile, thugs, forgers, liars and criminals serve as ministers.





Fake charges

24 05 2019

As we have previously posted, the military junta, in its efforts to frame Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has suddenly had to concoct cases against 15 activists for events four years ago.

We can only wonder about all the time that elapsed and no charges over each of those four years. Of course, its the opportunity to kick Thanathorn that the junta now manufactures charges against the activists. A bigger pile of buffalo manure is hard to imagine.

How high can the junta pile it?

The Bangkok Post reports that recently released Jatupat Boonpattararaksa and 12 other activists have all “denied newly-filed charges against them over a rally outside Pathumwan police station four years ago.”

Four years ago!

It seems somehow fitting that this, the latest of the military junta’s manipulation of law came fiver years to the day after the military coup – itself illegal – that brought these fascist buffoons to power.

And, it was great to see “[s]upporters waiting outside [who] cheered the activists as they reported to Pathumwan police on Wednesday, some carrying pieces of paper criticising the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for holding on to power for five years.”

Police have “pressed charges of sedition and engaging in gatherings of 10 or more people under the Criminal Code against them.” Sedition! For fuck’s sake, this was four years ago. Does sedition mean so little now that the junta can casually wait years and years to use the charge for base political purpose?

PPT has never used a profanity in a post in nearly a decade, but this is the most base, concocted and ridiculous piece of junta buffalo manure we have seen in five years.

Fortunately, the activists were released and will fight the case, but the case is a farcical political use of the law and judiciary.





Another Federation link

16 05 2019

The three missing activists, probably deported from Vietnam to Thailand on 8 May 2019, have been associated with the Organization for a Thai Federation.

Readers may recall that back in about September 2018, several persons were arrested in Thailand for distributing black t-shits, claimed to be connected with the Organization, then said to be operating from Laos. At the time, Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan claimed that these republicans had a network in Thailand. It seems that the regime has made a determined effort to track down the group in Laos and to destroy it.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently reported that a 58 year-old woman, identified only as Praphan, “was arrested by the Malaysian Police and deported back to Thailand on 10th May 2019 while waiting for refugee status from UNHCR in Malaysia.” The police in Thailand have charged her with sedition, being a member of a secret society, and other charges related to her having allegedly having worn a back t-shirt bearing a federation symbol.

Interestingly, this refoulement occurred at around the same time that the three men were said to have been deported to Thailand. Fortunately, Praphan has not been disappeared. Indeed, she seems to be jailed with another woman accused of the same crime.

Praphan fled Thailand in January 2019 and sought asylum via the UNHCR in Malaysia. While awaiting a third country to take her as a refugee, she was arrested by the Malaysian police on 24 April and detained.

Praphan was arrested for her black shirt on September 3, 2018. Soldiers and police “seized 3 phones, UDD cards, Thaksin Shinawatra pictures and 3 other UDD books.” She was initially held at a military base and then handed over to police and charged. In December 2018 “she was re-detained at the 11th Army Regiment, together with 8 other people, with the wife and son of Mr. Chucheep Chiwasut or Uncle Sanam Luang is also included. Then the military released her on December 14, 2018…”.

She fled before her second court appearance on the sedition and other charges.

Her refoulement, the charges laid and the disappearance of the three are yet further demonstrations that, under the junta, the rule of law has ceased to exist in Thailand.





Analysis of recent events

15 02 2019

PPT has refrained from mentioning much of what passes for analysis of the events of the past week. One reason for this is that most of it has been highly speculative and bound in rumor.

Some self-styled analysts and quite a few academics have produced speculative accounts. Several managed to come up with different interpretations of the same events. Some have seemingly reproduced other accounts. Some of the more careful have come up with possible scenarios, allowing readers to choose the version that suits their perceptions and biases.

Perhaps that’s why PPT found New Mandala’s “Q&A: Supalak Ganjanakhundee on Thailand’s week of chaos” useful. Supalak is editor of The Nation. We highly recommend reading it, and we only present some highlighted bits and pieces here.

Supalak says that both Thai Raksa Chart and Puea Thai are under threat and the former will be dissolved by the Constitutional Court according to the so-called Royal Command:

The court will probably rule against the law, as the courts often do—the appeal to something outside the law, to make judgements on the law. If we are to make a clear argument, there is no legal status to the royal command.

The “election” campaign will now be dominated by the junta’s party attacking the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties as disloyal:

[Palang] Pracharat will try to create a political discourse against the Thaksin camp, by arguing that he brought the royal family into Thai politics—this is a dirty thing in Thai society. It’s not appropriate to have high society running in dirty politics. Now Pheu Thai is in a very awkward position indeed.

It is noted that Thaksin’s gambit was  not supported by many progressives who believe that there’s no place for royals in democratic politics. Supalak doesn’t rule out a pro-royalist alliance between Palang Pracharat and the Democrat Party.

The comment that “Thaksin underestimated the King” seems self-evident:

the royal command on Friday night was not a law. A royal command can only be applied within the [royal] house, not to people outside the house and particularly not in the political sphere. So it was logical for Thaksin. He might have calculated that this outcome was possible, but he underestimated the King. The other possibility is that the King changed his mind—otherwise Prayuth might not have shown his confidence by jumping into the game.

Later Supalak adds:

The royal command is an interpretation of the law…. The royal command has implied that if you’re born into the royal family, you cannot resign. I think that’s a very ambiguous interpretation to establish the monarchy above the law.

Supalak dismisses analysis that has the king commanding the military and opposed to the junta:

I don’t buy the theory that the King is so strong. I understand that he is trying to build the influence of his faction in the military…. His power is not—well, he could not have consolidated his power already. It will take time to have everything under his control. From my understanding, the military wants to have their own voice…. Now we live in a situation where the monarchy and the military are in tension over who will control who. It will take a few years for a clear picture to emerge….

The King commands loyalty from some factions of the military but people like Prawit and Prayuth want to be like people like Prem—middlemen between the palace and the military. They’re building their own regimes but this might also take time as they each hedge their bets.

In moving forward, Supalak is, in our view, making a good point in observing:

If you combine the idea of network monarchy and the deep state together, we might say that the overall effect is the emergence of some new regime that combines the military, the monarchy and capital. Big capital is always willing to support the monarchy, willing to support the military. Pracharat is the perfect model for combining royalty, the military and capital. The difficulty [in consolidating a model] is the unpredictable character of the King.

On the king’s politics:

… the monarch is not interested in institutionalising its power, working through laws, custom, norms and tradition. We cannot simply say—refer to the constitution for the role of the monarchy. Every constitution in recent history has been designed to enhance, not limit, the role of the monarchy. The trend is towards a direct form of rule. The people surrounding the King are not trying to institutionalise the monarchy.

On the future of free and open discussion:

The trend will not be an opening up [of discussion]. It will be a closing. Look at what the King has done since he took the throne—the message has been that he wants the country to be in order, disciplined. Look at the way he dealt with the constitution. He amended the constitution after the referendum—that’s the standard by which he exercises power. It’s not the rule of law. I really have little hope and will be pessimistic that our country will be ruled by the rule of law…. We are living with fear.





Academics, posterior polishing and freedom

11 01 2019

Readers might recall a brief flurry of posts about the lackadaisical discussion of academic freedom in Thailand from an Australian-based historian. We complained that the events that saw several people associated with a conference in Chiang Mai being tried (since dropped) and with the situation of academics in Thailand could not be viewed as just another example of the ordinariness of academic (non/un)freedom in Thailand or that surveillance of academics is something to be viewed as somehow normalized.

In a recent article at East Asia Forum, “The fate of academic freedom in Thailand,” academic Tyrell Haberkorn takes a more serious look at the case of those who were charged in Chiang Mai and the rule of law in Thailand. Well worth a look.

For examples of how unfreedom, repression and military dictatorship has cowed academics and commentators in Thailand, read just about anything written in the past couple of weeks about the now undated “election.” So intense has been the junta’s efforts to crush any semblance of criticism of the monarch and monarchy, that when it is obvious that the king is land-grabbing, including turfing out parliament and leaving it homeless, and that it is he who has caused the current “election” imbroglio, what is seen from commentators and academics? Nothing. Deafening silence. And when the silence is broken it is to posterior polish.

Take as an example a recent op-ed for the Bangkok Post. Thitinan Pongsudhirak complains about the election delay, but blames no one. He pussyfoots about, claiming that 24 February was not the day: “An election date that many thought would be Feb 24 has now gone into limbo without clarity.” He’s afraid to say that this was the day the junta chose and worked and cheated and rigged towards, but that it is now off the table because there’s no royal decree. Stating the facts might be dangerous. Perhaps, but his piece is royalist and new reignist, declaring the coronation and the junta’s rigged election as linked and glorious. Buffing posteriors is easier, safer and likely to be rewarding. Freedom, though, is crushed, aided and abetted by complicit royalist “academics.”





Abuse of power over many decades

15 12 2018

A couple of days ago, The Nation reported that the  National Human Rights Commission Chair What Tingsamitr, recalling that Thailand had been one of the first nations to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, continues to have a serious human rights  problem.

While What mentioned several groups “responsible” for for human rights abuses, this was a remarkable effort to deflect attention from the main perpetrators. In fact, What had to admit that “state officials commit 90 per cent of human rights violations…”.

What appeared to want to whitewash this basic fact, babbling about “misunderstandings” and “different definitions” of human rights.

However, “Cross Cultural Foundation director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet argued that the root of the problem did not lie in misunderstandings, but came from the abuse of power and an absence of the rule of law.”

Pornpen got to the point that What preferred to avoid:

It is clear that most of the rights violations in Thailand occur in the same pattern – officials violating the rights of people. We have witnessed that again and again. When someone opposes the government and their policies, state officials turn on these people….

She cited several examples of oppression under the current military junta, noting that “rights violations against those who oppose the authorities are far more severe in cases related to the stability of the state and the monarchy.”

Pornpen observed that “key problems include a lack of proper investigation, court litigation and punishment against officers who commit these crimes.” That is, impunity, adding that violations and impunity are abetted by “a partisan culture within the justice system, which allows so many offending officers to walk free and even keep their job in official agencies.”

This situation has existed for decades. However, under the junta, Pornpen concluded, “the problem of human rights violation by the state … is worse than ever…”.





Thaksin talks elections

19 10 2018

Thaksin Shinawatra haunts the military junta. In several ways, he is there reason for being and for much of what they have done since seizing political power. It is Thaksin who they view as the enemy. It is Thaksin they seek to defeat in their “election.” So when he speaks, despite their hatred and fears, they listen and seethe.

In his most recent commentary, in Hong Kong, Thaksin has declared that an alliance of pro-democracy parties could defeat the pro-military parties in the junta’s election “if it is held freely and fairly…”.

He added: “It’s time for [voters] to cast their ballots…to dump the dictatorship of Thailand…”.

From the Bangkok Post

That is a big prediction, for as the Post calculates, to “win the prime minister vote, the pro-democracy alliance would need at least 376 votes in the House.” Its chart is worth considering and is reproduced here.

Thaksin also predicted that Puea Thai would do well.

He berated the junta, saying that under the junta “you cannot expect any kind of true democracy, you cannot expect any [fairness].” He added: “The rule of law has not been observed … Where there is no justice, why [do] you have to surrender yourself [to] injustice?”

Stunningly, he he kept his political options open, saying, “But if they [the people] need me, because I owe them [for] their continual support — whatever I can do for them, even in a different capacity, I’ll do it.”

The military dictatorship is bound to respond.





Law and junta “law”

20 02 2018

The issue of junta law versus rule of law has been discussed by academics.Discussing this aspect of “rule of law,” where the junta uses law for propaganda and for political repression, is of critical importance.

An academic forum at Thammasat University “heard doubts about the legitimacy and lasting effects of laws enacted by the NCPO and the current appointed branches of government.” Teerawat Kwanjai, a law lecturer at Prince of Songkla University, observed:

The NCPO [the military junta] always claims that it follows the law, which is in fact the offspring of the junta’s own appointments…. This has paved the way for the NCPO’s almost four years in power, combined with the public’s fear of prosecution.

Teerawat pointed to examples of laws being used for repression and engendering fear as including “martial law; NCPO order no 3/2015, which authorises military officers to exercise police powers and arbitrarily detain people for seven days; the computer crime bill; and the public assembly bill.” Lese majeste appears to have gone missing due to self-censorship.

Whereas the junta “had initially relied on martial law but recently invoked its own orders to detain people in specific cases.” The junta now trusts the courts to enforce its will.