Updated: “Fake” news, state news

13 06 2021

Anyone who struggles through the blarney posted by the regime’s PR outfits must wonder about the meaning of “fake news.”

But when the regime’s bosses talk “fake news” one can expect they are talking about others and their news. Mostly, they are worried about news on the monarchy and criticism of themselves.

All kinds of political regimes have taken up “fake news” as a way of limiting criticism, but it is authoritarian, military and military-backed regimes that have been most enthusiastic in using it to roll back and limit criticism. In Thailand, repression has been deepened through all kinds of efforts to limit free expression and to silence opponents.

With laws on computer crimes, defamation, treason, sedition, and lese majeste, a reasonable person might wonder why the regime needs more “legal” means for repression. But, then, authoritarian regimes tend to enjoy finding ways to silence critics.

It is thus no real surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has ordered “the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) and security agencies to take tough action against those who spread fake news.” He included the “Anti-Fake News Centre, the Royal Thai Police, the Justice Ministry and the DES” telling them to “work together to respond swiftly to the spread of fake news on social media platforms, and take legal action accordingly.”

I Can't Speak

His minions “explained” he was worried about virus news, but when Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “instructed the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, to study the laws and regulations, including those in foreign countries, dealing with the spread of fake news” the focus was much broader and was clearly about anti-monarchy news. After all, officials added that the Computer Crime Act was insufficient for curbing “the damage speedily enough.”

The Thai Enquirer sensed an even broader regime agenda. They saw the use of the Council of State as a path to a “law that would control the online media in Thailand.”

They recognize that the aim is to strengthen “national security,” code for the monarchy. But, they also note a desire to limit “the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms” including by Thai Enquirer. Of course, that criticism has also involved the monarchy.

They rightly fear that the online media “would be targeted under the new law.” They say:

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

As we have been saying at PPT, Thai Enquirer believes:

we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

They call for opposition to tyranny, adding that “this new onslaught against press freedom” will be opposed through their reporting.

In a Bangkok Post op-ed by Wasant Techawongtham acknowledges that fake news can be a problem but notes that a new law “Bootis aimed at silencing critics of the ruling regime.” He adds:

Since democracy was banished from Thailand following the 2014 military coup d’etat, a number of laws have been enacted purportedly to protect the Thai people against the harmful effects of computer crimes. But it is crystal clear that the real purpose of these laws is to suppress the voice of the people.

Authoritarians tend to go to great lengths to ensure their stay in power through silencing dissent.

Under this regime, Wasant observes that regime opponents have been “harassed, or even put in jail” and several have been dissappeared and others killed.

He recognizes that a range of repressive laws have:

done quite a remarkable job of suppressing free speech. Those who insisted on speaking their minds against the current rulers have been severely dealt with. Those who were put in jail were allowed back to their families only after they agreed to seal their lips.

Not only regime and monarchy critics are silenced, but the “media — broadcast, digital and print — have felt compelled to screen their offerings very carefully, which in many cases leads to self-censorship.”

But none of this is enough! The regime wants more! There can be no freedom. There can only be the regime’s “truth.”

Update: Thinking about fake news from the regime, the royal propaganda machine is pumping out some real tripe. The latest has the king and his number 1 consort cooking meals allegedly for “medical professionals,” although in the story at The Nation, Sineenat isn’t even mentioned.

Royal cooks

Clipped from The Nation

As they often are, the couple appear in identical kit with minions groveling around them. We are told that “King … Vajiralongkorn on Saturday cooked a variety of food at the kitchen of Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace…”. He’s the cleanest cook in history, with not a stain to be seen, suggesting that its fake news or, in other words, a photo op meant to deceive the public. And, their gear changes in several of the pictures.

To add to the “news,” the “Royal Office” is quoted as saying:

These foods have nutrition values of five food groups with fingerroot as a key ingredient…. Fingerroot or Krachai is a Thai traditional herb that has various medicinal benefits and could help strengthen the body’s immune system and help prevent Covid-19. Furthermore, eating freshly cooked meals is one of the recommended ways to stay safe from the virus.

We have to say that we at PPT must have wasted our time getting vaccinated because, as the royals have, hot food protects us, and we eat “freshly cooked meals” at least twice a day! Krachai may well be the king’s favorite ingredient as it is said to help with male sexual performance. But how to explain the erect chef’s hat is beyond us.

That aside, this palace propaganda must rank as “fake news.”





The Prasit affair

23 05 2021

Readers may recall our recent post about the fraudsters who bore remarkable similarities to the massive Mae Chamoy scam of the 1970s and 1980s. The similarities were royal and military.

Prasit 1

Prasit displaying loyalty

Following the negotiated surrender and arrest of fraudster-in-chief Prasit Jeawkok, the Bangkok Post had a recent editorial calling for the military to reveal its links with Prasit. As ever, self-censorship, fear and misplaced loyalty prevents the Post asking about palace links.

A couple of days ago, Thai PBS provided some background on Prasit. For those who can read Thai, we suggest going to the source of much in this report – the grifter’s own website. All of our photos are clipped from that website, where there are plenty more.

The report observes that the “wealthy businessman” was once considered “a saint and a model of success” by the yellow-shirted brigade. He is now outed as a fraudster who may have nicked more than a billion baht. As seen in the Mae Chamoy scam, such fraudsters usually share with influential people in military, police, and even palace.

As can be seen at his website, Prasit made much of his links to the palace and its activities and displayed the loyalty expected of  “good people.”

Prasit 10

Prasit claims he is a “reformed gangster” who abandoned his criminal past to establish a “billion-baht business empire” from which he now “gives back” to society. He claims a rags to riches story.

Like so many of his ilk, he’s made many influential connections.

Prasit 8

Prasit has also “given back” as a royalist and as a supporter of the military and its ruling regime.

He’s “been linked to the Thai military’s so-called ‘information operations’ (IO), which critics say target the government’s opponents and propagandize for the powers-that-be.” Opposition politician Pannika Wanich of the Progressive Movement accuses “Prasit of being instrumental in the Army’s IO by allowing free use of computer servers under his control.”

Prasit admits “”to owning phone applications and servers used by the military but said his goal was to combat fake news by spreading facts about His Majesty the King’s kindness.”

Like many rogues, Prasit promotes “his royalist credentials. Appearing on a talk show in early December, he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the words “Long Live the King” tattooed on his chest.”

Prasit also makes much of his relationship with the late Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, former Cabinet members and, of course, senior military leaders.





Fudging for the monarchy

10 05 2021

Without explanation (that we can see), the Bangkok Post has changed an online story. Guess what it is about? The king’s Siam Bioscience company. It might be a small thing, but it is illustrative of how the system works. Someone got upset, got on the phone and the story gets changed. If it was legitimate, you’d expect a note, but not in royalist Thailand.

Here’s the original story:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing

9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release — in English but with numerous grammatical errors — James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress [sic] in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set [sic] by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for  requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses [sic] mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of  vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question [sic] have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”

Here’s what it became, with the same headline, same date and same time stamp:

Siam Bioscience-produced AstraZeneca vaccine passes quality testing
9 May 2021 at 13:31

Samples from test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience have passed quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and the United States, the company announced on Sunday.

In a press release, James Teague, Country President, AstraZeneca (Thailand) Ltd said:

“We have seen a series of significant and promising progress in AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine development in Thailand during the past weeks. First, the Thai Food and Drug Administration approved Siam Bioscience as a manufacturing facility for COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Last week, the samples of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca made by Siam Bioscience passed the full tests the standard set by the Department of Medicial Sciences (DMS) for requirements such as chemical composition and safety.

“And today, I am happy to be able to inform you that the samples from the test batches of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Siam Bioscience had passed the quality testing at AstraZeneca’s designated laboratories in Europe and in the U.S.

“These significant progresses mean that we are getting closer to deliver the first batch of the vaccine to the government of Thailand.”

According to the release, numerous safety tests and quality control measures are carried out at each step of manufacturing and distribution. This includes completing all steps in the quality assurance process, with each batch of vaccine undergoing more than 60 different quality control tests during its journey from manufacture to vaccination. To ensure consistent quality across supply chains, the release said, AstraZeneca has built an extensive, global analytical network.

Mr Teague continued: “Our focus is on delivering vaccines as quickly as possible whilst ensuring adherence to the highest safety and quality standards and processes. We will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that. We are well aware that increasing concerns and question have been raised around vaccine safety and the availability of supply to help Thais and the people in Southeast Asia to fight this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to once again reiterate AstraZeneca’s commitment that we are putting science and the interest of society at the heart of our work. And we will remain true to our values by continuing to work with governments and other organisations towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine in a timely manner and at no profit during the pandemic.”





Thinking about the ruling class I

30 10 2020

Often PPT is startled by some of the reporting we see in the mainstream media. Sometimes we are disappointed that some of that media simply cannot extract itself from regime and palace propaganda, from ruling class interests and from strangling self-censorship.

We reckon that the Bangkok Post has been particularly awful in the way it has reported many recent events. Its latest reporting on the king’s problems in Germany had this ridiculous, even laughable, line: “the King travels to Germany from time to time.”

Do they think its readers are morons? Every one knows that the king spends most of his time in Germany and that he ordered the junta’s constitution changed to allow him to conduct the affairs of state when in Germany. Everyone knows that royal minor wife Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi spends most of her time – since she was released from jail – in Germany. Every one knows that the queen spends most of her time in Switzerland. And, many know that Princess Sirivannavari spends much of her time in France. This is a European royal family. So why is the Post so hopeless?

Sirivannavari and boyfriend at Paris Open

Thinking about hopeless stuff, how about bail?

As we know, many of the “leaders” of the anti-regime protests are in jail, denied bail. THese are mostly young students.

How’s that work when a report in the same Bangkok Post tells us that “[s]elf-professed gambler Apirak ‘Sia Po’ Chat-anon was detained after showing up at a police station in Bangkok to be questioned about a shootout on Tuesday that resulted in two men being wounded.” Sia Po stands “accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna & Spa…”.

When he showed up at the police station – they didn’t go out and arrest him – he arrived with  “his brother … accompanied by Santhana Prayoonrat, a former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police…”.

Royal Household Bureau via Khaosod

We won’t go into how it is that a gangster and gunman has a retired senior policeman with him – the answer is too obvious. But we do note that Sia Po was “later released without condition by the Thon Buri Criminal Court after posting 350,000 baht bail.”

But the students who haven’t shot anyone or or engaged in any violence are denied bail. Fair? Of course not. It is all ruling class buffalo manure. Think of all the cops supporting the Red Bull who drove over and killed a policeman.

There was another Sia who accused of gangsterism. That was Sia O several years ago. Are they all in this together? Of course they are. It’s a ruling class.

Even if the royal family aren’t engaged in gangsterism, they plunder the taxpayer’s money.





King’s man

10 10 2020

If anyone thought the protesters were exaggerating the role the king plays in the administration of the country, the recent media censorship/self censorship of the story on German criticism of King Vajiralongkorn would seem to prove the protester’s point.

If more evidence was needed, look at the air force.

Back in late August, we posted on the new commanders of the martial forces in Thailand, observing that the big winner was King Vajiralongkorn. The most senior appointments were made to satisfy the king.

Of course, loyalists have long been in charge of the armed forces, and the palace has always had and expressed preferences, with Vajiralongkorn having previously been involved in contests over the appointment of police chiefs. But the most recent appointments were the clearest yet of Vajiralongkorn exercising his political influence.

On the air force appointment, a few days ago, Khaosod reported that Air Chief Marshal Airbull Suttiwan’s sudden rise and appointment as air force chief was controversial.

It states that a year ago, ACM Airbull “was an air force officer working in a relatively junior position as an ‘expert’,” and that “[h]e did not command any force.”In providing further background, the report points out that:

Unlike previous air force chiefs, Airbull was never assigned to a combat squadron – a job that’s supposed to provide the candidates with an understanding of air supremacy and how to defend Thailand’s air space. Airbull spent most of his time as a pilot with the C-130 transport aircraft.

In other words, he was not in line to be air force commander.

The report states that his sudden rise to the top came as a “surprise of seniors in the force and outsiders alike.”

Former air force boss, ACM Manaat Wongwat denied that there had been any “external influence” in the “curious decision that reportedly left the air force seething with anger.”

No one believed Manaat. It was widely known that the king wanted Airbull.

Indeed, the anger in the air force cause the Bangkok Post to report in late August:

ACM Airbull, an air force specialist, was earlier reported to have been nominated by ACM Maanat as his successor and the nomination approved by Prime Mnister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is also defence minister.

The source said the change came about during the weekend, when other candidates for the job moved in protest.

According to the source, a former air force chief called Gen Prayut on the telephone, voicing disapproval of the nomination of ACM Airbull and saying there were other air force officers suitable for the position.

This was a brave move against the king’s man.

More recently, ACM Manaat came up with ludicrous explanations for Airbull’s promotion, claiming he was the best candidate and invoking an “evaluation” said to be “based on ‘six characteristics, 10 quotients’ criteria reportedly invented by the air force founder, Prince Chakrabongse.” This prince has been propagandized as “the father of the army’s Royal Aeronautical Service, a forerunner to the Royal Thai Air Force.” He died in 1920. His name and the so-called criteria is a royalist feint, described by Khaosod as “an apparent attempt to discourage questions from the public…”.

The royal intervention means that there are topics “beyond what Khaosod English can publish.” That’s the self-censorship and management pressure that stifles discussion of the monarch, even when he is engaging in activities that are beyond his constitutional role.

But the article hints, referring to a military beat reporter who states: “Everyone knows why Airbull is selected, but they can’t just talk about it… You can try asking the officers around, but no one wouldn’t dare to talk about it.”

Airbull’s loyalty to the king is legendary, displayed in his ridiculous haircut that is the 904 style that the king demands. Khaosod states that:

Airbull rose up the ranks throughout the following years, serving as an air force attache to different countries, but perhaps the most significant of all was his post to Germany, where previous air force chiefs such as Maanat and Chaiyapruk Didyasarin had [also] served.

Of course, Germany has been the king’s principal residence for several years. So it is his connection to the king and his displays of loyalty that get him a top job.

And, of course, In his first media appearance “Airbull pledged his allegiance to the monarchy…”.

Clearly and emphatically, the king is engaging in matters that are beyond his constitutional mandate. The protesters are right to demand that the king be reigned in.





Going backwards VI

16 02 2020

We have posted a couple of times on the monarch’s plans for Crown Property Bureau buildings on Rajadamnoen Avenue and the fears that this royal vandalism amounts to a Talibanization of the avenue. Some worry that it might eventually mean the destruction of the Democracy Monument.

The massive renovation is to occur along a 1.2-km stretch of the road, ordered by the king and managed by the CPB. As we have posted before, critic Chatri Prakitnonthakan, an expert and author on buildings from the era of the revolution that toppled the absolute monarchy, lamented the attack on the art deco architectural style of the avenue. His view is that the art deco architecture, which symbolized a break from feudal absolutism, is being removed as a sinister effort by royalists to erase relics related to the 1932 revolution.

Rajadamnoen now. Clipped from Wikipedia.

The plan is to transform the buildings to neoclassical style.

Interestingly, this motivation on the part of right-wing reactionaries is not limited to Thailand. In a recent article in The Economist has revealed that property developer-cum-President Donald Trump is also interested in going backwards:

On February 4th the Architectural Record, a trade journal, reported that it had been leaked a draft copy of an executive order the president intends to sign, ordering that new federal buildings should be designed in neoclassical style….

He seems to believe that:

architects designing federal buildings have been too much influenced by “brutalism and deconstructivism” and should return to the era of America’s founding, when the inspiration, both politically and architecturally, came from ancient Athens and Rome.

The Architectural Record stated that the White House’s “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” report on an Executive Order that:

would require rewriting the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, issued in 1962, to ensure that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new and upgraded federal buildings.

Since then, there’s been an outcry:

The response to RECORD’s article was instantaneous. Newspapers from San Francisco to London jumped on the story, social media and websites were flooded with comments, and design critics and editorial boards weighed in—most attacking the proposed EO. The AIA issued a statement, opposing “uniform style mandates and the idea of any official architectural style”—and called on its members to to protest; in the first week, nearly 11,000 architects wrote to the president.

Further, the AIA has

… reached out to the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees, “strenuously” urging them “to ensure that no funding is appropriated to implement or carry out this new dictate,” arguing, among other objections, that the order could increase the cost of a federal building by as much as two or three times.

When Thailand’s rightist royal seeks to vandalize the past because of royalist bile that has been rising for 80+ years, what happens? Almost nothing. Most of the mass media self-censors and doesn’t even mention the destruction being done. Fear, murders, jailings and assaults, censorship, lese majeste and a military-backed government means that the silence is deafening.





Muted media

7 02 2020

The Bangkok Post has an editorial that, among other things, criticizes the Royal Thai Army and Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong over leaks about a set of rules for how soldiers should sit, stand and other postures.

The editorial lashes Gen Apirat for deviating “from established military traditions and lay[ing] down his own set of rules of conduct that seem petty…”. Appearance hardly matters when the military has so many other problems (like running coups and murdering citizens with impunity).

That seems reasonable.

But why does the Bangkok Post (and most other media) not make similar observations regarding King Vajiralongkorn’s compulsive-obsessive orders to military and police about appearance (haircuts, uniforms, salutes, etc.).

The answer is obvious. The media is cowed. It is worried into self-censorship, royalists control much of the media and the king is frightening.





With a major update: Re-feudalization and repression

26 01 2020

Somsak Jeamteerasakul has posted another before and after picture of the destruction of symbols of the 1932 revolution and the People’s Party. This time at the Field Marshal P. Phibulsonggram House Learning and History Center in Chiang Rai:

Meanwhile, yet another critical report seems to have been removed from the Khaosod news website.In this case, an opinion piece by Pravit Rojanaphruk titled “Opinion: The Talibanization of Bangkok’s Architectural Heritage” about the erasing of post-1932 architectural style from Rajadamnoen Avenue, has gone.

When one looks for the article at the site, the return is:

It was there.

And it was circulated:

And it was re-posted in Thailand:

Frustratingly, PPT didn’t copy the article before it was taken down. If any reader has a copy, please email us.

The last time this happened it was a news story about the trouble caused by Princess Sirivannavari when she and some rich friends had a holiday in the south and officials closed land and sea to allow her to have fun with “security.” Ordinary Thais lost income and work while taxpayer funds were burned.

As far as we can tell, in neither case has Khaosod explained why the articles have been disappeared. We assume the management and owners came under pressure. But from where? From notions of self censorship? Or from the regime? Or from the palace?

The fear about commenting on anything royal is reinforced. The erasure of memory and history gathers pace.

Update: Thanks to readers, including @barbaricthais and “a republican reader,” we have located the deleted Khaosod op-ed by Pravit. It is clear that the equating of royal vandalism and Talibanization annoyed/scared/worried some. The op-ed is reproduced here, in full, but without the pictures:

What struck me as rather disturbing as I met with people along the Ratchadamnoen Avenue to discuss the upcoming renovation is their sense of fear.

Very few whom I interviewed wanted to be identified. Some even said they did not want to talk at all about what could be the most significant change to the landscape of the historic avenue in 80 years.

The reason is rather straightforward. All of the ten art deco buildings along the avenues are to be replaced with a new “neoclassical” pastiches per instruction from the Crown Property Bureau, who owned the structures since the time when it was still under the oversight of a civilian government that overthrew absolute monarchy in 1932.

In the present time, the agency is a different kind of entity. Following a vote in 2017 by the junta-appointed rubber stamp parliament, the Crown Property ceased to be under the control of state and was placed under the supervision of new monarch, King Vajiralongkorn.

In early 2019, the Crown Property Bureau invited tenants of these art deco buildings along the 1200-meter stretch of the avenue to a meeting, and informed them that a decision has been made to replace the structures with a neoclassical façade.

Words of the meeting were relayed to me by one of the participants, who was apparently at a discomfort of discussing the topic, but I assured him there was nothing to worry; what he told me was perfectly in line with the Crown Property’s very own announcement of the plan on Jan 17.

Not everyone is thrilled by the makeover. Critics like Chatri Prakitnonthakan, an expert and author on buildings from the era of the revolution that toppled the absolute monarchy, told me the new façade will be “fake” because it’s more like applying a veneer on art deco architectural structure which is fundamentally different.

He also suspected a deeper agenda. Chatri said art deco architecture in Thailand symbolized a break from feudal absolutism. He believes there is a sinister attempt by some people to exact revenge on the long-dead revolutionaries by removing any relics related to their memories.

No matter what your political ideology is, Thailand has lost enough architectural heritage when its old capital Ayutthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767; the city was also subject to a series of looting and vandalism by both Thais and Chinese merchants in the centuries that followed.

Bangkok is relatively new, anointed as the capital in 1782. Why, then, are we defacing and deconsecrating the few architectural legacies and monuments that we have?

Let us not Talibanize our tangible heritage, our past, our history – lest we end up not knowing who we are, where we came from and surrounded by Disney-like environ.

In the fast-developing megacity of Shanghai, the Chinese managed to preserve many buildings constructed by former colonial powers despite the bitter history. Thais should also learn to cherish material cultures, buildings included, that speak about a crucial portion in our history, instead of trying to deface what we do not like.

Many have given up, resigned to the fate that one of the most historic landmarks in Bangkok’s Old City will be Disneyfied with the shallow neoclassical veneer.

Some even fear that Democracy Monument, the most visible memorial to the birth of parliamentary democracy in 1932, might be either altered or removed altogether eventually. Some have begun taking selfies with the symbolism-filled monument in a half-nervous jest. Just in case.

And if the renovation is truly inevitable, I hope they save at least one art deco building on Ratchadamnoen Avenue: the imposing Royal Hotel at the southeastern end of the avenue.

It was opened in 1943 by none other than the revolution’s co-leader Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, and has since played a role in several key moments of Thai political history. Like when it was a safe haven for protesters in the May 1992 uprising against the military rulers, until soldiers invaded it, beating and forcefully arresting those inside.

I wonder if anyone will launch any campaign to save these historical relics at all. Given the current climate of fear and sensitivity of the issue, I wouldn’t be surprised if many will think more than twice before lending their signature – or even change their mind afterwards.





One lane monarchy

14 01 2020

In recent months there’s been unusual online criticism of Thailand’s pampered, obscenely wealthy, tone deaf and protected (by law and censorship) royals. Essentially, average Thais have been complaining about the way shopping malls, islands, beaches and roads are closed for the pleasure and convenience of members of the royal family.

In October, the hashtag “#RoyalMotorcade became a top trending Twitter hashtag as netizens piled on criticism over road and shopping center closures for royals who seemed oblivious to the extent of their privilege and the trouble their privilege causes for hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. The video clip is from 2012:

This criticism appears to have brought a palace response. (Un)naturally enough, Khaosod publishes and lists the “new” rules but has absolutely no commentary, not even hinting why the “new” rules have appeared. For that (brief) background, an international report is necessary. In censored Thailand, all Khaosod seems willing/able to say is:

The new set of rules, 10 points in total, was compiled by the police after His Majesty the King called for a revamp in security measures that would cause minimal impact to motorists….

The more complete report states:

The process of adjusting the protection pattern during the royal motorcades of the King and his royal family by the Royal Thai Police is intended to provide security to … the King and royal family at the highest standard to be dignified and in accordance with the wishes of … the King.

In fact, these are not particularly new. Back in 2012, the last time the muffled criticism of the royal family’s motorcades became public, a new set of rules were issued. It didn’t take long for the royals and their minions to regress. We suppose 2020 will see the same backsliding into pampered privilege.





Remembering II

12 01 2020

We are pleased that another article on remembering is available. At Khaosod, Pravit Rojanaphruk has an op-ed on resisting the erasure of history and memory.

Pravit refers to “pro-democracy activist Arnon Nampha [who] announced on his Facebook that in 2020, he will keep posting content about the revolt which ended absolute monarchy nearly 88 years ago … because he felt its memories are being threatened.”

Arnon declared that “… we shall continue the mission of the People’s Party to the utmost,” and called on others to “think and act on the matter, adding, “We shall fight together next year [2020].”

His first post reproduced the Announcement No. 1 of the People’s Party (1932).

Pravit says that Arnon was galvanized into (Facebook) action by “the army’s decision to remove statues of two leaders of the 1932 democratic revolt and rename an artillery base in Lopburi province. The statues would be replaced by one depicting the late King Rama IX…”.

Pravit notes a “sinister trend [that] began nearly three years ago, in April 2017. That was when a plaque marking the spot where the [1932] revolt took place was mysteriously removed.”

Actually, it marked the site of the announcement of the People’s Party seizing of power.

He goes on to mention other monuments that have been destroyed or removed to unknown locations. Pravit rightly laments:

Disturbingly, most Thai mainstream mass media simply pretended the theft of such epic proportions was not worth reporting about. Or they were told not to report about it, though I have no hard evidence of that possibility.

More likely is that self-censorship and fear took hold, as it usually does when the monarchy is involved in unsavory events.

Pravit then observes the obvious:

It should be clear by now that there is a deliberate and concerted effort to delete parts of Thai political history, or at least make Thai people forget about them. It was as if five years of junta’s rule wasn’t enough. Now, certain people want to take away our collective memories and replace it with a sanitized royalist version.

And they are so dishonest that they refuse to claim responsibility for their actions, preferring to hide under the shadow of anonymity.

In our view, much of this work emanates from the palace. It is no coincidence that erasure coincide with the king’s land grabbing.

And, Pravit informs his readers that “Arnon is not alone in this campaign.” He refers to:

Some political activists, like Nitirat Subsomboon, are compiling a calendar of important dates related to Thai people’s struggle for a more equal and democratic society over the centuries. These episodes in history tend to be ignored, wilfully or not, with hardly a mention in school history textbooks.

We are pleased to know that:

It’s now clear that there are dissidents who will not just let others tamper with their memories without putting up a fight. They are starting the preservation effort by declaring that certain Thai political history is an endangered species – at risk of being erased.