NUS Press doing the regime’s work

17 01 2021

Asia Sentinel has a story about NUS Press being ordered – that’s the implication – to bin a book after taking through a production process to printing. Of course, the book is about the Thai monarchy, the dead king, and King Vajiralongkorn, and it is edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun. This censorship would be remarkable for a proper university press, but that is not what NUS Press is. It is a press run by a state-dominated university in an authoritarian state. Academic freedom is not something that the university or the press uphold.

Because Asia Sentinel is often blocked in Thailand, here’s the full story, with just a couple of edits, by John Berthelsen:

Singapore’s NUS Press Accused of Ditching Thai Anthology Under Pressure
Compendium of scholars discussing end of previous Thai king’s reign sent to Yale instead

More than 100 international academic figures have signed an open letter accusing Singapore’s National University Press of bending to political pressure and dropping the publication of a compendium of scholars analyzing the prospects for the end of the era of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016 after 70 years on the throne.

Titled “Coup, King, Crisis,” the book was edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai dissident now in exile at Kyoto University in Japan and features writers including Paul Handley, the author or the acclaimed book “The King Never Smiles,” as well as Australian academic Kevin Hewison…. Other authors included Federico Ferrara, Claudio Sopranzetti, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Edoardo Siani, Paul Chambers, Sarah Bishop, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Krislert Samphantharak, Tyrell Haberkorn, David Streckfuss and Somchai Phatharathananunth.

The manuscript was later accepted and published by Yale University under Yale’s Southeast Asia Studies Monograph series. Singapore public universities and political research institutions, according to Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based rights NGO, “have direct government links that enable political influence and interference in hiring and firing. Recent faculty turnover at two major universities has increased concerns about political pressure. Self-censorship on Singapore-related topics is common among academics, who can face legal and career consequences for critical speech.’

Pavin, who composed the open letter, said Peter Schoppert, director of the NUS Press, and Tan Eng Chye, the NUS President of the decision to cancel the publishing contract in March 2020, but failed to give any explanation regarding the withdrawal, saying the decision “was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community.”

“It seems reasonable to assume that the NUS Press’s decision was due to political pressure,” Pavin wrote. “The unexplained and last-minute decision violates the fundamental principles of academic freedom. The reference to outside stakeholders indicates that individuals and/or interest groups outside of academia have the final say in the publication process. This makes a mockery of the independent peer-review process, calling into question the academic integrity of the press itself.”

Some of the authors, including Pavin himself, have had a stormy relationship with the Thai government. He recently complained that he was being followed by unknown figures in Japan. In fact, Thailand has reached well outside the country’s own borders to harass exiled dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch, which in its 2020 World Report said that “In recent years, dissidents who fled persecution in Thailand have faced enforced disappearance in neighboring countries. At least two Thai exiles in Laos, Wuthipong Kachathamakul and Itthipol Sukpaen, were forcibly disappeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2018, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatchan Boonphawal, and Kraidet Lueler were abducted and murdered in Laos. In May, authorities in Vietnam repatriated Chucheep Chivasut, Siam Theerawut, and Kritsana Thapthai to Thailand and the three men have since disappeared.

The manuscript was proposed to the NUS Press in October 2018 and went through what the protesting scholars called a “proper and vigorous peer review process, and all contributors revised their essay accordingly, and in a timely manner.”

On August 29, 2019, Pavin wrote, he signed a contract with the NUS Press on behalf of the contributors, completing the necessary steps to ensure meeting the publication deadline of Spring 2020. As the manuscript was about to go to press, Schoppert wrote to him saying: “It is with great regret that I have to inform you that NUS Press will not be proceeding with our publication of and distribution plans for ‘Coup, King, Crisis’ and would release a statement saying it was “not the sort of decision a university press takes lightly, but it was taken after consultation with stakeholders within and outside the university community. We have informed the book editor, Assoc Prof Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and the contributors to the book, and released them from their obligations under our contract. We apologize for the late notice, and the inconvenience caused.”

Spurned by NUS, Pavin spent the intervening months trying to find a new home for the book. Although Schoppert wrote that although NUS wouldn’t print the book and that it was open to discussing “measures that can be taken to mitigate the impact” of the cancellation, Pavin didn’t bother to negotiate.

The decision on the part of the NUS Press to drop the project revealed the university’s “knowing sacrifice of legitimacy for expediency,” according to the open letter. “Its action exposes others not so well positioned to increased pressure from those who would undermine the foundations of an open society.”

Pavin publicly called for an international moratorium by scholars on all further manuscript reviewing for and submission to the NUS Press, which “has damaged and made a sham of the academic review and publication process “and asked colleagues to not send any new manuscripts to NUS Press.

The affront to critical, independent scholarship represented by NUS Press’s action on this manuscript “suggests that NUS is underserving of its current level of global ranking,” according to the letter, and “has caused reputational damage not just to the press itself but also to NUS.”

The letter and its signatories is available here, and is a PDF.

We may as well assume that the book, now published by Yale’s Southeast Asia Program, and available at Amazon, will be banned in Thailand.





The Dictator and “security”

5 06 2016

Readers might wish to speculate on why the International Institute for Strategic Studies  and its host and sponsors in the Singapore government would invite The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha to present a Keynote Speech to its 15th Shangri-la Dialogue. Sorry, but this is a long post.

For those who wish to watch and read The Dictator’s speech, the ISIS has provided a “provisional” transcript (in English) and a video of his speech (delivered in Thai and here with a voice-over). In fact, if a PDF of the speech is downloaded, it is a “draft,” produced by The Dictator’s staff.

Interestingly, Prayuth’s moniker on the speech is: “GENERAL (RETD) PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA.” The “retired” bit is perhaps an attempt to appear civilianized, perhaps  not wanting to scare the Europeans? Later in the speech The Dictator says he is “an ex-military officer…”. Perhaps he’s thinking about a “political” career in the next “administration”?

The introduction of Prayuth begins about 5.40 mins into the video. It begins with a claim that The Dictator “came to politics late in his career.” Nonsense, of course, for Thailand’s generals are political animals who covet political status and they regularly engage in political actions, almost always in support of the royalist elite of the ruling class.

That said, the introduction of Prayuth is pretty much factual, although the claim that the draft constitution, if approved in a referendum, “will provide a framework for a return to democracy” is ludicrous. The introduction also seems to acknowledge that the IISS is the first to provide Thailand’s military dictator with a stage.

Prayuth was asked to provide Thailand’s “outlook” on regional security. That Prayuth spoke in Thai is interesting, not least because anti-democrats repeatedly ridiculed Yingluck Shinawatra for her less than fluent English. Prayuth is not a leader with any great international experience, education or knowledge. Hence, we doubt that Prayuth has an “outlook” on much at all – his view is inward – and we guess that the speech is not his own work but rather that of the hirelings, albeit reflective of the regime’s positions.

Prayuth’s speech begins around 8:30 mins into the video. Most of what he says about security is basic, at about the level one might expect from undergraduate studying security and international relations. Some readers may find his comments on China of interest.

Thailand’s military dictator begins his speech by saying that it is an “honour for me to have been invited by the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Director-General of the IISS to give the keynote speech…”.

In an early report, Khaosod picked up agency accounts of the speech, and concentrated on The Dictator’s defense of military rule in Thailand, again raising his well-known junta shibboleths, here using our words as well as Prayuth’s: that repression represents a transition to “a strong and sustainable democracy;” that the junta will eventually handover to another “administration;”and so on (readers know the drill).

Prayuth was big on defending his military regime. He begins in the 4th of 47 paragraphs in his speech. About a quarter of the speech is given over to Thailand’s domestic politics with The Dictator essentially pleading for understanding of the “need” for repression, censorship and more in the name of stability, security and something he calls “equilibrium.”

In his first mention of Thailand, the General (Retd) bemoans the difficulties of “maintaining security equilibrium” and claims “Thailand is an example of a country that has perhaps lost its equilibrium in the past several years…”. What he seems to means is that the ruling class’s control was upset by upstart elected politicians. He “explains” that Thailand had previously “been successful in maintaining a good balance and equilibrium in the past, even during periods of war and crisis.” Of course, most of that period was under a military leadership or military backed government.

Prayuth declares that “Thailand is increasingly getting back on track even though a number of challenges remain to be addressed…”. Oddly, he claims this is “through cooperation between many sides both within Thailand and internationally…”.

Of course, as a good royalist, Prayuth has to mention the king. He does this when linking security, development and the failed and ignored “sufficiency economy” notion:

Thailand … places importance on addressing the root causes and focusing on development from within. The Thai Government [he means his junta] has laid down a secure and sustainable foundations, whether in terms of politics, economics and society, and initiated the “Pracharat 4Ps” policy (Public-Private-People Partnership) so that all sectors of society are involved in the country’s development. In all this, we are guided by His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which is based on His Majesty’s development experiences accumulated over the course of 40 years and which places the people at the core. This year, in fact, is the 10th anniversary of His Majesty’s being awarded the ‘UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award,’ in 2006, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which is in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Agenda.

Probably only royalists would recall and celebrate an award anniversary. But that award is a part of palace propaganda that The Dictator upholds.

The sixth part of his speech focuses on Thailand and is headed “Thailand in Transition,” followed by a seventh section, ” Solving Thailand’s Problems.”

The Dictator’s aide’s and advisers develop a line to justify a military dictatorship by harping on about the “security of every country and the region is intertwined.” Prayuth seems to imply that previously, elected governments somehow threatened regional security. The advisers seem to have had a light bulb moment on this, for they repeat it: “Thailand’s stability will have an effect on ASEAN and regional stability.”

This daft claim is a lead in to the usual elitist and paternalist and, no matter how many times we hear it, the junta’s preposterous justification of political repression cast as Thailand’s “transition towards a strong and sustainable democracy.”

The Dictator’s justification is initially couched in terms of “national security” where he mentions a litany of travails and failures that have beset the junta: “poverty, social disparities, the middle income trap, a fall in agricultural output as a result of  drought, and falling commodity prices brought on by the global economic slump.” He adds: “unrest in the southern border provinces,” hastening to add that this is “an internal problem and not a conflict stemming from religious tensions or one with foreign involvement.” For good measure he throws in “difficulties that have come with irregular migration and the need for foreign migrant workers who number in millions and this has led to  many social problems…”.

But he then gets to his point, essentially repeating the laundry list of anti-democrat claims about electoral politics in Thailand:

… our key problem recently has been political conflict and unprecedented divisiveness in the country.  This has stemmed from a political setting that has produced democracy only in form but not in function, thus resulting in national administration that lacked good governance. The public budget was used for political gain. There was ineffective populism and rampant corruption, which then led to political conflicts that could not be addressed through democratic process. There were legal deadlocks and the rallying of opposing sides in clashes. There was manipulation of the media to take sides, the escalation of violence, the breakdown of the rule of law and ultimately, the use of weapons in conflict.

As an ally of the anti-democrats and an ideological fellow-traveler, The Dictator seems to have convinced himself of this story. He goes on:

There was no order in society, which was increasingly characterized by demands for unlimited rights and freedoms that violated communal peace and the rights of other members of the public.

Readers will recognize the claims as a justification for military intervention and two years of unremitting oppression. And here’s that intervention justified in terms we have heard countless times, presented to an international audience:

This required an intervention to end hostilities, prevent further conflict, and bring the country towards a new era of reform.  If left unattended, Thailand would lose its equilibrium and head towards unprecedented civil unrest and perhaps even civil war.  There was no other way other than to intervene and restore peace and order in society and rebuild our democracy so that is stronger and sustainable.  I add that to this day, there are still politically motivated Thai individuals in and outside the country who abuse social media to distort the facts.

That last sentence actually sounds like Prayuth using his own voice.

More blarney is then pedaled, justifying repression again and again, this time trotting out a series of lies:

We do not have any intentions to violate human rights, or to restrict basic rights and freedoms, but that it was necessary for the military to take control the situation to prevent the escalation of violence and conflict, and to restore the rule of law and social order only for a while.  Given this, all our measures have been based on the rule of law, the equal application of the law and law enforcement. We have enforced the law only in situations when laws have been broken. Taking action in these stances should not be considered as in violation of  any human rights, even though they are separated only by a very thin line.

We have already commented on this list of lies, last presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. No need to go there again. However, Prayuth’s forked tongue continues to flap, presenting the junta’s position in a way that his audience could not possibly understand:

The Royal Thai Government is currently committed to maintaining peacefulness and orderliness, addressing political problems through strengthening our democracy, fostering reconciliation, addressing economic problems, restoring confidence for investors and the international community, combating corruption, reforming and modernizing our laws, reforming our civil administration, instituting social orderliness, reducing disparities, developing the country to have a deep-rooted resilience through the adoption of His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in national administration, with the Pracharat approach to cooperation to reduce social disparities and progress the country towards a Thailand 4.0 status through supporting modernisation of 5 existing industries and supporting capacity-building for 5 new industries of Thailand.

Democracy = the non-democracy of Thai-style democracy. Thailand 4.0 = no audience member could know. 5 exiting industries = who knows. 5 new industries of Thailand = who knows. It is as though the aides ran out of material and shook a couple of recent speeches, shook them and picked up the meaningless phrases that dropped from them.

Then there is the “20-Year National Strategic Plan and a Roadmap including phase one, two, and three…”. And the promise, long delayed as the “roadmap” has been altered and neglected: “I can assure you that Thailand will return to democracy in accordance with the Roadmap…”.

He means his and his junta’s plans for a regime that will come from token elections and that will be dominated for 20 years by the military.





Singapore’s award

17 10 2015

PPT was surprised to learn that Singapore’s “highest military award, the Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Tentera) [Distinguished Service Order (Military)” had gone to a Thai general. After all, these men are better at domestic political interventions than they are at anything military.

Singapore’s President Tony Tan conferred the award on Thailand’s Minister of Labour and former Permanent Secretary for Defence General (GEN) (Rtd) Sirichai Distakul.

Why did he get this award? Is he a war hero? Nope. A legend in Thailand’s corrupt military. Nope. Has he ever done anything warranting an award of any sort? Nope.

It seems the Singapore government has rewarded him for “his significant contributions in enhancing the defence ties between Singapore and Thailand during his tenure as Thailand’s Permanent Secretary for Defence…”.

How long did he hold this office? Exactly one year. Not much time to make any significant contribution.

So why? We can only think that it might have something to do with something else the generals do, rewarding themselves. Sirichai was, until recently, the Chairman of CAT Telecom, operating in a sector where the Singapore government fund has significant investments.





Updated: Yale and censorship

9 04 2012

Readers will likely know Michael Montesano as a historian and frequent commentator on Thailand’s politics. PPT’s attention was recently drawn to another debate Montesano is engaged in, related to the establishment of a Yale University campus in partnership with the National University of Singapore.

The debate taking place seems long and convoluted for outsiders, but in making the point that Yale’s management has been compromised and in pointing to censorship and self-censorship on Singapore’s politics and how Yale will slot into that, what caught PPT’s eye was that a part of Montesano’s argument drew attention to the Yale administration’s role in the publication of The King Never Smiles. This is what he says:

… chillingly, in early 2006 Yale’s current president caved in to pressure from the government of Thailand to allow representatives of the Thai monarchy, whose supporters would just months later mount a coup d’état in Bangkok, pre-publication review (just “for accuracy,” but they always say that, don’t they?) of a biography of the Thai king already in the process of publication by Yale University Press… [by Paul Handley]. While the late Yale law professor Alexander Bickel turned over in his grave, publication of the book was thus delayed long enough so that the world’s media had no access to it as they reported on the gala celebrations marking sixty years of the king’s reign in June 2006. This episode leaves little doubt about the impact, on Yale itself, of the current Yale president’s weak commitment to academic freedom where Southeast Asia is concerned. Its implications for Yale scholarship relating to Singapore are clear and ominous. After all, Yale was not even employed by the government of Thailand when the episode occurred.

That this Thai episode elicited so little protest from Yale faculty was hard to understand. Nonetheless, it was in itself a one-time event. Should such episodes, or even the suspicion of them, become routine in matters concerning Singapore, however, the resultant regime of self-censorship in New Haven would surely prove unsustainable. It would poison both the relations of many of Yale’s humanists and social scientists with Yale’s leadership and the intellectual climate at the university. It would thus also undercut the ability of Yale, especially under the leadership of future Yale presidents, to serve as an effective partner of the PAP government and NUS.

For those who have forgotten the details of the pre-publication efforts by the Thaksin Shinawatra government and the palace to stop the book, and the U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce’s role, there is a useful summary in the first few pages of this article (a PDF).

Update: A reader tells us that Montesano’s claim that it was “a one-time event” is not accurate. Yale has a longer record of freedom of speech challenges than indicated just by the events over The King Never Smiles. The reader points to cases here, here, here and here.





International Symposium on Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace

3 10 2009

PPT readers in Seoul may be interested to know about the following event, sponsored by FORUM-ASIA (The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development):

International Symposium on Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace in East Asia

Date: 13-15 October 2009

Venue: Seoul, South Korea

FORUM-ASIA will organise the International Symposium on Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace in East Asia with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue. It will be held in Seoul, South Korea from 13 to 15 October 2009.

The focus of this symposium is the situation of freedom of opinion expression in cyberspace, highlighting issues in Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. The participants and the Special Rapporteur will share analysis on the present situation. By building strategies for civil society and human rights defenders, the participants will also explore ways to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.

PPT notes that it is intriguing that of four of the countries mentioned, three are in Southeast Asia. Yet can anyone imagine this discussion taking place in Thailand? If anyone attends the conference, PPT would be interested in an update. Reach us at this email: thaipoliticalprisoners [at] gmail.com





Abhisit, violence and the Songkhran Uprising

27 08 2009

There is an audio clip doing the rounds that purports to be Democrat Party Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordering the use of violent force against red shirt demonstrators during April’s Songkhran Uprising. Abhisit doesn’t deny it is his voice, but says the clip has been doctored to change what is said on the clip. The red shirts deny being part of any “dirty trick.”

PPT had a link to the clip (see below) but it now seems to be gone – part of the Democrat Party-led government’s remarkably regular use of censorship.The site hosting the clip states:

หมายเหตุ “ไทยอินไซเดอร์” ทางเว็บมาสเตอร์ จำเป็นต้องถอดคลิปเสียงอื้อฉาวนี้ออก หลังได้รับการแจ้งจากหน่วยงานรัฐ มิเช่นนั้นจะทำการปิดเว็บ แต่เรายังขอลงเนื้อความที่มีการถอดคำต่อคำมาลง เพราะเชื่อว่า “ผู้อ่าน” มีวิจารณญาณในการรับข้อมูลข่าวสาร ว่าสิ่งใดควรเชื่อ หรือไม่ควรเชื่อ

28 ส.ค.2552

Recall the uproar when the Thaksin Shinawatra government tried to clamp down on the media. In fact, it seems to PPT that the Abhisit government is perhaps having more success in its censorship than Thaksin’s government did.

PPT has previously questioned Abhisit’s truthfulness. However, this time, we are going to assume that he is not lying. So what is happening?

In the Bangkok Post (27 August 2009: “PM: Altered audio clip misleading”) Abhisit confirms that “the voice” orders “officials to use force against red-shirt protesters…”. Abhisit states categorically: “the clip … is definitely an edited clip because I have never given out such order…” and he added that he could prove this fact. PPT will be interested in such evidence.

Sounding more and more like Thaksin Shinawatra when he was prime minister, Abhisit claims the clip was the “work of people with the ill intention of causing misunderstanding and instigating unrest, and added: “I will take legal action against whoever is involved…”. The voice clip was apparently played by the UDD’s DStation, and Abhisit “warned the red-shirt group not to spread the audio it because he would take legal action against them as well.”

Then, Abhisit, after saying how bad the perpetrators of this “dirty trick” were says that he knows “who emailed this audio clip [and adds that they] were connected to politicians and companies with links to a former prime minister, but did not say outright that the person was Thaksin Shinawatra.” To ssome observers, this might sound fishy; he knows who did it, threatened legal action, but then doesn’t name anyone. But let’s assume there are good reasons for not naming names.  Anyway, it is a developing Thai political tradition to mention unnamed people or to reveal their initials only.

But if they are known, will they be arrested?  The premier sort of waffles about “it would be good if this could be done because this should not happen to anyone.” So maybe he doesn’t know who they were?

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the “clip was clearly edited in a way to discredit the government.” This didn’t bother him because he thinks the “public were well enough informed to decide themselves whether the clip was credible or not…”. Well, maybe, but Abhisit is threatening to sue those who play it.

But Abhisit has support for his version of events. First, “Deputy Interior Minister Thavorn Senniam said he was with the prime minister during the Songkran riots all the time but never heard him give such an order.” And, Democrat Party advisory chairman Chuan Leekpai said “he could guarantee that Mr Abhisit had not ordered use of force as alleged.” Were both really by Abhisit’s side during every minute of those events?

The UDD said that so long as “it had not been clearly proven whether the clip had been edited or not, the red-shirts would not use it as a political issue to attack the government during their anti-government rally on Sunday…”.

Update 1: It comes down to this: can Abhisit really prove his counter-claim in any definitive way? Probably not. Could it have been people inside the government putting out the clip? Possibly, given the contest that has been going on of late. Could it be from within the military or ISOC? Also possible, but usually their fingerprints are large as they are so clumsy. Clearly Abhisit is under attack from many sides, but the government simply can’t afford to risk an election. So in the end, this is likely to be just one more of the mounting cases of claim and counter-claim that cannot be proven. There will be an opinion poll that will show something about public perception, but that will count for little as these opponents chip away at Abhisit.

Update 2: Thanks to several readers and to Bangkok Pundit, PPT got their copy of the clip here. We have to say that it certainly sounds like Abhisit and the statement sounds convincing. If it is a fake, it seems to have been exceptionally well done. In The Nation (28 August 2009: “Riot audio tape doctored: PM”) Abhisit admitted the voice in the clip belonged to him, but believed that part of the content was doctored because he did not make such orders. He then adds: “The audio clip was edited because the levels of sound were different,” and then adds, intriguingly, “I affirm that I have never said these words in such a combination.” He also said that he was “ready to clarify any doubts regarding the audio clip and blamed those behind it of intending to hurt the country and incite violence. He also warned such audio editing could be illegal.”

Recommended: Suranand Vejjajiva in the Bangkok Post, 28 August 2009: “PM not taking chances as red shirts crank up engine”.

Update 3: The Democrat Party’s Abhisit and his supporters are in full damage control. The Bangkok Post (28 August 2009: “Audio clip ‘sent from former Thaksin firm'”) reports that Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks proclaims that his party has traced the origins of the emails that circulated the audio clip. Buranaj says ” the original email message containing the altered audio clip featuring Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s voice was sent from a computer at SC Asset, a subsidiary of Shin Corporation, the former investment conglomerate of ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.” The “odd” thing in this is that Shin is now owned by Temasek Holdings, the Singapore government’s investment arm but is still run by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s  sister (The Nation, 28 August 2009). The “edited voice recording” was sent on to the “information technology and public relations office of the opposition Puea Thai Party before being distributed to about 30 news reporters.”

[Update: PPT believes this information on ownership is incorrect and that SC continues to be controlled by Shinawatras.]

Buranaj “said this explained why Puea Thai MPs tried to get the clip played during Thursday’s meeting of the House of Representatives, which was debating the 2010 Budget Bill.” Meanwhile, another Party spokeman claimed that “forwarding false information is a violation of Article 94 of the Political Party Act and this could lead to a party dissolution.” And, in what is becoming standard practice for the Democrat Party-led government, the “website that released the audio clip had already been shut down, Information and Communications Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee said. She had ordered its closure.” She also “stressed that stringent legal action under the computer crime law would be taken against all those who forwarded the email containing the audio track.”

It may be that the Democrat Party sees this as an opportunity to go after Thaksin’s family again as another way to stymie the red shirts andPhuea Thai Party.

In a separate statement, “Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon strongly denied reported allegations the armed forces were somehow involved in releasing the sound clip.” He also said he believed that Abhisit would not issue orders to violently crackdown on protestors. He was supported by Army commander-in-chief General Anupong Paojinda who also “insisted that the military had nothing to do with the questionable audio clip.”

Update 4: The Bangkok Post (28 August 2009: “Spokesman: Clip a plot to topple govt”) has “acting government spokesman” Panitan Wattanayagorn claiming that a “group of people craving for violence wants to create a situation that could lead to a change of government and the release of the altered voice clip of the prime minister is part of its plan to incite hatred for the government…”. With no new evidence, Panitan claims that the allegedly edited audio clip “was intended to urge the people to come out against authorities.” In line with a point PPT has made in another post, Panitan says that the “government will try its best to secure the country’s stability…”.

He also said that the government would “take steps to bring those involved in tampering with the clip to justice.” After claiming that they know who distributed the clip, the government now claims that they are now in pursuit of the alleged makers of the clip. saying that there “are only a few groups of people who have the ability and equipment to do this in Thailand and it would not be difficult to find … the culprit.” If the clip is a concoction, why would acting spokesman Panitan think it had to be made in Thailand? Does he know more or is this fishing?

Update 5: The Bangkok Post (29 August 2009: “Democrats warn rivals over audio clip”)  reports that the Democrat Party is accusing “the opposition Puea Thai Party and a company linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of being behind the proliferation of the clip.” Now the government proclaims the clip as a “threat to national security and hurting the country as well as inciting people (to cause disturbances)…”, according to the ICT minister. Yes, national security.

Further , it has been claimed that ” the Constitution Court … [should] consider dissolving any political party involved in the posting of the clip as it could lead to violence and put national security at risk.” Yes, national security.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks said “it was obvious Puea Thai MPs wanted to provoke hatred against the government in the run-up to the UDD’s planned rally at Sanam Luang tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan said “SC Asset and the party will lodge a defamation suit against the Democrat Party for accusing the party of being the mastermind of the clip.”