The king’s forces and their X-men

20 01 2019

The noise level on the king’s failure to sign the royal decree that is required for an election is beginning to increase. Much of the increased volume seems to have to involve the military.

An AP report on last week’s Armed Forces Day parade has Army Commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong making what is said to be “routine exhortations of loyalty to the king and the country.” It might be “routine” but the times are anything but routine and Gen Apirat is the king’s man.

His “routine” speech could have been made in 1885: “We will sacrifice our physical and mental strength to protect the country and revere the king, and look after the people…”. Royalist, paternal and completely ignoring government.

The report also recalls that it has been Gen Apirat threatening those demanding an election date.

This is important given that the military seems to have (re-)mobilized groups to oppose the pro-election activists.

On this, the Bangkok Post reports that pro-election activists were “denounced” by “students” at Ramkhamhaeng University. Some of the pro-election activists were fearful and backed away, while others moved the rally to Thammasat University from the area of the Democracy Monument.

A group calling itself “Unity Before Elections was attempting to organise a rival demonstration in a bid to silence…” the pro-election activists.

Groups with military links, the “Council of Ramkhamhaeng University Students and the Network of Ramkhamhaeng Students Protecting the Institution [monarchy] and the People” demanded that the pro-election activists cease “fomenting conflict…”.

Invoking the monarchy, Kittipong Thaenkhun, described as being president of the Council, said pro-election activism was wrong “as the country prepares for the coronation of Rama X…”. He added that: “Imposing a deadline for the royal decree to come out…” was “inappropriate.”

Another Bangkok Post report says the group’s statement declared that “no one should be trying to stir unrest as the country was about to witness a very important royal ceremony — the coronation…”. It added that the “royal decree was the prerogative of … the King and it was highly inappropriate for anyone to demand to know when the decree would be issued.”

Khaosod reports that “[i]t is unclear who’s behind the group.”

However, pro-election protest leader Sirawith Seritiwat said he “believes the counter-protesters are agent provocateurs organized by the military to incite violence.” He linked them to the Internal Security Operation Command.

The Unity before Election group is led by Pansuwan Na Kaew, “a former leader of a faction supporting the People’s Democratic Reform Committee…”.

These self-proclaimed X-men are doing the military’s work.





Nonsensical charges

2 11 2018

The military junta claims that there will be an election. It is letting it be known that the best chance of that election will be for 24 February.

Back on 27 January this year, a group of political activists demonstrated to demand an election.

But as the Bangkok Post reports, the activists “have been indicted in court for illegal assembly…”.

Those indicted by prosecutors are:

Rangsiman Rome, a Thammasat University law student; Sirawith Seritiwat, a political science graduate from Thammasat; Arnon Nampa, a lawyer; Ekachai Hongkangwan, a regime critic; Sukrit Piansuwan, a former Thammasat economics student; Netiwit Chotepatpaisal, a Chulalongkorn University political science student; Nuttaa Mahattana, an activist and moderator; and Sombat Boonngam-anong, an activist for an anti-coup group called Wan Arthit Si Daeng (Red Sunday).

The Post thinks it important to report that way back then, these protesters were “about 150 metres from Sra Pathum Palace.” The Post doesn’t explain why this is significant to anything associated with the action.

The Post does not say anything about the nonsensical charging of persons demanding an election that the junta seems keen to grant at roughly about the time that the protesters wanted it.

The court “promptly accepted the case for hearing. All of the accused denied the charges and applied for bail.”





Sedition as the new lese majeste

28 09 2018

According to the Bangkok Post, “[p]rosecutors have charged six pro-election activists who rallied on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in February with sedition.”

The six were Sirawith Seritiwat, 25; Anon Nampa, 33; Chonthicha Jaengreo, 25; Sukrit Piansuwan, 24; Nattaa Mahattana, 39; and Karn Pongprapapan, 25.

Under the junta, sedition now means ” violating an NCPO order banning political assembling of more than five.” Sedition can mean 7 years in jail. Clearly, the junta thinks itself inviolable. How very monarchical!

These six just happened to be singled out from about 400 who rallied “for an early general election at the Democracy Monument on Feb 10.” 50 were “charged with violating the assembly ban but the co-leaders also faced the sedition charge.”

The Nation reports that there are now 15 political activists who “face sedition charges in six different cases in connection with their pro-election gatherings.”

Sedition is the new lese majeste for the junta when it suppresses its opponents.





May Day and the military boot

1 05 2018

State enterprise unions played significant roles in both sets of yellow-shirt uprisings in 2005-06 and 2013-14, siding with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. In both instances, the idea of unions of any ilk joining forces with royalists and the military seemed somewhat odd.

But having done so, you would think that the military would cut them some slack for May Day marches. It seems the junta has done just that, picking and choosing which workers get support.

Khaosod reports that “[h]undreds … took part in the state enterprise union’s rally … without any interference from the authorities”

However, at other rallies, soldiers “seized banners from marching workers demanding democracy today in northern Bangkok, while a union leader was detained at a downtown police station for staging a protest in front of the United States embassy.”

Labor rights campaigner Sripai Nonsee said her group in Pathum Thani was held by police and soldiers who “demanded to see the banners they were carrying. Banners that mentioned elections and democracy were confiscated…”. She added: “[t]hey looked for words like election and democracy, especially election…. They told us to give them up.”

The activist said soldiers and police met with her yesterday to discuss today’s rally, and allowed them to carry the banners as long as they didn’t hold them up. Security officers reneged on that promise today, she said.

Meanwhile, union activist Boonyuen Sookmai “led General Motors workers to hold a rally in front of the US embassy on Wireless Road earlier this morning. He said police took him to Lumpini Police Station after he submitted the workers’ complaint to an embassy official.”

The GM workers rallied “to protest the automobile firm’s expulsion of 300 union members in November.”

State enterprise union leader Chalee Loysoong “explained” that his people celebrated “National Labor Day,” a hangover of the despotic past and of the despotic present and “not the international spirit of May Day.” Chalee claimed the workers preferred a fair to anything that highlighted worker rights and grievances.

The picture is clear: the state enterprise unions remain puppets of anti-democrats and the fascist regime.

In fact, though, “scores later joined a demonstration down Ratchadamnoen Avenue organized by the Labour Confederation of Thailand.” This rally saw activists take turns “condemning the military government and calling for an election within this year on a truck as they marched down the historic avenue. Speakers included anti-coup activist leader Sirawith Seritiwat.”

That’s more like it!





Pressure

25 03 2018

We have been seeing considerable efforts by the junta to block PPT. This blocking seems to coincide with posts that are critical of the junta and its “election.” It also coincides with a considerable uptick in anti-junta activism.

Keeping the pressure on seems to be the response. On Friday, pro-democracy activist Rangsiman Rome was detained briefly by a military court “over two-year-old charges he violated the junta’s ban on political assembly while in the northeastern province.” Held for five hours, he paid a 10,000 baht bond. Not much, but the emphasis is on pressure.

On Saturday, activists “stepped up their [pro-election/anti-junta] campaign by urging the army to stop supporting the junta and setting a deadline for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the military junta] to step down.”

A sign recycled from 2010 (clipped from the Bangkok Post)

While some news reports said 400 people rallied at Thammasat University others said there were up to 2000.

Speakers made three demands: “the election must be held in November; the NCPO must be dissolved and the government must become a caretaker; and the army must stop supporting the NCPO.”

Rangsiman “said that if the three demands are not met, his group would begin a major series of prolonged rallies on May 5 to oust the NCPO.” He called the junta a “traitor to Thailand.”

Sirawith Seritiwat “said the army would be the first to be pressed to end its support for the NCPO.” He declared that: “If the army does not respond, we’ll pile pressure on the government and the NCPO’s network such as the National Legislative Assembly…”.

When the protesters tried to walk to Army headquarters, “skirmishes were reported as they tried to pass through a wall of police and soldiers…”. There were some 600 junta protectors at work against the activists.

At Army headquarters, Rangsiman thundered:

When there is democracy, your dirty bosses will go to jail, so don’t lick their boots too much,” Rangsiman said. “Don’t you feel anything? That you have to come protect military headquarters but not a single soldier is here?

Pressure on all sides.





Get out!

13 03 2018

Pro-election activists have demanded that “the military junta step down, with the government downgraded to caretaker status ahead of the general election.”

AFP reports that “[h]undreds of pro-democracy Thais rallied in Bangkok on Saturday (March 10) to rail against the ruling junta with T-shirts, signs and speeches, as activists grow bolder in their defiance of a ban on protests.”

The demand for a caretaker administration makes sense, although we can’t imagine the military junta giving up the tremendous advantage the control of the state machinery gives pro-junta parties in the junta’s proposed “election.” Military governments in Thailand usually only go when they are pushed.

Several hundred “people gathered at the football field on the Tha Phrachan campus of Thammasat University on Saturday to make the demand.”

When Sirawith Seritiwat states that the junta will hold an election that is free and fair, he might have said that it is more likely to be unfree and unfair.

The demonstrators claimed they were offering the junta “an exit strategy.”

The rally also saw vendors selling “shirts with sly references to a spate of graft scandals that have helped fuel the dissent.” A black leopard was one. Watches were also in evidence. Both pointed to “an entrenched culture of impunity for the kingdom’s wealthy and well-connected.”





Parties bail, activists keep going

19 02 2018

A couple of days ago we posted on the activist “roadmap” on rallies to demand an “election.” In demanding that the junta hold the election it has promised but repeatedly “delayed,” the activists made a call for all political parties to join them.

The spineless politicians from all sides rushed to decline the offer. While some of their excuses sound reasonable, it should also be remembered that political parties have almost never been in the vanguard of political change in Thailand. More often than not they have been resistant to real change or in bringing down military regimes.

Meanwhile, activists held another pro-election rally in Korat.

Activist leader Sirawith Seritiwat said activists would soon host similar activities in other major cities.

The event in Korat “included the distribution of leaflets and was lived-streamed on Facebook, while officials in attendance apparently did not disturb the activities.”

As in the past, activists are leading the political way forward.