Looking after the family’s interests I

17 04 2016

The recent chatter on social media has been of nepotism is becoming a din. Several of the local media have tiptoed around the story because it involves the leaking of a secret military order that involves the testy and erratic General Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator of Thailand.

Khaosod has an initial report. It states that a “nephew of junta chairman and [self-appointed] Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has allegedly been given a post in the army and a lieutenancy…”.

The order appointing the 25 year-old Patipat Chan-ocha was “signed by his father, a member of the ruling junta who until recently was a top army commander.” That is General Preecha Chan-ocha, The Dictator’s brother. Preecha has form, having been involved in the Rajabhakdi Park cover-up and also to have displayed poor arithmetical skills (well, that would be the kind interpretation) on his wealth declaration.Preecha

Khaosod was careful – as it needs to be when dealing with a ruthless junta – and declared that the leaked document’s “appearance and format is consistent with formal documents of the Thai bureaucracy.”

The document was marked “secret,” which itself seems odd when it is about a lowly appointment. This suggests that those involved, including Preecha, knew this appointment was not above board.

Initially, junta ventriloquist’s dummy Colonel Winthai Suvaree refused to comment, using the Sgt Schultz excuse.

Khaosod describes Preecha as “former commander of the Third Region Army and a brother of Gen. Prayuth. Preecha is currently a member of the junta and serves on its appointed legislative body.”These latter appointments caused some raised eyebrows and claims of nepotism, but The Dictator is, well, The Dictator.

The leaked letter “identified Patipat as a graduate of Naresuan University’s mass communications faculty. It did not explain his job description in the army, or why he was chosen for both the position and the lieutenancy other than noting that nothing in army regulations disqualified Patipat from serving.”

In a follow-up Khaosod story, Preecha “admitted … that he gave a job and army rank to his son,” and then went on to defend his actions, “saying it’s common practice in the military.”

We guess that it’s common, like torturing and murdering recruits. It’s just one of those things that makes the Army one of the most bestial and corrupt organizations in the country.

Preecha’s explanation of his actions sounds like the comment of a Sino-Thai tycoon promoting a young son to vice president in the family-run conglomerate: “My son graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, and he has to work…. Now that there’s a vacant position, I put him to work in it. Many people in the army do it. It’s not like only my son does it.”

He refused to say more. As he put it, in the best traditions of a corrupt military: “That’s all for now.”

Preecha’s nepotism has caused critics to point to double standards: “Stop Hypocrisy in Thailand, which was the first to publicize the leaked memo, compared the letter to the junta’s gripe with nepotism in the previous government led by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” It recalls the anti-democrat’s claiming that the Shinawatra clan was “running the country like their family business.” It observes that “Today, they [the Chan-ocha family] do the very same thing.”

Exiled academic and Prayuth foe Somsak Jeamteerasakul is correct when he likens “the Chan-ochas to the Kittikachorns, the family of the junta that ruled the kingdom in the 1970s. Thanom Kittikachorn and his son Narong served as chairman and secretary-general of the ruling junta, respectively.” He reportedly added: “But Narong [at least] studied in the military academy … It’s not like he graduated with something totally unrelated and used his father’s status as prime minister’s brother to get himself into the military,” Somsak wrote on Facebook.

We expect The Dictator to be livid and to jump about a bit and then seek a cover-up. We might be wrong, but this is his form. As the junta indulges in double standards, corruption and nepotism it undermines its political position. That said, the junta retains the foundational support of the establishment suggesting that double standards, corruption and nepotism can further deepen as the charter referendum gets closer.





Updates on Somsak and LINE

12 04 2016

A couple of updates of record.

First, several outlets have reported the good news that Dr Somsak Jeamteerasakul, currently in political exile in France, has seen the Central Administrative Court rule that his dismissal by Thammasat University without pension and other benefits “was unlawful, thus reinstating Somsak’s status as a lecturer at Thammasat.” The university may appeal, which would be retrograde and spiteful.

Second, New Mandala has tracked down the “offending” LINE “stickers” that recently caused a royalist kerfuffle. It has more information on these:

The set called “Silly Family” featured 41 stickers cleverly poking fun at the politically controversial clan. In Thailand, critical public discussion of the family has been banned under the nation’s notorious and harsh lese majeste laws.

The satirical set depicts Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn competing for their father’s attention and squabbling over the throne. It also portrays Princess Chulabhorn next to a chemistry set underneath the caption “Trust Me”, referencing her numerous and questionable honorary degrees in the field, as well as featuring the Crown Prince’s spoiled poodle Foo Foo.

 





The academic 9

10 03 2016

It had to happen. The military dictatorship can simply not control itself on lese majeste. The longer it consumes the helium that seeps from its high position, the more bizarre become its lese majeste accusations and charges, not to mention the sentences meted out.

Prachatai reports that that nine persons are to be charged with lese majeste over the Tob Jote/ตอบโจทย์ television show in 2013. ThaiPBS aired the program on the monarchy and lese majeste law on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013. The series featured Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Sulak Sivaraksa, Surakiart Sathirathai and retired Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn, the latter a hard-boiled monarchist. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma. All are mentioned in the new set of charges, with four others.

In a post from some time ago PPT quoted the then army chief:

… Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha “has lashed out at the Tob Jote TV programme for broadcasting a debate over the role of the monarchy.” … He considers the “broadcast was inappropriate at a time of political conflict.” So the timing was wrong? Probably not. Prayuth doesn’t want any discussion of the role of the monarchy that goes outside the narrow boundaries of the official treacly narrative.

In the latest report, the “deputy police chief announced after a meeting of a police committee tasked for investigating lèse majesté cases that the committee has concluded that, within the scope of Article 112, the nine have allegedly committed crime. The officer, however, refrained from mentioning in details as to when the case file will be sent to the prosecutor office.”

The military monarchists are, as we have said previously, becoming increasingly unhinged as the king’s death approaches. That event will allow the military regime to extend its rule and manage a succession.





Reviews and reads

9 03 2016

Readers might be interested in two more reviews of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis. We posted on earlier at least eight earlier reviews of the book, and these reviews can be found here.

The first is probably already widely known as it is by Andrew Walker at New Mandala. In a lengthy review, Walker states:

It certainly is a myth-busting tour-de-force showing how Thai kings, and the elites that surround them, have regularly generated political crises, which also reflect competition between narrow sectional interests.  However, whether or not the book will achieve its myth-busting objective is hard to tell. Most readers, I suspect, will already be converts to MacGregor Marshall’s position. By contrast, those who subscribe to the royal mythology will probably be confirmed in their view that unsympathetic Westerners like MacGregor Marshall are determined to slander the royal institution.Kingdom in crisis

Walker concludes:

… Marshall’s preoccupation with the succession points to a broader problem with this book.

Despite its provocations and iconoclasm this is very much a royalist account of Thai history. Like Thailand’s royalists, MacGregor Marshall places the king at the heart of the Thai polity. In A Kingdom in Crisis, contestation over royal power is the engine room of 21st century Thai politics, as it has been over the past millennium (p  213).

The mass of people sometimes do feature, but they are peripheral to MacGregor Marshall’s central purpose. When they do enter into the narrative, it is as an undifferentiated mass of “ordinary  people” who are struggling against the elite in pursuit of “greater freedom and a fairer society” (p 109).

This two-dimensional and a-historical model — a cut-throat elite ruling over a repressed population — is classic orientalism and contributes little to an understanding of the complex and cross-cutting social and economic forces that have brought Thailand to its contemporary political impasse.

The other review is by Jim Glassman in the journal Pacific Affairs. The review can be freely viewed. The review begins:

The publication of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis has been a much-awaited event among Thai scholars. Marshall, a Scottish journalist who used to work for Reuters, has been releasing large pieces of this study for a number of years now, at his “#thaistory” blog. The book adds something to this material but will not be a huge surprise to those who have read his work at the blog site.

Glassman adds that the book is stre

Given the relative paucity of accessible and critical English-language writing about the Thai monarchy, and the risks that such writing entails, A Kingdom in Crisis should be considered a significant accomplishment, and Zed Books should be given credit for being willing to publish it….

For many scholars and people fairly familiar with Thai politics, some of Marshall’s analysis will nonetheless prove fairly thin gruel. It is not only that there has actually been a string of books in recent history that raise telling issues about the monarchy and challenges of succession—for example, the works by Benedict Anderson, Paul Handley, Soren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager, William Stevenson, David Streckfuss and Thongchai Winichakul, which the author cites, as well as works by Kevin Hewison, Rayne Kruger and Somsak Jeamteerasakul, which he doesn’t cite—but Marshall’s explanation of the current crisis is somewhat one-sided.

Acknowledging shortcomings in the book, Glassman concludes:

A Kingdom in Crisis is a useful read, particularly for those unfamiliar with the roles of royalist-military elites (and their international allies) in shaping Thailand’s ongoing struggles for democracy. It will certainly find its place on the bookshelves of Thai democracy activists—provided they do not live in Thailand.

In the same issue of Pacific Affairs there is an article which is of interest because it is based on a survey of serving military officers. The authors of “Professionals and Soldiers: Measuring Professionalism in the Thai Military” are Punchada Sirivunnabood of Mahidol University and Jacob Isaac Ricks of Singapore Management University. The abstract states:

Thailand’s military has recently reclaimed its role as the central pillar of Thai politics. This raises an enduring question in civil-military relations: why do people with guns choose to obey those without guns? One of the most prominent theories in both academic and policy circles is Samuel Huntington’s argument that professional militaries do not become involved in politics. We engage this premise in the Thai context. Utilizing data from a new and unique survey of 569 Thai military officers as well as results from focus groups and interviews with military officers, we evaluate the attitudes of Thai servicemen and develop a test of Huntington’s hypothesis. We demonstrate that increasing levels of professionalism are generally poor predictors as to whether or not a Thai military officer prefers an apolitical military. Indeed, our research suggests that higher levels of professionalism as described by Huntington may run counter to civilian control of the military. These findings provide a number of contributions. First, the survey allows us to operationalize and measure professionalism at the individual level. Second, using these measures we are able to empirically test Huntington’s hypothesis that more professional soldiers should prefer to remain apolitical. Finally, we provide an uncommon glimpse at the opinions of Thai military officers regarding military interventions, adding to the relatively sparse body of literature on factors internal to the Thai military which push officers toward politics.

Meanwhile, at the Journal of Contemporary Asia, a third paper from the forthcoming Special Issue, Military, Monarchy and Repression: Assessing Thailand’s Authoritarian Turn, has been published. “Inequality, Wealth and Thailand’s Politics” is by well-known political economist Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit of Chulalongkorn University.

The abstract for the paper states:

Acemoglu and associates argue that resistance to democratisation will be stronger where inequality is high. Piketty shows that shifts at the upper end of the distribution may be historically more significant than overall measures of inequality. In Thailand, the high level of income inequality has eased slightly since 2000, but there is a ‘1% problem’ as peak incomes are growing faster than the average. Newly available data show that inequality of wealth is very high. At the top of the wealth pyramid, family holdings of commercial capital are growing. A significant proportion of top entrepreneurs have emerged within the past generation. A second tier of the wealth elite has developed over the past generation from rising property values, financial investments and professional incomes. Although their individual wealth is much less than the corporate elite, their numbers are much greater. The existence of the prospering ‘1%’ and the emergence of the second-tier wealthy may corroborate Acemoglu’s proposition, but there are tensions within the wealth elite which may favour democracy.





The judiciary and Somsak

7 03 2016

Readers will recall that late in February, the military dictatorship again moved against Somsak Jeamteerasakul, seeking to again investigate allegations of lese majeste. Somsak has been the subject of lese majeste complaints for years, with several of the complaints emanating from none other than The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

In something of a sideshow to that event, on 1 March, it was reported that the senior judge of the Administrative Court stated that “there were ‘extraordinary reasons’ that prevented historian Somsak … tending a proper resignation to Thammasat University in 2014, when he fled for France in the wake of the military takeover.”

The case is about the “university’s decision to fire Somsak instead of accepting his letter of resignation [which] meant he would be denied a pension and other benefits despite having taught there for more than 20 years.” In exile, Somsak “appointed a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against Thammasat, alleging he was dismissed unfairly.”

Unremarkable in the junta’s Thailand, Khaosod reports that a “ruling in [the] … wrongful termination suit … has been indefinitely postponed…”. Lawyers say the “court has placed its ruling on indefinite hold without explanation.”

In the land of the junta we guess no explanation is required as interference and political connivance with the judiciary is completely normal and expected by all.





Somsak ++ lese majeste accusations

26 02 2016

Apparently, having academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul outside Thailand and living in exile is insufficient for royalists and the military dictatorship. Reports at both Khaosod and Prachatai confirm that the junta is seeking to charge Somsak with lese majeste along with several others.

The report is that “[p]olice have reopened a criminal investigation into a former history professor who criticized the monarchy in a interview broadcast nearly three years ago…”.

Somsak has been pursued by many royalists and most especially by The Dictator himself for lese majeste, and it is never clear to us if any of these accusations have stuck. In any case, after the junta grabbed power, Somsak read the very clear tea leaves and took off for Paris.

Apparently, this is a new case and stems from “[s]everal people hav[ing] filed complaints of royal defamation against Somsak … since [his] … interview was aired March 2013  on Thai PBS…”.Somsak

ThaiPBS aired a “talk program on lèse majesté law…. The program Tob Joad (The Answers) was broadcast … on 11-14 March and 18 March 2013.” The series “featured Sulak Sivaraksa, an anti-lese majeste law royalist, Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister, and Pol Gen Wasit Dejkunchorn. The show hosted by Pinyo Trisuriyathamma.”

According to police, no action has ever been taken on these complaints. This proves that police can be sensible, but they are now under great pressure from mad royalists in the junta and outside.

In fact, the deputy chief of Royal Thai Police is appointed to oversee the case or cases, showing just how mad and threatening things have become.

Apparently the deputy chief has to view the show and decide “whether it is considered illegal.”  He’s right to use the word “considered” because the letter of the law simply doesn’t matter in Thailand under the military dictatorship.

If  he decides that someone – let’s say an erratic dunce like General Prayuth Chan-ocha – “considers” the content lese majeste, then “Somsak and other people involved in the TV program will be charged under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, which outlaws any negative remark about the Royal Family, with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.” This might include “executives of Thai PBS TV station…”.

All of this relates to a 12 March 2013 interview with  Somsak, then a history professor at Thammasat University, on the monarchy and the constitution, where he suggested that the royals exceeded the “limits imposed by the legal framework of the modern constitutional monarchy.”

The programs from the show Tob Jote are available at YouTube. Start here.

Of course, he’s right, but the mad monarchists seem to favor an absolute monarchy and a royal deity.





Important stuff we have neglected

14 11 2015

Brave woman demands military reform: Thailand’s military brass is a bunch of corrupt, murderous thugs who use the monarchy to enrich and empower themselves. Because there is a military dictatorship, not many are prepared to state the obvious need for change in the military. Pakawadee Veerapaspong, a democracy activist and independent writer does say it. Not only does she say it, be she says it very loudly “in front of Army Headquarters on 31 October 2015, saying that unless the Thai military return to their barracks and leave the political arena for good, political reform is just so much lip service.”

Military junta supporting business cronies: The Ministry of Industry ordered to amend the 1975 Town and City Planning Act to be more “flexible” in order to facilitate industry. Sounding like it is still 1975, the Ministry of Industry will allow the Ministry of Interior to work on this. The idea is to amend the Act to allow industry in city and residential areas. Part of the motivation comes from “business operators in the [dirty and polluting] industrial estate of Map Ta Phut in the eastern province of Rayong [which] want the state to increase the land for industry from 25,000 rai (40 sq km) at present to 35,000 rai (56 sq km).”

Age no barrier to junta harassment: Somsak Jeamteerasakul wisely went into exile when the military junta came to power and accused him of lese majeste. The Dictator has been after Somsak for several years and has launched personal and emotional attacks on him. Somsak’s mother is 92 years old. Military thugs have shown up at her home and intimidated her.

Alleged Bangkok bombers still not charged: Readers may recall our skepticism over the alleged bombers arrested following the August Rajaprasong and river bombs. The two accused, Mohammad Bilal and Yusufu Mieraili, have now been held for more than 70 days and still no charges have been laid.

Buddhism as state religion: Almost every time a new constitution is drafted, radical Buddhists ask for the religion to be elevated to the state’s religion. They are at it again, seeking one million supporters. With the military junta emphasizing nation and monarchy, adding the last of the neo-fascist trilogy will please ultra-nationalists.

Neo-fascist, racist rant: In a scripted visit to red-shirt country, The Dictator went on another of his rants, demanding that “Thais” support his manipulation of politics: “Are you Thai? If you are Thai, we need to help each other. If you don’t help today, when will you?”

Using the military courts: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have all the data on the junta’s increased use of military courts. When civilians are in front to such courts there is no justice.

Detentions

Red shirts jailed I: For allegedly burning the Khon Kaen provinvial hall, two men got 13 years in jail and another two received 3 years.

Red shirts jailed II: The Criminal Court on Friday sentenced two red shirt guards to 43 years each for involvement in the firing of an M79 grenade at a rally of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee in 2014. The grenade missed the target.

Double standards and courts concocting stuff: “A court has dismissed charges against an anti-election protester accused of preventing the 2014 advance election, saying that it was election officials who cancelled the election.” Horse manure of course as “election officials” were in cahoots with the anti-democrats who forcibly and violently prevented candidates registering and voters from casting ballots.








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