Each grovel is a democratic setback

20 10 2018

The various UN agencies have been a happy hunting ground for palace officials and royalist toadies who seek honor after honor to be conferred on royals. One example was the great sucking sound attached to the launch of the UNDP’s report on sufficiency economy under the previous post-coup government. And the UN award invented for the previous king.

Each grovel by the UN before the world’s wealthy monarchs is a setback for democracy because it lauds feudal ridiculousness.

The latest report of groveling involves UNICEF. It is revealed that Princess Sirindhorn “has been honoured with a life-time achievement award … in recognition of her relentless efforts to improve the quality of life of children in Thailand.” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore declared that the princess had made “significant contributions and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children in Thailand…”.

An AP Photo

We scratched our collective head on this and decided to determine what she is said to have done for kids.

So, we looked at a UNICEF report.

It says Fore gushed that Sirindhorn got the prize most especially for “her advocacy and Royal Patronage projects on issues such as combatting iodine deficiency, promoting good nutrition for disadvantaged children, promoting literacy and education activities and her focus on marginalized groups living in remote areas…”.

Well, she may have patronized such things, but the ideas, work and outcomes have almost nothing to do with this royal.

Sitting atop stuff in Thailand is the way the feudal system of patronage is. So UNICEF is rewarding feudal patronage.

There are a bunch of dedicated medicos who worked on IDD from a time the princess was a coddled baby. The same is true for nutrition. They should be rewarded, not a feudal figurehead. We could go through the whole list of “human development, including nutrition, health and hygiene, education, water resource development and agriculture” and point to scores of deserving people and not one of them is a pampered princess.

The 1983 “projects to improve access to and quality of education for children in the remote areas and marginalized communities” was essentially counterinsurgency and run by the murderous police and military.

Her Royal Highness has also led an Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Project since 1990. Combined with significant efforts by UNICEF around systematic salt iodization by salt producing companies in Thailand, Iodine Deficiency Disorder rate in primary school children has continuously been under 5 per cent.

UNICEF should know better, but its people in Bangkok are dedicated and servile royalists.





Suthep’s big lie

4 06 2018

We at PPT are bemused by some of the media commentary regarding Suthep Thaugsuban’s political resurrection over the past few days.

Our bemusement is regarding the fact that some commentators expected the Democrat Party’s former bagman and godfather to keep his word when he said he was finished with politics.

Suthep and friends

Few of Thailand’s politicians make promises and keep them. That’s one reason why Thaksin Shinawatra remains so popular – he made campaign promises to the electorate and pretty much kept them. He may have been sneaky and shady too, but he kept the big promises. Or at least the ones the electorate appreciated.

But renege on his promise he did. From never being involved in politics again, he’s back in thick of it.

His excuse for his return in lamentable. He says he has to defend the junta’s constitution. He added that his party – that’s the Action Coalition for Thailand – “will protect the 2017 constitution – arguing support for the charter was reflected when it cruised through the referendum…”. As an anti-democrat it must be remembered that he is content with the unfair and unfree referendum where the junta allowed only one outcome.

He also bellowed: “There will be no pardon for any political prisoners…”. We are not sure if it is the reporting or its his words, but Suthep is acknowledging that the junta has jails full of political prisoners. After all, it is only those arrested and charged sin mid-2014 that are the subject of any proposal for “pardons.”

In his old kit as “a recruiter and fund-raiser for the ACT” – something he did for the Democrat Party using all kinds of dark influences – he declared that he couldn’t just do that: “when brothers and sisters who share the same ideology approached me and told me they were establishing a people’s political party, I had to join…”. He went on with populist rhetoric: “I will not run for the election [we can check on that one later!]. I volunteer to be a slave for the people and serve the people. I will use my 40 years of experience in politics to push and accomplish the establishment of the people’s party.”

It is a minority party, with its organizers who sit in Suthep’s shadow hoping for just 30 seats.

Explaining his big lie, Suthep explained that he was a “good” person, so his lies don’t count. He then added more populist blarney.

Party jumper Anek Laothamatas, who also can’t be trusted on anything political as his spots change daily, said ACT would be “governed by religious ethics and truly owned by the people, is a coalition of citizens that respects and aims to safeguard the monarchy.”

It sounds a bit like Tea Party Thailand, and that’s dangerous stuff, not least for keeping the monarchy at the top of a political agenda. Explanation: using the monarchy for political purposes is okay for “good” people, including former Communists.

In case anyone wasn’t quite convinced of CPT-cum-Democrat-cum-Mahachon-cum-Puea Thai-cum-ACT Anek’s royalism, he added that ACT would be “reducing inequality using the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s approach to development…”. We assume that’s the sufficiency economy nonsense.

We understand that Anek has now resigned from the junta’s puppet work and the handsome salary he received there. We guess that ACT moneybags like Suthep and others who supported Suthep in the past, like the Rangsit University proprietor, will stump up the funds for Anek’s services as figurehead leader of ACT.

While ACT wants to “reform in police and justice system by ensuring that the institutions involved will not become tools of politics,” he very pointedly accepts the military’s murderous political role. We can’t recall the last time the police led a coup in Thailand.

Of course, ACT is likely to want to support The Dictator as premier after the junta’s election.





Royalist propaganda for the new reign

23 12 2017

Royal and royalist propaganda has not decreased with the new reign. Indeed, there has been a dogged determination to make the new reign look a bit like the old reign,

One of the reasons for this is that the military dictators view royal myths and propaganda as the keystone of the conservative political order.

The Nation reports reports on a new and permanent exhibition at Museum Siam that claims to display “the evolution of Thai culture” but which is little more than royalist propaganda.

The exhibition is claimed to explore “diverse aspects of Thainess” but there’s little “diversity” in the underlying codes of royalist determinations of “Thainess.” It does this “through 14 rooms spread across two floors.”

While the exhibitions play with notions of “Thainess,” there is nothing but standard and approved views of monarchy. One curator is quoted:

It is believed that the King has divine status and the architecture related to the monarchy is traditionally fashioned around this belief. To Thais, the King is the heart and soul of the nation….

So all of the playing with “Thainess” is okay when it is popular culture but not when it comes to the keystone of official “Thainess.”

The “Thailand’s Three Pillars” room has official “Thainess” in its invented traditionalism:

The core concepts of Thailand’s three deeply rooted institutions, nation, religion and monarchy, which collectively reflect the expression of Thainess, are featured in the “Thailand’s Three Pillars” room.

Using trendy gimmickry visitors are “invited” to accept this royalist traditionalism in a periodization straight out of school textbooks hammered into reigns.

In all of this standardization of “Thainess,” the 1997 economic crisis is highlighted as leading “many Thais to recognise the wisdom of the ‘sufficiency economy’ espoused by … King Bhumibol Adulyadej…”.

Royalism is “hipsterized” and made “normal” and “standard.” No alternatives views allowed. That’s royalist propaganda for a new reign.





Sufficiency economy and refugee repatriation

30 03 2017

We missed this gem of a story a few days ago and thought it still worth a comment.

The military regime is seeking to send almost 70,000 refugees displaced by fighting in Myanmar back home. “Voluntarily” is the term used, which is a change from past efforts.

Third Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the Myanmar government “has prepared areas for them and current peace talks with armed ethnic groups in Myanmar look promising…”. Perhaps not if you are reading the Myanmar press, but that’s his claim.

Lt Gen Vijak said the “United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will coordinate and fund the refugees’ return, while the Thai government will act as a facilitator…”. If true, that’s better than previous efforts too.

But then this:

“We will also teach the refugees about King Rama IX’s sufficiency economy,” Lt Gen Vijak said, hoping these principles would be able to inspire them to pursue productive lives in Myanmar.

Like all displaced persons, it’s pretty sure that they will struggle when they return. Sufficiency economy is a way of making them feel grateful for their future suffering.





Political opponents are “dogs”

16 09 2016

Coup leader, self-appointed prime minister and prime ministerial “hopeful” General Prayuth Chan-ocha, together with some of his junta cabinet ministers spent “about five hours boasting of their achievements and performances for the past two years” a couple of days ago.

Five hours is a long time to sing one’s own praises, but the arrogance of The Dictator knows few bounds and no one in his gang of posterior polishers is able or prepared to tell him to shut up.

They apparently believe the polls that claim The Dictator is hugely popular. The “referendum” result has confirmed this for them and for The Dictator.

As far as we have seen no one has fact-checked The Dictator’s claims, but these days facts count for little. If The Dictator says it is so, then it is. The media is remarkably tame, although we admit that several newspapers have belatedly criticized the “report,” including the Bangkok Post and The Nation.

The item in The Dictator’s rant “report” that caught our attention was in a Thai PBS report, where the gloating self-appointee berated political opponents, calling them “dogs.”

He stated that “there are, today, dogs that keep harassing ‘phuyai of our country’ despite the fact that they have been working tirelessly for the good of the country.”

Prayuth perhaps sees himself as a “phuyai,” although we doubt the grandees of Thai society consider him other than a useful servant. His support of the existing ruling class is hardly news as it is this ability to serve the elite that has seen Prayuth rise to the top of the military and run a coup for the elite.

Prayuth declared that for “the country to move forward, to prosper and to be in peace, he said everyone in the country must abide by the law [his law], be responsible, not causing conflicts and not violating human rights [ignoring the junta’s own repeated and continual abuse of these rights].”

He also babbled a bit about royal ideology and sufficiency economy.

Prayuth seems certain he will be prime minister after any “election” the junta arranges.





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.





No original thought

30 09 2015

One of the things about being a royalist is that one has standardized answers for all issues and not an original thought is ever possible (or necessary). Rather, there is simply a slavish adherence to feudal ideology and nonsensical notions.

The Bangkok Post has published a translation of royalist General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s speech at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015.

Prayuth is not known for his environmentalism. Indeed, his military dictatorship has been giving armed support to mining companies against villagers and has been throwing poor farmers off their land to create space for Special Economic Zones. At the U.N. he suddenly became concerned for the environment, saying:

We can continue on the path of rampant consumerism and maximise growth at all costs. Or we can choose to live sustainably, focusing on quality, moderation and balance in our lives. We can choose to respect nature, rather than viewing it as merely a commodity to be exploited.

That might be reasonable and sensible, but then The Dictator comes up with this nonsense:

What I have just said derives from His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy philosophy. This philosophy — with its emphasis on reason, moderation and building resilience — saw us through several crises, including the 1997 financial crisis and the 2004 tsunami. It also helped Thailand achieve nearly all the MDGs, and guides our 2015-2020 vision and the forthcoming national economic and social development plan.

The king is the reason for everything in Prayuth’s royalist world. Of course, he’s making this stuff up (and writing all people and Thaksin Shinawatra out of his history). Prayuth has a delusional existence and forces the people and country to inhabit it as well.

As a report in The Nation makes clear, sufficiency economy is being banged and shoved into policy and appears to require “[g]reater economic self-reliance [that] will return … Thailand towards becoming the Land of Smiles once again…”.

In a junta newsletter, said to have been distributed to the public, and titled “From the Heart of the Prime Minister,” Prayuth demands that “Thais to become more self-reliant economically.” He wants people to “have enough food on the table” and to be able to “sleep.”

The Dictator reportedly stated that he wanted to return Thailand to the past, to again “become ‘Smiling Siam’ that is known to the world…”. Snarls not smiles under the military dictatorship and Siam? Back to the 1930s? Absolute “democracy” or monarchy, absolute sufficiency and absolute nonsense.