Regression and the consolidation of military power

5 01 2017

Generals are saying there will be an “election” in 2017, contradicting all the flunkies they’ve hired to get all the laws in place to allow and “election.” It matters little, for as the military junta has planned, an “election” won’t change anything. The military’s Thai-style democracy is not democratic in any way and leaves real decision-making to the royalist elite.

A story at Scoop Media, based in New Zealand tells some of the story, mixed with a little royalist nonsense. We quote some of the insightful bits and ignore the royalist tripe.

[General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s post-coup policies are also defending Thailand’s “old money” elite against social climbing “nouveau riche” rivals.

Those quashed rivals are led by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who Prayuth helped topple in a 2006 coup, and by Thaksin’s sister former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra who was ousted by Prayuth’s 2014 coup….

During the past two years, his regime moved supporters into top positions within the military, police, bureaucracy, judiciary and legislature, to ensure the military’s leverage over future policies and governments….

Prayuth … continues to strengthen his forces against his two biggest enemies, the Shinawatra siblings.

Former Prime Minister Yingluck is being prosecuted for her alleged “negligence” while administering rice subsidies during 2012-14.

She must pay $1 billion in compensation to the government for financial “losses”….

The royalists, the “old money” elite, Sino-Thai tycoons and the frightened middle class in Bangkok are backing Prayuth. They are backing King Vajiralongkorn, even if they did have had doubts about him. They have little choice. They know their wealth and privilege requires a continuation of the conservative military-monarchy coalition.





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.





Go back, way back II

14 10 2015

The Dictator is getting what he wants, at least from the new Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan. As we noted yesterday, Meechai apparently has the new, draft constitution pretty much done, after only a couple of days on the job. Not bad for an old codger, but then he has a records for copying drafts from old military constitutions used in the past.

The Bangkok Post has helpfully summarized what can be expected.Meechai's horrible joke

Democracy is essentially a thing of the past for Thailand. Meechai declared that only “some” so-called democratic features “will still be retained in the new charter such as elections, elected MPs and an elected government…”. On the bright side, at least this means Thailand is not reverting to an absolute monarchy.

Meechai gave assurances that the CDC will aim to “design a democracy that is best suited to the country and to the Thai people and insist they will not copy models of democracy from other countries…”. On the dark side, this means “Thai-style democracy.” As we have noted many times, this means no democracy at all.

For Meechai, Thai-style democracy means “a non-elected outsider will be allowed to become prime minister under the new constitution.” He argues that parliament will be able to nominate a premier who is not a member of parliament, observing that “the constitutions of more than 60 democratic countries do not require a prime minister to be an elected MP, whereas the charters of about 20 democratic countries stipulate a premier must be an elected MP.” This is more or less true, but parliament must operate under appropriate democratic principles, not as some kind of deformed club designed by a military cabal.

The elitist in Meechai worries about parliament picking what he calls a “nobody” MP to lead government: “What if the House chooses an MP who is a chauffeur and a nominee acting on behalf of someone to become a prime minister…”. The idea of a non-elected PM is essentially an anti-Thaksin Shinawatra clause to be added to the military dictatorship’s constitution.

In other unrepresentative plans, Meechai declares that the Senate is unlikely to be elected.

He also indicated that the parliament may not be permitted to change this junta’s constitution once it is promulgated.

Meechai said “the new constitution [will be] short and ‘dynamic’ without too much detail.” It looks like he plans to go back to earlier military constitutions for his old ideas revived.

Thailand is going back, way back.





Undemocratic Bowornsak

27 08 2015

It is appropriate that the chief hired lawyer and constitution mangler for the military dictatorship, Bowornsak Uwanno,  also heads up the King Prajadhipok Institute, which is a front organization for “Thai-style” (non-)democracy.

One may peruse the recently revised KPI fairy tale history to learn that the royalist construction of “parliamentary democracy with the King as the head of state” came into existence in 1932 rather than when royalist and military ideologues hit on this mangled description in recent years. One might also note that under the misapprehension that the deposed king “granted” political change rather than having it forced on him and a coterie of princes.

Most significantly, KPI is claimed to have been “established specifically to promote democracy…”. In fact, it was established by royalists to subvert democracy, and Bowornsak is the perfect and trustworthy patron of that mangling of democratic politics.

That neither Bowornsak or his royalist organization has nothing to do with the promotion of democracy is shown by the linking of the last absolute monarch with the Institute. If it were even necessary, Bowornsak is reported in The Nation in a manner that makes this crystal clear.

The draft charter is aimed, Bowornsak asserts, “at getting Thailand back on its feet with a five-year ‘transitional’ democracy, rather than trying to inflict another ‘mature’ democracy on the country…”.

Conveniently forgetting that it is boss who most recently trashed the electoral system and the constitution, neglecting that it has been his royalist and military allies who have trashed every effort to establish electoral politics, Bowornsak blames everyone else for the way “… things fell apart…”. Mimicking his boss, The Dictator, Bowornsak crows: “I would like to ask if we still want it – a Western-style full-fledged democracy?”

BootlickerHis answer, demonstrated in his boot-licking of military fascists, is clear.

He reckons the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee “tried … to find a democratic model that fits the country’s situation…”.

Bowornsak says this “search” was because the “country has been facing the plague of corruption as well as a deep division that finds no end, significantly because of a Western full-fledged democracy.” It is that “democracy,” he fantasizes, that has caused the “the government fall under a military regime.”

 

Like his bosses, he thinks the Thai people are infantile, and need a “transitional democracy” before allowing “it grow into an adult one when the time was right.”

Like his military boss, Bowornsak criticizes “politicians” for daring to express a view on his draft (military) charter. He attacks their “tone of voice” when he means they should shut up and accept military-royalist dictatorship, paternalism and hierarchy.

Fascists will be fascists.





Stunt or failure? II

26 08 2015

Now that the draft constitution is available, some opinions are now being expressed. Few seem very satisfied.

Some of the anti-democrats oppose it, preferring “reform” before constitutional change.

Yingluck Shinawatra has made her concerns clear. At the Bangkok Post, Yingluck is quoted as saying “she found the new constitution unacceptable because it is not linked to the people.”

Leader of the (anti-)Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva has “called for the National Reform Council to vote down the draft constitution on Sept 6, saying the proposed establishment of an all-powerful ‘crisis committee’ is unacceptable.”

The Nation has an editorial that slams the draft:

The new constitution would turn back the clock to the authoritarian rule of the late 1970s and ’80s….

The draft constitution, if passed by the National Reform Council (NRC) and then a public vote, would be a serious setback for democracy in Thailand.

Rather than ushering in “Thai-style democracy”, as claimed by Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chief Borwornsak Uwanno, the proposed national blueprint reflects the undemocratic way in which it was created.

In response, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been predictable in his response to criticism; he’s rejected it: “Prayut called on the media not to cover remarks made by these politicians, saying they had failed to solve the country’s problems but insulted his military-led regime, which he said was not fair.” Presumably, leading an illegal coup and overthrowing an elected government and the constitution is somehow “fair” in Prayuth’s jaundiced view of the world.

He went further, threatening: “They should not have been allowed to make such verbal attacks. Many have court cases and have spoken out without fear. If they hit out at me, I must hit back. When they face legal action, do not scream that they do not receive justice…”. The idea that criticizing the draft constitution is an attack on Prayuth indicates how much he has tutored the drafters, to the extent that Prayuth feels the constitution is owned by The Dictator.

Dictators will be dictators.





In support of elite politics

4 04 2015

It is well-known that the current military junta has been miffed and sometimes angered that the government of the United States is unable to support Asia’s one military dictatorship. At times it has even organized demonstrations at the US Embassy even when it has banned political gatherings.

In this context, we imagine that the leadership will be delighted that four long-time American residents have gotten together to pen an op-ed that is supportive of many of the claims made by the military dictatorship and by the anti-democrats who worked hand-in-glove with the military to bring down Thailand’s last elected government in 2014.

The four residents are William Klausner, James Stent, Robert Fitts and Danny Unger. Before turning to their joint op-ed, some background.

Klausner has made a career and life in Thailand, interpreting Thailand for foreigners. He claims to be an anthropologist and socio-political analyst. He began this in the 1950s and has managed to have the title “professor” attached to his name through various adjunct, advisory and visiting appointments such as at the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University. He had links with the OSS/CIA group in Thailand from the 1950s to 1970s. He has written two books on Thailand, both popular and collections of observations and anecdotes that are claimed to constitute “Thai culture.” A royalist, he was received as a Member (Fifth Class) of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant. We had some comments on him in a post in 2012. He is believed to have been one of those responsible for circulating an anonymous document in 2006 that tried to denigrate foreign authors considered critical of the monarchy. That scurrilous document was reportedly circulated to foreigners in Bangkok, and claimed a conspiracy. It was claimed that these foreigners had assessed the king and his reign in “unacceptable ways.”

Bk of AsiaJames Stent is listed as a banker and analyst on political economy. At Vriens & Partners, he is listed as having had “a long and distinguished career in financial services in Thailand and China. He was the senior executive vice president of the Bank of Asia in Bangkok until his retirement in 2002, and continued to serve the bank as a director until 2004. He is currently a director of the China Everbright Bank…”. When Stent was at the Bank of Asia, it was chock full of royals, including the king’s mother (see the clip from The Nation in November 1988).

Robert Fitts is listed as a diplomat and political analyst. His bio at McLarty Associates, a consulting firm in Washington, doesn’t list him as a Thailand specialist or resident of any length of time, but has his diplomatic career. Like Klausner, he is linked to the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University.

Danny Unger is said to be a teacher and writer on politics. He was once an Associate Professor at the University of Northern Illinois. He is the only one in this group with an academic background. It is not clear what his current position is.

We assume that there must be a reason for four Americans coming together to make this statement, and we assume that the reason is that they are frustrated by the American government’s refusal to accept Thailand’s military junta with open arms, as this government has so readily done in the past.

In a long piece there are certainly statements that some of us at PPT would find reasonable and fair. However, this is an elite version of a “liberalism” espoused by conservatives for the benefit of the elite.

These elite-connected commentators begin by questioning why “several foreign governments have exhorted Thailand to ‘bring back democracy’ and ‘hold elections’.” For them, declaring their longevity a reason for confidence in their opinions, such calls are “well-intentioned exhortations” but are “counter-productive and simplistic, revealing inadequate understanding of the cultural, social, and political challenges that Thailand must deal with if it is to develop sustainable democratic governance.”

Their claim that they “are colour blind” is a fudge as all are deeply embedded in elite culture and politics, and have been for a long time. Indeed, given there many years in Thailand, through periods of military dictatorship and stumbling electoral politics, we have struggled to locate declarations from them in the past that are supportive of electoral politics or that trenchantly stand against military intervention. They have surely had plenty of opportunities to denounce military murder, repression, lese majeste and media censorship over the past five decades!

That they suddenly find voice the day after General Prayuth Chan-ocha has more deeply entrenched his authoritarian regime is telling. Making their view largely congruent with the anti-democrats and the military junta, they say “Thailand needs less to return to any democracy already achieved than to build a democracy that can be sustained.”

This claim for “sustainable democracy” is not defined or explained, except in broad cultural terms that essentially says, let Thais work this out for themselves. That Thais need to work out their politics is hardly a great insight, but their intervention is not doing that. It claims to be addressed to other foreigners, but it repeats the propaganda of anti-democrats and of royalists for the last 50 years who favor a Thai-style democracy, just as Prayuth does. Despite the playing with words and terms about democracy, this is a statement of support for authoritarian politics.

Their observation that Thailand’s political history is one of “elite-dominated governments, characterised by greater or lesser degrees of top-down authoritarian governance,” is correct, but they fail to ask why this is or to point to the forces that have repeatedly intervened to rid the country of electoral regimes. After all, it is no secret that those who have opposed electoral politics have been the palace and the military, working hand in glove, as political vandals. For these commentators, the problems all seem to lie with elected politicians, not the repeat offending vandals.

The claim that “there has been broad agreement among Thais that Thailand should be a democracy of one sort or another” is simply nonsense. In fact, there is a long and dominant political discourse in Thailand that opposes electoral democracy precisely because it threatens the political, economic and social interests of the elite. This is why there are repeated military and palace interventions to destroy electoral politics before it takes root. Indeed, their words amount to support for some culturalist notion of Thai-style democracy that is not democracy at all.

They write of 83 years of attempts to embed democratic government but their commentary is all about the period since 2000 and of their opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra and the massively popular parties that have been repeatedly elected in often landslide results.

They reject electoral democracy by asking: “what is achieved by demanding Thailand hold elections right away…”. This is incorrect and immediate elections has not been a demand. To emphasize this point, PPT cites the Remarks by Daniel R. Russel (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs) at Chulalongkorn University on 26 January 2015, and which caused considerable consternation amongst junta supporters:

The fact is, and it’s unfortunate, but our relationship with Thailand has been challenged by the military coup that removed a democratically-elected government eight months ago. This morning, I had a chance to sit down and hold discussions with first, former Prime Minister Yingluck, then former Prime Minister Abhisit, and then with the interim Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Tanasak.

And in each case, I’ve discussed the current political situation in Thailand with each of them. And all sides have spoken about the importance of reconciliation and their commitment to work to achieve Thailand’s democratic future.

Now I understand this is an extremely sensitive issue, and I bring it up with all humility and great respect for the Kingdom of Thailand and for the Thai people.

The United States does not take sides in Thai politics. We believe it is for the Thai people to determine the legitimacy of their political and legal processes. But we are concerned about the significant restraints on freedoms since the coup, including restrictions on speech and on assembly, and I’ve been very straightforward about these concerns.

We’re also particularly concerned that the political process doesn’t seem to represent all elements of Thai society. Now I want to repeat, we’re not attempting to dictate the political path that Thailand should follow to get back to democracy or take sides in Thai politics. But an inclusive process promotes political reconciliation, which in turn is key to long-term stability. That’s where our interests lie. The alternative — a narrow, restricted process — carries the risk of leaving many Thai citizens feeling that they’ve been excluded from the political process.

That’s the reason why we continue to advocate for a broader and more inclusive political process that allows all sectors of society to feel represented, to feel that their voices are being heard. I’d add that the perception of fairness is also extremely important and although this is being pretty blunt, when an elected leader is removed from office, is deposed, then impeached by the authorities — the same authorities that conducted the coup — and then when a political leader is targeted with criminal charges at a time when the basic democratic processes and institutions in the country are interrupted, the international community is going to be left with the impression that these steps could in fact be politically driven.

And that’s why we hope to see a process that reinforces the confidence of the Thai people in their government and their judicial institutions and builds confidence internationally that Thailand is moving towards stable and participatory democracy.

Ending martial law throughout the country and removing restrictions of speech and assembly – these would be important steps as part of a generally inclusive reform process that reflects the broad diversity of views within the country. And we hope that the results of that process will be stable democratic institutions that reflect and respond to the will of the Thai people.

There’s nothing in this that is demanding an immediate return to elections. If anything, it is overly conciliatory to a regime that came to power through illegal means.

Rather, the point of the op-ed and its false claims is to agree with the military junta: “considering the repeated frustrations and disappointments after the several elections held over the past decade. Is there any reason to believe that yet another election will magically resolve Thailand’s political paralysis?”

Like the anti-democrats, these commentators are unable to accept that every election since 2000 has produced a clear outcome. That outcome – Thaksin-associated parties winning landslide victories – is simply unacceptable. They blame the elected governments which they say “often behaved in authoritarian ways at odds with true democracy.” They don’t actually say what “true democracy” is, but we may assume that even the remarkably conciliatory approach adopted by Yingluck Shinawatra in 2011-14 was somehow “authoritarian.”

Again, this claim is the anti-democrat shibboleth against all pro-Thaksin elected government:

For the most part, civilian governments have not developed, strengthened and sustained the values and structures necessary to effective liberal democratic governance. They have sometimes trampled on the rights of minorities, communities and individuals, they have all too often abused authority to increase their power and enrich themselves through illegal means, and they have sometimes vitiated the checks and balances and civil society that give meaning to democratic rule.

They repeat this claim, adding to it the rejection of the notion that “mobilised Thai voters,” some of whom “recognise the stake they have in elections” can have knowingly and repeatedly elected pro-Thaksin governments. Again, this easily leads to the yellow-shirt mantra of “uneducate” voters as the problem. In fact, the problem is that those defeated by elections and voter voice refuse to accept the verdict of the electorate. The op-ed appears to reject this political voice, calling for it to be replaced by “the articulation of authentic voices…” and denigrating millions as an “easily manipulated citizenry…”. If that isn’t enough, these true conservatives blame some mythical Thai “culture” for democratic failure rather than seeking to understand the political and economic interests involved in maintaining such a manufactured culture – think Prayuth’s most recent attempts to reinforce hierarchy and the endless palace propaganda that maintains privilege.

There can be no prizes for guessing what they want for Thailand. It is isn’t elections:

In our view, Thailand must focus on laying the groundwork for political system sustainability before and after elections, and not just on the elections themselves. Constitutions and electoral laws can be designed and redesigned with the assistance of the best scholars and legal minds to prescribe how elections should be conducted, but they are unlikely to succeed unless the essential groundwork is first put in place.

That seems like a perfect description of what the military dictatorship claims to be doing and of the self-perception of the “scholars” brought in by the junta to manage the “reform” process through secret and exclusionary processes.

Finally, they justify an authoritarian future that will result from the 2014 coup, military rule and the “fixing” of the political rules:

Thailand’s foreign friends should recognise the social, cultural and political obstacles to the conception and implementation of such a national vision of renewal, and to any immediate realisation of democratic governance. They should accept that this ambitious agenda should and could comprise Thailand’s long-term goals, but that achieving them will not occur overnight. Although those contesting for political power and control will do so in the name of democracy, the reality for some time to come may be semi-authoritarian regimes, deceptively packaged as “guided democracy”, “tutelary period”, and other terms masking the reluctance of the elite to entrust the future of the country to a democratic process with broad participation.

And, they say, don’t annoy The Dictator and the elite: “Foreigners should be sympathetic, constructively critical but also encouraging behind the scenes, avoiding public calls for immediate elections and a ‘return to democracy’, which only irritate.”

The best outcome for these conservatives would seem to be an acceptance of The Dictator, an acceptance of the military dictatorship’s repression and manipulation, and hope that the elite will eventually grant the people a say in the running of Thailand. Another 83 years? The elite always welcomes toady friends.





Updated: Media madness

26 03 2015

Thailand’s media under the military dictatorship is, at best, supine. But that isn’t good enough for The Dictator. As we posted yesterday, General Prayuth Chan-ocha reckons Thailand under the junta is a 99% democracy. It seems the missing 1% is the media. If he could get them totally compliant then 100% (Thai-style) “democracy” would seem complete.

In two Khaosod reports, the remaining 1% gets a spray of vitriol from the self-appointed prime minister.

In the first report, Thailand’s military boss has gotten rather testy and then exploded when he referred to media reports about slavery on Thailand’s fishing boats. This is not a new story. Allegations and proof of slave-like working conditions in fisheries have been available for more than two decades.

Rather than address the issue seriously, The Dictator attempts to cover it up and, well, dictate.

He demanded that the media “not to report on human trafficking without considering how the news will affect the country’s seafood industry and reputation abroad.”

Protecting Sino-Thai tycoons is bread and butter (Mercedes and Patek Philippe) for the military; they have been protecting and promoting them for five decades or so.

General Prayuth stated:

The media should consider the impact the news will have on the country…. It may cause problems, and affect national security…. If this news gets widely published, [it could raise] problems of human trafficking and IUU [Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing].”

Gen. Prayuth warned that if any news reports cause Thailand’s seafood industry to loses customers, “the people who published the news will have to be held responsible.”

Ah, that’s what “national security” is: protecting slavery and profits. You can bet that generals are involved in the industry through wives, siblings and corruption cash.

Prayuth went on to say that his military junta is going to “summon the Channel 3 journalist,  Thapanee Ietsrichai, who has been reporting on the plight of Thai men languishing on the slave ships.” He declared: “Let me tell you now, Thapanee will have to come see  officials…”.

That will ensure 100% democracy!

In the second report, the newspaper reproduces a transcript of Prayuth flying off the handle:

Reporter: There has been a talk about a possible shift in the Cabinet, especially the team working on economic issues.

Gen. Prayuth: … Join hands together, because today there is a good opportunity now that this government has entered [the scene]. Unite people to solve problems, unite all of the sides. Don’t end up criticizing everything, as though this is a normal government. Don’t you understand that?

You want freedom, I gave you freedom. Everything. I never forbid anything [see above]. No one else gave it to you like this. I will wait a little while and see, about the working of the media…. The media makes society divided…. The reason why I am talking now is not because I want to remind you of your debt of gratitude. All the things I have done are for the Thai people. If anyone doesn’t understand, they are not Thais. That’s all. The media has to help. From now on, I will keep my eyes on all media [agencies] and, if necessary, I will use my power on everyone. I am not saying you cannot criticize me. You can criticize me, but you have to have some understanding. Today there are still the orders from the NCPO. Have you forgotten that? Have you? It’s been too relaxing for you, maybe?

Reporter: If the media reports divisive news, will any action be taken against them?

Gen. Prayuth: … Let’s see whether that damn media agency causes divisions. If you criticize generally, I don’t mind that. A little of criticism, I can accept that. But if you say every day that I am a failure, how the hell can I be a failure? The previous things were even worse than a failure. Now that I am here to fix it, things will get better from that failure, of course. Learn to think like that.

Reporter: So will you shut down the media?

Gen. Prayuth: Don’t pick a fight with me, don’t make me go to war with the media.

Reporter: So what will be the punishment?

Gen. Prayuth: Execution, maybe? You ask silly questions. Just don’t do actions [that warrant punishment]. Be cautious…. I will use a dog-headed execution device. I will deal with the media. But I still love them. Please, help me out. Don’t make excuses for me, please just help me build love and unity. Now that we are here, let’s change a crisis into an opportunity. Don’t make a crisis into another crisis.

Reporter: Why don’t you see these criticisms as suggestions?

Gen. Prayuth: Well, go look at all this criticism from the media. Is it constructive? …

Gen. Prayuth: If I arrive late, I will inform His Majesty the Sultan that it is because of all of you. I am not angry today. I’m just in bad mood.

Prayuth then decided to criticize Matichon and Manager.

Gen. Prayuth: Where’s the reporter from Matichon group? Go take a look. Write your news well. Don’t write news that supports the other side too much. Let me tell you, in the previous government Matichon sold really well in the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Dig it up. It’s because the Ministry of Interior Affairs ordered people to buy only Matichon, so it hurt the businesses of other papers….

Gen. Prayuth: Why make a big fuss? I don’t understand. They want this. They want that. Especially Manager. I can’t read a single page they write. Are they all mad? They write about nonsensical things every day. What do they want, huh? They are so intelligent. Come on, meung [Thai insult], come administer the country. Come serve as MP. Damn [ไอ้] Chatchawarn, damn Sophon [Manager columnists]. These people. This government says this, like this, if they want to criticize me, go ahead. I can take it. But I am a human. I’m not a Prime Minister who is not a human. I also have feelings. I have a life and feelings.

100% democracy is The Dictator’s fascism.

Update: This is the self-appointed leader of Thailand in action, displaying qualities that would be certifiable and simply unacceptable anywhere but a dictatorship. If readers make it to the execution remark, at about 12 minutes, there’s no smile.