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.





Weak parliament

25 03 2015

An article we saw at the Bangkok Post a few days ago deserves brief mention here.

Almost since the day of the formation of the puppet assemblies and committees to “reform”  Thailand’s politics along lines preferred by the conservative, royalist ruling class, PPT has been posting on how this is an attempt to emasculate political parties, make elections less determining for government and weakening elected civilian politicians. We said the aim was unstable and weak coalitions of small parties, much like those that existed in the 1990s.

At long last, the mainstream media is waking up to this or, at least, is now prepared to express and report it.

The Post report notes that the main political parties, which hardly have any role under the military dictatorship, say that “mixed member proportional representation (MMP) system proposed under the new constitution will enfeeble large political parties and lead to weak and unstable coalition governments prone to falling at any time…”.

When Banthoon Setsirote, “a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee, defend[s]… the adoption of MMP, arguing that coalition governments will help ease political conflict and foster unity,” he means that the elite will be back in charge because the parliament and politicians will be weak and ineffectual.

Thai-style democracy will be the rule.





My “democracy” will not be your democracy I

23 03 2015

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, self-appointed premier of Thailand, leader of the military coup that overthrew an elected government and former commander of troops that shot down red shirt demonstrators in 2010, claims, at The Nation that he is “building democracy for the country…”.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for an essay contest that promotes his personal and fascist “Twelve Core Values” as being the values of the entire nation, and without a hint of irony, The Dictator declared: “… I understand democratic means and we will not fail democracy. We will take care of the people well and equally…”.Prayuth Puppetry

What kind of “democracy”? He says it won’t be “100 per cent like democracy in Western countries,” and we can assume that his democracy is Thai-style democracy, the redoubt of past authoritarian leaders in the country since the late 1950s. It is the democracy you have in Thailand when you are not having democracy. As he puts it, “We have to put Thai elements into the democracy, but it will not contradict international values…”.

Given that Prayuth does not understand “international values” and flouts them on a daily basis, we can dismiss his claims to being an architect of anything other than fascist Thailand.

When he claims that “[p]eople would be able to access justice equally and fairly” and then has to beseech people to “be confident in the existing justice system,” you know the “justice” system is crippled by lese majeste, by royalist bias, by military impunity and by martial law.

When he demands that political conflicts be reduced and demands that the media not ask questions about politics and political conflict, you know that Prayuth’s democracy is not real democracy.

When he says, “So, next time, please elect a good government into power,” he is repeating his demand of the electorate in 2011, when he went on national television to demand a vote for the pro-military and royalist Democrat Party. You know the 2014 coup had much to do with Prayuth’s anger that the electorate spurned him and the (anti)Democrat Party.

 





Defining political inanity II

11 03 2015

A couple of days ago, the Bangkok Post felt the need to publish a propaganda piece by “Captain (Ret) Dr Yongyuth Mayalarp,” who is listed as “Spokesperson to the Prime Minister’s Office.”

We at PPT have never quite understood why having been a “captain” in the military (or the police) remains a badge of (dis)honor for the rest of one’s life. If the collective memory here is any good, we recall that the minor prince and royalist politician Kukrit Pramoj, for all his nasty political machinations against “non-royalists,” at least poked fun at this ridiculous notion by, on occasions, using “corporal” to describe himself.

Yongyuth is a long-time military flunkey, having been a deputy spokesman for the 2006 military junta “during the coup.”He worked at the Army’s Channel 5 from 1993, and like so many posterior polishers of the powerful, even worked for the self-important Surakiat Sathirathai when he promoted himself for the UN Secretary-general’s position and failed, as any sensible person knew he would.

But back to Yongyuth’s rather poorly-written propaganda piece, replete with English language clangers. It begins:

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha [sic.] has on many occasions talked to the public about his vision for Thailand, entitled “Stability, Prosperity and Sustainability”. He has taken the time to listen and speak to people from all walks of life about the future direction for the country. In light of this as well as the comprehensive reforms that are currently under way, it is only fitting that as citizens, we take some time to reflect on how the country can move forward.

PPT hasn’t seen Prayuth listening to anybody. He’s the boss. He dictates, orders, has tantrums, makes demands, represses and attacks those who disagree with him.

Yongyuth, who has spent some time overseas, mainly in elite circles in Britain, suggests:

We are mindful of the notion that Thailand is undergoing a period of fundamental transition in political development. It is useful for us to think about the experience of other countries and how their paths of major reform and transition share some commonalities with ours.

As Thailand is possibly the only military dictatorship in the world, has probably had more military putsches than any other nation and has a regime that prefers authoritarian royalism to other ideologies, we expect that the comparisons might be thin.

Yongyuth then launches into a barely intelligible account of the justification for the military dictatorship based on The Dictator’s “reading” of recent history, still claiming that the junta’s will “serve as the basis for a sustainable democratic system in Thailand.” Presumably he means Thai-style democracy. He makes the ludicrous claim that the coup, the junta and the military dictatorship can be conceived as “a way to manage the conflict…” that was manufactured by the anti-democrats, in league with the military brass.

Like so many conservatives, and not just in Thailand, Yongyuth and his bosses have a peculiar view of their country:

Many can recall that there was a time Thai society was being held together by a deeper appreciation for national unity based on our national heritage. It was a time when we were able to agree to disagree, a time when civility prevailed even though there were differences in opinion.

Of course, this is the military’s view of its long control of Thailand’s politics, allied with the Sino-Thai business class. The underlings knew that they had to shut up and bear the exploitation of the rich and powerful. It is the military dictatorship’s aim to reimpose that elite hegemony.

Yongyuth finds nothing odd about referring to a democracy “for the people, and by the people”. Declaring that “Thailand is not fundamentally retreating from democracy,” he makes the quite ludicrous statement: “We are strengthening our democratic institutions to prevent outright abuses of democracy in the past…. It is this government’s priority to take care of all of our citizens, and not just the majority like has happened in the past,” before coming up with the anti-democrat line: “… democracy is more than elections and must be based on respect for the rule of law. It must be about good governance, transparency, accountability and equal access to justice.”

Given the military dictatorship’s lack of transparency, zero accountability (that is what martial law allows) and a failed and politicized justice system, we think Yongyuth has used up his brain cells.

Remarkably, although we at PPT are getting used to the strange, remarkable and odd from the minions of the military dictatorship, Yongyuth reckons there are “lessons from international history in terms of democracy, governance and civil society.”

Which lessons? It is here that Yongyuth shows his ignorance. The first example: “We are aware of the Reform Act of 1832 in Britain and how long that took but after much debate and discussion.” Indeed it did take a long time, precisely because the wealthy and aristocratic elite opposed equal voting rights and extended voting rights. The aristocratic elite’s preferred “rotten boroughs” and patronage.

The puppet Constitution Drafting Committee is proposing to restrict voting and to have unelected senators and an unelected prime minister. 1832 in Britain was about undoing such unrepresentative arrangements, not entrenching them.

GuillotineNot content with that mistake, Yongyuth’s second example is even more bizarre: “We are aware of the French Revolution and how ultimately, it was the political will of the people to overcome injustice, poverty and misery, and that exploitation of the poor is unacceptable.”

Ah, did he notice that the French Revolution established a republic, put the king and queen to death and abolished feudalism and the old rules and privileges of the ancien régime. In Thailand, the military dictatorship uses feudal laws like lese majeste to repress opponents and the military itself serves the monarchy and the privileged.

We won’t even bother with the third crazy example. Suffice it to say that when Yongyuth declares that “national reform” by the military and its puppets is somehow “by the Thai people,” he is ignoring, dismissing and denigrating the people.





Updated: Prem proud of military coup

29 12 2014

Khaosod has a particularly interesting story on General Prem Tinsulanonda, the 94-year-old chairman of the Privy Council, who has been full in his praise of the 2014 military coup.

That is certainly as anyone who follows Thailand’s fractious would expect. Apart from the attempted coups against him when he was unelected premier, Prem has supported all actions by his beloved military against civilian politicians. Like his boss of many years, the king, Prem hates democratic politics and elected politicians.

On this occasion, Prem “has praised the 2014 military coup as a necessary action that saved Thailand from chaos.” The aged general “also lauded coupmaker and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for his decision to seize … power from the elected government on 22 May 2014.”

Prayuth took all of his junta and its puppet ministers to “visit to Gen. Prem at his official [taxpayer-funded] residence in Bangkok … wishing him well for the new year…”.

Prem’s “praise of the 2014 coup is therefore considered the most high profile endorsement of the military takeover so far.” Of course, the palace and Privy Council were fully supportive of the coup for it served their interests, which were little different from those that prompted Prem to collude with coup masters in 2006.

Prem and his boys

Clipped from a Bangkok Post photo showing Prem and the junta showing their royalist colors

What is noteworthy in the Khaosod report is that it analyzes Prem’s role.

Prem, a former military commander, went on to assert that the Thai “people are ‘very proud’ of what the military did on 22 May 2014.” We think that Prem, who lives in a tight circle of the rich and powerful, speaks for them. It is the rich and powerful who are thankful of the military for its intervention, even if they admit that most military leaders are dolts.

In speaking for the rich and powerful, Prem shows his total support for military interventionism:

“That day shows that the military and the army … came out to do the action when necessary. They came out to take care of the country. We must be proud of all the actions we have done…. 22 May [coup] is a noble action. It’s like repaying debt to the country. It’s a great display of loyalty. I think most of Thais agree, accept, and feel pride of Prime Minister Uncle Too [Prayuth’s nickname] ‘s action.”

… “Uncle Too has rescued the nation and brought peace to all Thais. We have done the action, and will continue to do so. I want to tell all of you that this opportunity is an important one. It is the opportunity that shows that when the nation is in crisis, when there is no reconciliation, we will always step in and take care of it. That is our duty.

“We have come out. We cannot retreat. We have to keep pushing forward with valour and bravery. We will move forward like gentles. We will move forward as the true Thais. We will move forward for the sake of our children. It is a good opportunity to show that we will not abandon our brethren to their suffering.

We imagine that these are exactly the things that Prem told the military leadership prior to the coup. It speaks volumes about the mentality of the military and those in the palace who want to deny their “children” electoral politics in favor of the preferred “Thai-style democracy” (that is a royalist and military fascism).

Prem goes even further, indicating his and the palace’s total support for the anti-democrat movement and the rollback of politics that the military dictatorship erroneously calls “reform”:

“I know that all of you [Gen. Prayuth and his government] are tired. We are all tired. But we are tired for the sake of the nation, for … the King, and for all Thais. These things will relieve us from the exhaustion and lift our spirits to fight for everything.

PPT understands that Prem is careful in including himself in this statement of support and collective collusion in the restoration of “Premocracy“:

“I’d like to ask all members of the armed forces to give their support to our dear Prime Minister and the government, who are working for the country. Because we are friends and comrades who have sworn to die for each other, we have to help take care of each other.”

The old general’s call for the military junta for “the blessing of His Majesty the King…” could be taken as an indication that the king is already dead. But let us assume that he is still alive [see Update below] and that Prem has decided that the card trick of the coup, where Prayuth tried to keep the monarchy’s role hidden, is no longer a facade worth having. He declares:

“I hope that everyone will help take care of this country…. And I wish that all goals of the NCPO and the government will be achieved.”

Khaosod adds an appropriate observation:

Although Thailand’s Constitutions do not permit Privy Councilors to convey their political opinions to the public, Gen. Prem has a long history of giving remarks that are favourable toward pro-establishment factions and expressing skepticism toward elected governments in Thailand.

Prem’s support of anti-democratic political options is a prime reason for the country’s failure to embed electoral politics. He and the king have repeatedly and resolutely opposed political progress in Thailand, protecting the existing royalist social, political and economic order.

Update: Khaosod reports that the king is wheeled out once more. And literally wheeled out in a wheelchair, for a novelty run to the supermarket at Siriraj Hospital, to pick up a few things. We say this is a novelty, for we doubt the king has ever troubled himself with shopping or understands what a supermarket is. Most royals avoid such plebeian haunts. But in this case, “on wheelchair and flanked by dozens of officials and medical personnel,” the king allegedly “bought” items like “milk, ice cream, and fruits” from a store that is “operated by the Royal Palace…”. So the owner was “shopping.” We can’t help wondering if this wheel-out isn’t directly related to Prem’s statements of support for the military coup and the dictatorship. It seems like a kind of royal exclamation mark to the old man’s anti-electoralism.