Updated: Absurd defenses of feudalism

16 10 2017

Update: A reader rightly points out that our headline is potentially misleading. Let us be clear: the absurdities are all on the side of those implementing, using and defending the feudal lese majeste law.

PPT has had several posts regarding the efforts of a couple of retired generals, public prosecutors and a military court’s decision to go ahead with investigations of a lese majeste charge 85 year-old Sulak Sivaraksa. He dared to raise doubts about a purported historical event from centuries ago. (In fact, the prosecutors have until 7 December to activate the charge or let it lie.)

We have been interested to observe how parts of the media seem to far braver in pointing out the absurdities of this case than when it is workers, farmers, labor activists or average people who are charged in equally absurd cases. If these people are red shirts or fraudsters, there’s often barely a peep from the media.

Conservative, middle class, aged, royalist and intellectual Sulak, who has also been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, is far easier to defend than those in more uncomfortable political and social locations for some reporters and writers.

His case also generates more international attention, as his cases have always done since 1984, when international academics supported him (and an alleged communist) under the administration led by General Prem Tinsulanonda.

Just in the Bangkok Post, there have been three op-eds and one editorial that each point out the ridiculousness of the case against Sulak. These include:

Yellow-hued, anti-Thaksinist Veera Prateepchaikul writes that the latest case is “unique in its absurdity.” He says he sees two troubling issues with the case:

First, … why did it take police three years to decide to send this case to the prosecutor — a military prosecutor in this case because we are now under the junta regime?

The second issue concerns the police interpretation of the lese majeste law or Section 112 of the Criminal Code in a way which makes the law look like it has an infinitely long hand which can delve into an event which took place some 400 years ago. The land on which the elephant duel was said to take place was not even called Siam.

Kong Rithdee, who has been pretty good and brave in calling out the lese majeste fascists, points out the absurdities of the case:

Another day, another lese majeste story. This time the interpretation of the contentious law goes back much further, to 1593 to be precise, to a dusty battlefield somewhere before “Thailand” existed.

The use of a military court to possibly sentence an 85 year-old to 15 years in jail is also mentioned as absurd.

Kong makes some connections that warrant more attention:

The scope of interpretation of Section 112 has been one of the central bristles of modern Thai politics, and while there have been cases that raised your eyebrows and body temperature (that of Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, to name just one), this wild reading of the law to cover an event from 400 years ago borders on dark comedy.

He asks if the absurdity of Sulak’s case tells Thais that they must not discuss or adopt a critical perspective on history. It seems Thais are expected to accept schoolbook nationalism and the jingoism of royalist film-makers.

Ploenpote Atthakor takes up the blind royalist nationalism. She observes that, in Thailand, there is no “dialogue” about historical events, “especially the parts concerning historical heroes or heroines, or even villains, hardly exists. Anyone who dares to question particular historical episodes may face trouble.” She notes how the history that got Sulak into trouble has changed several times and is disputed by historians.

Ultra-nationalism blinds Thais. The red hot pokers have been wielded by feudal-minded royalists and military dictators.

The Bangkok Post editorial extends the discussion to law and injustice:

In what appears to be an attempt at law enforcement, authorities in the past two weeks have taken legal action against two prominent public figures by resorting to what appears to be a misuse of both the law and its principles.

One is Sulak’s case and the other person is Thaksin, one of his lese majeste cases and the retroactive application of a law. The Post states that the cases “not only put the Thai justice system under the global spotlight but will also jeopardise law enforcement in the country.”

The editorial questions the police’s interpretation of the law, saying it:

is worrisome and has prompted questions about how far such a law should be applied. If Mr Sulak is indicted, it would create a chilling climate of fear and hurt the credibility of Thailand’s justice system….

In proceeding legal actions against the two men, the authorities must realise any abuses of the law can set bad precedents with a far-reaching impact on Thai citizens.

All these perspectives are right. We applaud these journalists for daring to defend Sulak and, in one instance, even Thaksin. At the same time, it would be brave and right to point out the absurdities that face many others charged with lese majeste. The military dictatorship has gotten away with being absurd for too long.





Measuring

14 10 2017

As long-time readers will know, PPT sometimes struggles with figures; none of us are mathematicians. That this post is about statistics may mean that we infringe on the data here and there, but we thought a recent story at the Bangkok Post carried a broader lesson.

The Office of Agricultural Economics is reported to have crunched some numbers and come up with a forecast that the junta’s “welfare cards for the poor scheme will generate more than 100 billion baht in value to the country’s economy.”

That the state’s dumping of a pot of money to the “poorest,”who tend to spend it, produces a boost to consumption and boosts the economy is well known to economists, and is sometimes called Keynesianism.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s government used the same kind of economic logic, so we might assume that the junta’s idea has something to do with Somkid Jatusripitak, who has worked for both Thaksin and junta.

The cost to the state is estimated to be 46 billion baht for the 2018 fiscal year. The aforementioned Office of Agricultural Economics reckons that this “return” is about “2.5 times higher than the government’s investment cost…”.

That is a useful calculation, not least for the military junta as it campaigns for its (now “promised”) “election.”

The report states that the Ministry of Finance calculates that “11.43 million people have registered as having income of less than 30,000 baht per year…”.

The surprising figure, however, is this: of this more than 11 million, “3.32 million are from the farming sector and 8.11 million from the non-farming sector.” This means that “13.37 billion baht is for the poor from the farming sector, while 32.63 billion baht goes to the poor from the non-farming sector.”

This is odd. Almost all the major agencies identify rural dwellers as the majority living below the poverty line.

For example, the World Bank states:

As of 2014, over 80% of the country’s 7.1 million poor live in rural areas. Moreover, an additional 6.7 million were living within 20% above the national poverty line and remained vulnerable to falling back into poverty.

The figures – 7.1 million vs. 11.5 million – are worth noting. The official poverty line was, in 2015, 2,644 baht per month, above the junta’s figure of 2,500 baht per month.

But even so, the junta’s registration for the poor appears to have only come up 3.3 million in the “farming sector,” when the data suggest this should be at least double that figure.

Academic Kampanat Pensupar, from Kasetsart University, notices this too, and is reported as saying that the small number of farmers “means the poor in rural areas might not be able to gain access to the scheme, or the poor in farming sectors have moved into the non-farming sector.” The latter seems unlikely, if the huge variation in the numbers are considered.

Our conclusion is that the junta is engaged in political campaigning. It is seeking to use the funds in areas where it will likely produce an “electoral” dividend.

Our second thought was about the difference between this program and the rice pledging project that resulted in a five year jail sentence for Yingluck Shinawatra.

On the one hand, the rice program was blunt in targeting, but did seek to have funds flow to farmers – recognized as those most likely to be relatively poor. The junta’s poverty program is not doing that.

On the other hand, we wonder if the Office of Agricultural Economics is crunched the numbers on the rice pledging project in the same way it has for the junta’s program? We can’t help thinking that the same multipliers would have applied to a program that better targeted the poor in rural areas.





A lawless and lying junta

11 10 2017

PPT has been busy posting about other things – the absurdity of lese majeste, junta political gymnastics – and so we neglected to mention an important op-ed by Umesh Pandey is Editor of the Bangkok Post. Earlier we posted on another commentary by Umesh on the basis of the junta’s rule in illegality and lies.

This op-ed may be seen as somewhat dated, given recent “changes” (see below), but we think his comments deserve consideration for the broader points made about what defines the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Umesh’s latest commentary begins thus: “Bending the law and going back on words seems to have become the norm ever since the coup that ousted the elected government in 2014.”

In other words, the regime is built on lies and the manipulation of law.

The Post’s editor is particularly upset that The Dictator told US President Trump that there would be “free and fair elections in 2018,” only to renege. (We actually think that General Prayuth and his team of flunkies simply didn’t comprehend the statement they signed. They are not all that intelligent.)

Umesh also worries that the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee, led by serial constitution buster and military minion Meechai Ruchupan, “is defending delays in polls is something that should go down in history books as being one of its kind in the world.” He comments that the CDC “is a body that supposedly comprises some of the smartest people, who are supposed to look at the country’s future and its long-term well-being, and they are protecting the never-ending delays that this military regime is trying to undertake.”

Smartest? Really? As far as we can tell from their record, the CDC is composed of puppets with no more intelligence than their wooden counterparts.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the CDC has supported the junta’s delays. In fact, we have lost count. But this is nothing other than a collection of puppets with the junta pulling all the strings.

Umesh observes that:

The regime’s initial promise to hold elections was within a year of the coup, so 2015, then it turned out to be 2016, then 2017 and finally Gen Prayut announced at the United Nations that it would be 2018.

Then it was 2019, although in recent days The Dictator has changed this back to 2018 (maybe). We still don’t know why Prayuth back-flipped.

Umesh continues:

While democracy is being kicked around a football, the players are gradually being red-carded one after another. The latest headlines in yesterday’s papers suggest that there is an all-out effort to go for the final kill.

After having prosecuted the Pheu Thai and its predecessor parties for the past decade, efforts are being made to charge its backer, Thaksin [Shinawatra], with the feared Section 112. Newly appointed Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwongs said 112 can be applied for video footage in which Thaksin reportedly blamed members of the Privy Council for the May 22, 2014 coup that ousted Pheu Thai government.

Of course, no election held under the junta’s rules will be “free” or “fair” or “democratic.”

Bravely, Umesh ponders the lese majeste law: “As far as most of the population of this country is aware, the lese majeste law clearly states that it applies to only members of the royal family.”

Well, sort of, apart from the cases related to Princess Sirindhorn, royal pets, dead kings, historical figures and mythical queens. But we get the point.

He asks:

So, what is the section of the 112 law that the attorney-general is going to use to prosecute Thaksin? Or is it the case that this law was changed over the course of time and people are not aware of it?

In fact, lese majeste is used however the junta (and palace) wants it to be used. There’s no rule of law in Thailand, just rule by junta.





Thaksin denies lese majeste

10 10 2017

Lese majeste has become the military dictatorship’s weapon of political choice in attacking opponents. Because it has to do with monarchy, yellow shirts immediately jump on board and support the junta, no matter how absurd the allegations and charges (historical myths and events, the dead king’s dead dog, use against a juvenile, etc.). When this political charge is used against Thaksin Shinawatra, the gleefulness of junta and royalist supporters is palpable.

So when the military dictatorship reactivated a lese majeste accusation against Thaksin (one of many such charges and allegations), the yellow-hued royalists again clapped and cheered the military regime.

In this instance, Thaksin has responded.

Thaksin denied “that he has ever defamed the royal family and threatened to sue anyone who accuses him of the crime.” He took to Twitter to state that he was “emotionally troubled” by reports that “the new attorney general had vowed to prosecute him for the crime.”

He condemned the use of lese majeste against him and declared that he “will take all legal action against those who continue implicate him, regardless of whether he knew the person. He did not name names.”

The newly appointed attorney general Khemchai Chutiwong wants to prosecute Thaksin for a “crime” of stating, quite reasonably, of the 2014 military coup, that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Of course, as in many cases of lese majeste, this statement cannot possibly be lese majeste if any sane person reads Article 112. But like many of his ilk, Khemchai is insane when it comes to Thaksin and sees no problem in contorting an already absurd law to the political purpose of the anti-Thaksin coteries of royalists, coup-makers and anti-democrats.





Anti-Thaksinism, extradition and lese majeste

8 10 2017

The military junta continues to give the impression that it is really, really serious about “capturing” Yingluck Shinawatra. We don’t quite know why they do this. On the one hand, if Yingluck did simply stroll out of Thailand and into exile, the junta’s security operations are shown to be utterly hopeless. On the other hand, if the junta was part of a “deal” with Yingluck, then the junta has to show the yellowed anti-democrats that it really was incompetent – or at least those nasty and reddish police were conniving with her and duped the bosses in the junta.

The junta gives the impression that it is struggling to maintain its anti-democratic alliances and there are rumors of internal dissension, although such claims have been constant since the 2014 coup.

Whatever the cause of its actions, the military junta now claims to want to extradite Yingluck “regardless of whether she seeks or is granted asylum in the UK as some media have reported…”. They say that when the find her, they will spring into action. The current line is that she can’t get asylum anywhere because the junta didn’t take her to court on any political charge, so she’s not a political exile. When it comes to shoveling excrement, those associated with the justice system seem especially skilled.

Much of this is in line with The Dictator’s political campaigning, where he believes and hopes that all those who voted for “that woman” will see the light and realize that he’s good while all those Shinawatra and associated politicians and evil fugitives and criminals.

Beyond Yingluck, the junta and its justice system lackeys have, according to a Bangkok Post report, “public prosecutors have decided to indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on a lese majeste charge and vowed to revive pending criminal cases against him under a new organic law that allows for the trials of fugitive politicians to be held in absentia.”

Brand new Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwong is taking the running on these actions. Khemchai is a loyal anti-democrat and a puppet-servant of the military dictatorship, having been rewarded with positions on the National Reform Council and state enterprise boards. He is one of those who thinks apply laws retrospectively is fine and dandy when going after political opponents.

The move against Thaksin years after the case was first made in May 2015, following an interview in South Korea on which PPT has a full report. Thaksin commented on the links between military and privy council in orchestrating the 2014 military coup. He stated that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Khemchai declared that on the various cases against Thaksin, “the next step would be for state prosecutors to request the TCSC issue a warrant for Thaksin’s arrest. Extradition proceedings will be launched if his whereabouts can be confirmed…”.





Updated: Will it be 2019?

6 10 2017

Thailand’s military dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, presumably understood that in the U.S. he was signing a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand that stated “Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.”

Lying is a bit like eating and sleeping for The Dictator; it comes naturally. In any case, within days, General Prayuth has corrected “misconceptions” that using the date “2018” actually meant the year 2018 in the Gregorian calendar.

We didn’t believe the statement on this point – neither Trump nor Prayuth fully understand “truth” – and the latter has now, magician-like, revealed that 2018 means 2019.

This election rabbit has been pulled from a hat when meeting with junta-worshiping, posterior polishing Thais in the United States “that the election should take place in 2019,” with the report adding that this is “many months later than the junta-appointed legislators had predicted.”

Remember all the times that Prayuth promised and the reneged? Recall all the times he has said he’s sticking by the roadmap and then changed it? Now, the earliest Prayuth’s election can be held is probably April 2019. But he could easily change his mind again.

Perhaps the junta feels that this date is appropriate and it reckons its iron grip will be tight enough by then to allow its people to dominate the “election.” After all, five years after the coup (in 2019), the dinosaur coup-makers probably assume there won’t be much left of the Shinawatras and theirassociated political party and red shirts. Pesky pro-democracy activists have been more or less cowed. And, following a royal funeral and coronation, the military thugs probably think they’ll have the country tied up.

If The Dictator remains unsure of his “electoral” victory, expect further delays. The rabbit can go back in the hat to be revealed again. Prayuth has repeatedly babbled about not wanting to be premier but he sure seems to crave the power and prestige.

Update: The Bangkok Post headlines a story: “Meechai unravels Prayut’s poll quote.” The story is about one of Thailand’s most destructive of conservatives, Meechai Ruchupan. This old man has meddled in the writing of Thailand’s most conservative constitutions and laws. For his role in 1991 when he was also serving military putchists, we have a post. It seems this geriatric is somehow in a time warp – 1968.

Meechai is, quite simply, the military’s man, responsible for multiple illiberal reversions over several decades. He currently chairs the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee. The sub-heading is “Says premier only speculating on delay.” We doubt The Dictator will fancy being told he’s “speculating.” The Dictator is more likely to be telling Meechai what to do. In fact, baring some kind of uprising from within the military or from society, it is General Prayuth who will decide when he wants to hold his “election”; Meechai, as a pawn, will do what he’s told.





Updated: Yet another anti-monarchy “plot”

3 10 2017

Thailand’s recent politics has been awash with rightist and royalist claims of “plots” against the monarchy. The military dictatorship claims to have “discovered” another such “plot.” This time the plot is claimed to be a plan to disrupt the funeral for the dead king.

PPT can only express disdain for this political ploy and we can only wonder if anyone still believes such nonsense. As much as we’d like to see an an anti-monarchy plot in Thailand, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is one in the works now.

One of the first “plots” was the entirely concocted “Finland Plot.” The claim peddled by many associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and fabricated by notorious royalist ideologue Chai-anan Samudavanija and others. It claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra and former left-wing student leaders had met in Finland and come up with a plan to overthrow the monarchy and establish a communist state. These inventions were published in the Sondhi Limthongkul-owned newspapers and repeated many times by PAD.

As bizarre as this nonsense was, Wikipedia notes that the allegations had an “impact on the popularity of Thaksin and his government, despite the fact that no evidence was ever produced to verify the existence of a plot. Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party vehemently denied the accusations and sued the accusers. The leaders of the 2006 military coup claimed Thaksin’s alleged disloyalty as one of their rationales for seizing power.”

Back in 2015, even the politicized courts held that ultra-royalist Pramote Nakornthap had defamed Thaksin with these concoctions. Not surprisingly, many ultra-royalists continue to believe this nonsense.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Equally notorious was the anti-monarchy “plot,” replete with a diagram, that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government concocted when faced with a red shirt challenge in April 2010.

The government’s Centre for the Resolution to Emergency Situations claimed to have uncovered a plot to overthrow the monarchy and said “intelligence” confirmed the “plot.” Indeed, the bitter Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council “confirmed” the “plot.” The map included key leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, members of the Puea Thai Party and former banned politicians, academics and hosts of community radio programs. Then Prime Minister Abhisit welcomed the uncovering of the “plot.”

CRES spokesman and then Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, who just happens to be the current dictatorship’s chief propagandist, repeatedly declared this plot a red shirt effort to bring down the monarchy.

We could go on, but let’s look at the current “plot,” which not coincidentally comes from the same military leaders who were in place in when the above “mapping” of a republican plot was invented. It is the same coterie of coup plotters (and that was a real plot) that repeatedly accused Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul of various anti-monarchy plots and he was “disappeared” from Laos, presumably by the junta’s henchmen-murderers.

In the new “plot,” Deputy Dictator General Wongsuwan has declared:

Anti-monarchy cells are conspiring to disrupt the funeral of His Majesty the Late King this month, deputy junta chairman Prawit Wongsuwan said Monday.

Gen. Prawit described the alleged agitators as those who “have ill intentions toward the monarchy.” Although he gave no details, he said full-scale security measures would be implemented throughout the rites to place over several days culminating with the Oct. 26 cremation.

Prawit added that “[a]uthorities have learned of threats inside and outside the country, especially from those who oppose and have negative thoughts about ‘the [royal] institution’…”. He put “security forces” on “full alert.”

Careful readers will have noticed that the first mention of this “plot” came from The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha almost two weeks ago.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart “refused to elaborate in detail on the supposed threat in the latest intelligence report” but still declared that “[t]hose involved were among the ‘regular faces’ abroad wanted on lese majeste charges, but who still incite negative feelings towards the monarchy among supporters through social media.”

The fingerprints on this concoction are those who have regularly invented plots for political purposes. That’s the military. They read all kinds of social media and put 1 and 1 together and come up with anti-monarchy plot.

We tend to agree with Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who is reported as saying:

The cremation provides an opportunity for the security forces to strengthen their position politically using critics of the monarchy as an excuse to increase the state’s heavy handed policy to control society more tightly…. Critics of the monarchy hardly pose a threat considering how much they have been suppressed since the coup….

The cremation and the coronation that will follow are critical political events for the military dictatorship. They want to be seen to be ensuring that everything runs smoothly for both events as the junta moves to stay in power, “election” or “no election.”  Finding a “plot” can make them look even more like the “protectors” of the monarchy.

Update: We don’t know why, but Khaosod’s most recent report on this “plot” seems to be supportive of the the junta’s claims. The claims this report makes amount to little more than reporting chatter. Similar chatter has been around for some time, encouraging individual acts that do not amount to anything like rebellion or disruption.

Some of the material that has been circulated may well derive from the state’s intelligence operatives seeking to disrupt and identify red shirts.  The thing about concocting a plot as a way to discredit your opponents is that there has to be elements in it that seem, at least on a initial view, feasible and believable. That was the point of the diagram produced above, naming persons known to be anti-monarchy. Putting them in a plot is something quite different.