Updated: Another lese majeste debate

10 11 2021

The king seems to think the threat to his throne has been seen off. According to reports from Andrew MacGregor Marshall at Facebook, the king and his extensive entourage of women, servants, minions, and other hangers-on, he’s back in Germany.

Yet, it is reported that, in under a week, more than 120,000 people have signed a petition to parliament calling for the repeal the infamous and draconian lese majeste law (see also a Prachatai story on this petition).

That will cause consternation among the military leadership and the former military leaders leading the regime but we suspect that they also feel that their lawfare approach has worked, with several leaders of the protests jailed without bail and thousands of others, arrested, harassed and repressed.

But an ongoing debate on lese majeste strikes at the heart of the regime’s political ideology.

Khaosod’s Pravit Rojanaphruk writes that last week’s “unprecedented flurry of reactions both in support and opposition to amending the controversial lese majeste law” means it is likely to “turn the next general elections into a de facto referendum on the law…”. That’s the last thing the palace wants – as Thaksin Shinawatra quickly determined – and it isn’t what the regime and its shaky party want.

Despite facing multiple lese majeste charges, Thaksin has always sucked up to royals; it seems in the genes of big shots brought up during the last reign. That’s why it was a surprise when, “just hours after the renewed major protest by monarchy-reform groups [to] reiterate their year-long call and started a signature drive for the abolition of the law … the opposition Pheu Thai Party’s chief of strategic committee Chaikasem Nitisiri issued a statement … saying the party supports pushing for the proposal to be debated in parliament.”

Thaksin nixed that. Regime and its associated parties were suitably unimpressed, standing up for the status quo.

The royalist Democrat Party declared Article 112 unproblematic, blaming the students and other protesters for the debate that is not needed. It is what is expected of a party founded by vindictive royalists and populated by royalists today. One of them babbled:

The lese-majeste law is not problematic as distorted and claimed by those calling for the amendment by the parliament… If it’s tabled for the parliament we shall fight. We support strict enforcement of the law….

The opposition parties, like Move Forward talk amendment rather than abolition, but the activist fire under them wants the law gone.

Pravit is enthusiastic about the debate:

To amend or not amend the lese majeste law, or even to abolish it, is a much needed debate and we can start on the right foot by trying to be more honest about where the different groups stand. The perpetuation of a state of self-denial will not do Thailand any good.

Royalists are livid and want no debate, no changes, no nothing (as usual).

The Bangkok Post reported that Suwit Thongprasert, better known as the fascist former monk and political activist Buddha Isara, has “submitted a petition to the parliament president to oppose any moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.”

He and representatives of the so-called People’s Army Protecting the Monarchy claim 222,928 signatures supporting their ultra-royalism. They also oppose amending Article 116, the sedition law. Articles 112 and 116, along with computer crimes laws are the main lawfare statutes used by the regime to stifle political dissent.

Like all royalists and the regime itself, the fascist former monk “insisted that the monarchy has been one of the main pillars of the country, a source of Thai culture and tradition, and a unifying force for the Thai people.” Blah, blah, blah palace and rightist propaganda.

The royalists face off against the Progressive Movement which is campaigning “for people to sign an online petition seeking to amend Section 112.”

According to Thai PBS, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha is predictably opposed to any amendment:

Deputy Government Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek said today (Thursday) that the prime minister told his cabinet that his government will not amend the law and will run the country by upholding the three main pillars, namely the Nation, the Religion and the Monarchy.

She said that the prime minister would like to assure the Thai people that this is the administration’s position.

He was quoted to have said about this controversial issue yesterday, “Every country has longstanding cultures and traditions. No one thinks all the good in our past should be erased in favour of the new, created without rules. We shouldn’t be destroying what all Thais hold in high regard.”

The regime’s party is uniting against change. The Bangkok Post reports that Thipanan Sirichana, who is attached to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat Office says it is “impossible to repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, both in technicality and spirit, and doing so runs counter to the constitution…”. Thipanan insists that Section 6, “that the monarch holds a position of reverence which is inviolable” translates to an impossibility of amending or ditching the law.

That’s looney, but in this atmosphere being mad is a credential for ultra-royalism.

Interestingly, though Thipanan sees campaigning against the law as a campaign tool, suggesting that she knows there’s considerable support for change and reform.

Bangkok Post’s Chairith Yonpiam, an assistant news editor, writes that:

Right-wing conservative factions will have to learn, albeit with a sense of disappointment, that demands to change Section 112 will remain a key point in the drive to reform the monarchy, in what appears to be a long-haul political endeavour.

The calls to modify Section 112 are nothing new. They surfaced in the latter period of King Rama IX’s reign, and have now become predominant.

Sensibly, Chairith reminds readers of earlier efforts to reform or abolish 112, focusing on Nitirat which also had a lese majeste reform petition to parliament back in 2012. Back then, dark forces were unleashed against the university lawyers. One of the major voices denouncing Nitirat and threatening reformists was, of course, Gen Prayuth, then army commander.

Charith is correct to observe that:

The abuse of democratic rule with the launch of the military-sponsored 2017 charter by Gen Prayut and conservative elites, who branded themselves as staunch royalists, propelled calls for the reform of the monarchy, which have become louder in parliament and on the street.

He notes that “politics as we used to know it has changed, as it is no longer dominated by politicians. This is because people are aware that political conflicts have affected all elements in society and reform is necessary.”

His view is that: “Amending Section 112 is absolutely necessary to prevent the abuse of this draconian law.”

Amending this feudal law is not enough. Too many have suffered. Get rid of it. Vajiralongkorn and his mad monarchists are facing determined and growing opposition. Intimidation will be the royalist response, but that is likely to further expand the opposition to royalism and the regime.

Update: Thaksin has said more on lese majeste, seemingly contradicting his earlier position that 112 was “problem-free.” Now he’s saying “the 15-year maximum jail sentence for violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code is too harsh. The law must be amended to lower the punishment as a matter of urgency.” He stated: “We need to figure out how to keep the punishment from being too heavy,” adding that those detained under the law “must be granted the right to bail.”





Military godfathers and the corruption of parties and politics

26 09 2021

Thai PBS reports on continuing ructions in the Palang Pracharat Party that has Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s underlings pitted against Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. It turns out that the failed plot to unseat Gen Prayuth during the recent censure debate was only round 1 of this fight.

The start of the second round came when plotter and convicted heroin trafficker and “influential person” Thammanat Prompao retained his Party post. It is presumed that General Prawit was behind this. Prawit then doubled-down, appointing “a former Army rival of the PM” as the Party’s new chief strategist. Gen Vitch Devahasdin Na Ayudhya took this “powerful post previously held by the current party leader, Deputy Premier General Prawit…”.

Previously, in 2010, Gen Vitch was assistant Army chief and “was appointed to the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation, which was tasked with handling the red-shirt protests against Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government.”

In that year, Gen Vitch was competing with Gen Prayuth to “succeed outgoing Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda. However, the post was eventually handed to Gen Prayut instead.” This despite Gen Vitch’s long connection with Gen Prawit.

Readers can read the whole story for the details or plow through the most recent post at Secret Siam, which posits a deep and long struggle, including speculation regarding parts played by none other than Thaksin Shinawatra.

One thing is clear: that the rise and rise of the unsavory Thammanat demonstrates how “a powerful political broker” with a criminal past (who knows about the present?) can float to the top through links built through equally unsavory characters in the military (and higher).

The story of Thammanat’s rise is like a Thai version of “The Godfather,” but most of the protagonists are military mafia.

Thai PBS says “Vitch has been close to Gen Prawit since their early years in the Royal Thai Army three decades ago, and reportedly introduced Thammanat to Prawit.” It goes on to say that it was Thammanat who “helped Vitch to get into the ruling party.”

Gen Vitch is open regarding his links to “dark influences,” saying:

he has known Thammanat since the latter worked for his long-time friend Gen Trairong Intarathat. Also known as “Seh Ice”, Trairong once served as an adviser to then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and was described as an influential figure.

So mafia-connected military figures have swirled through various governments for several years. For those who don’t know Seh Ice, his brief obituary says this:

Gen Trairong was born on Sept 1, 1949, the fourth of the four sons of Maj Phone Intarathat, a former director of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, and ML Kanyaka Suthat.

He was a Class 10 student of the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School and Class 21 cadet of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in the cavalry division.

His classmates at the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School included Thaksin, Gen Anupong Paojinda, the current interior minister, ACM Sukumpol Suwanathat, a former defence minister, and Gen Prin Suwanathat, a former transport minister.

He held several important positions in military service, including specialist attached to the Supreme Command, chief of the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, an army specialist, and chief of staff officers for the defence minister (Gen Thammarak Issarangura Na Ayutthaya).

Not long before he died in 2016, he was identified, along with Thammanat, Seh Ice was identified in a military report as an influential mafia boss:

Two of four people reportedly named as “influential criminal figures” on a military document deny any wrongdoing, saying there is not a shred of truth to the allegation.

“That’s ridiculous, and I’m wondering which [security] people think like that,” former army specialist Gen Trairong Intaratat, better known as Seh Ice, said yesterday….

The three others named in the document are Karun Hosakul, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Bangkok’s Don Muang district; Capt Thammanat Prompao, a former close aide to Gen Trairong and said to be involved in several enterprises including lottery ticket distribution; and Chaisit Ngamsap, who is alleged to be connected to illegal activities in the Mor Chit area of Bangkok.

Capt Thammanat, a former military officer, said he had contacted 1st Division commander, Maj Gen Narong Jitkaew, to ask him about the document and was told the information came from an intelligence report and there were no plans to summon him.

And, here’s an AFP report from 1998, with Thammanat playing a lead role:

BANGKOK, Sept 9 (AFP) – Eighteen middle-ranking Thai military officers are being investigated for links to an international heroin trafficking operation, the supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces said Wednesday.

General Mongkol Ampornpisit said the officers had been re-admitted into the military in the past two years and the scandal, the latest in a series to rock the Thai military, had prompted him to order that all recently re-admitted officers have their backgrounds checked.

“I have submitted the names of all re-admitted officers for the last two years to have their criminal backgrounds checked with the police,” General Mongkol told reporters, without elaborating on the heroin trafficking allegations.

He said he hoped the move to vet officers would help contain one of the biggest scandals to hit the Thai military establishment in many years.

The revelation of the heroin investigation follows another scandal involving an army captain at the centre of a murder probe, who had previously served a jail term in Australia for drug trafficking.

Mongkol conceded the military had been lax when re-admitting Captain Patchara [Thammanat] Prompao into the armed forces after he was fired twice and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Patchara is now in detention awaiting trial in a civilian court after he surrendered to police on Monday to face charges that he raped and then beat a male academic to death.

In June, amid a drive was to make the armed forces more accountable, the government demanded the military disclose the contents of secret bank accounts they had been allowed to keep.

Earlier this year the armed forces were accused by opposition politicians of involvement in vast illegal logging operations in northern Thailand.

So many connections, so many charges – none of which have held up in the Thailand. That’s what a mafia system is about and this is how it works. More tellingly, the military continues to reward crooks who slither to the top.

As the Bangkok Post reports, the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School has recognized Thammanat as and outstanding alumnus:

The controversial soldier-turned-politician was nominated for the award this year, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the usual annual ceremony to present the award to him and other outstanding Afaps alumni has been postponed until next year….

It is said Thammanat has declined the award, but the “honoring” of one of its most corrupt alumni is a telling indictment of a corrupt organization. The military (and police) cannot tell right from wrong, and instills this “value” in its new officer cadets.





2006 military coup

19 09 2021

The army’s real task: coups and repression

It’s the anniversary of the 2006 coup, the event that cast Thailand into a political crisis that continues until today.

The Bangkok Post felt it appropriate to interview Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the leader of the coup that gave Thailand the junta that named itself the Council for Democratic Reform under Democracy with the King as Head of State.

Sonthi was always dull with limited intellectual capacity. Some call him the coup “mastermind, but he could not have planned and conducted a military coup, but he was a useful tool for the military he commanded and for the palace.

He adds to this reputation as a dullard when he says: “if you ask me if it is a success or a failure … people were in a joyful mood and gave flowers to soldiers…”.

Sonthi and his shadows. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

To recall yet another disastrous military intervention, we went back to an academic article that summarized the outcome of the coup in 2008, and which is free to download. Here’s its assessment:

It is clear that a large proportion of the Bangkok-based middle class, the royalist elite, a swathe of political activists, some business people and large numbers in the south believed that the military conducted a ‘‘good coup’’ to rid the country of the Thaksin government and to rescue them from authoritarianism. Representative of such thinking was the renowned liberal and former liberal Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan (2006): ‘‘The Sep 19, 2006 coup in Thailand was necessary – a corrective measure – in that it saved the country from the clutches of authoritarianism.’’

Undoubtedly, for millions more, largely from the north and north-east, this was a ‘‘bad coup,’’ for it removed from office the one government that had largely delivered on its electoral promises and provided them with a political voice….

The coup also led to a reprise of highly conservative and nationalist discourses regarding the nature of Thai democracy, of national forms of capitalism, and to new state-led education campaigns teaching people the ‘‘proper’’ exercise of citizenship. It also raised the volume of royalist propaganda to a level not seen since the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932.

Of course, things have become a lot worse, Following the military’s murder of scores of red shirts in 2010, the 2014 coup sought to roll back the political clock, rid the country of Thaksinism, cripple parliamentary representation, and make the monarchy paramount, using draconian lawfare. Thousands have been detained, threatened, jailed, beaten and disappeared. That’s the nature of Thailand’s military and its politics.





Wages and sin

17 08 2021

Suporn Atthawong was once a red shirt. He was once charged with lese majeste. But about the time that the junta was hoovering up possible allies in the northeast, his 112 case was dropped after Suporn gave his support to the junta party and was rewarded by being made an “assistant minister.” The wages of sin, treason, and grassing-up your former comrades. He also changed his name to Seksakol, apparently meant to whitewash his bad karma.

His “job” as turncoat, weasel, and snitch has been to bribe former allies across to the post-junta side and to run regime legal errands such as making complaints that lead to charges of lese majeste and more. He’s not a person with morals or scruples and presumably his chameleon qualities are not recent. Some on social media reckon he was a regime stooge when a red shirt.

Adding to his rubbish reputation, according to the Bangkok Post, “Seksakol” has run another legal errand for the military-backed regime, targeting red shirt “Nattawut Saikua over his role in Sunday’s car mob rallies.”

Weasel

The complaint he filed with the Crime Suppression Division “accused the red-shirt leader of violating the emergency decree, the communicable disease control law and Section 116, the provision for sedition.” It seems “sedition” is that “Nattawut had plotted to instigate unrest, noting that the red-shirt leader urged the anti-government protesters to join the rallies even though the recent demonstrations have been marred by violence.”

Seksakol said he would also “ask the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to examine Mr Nattawut’s financial transactions since 2010 because he was suspicious that the protests could be sponsored by people overseas.”

The claim is a repetition of deep yellow shirt social media accusations that Nattawut is in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra. It is also a claim that the yellow shirts directed at Seksakol when he was a red shirt. Now he’s in the pay of the authoritarian regime that is populated by those who murdered his (supposed) comrades in 2010.





Mad authoritarianism

23 04 2021

There’s been considerable discussion in recent days of a draft law that would allow state monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities. This amounts to a predictable deepening of control by an authoritarian regime. At the same time, it is reflective of a quite mad authoritarianism as the regime has increasingly come under the influence of ideas of conspiracy that dominate the “thinking” of mad monarchists.

Thai PBS reports that the effort to strictly control civil society organization and dominate political space by limiting NGOs by the “monitoring of NGO funding and supervision of their activities” through the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations “stems from fears of foreign intervention in local politics and adverse impacts of NGOs’ foreign donations on national security.”

That report cites Amnesty International as saying that other states have also introduced “restrictive laws and policies, and stigmatising rhetoric…”. The examples provided include “Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Hungary, and the Philippines.”

In the Thai case, the bill appears to reflect the increasingly frenzied deep yellow shirt conversations about CIA (meaning the USA) and Jewish (meaning George Soros) conspiracies to undermine the monarchy. There’s no evidence for such conspiracies, just an ever-mounting social media gnashing of teeth and tan ever-higher piling of buffalo manure, some of it egged on by organized anti-Western bloggers and “news” outlets. Such sources have waged a campaign against “colour revolutions” and, since the rise of the red shirts, have increasingly focused on Thailand. In Thailand, their deeply conservative narrative has been couched in “radical” terms, railing against “American imperialism.”

This narrative caught on among yellow shirts who themselves had dealt in fictious notions of conspiracy against the monarchy that constructed accounts of the Finland Plot to bring down the monarchy and of Thaksin Shinawatra’s anti-monarchism.

Such conservative fictions were easily imbibed by military monarchists. One result is this bill to control civil society groups. It was the post-junta cabinet, dominated by military monarchists that “in late February approved in principle the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations, which would require NGOs to report their financiers and amount of funding, to have their accounts audited, and to ensure that their activities are lawful.”

Thai Enquirer refers to the Bill as the “Operation of Non-profit Organizations Act,” and notes that the “legislation was proposed by the Council of State…” which cited the concerns that resulted in the draft bill, including that NGOs “receive funding from foreign persons or entities.” Nothing new there; it has been a standard operating procedure for decades. However, in these reactionary times, there’s a view that this “might adversely affect the relationship between Thailand and that of other countries.”

Thai Enquirer explains what the Bill will do:

This draft bill, if passed into law, would require NGOs to register themselves with the Director General of the Department of Provincial Administration, prior to commencing its activities in Thailand. Once registered, they will be additionally required to comply with rules and conditions prescribed by the Minister of Interior, in addition to those requirements set forth in the legislation.

In addition, NGOs would be subject to an annual disclosure viz-a-viz sources of funds and must file an annual tax report to authorities. And, more horrendously, the NGOs can only receive funding from foreign persons, entities, or groups of persons, only for the purpose as prescribed by the Minister of Interior. Failure to comply with these requirements would subject the NGOs to criminal sanctions. Potentially imprisonment for persons involved.

It is unclear whether receiving funds to engage in political advocacy such as calling for the amendment of the constitution would be one of the permissible purposes. However, given the government’s track record and how the government MPs have reacted to iLaw’s requests, it is reasonable to fear that the purpose of political advocacy would not be permitted.

The article continues, noting that the regime:

does not wish to appear subtle about its motives either. It includes as material substance of the law that the bill would effectively ensure that NGOs are operating in Thailand without “Tai-ya-jitr” (hidden agendas). It remains unclear what “hidden agenda” means in this context. Is advocating for democracy … under the authoritarian regime regarded as a “hidden agenda?” … One might therefore reasonably conclude that this law is aimed at curtailing the activity of liberal NGOs….

The regime “has provided numerous hints about how it intends to use the law,” citing “a senior intelligence official specifically cited a statement signed by 13 human rights organisations … as demonstrating the need for further control over organisations working in Thailand.” That statement by human rights groups “condemned the government’s use of force against protesters.”

As The Interpreter observes:

Since a military coup in 2014, however, civic space and fundamental freedoms have taken a beating in Thailand. Authorities have harassed activists, cracked down on protesters and obstructed the proceedings of civil society. But these actions have failed to fully extinguish dissent, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has now proposed a draconian new law governing associations and organisations, which, if passed, would do more to crush civic space and undermine Thailand’s role in the region than any other effort by the Thai government in the past decade….

Under the proposed legislation, any group engaged in non-profit activities – no matter how small, informal or unorganised – would be required to register with the ministry. Student groups, community organisations, protest movements, artistic collectives, social clubs and short-lived associations would all fall within the remit of the law.

It establishes a “mandatory registration scheme overseen by the Ministry of Interior” and gives “authorities expansive powers to control and monitor groups of all sizes and types.”

Under the current authoritarian regime, the proposed law’s “broad terms and steep penalties would likely be wielded arbitrarily against independent-minded individuals and organisations.”

It imposes harsh penalties for failing to register: “individuals associated with an unregistered group could be punished with up to five years’ imprisonment.”

…The law would give the Ministry of Interior sweeping powers to determine the conditions under which registered groups operate. Activities backed by foreign funds would require pre-approval by the ministry, with foreseeable consequences for groups that frequently come into conflict with the government. More worrying still, the law would allow officials to inspect a registered organisation’s office and access its emails without justification or judicial oversight. It provides no safeguards against governmental misuse or arbitrary application of the law.

…Moreover, the selection of the Ministry of Interior as the ministry responsible for enforcing the law is telling. The Ministry of Interior oversees local administration and internal security within Thailand. As a result, it frequently comes into conflict with community associations, non-governmental organisations and other groups that would be governed by the law. The surveillance and enforcement powers granted by the law would bolster the ministry, to the detriment of those seeking to hold government officials accountable for corruption, human rights abuses or other misdeeds.

Such requirements and such intrusive surveillance mean that the government would determine which NGOs could register and what they could do, if they receive international funding.

The Interpreter further observes:

Adding to the law’s recklessness, the timeline set forth for registration – 30 days from the date of enactment – does not provide enough time for the ministry to register the thousands of currently unregistered groups operating in Thailand. If it were passed, numerous organisations would be forced to cease operations, and many would never reopen.

That is likely one of the aims of the legislation.

Each of the reports mentioned in this post reports on responses from NGOs. Among many issues, they note that the law is in conflict with several provisions of the constitution – not that such matters have ever bothered this regime – and that the law would allow “authorities to harass civil society groups and activists critical of the government by categorising them as NGOs.”

The Interpreter concludes:

If enacted, the proposed law would devastate Thai civil society and could lead to an exodus of international organisations currently based in Thailand.

Clearly, the regime’s support for the monarchy and the need to suppress anti-royalism puts it in alliance with all kinds of mad monarchists. For them and the regime, only conspiracy theories can “explain” attacks on their beloved monarchy and monarchist ideology. When mixed with the regime’s military-induced love of hierarchy and order, the outcome is a political system that is deeply authoritarian. The threat is to make Thailand forever authoritarian.





Updated: Jatuporn, Nattawut and the protests

4 04 2021

Today, the recently erratic official red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan is tentatively rallying his supporters to oppose Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. This is surprising and somewhat difficult to understand.

Part of the reason why this is a surprise is that, as we observed back in January, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn had been saying some odd political things and seemed to have had a political meltdown, as enthusiastically reported by Thai PBS. Part of the meltdown involved a dispute with Thaksin Shinawatra over local elections.

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

As everyone knows, Jatuporn has a long pedigree as a political activist dating back to the 1992 uprising against another military power grab. For his leadership of red shirts, he had faced numerous criminal charges and several arrests and served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts in 2010. Jatuporn’s defamation was to aptly label Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

Despite his history of political activism, his recent outbursts saw Jatuporn labeled a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.” There was muffled cheering from royalists when Jatuporn suggested that the UDD be disbanded and that the student protesters should refrain from calling for reform to the monarchy.

All of that had observers scratching their heads when Jatuporn urged the public to join a political forum at Santiporn Park to “kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut’s prolonged stay in power.”

According to Jatuporn, “the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims,” and he hopes it leads to a sustained campaign against Gen Prayuth. He even called on former political opponents – yellow shirts – to join if they opposed Gen Prayuth.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn “is proposing to bring Prayut down as well as write a ‘people’s constitution’.” He is cited:

Jatuporn blames the prime minister for the current aggressive deployment of the kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law against activists, which just worsens the political crisis. He reiterated that this is all the more reason why Prayut must go.

To avoid more violence and casualties, as seen in recent demonstrations, Jatuporn said that either Prayut must step down or the coalition parties must withdraw from the government.

Jatuporn says that his “new group of political activists is called Samakee Prachachon, which literally translates as ‘the people united’, to support an end to the current divide and rule strategy, wherein the Prayut regime exploits political division to hang on to political power.”

Today’s event has led to much speculation.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn is responding “to the call, by Adul Khieuboriboon, leader of the relatives of the victims of the ‘Black May’ event in 1992, for mass protests.”

On the right, there have been mixed responses. Some thought that an anti-regime movement that did not attack the monarchy might have political traction, whereas other rightists thought that Jatuporn remained Thaksin’s puppet.

One of the mouthpieces of the anti-Thaksinistas, former ideologue at The Nation and now writing op-eds for Thai PBS, Tulsathit Taptim, describes Jatuporn “ unpredictable” and asks: “Who is Jatuporn working for?” He promotes the idea that Jatuporn “has patched things up with Thaksin…” and that Thaksin wants to move now to prevent the regime further embedding itself through the (rigged) election processes:

The Thaksin-Jatuporn theory means Prayut will face a two-pronged attack. The current youngster-led campaign will go on, dealing with all kinds of sensitive subjects such as Article 112. Jatuporn’s army, whose size remains to be seen, will deal with the prime minister directly and push for relatively less sensitive constitutional changes like the origin and powers of the Senate. One of rare positives for Prayut in this case is that a Thaksin-Jatuporn combination would keep the Democrats more firmly in the fold.

Thaksin’s name will return to the center stage, according to this popular theory….

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protester leaders told Thai Enquirer that while “the student-led movement have not yet to discussed whether or not it would join a rally called by Jatuporn,” ousting Gen Prayuth was also one of the movement’s goals. However, the students said there “should be no division [between the groups]…”.

In other words, the students insisted the attention to the monarchy to remain. Benjar Apun, a protest leader from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said:

We will not interfere with what they are doing…but our goals are aligned, with or without the demand to reform the institution….

However, the UFTD will continue to demand for the reformation of the royal institution and Jatuporn’s movement also do not have the right to interfere with this demand….

She said her group would consider joining the rally but would never drop their demands to reform the institution [monarchy].

In line with that, it is interesting to observe that Nattawut Saikua, another UDD leader, just out of jail and just this week off electronic tagging, said that he “had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn…”.

Jatuporn-nattawutt

Nattawut and Jatuporn in red shirt days

However, on Tuesday, he called on the “government to release pro-democracy protesters from jail and seek a peaceful resolution to the political conflict.” He then went on to affirm that “sovereign power in the country belonged to the people as everyone is equal.”

He noted that he had been charged, arrested and jailed several times, saying: “I have no regrets over the path I chose. I have been sentenced to jail three times, but I can handle it if I have to face such punishment again.”

Nattawut reaffirmed his support for the pro-democracy protesters, saying:

The country can’t move forward if the new generation is still in jail, so the government should talk with the [young protesters] to seek a peaceful solution for the country….

These two red shirt leaders might have different aims, but the thrust of their current words and activity may further promote political struggle.

Update: Few of the mainstream media reported on the rally last night – perhaps it finished too late for stories to be filed? That said, the rally was livestreamed by various outlets, including Voice TV. Various reports were of a few hundred to 3,000 attending. Based on the broadcast PPT saw, it was very much a red shirt crowd and certainly much grey hair was evident.

Thai Enquirer did editorialize:

Jatuporn’s position also means that he is estrange politically. Having moved way from the Pheu Thai Party, Jatuporn has no ready allies in parliament. Move Forward, Palang Pracharat, Bhumjai Thai all have reason to not engage with the former red shirt leader. Ironically the party most closely aligned to his views might be the Democrat Party, the very party he once took to the streets to try to overthrow.

It is unclear how much traction this new movement will gain in the coming weeks and months or whether it will at all.

But what is clear is that if Jatuporn wants to create a stir and regain the support he once had, he is going to have his work cut out for him.





Mad monarchists madder still II

30 03 2021

With the resurgence of protests and the regime intensifying its repression, the mad monarchists are increasingly agitated.

While reporting on Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon and her recent speech targeting the monarchy and other reforms, Thai PBS spends space on enraged monarchists and their bizarre claims.

Mind

Mind

Already facing a lese majeste charge, on 24 March, Mind made three calls on the monarchy, calling on the king to cease interfering “in the military, in politics and in public assets.”

As a result of these reasonable demands of a monarchy meant to be constitutional, Mind probably faces additional lese majeste and other charges. She says she is “bracing for jail…” and vowed to “continue her fight even if she was jailed during the court trial.”

The rabid royalists given space are alleged “scholar” Arnond Sakworawich and political aspirant Warong Dechgitvigrom. It is interesting how each royalist repression of protesters since 2005 has seen a new bunch of royalist spokespersons promoted as the “defenders” of the monarchy.

Arnond claims Mind is “mistaken in alleging the King has ‘his own army’, independent of the Thai armed forces.” His view is that the “King’s Royal Guards were simply transferred from the military and police to form the royal security unit.” He doesn’t explain how it is that this “unit” is under the direct command of the palace or why it was necessary to vastly expand the “royal security unit.”

Arnond’s rebuttal of Mind’s observation of the king’s political interventions – preventing his elder, non-royal, sister stand in an election – seems to confirm Mind’s point. Arnond ignores other interventions, including the king’s demands for constitutional change.

Royalist Arnond’s defense of royal wealth and the king’s assets is just loopy and ignores the king’s own changes to the law that allowed him to take total control of all assets associated with the monarchy, while rolling back decades of legislation.

Warong Dechgitvigrom relied more on the concoction of a conspiracy, a royalist strategy that has been used repeatedly since 2005 to smear and repress.

He claimed Mind is manipulated “by a hidden hand bent on defaming the King with distorted facts.” He declared:

It’s a pity that you didn’t do your homework before reading the statement. The person who prepared the statement for you is so cruel. Without supporting truth, they sacrifice you just to incite people….

This conspiracy claim is repeated and expanded by the maddest of the Bangkok Post’s monarchists, Veera Prateepchaikul. Agreeing with the yellow-shirt conspiracies and cheers the detention without bail of those accused of lese majeste.

Like Warong, he believes that Mind and other protesters are manipulated and the tools of dedicated anti-monarchists. He pours accelerant on the royalist fire, repeating scuttlebutt that her “demands for reform of the monarchy was allegedly given to her by someone believed to be an anti-monarchist.”

He demeans and diminishes all the young protesters, preferring to believe they are misled and tricked. His claims are a familiar refrain. It was only a few years ago that yellow shirts demeaned red shirts, considering them uneducated buffaloes, led around by the nose, and or paid by Thaksin Shinawatra. Obviously, the kids protesting aren’t “uneducated,” but there is still a search for a political Svengali.

In an attempted political assassination, Veera names and seeks to shame “Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement Group and anti-monarchist lecturer at Thammasat University…”. Veera decries Piyabutr’s view that the protesters are agents of change, who “will not change their mind on the monarchy” by jailing them.

Veera peddles more royalist tripe by questioning why several academics have been willing to post bail for those jailed.

Veera states that “many students have been exploited,” and claims that Mind is manipulated: “What if she is thrown behind bars for reading the script in question while the actual writer remains scot free? That is unfair, cold-blooded and sheer exploitation of a young mind.”

Yellow shirt ideology is conspiratorial and displays a remarkable penchant for patriarchal nonsense, diminishing the views and actions over many months of demonstration. Clearly, the students understand that reform to the monarchy comes with a diminution of patriarchy and other hierarchies that keep old royalist men in charge of the country.





Thailand and Myanmar’s generals

25 02 2021

Oren Samet has a useful article at The Diplomat. “The Myanmar Public Fights Not to End Up Like Thailand” makes some points that need attention. It begins:

A week after overthrowing Myanmar’s elected civilian government on February 1, coup leader [Gen] Min Aung Hlaing sent a letter to Thai Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha asking – with no hint of irony – for his help in supporting “democracy” in Myanmar. The letter was revealing not for what it said, but for who it was addressed to. Prayut is, himself, a former general, who overthrew Thailand’s elected government in 2014 and has been in charge ever since. When it comes to coups, Thailand’s generals know what they’re doing.

As we know, and despite initial silence and opacity, in recent days, representative’s of Myanmar’s military junta have been meeting with Thai counterparts – most of whom were a part or associated with Thailand’s own military junta in 2014-19.

As far as we know, this is the first overseas visit by a Myanmar government representative since its hugely popular and elected government was thrown out by the coup.

According to Samet, the Myanmar generals are following a Thai script:

When Min Aung Hlaing made his first televised statement since taking power, he repeatedly emphasized that government policies would remain unchanged and welcomed continued foreign investment. Despite the disastrous consequences of previous military takeovers in Myanmar, he promised that this coup would be different.

He might as well have said, “this time we’re doing it Thai style.”

Samet rightly points out that Gen Min Aung Hlaing:

has close connections to the Thai military. He received multiple high-level honors from the Thai authorities, even after orchestrating the Rohingya genocide in 2017. Prem Tinsulanonda, a previous Thai general turned prime minister, considered Min Aung Hlaing his “adopted son.”

Thailand’s royalist military and the interfering Gen Prem has, from the ashes, helped in bringing authoritarianism back to Myanmar.

But, as the world knows, the Myanmar generals are facing stiff opposition. This is not, as Samet claims, being unable to follow the Thai example, but different circumstances. In 2014, the Thai generals didn’t face widespread opposition because they had eliminated, through repression and jailings, the red shirt opposition and its leaders. At the same time, like Thailand’s yellow shirts who hated Thaksin Shinawatra, in Myanmar, several public intellectuals with civil society links have gone over to the generals and express an intense hatred of Aung San Suu Kyi and her alleged arrogance.

The other thing that the Thai military might have shown their buddies across the border is that it is possible to wait out civil opposition while picking off some of that oppositions leadership. The men with guns know that peaceful protest can often be waited out.





Updated: Jatuporn’s meltdown

13 01 2021

One of the not very well hidden tasks of the regime, sometimes supported by the mainstream media, has been to nitpick at the protest movement and exacerbate divisions and differences.

That follows a tested junta tactic of trying to divide and conquer former opponents in Puea Thai and among red shirts. This involved buying off red shirt leaders like the detestable Suporn Atthawong, who has been rewarded with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions. Those turncoats have assisted the military junta to transform into the current post-junta regime.

A more activist Jatuporn

Over the past couple of months we have watched United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, leader Jatuporn Promphan say some odd things and, finally, have a meltdown. His story is told by a seemingly gleeful Thai PBS.

Jatuporn’s role as a red shirt protest leader resulted in numerous criminal charges and several arrests, and he eventually served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts. Jatuporn’s defamation was to call Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

He was also seen court orders for 100 million baht “in civil rulings stemming from riots and arson attacks by red-shirt protesters.” We won’t go back over the details of these false charges. In addition, he faces charges of “terrorism, illegal phone-tapping, and provoking public disorder, as well as other libel offences.”

Many activists looked differently at Jatuporn when, in July 2020, he “warned student activists not to cross a line, by infringing upon the [m]onarchy…”.  Some took this as a warning that the students should be wary of yet another murderous military attack on protesters. Others, however, wondered why Jatuporn appeared to be defending the monarchy. Many red shirts who joined with the student demonstrators calling for monarchy reform were stunned by Jatuporn’s statements.

In September 2020, his commentary was taken up in an op-ed by the notorious anti-democrat journalist Tulsathit Taptim who used Jatuporn’s “advice” to demonstrators to call for them to back down. Referring to campaigns against royalists, it was stated:

According to Jatuporn, it is all right for dictators to seek to destroy or suppress opposite or different opinions because it’s what they do. But it’s not democratic, he says, if minority or unpopular opinions are condemned, insulted or forced to undergo changes.

Oddly, in 2010 and during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it was Jatuporn who was accused by yellow shirts of supporting “majoritarianism” – in this case, supporting an elected government.

Two further outbursts by Jatuporn suggest that he has had a political meltdown. He has seen increasing opposition from former comrades, with accusations that he is a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.”

Staggeringly, Jatuporn has called for the UDD “to disband and pass the baton on to the young-generation protesters now battling for democracy. That push drew another barrage of criticism – this time that he was betraying fellow red shirts.” Some wondered aloud about Jatuporn’s motives and asked why, in 2014, the red shirts went off stage with a whimper. Was Jatuporn complicit in demobilizing red shirts? Some disgruntled observers suggested that Jatuporn’s paymaster had changed.

Then, he drew more criticism when he campaigned for the re-election of Chiang Mai’s provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chief, Boonlert Buranupakorn, himself considered a turncoat. Boonlert lost to a Puea Thai candidate who also had Thaksin Shinawatra’s support. Even other red shirt leaders spoke out against Jatuporn.

Just a few days ago, Jatuporn’s meltdown and slide to the other side was illustrated when he filed “a police complaint against some 200 netizens he accused of posting false information and defamatory abuse against him” during the [PAO] election campaign.”

Jatuporn said the “online attacks part of a concerted attempt to destroy his reputation,” something he seems to be doing for himself. Sounding like the regime’s nastiest of lying, cheating politicans, he vowed “many hundred more cases.” He seems to be taking a leaf out of Thammanat Prompao’s playbook.

We can understand that all those legal cases and the threat of more jail must weigh heavily, but it does seem that Jatuporn is doing the regime’s work.

Update: Khaosod has more on the UDD. It concludes with comments by red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich, saying “he would oppose any attempt to dissolve the UDD.” He correctly points out that “the large number of Redshirt protesters at anti-government rallies in 2020 prove that the movement is still a force to reckon with, and what the UDD needs is a new leadership with new strategies.” He adds: “Redshirts are against the dissolution of the UDD,” he said, citing an informal online survey that he conducted. “

As for Jatuporn, Anurak states: “I don’t want to use the word fired, but I’d like to ask him to leave.”





More monarchy indoctrination needed

26 12 2020

While the military’s regime continues to use “law” to repress anti-monarchism, The Nation reports the ultraroyalist Thai Pakdee group is demanding more royalist  indoctrination.

One might puzzle as to how “more” is even possible in a land simply flooded by palace propaganda. But, for the ultras, floods can be ever deeper, drowning out anti-royalism.

The mad monarchists, led by the man with the golden ear, Warong Dechgitvigrom, have “submitted a letter to Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan on Wednesday, asking him to launch five measures to promote protection of national institutions.” Here, they mean nation, religion and monarchy.

The group’s leader, Warong Dechgitvigrom, said the move aimed to prevent politicians and activist networks from using teachers and students as tools to encroach on the “three pillars” of nation, religion and the monarchy.

The proposals for the monarchy are based on their belief that unnamed “politicians” are behind the students, manipulating them. They usually mean Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his colleagues, but deep yellow social media also mumbles about Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai Pakdee wants to keep “politicians” and “activists” off campus, school staff to “support” the “institutions,” while not supporting the same “politicians” and “activists,” and for schools and their administrators to be held responsible for “any activities held under their jurisdiction that encroach on national institutions.”

You get the picture. This is royalist fascism, allowing royalists to determine who is not sufficiently royalist and repressing them. School administrators are threatened. To add to the general impression of enveloping, suffocating royalist fascism, the mad monarchists demand that the Education Ministry “improve the curriculum to promote pride in being Thai” and increase indoctrination of staff.

Book burning is probably the next step.

As might be expected, the Minister for Education gave the royalists his support.








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