Maintaining the fairy tale

11 12 2016

Along with the whitewashing of the new king’s notorious past, the fawning over the dead king continues.

Much of this treacly nonsense is a simple repetition of decades of palace propaganda. Some of it is a deliberate set of manufactured stories that beggar belief for anyone who thinks.

We guess some of it is constructed under threat. By this we mean that when normally sensible people come up with errant nonsense, we assume that they say what they do for fear of sanction.

There’s an example of this at The Nation, where law professor Parinya Thaewanarumitkul is reported to have recycled a history that suits royalists and palace propaganda: that the late king was some kind of paragon as a constitutional monarch.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a public lecture on the late king and democracy, Prinya declares that the late king “remained a constitutional monarch despite doubts about his role in the appointment of ‘royally appointed’ prime ministers…”. At least it is admitted that the appointments of Sanya Dharmasakti and Anand Panyarachun were “controversial.”

They were also loyal royalists close to the palace.

Prinya does not mention – at least not in the reporting at The Nation – the rightist Thanin Kraivixien or the dozen or so military coups that the palace generally supported. The king was always keen to support his military friends and “protectors.” He doesn’t mention the trampling to dust of constitutions that the king was happy to go along with.King and junta

In line with the usual propaganda, “Parinya said that the late monarch had played a crucial role in bringing the country together and getting it through times of crisis.”

He is referring to 1973 and 1992. In both cases, the king can be seen as intervening when the military was in trouble and to prevent any serious reform.

Prinya also mentions the “recent crisis that followed the coup in 2006, for instance, resulted in people appealing to the King, asking for a royally appointed prime minister as a means to end the turmoil…”.

We assume he means before the 2006 coup for he goes on to “explain” that the king was properly constitutional in his response.

Not quite right. He told a gaggle of judges to “fix” things for him. The coup soon followed.

His claim that the king “could not just appoint anyone by his preference. He only endorsed as he was asked to”  is simply a manipulation of the facts.

His claim that the late king “never exercised it [his power] undemocratically” is untrue.

No serious academic researcher could draw such conclusions. Only a blind royalist or one under threat. There’s better stuff here.





The new privy council

6 12 2016

It was widely expected that the new king would put his stamp on the Privy Council. He’s done that in very quick time.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has appointed an 11-member Privy Council.

The new members are: “Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, the current Education Minister; Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, currently the Justice Minister; and Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, who retired as army commander-in-chief on Sept 30.”

We surmise that they will need to give up their current positions.

Those who “retired” are, including the dates they took their positions: “Tanin Kraivixien [1977], Chaovana Nasylvanta [1975], ACM Kamthon Sindhavananda [1987], Gen Pichitr Kullavanijaya [1993], Ampol Senanarong [1994], Rr Adm ML Usani Pramoj [1984], MR Thepkamol Devakula [1997] and Adm Chumpol Patchusanont [2005].”

Persons with more knowledge than us will have to read these tea leaves and explain the possible reasons for sending these men on their way.

This means the current 11 members of the Privy Council are: “Gen Surayud Chulanont, Kasem Watanachai, Palakorn Suwanarat,  Atthaniti Disatha-amnarj, Supachai Phungam, Chanchai Likitjitta, ACM Chalit Pookpasuk, Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, Gen Teerachai Nakwanich and Gen Paiboon Koomchaya.” General Prem Tinsulanonda is president of the Privy Council.

This means six are military men, all from the post-2006 politicized forces and several of them having been actively involved in coups overthrowing elected governments.

Three are for presidents of the Supreme Court. One is a former education minister and another is Former Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior. Except for Prem, all have been appointed since 2001.

The king can have up to 18 members, so there’s plenty of empty chairs for him to add others. At the moment, this new Privy Council will be especially pleasing for the military junta. We can only wonder what the deal is for appointing three two serving ministers and a corrupt officer.





Putting things back in place

2 12 2016

General Prem Tinsulanonda is now back as President of the Privy Council after being “temporary Regent” for a period.

The Bangkok Post reports that the 96 year-old was reappointed by the new king in an announcement in the Royal Gazette.Prem 1

Aged judge and former rightist and royalist prime minister Thanin Kraivixien returns to being a regular privy councilor after filling in for Prem as President for the period.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “traditionally, Gen Prem would resume his role as Privy Council president just after his role as the regent ended. The term as president of the Privy Council was open-ended…”. He pointed out that a privy councilor could only leave his [they are all men] position by “royal command, death or resignation…”.





On dictatorship

27 11 2016

This from the Bangkok Post:

Foreign media and observers continue to regard our present government as a “dictatorship.” They have ignored [the] Prime Minister[‘s] … explanation about the necessity for building a democratic society on a stage-by-stage basis.

The Bangkok Post was supporting a dictatorial regime in an editor’s comment on a story from 25 November 1976. Little would appear to have changed from the period of the dictatorial and palace-picked prime minister and monarchist Thanin Kraivixien to the period of the self-appointed and palace-endorsed prime minister and monarchist General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The story, however, is of the rightist and youthful Interior Minister and palace favorite Samak Sundaravej and his approach to “establishing” what he called “democracy” in Thailand, in line with Thanin’s 12-20 year plan of stage-by-stage political change. There was an appointed assembly and elections were seen as “divisive.”

Prayuth has few youthful types in his military-based “government” but he has plenty of rightists and royalists. And he has a 20-year stage-by-stage plan. Prayuth’s military junta also has a puppet parliament of military appointees and views elections as dangerously divisive.

But there’s a difference. Samak stated (clicking opens a PDF of a 1976 press clipping):

Democracy of the past began at the Ananta Samaggom Throne Hall (traditional site of Parliament). lt then tried to seek roots in the villages. That was why it was unstable…. Democracy has to begin at the village council, then move up to the district council, the provincial assembly and then the House of Representatives.

Samak went on to declare: “We are now building up democracy from the villages.”

That sounds nothing like the current regime under The Dictator. No “bottom-up” democracy for them for they have learned that villagers simply cannot be trusted. Those at the local level don’t know what’s good for them and elect governments associated with Thaksin Shinawatra. These uppity villagers even dare to think that they should have some say in government, which is the preserve of the great and the good (and those of the military brass who don’t happen to fit these categories).

In fact, though, the comparison is false. Samak was no democrat in 1976. Reading the story it is clear that the “democracy” he boosts is, like Prayuth’s, no democracy at all. It remains top-down, with officials involved all along, directing, managing and funding a bureaucratized village planning process that knits neatly into the preferred hierarchical model of Thailand’s administration and politics. Anti-democracy and authoritarianism runs deep among the great, the good and the military brass.





Making a cruel point

17 11 2016

student-6oct1The 6 October 1976 massacre was one of the Thai military’s periodic interventions in politics that saw many citizens murdered and arrested.

While the numbers killed total in the 40s for official counts, but perhaps 10 times this in reality.

This massacre was particularly brutal, with civilians being raped, burned alive, lynched, dismembered and tortured. It was conducted by police, military and rightist and royalist gangs that owed allegiance to the palace.

The ruling class cheered the end of a turbulent democracy that they had been unable to totally control.

The monarchy, fearful of communism, unions, students and socialists, thanked those who supported it by murdering and imprisoning those it identified as enemies.

The king spoke to his “subjects” about their duties to support his murderous regime – he had had his man Thanin Kraivixien, appointed premier. This event and the monarchy’s central role was defining of a brief reign of terror under Thanin’s regime, followed by a long period of military and military-backed governments, lasting through until 1988.6-october-1976

The full speech by the then king is reproduced in Prachatai and we reproduce it here, because of its callous support for authoritarianism and rejection of democratic politics.

The speech doesn’t mention these things directly, but everyone knew that the king was supporting those who massacred political opponents:

People of Thailand, thank you for expressing your kindness and cordiality to me, the Queen and all of our children. Thank you for your cooperation and support in all our activities which has given us much encouragement.

The Thai people have clearly expressed their wishes. With this, there is a common understanding and there is an opportunity to work together in order to fulfil our aspirations. Although there may be obstacles or challenges along the way, we can overcome them as long as we sincerely cooperate with one another. However, we should also understand that the country’s overall situation is not so promising.

I strongly wish that all of us could understand and see the reality of the situation in our country.

6-oct-1976Currently our country needs to be improved and developed to the highest level of efficiency so that we can fully optimise the use of resources on our land, as well as wholly benefit from the labour force and wisdom of all Thais. We must utilise them in order to swiftly advance our country and bring about prosperity in all dimensions.

For this purpose, we must urgently execute many development projects and implement them quickly and fruitfully. We cannot delay them for any reason otherwise we will lose out on any potential benefits and in this case it will be damaging.

We can contribute by being strongly determined to uphold the nation’s interest, forego personal interests and refrain from unnecessary disputes.

Those who hold duties and responsibilities must tend to them and successfully fulfil them to the best of their potential and with honesty, with compassion, compromise and goodwill. Our collective work will soon lead to success and a lasting development for our nation.beating_corpse-6-october_1976

I would like to invite the blessings of the Triple Gems and all things sacred to the Thai people to protect you all from danger and misfortune and to bestow upon you good health, inspiration, wisdom and unity, so that you can perform your duties in order to move our country forward while also maintaining our sovereignty and peace for the sake of our well-being and prosperity. I wish you all happiness and success in your endeavours throughout the New Year.

Why is this of interest now? Because the current royalist military junta has decided that every Thai must be reminded of its power for tyranny and repression, in the name of the monarchy. It has chosen to do this with a 9-minute anthem that all Thais will have to listen to and respect into the future. It is also a threat.





Only anti-democrats

31 10 2016

In occupying Thailand’s political space and institutions, the military junta recently extended its absolute control over Bangkok.

The middle class must be pleased that the special benefit they were granted long ago by Prem Tinsulanonda’s military-backed regime, being trusted to elect their governor, is now gone. (Bangkok first elected a governor in 1975, but Thanin Kraivixien removed that.)

Khaosod has a report on the new appointed governor.

Aswin Kwanmuang, a retired police general, was summarily appointed by The Dictator, using Article 44.

He says junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered him to be unelected governor of Bangkok. Aswin explained: “In police and military systems, they don’t usually give you a reason…. An order is an order. Our duty is to say ‘yes sir’.” Prayuth loves such loyalty.

Khaosod states that Aswin is a “well-connected police official” who has repeatedly stated his disdain for “politicians.” He declares: “I definitely said no to politicians…. I don’t want people to be associated with any political parties. I have never been a member of any party in my life.” Prayuth loves this anti-politics stance.

Like Prayuth, he doesn’t mean all politicians. Just “bad people.” Khaosod states that Aswin is “known for being snug with former protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban. When Suthep served as deputy prime minister in the administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva, Aswin was promoted to the special position of police adviser, a position made equal to deputy police chief.”

Aswin is known for “clearing out popular night markets and sidewalk vendors in the name of reclaiming public space.” Some business people love this.

Khaosod says that “Aswin was chosen by Gen. Prayuth to serve on the 200-strong advisory group which replaced the National Reform Council. Although he’s been criticized for pulling double duty – and double pay – on the National Reform Steering Assembly, Aswin has refused to step down…”.

He’s certainly just the kind of loyal bulldog Prayuth appreciates.





All the king’s men

19 10 2016

It may be seen as fitting that the men at the head of major institutions in Thailand are now all authoritarian loyalists of the deceased king.

The youngest of the royalist trio is General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized government in a military coup in 2014. The Dictator made his career through acts of loyalty for the palace. Prior to becoming Army boss, he commanded troops that murderously crushed red shirt protesters in 2010. That was also an act of loyalty.

At 96 years of age, the doddery General Prem Tinsulanonda is now regent. When unelected prime minister, he presided over the years in which the monarchy was catapulted into a more exalted position than it had enjoyed since the days of absolutism.

The third of the royalist stooges is doddery privy counselor Thanin Kraivixien, 88, who is now selected as head of the Privy Council while Prem assumes the position of regent. Thanin was catapulted into the prime ministership in 1976 following a massacre of students and a military coup. He was a palace favorite and it is accepted that the king wanted the right-wing Thanin as premier. He presided over a period of fascist-like repression that was so extreme that even the military leadership soon ditched his government, much to the displeasure of the king who immediately vaulted Thanin to the privy council.

Wikileaks notes that Thanin was “ideological and politically extreme. After his taking office, he sent police special forces to notoriously [sic.] liberal book shops, and ordered the confiscation and burning of 45,000 books, including works of Thomas More, George Orwell and Maxim Gorky.”

In recent days, this unreformed rightist royalist has provided advice to the Prayuth dictatorship. Indeed, the junta’s 20-year “roadmap” to “democracy” is modeled on Thanin’s 16-year plan for “democracy.” There are other similarities and comparisons can be made. Among them, the draft constitution draws inspiration from the Thanin era, with Meechai Ruchupan having served the book burner in 1976-77. Like Prayuth’s military dictatorship, Thanin’s civilian dictatorship made use of the lese majeste law to repress political opponents.