The king and his rightists I

10 11 2020

Yesterday PPT posted on an award to Australian journalists for their reporting on Thailand’s minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted heroin trafficker.  We felt readers might like to see the latest from one of those journalists. We reproduce it in full, with photos added by PPT:

King of compromise? Thailand’s Vajiralongkorn plays the long game in face of protests

By Michael Ruffles
November 8, 2020

The tyres hit the tarmac of Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport. The prince steps out in his army uniform. It has been a long flight from Perth, where he has been training with the SASR for months since completing four years at Duntroon, but his day is not over yet. The 24-year-old is off to temple on a political errand.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn meets a saffron-robed figure, a monk who for 10 years was Thailand’s military dictator before being ousted. The sanctuary in the temple is a signal of royal support, and the meeting is a pointed one as political protests grow at the university campus nearby. It does nothing to quell the anger. It is October 2, 1976. Four days later the campus is the site of a massacre that haunts Thailand to this day.

When King Vajiralongkorn flew in to Bangkok from Germany on October 9, 2020, he landed in a similar political storm. For all the social and economic changes over the decades, young protesters are similarly angry at the military’s dominance and thwarted democracy.

It is also personal: the King’s life in Germany, the women in his life and use of taxpayer money are all the target of criticism, satire and outrage. Yellow-clad supporters counter that the nation, religion and monarchy are core to the Thai identity.

Exiled academic and royal critic Pavin Chachavalpongpun says it is as if “somehow politics got stuck”.

“Almost everything, if you just close your eyes it seems like we go back to 1976,” Pavin says from Kyoto. “The source of the problem has remained with the monarchy, and in particular with the same figure [Vajiralongkorn]. And with the kind of tactics, building up vigilante groups, supporting hardcore royalists to come out, using both propaganda and violence to intimidate the pro-democracy movement.

“This is amazing that we have changed very little from that point to now.”

Vajiralongkorn was an important, if perhaps unwitting, figure in 1976. Actors in a student play were accused of staging a mock execution of the then crown prince and on October 6 a coalition of right-wing militia and police launched a pre-dawn assault on Thammasat University. Forty-three were killed, including five who were lynched. No one has been held accountable. The army seized power in the name of defending the monarchy.

In the past month, protest leaders have been arrested multiple times, flash mobs have sprouted across Bangkok and tear-gas and water cannon have been deployed. Riot police have been out in force but unable to stop protest tactics adopted from last year’s demonstrations in Hong Kong. The words “republic of Thailand” have appeared at protest sites and populate segments of Thai social media with alacrity.

The three official aims of the self-styled People’s Party, or Khana Ratsadon, are the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a rewrite of the military-backed constitution and reform of the monarchy. The royal reforms they want include greater transparency and accountability, and to rein in the use of taxpayer funds at a time when Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy has been hammered. The issue of the monarchy is the most contentious and has brought issues that have long been suppressed by harsh laws and media self-censorship to the fore.

The tensest moment came after a Rolls-Royce carrying the King’s youngest son, Prince Dipangkorn, and Queen Suthida strayed into a protest zone on October 14. British foreign correspondent Jonathan Miller described it on Channel 4 as a “major security lapse”. The more suspicious saw it as a ruse to turn public opinion against the young demonstrators.

Through it all, Vajiralongkorn has stayed in the spotlight. He has lived mostly in Germany since 2007 and had the constitution rewritten to make it easier for him to rule from abroad, but has postponed his return to Europe. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made pointed comments about Vajiralongkorn being unable to rule from Bavaria, which has complicated matters. “I think the King is wise to not go back now because at least they want the story to fade away,” Pavin says.

Vajiralongkorn has also been greeting supporters. Together with Queen Suthida, his Noble Consort Sineenat and his two daughters, the King has walked among them, posed for selfies and offered moral support. At one such event last Sunday, Channel 4’s Miller stood behind a staunch royalist former monk and scored a scoop. He asked the King what he would say to the protesters.

“I have no comment,” Vajiralongkorn said, waving the question away. “We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.”

Miller asked if there was room for compromise, to which he said “Thailand is the land of compromise” before moving away.

Political commentator Voranai Vanijaka, the editor-in-chief of news website Thisrupt, says the events are designed to rehabilitate the prestige of the monarchy and strengthen the royalist base.

“With the King remaining in Thailand, royalists now have the presence of the King as motivation, something near and dear to fight for,” Voranai says.

“The royal walkabouts are designed to do just that. In recent weeks, we have seen increased activities from royalists, with more royalist celebrities coming out to lead protests and gatherings. This is a push back against the Ratsadon Movement.

“The game is to win public legitimacy, which side has more support, which side can claim millions, which is the greater cause, monarchy or democracy.

“The words by the King are as they are, something he’s supposed to say. Royalists say it’s a shining example of the King’s greatness. Ratsadon makes sarcastic memes and signs.”

Activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, who has led the push for reform of the monarchy and faces sedition charges, tweeted in response: “Yes, land of compromise. But protesters are arrested, cracked down on, assaulted. Those criticising the institution are kidnapped. Yes.”

Pavin, an associate professor at Kyoto University whose Royalist Marketplace Facebook group boasts two million members, says Vajiralongkorn and his immediate family have been filmed telling supporters in almost identical terms that they need to fight to correct a misunderstanding of the monarchy.

“Himself, two wives and his two active daughters are totally in sync, this is not coincidental,” Pavin says. “They have to defend the monarchy, that I understand, but if you read closely whatever these people say to the loyal subjects is the same thing. This has been calculated.”

As far as compromise goes, Pavin believes the King “did not mean what he said”. Talk of replacing the Prime Minister has been circling – there is often talk of a coup in Thailand, where there have been a dozen successful putsches in the past century.

Pavin says the fate of the Prime Minister could be a bargaining chip for the King, giving the protesters a victory. But it was more likely the monarchy and military wanted to exhaust protest leaders and outlast the movement.

“This is a tactic that the King has been adopting for some time now. I think eventually they just hope that the persistence on the part of the palace and the government would eventually win, meaning that as long as they can hold on to the status quo then they would emerge as the winner.”

In the embrace of the dictatorship

16 12 2016

Political commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak is one of those who makes a living “translating” Thailand’s politics to foreigners. He does this from a safe position as the head of a Chulalongkorn University institute that has long been supportive of the status quo.

His latest op-ed at the Bangkok Post is far more than an effort to “translate” and more an attempt to rewrite history. He does this in a form that will be appealing to the great and the good who are “liberal royalists.” (On Thitinan’s royalist credentials, see his pathetic ode to the dead king.)

We won’t address every line of Thitinan’s attempted “new history” of the past decade or so, but select some examples.

Although we don’t read all of his op-eds, his first position seems like a new one for him. He “explains” the 2014 military coup as if he is a successionist.

In view of the royal transition that has transpired, Thailand’s interim period since its military coup in May 2014 has now entered a new phase. When the military seized power back then, the Thai public largely put up with what became a military dictatorship…. This rough bargain, whereby the military stepped in to be the midwife of the royal transition, has passed.

In fact, no homogeneous “public” exists in Thailand. Indeed, at the time of the coup, the public was deeply divided. So there was a minority – people like Thitinan, mostly in the comfortable Bangkok middle class of shophouses, apartments and suburban enclaves – who liked the idea of a military dictatorship. Indeed, many of them called for it and demonstrated in support of anti-democracy and military intervention. Most others saw repression and threats and fell into line out of fear and because the junta left no space for opposition.

The notion that there was some kind of “bargain” that allowed the coup as necessary for succession is not just lacking in firm evidence but provides a justification for the coup that is both unwarranted and ignores the military’s history as coup makers. Other writers have suggested that this coup is “different,” but this again seems like a measure of whitewashing the military’s penchant for power.

If we look back to Thitinan writing after the coup, there’s nothing of this. Back then, he drew a distinction between the 2014 coup and Sarit’s regime. Now he says the “Thailand’s putsch in 2014 deviated from familiar coup models in the contemporary period.” That’s because the 1991 and 2006 coups led to “a technocratic caretaker cabinet, led by a civilian at the helm,” and a return to electoral politics.

Thitinan is enamored of “technocrats,” but his claim about handing over to civilian leaders is not entirely true, with the 2006 generals handing over to a government led by General Surayud Chulanont, recently retired from the military and plucked from the Privy Council.

Thitinan, safe in his university institute, reckons the current dictatorship “was suppressive and authoritarian, detaining hundreds of dissenters and regime critics but the generals invariably released them. But the men in green have not killed people.”

He conveniently forgets the military’s role and the role of the junta leaders in murdering dozens in 2010. That was a “message” that opponents have taken seriously, but not, apparently, Thitinan. We can also mention the deaths of activists, deaths in custody and “disappearances,” because Thitinan doesn’t.

Thitinan also reckons the junta is good because it has kept “violence low, [and]… have kept corruption to a minimum.” Perhaps he can explain why almost all the generals who have declared wealth far in excess of what can be legitmately received in their positions in the military? He also seems to forget that, usually, the corruption of military regimes is not found or detailed until after they have been ditched (think Sarit, Thanom and Prapas).

Thitinan then dismisses opposition to the junta as “rumblings and chatters among critics and detractors calling for democracy at the expense of dictatorship. But these have been patchy and contained rather than large-scale and explosive.”

He views the constitutional “referendum” as an endorsement of the junta. He does not consider the threats, the intimidation, the prevention of the expression of alternative views. Indeed, that intimidation continues with court cases ongoing. All this is whitewashed through his silence.

The death of the king becomes a truly remarkable justification for a military dictatorship:

All of this was premised on a once-in-a-lifetime royal transition after the late King Bhumibol’s remarkable 70-year reign. When the day came on Oct 13, few doubted why it had to be Gen Prayut who made the announcement to a grieving nation. At that moment, in the Thai system, it had to be a military man who spoke for the Thai people and the entire nation. No civilian leader from any side of the Thai divide could have had the required gravitas, firm and determined, tinged with grief and sorrow.

This is bizarre, but it also displays the “acceptance” that the monarchy and military are linked as the Siamese twins of authoritarianism. It’s a system that seems to suit Thitinan and one he sees as some kind of feudal social contract.

But now that succesion has been “managed” by a dictatorship, he says it “is time to recalibrate and prepare for a return to popular rule by placing more civilian technocrats in government in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle.” He suggests this as a way to renovate the dictatorship. This faux “civilianization”:

… would boost government performance and lend more international legitimacy. A broad section of the international community has been critical of Thailand’s coup period but there are many sympathetic ears abroad as well. They knew Thailand has been going through a rare transition, and were willing to suspend judgement and wait. Civilianising the cabinet would show progress to Thailand’s friends abroad and pre-empt greater domestic scrutiny going forward. Some at home are beginning to ask why the generals are still so entrenched and dominant in power when the royal transition is behind us.

Bring in the technocrats! But let the junta “maintain control over security-related ministries, such as defence and interior.” There’s no notion of electoral democracy in this. Its anti-democratic to the core. Thitinan probably sees himself as one of those well-placed to move into one of those anti-democratic technocratic positions. After all, his predecessors have been well-rewarded by the forces of authoritarianism.

Anti-election EC and the deceased king

23 10 2016

The American media has been in a spin because wealthy businessman Donald Trump claims the election is rigged and that he may not accept the results. He’s also highly critical of “politicians” and the corruption he says they preside over. Of course, we at PPT don’t know anything much about U.S. politics but we do throw bags of salt around when listening to this particular Republican.

We do know that, in Thailand, the elite has essentially never accepted election results they don’t like. Its claims about vote-buying and policy corruption are a way of saying free elections are rigged. And, its allegations against elected politicians as evil and corrupt are repeated daily.

Thailand’s Election Commission is very much enveloped by this royalist perspective on politics. Essentially anti-election, it is composed of anti-democrats who do their best to prevent elected politicians actually being able to govern while working to deprive the people of their sovereignty.

In an interesting report at the Bangkok Post the EC has joined the junta bandwagon using the dead king to justify its anti-politics. In this case, they have a point.

The EC claims to have adopted one of the late king’s “famous speech” from 1969 when he spoke at the 6th National Scout Jamboree, and “which specifically calls for Thais to ‘strip bad people of power’.” Armed king

At the time, the king strongly supported the dictatorial and corrupt Thanom Kittikachorn regime.  That’s Thanom in the picture, between the king and prince.

The speech, the EC claims, “provides a guide to five strategies aimed to prevent election fraud next year.” The genuflection to the king’s authoritarian anti-politics fits neatly with the current military dictatorship’s approach to a “controlled election.”

The EC’s “five strategies” for that election involve mobilising “well-trained people” – they mean indoctrinated anti-democrats – “to help the EC organise and look out for irregularities in the general election” and said to “match the King’s 1969 speech that emphasises a key principle of the government’s administration — to support good people and ‘keep away bad ones’…”.

The EC is committed to “help screen out bad election candidates.” As part of this, the “EC is training hundreds of people who will learn how to prepare accusation documents and file petitions with the court…”.

So much for any democratic notions of representation and popular sovereignty. As the EC states, “All of these strategies are aimed at achieving the late King and the nation’s goal — to have ‘only good people’ rule the country.” No prizes for guessing who might be “good.”

Looking after the family’s interests I

17 04 2016

The recent chatter on social media has been of nepotism is becoming a din. Several of the local media have tiptoed around the story because it involves the leaking of a secret military order that involves the testy and erratic General Prayuth Chan-ocha, The Dictator of Thailand.

Khaosod has an initial report. It states that a “nephew of junta chairman and [self-appointed] Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has allegedly been given a post in the army and a lieutenancy…”.

The order appointing the 25 year-old Patipat Chan-ocha was “signed by his father, a member of the ruling junta who until recently was a top army commander.” That is General Preecha Chan-ocha, The Dictator’s brother. Preecha has form, having been involved in the Rajabhakdi Park cover-up and also to have displayed poor arithmetical skills (well, that would be the kind interpretation) on his wealth declaration.Preecha

Khaosod was careful – as it needs to be when dealing with a ruthless junta – and declared that the leaked document’s “appearance and format is consistent with formal documents of the Thai bureaucracy.”

The document was marked “secret,” which itself seems odd when it is about a lowly appointment. This suggests that those involved, including Preecha, knew this appointment was not above board.

Initially, junta ventriloquist’s dummy Colonel Winthai Suvaree refused to comment, using the Sgt Schultz excuse.

Khaosod describes Preecha as “former commander of the Third Region Army and a brother of Gen. Prayuth. Preecha is currently a member of the junta and serves on its appointed legislative body.”These latter appointments caused some raised eyebrows and claims of nepotism, but The Dictator is, well, The Dictator.

The leaked letter “identified Patipat as a graduate of Naresuan University’s mass communications faculty. It did not explain his job description in the army, or why he was chosen for both the position and the lieutenancy other than noting that nothing in army regulations disqualified Patipat from serving.”

In a follow-up Khaosod story, Preecha “admitted … that he gave a job and army rank to his son,” and then went on to defend his actions, “saying it’s common practice in the military.”

We guess that it’s common, like torturing and murdering recruits. It’s just one of those things that makes the Army one of the most bestial and corrupt organizations in the country.

Preecha’s explanation of his actions sounds like the comment of a Sino-Thai tycoon promoting a young son to vice president in the family-run conglomerate: “My son graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, and he has to work…. Now that there’s a vacant position, I put him to work in it. Many people in the army do it. It’s not like only my son does it.”

He refused to say more. As he put it, in the best traditions of a corrupt military: “That’s all for now.”

Preecha’s nepotism has caused critics to point to double standards: “Stop Hypocrisy in Thailand, which was the first to publicize the leaked memo, compared the letter to the junta’s gripe with nepotism in the previous government led by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.” It recalls the anti-democrat’s claiming that the Shinawatra clan was “running the country like their family business.” It observes that “Today, they [the Chan-ocha family] do the very same thing.”

Exiled academic and Prayuth foe Somsak Jeamteerasakul is correct when he likens “the Chan-ochas to the Kittikachorns, the family of the junta that ruled the kingdom in the 1970s. Thanom Kittikachorn and his son Narong served as chairman and secretary-general of the ruling junta, respectively.” He reportedly added: “But Narong [at least] studied in the military academy … It’s not like he graduated with something totally unrelated and used his father’s status as prime minister’s brother to get himself into the military,” Somsak wrote on Facebook.

We expect The Dictator to be livid and to jump about a bit and then seek a cover-up. We might be wrong, but this is his form. As the junta indulges in double standards, corruption and nepotism it undermines its political position. That said, the junta retains the foundational support of the establishment suggesting that double standards, corruption and nepotism can further deepen as the charter referendum gets closer.

Military rule

8 09 2015

Khaosod reports that, should the dictatorship maintain its place until mid-2017, it will the longest period of military rule since 1969.

The point is a good one and results from the discarding of the draft constitution, even if it fudges a bit on history.

Although General Thanom Kittikachorn held elections in 1969, he and his military thugs simply formed a party and won the “election,” staying in power until a self-coup in 1971 that ousted parliament. Then the military continued until October 1973.

Khaosod reports that:

Sunday’s no-vote [ditching the draft charter] was mostly led by hardline, pro-junta members who believe junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha should stay in power to complete his mission of national reform prior to allowing public elections.


More paternalism

7 07 2015

In an earlier post PPT wrote of The Dictator’s paternalism as a marker of military dominance and rule in hierarchical Thailand.

Of course, Thak Chaloemtiarana wrote about this many years ago, analyzing the Sarit regime that many have seen as setting a political tone for the current dictatorship.Thak book

Prachatai reports on more paternalism from the military dictatorship. This time it comes from Maj Gen Weerachon Sukontapatipak, spokesman for the junta. Last time we posted on delusional spokesmen for the junta was a story on rights. Weerachon joins the “team” with a remarkable piece of paternalist nonsense tinged with a statement that dismisses the heroic student uprising in October 1973, indicating that the military dunces still smart about that defeat by the people.

Weerachon stated that international organizations wanting the release of the 14 students “lack a true understanding” of the political context of the arrest of the students. We think that what is not understood is the paranoia of the military junta.

According to Weerachon, “the Thai political context of the arrests” is that the junta:

is concerned about certain groups who hope to take advantage of the student activists’ protest by turning it into a situation similar to the 14 October 1973 student uprising, stated Weerachon. Therefore, international organizations pressing for the activists’ release must first understand the Thai political context and goals of various interest groups….

In other words, 1973 wasn’t a brave student uprising but that the students were dupes of political conspirators. Consider this clip from “Thailand 1973,” by now dedicated royalist Jeffrey Race, writing in Asian Survey, 14, 2, 1974:


It seems the internal culture and learning of the military rejects anything but the memories and hallucinations of dictators.

Weerachon displays the arrogance and paternalism of the military when he says: “The students came to protest with pure intentions, but they are still children. They can think on some level.” Even if that statement is taken at face value, that the students can think on any level seems to locate them as intellectual giants when compared with the military leadership. But such claims are nothing more than the arrogance of fools.

Weerachon also referred to the pro-junta activists who have been permitted, at the behest of the junta, to protest against the students’ actions. Weerachon then claimed that the junta had public legitimacy, saying the students needed to “why most Thais still accepted the junta’s regime.” He added: “We’ll have to discuss with the students why they don’t accept laws that everyone else does.”

The junta seems to have convinced itself that it is popular. General Thanom Kittakachorn and Prapas Charusathiarana made similar claims. They were wrong then, and the junta is delusional today.

The military-monarchy state is corrupt

21 12 2014

Yesterday we posted on the statements on corruption by the master of double standards, General Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council. In Thailand, there is always a double standard on corruption based on political alignment. Vast corruption is quite okay if the corrupt person is a royalist and/or a member of the system’s praetorian guard. Those attacked as corrupt are the ones who have fallen foul of a powerful royal or royalist boss or have somehow come to be seen as dangerous for the existing system of power.

Think of the vast corruption of General Sarit Thanarat, which had the implicit approval of the young, son-like figure of king and the old princes who were working for the political and economic rehabilitation of the monarchy. When Sarit died, his estate was estimated at about $140 million, a massive fortune at the time. As researcher Thak Chaloemtiarana points out in his famous book on Sarit, this wealth came from several sources:

Sarit's wealth

Clicking on the snips included here produces a larger version.

Nothing much changed for his successors. Generals Thanom Kittikachorn and Prapas Charusathianrana were briefly investigated after their fall in 1976 and were found to have been massively corrupt. One Bangkok Post report dated 15 October 1974 is reproduced below, and is a partial accounting of their wealth:

TPN Wealth

It is well-known that the king got on famously with Thanom and less well with Prapas. Even so, the palace supported these corrupt bastards almost to the bitter end because the state and the economic, political and social power that underpinned it was crucial for the monarchy during the Cold War period. It is no secret that the generals and palace grew wealthy together in this period.

One of the interesting aspects of the wealth of these military despots and many of their underlings, including some of those who replaced them, was their close links with Sino-Thai businesses, as shown in an incomplete accounting in the Bangkok Post from 1 November 1973.

DirectorshipsPPT is not just reproducing this data to show that the military was and is corrupt. In fact, following an email from a reader, we are reminded to indicate that the generals are both guardians and beneficiaries of a political and economic system that was corrupt in its genesis in the absolute monarchy’s conversion of personalized state wealth into capitalist enterprise, and which remains corrupt to the core.

As well as our reader reminding us of this basic point, we are motivated by a report at Prachatai stating that “12 civil society organisations” (CSOs) in the Northeast have condemned the junta’s suppression of freedom of expression, stating that national reform is only a pretence to enable the junta to maintain power for investors and the elite.” They deride the “reform” process as designed to “increase the power of the capitalists and the elite.”

As usual, the dependent Bangkok middle class is complicit in this fake reform, along with palace power brokers like Prem.

The CSOs call on the puppet “National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to stop passing bills as they are not the people’s representatives.” They demanded that “the junta to lift the interim charter and martial law, then organise local and national elections within three months and, in the meantime, impose the 1997 Constitution, which was dubbed the People’s Constitution’.”

As we are sure our reader would urge, perhaps there should be a move for a real people’s constitution.

Several of the group making this statement have previously denounced the military junta. The result was that some “were forced to report to the military at local military bases on 7 November. This included one activist who was captured by fully armed soldiers. Some were also forced to post statements on Facebook that they were treated well under detention.”

In the current statement “the group comprehensively denounced the legitimacy of the coup d’état and junta’s national reform agenda.” The group declared:

National reform and the process of constitution drafting under the imposition of martial law, which silences people from expressing ideas different from those of the junta, are unacceptable to the people; we believe that genuine reform must open space for people’s freedom to express opinions in a democratic environment….

Undoing the corruption that is at the core of the current regime – where the military junta is just the latest example – cannot be delivered by those who have suckled at its disreputable breast and now wallow in its trough of corrupt wealth and power.

Military boss is country’s boss

25 08 2014

Wassana Nanuam at the Bangkok Post, who sometimes sounds like a military cheerleader, has a flawed account of General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s elevation to prime minister following a very quick sign-off by the king.

Thailand’s 29th prime minister received the “royal command” in a ceremony at army headquarters. The Dictator is now “commander of the army, head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and prime minister…”. Getting his appointment in a ceremony behind Army doors was “a break from tradition,” yet it is certainly symbolic of where the power currently resides and where Prayuth places himself.

Prayuth is said to be the “first serving military officer to become prime minister in 22 years, when the Black May revolution of 1992 overthrew then-premier and Gen Suchinda Krapayoon.” That’s true, sort of. At the time that Suchinda took power, it followed an election, and the constitution required that he resign his military positions.

The report also states that Prayuth is “the first coup leader to serve as prime minister since Sarit Thanarat in 1957.” This is incorrect. Suchinda was a coup leader and so was General Kriangsak Chomanan. So too was General Thanom Kittikachorn, depending on how one counts coups. We see no reason for diminishing the role of the military and its coup-making!

Apart from this, the report throws in details about General Prem Tinsulanonda, another former unelected prime minister, who edged out Kriangsak by arranging an internal Army move against the latter. Having the support of the palace assisted Prem.

In the report, “Privy Council president Prem … has decided to forgo his usual meeting with senior military leaders to mark his birthday this year.” Given that they all slithered around to the old man’s place just a couple of weeks ago, and that he is unwell, that’s not s aurprise, but the comment attributed to Prem that he “does not want to disturb NCPO members…” is suggestive of his support for the military junta.

Updated: Damned foreigners

5 06 2014

Many readers will have seen the article by the influential former U.S. senator Congressman Barney Frank. His op-ed is: “It’s time to stand up to Thai regime.” It has a sub-heading: “We should impose the toughest nonmilitary sanctions.” That will get the ultra-royalist loonies who populate social media agitated, but maybe they should read the article and not the headlines:

I have long been skeptical of the claim by many who push for more American intervention in the affairs of other nations that they are driven largely by the impulse to defend basic democratic values. In many cases, the stronger motivation seems clearly to be a desire to protect or expand American influence in the world, even when there is no discernible benefit to our country from doing so, nor any loss of anything important if we abstain. My conviction that this is the case is reinforced by the fact that the pressure for more intervention in recent times has come primarily from conservatives and have been predominately aimed at regimes that they perceive to be too far to the left.

But! And it is a big but:

The terrible situation in Thailand gives them a chance to prove me wrong. There is no situation in the world today where basic democratic values are more explicitly violated than in that unfortunate country.…

I await a demonstration that many of the conservatives who have been critical of President Obama for insufficient interventionism in the affairs of others are not upset only when those threats come from entities perceived to be on the left, but are in fact are demonstrating a genuine commitment to support for democracy whenever it is threatened. The relative silence with which the brutalization of democracy in Thailand has been greeted among many of those who clamor most loudly for a more assertive American role on behalf of “human rights” as they phrase it, is striking.

People seeking to establish their credentials as defenders of democracy must put the case of Thailand very high on their agendas.

Some of his factoids on recent history may be a little screwy, and some of the ultra-nuts will focus on that. Some loops will say he is calling for military intervention. That is not the case. He says: ” I am not urging American military intervention or arming the victims of this oppression. But any claim that we are acting in defense of fundamental human rights and democracy requires that we impose the toughest possible nonmilitary sanctions on the current Thai regime.”

As readers will also know, there is a bizarrely nationalist-monarchist conspiracy theory on Thaksin Shinawatra’s control of the Western media, politicians and public. Again, Bangkok Pundit has an excellent post on one of the more outlandish of these. Noticeable in this one is the (usual) inability for these conspiricists to grasp reality and fact. But, then, politics is about shaping perception (as well as the control of guns, coups, money and martial law).

This lot will also be very unhappy with The Financial Times:

Thailand’s coup is a public relations fiasco. A short-tempered general talking breezily about his junta’s wish to “restore happiness to the people and stamp out conflict”. Hundreds of people, including academics, rounded up for questioning. Soldiers descending on tiny groups of protesters. People facing arrest for reading books (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or for making three-fingered salutes (The Hunger Games). It is all so horribly retro. Thailand has become the land of the inverted smile.

Khaosod also has a couple of stories on the anti-foreign loonies. One is unimportant and about some private badminton school being anti-foreign. The other is a general account of anti-Americanism amongst the elite. An aspect of this story is the mention of Khunying [Lady] Songsuda Yodmanee, who, amongst other things, is “chairwoman of Thailand’s American University Alumni Association (AUAA).” Her supportive husband is Suvit, a coup-loving right-wing politician and elite functionary. Songsuda is quoted:

“It is time for the US Department of State to treat allies of the US in equal status, not as colonies of the US,” Ms. Songsuda said. “Thailand has never been colonised by anyone, and we will continue to maintain our independence and liberty.”

“All executive committee members of the AUAA have graduated from American universities. We know the US almost as much as we know our country,” explained Ms. Songsuda, who is the daughter of Field Marshal Thanorm Kittikachorn, the military dictator who was ousted in a student uprising in 1973.

Media commentator Pavin Chachavalpongpun took her comments up. He notes that during her father’s military dictatorship, the relationship between the U.S. and Thailand was close:

Throughout Thanom’s period, Thailand had worked closely with the United States, in constructing Thai policies that were essentially anti-communist, pro-American and pro-monarchy. Even in his exile, Thanom ran away to settle in Boston for a while. In other words, the United States became both the Kittikachorn’s second home and a political shelter.

He might have added that General Thanom and his family were engaged in massive levels of corruption, stuffing their pockets and bags with millions of dollars. The perception and evidence of rampant corruption, nepotism and impunity were an important part of the overthrow of his dictatorship in 1973.

In other words, Songsuda’s elite position owes everything to her father’s dictatorship, U.S. support, the military and his mammoth corruption. Like the unrepentent children of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, she wants a return to a bygone era, when money flowed to her lot and they could command politics without the need for constitution or elections. Her husband has worked long and hard to rehabilitate the image of the dictator Thanom and of his corrupt military regime.

Songsuda seems to have also inherited her father’s penchant for the disingenuous:

Songsuda added that the AUAA plans to submit a formal letter to the US Embassy in Bangkok to inform them of the “true” situation in Thailand. She stressed that the AUAA’s action are not political.

“We do this as friends who wish well for the US,” Ms. Songsuda said. “This is not a political commentary, because the AUAA is not involved in politics.”

Of course, this is nonsensical blather from a dictator’s daughter who bathes in his ill-gotten gains and who longs for a time when the U.S. simply ladled the cash into her father’s and the military’s very deep pockets. Back then, if Thailand wasn’t a colony, it was rented out to the U.S. by her father’s regime. They’d like a return to that era of Cold War political control when the money poured down on the elite like tropical rain.


Updated: Creeping coup

13 12 2013

The anti-democratic movement led by Suthep Thaugsuban has been engaged in a creeping coup, and the government led by Yingluck Shinawatra has conceded so much ground that Thailand’s politics is being wound back, not just to the pre-Thaksin Shinawatra period, but to an authoritarian past, with Suthep mentioning “the era of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.”

Why does PPT make this assessment? Here’s why:

The next step is the final ouster of the elected government, to be replaced by unelected council to establish the “absolute democracy,” which will be no democracy at all.

In his meeting with the capitalist representatives, Suthep said his demanded council would:

contain 400 seats: 300 selected from “occupation-based” quota and another 100 seats would be given to “experts” selected by the PCAD.

No elections, just selection, no names.

To do this, Yingluck has to resign to allow the “King to appoint a new Prime Minister under Article 7 of the 2007 Constitution, which Mr. Suthep argued allowed the king to exercise his royal power in such manner.” If Yingluck (or any Puea Thai replacement) doesn’t go, Suthep says there will be no peace from his anti-democratic movement.

Suthep said: “We are open to discussion, but we are not open to negotiation.” In other words, Suthep knows he has the support of the elite and can make more demands.

What of the red shirts? The question should be why didn’t Puea Thai call on the support of red shirts? What prevented this? As we said some time ago, the red shirts are the real losers, again.

The royalist elite has shown remarkable tenacity in fighting democracy and progressive change: a military coup, a judicial coup and now a creeping coup that all seek to turn back the political clock.

Update: The meeting with the top brass will be interesting and will carry considerable weight for the creeping coup if the military comes closer to the anti-democratic movement. More information at Khaosod.

However, what concerned PPT about this report is the comment attributed to Sathit Wongnongtoey, one of the Democrat Party’s nastier functionaries. He is reported:

In the same press conference, another PCAD leader, Mr. Satit Wongnongtoey, also accused the international media of harbouring bias toward the anti-government movement. He warned that foreign correspondents working in Thailand should be careful not to end up turning themselves into tools of “Thaksin′s Regime”.

Such a threat is yet another example of the fascist tendencies that have marked this anti-democratic movement and its predecessors in PAD, Siam Samakkhi, the no color groups, Thai Patriot Network and the Dhamma Army, amongst others.

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