Another plan

7 05 2014

Almost a week ago PPT posted on chatter about a backroom deal being done to end the current political crisis and move beyond the impasse. We have also posted on Abhisit Vejjajiva’s “plan” and the very similar “plan” proposed by another Democrat Party premiership hopeful, Surin Pitsuwan.

There’s a pattern in this: all “plans” and the chatter reflect the hopes, desires and fears of anti-democrats.

PPT almost never posts anything by the bright yellow conspiracy theorist Thanong Khanthong for fear that someone may think we are taking him seriously. However, his rant a few days ago, at The Nation, is interesting for making the chatter more obvious and detailing the sources for much of the chatter.

Thanong states:

An unelected government is now widely believed to be waiting in the wings to take the reigns of power. Yingluck Shinawatra is set to be removed from power either by the National Security Council transfer case or the rice pledging scandal…. Following her conviction, an unelected administration would be formed via special clauses in the Constitution. This mechanism is nothing if not controversial….

Why has it come to this? Thanong explains that it is because Suthep Thaugsuban’s street protests can’t bring down the Yingluck Shinawatra government and stall elections and because military boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha refuses to run a coup.

On Suthep, the ultra-yellows are bored with him:

In fact, there was a window of opportunity to remove Yingluck on March 27, one day before the Senate election. Suthep summoned a mass rally, marching at its head all the way … to Parliament, where hundreds of thousands of protesters roamed Government House and Parliament. On that day, he was supposed to stage a people’s revolution – without tearing up the Constitution. Expectations were that Suthep would resort to Article 3 of the Constitution, which states that sovereign power belongs to the people, and to Article 7, which allows the appointment of an interim prime minister under special circumstances…. In this scenario, the military would come out in support of the “people’s revolution”. But the political script fell apart. For some reason Suthep chose not to go through with it, and hence the crisis has continued.

In other words, Suthep has done his job.

On Prayuth and the anti-democrat calls for a coup, Thanong “explains”: “ASTV analysts suspect he has a strong and longstanding relationship with Yingluck and Thaksin. Or, in other words, that he belongs to the other side of the political divide.”

Quite apart from the fact that PPT hasn’t ever before seen the connection between ASTV and analysis previously, this speculation by a propaganda arm of the anti-democrats leads Thanong to conclude that: “The scenario is somewhat farcical, a political merry-go-round: Suthep would like to kick out Yingluck; Prayuth is friends with Yingluck and does not want to kick her out; Suthep is friends with Prayuth and supports his stance.” Hence, the political impasse.

Thanong says the final hope is that, with the red shirts “weakened dramatically and they now fail to muster broad public support,” it will be that “Yingluck will be ousted by the independent agencies – not by Suthep and all the efforts of his mass protests. This is so ironic.”

Note that many media outlets agree that Yingluck will be removed today, and that her cabinet may be turfed out as well. Bangkok Pundit has a post on these scenarios.

If this removal comes about today, Thanong and many others who glow yellow will cheer and again note the irony – although PPT and many others have described the creeping judicial coup for several months.

Yet there is still a role for Suthep, although Thanong doesn’t see it. If red shirts protest, Suthep and his anti-democrats will be required to “protect” the court’s and “independent” agencies. And, if the decision today only removes Yingluck, many anti-democrats will want a final street push to remove the elected government. That removal will follow the Thanong-Surin scenario of manipulating the constitutional clauses related to the monarchy.


Royalist propaganda

5 01 2014

PPT has made a few comments recently on the domestic media and the work of anti-democracy propagandists like Veera Prateepchaikul and Thanong Khanthong. We haven’t commented too much on royalist and anti-democracy propagandists who are popping up in the international media, except to briefly mention royalist dolts like Stephen B. Young and extremists who have latched onto Thailand as a site for bizarre rants disguised as commentary.

In recent days, several readers have passed on more of the international propaganda that is being cranked up by the royalist anti-democracy campaigners in Thailand. As with much of this stuff, it tells a story that is not meant to be accurate or factual. Rather its purpose is to establish a discourse that “proves” the anti-democrats’ claims and program.

Interestingly, some of this is by exactly the same “friends of Thailand” who were prodded into action to defend the 2006 military coup and the actions of the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government that used military force to smash the red shirts in 2010.  Like Young, these propagandists are those who have had long connections with the palace and monarchy. Indicative of this is David Van Praagh, a former professor and former Canadian Globe and Mail correspondent in South and Southeast Asia who is the author of Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M. R. Seni Pramoj. The book is a hagiography of a prince and royalist politician who was one of the founders of the Democrat Party.

His recent piece in the Globe and Mail was under the headline “Why Thailand is crucial to democracy in Asia.” It is about “royalist democracy,” and seems somewhat awkwardly twinned with a far more scurrilous fairy tale on democracy at YouTube, apparently produced by people so closely connected to events that Thaksin becomes Tharksin, with Thaksin and his cronies being elected by uneducated, dumb or bought peasants and – this is a surprise – controls the military, police and independent agencies. Ho hum, but it tells the story of why democracy doesn’t exist in Thailand and why it is that pro-Thaksin parties have won every national election since 2001 but that this is wrong and bad.

Van Praagh does argue that his favorite Democrat Party should stand in the upcoming election. That’s all well and good, except that it is too late for this. He also seems to miss the point that the Democrat Party is now in the hands of extremists. Yet van Praagh lives in a different political world that wants the monarchy to be something it isn’t. The extremists in the Democrat Party know that they must grab the future. So while van Praagh supports “democracy” it is a “democracy” that is monarchist.

He begins his op-ed with a complete nonsense:

But Thais never learned from farangs (foreigners) how to make democracy work. Instead they have endured a long series of military coups, corrupt politicians and, at especially critical times, pro-democracy intervention by the revered constitutional monarch Bhumiphol Adulyadej.

Should we point out that the monarchy’s interventions have been some of the most anti-democratic? Think of 1976. Think of 2006. Think of the monarchy’s long support of military dictatorships. Should we point out that Thais don’t need to be taught about democracy by foreigners?

His perspective is colored by his prejudices:

One group, led by wealthy exiled Sino-Thai profiteer Thaksin Shinawatra, whose younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra is Prime Minister in his absence, thrives politically as well as economically on corruption – routinely paying poor rice-growing farmers for their votes.

Vote-buying? Really? There are still people who believe this after all of the recent commentary that has shown this claim to be a “dangerous nonsense.” Note the claim that Thaksin is a rich Sino-Thai profiteer and compare this with the description of Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is mistakenly taken to be somehow critical for the “other group” in this conflict:

… growing out of the middle-class Prachatipat or Democrat Party founded in 1946, has in effect thrown away this vital credential by opposing and even planning to disrupt a Feb. 2 parliamentary election called by Yingluck, who has rejected a postponement proposed by Thailand’s Election Commission.

Led by Oxford-educated Abbisit Vejjajiva, the Democrats have turned their back on democracy by following dissident Suthep Thaugsuban, who favors a non-elected national council.

Perhaps Abhisit could also be described as an elitist Sino-Thai who has never really worked, having been groomed for wealth and power? Perhaps the Democrat Party can also be accused of vote-buying, when the military poured funds into coalition constituencies in the last election? And the claim that the Democrat Party is a party of democracy is a claim that simply cannot be maintained when its long history of royalist support for coups and military rule are considered. In fact, Abhisit is the most recent in a line of anti-democratic Democrat Party leaders.

Van Praagh then comes up with a series of nonsensical claims:

The underlying assumption among Thais is that Yingluck and her ironically named Clean Thai Party will win another election.

The first claim is true enough, but “Clean Thai”? We think the author has been watching the propaganda video above, where the Puea Thai Party – For Thai Party – is referred to as the “Pure Thai Party.”

If she does, and brings back Thaksin under an amnesty – the first reason for anti-Thaksin street demonstrations – the so far laid-back army is likely to take matters into its own hands, reviving the tradition of military coups by again deposing the Shinawatra family. The army commander has neither accepted nor rejected the possibility of another coup.

For a start, PPT does not believe that an election will be completed and a government formed from it. But that’s our guess.The amnesty is pretty much dead and a coup is likely.

Living in a fantasy world, van Praagh opines:

If Prachatipat does not return to its senses and its roots, and does not win the early February election, Thailand’s democracy landscape will be all but barren.

Win? Really?

This will have an adverse impact on other Southeast Asian nations aspiring to genuine democracy, especially Indonesia with its army in waiting, and the Philippines with its gap between rich and poor much greater than Thailand’s.

Moreover, setbacks for democracy in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific will provide grist for the mill of China’s expansionism, with Southeast Asia its first regional target for anti-democracy statist regimes. Thailand’s Thaksin, for example, has strong ties to Beijing.

The extremists and the anti-democracy lot reckon that Thaksin is an ally of a secretive U.S. alliance to tie Thailand into a global capitalist plutocracy. But then there is a long royal discourse on nasty Chinese capitalist who only become Thai by their allegiance to the king, and by funding his quirky projects and ideas. Thaksin is anti-royal and therefore not a “good Chinese,” but an evil one:

Thaksin, the root of Thailand’s troubles, also claims he owes allegiance to King Bhumiphol. Many Thais do not believe him, and they may also be swayed by the sharp drop in Thailand’s economy, particularly the decline in exports of rice.

We have no idea how the rice bit adds to the royal stuff, but plenty of farmers like the rice support scheme. To hammer the “bad Chinese” bit home, van Praagh makes the obvious point:

Presumably, the king does not believe Thaksin either. He has publicly excoriated Thaksin for corruption. That was before he was compelled for health reasons to suspend the role he had created of mediator of last resort in Thai politics. But after four years in hospital, and while anti-Thaksin demonstrations were going on, King Bhumiphol, looking healthy on his 86th birthday, drove with Queen Sirikit to his palace on the ocean near Bangkok.

He then gets to his point. Only the king can deliver democracy and “save the nation”:

The king’s appearance during the latest Thai crisis clearly sent a signal. It was not clear immediately what the signal is. But many Thais who have yearned for democracy for decades strongly hope that Bhumiphol is reasserting his role when he banished autocratic governments in 1973 and 1992, and thereby saved the nation.

Frankly, we think the palace learned a lot from its identification with the 2006 coup. It wants to stay behind the scenes. Indeed, both the king and queen are weak and doddery yet we have little reason to think that they are not supporting the anti-democrats. Van Praagh’s op-ed seems to suggest just this, calling for what the protesters say is absolute democracy with the king as revered head of state.

Glee over anarchy

3 01 2014

PPT almost never cites The Nation’s ASTV-like op-ed writer Thanong Khanthong, except when the point is to illustrate the extreme anti-democratic position. Reluctantly, we do it again, as his most recent gleeful scribbling tells the story of the next couple of weeks.

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the people’s uprising [PPT: sic. he means the umpteenth attempt to throw out an elected government], has set January 13 as the day for a Bangkok shutdown. The momentum is in his favour. [PPT: just this once, we agree with him]

… Supporters from other provinces have been arriving in the capital since before New Year, joining Bangkokians in preparing for the shutdown. Whistles will be blown by the millions as the capital is shut down to force the removal of Yingluck. [PPT: notice the words used refer to a “removal”] We are about to witness a classic people’s revolution against a government that has lost all moral and political legitimacy. [PPT: it remains unclear how this is a “people’s movement” when the consensus is that the majority would still vote for Yingluck, if given a chance]

To stage a people’s revolution without ripping up the Constitution, the number of people on the streets does matter. [PPT: of course, the movement is entirely about another illegal and amoral removal of a popularly-elected government] And Suthep has millions from various walks of life behind him. An unprecedented number of more than a million anti-government protesters showed up on November 24. [PPT: recall that this movement denigrates numbers when they are associated with landslide election victories] But the record was broken again on December 9 – the day Yingluck Shinawatra caved in by declaring a House dissolution. [PPT: compromise is capitualtion in the eyes of the anti-democrats] The people [PPT: propgandists always claim to speak for “the people”] now want back the rights and power they had temporarily given to the government. They do not need a military coup. Unarmed and peaceful, they can reclaim sovereignty over the country from a tyrant government that has proved to be working against the interests of the people. The learning curve will be tough. But democracy will have to be earned the hard way. If the people want to change the country, they have to take action rather than praying for a miracle. [PPT: oddly, he is pessimistic about the military (or monarchy) stepping in. PPT reckons an intervention – military, judicial or palace – is increasingly likely, especially as the military brass is opposing an emergency decree; this is not that different to its failure to respond to airport occupations in 2008]

… If the Yingluck government were to be toppled, it would not only wipe out the political and business interests of the Shinawatras but would also upset the geopolitical interests of the US. [PPT: this indicates how the leadership of the anti-democracy movement and its propagandists have been swayed by the rants of extremists] It is an open secret that the US has already “handcuffed” the Thai government into allowing it to revive the U-tapao military base. Thailand is an important Asian ally in Washington’s campaign to contain China. Oil deals in the Gulf of Thailand are also on the table, not to mention security arrangements in the South China Sea, and the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade area. That is why the US has openly intervened in Thai affairs by calling on the people to honour the February 2 election. The international media have also been parroting this line of pseudo-democracy, which would extend the tenure of the corrupt Shinawatra regime. [PPT: this again indicates how anti-democracy propagandists have been swayed by the rants of extremists]

[PPT: Thanong then sets out the scenario for the protesters] … Bangkok will be shut down for several days. Suthep has hinted that 10 or 20 days of uprising could finish off the caretaker government. This would pave the way to ending the Thaksin regime once and for all. The people plan to fall back on Article 3 of the Constitution to declare they have taken sovereign power back from Yingluck. There are strong legal and constitutional grounds for doing so: the Yingluck government lost its morality and legitimacy by introducing an amnesty bill to whitewash corruption and those with charged with serious criminal acts. [PPT: he refers to a bill that was defeated before it became law] It also attempted to amend the Constitution to consolidate its power over the Senate. [PPT: amending the constitution is entirely legal and aimed at implementing a long-held election promise to make the senate more democratic, as it was before the 2006 military-palace coup] When the Constitutional Court ruled against that amendment, the Yingluck government and members of the ruling party publicly declared they would not accept the ruling. This blatant challenge to judicial power rendered the government obsolete. [PPT: as far as we are aware, disagreeing with a court decision is not yet grounds for dissolving a government]

After the people invoke their sovereign power as per Article 3 of the Constitution, they will resort to the extraordinary measures afforded by Article 7 to seek royal endorsement for the appointment of an interim prime minister and government. [PPT: neither article of the constitution is considered appropriate for the current situation. However, we have no doubt that, should the anti-democracy lot get hold of government, no law will constrain them] A people’s council will then be formed to lay down foundations for comprehensive reform to end corruption and set Thailand back on the path of genuine democracy. [PPT: he means that the rules of politics will (again) be changed to allow the minority supporting the anti-democracy movement to retain power] This is how events will play out in the coming weeks. Nobody knows the outcome, but the scene could turn ugly. The certainty is that Yingluck and her supporters will not relinquish power easily. [PPT: in fact, the Yingluck government has made several compromises; it is the anti-democracy movement and its Democrat Party that have refused to compromise or accept the results of elections]

Contrast Thanong’s views with those of an entirely less gleeful editorial at the Jakarta Post:

Thailand is sliding into anarchy, which from experience has meant intervention.

Following a spell of military rule, elections will be called or, more likely, forced on the caretakers. A government could also be appointed via some constitutional artifice.

What follows has not varied much – dissatisfaction over blatant or exaggerated misrule brings the establishment class and the masses into open conflict again, to be resolved temporarily by applying a variation of the old formula. The polarisation in the stand-off between the Puea Thai government and the Democrat Party-inspired insurrection shows that the country is more divided than ever – but mind the attendant dangers.

Will Thailand ever get off the wearying cycle of self-flagellation? Its Asean partners admire the Thai insouciance and the nation’s immense gifts, but are dismayed the country is being torn apart by feudal notions of class distinction, demonstrated in an inability to acknowledge the existence and interests of the other.

The worry is that a Thailand that continues on this course would destroy itself, with Asean the loser. If the election called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not produce an outcome that is accepted by all Thais, are there alternatives?

Indefinite military rule is anathema to most Thais as it is unnatural, unwanted, and its past record has not been exemplary. A grand coalition, or a government of national unity, is an idea that could be explored, however far-fetched it may sound.

But Thailand’s party political tradition is not strong, and it lacks enough leaders of vision and unquestioned devotion to the idea of equal opportunity. As for rule by the unelected, it could never hold for lack of majority consent.

Would a return to an absolute monarchy be acceptable, as the royal house commands respect while past civilian and military choices have mostly been disappointing? But after the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is over, how the Thais would regard such a scenario is unknown.

There is another unspeakable, remote possibility – civil war that could lead to a break-up of the kingdom. The present deadlock is different in that there is little room for compromise.

The elites insist on a right to rule, whichever form it takes. The pro-government red shirts, who have felt patronised and put upon, have spoken the first murmurs about secession if a re-elected Puea Thai party were cast aside, or an unelected claque [PPT: clique] were foisted on them. If the election is disrupted or put off, or results that favour the incumbents are voided, Thailand will have entered a fateful phase.

Updated: On birthday politics

5 12 2012

Nation 5 Dec 2012

If readers thought PPT was exaggerating when we posted on the politicized nature of the king’s birthday this year, they need only read today’s Nation for confirmation. That confirmation comes from the ultra-royalist Thanong Khanthong who, in the recent past, has penned some bizarre accounts of the monarchy. For him, nothing has changed since 2009, when we comments on his earlier scrambled logic and missing facts. We don’t propose to bore readers with an account of Thanong’s call to arms but simply comment on a few aspects of his diatribe, which the newspaper chose to cover on all of page 1 of the print edition.

Thanong’s main point is that Thailand is about to collapse and that only the Buddhist king can save the country. This is a common theme in yellow shirt propaganda and we don’t doubt that some believe it. There’s nothing new in this except to note that Paul Handley has explained how this ideology was constructed and enforced during this reign in his still-banned The King Never Smiles. The book is banned primarily because it counters this palace narrative.

Thanong tries to buttress this propaganda with his usual manufacturing of a convenient royalist history:

The Thai nation has been blessed all along with Kings who serve like a big umbrella. Each King is endowed with miraculous deeds, depending on the circumstances of the time because the King is born into the world to restore order and maintain happiness in the land….

The enduring Monarchy helps keep Thailand’s stability.

Of course, quite a few of Thailand’s kings have been murderous, evil, foolish, spendthrift and/or congenitally weak. In addition, monarchs have been responsible for considerable political instability. Yet Thanong can’t acknowledge such things for fear of bringing the gilded and extremely expensive edifice down.

In making these claims, Thanong is citing a congratulatory statement from the supreme patriarch. Now many might doubt that the invalid 99 year-old can say or write anything, but if he could, a careful reader might want to note that he holds his position thanks to the military and monarchy and their manipulation of sangha politics in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Of course, the people to blame for Thailand’s decline are “the shadowy figure of Thaksin Shinawatra” and his historical forebears, the “1932 … elite elements, tempted by a parliamentary form of government and power for themselves, brought down Absolute Monarchy.”  He adds: “As a result, the division within Thai society and politics is bitter and irreparable.”

The message is, quite simply, that absolute monarchy and associated military fascism is the only way to defeat the horrid parliamentary form of government that allows the majority to rule rather than a coterie of royals who claim divine links.

Thanong them gets deeply deranged as he repeats the mad conspiracy theories that inhabit the world of the extreme right in Thailand:

What will become of Thailand as the Supreme Patriarch and the King are ageing? There are threats of a civil war from within and a highly possible spill-over from a regional, if not global, war in the South China Sea and other parts of the world. Will Thailand survive against all odds as the gentle and kind nation of the old days again?

That’s the gentle and kind Thailand that sees the military regularly used to defend this gentleness and kindness by murdering political opponents and even those who just want an election and a fair constitution. However, for Thanong, amending the constitution, bestowed by a military dictatorship, is an evil act:

 the politicians are set to rewrite the Constitution to undermine the role of the Monarchy. But most Thais know that they can morally and spiritually count on the King, the Supreme Patriarch as head of the Buddhist monks’ order, Phra Siam Thevathiraj and all the other sacred beings to protect Thailand during this time of great despair.

Or they can steel themselves for the inevitable reaction that will follow from attempts to make Thailand a true democracy and that emanates from the royalist elite and their flunkies who cannot stand the idea that citizens have voice and rights.

Update: Thanong was so moved by the yellow shirt birthday bash that not only did he burst into tears but he has gone into print a second time in less than a week to extol the king and royalism. In part, this seems a reaction to a few foreign media reports that haven’t simply accepted the royalist dogma for, assigning himself as spokesman for all Thais, he concludes with this in his latest propaganda piece at The Nation:

… His Majesty the King is the most perfect human being of all – both in the way of the world and in the way of the Dhamma. It is because of these attributes that Thais feel immense joy in their hearts upon seeing him – an emotion that foreigners find hard to fathom.

Many Thais probably find it hard to fathom as well, except that they know that this is all about politics and the struggle for hearts, minds and treasure.

Madness, yellow shirts and floods

30 10 2011

Thanong Khanthong was one of a bunch of yellow shirt ideologues who hogged the opinion pages of The Nation repeatedly attacking red shirts as a scourge on the nation, going to extreme lengths to paint them as demons bent on destruction. As we have said before, Thanong is a useful measure of yellow-shirted opinion and and thinking.

In The Nation, Thanong tees off once more. The floods are characterized as something rather more than damned heavy rain and human failures with dams and so on. Nope, this amounts to the destruction of Bangkok:

Bangkok is falling, similar to the fall of Ayutthaya in 1765.

It is a great pity that the self-proclaimed nationalist gets the date wrong. We assume he means 1767, when the Burmese lay siege to the capital and sacked it, burning it to the ground.

Thanong says: “It is now too late to save Bangkok from flooding. I could never have imagined that the City of Angels would collapse before my eyes.”

It isn’t clear from his writing, but it seems he thinks there has been an attack on the the guardian spirits of the city:

On Wednesday, a Nation photographer saw a group of people trying to destroy barriers protecting the Grand Palace from floods…. [I]t’s a revelation, illustrating that the tragedy of modern Thailand is a conspiracy. If the Temple of the Emerald Buddha were to be completely underwater, Thais would have been dealt a big shock, losing all morale and strength to fight back. If the Emerald Buddha cannot protect the City of Angels, then the angels would have taken flight and the capital would have fallen.

Blame the damn red shirts:

Let me raise several crucial questions that have to be addressed, because government agencies, ministers, Pheu Thai MPs and red shirts are apparently adopting a passive mode while disasters pile on the Thai people.

This view flies in the face of the determined and almost non-stop activities of many Puea Thai politicians, not least Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but let’s follow Thanong a bit further into the realms of conspiracy.

Thanong blames the Puea Thai government for not releasing water from the dams. Of course, that decision would have had to have been made earlier than this government’s tenure. But Thanong’s “logic” is that the red-shirted government was taking a decision in the interests of horrid farmers and not the prissy elite in Bangkok. All of the “mayhem” stems from this decision. For a logical and fact-based assessment, see Bangkok Pundit.

He goes on about “Pheu Thai MPs and ministers are not helping flood victims. They are nowhere to be seen. Where are they?” Again, the evidence is otherwise. Even using the yellow shirt claims that nasty Puea Thai MPs have been putting their names on relief supplies would, logically, mean that Thanong is simply making stuff up. Of course, red shirt groups have been remarkably active in relief operations.

In the end, we find out that all of this inactivity is a plot by unnamed bad people:

Yingluck is apparently a puppet prime minister who is dancing to a tune written by those around her. Who are the invisible hands who apparently have a malicious intent for Thailand?

Thanong might feel pleased to be able to concoct weird conspiracy theories, but the question can be turned. Who does his mad theory support?

Amongst the crazy, made up media accounts of recent days, this takes the prize for the most outlandish.

Updated: The witch hunt is on

25 05 2010

Where do we begin…. A few days ago PPT stated that repression would be increased in Thailand. Sadly, we were correct. We have already posted on the arrests of red shirt leaders and Prof. Suthachai Yimprasert. And it isn’t just Thais being arrested.

The dragnet is extending across the country. Thaksin Shinawatra has been charged as a terrorist (Bangkok Pundit has more). For all of Thaksin’s faults, a terrorism charge is clearly political. Yellow shirts are apoplectic about the red shirt leaders who they claim are living in luxury while arrested (scroll down to Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at

Red shirts are being rounded up in the provinces. Who knows how many have been arrested to date.

But it is more than this. People who are believed to be red shirts are being “outed,” including university applicants who are being rejected because they are accused of being “red” or “anti-monarchy.” There are attacks on CNN, the BBC and other international media (see Bangkok Pundit on this also).

Even moderate academics are being attacked by frothing at the mouth yellow shirts. Regular PPT readers will know that we believe The Nation’s Thanong Khanthong to be certifiable,a nd his latest blog, attacking a too dovish Gothom Arya as an almost red shirt takes the cake. It is serious though. This is a witch hunt. Real lives are threatened. It can’t be long now before a foreign academic is arrested as an enemy of the Thai monarchy.

Abhisit Vejjajiva is leading a government that is dominated by militarists and monarchists; it is a dangerous government.

Update: Two foreigners are amongst the red shirts arrested.

1932 revolution redux

17 04 2010

Thanong Khanthong at The Nation (17 April 2010) claims that the red shirts are done for: “Though on the surface the red shirts appear to have won the first round last Saturday, they have actually lost out to the images captured on film, showing how they resorted to violence and launched a war of terror to take control over the government.” There might be something in this. But having said this he changes his mind. The red shirts might win and they scary.

Thanong is convinced that the “red shirts are pushing for political change – if not regime change – through violence. Abhisit has already realised that the red shirts’ ultimate aim is an attempt against the country’s most revered institution.” That’s the big excuse for the coming crackdown. He even adds that “we might be witnessing a rebellion akin to the 1932 Revolution.” That’s when the absolute monarchy was overthrown.

But Thanong figures that now the government has woken up to this revolution in the making, they will fight to protect the monarchy. He cites the Thai-language newspaper: “Thai Rath has recently reported that the government is planning to send in troops to quash the red shirts…. In other words, the battle can start any time, as soon as the government can regroup itself.”

It is becoming quite clear that the red shirts are pushing for political change – if not regime change – through violence. Abhisit has already realised that the red shirts’ ultimate aim is an attempt against the country’s most revered institution. He has called the clashes at Khok Wua intersection an act of terrorism.

Updated: Foreign Correspondent on the monarchy

15 04 2010

PPT earlier posted on this controversial program. It seems to be currently available. We had listed the site, but this might be a safer way to get people to the link: Google for : Foreign Correspondent 13/04/10, and then click the link to get to the download page.

Update: PPT has now watched the show. It will no doubt become a classic. There are a couple of factual errors but it seems reasonably accurate. Our main issue with the show is that it accepts almost all of the propaganda about the king as if it is fact – that he is universally revered, does good works and so on – and uses this to question the credibility of the prince. Thankfully a number of the interviewees are not so convinced.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of the monarchy’s great wealth.

The show included useful interviews with  Chiranuch Premchaiporn and Chotisak Onsoong. And it was especially good to see The Nation’s Thanong Khanthong exposes as a dissembler for the monarchy. In fact, Thanong brazenly lies when he says he never concerns himself with private matters (referring to the prince), when the Nation has been regularly reporting on Thaksin Shinawatra’s personal affairs, and dare we say it, even making stuff up.

Red/yellow differences and political tactics

26 03 2010

PPT seldom cites Thanong Khanthong as an accurate source for anything other than the views that circulate in the yellow-shirt rumor mill or for opinions filched from the ASTV/Manager. He is one of those “opinion” page writers who thinks that any opinion, no matter how outlandish, deserves to matter, even when it is built on everything other than a verifiable source.

In The Nation (26 March 2010) opinion pages today, Thanong has his usual mix of old and new rumors, but he also reveals a strange irritation that the current red shirt rally has been non-violent. He seems to share the opinion of the horrid General Panlop Pinmanee who more than a week ago said the red-shirt rally was failing because it was more dramatic. Thanong concludes: “Without a dramatic physical clash, there is no way the red shirts have bargaining power over the government.”

He later blames all the little bombs going off on the red shirts, suggesting their “true” core, but doesn’t explain why he arrives at this position in the absence of any evidence.

Thanong also seems miffed by what he sees as the red shirts changing their demands and he lists a bunch of what he claims these are. PPT isn’t sure what he does with his time, but all the “demands” he lists have been a part of the red shirt discourse for some time. We get the feeling that Thanong is complaining that these red shirt positions on amart, inequality, double standards and so on have actually move the political discourse onto their turf.

Then he makes some quite accurate comments regarding the differences between the red shirt protest and the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy. Thanong says the “red shirts do not enjoy the luxury of time as the yellow shirts did in 2008 when they staged a marathon rally before succeeding in seeing out the Samak and Somchai governments. Then, the military, the judiciary and the Bangkok middle-class appeared to play the same tune with the yellow shirts. Even so it took 193 days to unseat two governments.” In fact “appeared” is not a strong enough word. There’s no doubt that these three groups gave whole-hearted support to PAD and its mission. Sounding very much like a Democrat Party politician PPT heard, Thanong says the “red shirts are only getting support from the police.” He continues: The Bangkok middle-class, the military and the judiciary are not on their side.

Thanong’s conclusion is that “it is almost impossible for the red shirts to force out Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva through the normal game of Thai politics. And adds, “Abhisit understands the game, so he is in no hurry to hold talks with the red shirts. In fact, it’s unlikely he would hold any formal talks with the protest leaders.” In any case, Thanong says that if the red shirts “want to talk about social injustice, Abhisit would be happy to dish out some populist policies in exchange crowd dispersal.

PPT thinks Thanong is correct to observe the differences in the red shirt and yellow shirt rallying. He is also right to consider that Abhisit is unlikely to do anything serious about negotiating.

The government’s control of the media means that it can manage the messages and images projected. It seems the government is happy enough for its supporters to arrange small, media-oriented “demonstrations” of support from what the media portray as the “silent majority,” to promote huge displays of military “security” and to let the small bombs maintain “the fear” amongst the middle class and hope that the red shirt staying power declines.

Of course, in a volatile environment, things can change rapidly. Recall the boost PAD got when violence erupted on 7 October 2008. However, Thanong’s assessment of the red shirt need for violence seems misplaced in circumstances where the red shirt discourse on power remains relatively strong despite government media dominance. But it is tough going for them to maintain the rally and the enthusiasm of supporters.

The monarchy and political campaigns

12 02 2010

PPT almost never agrees with Thanong Khanthong, one of The Nation’s hacks who seems to think that re-reporting extreme yellow-shirt views constitutes journalism. However, we do agree with one aspect of his latest op-ed where he notes: “The Thai Army is now in firm control…. [I]f the political situation gets out of hand … [i]t will roll out the tanks if the red shirts strike first. “ PPT guesses that this is the plan. Maybe it is even what the military and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and its backers hope will happen. Maybe there will even be attempts to provoke such a “red shirt strike.” Or perhaps agents provocateur will maneuver a clash thus allowing a crackdown.

These are dangerous and confusing times. Talk of coups, new governments and so on are everywhere and it now seems almost inevitable that something will happen. There are more signs than just the reported events. There are threats against activists seen as pro-red shirt or anti-monarchy. Academics are being watched and some have been intimidated.

For PPT, however, a useful indicator of the likelihood of some kind of “final showdown” comes from the monarchy itself.

For the past three weeks and more the televised royal news has been dominated by long reports of the travels of Princess Sirindhorn in the north, south and northeast. You might think that there is nothing unusual about the jovial Sirindhorn’s visits but this looks much more like a politically-motivated schedule than her usual activities. In these visits, Sirindhorn is not just visiting “trouble spots” such as the deep south where she “inspects” Border Patrol Police schools and projects that emphasize making Malay-Muslim kids into Thai-Muslim subjects of the king. She is also shown visiting schools and projects in the north and the northeast in the heart of red shirt constituencies in Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Roi-et and Srisaket.

In our view, Sirindhorn is engaged on a highly political crusade. It seems that the she and the old men of the Privy Council have decided that one of the political problems in the red shirt heartland is that the monarchy has not been visible enough and that it is time to remind the “children” of the great benefactors from palace and the good works they do for the seemingly ungrateful “children.” Worse, it is clear to them that the current government is making no headway in these areas in winning back support from red shirts to the royalist political alliance.

It seems that their view is that since the king ceased his visits to these rural areas, the royal aura has declined and that it is essential to re-establish the monarchy in the minds of those who continue to support Thaksin Shinawatra. Within the current royal family, only Sirindhorn has the propaganda wherewithal to do that. She’s politicized enough to understand this, and the schedule for this now very middle-aged lady has been very demanding.

At the same time, the younger and more sprightly privy councilors have been keeping an equally demanding schedule of visits in these areas. They, like the princess, have been displaying royal benevolence and apparently trying to recapture a population that was lost to Thaksin, Thai Rak Thai and its successors.

It feels very much like General Prem Tinsulanond’s search for support prior to the 2006 coup. He was mainly campaigning for military support. The focus is now changed because the battle is now society-wide. Or, for those with long memories, think back to the royal campaigns for rural-based support in 1975 and 1976. In PPT’s view, these are not normal royal visits. There is an apparent urgency to the whole exercise and the political implications are also clear.

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