Thirayudh among the chickens

12 12 2018

In his annual musing about Thailand’s politics, usually delivered in a seasonal scruffy cardigan, one-time student activist, former communist, former critic of the monarchy, anti-democrat and “academic” Thirayudh Boonmee has delivered another of those waffling pronouncements that can be interpreted in several ways.

When he “likened Thai people to chickens in farms where they were under control from birth to death” it seemed that he took this as a state of affairs to be accepted.

He seemed pessimistic about “politics”, arguing that “Thais are too obsessed with political problems to realise they face other, more fundamental, issues — inequality, poor education, widespread corruption, and economic monopoly by large groups of capitalists.”

It seems quite strange to think of inequality, poor education, corruption, and capitalist oligarchy as being apolitical. We would consider such outcomes to be a result of Thailand’s anti-democratic politics, long periods of authoritarianism, the impunity of military murderers and the triad of military-monarchy-tycoon capitalists.

He seems to suffer a dementia moment when he falsely claims that it has been “[o]ver the past decade, [that] about 10 large groups of capitalists had been formed and they controlled most key economic sectors and politics…”. Most of the giant capitalists group have been around for decades and almost all align with the biggest capitalist conglomerate, the monarchy.

He’s on stronger ground when he observes that the military junta:

had long planned to prolong its hold on power by allowing political parties to nominate outsiders as prime ministerial candidates, having 250 military-appointed senators with the right to vote for the prime minister, and by gathering political factions into the Palang Pracharath Party. All without caring about any criticism.

PPT has been saying that for a very long time. For most of that time, Thirayudh has been a junta supporter.

He’s certainly not alone in seeing that The Dictator has “a very big chance of … remaining the prime minister after the general election…”. The question is whether one supports that rigged outcome or not, and we think Thirayudh is comfortable with more military domination of politics even if he notes the problems politics “under the influence of the military, government officials, the intellectual elite and large groups of capitalists” brings.

He reckons that if the junta doesn’t engage in outright electoral fraud, “people would accept the next government of Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha]…”.

Thirayudh’s claim that the junta’s government and its returned regime after an election is/will be little different from the Thaksin Shinawatra regime is amusing but inaccurate.

At the Bangkok Post, The Dictator himself is dismissive of Thirayudh as an aged dope in this comparison. Prayuth then babbled that Thaksin did wrong.

Overall, Thirayudh is boring, deceptive and deliberately forgetful. It’s time he stopped relying on his reputation of more than 40 years ago and gave way to a younger generation of real democrats.





Updated: Anti-democrat splinters

13 03 2017

About a week ago, PPT commented on the meanderings of anti-democrat Thirayudh Boonmee’s criticisms of the lack of resolve in the military dictatorship for “reform.” Those seemingly mild urging followed on the junta’s back down on the protesters from the south, one of its strongest constituencies.

Things seem to be splintering in the anti-democrat coalition that has been a powerful ally and promoter of the military coup and the military dictatorship.

The Nation reports that “[p]olice are launching a manhunt for well-known political activist Veera Somkwamkid after he published an opinion survey’s result on his Facebook wall, saying the majority people lack confidence in the Prayut administration.”

Veera has a long history of anti-democratic and ultra-nationalist activism and was aligned to the southern anti-coal protesters and he has recently poked the military on The Dictator and nepotism. Some background before getting back to The Nation story.

Veera, who is associated with thugs like the armed extremists of the Network of Students and People for the Reform of Thailand (see the photo where Veera is joined by the fascist “student” leader Nittithon Lamlua and the right-wing Iceman and coup promoter General Boonlert Kaewprasit).

VeeraAlthough Veera was briefly detained not long after the coup, he praised The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and urged him to emulate the Chinese in “cracking down on corruption.” Veera is an admirer of China and its totalitarianism, having claimed that China was “more advanced” than some democratic countries.

Earlier still, Veera headed the Thai Patriots Network, which was aligned with the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Some may recall that he had once sought to provoke a war with Cambodia and whose release from jail in Cambodia was prompted by the military dictatorship’s willingness to create a crisis by sending Cambodian workers streaming back home in a fear campaign that was for Veera’s benefit and also effectively brought Hun Sen “into line” through a threat to the workers’ remittances.

In the story at The Nation, we learn that the have an “an arrest warrant from the Criminal Court and searched [Veera’s] … house in Bangkok’s Khannnayao district but failed to locate him.”

The arrest warrant states that Veera “violated the Computer Crime Act by posting distorted information into a computer network in defamation against the government.” The police allege that “Veera posted results of his opinion survey on his Veera Somkwamkid Facebook wall, causing damage to the reputation of the government and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.”

While the junta is always happy to crow when there are polls indicating massive support, often with unbelievably ridiculous numbers, Veera’s stunt has The Dictator seething. We suspect that he also sees Veera as an ingrate.

Veera is said to have “claimed that the majority of the people lacked confidence in the government although the survey was carried out among just one group of people and was organised by Veera himself.”

The TCSD said “the results might be inaccurate,” and observed that “Veera is a well-known activist so the post on his Facebook wall had severely damaged the reputation of the government and the prime minister.”

The anti-democrat coalition seems to be splintering and that certainly worries the junta as much as Prayuth feels his pride damaged.

The manhunt is on. Perhaps he is on the lam with the former head of Wat Dhammakaya?

Update: Khaosod reports that Veera has been responding, stating at his Facebook account:

“I’m announcing this publicly: The police don’t need to waste their time finding me. I will meet with [investigators] on Wednesday,” Veera wrote on his Facebook, hours after police officers raided his home to look for him.

Veera said he’s willing to contest the charge in a court of law, but added that he feared security forces may abduct him before meeting with police and put him in a military prison where he might die in custody.

“I may die of a blood infection,” Veera wrote, referencing an infamous explanation given for one death in military custody in 2015. “Are we clear? A man like Veera Somkwamkid never runs away from the law. I’m ready to contest my case. But I’m not ready to be murdered.”





Thirayudh’s tattlings and the anti-democrat agenda

7 03 2017

We at PPT have to be honest and admit that we have never felt much interest in (faux) academic Thirayudh Boonmee or his mental meanderings. The feelings are probably mutual.

That said, we do acknowledge that, as an Octoberist, there remain people willing to listen to his rambling “advice” to Thailand’s elite. Most significantly, he tends to reflect the musings of the deeply yellow gaggle of anti-democrats.

A couple of days ago, at The Nation Thirayudh was described mischievously, as a “[p]olitical expert and independent scholar,” rather than retiree and political pundit. For the anti-democrat crowd, he “criticised the post-coup regime for what he viewed as its failure to undertake national reforms, warning of a possible decline in public faith in the government.”

That is likely to bother the military junta mostly because Thirayud speaks to the junta’s civilian constituency, despite the fact that his “briefing” sponsored by the Election Commission and was “at the Government Complex in Bangkok’s Chaeng Wattana area.”

He is urging the junta to maintain its anti-democrat “mandate” and push it further. This is why he wants the military “to stick to its promised ‘road map’ for a return to democracy.” Thirayudh knows that the “return to democracy” means the restoration of elite models of “guided democracy” that is no democracy at all.

This is why Thirayudh “expressed support over the use of absolute power under Article 44 of the interim charter, saying that it was in tune with the nature of Thais who are prone to accept authoritarianism.”

More than this, he demanded that the regime use Article 44 more. He argues the regime “should exploit it to its best use, but not abuse it.” His point is to push back against those “liberals” who are wavering on the regime’s authoritarianism.

You get the picture. The elite rules and exploits because the “nature” of Thais is to accept exploitation, murderous military regimes and repression. He ignores the long history of Thai rejection of these rulers and their schemes.

Thirayudh is worried that “the direction of politics currently leaned towards conservatism and there was little hope of reforming the power structure.” He is worried that the “present powers were civil servants [sic.] who would lose power once the reform was implemented.”

He believes the military regime has won and that those who lost just need to accept this and Thailand will be just right. But the regime needs to move to its guided democracy:

They [those supporting The Dictator] seem to have some accomplishments, but still there is no hope in the reform…. Moreover, they show the intention to support [General Prayut] to stay in power so they can, too. But things will get more difficult and the whole thing may collapse if they stay in power longer than [they promised] in the road map.

Thirayuth warns The Dictator and his regime that “the public’s confidence in the government had been shaken. Hence, it must do the right thing and keep its vow to hold an election as well as be prepared for issues to come after the poll by focusing on reform of the power structure and fighting graft.”

He worries that if The Dictator and his regime hang on, that a new 1992 may emerge, again unleashing the masses in politics.

In another Bangkok Post story, the (anti-)Democrat Party is reported to have backed Thirayudh, “saying the social critic pinpointed the problems and highlighted the failure of the government’s approach to them.”

Democrat deputy leader Ong-art Klampaibul “said the government needed to listen to Mr Thirayuth, no matter how harsh his opinions might be.”

Regarding reform, Ong-art declared “the people so far have not experienced any tangible outcomes…”. He added that after “three years in power, the government has only just started its bid for national reconciliation…”.

Junta spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd has already “rejected” Thirayudh’s “criticism,” asking for the critic to be “useful” by providing “practical solutions to the problems rather than preach about theories and principles.”

In fact, the point of Thirayudh’s intervention is to push the junta to increased “reform.” Like them, he is an anti-democrat, but he is opposed the embedding of military dictatorship. He wants guided democracy.

Increasingly, as Sansern expresses it, the junta wants more and more time for “reform.” He says: “It was not easy to achieve its desired results in such a short period because many of the country’s problems had been left unresolved for a long time.”

They have been supported by others from the Democrat Party. Supachai Panitchpakdi is a  politician who failed to gain top spot in his party and has led an undistinguished career in high-profile international organizations.

His name often comes up when “national governments” are discussed and we can’t help wondering if the ever-eager for top position Supachai sees another opportunity if the military is to get itself a party for an “election.”

He’s now serving the junta, and its members will feel happy that Supachai has supported them against Thirayudh’s mild criticisms. We guess that’s why they hired him.





Updated: Same old yellow-shirted “academics”

30 01 2014

More on the tired and those who pose as “academics” but who are simplistic ideologues for royalist, yellow-shirted causes at the Bangkok Post where they have formed yet another group with a name that fools nobody:

A group of 194 academics, former cabinet ministers, community leaders, business figures, civil servants, members of the media and writers and artists have set up a network to push for reform through peaceful means.

Prominent academic [sic.] Thirayuth Boonmi yesterday announced the formation of the Network of Servants for Reform through Peaceful Means.

We know that Thirayudh thinks that the only problem for Thailand is Thaksin Shinawatra. It is that simple for him. He has long lived on his reputation as an “activist”, 40 years ago, and publishes books that are usually a bunch of pretty incoherent “thoughts.”

Other “members” of the so-called “network” are reported to include “former Bank of Thailand governor and former finance minister MR [joined at the hip to the junta] Pridiyathorn Devakula, former Siam Commercial Bank president Khunying Jada Wattanasiritham, archaeologist Srisak Vanliphodom and former public health minister Mongkol Na Songkhla.” Pridiyathorn and Srisak are long-standing anti-Thaksin activists. Jada headed the king’s bank.

Others are of the same ilk: Rapee Sakrik, rabid yellow-shirt ideologue Chai-Anan Samudavanija, “media guru” Somkiat Onwimon, and a bunch of singers and artists, all with long yellow-shirt connections.

Thirayuth, comes up with the obvious:

Thailand has been plagued with corruption, political crises, social disparity and injustice…. The education system is inefficient and media organisations use freedom of expression irresponsibly, which has contributed to social divisions….

Well, perhaps the latter isn’t the obvious, but suggests a chilling willingness for control and re-education. This lot have long had opportunities to address such issues, but they hardly seemed to worry about them until the “Thaksin revolution” which attempted to drag Thailand into the modern world.

Thirayuth says: “Unlimited greed and arbitrary power have led the country into an absolute catastrophe…”. He adds: “The last thing which has already started to collapse is morality and ethics as killings and violence now take place on the streets but many people appear to be indifferent, which is very worrying…”.

As Thongchai Winichakul long ago pointed out, these people promote a royalist notion of morality that damns all politicians as the fount of all of these problems. Not the conservative elite or the military or the police and Ministry of Interior. Not the feudal ideology the imbues most institutions. Not the monarchy and its anti-democratic ideology and not rapacious Sino-Thai capitalists, including those at the palace.

When “[a]cademic” and junta constitution boss Meechai Ruchupan said “he threw his support behind the move,” you know that this group is fake. No wonder there is no mention of elections. The slogan should be: Reform now! Change the rules to our rule! Maybe have an election!

The “Thaksin revolution” really did shake up the elite.

Update: Actually, we were wrong in our comment on Meechai. He has  been reported as encouraging people to vote. Why? He wants the anti-democrats to vote no. He explains that voters should:

… show their disapproval of the government rather than refusing to go to the polls….

He said social media campaigns have been launched suggesting that if the voter turnout is less than 50%, Sunday’s election will become null and void.

Mr Meechai said this is a misunderstanding because even if the turnout is only 10%, the poll is still legally valid.

Whether the election is made invalid does not depend on the number of voters. but on whether or not it can be held nationwide on a fixed day, he explained.

The caretaker government and the Election Commission (EC) must know this but it appears they have still not discussed the matter seriously. If the poll cannot take place nationwide on Sunday, the government and the EC must take responsibility and they could both risk having criminal and civil suits being levelled against them, Mr Meechai said.

If there are many no-shows at the poll, the outcome of the election could be interpreted in a way that suggests that 100% or nearly 100% of voters support the government, Mr Meechai said.

But those who disagree with the government could tick the “vote no” box to show their disapproval.

You get the picture.





Anti-democratic “academics”

14 12 2013

According to The Nation newspaper, the anti-democratic movement has “many experts” who take roles in the movement, as “committee members, including former MPs, academics, businesspeople, and activists.” Most of the activists are former members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its spin-off and front organizations. The list at the report has this:

Regular academics who advise the PDRC’s leaders include: Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA); Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of Nida’s Graduate School of Law; Charas Suwanmala, former dean of Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Political Science; and Kaewsan Athibodhi, leader of the Thai Spring group….

All of these have been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activists since the early days of PAD. Sombat and Banjerd have long been leaders of yellow-shirted “academics,” showing up for every single group that has spun off from PAD, including the most extreme and reactionary.

Charas has effectively been a propagandist for PAD from the beginning and cooperated with the military junta and its government. His political views are rabidly anti-democratic and pro-monarchy.

Kaewsan is equally right-wing, although his politics seem driven by a personal hatred of Thaksin rather than any ideology as he has had a career in hiring himself out as a loudmouth. Most recently he has joined with racist fascists like former palace policeman Vasit Dejkunjorn.

Added to this list of hardened rightists and royalists is the now quite incoherent retiree Thirayuth Boonmee. He is said to have:

attended a meeting at the PDRC’s war room just before Suthep issued a statement requesting a meeting with Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn and commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the commissioner-general of the National Police.

These “academics” bear much responsibility for the continual undermining of electoral democracy in Thailand. Their efforts are no doubt rewarded in various ways, but their positions place them in a long line of military and royalist anti-democrats who have acted for a wealth and powerful minority against the majority.





New documents on lese majeste

3 11 2013

We have posted several collections of newspaper articles on lese majeste in the past. So they are new at PPT but about historical events.

The articles were sent to us by a retired professor who has been going through piles of old news clippings the professor said were “filling old-fashioned filing cabinets.” The professor was good enough to send us the scans fro posting.

At our page on these things, we added the files as downloadable PDFs and took the opportunity to do a bit of “word gardening” at the page as well. Scroll down and find the links with the “new” image next to them.

Interestingly, there are some current figures who appear in these documents from the 1970s to the 1990s: Now anti-Thaksinist Thirayudh Boonmee is seen attacking the monarchy after fleeing Bangkok; pro-Thaksinist Chalerm Yubamrung is seen using lese majeste to attack political opponents; red shirt leader Veera Musigapong is sent to jail and his party – the Democrat Party! – is attacked for “protecting him (note in this collection a palace official lying to the foreign media that Veera had been acquitted); a spate of anti-monarchy leaflets in 1987-88; and two lese majeste accusations against foreigners, one involving royals not covered by the law!

It is an interesting collection, and if anyone else has such clippings, please send them to us (politicalprisonersinthailand@hushmail.com), and we’d be pleased to post them.

 

 

 





Three views on 14 October

14 10 2013

Today is the 40th anniversary of the 14 October 1973 student-led uprising that brought an end to 16 years of the authoritarian regime established by royal favorite, General Sarit Thanarat. This was a momentous event that, for a short time, unleashed many of the struggles that had been suppressed for so long by Sarit and those who followed him. It is to be expected, then, that there would be commentaries and reflection on 1973 and contemporary politics.

PPT noticed three commentaries, and we thought we could highlight bits and pieces from each of these. Two are by heroes of the 1973 events and a third is by a young critic.

Seksan

Seksan

First, at the Bangkok Post, Seksan Prasertkul, a key leader of the student uprising who spoke at Thammasat University. Seksan has been reasonably quiet and conservative in recent years, engaging with aspects of Buddhism that do not necessarily promote social or political engagement. Unsurprisingly, he called on people to promote peace through democratic principles.

Reflecting on 1973, Seksan said “the October uprising created new, middle-class political groups – one urban movement concerned with natural resources and the environment, and a provincial group engaged in the representative parliamentary system.” That’s rather too simplistic, but let’s stick with his reported statements. He sees these as “capitalist groups of urban and provincial middle-class movements have been incredibly good partners in striving against the old capitalist and political forces…”.

He argued that “the capitalist political forces which have emerged recently have responded to the needs of the poor in a more substantial manner” than just calling for better wages. We assume he means elements of a broader social welfare system put in place since 2001. He went on to criticize the 2006 coup that overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra “in an unconstitutional way.” He’s certainly right to observe:

“Ultimately, the coup ushered in forces that wanted to drag parliament back to the old days when it was dictated by authoritarianism…”.

Ironically, Mr Seksan said, many urban middle-class groups did not seem to uphold democratic principles and responded inappropriately to the mistakes of the Thaksin government.

Seksan called on red shirts to become more expansive in seeking democracy:

“The movement should be a tool of the struggle for democracy and not to serve a single government or political party, unless the plight of their preferred party and leaders directly affect the survival of Thailand’s democracy,” Mr Seksan said. He said the quest for sustainable and peaceful political liberalism needed to be developed along with democratic principles.

“Democratisation is a delicate and complicated process since we need to deal with authoritarian cultural notions and, above all, to build equity and human dignity,” Mr Seksan said.

… “Democracy releases people from exploitation and merges their collective power.”

Thirayuth

Thirayuth

Second, and reflecting a similar conservatism that many might see as deriving of age and others might see as developing from a lack of connection with current political struggles, another former student leader and self-styled deconstructionist political critic, Thirayuth Boonmee has had his say.

The report at the Bangkok Post states that Thirayuth “has broken his long silence to give his views on the current state of Thai democracy 40 years later.” To be honest, we hadn’t noticed that he had been quiet. In a post in 2012, we described him as an aging and often theoretically incomprehensible middle class “radical.” He has long been an outspoken critic associated with yellow-shirted intellectuals, being especially vocal in his criticism of “populism,” which he sees as being akin to “policy corruption” or vote-buying.

Thirayuth’s position seems to be pretty much standard for yellow-shirted intellectuals. Being rather lazy in researching historical events and struggles, Thirayuth claims that:

since the change of the country’s administration in 1932 from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, only a handful of military and civilian personnel and some politicians had benefited from what is called “democracy”.

Even after the Oct 14 incident, students, intellectuals and middle-class Thais lavishly and wastefully exploited the state of democracy, opening the opportunity for groups of capitalists who were freed from military and police control to wreap [sic.] the benefits for themselves.

He is right to note that the military has “returned to be totally loyal to the monarchy,” although while he dates that as being since 1932, we’d date it earlier, from 1958 or perhaps 1973. He is also right to note that “Thai capitalist groups pay no attention to democracy, but cling firmly to the royal institution and the armed forces for their business interests.” Oddly, he right to be at one with Thaksin loyalist Jakrapob Penkair (look for his FCCT transcript) in being critical of “a society plagued by the patronage system or, in harsher words, a society of servants.” He is also right to observe that coups “had proved to be a mistake.” Well, maybe “disaster” would be a better word than “mistake.”

Thirayuth believes he has the answer for what he calls 40 years of “lost opportunities”: forget Thaksin , red shirts and yellow shirts and emphasize “good governance and proper mechanisms to get rid of corruption…”. And, look to decentralization. Hardly an intellectual bombshell, for he is essentially mimicking the royalist critic Prawase Wasi and a royalist mantra on the evils of politicians.

This rather boring and predictable stuff brings us to a third and younger critic, Prajak Kongkiarti. At The Nation, he is more realistic than the aged professors. He says that so much political reform is required that it may be another decade before it can be achieved. What needs to be done? He is clear:

Prajak

Prajak

To establish a truly democratic society, Thailand needs to reform all of its key political pillars, including the monarchy, the military, politicians, independent organisations like the Supreme Court and the news media….

The Thammasat University lecturer urges that Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, be addressed first. But reform of the military, an issue far less discussed, is urgent as well, he says.

That sounds like a reasonable assessment to us, showing a keen awareness of the political issues that have been driving politics in recent years. He is reflective of that period, apparently being the only one willing to point out the very large gorilla that inhabits too much of the political space but which may not be spoken of or criticized for fear of repression or worse.





Anti-democratic academics and others

26 03 2012

PPT has been reading some of the recent commentary by an apparently reinvigorated bunch of yellow-hued academics and we have found, all too  predictably, that nothing much has changed for those who seem to delight in acting as the anti-democratic mouthpieces of the royalist elite.

A few days ago the aging and often theoretically incomprehensible middle class “radical” Thirayudh Boonmee came out with statements reported at the Bangkok Post that seemed to trouble the military (because he mentioned a coup) and some of Thaksin Shinawatra’s acolytes (because, as ever, the crumpled academic was critical).

Thirayudh

The academic is director of the Sanya Dhammasak Institute for Democracy at Thammasat University. Sanya was a prime minister appointed by the king in October 1973 and never held elected office. PPT notes that this is yet another institute in Thailand commemorating “democracy” as a royalist invention rather than a result of long political struggles.

Thirayudh is reported to believe that “the ongoing political conflict in Thailand derives from the fact that people do not respect the opinions of others who belong to a different political colour.” Well, yes, there is a “lack of respect,” but this tells us nothing about the interests that underlie “different opinions.” It is a fallacious position influenced by postmodernist positions that consider opinions, ideas and ideology the basis of politics. It is as if ideas float in thin air, disconnected from material interests. In other words, such Thirayudh’s observation is useless to any deep understanding of Thailand’s politics.

Thirayudh’s main point, though, is a critique of electoral politics. He says Thailand is “dominated by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, grass roots politics and populist policies.”

He may be partly right to identify Thaksin as “one of the three most influential political figures since 1957.  The other two are former military strongman Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat and Gen Prem Tinsulanonda,” but forgets the king and the palace as a major political actor.

Thirayudh seems disturbed that “political parties under Thaksin consecutively won power,” because he sees Thaksin as having “no true intentions of building democracy for the grass roots.” This is because he think the “grassroots” are a bunch of dullards who are vulnerable to Thaksin as “a marketing leader” rather than “a democracy leader.” They can be mobilized by Thaksin for his purposes. Like many middle class academics, for Thirayud, “Thaksin’s aim is more to make the grass roots his clients than to make them a sustainable foundation of the Thai economy.”

Part of that marketing push involved elections and “populist policies.” For him, “populism” is some kind of political sin as it makes electoral popularity paramount and what Thirayudh sees as necessary is to “uplift Thai society to be democratically strong, with strengthened rights, freedom and responsibility in which the people respect the feelings of others.”

While few would disagree with some of this, the point is that this is a deeply politically conservative position that hankers for some kind of “united” people, free of conflicts. Think here of the king’s repeated calls for unity and order. Essentially the ideas expressed by the king and Thirayudh spring from the same conservatism.

That same conservatism prompts Thirayudh to see the “current conflict in the country derives from Thaksin’s insatiable desire for wealth and power…”. In other words, the “desires” of the people are ignored.

More recently, and more obviously royalist in perspective, are the recent comments by the deep yellow-hued Chulalongkorn University political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn. Chaiyan has long been a People’s Alliance for Democracy supporter and anti-Thaksin activist.

Like his colleagues in PAD, Chaiyan has a warped notion of electoral democracy. At The Nation he adds to the long history of PAD’s and his own anti-democratic cravings. There, Chaiyan makes the extraordinary proposal that any “national referendum on the Constitution should require the backing of two-thirds of voters before the charter can be adopted.”

Chaiyan

For PPT, the idea of a referendum on a constitution is silly and suggestive of exceptionally shallow thinking. Take the 2007 constitution and the military junta’s idea of having a referendum on it. Voters got to cast a vote of Yes or No for the draft constitution. That basic law contained 309 articles. What was a voter who had read the thing to do if he or she strongly objected to one article but kind of liked 308? Vote No? What would the voter who agreed with 155 articles but disagreed with 154 to do? Vote Yes? In any case, the junta’s team made constitutional change a task for parliament.

But politically, Chaiyan is doing something else. He is proposing the two-thirds requirement simply because it “is not easy to achieve.” The proposal he makes is to prevent the current government changing the constitution. He makes this crystal clear:

The Pheu Thai and government coalition did not get that many votes in the 2011 election. They will have to campaign more to get approval for the new charter while the opposition might campaign for people to oppose or abstain.

Chaiyan is anti-democratic to the core. But we guess his anti-Thaksin panelists found such proposals just fine and dandy.

We are not suggesting that all academics are simply the ideologues of the elitist royalist regime. For alternative perspectives, this story at the Bangkok Post is worth reading.

Retired Thammasat University history professor Thanet Aphornsuvan said:

We know that there is social inequity in our country, but what makes the people no longer tolerate this and why are the factors that used to make them accept the situation not being sustained anymore. It’s clear that of late the authority of those in power is being questioned….

PPT doesn’t agree that people “tolerated” inequality previously, but Thanet’s questions are worthy of consideration.

Porphant

At the same event, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University Professor Porphant Ouyyanont noted that mammoth economic structural changes had “created a new political economy in Thailand,” and that, post-1997, “old capitalist groups, such as the banks, seeing their share … [in the economy] reduced while new businesses in telecoms and media have emerged.” He also noted the integration of farmers with markets and a range of new provincial players. He observes that: “New economic players have new political demands.”

But, as Attachak Sattayanurak of Chiang Mai University’s history faculty notes, the current power structure has not been giving way to new demands. Attachak refers to “capitalist groups colluding with the military and aligning their legitimacy with the monarchy…”. He added:

The co-operation between the military and capitalists in controlling the socio-political landscape in the country has clearly been featured with a monarchy-loyalty flavour. The monarchy has been issued a new role of sustaining and legitimising the political entities in the country….

Pruek Taotawil of Ubon Ratchasima University also picked up on new economic groups that “have challenged the traditional conservative power structure…”. He adds that:

The old power groups have created new political discourse that the king is the community leader and anything opposite or against the discourse is not legitimate or accepted. The recent political conflicts are clashes between the networks of old and new powers galvanising grass roots masses as their support….

Pruek warned that the new political players would “not tolerate being only cosmetic accessories to the power structure.”

The future is clear, even if the conservatives – academics, military bosses, politicians and royalists – can’t accept it.





The battle over the repressive royalist regime

19 03 2012

In the British newspaper The Independent Andrew Buncombe writes of recent contention over lese majeste in Thailand. The article recounts activities associated with Nitirat and the politically-motivated assault on Worachet Pakeerut.

The articles states:

The recent attack on Mr Worachet underscores the increasingly bitter nature of a struggle over Thailand’s controversial lese majeste law, which outlaws criticism of the country’s royals, in a battle that threatens to reopen old political wounds.

It is the last phrase that is significant, especially for royalists. While the law is undoubtedly “unfair, unaccountable and has increasingly been used against political targets and to quieten dissidents,” those who campaign to maintain it actually have a house of cards mentality: if the law goes or is even amended, the whole trembling edifice of the repressive royalist regime will come tumbling down.

In fact, they are too late. Despite claims thatthe lese majeste law is about maintaining “harmony with the country,” the royalist regime is already finished.

It is not just PPT saying this – we have been for some time – but look at recent statements by academics such as Thitinan Pongsudhirak and Thirayudh Boonmee. These academics are not raging radicals but both make the point that the age of the monarchy is essentially over.

What isn’t obvious is what replaces the royalist regime. Those fighting to “protect” the monarchy are doing the republicans work for them. But that doesn’t mean that a Republic of Thailand, authoritarian (of the military or civilian variety), democratic, or something else, is necessarily a predestined outcome. Nearly dead ruling classes and their supporters fight and struggle to secure a toehold in a new regime or to determine the terms of their capitulation – that’s what’s happening now.

After 1932, the palace worked incessantly, with the support of the extensive royal family and with conservatives some in the military to make a come back. They may well hope to do the same again.

The Independent quotes the conservative British academic Duncan McCargo: “Though in many ways extremely important, the lese majeste controversy has also become a proxy struggle between different competing power groups in Thailand…”.

He’s right that lese majeste is important and that there is a power struggle going on. And yet that description of the present is too limited. In our view, this is not a struggle between competing elites, although various elite groups are staking out their political ground.

Rather, the current  struggle is one that is seeking to move beyond the sycophantic royalist regime. That regime has allowed, in Thirayudh’s words, “the central government and the elite groups … too much power to manage and exploit resources with only few benefits trickling down to the impoverished masses.” That situation has been fostered authoritarianism, to keep the masses in their place.

Hence, the security forces and the Ministry of Interior are designed to maintain a “harmony” that sucks resources, money and wealth into the coffers of those at the apex of Thai society. It has also created a palace that has accrued unconstitutional political power and is the largest capitalist conglomerate in the country.

While Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra might have “vowed her government would review the lese majeste law,” and “lingering fear that the government could be ousted, either by a formal coup as in 2006, or forced out…” might cause the government to “leave the issue alone,” in the end, the struggle is much, much bigger than this. The struggle is about who will rule Thailand and what role the masses will have in a political regime that is no longer royalist.

Thirayudh talked a lot about Thaksin Shinawatra, and finally realized his political significance. While Thaksin might be vitally interested in who will rule Thailand, he is also likely to be worried about the role of the masses.





Updated: Lese majeste in the news I

27 01 2012

PPT has been pointing to the use of Nitirat’s proposals as a focal point for bringing the yellow-shirt alliance together. We have noted the role of the military, Democrat Party, People’s Alliance for Democracy (and related groups), a bunch of royalists close to the Privy Council, and so on. The only missing link is a direct statement by privy councilors.

This rearrangement of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra political activists has ensured that Nitirat’s reformist proposals on lese majeste and rolling back military junta laws have become big news. We say “reformist” because there is, for example, no call from Nitirat to abolish the lese majeste law.

PPT has also pointed out how the reform proposals by the Nitirat team have been deliberately construed to make reformist proposals seem like revolutionary republicanism.

That’s why the always difficult to follow Thirayudh Boonmee’s Rip Van Winkle claim that lese majeste “become ‘a very big’ issue if not handled properly” seems both late and misses any political point. Lese majeste is the big issue and has been for some time. “Loyalty” was a theme chosen by the anti-Puea Thai/anti-red shirt lot from the time of the “lom chao” map in 2010, and it became the chosen weapon following the election last July.

Hence, that Puea Thai claim there is a “conspiracy” is not really news to us. After all, the opposition has made it clear that it was going to use the “loyalty” card against Puea Thai and its government. Their suggestion that it is a funded campaign is new, but unlikely to be surprising to many. The claim that the old coup team from 2006 is back together seems like a shot across the bows of privy councilors. We wait to see if Puea Thai or the red shirts name names.

If anyone needs convincing of the use of the Nitirat/lese majeste issue to raise the political temperature need only look at some of the English-language news for the past week:

PT, army, police all back lese majeste law

Thai Divide Growing Over Lese Majeste Law

Nitirat has second thoughts about campaign

PT: Conspiracy to topple government

Lese majeste debate is completely justified

Prayuth tells Nitirat group to think again

PM vows to protect lese majeste law

Lese-majeste law leading to censorship

PT: Conspiracy to destabilise govt

PM to people: Protect monarchy

Thailand lese-majeste law leading to censorship

Abuses in Thailand Continue, Says Human Rights Watch

New heads of state should be sworn in: Nitirat group

Both sides of the argument over lese majeste law

Update: From the Bangkok Post:

The ruling Pheu Thai Party on Friday issued a statement insisting that it has no plan or thought of amending Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, reports said.

The statement, read out by party leader Yongyuth Wichaidit, said Pheu Thai respects the high institution and abides by a democratic system in which His Majesty the King is constitutional the head of state.

Pheu Thai has no plan or idea to alter the law, as claimed by some people and reported in some  media, the statement said.

After they have said it, written it, proclaimed it and demonstrated it you’d guess that the conspiracy claim would be getting stronger. How does the Puea Thai Party respond to an obviously biased mainstream media and the yellow-shirted lese majeste onslaught? They tried doing the work of the yellow shirts and that has led nowhere. Where to now? Arrest the Nitirat lawyers or wake up?

As we said about six weeks ago, no matter how many people this government arrests and jails for lese majeste, the royalists will never see it as a “loyal” government. Doing the work of royalist zealots for them is a dumb political strategy.