Further updated: Heroin smuggling approved

5 05 2021

In one of its more deranged and highly politicized decisions, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Deputy Agriculture Minister and soon to be boss secretary-general of the ruling Palang Prachart Party Thammanat Prompao who “pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into Australia” can retain his cabinet post.

Like the regime’s leadership, the court decided that spending four years in a “Sydney jail is not a breach of the constitution.”

Convicted heroin smuggler

Section 98 of the constitution states, in part, that one is prohibited from exercising the right to stand for election in an election as a member of the House of Representatives if they have been sentenced by a judgement to imprisonment and imprisoned by a warrant of the Court.

But, the hopelessly biased Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that while Thammanat “had admitted to his Australian conviction … the … court could not recognise the authority of another state.”

The court stated:

We cannot implement the verdict of foreign courts, and we cannot interpret the verdict of foreign courts as having the same power as our courts…. The verdict of any state only has effect in that state.

The report quotes political commentator Voranai Vanijaka who says the verdict was more “proof there’s no rule of law in Thailand, only the rule of power”. He added:

Over the past year and a half, Deputy Minister Thammanat has become a key power player and deal maker for the [Prime Minister] Prayut [Chan-o-cha] regime…. He’s too valuable. He knows it. The regime knows it. The Thai people know it. The decision is to no one’s surprise.

Sadly, he’s right.

Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk said:

This outrageous ruling nonetheless confirmed that he was sentenced [to prison] in Australia, which means his parliamentary testimony denying it is a lie.

With this shocking ruling by the Constitutional Court, now all sorts of criminals convicted in foreign courts could run for a public office in Thailand without a worry. Crimes committed outside of the motherland, no matter how serious they are, don’t count in the Thai realm of justice.

Sadly, he’s right.

Thammanat is now fabulously wealthy. No one has questioned that. It could reasonably be described as unusual wealth.

No wonder so many young Thais are despondent about a country run by military thugs, criminals and mafia figures.

Update 1: Thammanat seems to lead some kind of exalted existence. Prachatai has a story of Samart Jenchaijitwanich, Assistant to the Minister of Justice, who “has submitted his resignation letter to the Minister after Phalang Pracharat Party voted to remove him from all positions in the government and the party.” He was “Director of the Complaint Centre of Phalang Pracharat Party, a government whip, president of an anti-ponzi scheme committee, and member of other Phalang Pracharat Party committees.”

Samart was outed by Sira Jenjaka, a Phalang Pracharat MP, who “revealed that he [Samart] cheated on an English exam by sending a proxy to take the test for him. The test was a part of the requirement for a PhD at Ramkhamhaeng University.”

It was a “Phalang Pracharat investigative committee led by Paiboon Nititawan [that] voted unanimously to remove Samart from all political positions in the government and the party.”

As far as we can determine, Samart has not been charged or convicted of anything.

In comparison, Thammanat, in addition to his conviction for heroin trafficking, has a fake degree and has repeatedly lied to parliament, the media and the people. He also managed to barely escape a murder charge a few years ago. We know that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan loves, promotes and protects Thammanat, but his ability to avoid political damage suggests even more powerful support.

Update 2: The fallout from the Constitutional Court’s bizarre decision continues. Social media is scathing, parodying the decision, damning the court, and slamming the regime. The commentary is equally scathing. As Thai PBS puts it, the decision “has sparked outrage and ridicule and has added to the feeling of hopelessness…”. It cites Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University and an interpreter of Thailand for the English-speaking world: “This is arguably Thailand’s lowest point in its international life.” Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubol University, said the verdict “continue[d] to undermine the legal system of the country …[and] is not based on facts.”





Updated: Kids and their influences

12 09 2020

Activists report that, a couple of days ago, the authorities had gone after a 17-year-old high school student over “her role in a recent pro-democracy protest in Ratchaburi province.” It is said she made a speech about education reform.

She was one of five students targeted for protesting on 1 August. It isn’t clear if they have been charged.

Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkiarti claimed: “This is the first instance of pursuing a case against a high schooler…. Likely the first government in [Thai] history to exercise their power in this way.”

The group were summoned for holding an “illegal protest,” despite the fact that the:

Ratchaburi activist group said that they had already asked for and received permission from police officers onsite to hold the protest. Indeed, even the official Ratchaburi Police Facebook posted on Aug. 1 photos of their preparation of 127 officers to take care of the protest’s security.

Such police actions are a common tactic as the regime seeks to dampen support for the student-led protests.

Clipped from Khaosod

Meanwhile, Reuters reports on the “social media influencers.” It refers to the images of exiled academics Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul. While the two are quite different characters, both “have openly criticized the monarchy,” and that seems to be what is attractive for the student demonstrators who have repeatedly used their images and memes from Pavin’s Royalist Marketplace.

Students say that it has been their discussion of the monarchy that has provided critical information that has been difficult to come by in Thailand. It is their exile that gives them this influence.

The students’ 10-point demand for reform of the monarchy is said to be “based on a reform proposal by Somsak, which he wrote a decade ago and revised and published on Facebook last year…”. That the two “have been singled out for attack by [Gen] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]” adds to their influence.

The report says there are more than 100 Thais who have gone into exile since the 2014 military coup. Some of them who were exiled in Laos and Cambodia have been “disappeared” and others have turned up dead.

In addition to these post-2014 exiles, there are others who fled during the years of political conflict. Together, several of the exiles have maintained a constant criticism of the monarchy.

While some, like Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubon Ratchathani University points to Royalist Marketplace as the current movement’s “real catalyst,” this ignores too much. After all, Royalist Marketplace built on a tremendous and growing anti-monarchism among the young.

Many of those who went into exile did so because of lese majeste and had spoken out on the monarchy before their exile. The students grew up under the junta’s reign of lese majeste terror that sought to stamp out growing anti-monarchism. That repression and the effort to enforce idolization of the previous and current king was part of the eye-opening experience for many of these students. As they have sought new knowledge and have shared it, the anti-monarchism of exiles has been important.

Update: Prachatai reports that teachers are also policing the thoughts of youngsters. It states “a 16-year-old student in Bangkok was summoned by a teacher after making a speech at the student protest on 5 September. She was asked to give the names of schoolmates who joined the protest and not to make any speeches again out of concern for the school’s reputation.” It adds: “Student harassment by teachers is one of the lingering problems in the Thai education system.”





Greed and control

24 07 2020

Voranai Vanijaka asks: “To whom does Thailand belong: the King, the general, or the people?” Anyone who is of a democratic mind would argue for the people as an inclusive notion of representation.

Clearly, though, the military thugs who seized the state in 2014 reckon Thailand belongs to them. They intend to manipulate and control well into the future, with the military’s:

Phalang Pracharat Party on Tuesday formally nominated its new party leader Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan as the Interior Minister for the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

The nomination, if accepted, would replace the current Interior Minister Gen. Anupong Paochinda who has no party backing. The party also proposed four more senior party members as new ministers, but PM Prayut Chan-ocha said it’s ultimately up to him to decide who will get which Cabinet posts.

Observing this, academic Titipol Phakdeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University, said “the nomination of Prawit to be in charge of the powerful Interior Ministry is an attempt to ensure the government’s advantage in upcoming local elections.” He added:

The coup makers want to consolidate control to plan for local elections…. The local elections process has been delayed but if Prawit is appointed he can control provincial governors, especially in the northeastern region.

The greed is unbelievable.





With 3 updates: Corrupt military

15 02 2020

The calls for reform of the Army following the Korat murders are almost deafening. Some are from those who previously more or less supported the 2006 and 2014 military coups. Other critics are ardent yellow shirts.

But, really, wasn’t all of this corruption known before? It was for us, and we have posted on it dozens and dozens of times. The unusual wealth, free digs for senior officers, the use of the lower ranks as slaves by the top brass, “commissions,” scams, nepotism, the impunity on torture and murder, etc. It has all been widely known.

Clipped from Khaosod

Naturally enough, the criticism of the military flows across into the military-backed regime, led by generals. One reported comment was an expression of “hopelessness” at responses to Korat from both Army and regime. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was seen as gruff and uncaring in his response while Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s tearful media conference was seen by some as theatrical.The two are seen as part of the same regime and they are both men who have benefited greatly from the corrupt system.

Of course, Apirat’s response is also political as he is angling to take the premiership after Gen Prayuth, to continue the Army’s political dominance.

One of the public responses has been skepticism that “the army chief’s vow to bring transparency to the barracks” is real. As one person commented to reporters, “there is no reason why those in power will make sacrifices…”.

We at PPT are not so skeptical because Gen Apirat obviously views the current criticism as an opening for critics and a threat to the Army’s role in the economy and politics. For the moment, he is unable to shut down critics. And, he needs to respond. He’s said:

There are many projects among army personnel who collaborate with businessmen including real estate and loan sharking businesses. I know that and there will be generals down to colonels who will go jobless this month and in the coming months….

Sacking underlings is one thing. Attacking the toxic culture of a feudal military requires much more that this.

But the political threat to the military is acknowledged by Gen Apirat and he knows he has to be seen to be doing something.

As the Bangkok Post reports. “[p]olitical activists are pushing for an investigation into what they describe as the army’s administrative errors, which they believe was the root cause of the massacre in Nakhon Ratchasima…”.

The Future Forward Party and other opposition parties are demanding investigation and reform.

A group known as The People’s Party for Freedom, Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) called on the “House of Representatives’ committee on military affairs” to conduct “an investigation into the army’s alleged mismanagement” of armories and poor security. More significantly, it also demanded “that businesses run by the army, especially those managing army-owned land for commercial purposes” be investigated.

This is a big deal. Consider, for example, the role of the military in the Eastern Economic Corridor, controlling the airport and port in the project as well as tracts of land that are being converted to commercial use. And, the military controls millions of rai of land.

The group also demanded “that the authorities look into certain members of top brass, who have abused their authority for the benefit of themselves and their families.” Here the group is pointing to the “military housing project … in which the gunman was reportedly cheated by his superior and his superior’s family, [as]… clear evidence of blatant abuse in the army…”

But there’s much, much more. Think of the crony Senate and the nepotism of Gen Preecha Chan-ocha, among many, many others. Consider how it is that Can anyone remember the Rolls Royce corruption case and how nothing happened? Does anyone recall the corruption allegations over the Army’s expensive Rajabhakti Park homage to dead kings?

And then there’s the declared wealth of the military members of the junta’s administration, showing huge and unusual wealth in 2014:

If a general in the armed forces, your assets average about 78 million baht.

If you managed to become an admiral in the navy, you sail away with average assets of about 109 million baht.

The top money secretes to the top police …[where] the average for the top brass in the police is a whopping 258 million baht.

Even declared unusual wealth was never investigated. For confirmation of this, for readers with access, a recent academic article detailed some of this. This is what the paper’s abstract states:

After the military coup of 2014, 143 serving and retired generals of the Royal Armed Thai Forces submitted asset declarations to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on being appointed to the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly. By analysing these declarations, this article demonstrates that a cohort of wealthy generals has emerged, which leads to the article’s central concern: how is it that despite the political reform project of the 1990s, military leaders were able to evade scrutiny and become wealthy? It is argued that behind the lack of scrutiny of the military’s wealth accumulation was a structure of fear that severely undermined the capacity to enforce regulations and which enabled the military to evade the constitutional forms of scrutiny elaborated in the 1997 Constitution. That structure of fear emerged in a context of an elusive political settlement when the apparatuses of the state were occupied by competing regime framers, leading to a re-assertion of military power.

The Korat event has led to an outpouring of accusations and complaints, some of it from soldiers:

Lawyer Atchariya Ruangrattanapong said he was compiling a list of soldiers who had made similar complaints about being caught up in shady loans or real estate deals with superior officers.

“There are plenty of cases at the moment…”.

Atchariya also praised the military for transferring Col. Uthai Fangkratok and Lt. Col. Tee Permpol to “inactive duty” within the Second Army Region, which covers Thailand’s northeastern region where the rampage took place.

“Thank you commander of the Second Army Region for the actions after we exposed the scam,” he said in a Facebook post on the Help Crime Victims Club page.

Despite our comment above, there’s ample reason for skepticism about the “optics” around “doing something.” Critic Titipol Pkadeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University declares: “It is just a show…”.

For one thing, Gen Apirat is not allowing any independent investigations. He has:

… ordered 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Thanya Kiattisan to conduct a “straightforward” and speedy investigation into the shooting, said a source who asked not to be identified.

Two other working teams have been told to look into soldiers’ welfare provisions and businesses run within the barracks as well as take action against any personnel found to be involved in dishonest deals, the source added.

Maj Gen Rachit Arunrangsi, chief of the Army Welfare Department, and Lt Gen Ayut Siwiset, chief of the Directorate of Personnel, are in charge of the two panels.

While he has “threatened to suspend any business-oriented army projects that are found to have irregularities,” again, it is an internal investigation.

Bolstering skepticism, it has been widely reported that Gen Apirat’s statement that “retired army officers must move out from their official residences…”, has exceptions. No prizes for guessing that Gen  Prayuth, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda will be first among those keeping their Army-supplied houses. This is because they make a “contribution to society.”

Other “retired generals who now serve as Senators; and retired army generals in the Privy Council” also have taxpayer-funded free accommodation on bases, cloistered from the rest of the population, feeling comfortable among the groveling and hierarchy of the forces, using military slaves and more.

While they suck on the public teat forever, they are being “recognized” for their “contributions” to the military, conducting military coups, strengthening impunity and slaughtering red shirts. And, they have strengthened the military’s systematized corruption.

Who can forget the taxpayer-funded years of free accommodation  for now dead Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda in a house that the Army has since “donated” to the king. Where does current Privy Council President Gen Surayud Chulanont live?

It is not just that those at the very top engage in nepotism, corruption and sweet deals, setting a poor example, but it is systematized: those at lower levels engage in corruption that funnels funds up into the higher ranks.

Update 1: Is it only a coincidence that Gen Prayuth has ordered the Fine Arts Department to produce “shows” on “Thailand’s war history to bolster patriotism among Thais.” The aim is to strengthen “unity” and promote “awareness of the roles of key institutions — the nation, religion and monarchy — in helping overcome crises…”. Given that most of the propaganda will be about the military, their “reputation” will also be bolstered.

Update 2: The op-eds criticizing the military are raining down like political confetti. Some of them seem to express surprise at the size of corruption revealed, while neglecting to mention some of the biggest military scams or to ask why it is that the military brass gets away with murder and crime. Other op-eds get right to the point: “The Thai army is a closed system governed by feudal authoritarianism which breeds corruption and abuse of power.” Read them all.

Update 3: Prachatai reports on a rally of:

a hundred people [who] gathered in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) yesterday (13 February) for a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims of the Nakhon Ratchasima mass shooting … and to demand that Gen Apirat Kongsompong take responsibility by resigning from his position as army chief.





No change on repression

21 06 2019

While some media still delude themselves and readers that the junta’s “election” was about “returning to democracy,” The Diplomat has a story that shows that things haven’t changed and may be getting worse:

Weeks after the March election, the plainclothes officers that had become a familiar sight on college campuses under military rule were back at Ubon Ratchathani University in Thailand’s northeast.

“Things should have changed. But they came with an identical message” to five years ago, said political scientist Titipol Phakdeewanich about a second visit from the special branch police last week. “They were quite confident they could keep politicians in check. But they are very worried about universities and students.”

As the story observes, “[h]eavy-handed responses to even the mildest of criticism have been a defining feature of a junta that routinely threatened and prosecuted opponents…” since its illegal 2014 military coup.

As academic Titipol puts it: “Nothing has changed. But now Thailand is whitewashed by an election…”.

Is it getting worse? We think it is, with the mad rightists unleashed by the junta. Most noticeable is the use of lese majeste as a way to damage and repress.

Future Forward’s spokesperson, Pannika Wanich is one target, accused her of lese majeste. She says: “It’s a witch hunt. Progressive politicians have frequently been accused of being anti-monarchy…”. It is also the yellow-shirted tactic that is used against democrats or anyone considered too pro-Thaksin. Future Forward has scared the bejesus out of the political dinosaurs and the ruling class.

After the assault (clipped from Matichon)

The story also points out rising “systematic violence,” including murders and enforced disappearances.

It cites Anon Chawalawan from iLaw, who says: “We are seeing rising numbers of violent attacks against democracy activists, often by masked attackers, since the election. But there have been no arrests…”.

One recent case is Sirawith Seritiwat (left).

No arrests. Probably because these are officially-sanctioned thugs.





Prayuth, the draft charter and domination

16 02 2016

We all know that The Dictator is in California, at a US-ASEAN summit. There aren’t any other military dictators attending, even if there are some leaders who share Prayuth’s authoritarianism.

We felt that readers might find a story at The Washington Times of some interest reminding American readers and President Obama of the problems facing Thailand.

A coup-installed government writing a new constitution and opposition parties (and supportive parties) and human rights groups rejecting it and the junta.

For Americans, the article notes that “the balancing act the Obama administration has faced dealing with the new government [it is hardly new after about 21 months].” The once “key U.S. ally in the region” is now a problem: “the government’s anti-democratic tendencies and persistent courting by China have put heavy strains on the bilateral relationship.”

There’s a bit of repeating things about the DOA undemocratic charter and the junta’s demands and threats:

Many people are afraid to directly criticize the draft constitution because of the regime’s frequently shifting punishments against free speech, enforced by threats to seize assets and military trials for civilian dissidents who express themselves.

Prayuth’s tantrums are mentioned: he grumbled, he labeled journalists “stupid,”  threatened to have the country “depart from this world, from the international community.”

It quotes Michael H. Nelson, a research fellow at Thammasat University, who reckons the military plans to hang on, in some form, for another four years. Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Ubon Ratchathani University, essentially agrees: “It is more than likely that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s military junta will remain essentially in power, even if we have elections in 2017, albeit with a new prime minister…”.

Burin Kantabutra, a columnist, is also quoted as saying: “I fear we are headed towards the political system of the People’s Republic of China…. I think that post-charter, postelection Thai politics will be a train wreck…”.

A “scholar of Southeast Asia who asked not to be identified because of his research” [hmmm] explains that the “military is too backward, hopeless at government and an embarrassment…”. That scholar reckons this means there will be an election.

PPT reckons that it might be a reason for not having an election.





Barbarians on campus

22 11 2015

The headline is from an excellent Bangkok Post Spectrum article by Nanchanok Wongsamuth that comments at length on the intimidation of students and faculty at Thai universities. In it, dean of Ubon Ratchathani University’s political science faculty Chaiyan Rajchaigool, describes the military’s campus patrols as “barbaric”.

He observed that the patrols, where the military drives around campus, appears armed on campus, visits classrooms, talks to faculty and administrators, “intimidated students and faculty members, likening it to treating them as if they were guilty of thought crime.”

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “denounced university lecturers as having instigated rebellious thoughts and actions among students.”

PPT won’t repeat all of the article, which deserves a full reading. We simply reproduce bits and pieces that struck us chilling, revealing and important.

Titipol Phakdeewanich claims not to discuss politics on Facebook. His colleagues at Ubon Ratchathani University “describe him as not politically vocal, and his criticisms as not provocative or hostile, but within the boundaries determined by normal Thai politeness.” Titipol says: “My work does not involve opposition against the NCPO or the government…”.

Yet because the military is so fearful and so conspiratorial that he teaches on democracy and human rights is a threat to national security and the monarchist regime. Since “his first unofficial meeting with military officers in December last year, the army’s continued presence in classrooms, seminars and events involving international organisations has left the political science lecturer feeling fear and concern.” He has reason for his worries: “Titipol has been monitored [by the military] at eight different events that he knows of, each involving an international organisation.”

[T]he army has banned political gatherings of more than five people, it has often included seminars and academic discussions under that rule. Many event organisers are required to submit requests to authorities prior to staging a discussion. Most of the requests related to democracy, politics and lese majeste, however, have been rejected, often without any explanation.

The Army has watched and been suspicious of “topics ranging from corruption and scholarships to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.”

Titipol has links with the UNDP, U.S. Embassy and EU Mission. Military officers ask him: “what exactly are they trying to lead you into believing today?” He observes “they now see democracy as propaganda and a threat to national security.”

Read some of the comments under the story and you see that there is a stream of paranoia, from Left to Right, that views the U.S. as a Thaksin Shinawatra-supporting regime that wants to overthrow the monarchy and regime in Thailand. Madness, no real evidence other than conspiratorial blogs, but actually believed by some, including elements of the ruling regime.

Meanwhile, the climate of fear has extended into classrooms, where critical thinking is toned down and lecturers tell Spectrum they are reluctant to discuss “sensitive” issues, for fear of army surveillance. As well as overt means, there is also a fear that someone in a class may be spying or even reporting the content via family connections.

Faculty and administrators are required by the military to “closely monitor the activities of their students…”.

Vinai Poncharoen is an associate professor at Mahasarakham University’s College of Politics and Governance. he military fears him: “Last month, an army colonel and his subordinates held a meeting at the university with Mr Vinai, the faculty dean and vice-dean.” Vinai stated: “I told them I would not stop posting about politics on Facebook…. The colonel threatened me that this would be his last request, but refused to tell me what would happen if I violated his rule.”

The result is self-censorship: “when teaching Thai politics, he is careful when discussing the monarchy and instead uses obscure references.” He knows that there are spies on campus: “A staff member from the student affairs division had attended one of his lectures and the university’s legal adviser also attempted to add him as a Facebook friend.” Spying works better when threatening: “They [the army] said they have a spy in the university watching over me…”.

Assistant professor of law at Thammasat University Sawatree Suksri has “monthly visits to her house by three to five army officers who arrive in pickup trucks…”.

The meetings are described “as intimidating.”  She states: “Regardless of their manner, I don’t think the presence of military officers at home is considered normal…. It is a form of intimidation. It is sending the signal that we are no longer free.”

Since then, three to five officers meet him at the faculty every one to two months in what he describes as a “very polite” manner.

Worachet Pakeerut, already facing charges, has “three to five officers meet him at the faculty every one to two months.” He says:

Having people check on us all the time is like having ‘Big Brother’ watching over you. And for what? They are wasting their time, but on the other hand it is probably a psychological act.

A network of university professors recently declared “universities are not military camps.” They stated:

We jointly declare that in order to bring Thailand out of the conflict … there is a need for the creation of a society that has tolerance towards differences of opinion, transparency in solving conflicts and a fair and accountable judicial system…. Such a society is one that is governed under a liberal democracy … and educational institutions have a direct role in creating a democratic society.

Those involved have been summoned by the dictatorship’s enforcers and are expected to explain themselves.

Sadly, university administrations work in the interests of the military barbarians.





Titipol on the bombs

19 08 2015

Of the plethora of commentary and social media discussion of the Bangkok bombs, PPT found there was considerable food for thought in academic Titipol Phakdeewanich’s reactions to Monday’s attack. He is a visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick and is based at Ubon Ratchathani University.





Democracy and lese majeste

1 02 2012

Putting “democracy” and “lese majeste” in the same sentence invites all kinds of contradictions. However, Titipol Phakdeewanich is a Political Scientist at the Faculty of Political Science at Ubon Ratchathani Universityhas a piece in the Bangkok Post that demands serious attention.

The sensitive issue of Section 112 is now being linked in discourse to the ongoing question of promoting freedom of speech and expression within Thailand.

That’s true, but why should it be “sensitive”? It is sensitive because its use is politicized.

Titipol is correct when he observes that:

Thailand will inevitably have to learn one way or another, to fully accept a founding principle of democracy, which is freedom of speech and expression. No country can claim to have negotiated the road to democracy while continuing to pick and choose as and when such democratic principles suit prevailing domestic interests.

The “promotion of freedom of speech and expression” he says will:

help to shift many Thai citizens out of a lingering passive and obedient mentality, which is a historical legacy; and towards becoming more actively engaged citizens within an evolving, maturing and more dynamic, vibrant democratic system.

Actually, we think this move has taken place already, and that is why the minority of those who gained most from the former “passive and obedient mentality” are so reactionary and aggressive in their protection of lese majeste and the monarchy itself. And, historically, it is clear to us that the majority have not always been “passive and obedient.” They have been repressed and butchered by those who gain from enforced passivity.

Titipol observes:

In arguing that the amendment of Section 112 will inevitably lead to the destruction and removal of the monarchy; anti-amendment groups are acting to further slow the process of democratisation within Thailand.

Of course they are!

Titipol has a long article with some well considered points in an argument about the monarchy needing to change. We think he is being optimistic. That said, his points on debating lese majeste and democratic freedoms make sense.

Even The Nation has a surprisingly sensible editorial on this issue: “Thailand cannot emerge from its political stalemate and develop its democratic institutions unless people have respect for opponents’ opinions…”. The editorial writer is correct in saying that “Thailand is at an interesting period in its politics…”.

On the lese majeste reform “debate” – in fact, debate should have two sides, but the royalists are pretty much a singular and very loud voice over the past week or so – this:

While this kind of partisan competition is to be expected in an open and free society, the situation in Thailand could soon reach an extreme and dangerous level. If it does, … the government and Thai public need to re-examine recent eras in both local and international political history to avoid repeating past mistakes. Thailand is at a critical juncture politically and socially.

The editorial points to extremism:

Last Saturday’s gathering of pink-clad supporters of the lese majeste law at the Royal Plaza saw the burning of effigies of … law lecturers, who have spearhead[ed] a campaign to amend this law. The scene smacks of the horror of October 4, 1976…. Was the Saturday gathering a harbinger of worse to come?

It seems entirely possible. Maybe the lesson of 1976 was that force and violence can keep people obedient and subservient.

In a generally sensible editorial, we are unsure who added this:

However, it is our belief that we must ensure that whatever we debate, we must at all costs protect and preserve our traditional institutions and customs, the source of our national pride and statehood.

Meanwhile, while Nattawut Saikua has to maintain party solidarity, he seems to agree with Titipol and The Nation, stating that while the Puea Thai Party is going to continue to doze on and allow the ultra-royalists to set the agenda, “The Nitirat group has a different point of view and I see it as normal in democracy…”.

PPT is certain that allowing the royalists to define debate while using the lese majeste law for their purposes is a dumb political strategy. Puea Thai will eventually pay dearly for it. Where will democracy be then?