Snitching for the royalist elite

4 10 2014

It is well-known that lese majeste charges are thrown at political opponents in order to discredit and silence them. The most proficient at this political ploy have been the anti-democrat zealots associated with the Democrat Party. Watchara Petthong, a former Democrat Party party-list MP is particularly notorious for slinging lese majeste mud at his opponents and has been doing it for years.

Watchara with the "evidence"

Watchara with “evidence”

This time he has filed a lese majeste complaint against Thaksin Shinawatra, Tom Plate and Suranand Vejjajiva and the company Matichon for publishing Plate’s translated book, Conversations with Thaksin or Jub Khao Kui Thaksin Shinawatra.

PPT has not been a fan of the book, finding it lightweight and uncritical. But that matters little in these circumstances for not only has the book “been available in the local market for more than two years” but Plate was apparently careful about the lese majeste threat. The English original was published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish. The Thai translation, completed by Suranand, was published in 2012 and was reprinted earlier this year.

As is expected of lese majeste monsters like Watchara he claims that “some parts of the book contained material harmful to the royal institution and had been quoted worldwide.” PPT has read the English version, and we didn’t see anything remotely like a slur against the king, queen or heir apparent. Yet the lese majeste crazies can always construe and misconstrue when they want to settle a score or create trouble.Thaksin Book

Watchara is to be condemned for his puerile and self-serving nonsense and for hiding behind the repressive law and the throne. He’s not the first, though, for another anti-democrat, Somkiat Onwimon, babbled about this book on the anti-democrat stage in January 2014. At the time, Somkiat seemed to mistakenly think the book hadn’t been published in Thailand, but was simply looking for yet another excuse to attack Thaksin.

Tom Plate is undoubtedly an enthusiastic supporter of Thaksin. For crazed ultra-royalists, that seems to be a”crime.” Watchara’s warped world is marked by fear that the royalist control may crash, worry that the aged and ill monarch is unable to hold the royalist world together, and the threat that popular and electoral politics offers an alternative to armed feudalism.

Getting it badly wrong

28 01 2014

The appearance of Somkiat Onwimon, said to be “a senior media expert,” on the anti-democrat stage recently caused quite a stir amongst the dwindling ranks of protesters.



Somkiat, and old anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activists from People’s Alliance for Democracy days, criticized Thaksin Shinawatra and “told the crowd that he intended to read to them his translation of a book called Conversations With Thaksin, which was written by an American author, Tom Plate.”

Somkiat claimed that the book contained “many issues that Mr. Thaksin has spoken that damage [or destroy] himself”. He went on to:

Thaksin Bookallege that the book is not available in Thailand, because Matichon Publishing holds the publishing rights of the book yet refuses to translate and print the books for Thai audience, implying that Matichon has conspired with Mr. Thaksin to hide the damaging parts in the interviews.

This claim is concocted. As Khaosod and Matichon have demonstrated, the book was translated and published: “Matichon Ltd and Matichon Publish would like to stress that [Mr. Somkiat′s] speech is completely false…”.

A quick search of PPT would have produced the announcement of the book being available and a picture of its cover. It would have also revealed that royalists tried to stop its distribution.

Somkiat played fast and loose with the truth.

Thaksin in LA

17 08 2012

Readers have sent us various links to Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent visit to Los Angeles, some of them included in our much updated initial post. A few more are provided with links in this post.

The first relates to a VOA report that has been reproduced elsewhere and refers to a demonstration at the US Embassy by one of the yellow-shirted groups that pops up from time to time, calling for their version of “justice,” and promising to return.

The second is about Thaksin’s visit to Loyola Marymount University, where he was “the honoree at a formal dinner hosted by LMU’s President David W. Burcham.” That description of Thaksin will have the yellow shirts frothing. LMU is self-described as “a premier Catholic university rooted in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions,” with about 9,000 students. A line that struck PPT as worthy of quotation was this: “Perhaps not surprisingly, the successful businessman spoke glowingly of capitalism and free markets, saying that they are key requirements for a free society.” That would warm the hearts of American listeners, where this is a mantra.

Why LMU? The answer is: “The former prime minister visited LMU at the invitation of Tom Plate, Distinguished Scholar of Asian/Pacific Studies at LMU and an influential columnist focusing on Asia. The third book in Plate’s Giants of Asia series is Conversations with Thaksin, which became a bestseller in Asia when it was published last year.” PPT’s brief take on the book was unenthusiastic. It wasn’t academic by any stretch of the imagination.

Plate supported the Thaksin visit with an op-ed that is pro-Thaksin and likely to further steam up the anti-Thaksin opposition.

… Elected several times in national elections deemed to be relatively fair and open, he was pushed out by a sadly misconceived military coup in 2006 and has been working out of his exile in Dubai since then in effort to return.

The energetic 63-year-old telecommunications pioneer doesn’t let grass grow under his feet, however, and this month has been bouncing around the United States looking for love among Thai exile groups, meeting with the usual VIPS (the Henry Kissingers and so on), and trying to make new friends. Except for one anti-Thaksin demonstration in Los Angeles, it has been smooth going here in the U.S.

… Thaksin not only believes he doesn’t deserves jail but also that his many millions of backers wouldn’t stand for it. A return home under such circumstances, he strongly feels, would be politically destabilizing. He proposes amnesty for everyone, and national reconciliation. His goal is simply to return to his country, pledging flatly at two LMU sessions that he has no ambition to resume any effort to win high office, much preferring to help his young sister Yingluck Shinawatra, now the country’s prime minister, govern troubled Thailand successfully.

That means any number of daily phone calls over the one of six cell-phones he carries, and all kinds of advice to her, whether sought by her or not….

… Whatever Thaksin’s faults as a human being and as a political leader, he did not deserve undemocratic eviction and neither did Thailand. The negative consequences of this huge blunder by the Thai establishment are still being felt but even worse yet is that the elite seems in the main not to understand this.

… Whatever one thinks of Thaksin, the [anti-]Thaksin coup precedent sells Thailand way short and should not be allowed to stand.

Thaksin book now in Thai

1 04 2012

A regular reader tells PPT that journalist Tom Plate’s Giants of Asia: Conversations with Thaksin is now available in Thai, with the cover shown right.

The reader says that Kinokuniya and Asia Books are still refusing to carry the original English language version. The Thai version has apparently been put out with Matichon and was introduced at the Bangkok Book Fair this past weekend. The reader believes that Matichon believe they will sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

A review of the English-language version is available, although PPT has read the book and we are not as impressed as the reviewer. We felt that the reader learned more about Tom Plate than about Thaksin. Hopefully the basic factual errors have been fixed in the Thai-language version.

Because it is pro-Thaksin and because it has been controversial, PPT reckons that Matichon are right to think they will sell plenty of copies.

Thaksin book still not being sold in Bangkok

7 10 2011

Nirmal Ghosh at The Straits Times has an article regarding the effective banning on Tom Plate’s new book on Thaksin – for earlier posts at PPT see here, here and here.

Ghosh says the “book of interviews with former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is still unavailable in Bangkok, despite being in bookstores in other cities in the region such as Singapore, where it is now No. 8 on the Straits Times non-fiction bestseller list.”

The major booksellers Asia Books and Kinokuniya are not stocking the book. Why?

A Kinokuniya executive says its contents might be “sensitive.” The company’s policy “was to be ‘careful’ when it came to books which were ‘sensitive’ in terms of the social and political context.” Meanwhile Asia Books  has simply “decided not to sell the book.” No reason has been given.

Ghosh notes that it “is not unusual for Thai distributors and retailers to voluntarily withhold a book or magazine if they deem its contents sensitive – even without a formal ban order.” He writes of the copies of The Economist “with articles on Thailand’s monarchy did not reach the market although they were not officially banned.”

He observes that:

The book has appeared in the midst of this tension-laden environment, and touches on the circumstances around the 2006 coup and Thaksin’s apparently bad relationship with the powerful Privy Council – the King’s advisers.

He “declared war” on General Prem Tinsulanonda, Privy Council president and a former prime minister, the book says.

The ageing former general, now 91 – a mentor to generations of elite army officers – is seen as having been behind the coup.

This kind of informal ban by the wealthy proprietors of large bookshops is reprehensible. However, PPT knows that a Thai version will come out soon, and it is unlikely that distribution can be easily stopped. The English version is probably no. 8 on the best seller list because of copies going to Bangkok. Photocopiers and scanners will be at work too.

Tom Plate’s conversations with Thaksin reviewed

29 09 2011

Readers may recall our brief post a couple of weeks ago regarding Tom Plate’s new book of conversations with Thaksin Shinawatra in the series “Giants of Asia.”

The book’s full title is Conversations With Thaksin: From Exile To Deliverance: Thailand’s Populist Tycoon Tells His Story (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2011).

The book is apparently still subject to an informal ban by Asia Books and Kinokunya in Bangkok.

Now Pavin Chachavalpongpun, the most active commentator on all things political in Thailand, has a review of the book available at the ISEAS  website.

The review mentions a couple of interesting things. For example,it says a

central theme is the complex relationship between Thaksin and the palace. Although the author does not elaborate on many details – perhaps for fear of being charged under Thailand’s very strict lese majeste laws – readers will be able to piece together the links between Thaksin, the coup and the role of the palace.

Mr Plate portrays Thaksin as being ‘misunderstood’ by the royalists.

“Misunderstood” is perhaps the wrong word when the Wikileaks cables are considered. That there was a war against Thaksin is true and that Thaksin responded, especially against Prem Tinsulanond as schemer-in-chief for the palace is true.

Further updated: Fearing Thaksin

9 09 2011

A reader tells PPT that a new book by U.S. journalist Tom Plate is not being stocked by two of the major bookshops in Bangkok. What is the book? Thaksin in the series “Giants of Asia.” The reader tells us the other “Giants” are Lee Kuan Yew,  Mahathir, and Ban Ki-Moon.

It seems remarkable that major bookshops should refuse to carry a book, effectively being censored by some invisible force or self-censoring their stock and what readers can see. Or is it a reflection of the fear and loathing of the man amongst the royalist business class?

PPT hasn’t read the book that is claimed to present an “inside look” at Thaksin and his ideas and thinking, apparently “warts and all.” The book is available for order in Singapore.

Update 1: A reader writes to observe that Asia Books and Kinokunya Bangkok – the major distributors of English-language books – have long been weak-kneed about books seen as potentially controversial. The reader believes a Thai-language version is in the works and that it will sell like hot cakes.

Wait for the claims that the book is propaganda, paid-for, nothing we didn’t know before, and so on.

Update 2: A reader tells PPT that Asia Books has now agreed to stock the book. We wonder what caused this rapid change of mind? Politics? Profits?

Update 3: Well, maybe not…. We are told there is quite a debate going on inside Asia Books.

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