Corruption deepens

31 01 2021

Transparency International released its 2020 perceptions of corruption report this past week.

Interestingly, as the Bangkok Post reports “Thailand has hit a new low in the latest global corruption index…”. When we first read that we were thinking Thailand did better, but it as we’d expect, the country actually declined further.

Thailand has fallen another three places and ranked equal 104th among the 180 countries surveyed, alongside Vietnam, Gambia, Albania and others.

The Post says it hasn’t changed much since 2012. But if one goes back to 2005, before the coup that set the country on its royalist, neo-feudal, military-dominated slide, the country ranked 59th of 159 countries surveyed.

In 2012 it ranked 88th of 176 countries and by 2018 Thailand ranked 99th of 180 countries.

The slide down the perceptions index shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.





The Bangkok Post on corruption

29 01 2017

PPT has been posting quite a lot on corruption. Of course, we skim our posts from a limited set of Thailand sources and sometimes international reports. We are not doing anything more than highlighting stories already in the media and adding a bit of background and detail where we can.

With yet more stories of officials and corruption on the front page of the Bangkok Post today, it is worthwhile to highlight the op-eds on corruption in that paper as the enormity of the corruption and the obviousness of the cover-ups is revealed.

While some columnists who write for the Post sound more and more like sycophants for royalist military rule, others are writing appropriately critical accounts.

The most recent story is what might be called petty corruption. That said, it can amount to big bucks over time. Police and state officials in Phuket are exploiting legal loopholes to extort money from foreign employees and migrant workers. These groups are standard prey for officials and police.

It needs to be remembered that poaching from such vulnerable small fry is a part of a broader system of corruption that is based in impunity and funnels funds up to higher-level bosses. Its essentially a crime syndicate in state garb.

Now the op-eds. We will link to them and just quote a couple of bits and pieces:

Corruption and cover-ups lists many of the recent cases and cites Transparency International: “The lower-ranked countries in our index are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary.” Thailand. The article adds: “The Great Cover-ups are under way.”

Thailand must clean up its act is by the Post editor. He refers to secret deals with Sino-Thai tycoons, among others, but then asks: “where [are] the voices are that supported and cheered the military coup that ousted an elected government on the grounds it was [allegedly] corrupt…. I do not hear their voices coming out to voice their opposition against the rising corruption and lack of transparency in the [General] Prayut[h Chan-ocha military] regime.” PPT has pointed out the distinctions in the minds of anti-democrats, between Good people being  corrupt, and others they see as Bad and Evil people. The Great and the Good can do what they like.

his-masters-voiceGraft nosedive comes as no surprise at all is by Kong Rithdee. He gets the Good people nonsense of the anti-democrats, when he says of Sansern Poljeak of the politicized National Anti-Corruption Commission complaining about the use of “being a democratic country” in “one of the checklists used to calculate the [TI]  score.” Kong asks: “What did he expect? That being a non-democratic country is nobler and less corrupt, because it has righteous people holding top jobs?” Well, yes! Of course, Sansern listens to his masters and obeys.

Then there’s Surasak Glahan’s We can’t all be starry eyed in busting graft. He complains long and loud about the lack of transparency, not just under this military regime, but over a long period. That’s all fine and dandy, but PPT wonders why, even when there is some transparency – think of the huge and unexplained wealth of the officials who are part of the puppet assemblies – nothing is done. Their wealth is on display, but no one cares or investigates. Only when one falls foul of the powers that be does “corruption” become something that can be (politically) used.

There’s also an editorial in the Post. It’s tepid because it is critical of The Dictator.

Far better is Wasant Techawongtham, former News Editor at the Bangkok Post, who looks at police corruption and police reform. He gets it right when he says real police reform won’t happen under the military regime:

What would happen if, after police reforms, people started to demand reforms in the military?

And who can confidently say the military is any less corrupt? The military is probably the least transparent and accountable organisation in the entire bureaucracy. It is inscrutable and refuses to be scrutinised. Any shady activities are therefore kept under wraps away from the public’s eyes.

So shouldn’t genuine reform begin with the military?

Its a mess. But its a very lucrative mess for those who benefit, in the civil and military bureaucracies, in the upper echelons of the royalist elite, and among the Sino-Thai tycoons.





Corruption and the stars

26 01 2017

In our last post on corruption, where Thailand’s plummeting ranking on Transparency International’s perceptions index was discussed, we ended with this: We can hardly wait for the junta’s toadies to “explain” this.

Well, not a toady but The Dictator himself has “explained” the precipitous plunge. It is a truly wonderful and magical account that should begin, “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…”.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, self-proclaimed premier of this magical land stated that “overall the country’s rankings in several criteria ‘were not all that bad’.” We imagine that he’s thinking of other rankings, perhaps those he keeps in his own head.

He then “explains”: “Don’t forget that everything [corruption scandals] happened in the past…”. Here, he seems to be babbling about the recently revealed corruption scandals that have come day after day. He is obviously unaware that this recent news does not impact the released ranking. At the same time, he conveniently neglects nepotism in his own family, military corruption, the remarkable and unusual wealth of almost every general appointed to his puppet agencies and more. He also neglects the crumbling of anything remotely resembling rule of law in Thailand.

The General then got astrological. He claimed soothsayers had predicted “that things that have been concealed will all be revealed.” We doubt he means nepotism in his own family, military corruption, the remarkable and unusual wealth of almost every general appointed to his puppet agencies.

He stated: “Astrologers said that it is the year of exposing the truth, but I am not concerned about it as I am always ready for scrutiny…”. The astrologers may be right, but Prayuth is a liar. He has not allowed any independent investigations of allegations against his regime. Even the investigations of the current round of corruption cases are all being internally “investigated.”

Prayuth further “explained”: “When any information has been revealed, inquiries must be carried out. But don’t try to dwell too much on it. We have to consider both positives and negative impacts.” Positives seem to include the enrichment of the so-called great and the good close to the regime.

The rest of his comments were even more farcical. Perhaps he could have just said, “And they all [the junta] lived happily ever after…”.





A corruption verdict

25 01 2017

We at PPT haven’t commented on Transparency International‘s rankings* for some time.

The big news today is that Thailand’s ranking has collapsed under the military regime. The Bangkok Post states: “Thailand’s corruption ranking has plummeted, from 76th in 2015 to 101st place of the 176 countries assessed in 2016.” Thailand ranks with Gabon, Niger, Peru, the Philippines, East Timor and Trinidad and Tobago.

On this precipitous decline, TI states:

Thailand dropped to 35 in its score this year, reinforcing the link between perceived corruption and political turmoil. Government repression, lack of independent oversight, and the deterioration of rights eroded public confidence in the country.

Thailand’s new constitution, while it places significant focus on addressing corruption, entrenches military power and unaccountable government, undermining eventual return to democratic civilian rule. Free debate on the constitution was impossible; campaigning in opposition was banned and dozens of people were detained. The military junta also prohibited monitoring of the referendum. There is a clear absence of independent oversight and rigorous debate.

We can hardly wait for the junta’s toadies to “explain” this.

____________

* TI’s Corruption Perception Index is sometimes criticized because it is about perceptions rather than actual corruption. In addition, because it ranks countries by the degree to which business people and country analysts perceive corruption among public officials and politicians, it leaves out all ideas regarding perception in business itself. The index also has some strengths. It brings together multiple data sources in a single index, so that erratic findings from one source can be balanced by other sources. This reduces the probability of misrepresenting a country. It also involves local and international business people and analysts.





Updated: Warm up the tanks!

15 12 2012

The royalists seem to be like leopards, and completely unable to change their spots as far as their Groundhog Day political strategy is concerned. As the op-ed coaching manual at the Bangkok Post a week or so ago by Voranai Vanijaka pointed out, there are tanks, streets and judges that can all be used to bring down an elected government, sometimes in coordinated action. What he left out were the use of the mainstream media and having so-called liberal royalists shouting about the country being ruined.

PPT recently posted on how the media concoct stories in order to make the government seem immensely corrupt, pandering to notions of “policy corruption” that were spread in the past. Now, as a reader points out, the most eminent “liberal royalist” has again jumped on this corruption bandwagon, shouting of imminent doom at the hands of corrupt politicians.

Former unelected and military selected prime minister Anand Panyarachun is one of the old men who believe they should be running the country because they hate elections and have long promoted the fiction that only elected politicians, as grubby populists, are corrupt and ruining the country. Of course, all of their patrician friends in palace, military and business are, by their definition, squeaky clean.

Anand

Anand

Anand is back in the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra saddle. Back when the People’s Alliance for Democracy were on the streets and when the military were engaged in plotting with the palace to illegally overthrow the elected government in 2006, Anand was an anti-politician, anti-populist, anti-Thaksin ideologue.

Anand’s role back then is usefully summarized in a Wikileaks cable where coup supporter and then U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce stated that coup supporter Anand was considered “Thailand’s most distinguished elder statesmen.” He also notes that “Anand made waves in August [2006] when he publicly denounced Thailand’s course under Thaksin.” That was just before the coup. Immediately after the coup, Anand supported it by repeating unfounded rumors, forgetting that he himself was never elected he claimed that “Thaksin’s administration had already become undemocratic,” and added:

Thaksin had controlled the media, suppressed the free flow of information, and manipulated an uninformed electorate. He had corrupted the judiciary, to the point that court cases against him could not proceed. He had sabotaged the Constitution, manipulating political institutions that were supposed to be independent, destroying the system of checks and balances set up by the 1997 Constitution. Thaksin’s administration lacked accountability and transparency. In this environment, elections by themselves hardly ensured democracy. Thaksin blocked off all avenues for political change, leaving his opponents no option other than a coup.

It was really Thaksin who was responsible for the coup! There’s even more in the cable worth reading, such as Anand criticizing the 1997 constitution (which was partly his own work) and arguing for a less democratic form of government.

This is all a long background to the most recent work of this patrician ideologue for the royalist elite. At PhuketWan, Anand fumes: ”This government is taking the country to hell. ” Yet another elected government with a substantial popular mandate is attacked by a man never elected to any public office. He claims that there is “hardly an area of society where the effect of corruption is not being felt.” This is not an accident, he asserts, for “[c]orruption was growing more organised and networks of greed were spreading through every aspect of Thai society…”. Anand says: ”It shouldn’t be like this, but the power of money is now the ultimate authority.” He says corruption is worse than it has ever been under this government which is “taking the country to hell.”

We assume that one old man’s feelings – well, more than one, we are sure – about this government amounts to yet another call for his buddies in the military brass to warm up their tanks.

Update: On the alleged corruption of the current regime, which seems to be partly driven by the new Transparency International rankings, and which Anand should know about, being a card carrying member of TI, almost all mainstream newspapers have now reported that Thailand’s ranking has dropped and so looks worse than the year before. So the current government is harangued as “more corrupt” than the previous one. The problem is, as pointed out days ago by Bangkok Pundit, that no such comparison is even possible. Here is the screenshot from what TI states, very clearly:

TI methods

Did any editor, sub-editor or reporter even look at the word “cannot”? Yet when political bias is the aim, most in the media don’t let facts get in the way. And nor do the old men of the royalist elite.





The Penang Institute’s Abhisit blunder

26 06 2012

The Nation has reported that “Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has been invited to deliver a speech on good governance and anti-corruption at an international congress in Penang…”. PPT was taken aback by this, wondering how it was that Abhisit would be considered qualified for such a topic.

The Penang Institute organized the event. Its boss, “Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of Singapore told reporters that the speakers greatly influenced the course of governance in their respective nations.”

While The Nation mistakes the island state of Singapore with the island of Penang, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is indeed the boss of the Penang Institute. In his speech to the Speech at the Inaugural Conference of the ASEAN Coalition for Clean Governance, he states:

development is a process of expanding the instrumental freedoms of individuals, which he encapsulates in five elemental forms: 1. Political freedoms, 2. Economic facilities, 3. Social opportunities, 4. Transparency guarantees, 5. Protective security.

In a press release, Chief Minister Lim states:

“Abhisit is, of course, a strong proponent of good governance and opposes authoritarianism. He adheres to those principles,” Lim said, citing an incident when Abhisit described the Thai military overthrowing of one of his predecessors, Thaksin Shinawatra, in a coup in 2006.

He said Abhisit’s wish to become a “prime minister who adheres to the principles of good governance and ethics” materialised on Dec 17, 2008, when he was 44.

This happened after the Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled that then prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and the executives of the governing People’s Power Party were guilty of electoral fraud in the 2007 elections.

“They were disqualified from holding political office for five years. Abhisit then took over, making him the youngest prime minister in more than 60 years,” he said.

While PPT doesn’t know much about Chief Minister Lim, we can only assume that he has been badly advised or has confused Abhisit with someone else; not that we can immediately think of any Thai leader, political or otherwise, who might fit the bill.

Yes, Abhisit was the youngest premier since 1946, but Yingluck Shinawatra was even younger when she won an election, something Abhisit has never done. PPT isn’t too sure what age has to do with qualifications yet between 1932 and 1946, Thailand had five prime ministers under 45 years.

More seriously, why would anyone mention political freedoms and Abhisit in the same press release? For that matter, how could Abhisit be associated with social opportunities or  transparency or protective security?

Never elected by the people, Abhisit presided over a regime that censored more of the media than any predecessor since  1976. His government presided over a massacre of civilian demonstrators, a mark of repression also held by several of his predecessors. That hardly amounts to “protective security.” Abhisit was only too happy to keep more political prisoners in jail than most of his predecessors back to 1976. Transparency? Lim is right to suggest that Abhisit’s premiership “materialised,” for he came to the position in an opaque process masterminded and managed in the palace and by the military.

On corruption, while the measures are contested, Transparency International shows virtually no change in Thailand in its perception’s index during Abhisit’s time as premier. Interestingly, the index for Thailand declined after Thaksin Shinawatra was thrown out by Abhisit’s friends in the military.

It is clear to PPT that Chief Minister Lim made a mistake and invited the wrong person. That makes the Penang Institute look pretty dumb.





Finger pointing

27 03 2010

A couple of observations from the past couple of days regarding allegations made and reported. The first relates to Thaksin, the second to Bangkok “community organizations” and the third to calculation of the economic costs caused by the red shirt rally.

In the first case, the pro-government Thai-ASEAN News Network (25 March 2010) reports on the “hunt” for Thaksin. It reports that “Montenegro has declined repatriation of Thaksin Shinawatra, claiming the fugitive ousted premier is a Montenegrin citizen there is no request from the Interpol.”

The article concludes some remarkable claims about the country, its prime minister and international crimes. PPT doesn’t have the knowledge to comment, but this claim: “Montenegro is ranked among the most corrupt countries in Europe…” can be easily checked. Essentially the claim is accurate. Most of these indices rank perceptions, and the Transparency International ranking for 2009 has Montenegro at 69th. The problem with this kind of finger-pointing accusation is that Thailand itself is ranked at 84th. Pots, kettles, glass houses….

In the second case, the television news and the media was swamped with the story of a “network of about 1,800 Bangkok community groups is calling for a swift end to the red shirt demonstrations, claiming they violate their members’ rights.”  The Bangkok Post story is here. The number of news commentaries and reports that harp on traffic problems and so on is astounding today, suggesting something of a campaign. Prachatai has helpfully pointed out the spokesman for the community groups is a member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The campaign continued with a report in the Post referring to a “Businessmen for Democracy Club” attacking the red shirts. About 30  of them “rallied.” The Post says nothing about who the “club” is or who its members are. We know they have been around for some time, maybe since before 1997 and that they had links to PAD. Maybe readers can fill us in?

The third bit of finger-pointing is also widely reported. These red shirts are killing the economic recovery it seems. Well, that’s what the reports claim. The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce is reported to have claimed that the cost might be up to 100 billion baht. Admittedly, this is said to be a worst case scenario. But if such a claim really has any credibility, exactly how much did the record setting 190+ day PAD rally really cost Thailand’s economy? And how much of the claimed 100 billion baht can be put down to the government’s scare and fear campaign associated with its attempts to discredit the red shirts?

With all the claims being made against the red shirts, watching and reading the mainstream media feels a little like being in the front row at one of those PAD rallies in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.





Declining indices – press freedom and corruption

23 10 2009

This week there have been two releases of indices that tend to be followed in the international media, markets and other interested observers. Earlier this week, Reporters Without Borders released their 2009 Press Freedom Index. Transparency International has released its Global Corruption Report for 2008. It seems that Thailand is struggling on both counts.

Press Freedom Index: For Asia, RWB’s headline stories were about Fiji and Thailand. Here’s what was said about Thailand: “Political power grabs dealt press freedom a great disservice again this year. … In Thailand, the endless clashes between ‘yellow shirts’ and ‘red shirts’ had a very negative impact on the press’s ability to work. As a result, the kingdom is now 130th.”

That’s 130th in an index of 175 countries, declining from 124th the previous year and with its Index ballooning from 34.5 in 2008 to 44.0 in 2009 (lower numbers indicate greater press freedom).

In 2002, Thailand was 65th and in 2005 was 107th. Part of this decline reflects increasing numbers of countries brought into the Index, although the country rating went from 22.75 in 2002 to 28.0 in 2005 . As might be imagined, following the 2006 coup, Thailand’s ranking and index declined again, to 122 and 33.5 respectively. There was a precipitous decline in the 2007 index to 53.5.

So Thailand is doing better 2009 than it was in 2007, but things have deteriorated since 2002.

Some of the blogs have questioned this decline – there has been little mention of the RWB in the press in Thailand (is the latter indicative of what’s going on?). These blogs point to the fear that existed in the media under Thaksin. That is certainly true, but at the same time, that fear soon morphed into outright anger and attacks from the media that raised issues of fairness in the media itself. At the same time, there have been remarkable efforts to close, censor and control the “non-traditional” media such as the internet and community radio. It will be interesting to see how the clear anti-red shirt biases in the media will play out in the 2009 index.

Corruption Perception Index: TI’s index is often criticized because it is about perceptions rather than actual corruption. In addition, because it “ranks countries in terms of the degree to which businesspeople and country analysts perceive corruption to exist among public officials and politicians”, it leaves out all ideas regarding perception in business itself. It also has some strengths. As TI states: “The strength of the CPI lies in its combination of multiple data sources in a single index, so that erratic findings from one source can be balanced by at least two other sources. This reduces the probability of misrepresenting a country’s perceived level of corruption. Involving local businesspeople and country analysts alongside non-resident experts is also an advantage. It makes it possible to recognise the specificities of local customs through the views of local experts, while at the same time enhancing the consistency of judgment across countries by involving non-residents.”

How is Thailand doing? In 2008, Thailand ranked 84 (of 180), just above Albania and just below Saudi Arabia. Its Index was 3.5 (where 10 equals no perceived corruption). The previous year, Thailand was 93rd with an Index of 3.3. This means that Thailand’s ranking has gone up in 2008, but so has the Index. In other words, perception of corruption has increased. Back in 2000, Thailand had an Index of 3.2 and ranked 62nd (of 91 countries). In 2005, Thailand’s Index was down to 3.8 with a ranking of 60th of 159 countries.

The bottom line is that Thailand seems to have improved since its low in 2005, but is still down on 2000.





A country for old men?

22 09 2009

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With so much happening in Thailand’s politics in the past few weeks, it has been difficult to keep up. Seeing the bigger picture is a challenge.

Following our retrospective on Thailand three years after the 2006 palace-military coup, where we attempted to be positive, we now offer some observations regarding the current situation.

We begin with the police chief debacle. Why has this appointment been so drawn out and so conflicted? Of course, there are the related views that Thaksin Shinawatra controls the police or that the police support Thaksin. Another view is that there was a tug-of-war going on between coalition partners. There is truth in both perspectives. However, PPT suggests that there is more to this dispute.

Reports suggest that Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda (b. 1920) is at work. We won’t go into great detail for Bangkok Pundit has collected some of the comment on the police chief saga and most especially on the latest debates on who should get the job, including from ASTV/Manager and the Bangkok Post (17 September 2009: “New twist in police drama”) where there were guarded comments “new influential players.”

Police General Jumpol Manmai, the “alternative” candidate is known to be close to Prem and The Nation (17 September 2009: “Top Cop : Deadlock remains”) had stated that Jumpol “is known to have very strong backing outside the Police Commission, and lobbying was said to have reached fever pitch in the past few days.”

So is it Prem who is lobbying? Probably. Why? We suggest it is because, for some years, the palace and Privy Council have been trying to get increased control over the legal system. There has been a heightened urgency to this in the battle to root out Thaksin and his “regime.” Retired judges have been brought onto the Privy Council.

In what has clearly been a deliberated strategy, five of the last seven appointments to the Privy Council have been from the courts. The odd ones out were Admiral Chumpol Patchusanont (Former Commander of the Royal Thai Navy) and General Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed after he left the army and stepped down to be premier appointed by the military and then went back to the Privy Council when that guest appearance ended.

The former judges on the Privy Council are: Sawat Wathanakorn (appointed 18 July 2002 and a Former Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court); Santi Thakral (15 March 2005, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); Ortniti Titamnaj (16 August 2007, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); Supachai Phungam (8 April 2008, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice); and Chanchai Likitjitta (8 April 2008, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice and Minister of Justice). That so many judges are appointed send a clear message regarding intent. The king’s speeches to judges confirm the palace’s intentions. That such links to the judiciary have been put to use in the battle against Thaksin is seen in the ample evidence of meddling in the courts.

The palace has also been keen to have its people at the top of the police. In recent years, Police General Seripisut Temiyavet was said to be a palace favorite. When the military took over in 2006, Seri was made acting and then Police Commissioner and became a member of the junta’s Council for National Security.

At about the same time, long-time palace favorite Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn, once the Chief of the Royal Court Police for the Thai royal family, was put in charge of a review of the police force. At the time, this was reported as an attempt to clean up the notoriously corrupt force and to break Thaksin’s alleged political hold over it. As late as just a week or so ago, the Democrats had Vasit look into corruption in the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.

Michael Montesano says this of Vasit: “Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.” His own background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remains a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief.

Vasit is 79 or 80 (thanks to a reader for this information), been “retired” for years, but keeps popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. For examples of his royalism and extreme views, see here and here.

Meanwhile, over at the Democrat Party, at present it seems that chief adviser Chuan Leekpai (b. 1938) is the power behind Abhisit. In recent years, Chuan has been increasingly outspoken in support of Prem. In recent days, Chuan has become the link between Prem and the government. For example, just a few days ago, as PAD fired up on Preah Vihear, Prem became involved, with the Bangkok Post reporting that “Gen Prem is reportedly concerned about the possibility of tensions spinning out of control if it is not attended to properly. A source said former supreme commander Gen Mongkol Ampornpisit, one of Gen Prem’s closest aides, paid a visit to Chuan Leekpai, the former prime minister and chief adviser of the ruling Democrat Party, at the party’s headquarters in August, to convey Gen Prem’s concern over the border developments.” The Post considers that Prem’s concern nudged Abhisit to send Foreign Minister Kasit to arrange a broadcast “assuring the Thai public that the country has not yet lost a single inch of land area in regard to the Preah Vihear dispute.”

As PPT shown in recent postings, Abhisit has been promoting increasingly nationalist and royalist causes. We won’t detail all of this again, but it is clear that Abhisit is not stupid. His emphasis on right-wing, conservative and nationalist strategies is a reflection of the views of his strongest backers. We see this backing as involving Chuan, Prem and the palace more generally. It seems Abhisit doesn’t have much support within his own party, so this backstopping, is keeping him in his position, has to be acknowledged. So Abhisit, with the support of important and highly conservative and royalists, adopts measures that hark back to a darker past.

Of course, the recently launched project called “Thai Unity” reflects the views king (b. 1927) and currently in hospital. His call for “unity” is a conservative refrain heard since the days when the king feared he might lose his throne to communists.

Abhisit’s calls to nationalism and patriotism may seem anachronistic and even dim-witted but they are an accurate reflection of the fact that the conservatives are bereft of new ideas. Hence, we have loyalist Anand Punyarachun (b. 1932) promoting nonsense like the interview with Stephen B. Young, the “Patronizing White Man With Degree Reassures Thai Elites With Unexamined Rhetoric” upon Thailand and believing that he makes sense and has something to say. What he actually says is that these old men haven’t a clue what the new Thailand is about.

The result is that all they can do is fall back on projects that are emblematic of the military-authoritarian governments of past generations.

Related, the huge effort to protect Prem in recent days is also to be understood as a part of this conservative project (see here and here).

Add in the remarkably expensive efforts to “protect the monarchy” through the use of lese majeste and computer crimes laws and the debt to the elders adds up to a government that is becoming increasingly conservative, more repressive and is normalizing authoritarianism.

While PPT points to this authoritarian slide, we also celebrate and support the courageous struggles of those within Thailand who continue to speak out even as they are watched by the current surveillance state. In 1997, Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi urged those outside Burma to “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” Comparing the current waves of royalism and the increasingly repressive Democrat Party-led state to the Burmese military regime would be factually incorrect and politically dangerous, yet there seems a determination to take Thailand back.

Thailand is now at a precipice between, as we noted in our coup anniversary post, the potential for deepening democratization, and the potential for unbridled repression at the hands of state, para-state, and royal actors. It is important to continually observe and criticize repression, and call for justice – especially for those jailed by repressive laws and those awaiting trial. A democratic Thailand will be a place where these old authoritarian men have a place, but it won’t be a place that celebrates their anachronistic ideas through government programs that enhance repression.

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