Updated: Jatuporn, Nattawut and the protests

4 04 2021

Today, the recently erratic official red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan is tentatively rallying his supporters to oppose Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. This is surprising and somewhat difficult to understand.

Part of the reason why this is a surprise is that, as we observed back in January, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn had been saying some odd political things and seemed to have had a political meltdown, as enthusiastically reported by Thai PBS. Part of the meltdown involved a dispute with Thaksin Shinawatra over local elections.

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

As everyone knows, Jatuporn has a long pedigree as a political activist dating back to the 1992 uprising against another military power grab. For his leadership of red shirts, he had faced numerous criminal charges and several arrests and served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts in 2010. Jatuporn’s defamation was to aptly label Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

Despite his history of political activism, his recent outbursts saw Jatuporn labeled a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.” There was muffled cheering from royalists when Jatuporn suggested that the UDD be disbanded and that the student protesters should refrain from calling for reform to the monarchy.

All of that had observers scratching their heads when Jatuporn urged the public to join a political forum at Santiporn Park to “kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut’s prolonged stay in power.”

According to Jatuporn, “the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims,” and he hopes it leads to a sustained campaign against Gen Prayuth. He even called on former political opponents – yellow shirts – to join if they opposed Gen Prayuth.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn “is proposing to bring Prayut down as well as write a ‘people’s constitution’.” He is cited:

Jatuporn blames the prime minister for the current aggressive deployment of the kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law against activists, which just worsens the political crisis. He reiterated that this is all the more reason why Prayut must go.

To avoid more violence and casualties, as seen in recent demonstrations, Jatuporn said that either Prayut must step down or the coalition parties must withdraw from the government.

Jatuporn says that his “new group of political activists is called Samakee Prachachon, which literally translates as ‘the people united’, to support an end to the current divide and rule strategy, wherein the Prayut regime exploits political division to hang on to political power.”

Today’s event has led to much speculation.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn is responding “to the call, by Adul Khieuboriboon, leader of the relatives of the victims of the ‘Black May’ event in 1992, for mass protests.”

On the right, there have been mixed responses. Some thought that an anti-regime movement that did not attack the monarchy might have political traction, whereas other rightists thought that Jatuporn remained Thaksin’s puppet.

One of the mouthpieces of the anti-Thaksinistas, former ideologue at The Nation and now writing op-eds for Thai PBS, Tulsathit Taptim, describes Jatuporn “ unpredictable” and asks: “Who is Jatuporn working for?” He promotes the idea that Jatuporn “has patched things up with Thaksin…” and that Thaksin wants to move now to prevent the regime further embedding itself through the (rigged) election processes:

The Thaksin-Jatuporn theory means Prayut will face a two-pronged attack. The current youngster-led campaign will go on, dealing with all kinds of sensitive subjects such as Article 112. Jatuporn’s army, whose size remains to be seen, will deal with the prime minister directly and push for relatively less sensitive constitutional changes like the origin and powers of the Senate. One of rare positives for Prayut in this case is that a Thaksin-Jatuporn combination would keep the Democrats more firmly in the fold.

Thaksin’s name will return to the center stage, according to this popular theory….

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protester leaders told Thai Enquirer that while “the student-led movement have not yet to discussed whether or not it would join a rally called by Jatuporn,” ousting Gen Prayuth was also one of the movement’s goals. However, the students said there “should be no division [between the groups]…”.

In other words, the students insisted the attention to the monarchy to remain. Benjar Apun, a protest leader from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said:

We will not interfere with what they are doing…but our goals are aligned, with or without the demand to reform the institution….

However, the UFTD will continue to demand for the reformation of the royal institution and Jatuporn’s movement also do not have the right to interfere with this demand….

She said her group would consider joining the rally but would never drop their demands to reform the institution [monarchy].

In line with that, it is interesting to observe that Nattawut Saikua, another UDD leader, just out of jail and just this week off electronic tagging, said that he “had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn…”.

Jatuporn-nattawutt

Nattawut and Jatuporn in red shirt days

However, on Tuesday, he called on the “government to release pro-democracy protesters from jail and seek a peaceful resolution to the political conflict.” He then went on to affirm that “sovereign power in the country belonged to the people as everyone is equal.”

He noted that he had been charged, arrested and jailed several times, saying: “I have no regrets over the path I chose. I have been sentenced to jail three times, but I can handle it if I have to face such punishment again.”

Nattawut reaffirmed his support for the pro-democracy protesters, saying:

The country can’t move forward if the new generation is still in jail, so the government should talk with the [young protesters] to seek a peaceful solution for the country….

These two red shirt leaders might have different aims, but the thrust of their current words and activity may further promote political struggle.

Update: Few of the mainstream media reported on the rally last night – perhaps it finished too late for stories to be filed? That said, the rally was livestreamed by various outlets, including Voice TV. Various reports were of a few hundred to 3,000 attending. Based on the broadcast PPT saw, it was very much a red shirt crowd and certainly much grey hair was evident.

Thai Enquirer did editorialize:

Jatuporn’s position also means that he is estrange politically. Having moved way from the Pheu Thai Party, Jatuporn has no ready allies in parliament. Move Forward, Palang Pracharat, Bhumjai Thai all have reason to not engage with the former red shirt leader. Ironically the party most closely aligned to his views might be the Democrat Party, the very party he once took to the streets to try to overthrow.

It is unclear how much traction this new movement will gain in the coming weeks and months or whether it will at all.

But what is clear is that if Jatuporn wants to create a stir and regain the support he once had, he is going to have his work cut out for him.





Updated: Jatuporn’s meltdown

13 01 2021

One of the not very well hidden tasks of the regime, sometimes supported by the mainstream media, has been to nitpick at the protest movement and exacerbate divisions and differences.

That follows a tested junta tactic of trying to divide and conquer former opponents in Puea Thai and among red shirts. This involved buying off red shirt leaders like the detestable Suporn Atthawong, who has been rewarded with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions. Those turncoats have assisted the military junta to transform into the current post-junta regime.

A more activist Jatuporn

Over the past couple of months we have watched United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, leader Jatuporn Promphan say some odd things and, finally, have a meltdown. His story is told by a seemingly gleeful Thai PBS.

Jatuporn’s role as a red shirt protest leader resulted in numerous criminal charges and several arrests, and he eventually served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts. Jatuporn’s defamation was to call Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

He was also seen court orders for 100 million baht “in civil rulings stemming from riots and arson attacks by red-shirt protesters.” We won’t go back over the details of these false charges. In addition, he faces charges of “terrorism, illegal phone-tapping, and provoking public disorder, as well as other libel offences.”

Many activists looked differently at Jatuporn when, in July 2020, he “warned student activists not to cross a line, by infringing upon the [m]onarchy…”.  Some took this as a warning that the students should be wary of yet another murderous military attack on protesters. Others, however, wondered why Jatuporn appeared to be defending the monarchy. Many red shirts who joined with the student demonstrators calling for monarchy reform were stunned by Jatuporn’s statements.

In September 2020, his commentary was taken up in an op-ed by the notorious anti-democrat journalist Tulsathit Taptim who used Jatuporn’s “advice” to demonstrators to call for them to back down. Referring to campaigns against royalists, it was stated:

According to Jatuporn, it is all right for dictators to seek to destroy or suppress opposite or different opinions because it’s what they do. But it’s not democratic, he says, if minority or unpopular opinions are condemned, insulted or forced to undergo changes.

Oddly, in 2010 and during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it was Jatuporn who was accused by yellow shirts of supporting “majoritarianism” – in this case, supporting an elected government.

Two further outbursts by Jatuporn suggest that he has had a political meltdown. He has seen increasing opposition from former comrades, with accusations that he is a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.”

Staggeringly, Jatuporn has called for the UDD “to disband and pass the baton on to the young-generation protesters now battling for democracy. That push drew another barrage of criticism – this time that he was betraying fellow red shirts.” Some wondered aloud about Jatuporn’s motives and asked why, in 2014, the red shirts went off stage with a whimper. Was Jatuporn complicit in demobilizing red shirts? Some disgruntled observers suggested that Jatuporn’s paymaster had changed.

Then, he drew more criticism when he campaigned for the re-election of Chiang Mai’s provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chief, Boonlert Buranupakorn, himself considered a turncoat. Boonlert lost to a Puea Thai candidate who also had Thaksin Shinawatra’s support. Even other red shirt leaders spoke out against Jatuporn.

Just a few days ago, Jatuporn’s meltdown and slide to the other side was illustrated when he filed “a police complaint against some 200 netizens he accused of posting false information and defamatory abuse against him” during the [PAO] election campaign.”

Jatuporn said the “online attacks part of a concerted attempt to destroy his reputation,” something he seems to be doing for himself. Sounding like the regime’s nastiest of lying, cheating politicans, he vowed “many hundred more cases.” He seems to be taking a leaf out of Thammanat Prompao’s playbook.

We can understand that all those legal cases and the threat of more jail must weigh heavily, but it does seem that Jatuporn is doing the regime’s work.

Update: Khaosod has more on the UDD. It concludes with comments by red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich, saying “he would oppose any attempt to dissolve the UDD.” He correctly points out that “the large number of Redshirt protesters at anti-government rallies in 2020 prove that the movement is still a force to reckon with, and what the UDD needs is a new leadership with new strategies.” He adds: “Redshirts are against the dissolution of the UDD,” he said, citing an informal online survey that he conducted. “

As for Jatuporn, Anurak states: “I don’t want to use the word fired, but I’d like to ask him to leave.”





Mid-week reading: monarchy, academics, hypocrisy, hope

30 08 2018

There are several articles we think deserve a reading this week.

The first is actually two articles by University of Leeds academic Duncan McCargo. In recent weeks he’s been reporting on visits he’s making inside Bangkok’s rapidly expanding royal zone. The first was at Asia Times Online, on the end of the military’s Royal Turf Club, which reverts to the Crown Property Bureau, which itself is now the personal property of the king. We have posted on this. This article says little about that link, which is odd, as it is the story.

McCargo’s second piece is at The Nikkei Asia Review and is on the soon to close zoo. In it, he does dare to at least mention the king in the context of the zoo’s closure. We have also posted on this. He implies that it might also suit the military regime. So careful does the academic have to be that self-censorship means a casual reader might miss these associations.

As an important footnote, McCargo did put his name to an undated International Statement in support of Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti and colleagues some time ago.

Another article worth considering is at The Nation, reflecting on the ill-health of exiled academic Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul and his principles. The comments on hypocrisy among political activists and academics are well made. At the same time, some of the journalists at The Nation, including the author of this piece – Tulsathit Taptim – have also been been extravagant propagandists for those who have attacked and reviled Somsak.

Somsak has indeed stuck with his principles. He’s been brave and determined in addressing important historical issues and the monarchy and Article 112. Like rabid dogs, the military and ultra-royalists attacked Somsak and made him pay.

We wish Somsak a speedy recovery and applaud his efforts to pull back some of the curtains that hide the monarchy and its actions.

The third set of articles is from the Focus on the Global South. Its 4th Newsletter “tackles the issue of democracy in Asia and its different facets–elections, constitutions, (extreme) nationalism, populism, majoritarian rule, and press freedom.” Two of the Newsletter’s items are especially relevant for Thailand. One is an article titled “The Indomitable Spirit of Democracy in Thailand.” The second is an interview with pro-democracy activist Rangsiman Rome. There’s room for some optimism.





Updated: Targeting Thaksin III

7 11 2012

There was a time when PPT considered the elite’s Bangkok Post to be somewhat better than The Nation. After all, the unprofessional “journalism” at The Nation even spawned a spoof known as Not The Nation. As a lapdog for the conservative elite the paper behaved like a lap dancer for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Even today, The Nation sinks to new lows, seeming more like a family blog than a newspaper, publishing a “story” on the U.S. election by a “licensed acupuncturist” that gets published because the scribbler is boss Suthichai Yoon’s daughter.

As bad as that rag is, in recent days, the Bangkok Post has spiraled down into something that seems only fit for composting. We have mentioned some of these dives in recent posts (here and here). Essentially, these articles were in anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt campaign mode with barely a fact in sight.

Misleading and concocted “stories” are suddenly grist for the Post’s campaigns. A few days ago we pointed to such a headline. However, the Post’s latest story on the alleged Thaksin assassination plot takes the cake for concoction. Here’s the line taken:

The alleged assassination plot against ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is likely to have been manufactured to give the ex-premier a credible excuse not to visit Tachilek, intelligence analysts said yesterday…. According to a military intelligence source, Thaksin had no intention of visiting Tachilek, a border town opposite Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.

Readers may recall that the assassination plots against Thaksin when he was premier were also dismissed by his opponents as “manufactured.” Nothing much has changed.

PPT has no idea whether this assassination plot was real. But what evidence is there for this newspaper’s claim that this supposed plot was faked?

First, the “source” is,as usual, an anonymous military source. That is the same military that threw Thaksin out and were allegedly involved in earlier assassination plots. So how much credibility is there in this? Zero.

Second, the motivation for “faking” a plot is that Thaksin is “a fugitive with an arrest warrant out on him, [and] his presence [in Burma] would increase pressure on the Yingluck administration.” It was only in April that an “estimated 50,000 of Mr Thaksin’s fans alighted in Siem Reap, in the north of Cambodia, during the weekend’s Thai New Year holiday to catch a glimpse of the one-time premier.” What has changed since then? In opinion polls, the current government is doing better now than back then. So how much credibility is there in this? Zero.

Third, the claim is that by “fabricating the death threat, Thaksin has a plausible excuse to ‘cancel’ his plan without upsetting thousands of red-shirt supporters who were preparing to meet him, the source said.” This fluff depends on the first and second items above being true and guess work. How much credibility is there in this? Zero.

The mystery “military source” adds that “the assassination story can also be used to incriminate the ammart, or elite, who oppose Thaksin.” Well, yes, it would, if that was the claim from the Thaksin camp. So far though this hasn’t been claimed and “drug barons” are blamed. Still no credibility.

Finally, in a related story, the yellow-hued senator Somchai Sawaengkarn proved less than sharp when his doubts about the plot are expressed as: “If someone [actually] wanted to kill Thaksin, the plot would not have been leaked…”. Yes, no plot is ever “leaked” and is a security operation, if there was one, a “leak”? We’re thinking Homer Simpson.

Update: It is difficult to see how The Nation could get any worse, but it has. In “commenting” on the Forbes interview with Thaksin, op-ed “writer” Tulsathit Taptim strikes a new low. He gets frothy about Thaksin’s criticism of his fish wrap and the Bangkok Post and says there are other “questions” that he proposes “in response to his criticism of The Nation and the Bangkok Post and some other things he said in the last interview. It’s entirely up to Forbes whether to ask him these questions which, no need to be said, can be used by other international media free of charge…”. We aren’t sure what to make of the latter comments, but let’s look at the “questions.” Just two examples that are about substance rather than the list of childish retorts.

First, question 2: “Do you have proof that The Nation or the Bangkok Post tricked you and your spouse into buying the Ratchadapisek land while you were in office?” In Tulsathit’s world, somehow this must seem relevant to the notion of bias his rag. In fact, if a conviction was a reason for bias, we’d expect to see the newspaper exhibiting bias against a range of politicians and business people. Yet, this isn’t the case as the paper’s political bias is endlessly directed against red shirts and Thaksin.

Second, the last mangled question: “25. Last but not least, we are a bit confused. Thailand’s English media are against you but you said you are free to go anywhere and everyone treats you well. On the other hand, you can’t return to your country, where the market for The Nation and Bangkok Post is relatively small. Which exactly is your “unlucky” situation – you being able to go wherever people read “biased” reports about you, or you being unable to return to Thailand where fewer than 1 per cent of the population reads the English press?” So, Tulsathit thinks his paper is irrelevant?

Tulsathit’s “column” suggests to us that having a “licensed acupuncturist” write political reports for The Nation might actually improve it.

 





Updated: Abhisit wants emergency decree

18 10 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that former Democrat Party Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has had an idea on how to deal with the floods. That idea – to use the emergency decree – is all too revealing of Abhisit’s authoritarian mindset when it comes to administration.

Abhisit is reported to have stated that “the government should not hesitate to declare an emergency decree to tackle the severe situation as there had been conflicts over floodwater management at several flood-hit locations.

The good old days at the Army Club

Declaring a state of emergency in disaster areas is not unusual worldwide, but here Abhisit is specifically referring to controlling people through force of arms. Of course, Abhisit has a track record of using this decree to control red shirt protesters, and the decree led to severe human rights abuses and deaths and injuries inflicted by the military.

Abhisit said “the decree, if declared in those provinces, would enable the army to efficiently tackle the problems.” Abhisit’s track record is of using the army to suppress people, and he is essentially suggesting that the Army do this again. The image of armed troops protecting Bangkok from flooding while all around people are submerged is one that must appeal to Abhisit. Shooting opponent-victims of flooding might also appeal to an authoritarian.

But Abhisit says the “government should not care about being viewed in a negative way if the special law was invoked to tackle the flood crisis,”  and this was certainly true for his government.

Then Abhisit gets seriously bent when he says “flooding at Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district would serve as a lesson for the government to improve its flood warning system…. He blamed the government’s Flood Relief Operations Centre (Froc) for underestimating the problem.” Now wasn’t Abhisit in power from December 2008 until late July 2011? And didn’t his government face major flooding in 2010? Why didn’t his government improve the state’s flood warning system?

Of course, Authoritarian Abhisit’s inability to see beyond military force is no surprise and his shedding of responsibility is characteristic.

Update: It comes as no surprise that the opinion page at The Nation comes out in support of Abhisit. While saying: “Gun-toting soldiers guarding flood barriers are a scary scene.  A news blackout is certainly bad. Handing absolute decision-making power to a certain group of people is risky, if not downright dangerous. These scenes, and more, are what we may get if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decides to invoke an emergency decree to fight the unfolding flood disaster.” But screw this and the democracy mongers says Tulsathit Taptim, and let’s have it because Bangkok is about to be flooded and the city must be saved at all costs.

Effectively, he is saying screw the peasants sitting up trees for months waiting for the meters deep water to subside. Protect Benzs and Porsches and let the pickups and motorcycles drown. Use the Army to protect Bangkok. Sound familiar?

And, oh yes, anyone got any news of flooding in the northeast as dams release water there? PPT contacts in Khon Kaen and Korat spoke last night of preparing for floods there too.





Reporting the red shirt caravan

21 03 2010

Given the huge government effort to discredit the red shirt caravan of 20 March 2010, it is difficult to know where to begin this post. PPT must express incredulity regarding the mainstream media. To watch news readers saying again and again that 25,000 people participated is like watching Alice in Wonderland and 1984 in 3-D at the same time. So let’s begin with a positive angle.

As usual, Pravit Rojanaphruk at the Nation makes more sense than most, and he proves that real journalism can still squeak through the cracks. He suggests that this event was one of historic significance.

Pravit says that the “massive 20-kilometre-long red-shirt motorcade around Bangkok Saturday proved beyond doubt that many working-class and lower-middle-class people in the capital support the red shirts, as they came out in force to wildly cheer the caravan as if their liberators had arrived.”

Pravit says the numbers participating are hard to estimate as the “seemingly endless motorcade left … at 10am and made its way through major streets such as New Phetchaburi, Ratchadaphisek, Lat Phrao, Ramkhamhaeng and Rama IV.” Near the Platinum Fashion Mall, “people along the streets and pedestrians on the overpass ecstatically cheered the red procession.” PPT watched broadcasts from TNN television, and it is clear that the waving and cheering crowds were all along the route.

Pravit adds that the “whole atmosphere resembled a carnival or fiesta. Many bystanders went onto the streets to interact more closely with those in the procession. The caravan rolled on at what could be considered brisk walking pace.” In fact, it was often faster than this. “Many of those cheering the red shirts donned red or had something red on them, such as a handkerchief or a headband. They jumped, danced, waved and shook their foot clappers.”

In commenting on the class-based element he saw, Pravit observes that the support provided to the marchers highlights “the growing disquiet over class inequality among the poor as well as indicating class solidarity.” He adds: “Looking cheerful and confident, they seemed to have the belief that they would eventually prevail. Car-honking and loud anti-Abhisit and anti-old-elite slogans were heard along the route.”

Whereas other media outlets searched long and hard for anti-red shirt responses, Pravit says only that “Some hostile reception was reported in areas such as Onnuj and Klong Tan…”.

The conservative Bangkok Post (21 March 2010) is one of the outlets that tried desperately to locate anti-red shirt opinion and cites police estimates of 65,000 people in the caravan. The Post barely mentions the ecstatic response that the convoy received in many areas. It claims a 10 kilometer-long convoy.

Noticeably, the Post reports Democrat Party sources making the usual claims that red shirt core members “in the provinces” were “paying to recruit people to join the rally in Bangkok.” No doubt they also paid the tens of thousands who showed their support yesterday as well.

At 11 a.m. on the day of the caravan, Democrat Party spokesman Thepthai Saenphong had already told reporters a story about nasty red shirts and the evil power of money. He expressed concern about the (negative) welcome the caravan would get in Bangkok. He said that everyone needed to know that the Democrat Party was receiving reports that the red shirts were hiring pickups for 2,000-3,000 baht per vehicle and hiring people to cheer for the red shirts at 500 baht a head. He seems to mean in the watching crowds. Obviously the Democrat Party spokesman thinks that fantastic stories still carry weight amongst the fearful in Bangkok (thanks to Bangkok Pundit for this link). More likely, however, the Party spokesman is reflecting the deep fear the government and its backers have regarding the swelling support for the red shirts in Bangkok.

In surprising contrast to its usual rabid anti-red shirt reporting (Pravit excluded), The Nation (21 March 2010) has an almost balanced report, referring to “Tens of thousands of red-shirt protesters … in an unprecedented kilometres-long caravan … stepp[ing] up pressure on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to call a new general election.” The report goes on to say that “between 65,000 and 100,000 on thousands of motorbikes and other vehicles in the heart of Bangkok, [were] well-received by the local people.”

More in line with The Nation’s usual line, Tulsathit Taptim (21 March 2010) can’t get further than claiming that the whole event was scripted by Thaksin Shinawatra: “Obviously, Thaksin had designed yesterday’s activities to be a campaign of love. It was to counter Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s attempt to label the rally as his opponent’s tool to spread hatred and deepen the divide. Protesters waved and smiled to bystanders during their city tour, receiving friendly greetings in some areas but hostility or disapproval in others.”

PPT seriously doubts Tulsathit saw much of the caravan, but the claim of the whole thing being Thaksin’s script is simply being utterly contemptuous and disrespectful of hundreds of thousands of protesters and their supporters. Unfortunately, he is probably correct to observe that, despite the week-long non-violent rally by the red shirts, “Thailand’s peace [is] hanging by a thread…”. Ask why that is.








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