On stupidity

19 03 2018

After a few days of social media attention, the mainstream media has taken up the official letter written by Khon Kaen Deputy Governor Suchai Butsara where he refers to locals as stupid (ngo) and how to erase such stupidity from the people in the province before a visit by The Dictator.

There should be no surprises that an official uses such terms. After all, the military dictatorship has, over more the four years, placed its people at all levels of leadership, and its people are determined anti-democrats. The anti-democrat rhetoric and deep belief is that all people supportive of views that are not ultra-royalist, ultra-nationalist and pro-military are stupid, duped or paid (by Thaksin Shinawatra and his cohorts).

In other words, Deputy Governor Suchai wrote what he felt to be true, in terms he uses regularly and in a political environment – the militarized administration of the province – where such views are de rigueur.





Updated: Absurd defenses of feudalism

16 10 2017

Update: A reader rightly points out that our headline is potentially misleading. Let us be clear: the absurdities are all on the side of those implementing, using and defending the feudal lese majeste law.

PPT has had several posts regarding the efforts of a couple of retired generals, public prosecutors and a military court’s decision to go ahead with investigations of a lese majeste charge 85 year-old Sulak Sivaraksa. He dared to raise doubts about a purported historical event from centuries ago. (In fact, the prosecutors have until 7 December to activate the charge or let it lie.)

We have been interested to observe how parts of the media seem to far braver in pointing out the absurdities of this case than when it is workers, farmers, labor activists or average people who are charged in equally absurd cases. If these people are red shirts or fraudsters, there’s often barely a peep from the media.

Conservative, middle class, aged, royalist and intellectual Sulak, who has also been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, is far easier to defend than those in more uncomfortable political and social locations for some reporters and writers.

His case also generates more international attention, as his cases have always done since 1984, when international academics supported him (and an alleged communist) under the administration led by General Prem Tinsulanonda.

Just in the Bangkok Post, there have been three op-eds and one editorial that each point out the ridiculousness of the case against Sulak. These include:

Yellow-hued, anti-Thaksinist Veera Prateepchaikul writes that the latest case is “unique in its absurdity.” He says he sees two troubling issues with the case:

First, … why did it take police three years to decide to send this case to the prosecutor — a military prosecutor in this case because we are now under the junta regime?

The second issue concerns the police interpretation of the lese majeste law or Section 112 of the Criminal Code in a way which makes the law look like it has an infinitely long hand which can delve into an event which took place some 400 years ago. The land on which the elephant duel was said to take place was not even called Siam.

Kong Rithdee, who has been pretty good and brave in calling out the lese majeste fascists, points out the absurdities of the case:

Another day, another lese majeste story. This time the interpretation of the contentious law goes back much further, to 1593 to be precise, to a dusty battlefield somewhere before “Thailand” existed.

The use of a military court to possibly sentence an 85 year-old to 15 years in jail is also mentioned as absurd.

Kong makes some connections that warrant more attention:

The scope of interpretation of Section 112 has been one of the central bristles of modern Thai politics, and while there have been cases that raised your eyebrows and body temperature (that of Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, to name just one), this wild reading of the law to cover an event from 400 years ago borders on dark comedy.

He asks if the absurdity of Sulak’s case tells Thais that they must not discuss or adopt a critical perspective on history. It seems Thais are expected to accept schoolbook nationalism and the jingoism of royalist film-makers.

Ploenpote Atthakor takes up the blind royalist nationalism. She observes that, in Thailand, there is no “dialogue” about historical events, “especially the parts concerning historical heroes or heroines, or even villains, hardly exists. Anyone who dares to question particular historical episodes may face trouble.” She notes how the history that got Sulak into trouble has changed several times and is disputed by historians.

Ultra-nationalism blinds Thais. The red hot pokers have been wielded by feudal-minded royalists and military dictators.

The Bangkok Post editorial extends the discussion to law and injustice:

In what appears to be an attempt at law enforcement, authorities in the past two weeks have taken legal action against two prominent public figures by resorting to what appears to be a misuse of both the law and its principles.

One is Sulak’s case and the other person is Thaksin, one of his lese majeste cases and the retroactive application of a law. The Post states that the cases “not only put the Thai justice system under the global spotlight but will also jeopardise law enforcement in the country.”

The editorial questions the police’s interpretation of the law, saying it:

is worrisome and has prompted questions about how far such a law should be applied. If Mr Sulak is indicted, it would create a chilling climate of fear and hurt the credibility of Thailand’s justice system….

In proceeding legal actions against the two men, the authorities must realise any abuses of the law can set bad precedents with a far-reaching impact on Thai citizens.

All these perspectives are right. We applaud these journalists for daring to defend Sulak and, in one instance, even Thaksin. At the same time, it would be brave and right to point out the absurdities that face many others charged with lese majeste. The military dictatorship has gotten away with being absurd for too long.





Royalist myth-making

12 10 2017

A story at The Nation caught our attention. It is about the absurd lese majeste case facing conservative royalist Sulak Sivarasaka.

As we know, Sulak is being charged under Article 112 for daring to “wonder aloud whether King Naresuan’s famous elephant duel in defence of 16th-century Ayutthaya actually occurred.”

The possibly mythical battle between Naresuan and a prince from what is now Myanmar “is regarded in Thai mainstream history as a momentous event that freed Ayutthaya from the threat of Burmese rule.”

The modern military, which has no relationship at all to Ayutthaya thinks that the date of the “battle” was 18 January and makes this Armed Forces Day.

Thais are taught that Naresuan was “Great” and they are told that he is to be “revered” as a “national hero.”

The Nation states that the “reality [is] that the combat took place centuries before the Thai nation-state came into being and thus cannot be confined within modern political boundaries.”

It then tilts at other elements of “Thailand” and “Thainess,” including muay thai which is regional as is Songkran.

It says “monopolising the story surrounding King Naresuan is especially damaging because it misguides everyone, especially Thais, into believing there is only one version of history.”

It adds that the elite “discourage[s] any further study of history because for them the official version – or the version that supports the powers-that-be – is the correct one and everything thing else is wrong.”

Examples of similar ultra-nationalist furors stage-managed by the elite include the “graduate student questioned whether the historical figure of Lady Moe had actually existed.” She was threatened with being lynched.

Back to Naresuan, “Thailand’s history textbooks criticise many Ayutthaya monarchs for failing to protect their kingdom. Why should King Naresuan be an exception? The dismal answer is that he is admired by the military, and the military are now in power.”

Naresuan did ally with the (now) hated Burmese for a considerable period, if chronicles are to be believed.

On Sulak’s case, it observes:

The fact that the case was not thrown out the minute it was raised three years ago is a strong indication that Thailand’s authorities and many of its citizens have lost any sense of that normality.





Ultra-nationalism opposed

11 08 2017

PPT wants to draw attention to a thoughtful op-ed by Paritta Wangkiat, a young reporter at the Bangkok Post. She takes on Thai nationalism, which she sees as increasingly malicious.

It has come to the point where, like other countries where rabid nationalism is promoted, it is virtually impossible to criticize any aspect of Thailand or Thais society without engendering a nasty ultra-nationalist backlash. Thailand, like pretty much everywhere else, has problems. Ultra-nationalists don’t want them discussed and go bananas when someone suggests that Thailand isn’t the greatest place on Earth.

In politics, Parrita notes that “colour-coded political conflicts pitting the yellow shirts against the red shirts, malicious nationalism plays its role. The former pride themselves on their ‘mission to save the nation’ while rebuking rivals for ‘not loving’ Thailand enough.” And, she’s right to note that “vengeful nationalism” is not new in Thailand’s politics. After all, the military, running coups and murdering citizens, claim to be saving the nation. Look at the claims of the latest bunch of military fascist-nationalists. “Saving the nation” has a lot to do with “protecting” the monarchy, which has also promoted ultra-nationalism in its own political interests.

Parrita is right when she says that ultra-nationalism’s “hidden agenda has been to maintain the status quo of the rulers and bureaucrats.” She continues”

No matter what definition is used, this kind of tainted nationalism will lead to deeper political divisions, not a “stronger” nation.

This is the kind of nationalism that blames others for not loving the nation enough.

A kind of nationalism that demands the rural poor hand over land they have lived on for generations to the state for development.

A kind of nationalism that calls for transparency in state expenditure, but condemns the use of tax money to promote equality through social welfare schemes.

A kind of nationalism engrossed in the glory of independent Siam that can’t tolerate opposing views.

She concludes: “The haters will only instil conflict and lead us nowhere. To march forward, we must first conquer the enemy within ourselves.”





“Uneducate” them young

22 12 2016

This post is a companion piece to our recent post about education.

A Prachatai story states that the Royal Thai Army is training kindergarten students in nationalism, monarchy and military. All dictatorships believe that its important to get at the children and shape their thoughts and ideas as early as possible.

The most recent “training” was on 21 December 2016 in Kanchanaburi Province, where 180 kindergarten children and their teachers were unlucky enough to “participate in a program called ‘Land Defender Battalion’…”. The tiny kids were dressed in the uniform of Thailand’s murderous military and “instructed” in things like “military operations” – a photo with the article suggests they were taught how to throw grenades. The military may think this might come in handy when the tykes become fully-fledged anti-democrats and need to stir up a little “unrest” so the military can intervene again, and again and again.

They were also “taught” the so-called patriotic values that The Dictator thought up, which is a kindergarten-like mantra of “nation, religion and monarchy.” Needles to say, other fairy tales and bogus stories such as “sufficiency economy” were also crammed into the kids, filling them up with propaganda.

We guess these kinds of programs are what the military junta thinks amounts to “education.” It wants ultra-nationalists and ultra-royalists (who know their place in society).





Unleashing extremism

2 11 2015

Unleashing extremists has long been a tactic employed by the military when dealing with political opposition. This was especially clear during the 1973-76 period when rightists associated with the palace and often led by military figures were used to create unrest and destroy opponents. This often led to murder and what are now called enforced disappearances. The role of the Red Gaur and Village Scouts in the 6 October 1976 is available in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (clicking downloads a 70 page PDF).

The Red Gaur was led by Army intelligence officer Maj. Gen. Sudsai Hasdin. For a time, under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s administration, Sudsai was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He and his supporters were often used to pressure opponents with the threat of more mayhem and violence.

Also in that period, rightist monks were active, including the notorious, palace-linked Kittivudho Bhikkhu, who claimed that killing Communists was not much of a sin. He meant all “leftists” who were also considered a threat to the monarchy. He was also a fraudster and shyster. More recently, the military supported the People’s Democratic Reform Committee which had rightist and royalist monk Buddha Issara as one of its leaders.

In other words, rightist extremism is not unusual in Thailand, and has long been supported by both palace and military. Such extremism is promoted by the aggressive notions of the trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy that has been promoted in society, producing xenophobia as well as ultra-royalism and ultra-nationalism.

This is a long introduction to a disturbing report at Prachatai. It states that the monk “Aphichat Promjan, chief lecturer monk at Benjamabophit Temple, a Bangkok temple under royal patronage” has “suggested that the government should burn a mosque for every Buddhist monk killed in the restive Deep South.”

He also urged the government to “arm the Buddhist population in the Deep South as a measure to protect ‘defenseless’ Buddhist monks and people in the area from being targeted by what he called ‘Malayu bandits’.” That aligns with a program that was implemented from about 2004 and saw the arming of Buddhists at the queen’s urging. The aligning of extreme nationalism, royal urging and rights is seen in a Wikileaks cable from 2005.

While this monk probably draws some inspiration from right-wing nationalist monks in Burma, with a dangerous military dictatorship in power in Bangkok, working hard to eliminate all political opposition, the emergence of such rightists and extremists is, sadly, to be expected. The support they receive from military and palace emboldens them.





Lese majeste and foreign policy

20 01 2015

Military dictators are generally not the brightest bulbs in the box. This is as true of Thailand as elsewhere. Its military leaders are groping about on policies when only a few items turn on their lights. Unfortunately, these are all ideological nonsense that includes crude ultra-nationalism driven by lese majeste and reactionary repression against all who are seen as anti-coup and anti-military. Both are met with blunt and usually ill-considered responses.

When foreign policy is in the hands of military men, they tend to be pretty hopeless and seldom have any of the diplomat’s skills. When lese majeste and diplomacy meet the mind of a dull military man, there’s not much opportunity for careful consideration.

As we have posted previously, angry royalists and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, directed to action by The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, have been in a frenzy over the UNHCR’s efforts to have the New Zealand government grant political asylum to Ekaphop Luera. Ekaphop has been charged under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste laws that have been ferociously implemented by the royalist military regime. New Zealand responses to lese majeste madness have been careful and considered.

According to a report at Khaosod, Prayuth has actually says something that makes a little bit of sense. Don’t turn off at this faint praise for The Dictator, however.

Prayuth must be feeling the domestic royalist heat for he told reporters that he can’t do much more: “They claim it’s an assistance based on humanitarian aspect, so what can I do?” He makes sense when he explains to the looney royalists attacking the UNHCR and withdrawing donations was a mistake, mixing up lese majeste and the agency’s international work.

He is back in the mode of pleasing domestic royalists when he claims to have “sent a letter of protest to the United Nations’ refugee agency for reportedly helping a lese majeste suspect flee Thailand.” Prayuth added that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent letters of protest” to some “7-8 countries” that the regime thinks are”harboring Thai lese majeste suspects.” Prayuth reveals that “none of those foreign governments have responded to the letters.”

His comment that follows is also not completely bonkers: “They haven’t given us any answer, so we can’t do anything about it…”. Where he does show his lack of knowledge and narrow military perspective is when he states that Thailand can’t do anything “because we are not strong enough to fight the entire world…. We should wait until we are the superpower first before we think of doing anything like that.”

That’s a reasonable statement. But it is in the context of Thailand’s ridiculous and feudal lese majeste laws that criminalize free speech and thought and which makes criminal rather normal political speech. It is also in the context of the most outrageous use of the law since it came into existence more than a century ago. Prayuth has responsibility for that.