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.

 





Updated: Double standards as wide as an ocean

29 08 2014

The term “double standards” has been used to describe judicial and political actions in Thailand that means that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest. In recent has also been used to accurately portray a political bias where one side of politics – the royalists – get favored treatment over the rest. That the rich and the royalists have considerable overlap is well-known.

It is no surprise then when the Bangkok Post lauds yet one more confirmation of gross double standards under the military dictatorship that illegally seized state power in May this year. The Bangkok Post’s lauding of double standards might have a lot to do with the fact that the company that owns it was headed by a double coup supporting minor prince who drools at the opportunity to once again work for the corrupt and murderous military.

In an editorial the Post lavishes undeserved praise on the military dictatorship for its decision “to free Veera Somkhwamkid, leader of the Thai Patriots Network, and seven other members of an energy policy reform group, without pressing any charges against them…”. Veera is a People’s Alliance for Democracy associate and ultra-nationalist who has wanted to provoke war with Cambodia and whose release from jail in Cambodia was prompted by the military dictatorship’s willingness to create a crisis by sending Cambodian workers streaming back home in a fear campaign that was for Veera’s benefit and also effectively brought Hun Sen “into line” through a threat to the workers’ remittances.

The Post’s editorial is bizarre. It lists the repression of free speech (which affects everyone in Thailand, not just the looney rightists):

The eight activists were arrested by police on Sunday for staging a protest march against energy policy and violating martial law. The order to arrest them was made by Pol Maj Gen Amnuay Nimmano, deputy commissioner of the Police Education Bureau, currently in charge of security affairs and peace maintenance in Bangkok.

Last week in Hat Yai, a handful of activists from the energy policy reform network were arrested as they embarked on a 950km march to Bangkok to raise public awareness of their demand for changes to national energy policy.

They were held in military custody for five days before being released.

The group was allowed to continue the march on the condition that they must end it at 5pm each day and no public forums or public speeches were carried out throughout the walking protest.

That seems like a reasonable account of the actions taken by the military dictatorship against these protesters, and they have been even more repressive against those seen as enemies and opponents. However, the Post gets out the bottom polishing rag and declares, against all logic:

Thanks to openness on the part of the NCPO [it means the military junta], Mr Veera and his associates were released so they could join academics, government officials and energy activists in a public forum yesterday to discuss energy issues.

One hopes the group of experts will seize this opportunity to present its views and rationale for energy policy changes to the public.

It is regrettable that former senator Rosana Tositrakul, a vocal critic of the PTT Public Company who claims current energy policy favours the oil and gas giant, could not attend the public discussion. She explained she had an appointment which could not be cancelled at such short notice.

Openness? Really? The Post also doesn’t mention that Rosana is another ultra-nationalist, ultra-yellow PAD supporter who has promoted a range of anti-democratic actions over a decade and more.

The Post reckons that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who recently had himself made premier, is loosening up because he said the junta “will only use the special powers vested upon them by martial law and the interim constitution when necessary for the sake of national security.” The Post seems to hope that this means that the anti-democrats, ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists can “participate” and have “free expression.” It makes this clear when it states:

Clampdowns on free expression such as public gatherings which, by their nature, do not pose any security threat but merely voice grievances to get the attention of the powers that be, should be carried out with greater discretion and prudence, or avoided altogether.

The Post is openly supporting dictatorship and effectively making the case for huge double standards. The military dictatorship determines what is a “security threat” and it is as clear as can be that this means red shirts and anti-coup activists. Sure the Post bleats about “free spirit” and “rights,” but its approach is partisan, promotes double standards and is supportive of dictatorship.

Update: Yes, we should have checked when we were pointing at Pridiyathorn Devakula above as a coup-loving Chairman of the Board at Post Publishing. We should have checked how many other coup-loving, military paid servants were at the same company. Fortunately, as all these military servants resign so they can be appointed to various puppet ministries, the Post is telling us. The latest military harlot to resign from Post Publishing is Wissanu Krea-ngam, another serial offender who drools at the opportunity to once again work for the corrupt and murderous military.

 





The military dictatorship’s nationalism

19 06 2014

As we often do, we re-post Ji Ungpakorn’s latest:

Junta whips up nasty nationalism

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In an attempt to prove itself to be even more repressive and “manly” Prayut’s vile military junta is playing the nationalistic and racist card.

Hundreds of thousands of workers from Cambodia and Burma are being persecuted and driven out of the country. As usual the junta claims they are “cracking down” on “illegal” workers. But the Thai ruling class has long used a hypocritical and repressive policy towards workers from neighbouring countries.

On the one hand, important sections of the Thai economy are reliant on cheap unskilled labour. This demand is met by migrant workers from Cambodia and Burma who do the dirty, dangerous and low paid jobs in sweatshops, agriculture and fisheries. Migrant workers also work in the catering industry and as domestic workers. Thai workers, who have developed more skills and are better educated, are no longer prepared to endure such poor working conditions. They work in higher paid, higher skilled jobs. Some Thai workers also become migrants themselves, working in Taiwan, Korea or the middle-east.

There is no question that the Thai economy and Thai capitalists need migrant workers from Cambodia and Burma and to throw them all out on a permanent basis would create an economic crisis. But the junta are just playing with peoples’ lives to make them nationalist and racist scape-goats. Soon they will return because they are desperate for work and the employers are desperate for labour.

Intermittent crack downs on “illegal” workers, together with cruel and pretend schemes to “register” foreign workers legally, is a long used tactic to keep migrant workers in a constant state of fear and illegality. The registration process is too difficult and costly for most migrants. This helps to keep down wages, prevents the formation of trade unions and also acts as an obstacle to unity between Thai and migrant workers. This is especially important in factories which employ a core permanent workforce of Thai workers alongside casual contract migrant workers.

Police and gangsters also benefit because they can demand bribes and vicious employers can often deny full payment of wages.

While playing this racist card against migrants in a pathetic attempt to win domestic support, the junta is also trying to promote a nationalist film about King Naresuan who led a victorious battle against the Burmese during the Ayuttaya period. Naresuan is portrayed as a “Thai nationalist hero” who defeated the Burmese King while riding an elephant. Free tickets to the cinema have been given out as part of the junta’s “happiness programme”. What next? Perhaps they’ll give the population free tickets to boxing matches or even gladiator fights to the death, Roman style! You can see how the military despise ordinary people. But this will never be enough to make the army popular.

The Naresuan story is just pure fiction anyway. No such thing as the Thai nation existed in the Ayuttaya period, Naresuan’s father collaborated with the Burmese kings as part of an internal power struggle, and most ordinary surfs who were forced to fight in various wars loathed and hated their exploitative masters who lived off their backs and stole their daughters.

It seems to have escaped the junta that Taksin’s popularity was based on real policies like the universal health care scheme, job creation and modernisation of infrastructure. Free tickets to the cinema and vicious racist gimmicks don’t come anywhere near to matching this.





Bowing to dictators

5 06 2013

PPT is late getting to this story, pointed out by a regular reader several days ago. The New York Times video is about the demands for conformity and regimentation in schools.

Schools in Thailand are a critical element of conservative royalism and preparations for ultra-nationalism. Conformity

The military-like environment is a reflection of the military’s long influence over government and its shaping of hierarchical and disciplining institutions. This is recognized by a student in the short video who says that the system is about “bowing to dictators.”