“Everyone must adhere to the law”

27 06 2017

Knuckle-draggers, knuckle-heads and other anti-democrats have gotten pretty darn agitated by Yingluck Shinawatra’s recent tears. We don’t imagine that any of them can see past their hatred of a popular politician and her troubles as concocted by the military dictatorship.

But one line by Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan caught our eye. In dismissing Yingluck, he reportedly stated that “everyone must adhere to the law.”

Prawit is the nitwit with the tongue

If that were true, he wouldn’t be Deputy Dictator and illegal coup-makers would be jailed.

If that were true, the popcorn gunman wouldn’t have been acquitted.

If that were true, the Thai Rak Thai Party would not have been dissolved using law retrospectively.

If that were true, the military dictatorship would have 3,000 people awaiting trial for reposting a BBC Thai story on King Vajiralongkorn.

If that were true, there would have been an investigation of the theft of the 1932 plaque.

If that were true, all those committing torture, disappearances and so on, would be jailed.

If that were true, military murders would be jailed.

If that were true, the Red Bull killer would be in jail.

If that were true…. We don’t need to go on. This general is a nasty nitwit.





Conspiratorial musings

25 06 2017

Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times has a view that everything that happens in Thailand is a conspiracy. When he reports on Thailand’s politics, it is almost never from an on-the-record source. But he always cobbles together an interesting story of conspiratorial maneuvers.

We don’t reject conspiracies as an explanation. Indeed, our limited experience of Thailand’s movers and shakers is that they are always planning to foil the next conspiracy even when they don’t know what it is or who is behind it. So conspiracies are often built around and constructed from factual events that are put together into a story that is embellished and may or may not be accurate.

In his most recent outing at Asia Times, Crispin mixes a frothy conspiratorial cocktail, mixing knowns with unknowns and unknowns with speculation and guessing. This is apparently in the tradition of Bush era Secretary for Middle East invasion, Donald Rumsfeld: “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

He begins with the bomb that “ripped through a Bangkok military hospital in late May…”, and like many, he seems to not be all that convinced by the claims that the military got their bomber. What the bombing does is provide the “potential for Thailand’s ruling military junta to leverage the blast to further delay elections scheduled for next year for reasons of national security.”

Apart from the obvious – elections are not always predictable unless totally controlled, they love uncontrolled power and the junta hates elections anyway – why would they want further delay?

The capture last week of a 62-year-old ex-civil servant suspect with alleged links to coup-ousted ex-premiers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra’s “Red Shirt” pressure group underscored the notion that political instability and disenchantment are on the rise three years after the military suspended democracy and seized power in a May 2014 coup. Try this:

Polling conducted by the Internal Security and Operations Command (ISOC), a military unit under the authority of the Prime Minister’s Office, has shown repeatedly since the coup, as well as in recent months, that Peua Thai would win any free and fair vote, according to a source familiar with the confidential surveys.

To be honest, we are skeptical of this, not least because the “election” will not be free or fair and the junta has been working for more than three years to prevent such a result. But let’s say it is true. Crispin’s claim is that “the premier appears to be testing the political waters for yet another delay.” That’s certainly true.

That could come in any number of forms, including the death of the queen. Crispin says there are “new worries about the state of 84-year-old Queen Sirikit’s health…”. He adds:

Royal family members, including Vajiralongkorn, recently came together when Queen Sirikit was urgently moved from Siriraj to another medical facility due to a health scare. Many anticipate Prayuth’s junta, led by troops who rose to prominence on their loyalty to Sirikit, would announce and impose another extended period of national mourning that puts politics in abeyance upon her eventual death.

He then talks of factions in the military. Of course, there are many and there always have been, but concentrating on them too closely is like reading tea leaves in a tea house that’s burning down. Prayuth’s in place as long as he can manage the troops and give them toys and positions that provide pay-offs.

But there are always younger fascists keen to get ahead, like the detestable First Region army commander General Apirat Kongsompong, a King’s Guard soldier now tipped as a likely future army commander. We don’t know the king’s preferences yet, and they are likely to be significant for we know he will want a say and that he must have remora-like officers around him.

The referendum also allowed for an unelected premier, which the military-appointed Senate’s presumed cohesive bloc will likely have strong sway over after the next poll. Until recently, analysts presumed Prayuth was the mostly likely candidate to become appointed premier over an elected “unity” government the military would check and control from above. Crispin says he has “frequent one-on-one audiences with [Generals] Prayuth and Chalermchai [Sitthisart].”

Presumably that when’s he’s actually in Thailand and not cycling around parts of Erding and being shot in the backside with plastic bullets.

Vajiralongkorn also seems to be a fan, for the moment, of the General Apirat, not least because the latter will do anything for publicity and promotion. However, that publicity may not always keep the king jolly.

Then the Kremlin watchers-cum-military-watchers in Thailand will be waiting to read October’s military reshuffle list and will see all kinds of messages there. Who won, who lost and that kind of cake decoration. But decorated cakes can have a political impact, not least when a general feels done down.

Is there rising factionalism in the armed forces? We don’t think so as the military is happy enough in harness at present. But things change. The junta is getting criticized far more widely now, and if that continues, Prayuth may be turfed out. But as Crispin concludes:

While Prayuth’s once near-absolute grip has certainly started to slip with new challenges from within the military and a more assertive monarchy, it’s not clear the solider-cum-premier is ready to yield power any time soon to the same politicians and anti-junta activists he believes caused the various problems his military government has aimed and claimed to solve.

We think that’s not idle speculation.





Overthrowing royalist regimes

24 06 2017

The 24th of June is an important day. On that day in 1932 the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed its well-planned Revolution. It was the first time that Thais overthrew royal power.

It is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country.

It is also important for anti-democrats and royalists. They have opposed and successfully rolled back the changes the People’s Party implemented 85 years ago. They want to expunge and erase the memory of anti-monarchism in Thailand. To do this, since the 1940s, they have worked in alliance with an increasingly ultra-royalist military.

24 June  used to be celebrated. In recent years, however, the event is barely noticed among the cacophony surrounding the celebration of various historically insignificant royal anniversaries made big and expensive.

For many years, the royalist aim has been to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and to forget all but their bankrupt discourse that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty. It is no surprise to see that, after supporting the removal of the 1932 plaque around the time that the junta’s constitution was promulgated as a royal event, the military dictatorship has banned any gathering at that spot today.

We invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Phanomyong.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2017 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932

 





Royal military training and death

23 06 2017

A few days ago, Prachatai reported on another case of a soldier’s death while training. This kind of report is common as military officers sanction hazing, torture and repeated beatings of recruits and lower ranks.

This case is about “a soldier who allegedly died from ill-treatment during military training….”. Sub Lt Sanan Thongdinok “drowned to death on 6 June 2015 while swimming as part of the King’s Guard Regiment training course.”

The soldier “was forced to swim back and forth repeatedly by a trainer at the 1st Infantry Regiment King’s Own Guard in Bangkok until he became too tired and drowned before trainers could rescue him.”

A doctor from the Central Institute of Forensic Science “testified on 15 June that the soldier died from being submerged for longer than five minutes, causing heart failure, hypoxia and bleeding in the brain, liver, and kidneys, adding that his head had also sustained bruises from being hit with a blunt object.”

The “trainer was also in the swimming pool, but did not help Sanan when he was drowning.”

The hearing is ongoing.

King Vajiralongkorn takes a personal interest in the training of the King’s Guard troops. In recent times, one of his concubines, Suthida, was catapulted to the rank of General in the unit.





1932 will be erased

16 06 2017

Remember that plaque, commemorating the 1932 Revolution that, for the first time, reduced the absolute power of the monarchy? It was either stolen or semi-officially removed (in secret) at about the time that the junta and the king came up with the idea of making the junta’s constitution a royal constitution by proclaiming it in a royal ceremony on Chakkri Day.

The two events appear related, which seems appropriate as the removal of the plaque was a symbolic rejection of constitutionalism as law and people’s sovereignty and the junta’s constitution similarly rejects those principles.

With the anniversary of the 1932 Revolution coming up on 24 June, activists were planning to mark that event, as they had previously, at the site of the (now missing) plaque.

In anticipation, the police have “warned democracy activists … that they will be arrested if they gather to mark the upcoming anniversary of the revolution that ended absolute monarchy, a historical moment that has taken on renewed significance.”

In particular, police said “they would not tolerate any attempt to gather at spot on this year’s anniversary…”.

The police, who are remarkably dull and mainly focused on managing their own corrupt incomes, are probably acting at the direction of the junta.

One of their spokesmen “explained” the “thinking” behind the ban: “This year we will not allow activists to come to lay flowers at the Royal Plaza because this is palace ground and it violates the NCPO (junta) order banning gatherings for political purposes…”.

That is a perfect illustration of how the monarchy and military have been intertwined in opposing electoral democracy and popular sovereignty. It is a statement that acknowledges the rollback of politics to a royalist authoritarianism that seeks to establish a royalist political system that is anti-democratic.





Extreme lese majeste secrecy?

16 06 2017

PPT had an email alert today about a lese majeste case. As it turned out, this was a link to an old Reuters story at the Jakarta Globe, from late May. That story referred to the arrest of “five people for allegedly setting fire to portraits of late King Bhumibol…”.

The report set us thinking. Has there been a change to the already significant levels of secrecy associated with lese majeste cases, coinciding with the new reign?

We can’t think of any recent reports regarding these five. Have they been brought before a court in the last three weeks? If so, was this in secret, with no reporting? Or have we just missed it?

Then we recalled the Stolen history 6 case. Their detention was approved on 3 May 2017, for allegedly sharing a Facebook post by Somsak Jeamteerasakul on the theft/official removal of the 1932 revolution plaque.

The last report PPT can recall on their cases was when, on 11 May 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok refused bail for human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul, one of those arrested, renewing his detention.

We checked at iLaw, and couldn’t find any more. We also had a quick look at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, but no recent reports there either.

Again, we wonder if this is a case of extreme secrecy.

If this is the case – and we may have missed a report – then the military dictatorship has ditched all pretenses that lese majeste is a legal charge. It is more like an extreme purge by a gang. No law is necessary.

As a footnote, we wonder how all of those academics attending the International Conference on Thai Studies are feeling about the arrest of the six? One is a human rights lawyer and another is an academic, just like them, who has even had a paper accepted for the conference. They were arrested for sharing a social media post by a historian who has to live in exile. How’s that feeling?





One more privy councilor

11 06 2017

We know that we are late in posting this event from about 4-5 days ago and that many will have seen it. Yet the appointment of a virtual unknown to the Privy Council deserves mention.

Section 12 of the junta’s 2017 constitution allows for 18 privy councilors.

Last Thursday Vajiralongkorn appointed “the 14th member of his personal advisory body…”.

Admiral Pongthep Nhuthep is not particularly well-known. As the report states, “Pongthep held a relatively low profile post prior to Thursday’s appointment.”

Before his appointment, Pongthep was “a permanent secretary to the defense ministry…”. His “past jobs were all in the navy, including directing the naval academy, serving as a special navy adviser and serving as navy chief of staff. Compared to other members, he hasn’t served at … levels such as commanding a branch of the armed forces or heading a ministry.”