The last Thai king?

15 11 2015

A few days ago we linked to a PDF we have had at the site for several years. In the current circumstances, and with its resonances for the current period, we feel it appropriate to make the text of the 1978 document available without having to download a PDF that might get people into trouble in royalist Thailand. Here it is, as it appeared under the title listed above:King

When King Rama I, founder of Thailand’s present dynasty, laid the cornerstone for the Bangkok Palace, he had to choose between two dates for the ceremony. According to the royal astronomer, one date would assure the dynasty a long life — through nine kings — at the cost of widespread popular suffering, The other date promised the country’s people a peaceful and prosperous life, but it also carried the prediction that the dynasty would last for only a few kings. After due consideration, Rama I laid the palace cornerstone on the date which favored the longevity of the dynasty. Today’s King Bhumipol, who believes profoundly in the wisdom of astronomers, is the ninth king in the dynasty founded by Rama I. On August 17, 1976, an astronomer told King Bhumipol that he could prolong the life of the dynasty by killing 30,000 people, with September and October as auspicious months for the massacre. Although the death toll on October 6 was nowhere near 30,000, the savagery of the coup, much of it carried out by the royal-sponsored Village Scouts, was unprecedented in recent Thai history.

Frequently described as above politics and beloved by all Thais, the Royal Family actually has powerful economic reasons for opposing any radical changes in the status quo. In addition to owning vast areas of land – and collecting rent on them – the Royal Family is deeply involved in Thailand’s capitalist economy. It holds shares in leading banks – which are under royal patronage – and industries, including Firestone Rubber, and it enjoys special privileges in exporting the products of royal lands. The Crown Property Bureau is the richest organization in Thailand, and the King’s Personal Property Office accounts for the highest personal income in the country. All of this was threatened by the events of 1973-76, forcing the Royal Family to enter the political arena directly and forfeit its image of benign detachment.

Phoo Phaakpboom, The Present King and the Coup d’Etat (unpublished)





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.





Dinosaurs on bikes

17 08 2015

A few days ago PPT posted on institutional and constitutional measures being put in place to replace the king. Yesterday, we posted on the Bike for Mum palace-military propaganda event. Little did we realize how significant this event would be in flagging the future.

We did mention that The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, declared the event a display of loyalty and that other prized royalist commodity, unity.

Today’s reports, however, speak to something bigger than this.

The Nation reports that there were “[v]ast number[s] of cyclists … in Bangkok and round the country…”. They write of “hundreds of thousands … in a record show of loyalty led by HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.” Figures are quoted: “Almost 295,000 people registered in advance for the ‘Bike For Mom’ event, consisting of 40,000 in Bangkok and 254,863 in the provinces, but the actual number of participants nationwide was higher, estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000.” Of course, the riders were headed up by royals, The Dictator and the the puppets, reminding us of dinosaurs on bikes and trikes.Dinosaurs on bikes

The Bangkok Post came up with exactly the same official number:  294,863 riders. It turns out that this is the number of people who allegedly registered to participate. That newspaper’s video of the Bangkok event seems not to indicate the 40,000. Pictures at The Nation suggest more of a crowd showed up.  An earlier estimate was that there would be 80,000 in Bangkok.

The Nation cites several participants: the Village Scouts director, an 82-year-old Ruenkham Saen-in woman, a grandmother, an American, an Air Force officer and an Army officer.” In the Bangkok Post, one person descroibed the event as one that allowed the “world to see that Thais chose to ride bicycles as their way of expressing their love for the monarchy.”

More than this, the event became a show of loyalty to the crown prince, with the newspapers expressing this in whole articles of a tone that is usually reserved for the prince’s birthday splash propaganda.

Describing the prince as a “keen long-distance cyclist,” the Bangkok Post said that he “rallied the entire country Sunday behind a campaign to mark … the Queen’s birthday…”. It goes on to babble about his “passion” for flying and using his “aviation skills in fund-raising events, having piloted special flights to raise money for charity,” and scouting about for “events.” It mentioned charity flights in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

All of this sounds very much like the creation of kingly mythology, with little to work with. We are sure the dinosaurs consider such exercises to be useful for them and the regime.





Updated: Lese majeste fascism

21 04 2014

We began a post on a bizarre lese majeste trial yesterday with mention of a Khaosod story. A reader rightly points out that one aspect of the Khaosod story is not correct. This is the statement that the “number of lese majeste accusations has surged in recent weeks, as the political battle in Thailand deepens and both sides of the divide seek new ways to take their adversaries down.” As the reader points out, the use of lese majeste as a political weapon by rightists is hardly new. Indeed, our Commentary page indicates this.

On that PPT page, the use of lese majeste as a way to suppress and repress is a regular pattern of right-wing governments, especially those with close links to the palace, and of rightists who also close to the palace. Think of the 1976-77 government of Thanin Kraivixien and the Village Scout movement that was instigated by the palace as an anti-leftist movement in the early 1970s.

In the darkest days of the 1970s, royalist thugs conducted witch hunts for anti-monarchists. Like the royalist zealot who was made premier in 1976 with the support and approval of the king, these gangs had palace and royalist support. A report at the Bangkok Post warns of royalist efforts to establish “an organisation to eradicate those accused of anti-monarchy behaviour could spark [similar] witch-hunts.”

Back in the 1970s, one of the fascist groups that was formed and managed by royalists was the Red Gaurs. Robert F. Zimmerman in his Reflections on the Collapse of Democracy in Thailand, noted the efforts of Police Colonel Sudsai Thepsadin.Sudsai
As Wikipedia has it, “set up by the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) of the Thai military to counter the country’s students movement after the democratic revolution of October 1973.” It adds:

In August 1975, the group assaulted the Thammasat University, trying to burn down the school building. Assassinations of labor and peasants union officials (namely of the Peasants Federation of Thailand), as well as progressive politicians, and grenade attacks on crowds have been attributed to the Red Gaurs. The organization’s militants often attacked and injured photo journalists who tried to take pictures of them and their guns. The Red Gaurs interfered in the campaign for the 1976 parliamentary election by harassing candidates and attacking political parties they perceived as “leftist” (in particular the New Force Party). Besides, the Red Gaurs were also employed to guard road construction crews against attacks in areas with communist insurgents.

Membership and support

The ultra-royalist vigilante group focused its activities on Bangkok. Its membership consisted mainly of discontent young unemployed, vocational school students and high school drop-outs. The majority of their key cadres however, were veterans of the Vietnam War or former mercenaries in Laos, and former army soldiers dismissed for disciplinary infractions. The Krathing Daeng [Red Gaur] militants were well paid, provided with free liquor, taken on drinking sprees and to brothels out of public money.

They were heavily funded and backed by the United States government. The US provided at least 250 million baht to help organize the Red Gaurs. Paul M. Handley, the author of The King Never Smiles, an unofficial biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, reports that the king also gave support to both the Red Gaurs and the “Village Scouts”, another patriotic anti-leftist paramilitary organization.

More than 40 years later, it seems that another military royalist has been given the job of forming a fascist gang of thugs, the so-called Rubbish Collection Organisation as a means to threaten and repress those with different political positions. Major-General Rientong Nan-nah says his thugs “will work to find and hurt those who insult the monarchy.”

Reportedly a director at the Mongkutwattana General Hospital and a medical doctor, Rienthong claimed his group was established “exterminate” – yes, that was the word – “people who insult the monarchy.”

Riengthong

Rienthong gets his anti-democrat photo op.

Amongst others, Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns that Rienthong’s gang will ignite “violent and deadly” attacks as in the mid-1970s.

Rienthong, like his fascist predecessors, “has denied the RCO is an underground organisation and vowed that it will operate within the law, without links to political or business groups.” No one should or could believe him as he is already an organizer for the anti-democrat movement.

The Post reports that the “RCO’s Facebook page had already attracted more than 93,000 followers as of Saturday. The page is intended to act as a channel for the public to share personal information on those accused of lese majeste.”

Sunai warned that:

the RCO’s activities could lead to the violent suppression of people accused of being disloyal to the monarchy, adding that even the name of the organisation attempts to “dehumanise” people. “I am also alarmed by the RCO’s offer of legal and financial assistance to members who take action against people accused of lese majeste ‘out of anger’,” Mr Sunai said.

“The group also announced that some anti-monarchists need to be handled using ‘special means’, which could implied as encouraging violence.”

Sunai is reported to have “said political groups on all sides had long used Section 112 of the Criminal Code to suppress their rivals. “Therefore we see a strong need to reform this law…”.

He’s wrong. The use of lese majeste has been almost entirely by rightists and royalists, and PPT can’t think of a case raised by red shirts or others associated with them that has made any legal progress. Likewise, this law doesn’t need reform, it needs to be abolished.

Not surprisingly, yellow-shirted “intellectual” Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, of Chulalongkorn University, said:

political groups should not use the monarchy to try and justify their cause, but argued the RCO was an acceptable organisation, so long as it acts within the bounds of the law.

“All societies have their taboo issues. In France, people will not accept those who support Nazis.

“In Thailand, lese majeste behaviour is not acceptable and that is why a group like the RCO emerges to counter such acts.”

 Chaiyan has clearly identified himself with anti-democrats since he threw his support behind the People’s Alliance for Democracy and then signed up in support of the coup and the military junta. But even for an academic with such a record, to condone a hate group with fascist ideas is moving a long way towards condoning extremism. His claims about France are meaningless twaddle. For example, French skinheads remain active, and while some French do not accept them, they are connected with a range of far right groups and even the rightist parties that did well in recent elections, headed by Marine Le Pen. Nonsensical statements like these by Chaiyan indicate an “academic” who is muddying the waters in order to condone fascist royalism.

Update: Like most on the extreme right, Rienthong has already claimed that he is a victim, but that he will fight against those who “intimidate” him. Yes, the fascist who has declared he will exterminate those he disagrees with on the worth of the great feudal institution bizarrely seeks sympathy and an opportunity to extend his threats.

He vows “tit-for-tat measures against opponents who he claims are trying to intimidate him.” He has “warned critics that he would ‘respond with violence’ to any violent attacks committed against his supporters.” He was firm: “My policy to deal with your violence is to respond with violence…”.

Are you listening Chaiyan Chaiyaporn?

He creates a rationale for his future violence by asserting that “the anti-monarchy movement has an armed group inside it. If they are allowed to grow, they will pose a grave danger to the monarchy.”

This is sounding like the extremists of the 1970s. It is very dangerously so when he states: “I have my battle colleagues who are ready to respond. If we do it, we will have no mercy.” Even more so when he talks of a “People’s Army to Protect the Monarchy”, and invites “retired military and police officers who are loyal to the King to a meeting at his hospital … to help the National Police Office punish perpetrators of the lese majeste law.”

His other claims were largely a nonsense recital of lies about not using violence and rule of law.

One claim that will be chilling for many is his allegation that his:

group has now located almost 300 suspected offenders and is gathering evidence to file police complaints, he said. Many of the suspects are close associates of politicians, while others were teenagers who had “bad thoughts”, he added.

Rienthong said he has also “set up a team of online volunteers to stand by around the clock to monitor websites with anti-monarchy content.” Hopefully the vigilantes will enjoy PPT’s content, although we wonder about their capacity for dealing with facts rather than the fiction that royalists find they need to believe. We imagine that like some fundamentalist preacher, Rienthong has measures in place to re-indoctrinate his fellow snoops.

 

 





Updated: The king and 1976

17 03 2013

To conclude PPT’s “mini-series” on recent documents located by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, we now turn to some important British cables posted at Zen Journalist and which reflect on the mythology surrounding the events leading up to the bloody massacre of students at Thammasat University on 6 October. That mythology is that the king was supportive of the students who rose up against the military regime that had existed since 1958 and which had done so much to restore the monarchy.

As seen in a cable from 1963, the king, just 36 years old and close to the repressive military regime, seems to enjoy showing a “liberal” side to foreign guests. However, his comments on students are telling:1963 on students

Essentially, he sees student demonstrators as trouble. He is reported as saying that he “told the Thai students he would not allow them to demonstrate here.” The king sees student demonstrators as either paid or manipulated (with echos of how the amart speak of those who vote for pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties). Indeed, Thai students as the sons and daughters of the elite, do remain reasonably quiescent until about 1972.

Without going into detail (see this excellent documentary), by October 1973, demanding constitutional rule, a student revolution brought down the military government. The king is usually portrayed in a positive light during these events, with the recent hagiography King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A Life’s Work manages to transform the king as supporter of the military regime into a political savior and democrat. It was the opening of palace gates to students fleeing the military’s guns that made the legend of the student-supporting king. But it didn’t take the king and palace long to abandon the students, reflecting the 1963 position, considering them communists or duped by communists. Almost immediately, royalists and the palace began supporting extremist and rightist military groups as they mobilized against the “liberal” forces unleashed by the student uprising. Lese majeste accusations began to mount and trials were held. As Ben Anderson (link opens a PDF) described the mounting fear for royalists and palace as communist forces made gains in neighboring countries,

Anderson

The stage was set for the 6 October massacre of students by royalist thugs and forces close to the palace such as the Border Patrol Police.

It is from this point that the British cables of 1976 become interesting and enlightening. The first of these is from 9 October 1976 (the link downloads a PDF) when the smell of blood and burned bodies had barely cleared at Thammasat, and British diplomat Malcolm Macdonald met the king and the Embassy reports on the meeting. It is clear that Anderson’s assessment of the king as a rightist is vindicated. He says the students were politicized and intent on overthrow the government and “the establishment.” We read this as a reference to the ruling class and the monarchy. He claimed they were influenced from “outside” and he feared the links the students had developed with unions and this challenge saw him state that he preferred a military government. The result was that, for some time, he had formed the view that a military government “was inevitable.” He explains that he knew of the coup in advance and had not objected. Thereafter he sets out the path of politics that was to be exactly as his chosen Prime Minister Thanin Kraivixien later expressed it:

No constitution

The next cable is from 13 October 1976, by British Ambassador David Cole. This file is so large that we are unable to load it so the originals will need to be viewed at Zen Journalist, which is often blocked in Thailand (Update: A version is available here).

The cable defends the military. Ambassador Cole makes the claim that the coup was not “premeditated by the military” is contradicted by the king’s statement cited above and by a later claim citing Kukrit Pramoj. His claims that the right-wing groups like the Red Gaur, Village Scouts and Navapol had nothing to do with the military brass appears contrived. However, the prediction that a far right government would be “disastrous for Thailand” seems reasonable. Interestingly, lese majeste is at the heart of the coup justifications, both in repeating the bogus claim that a student looking like the crown prince was theatrically hung by students. Lese majeste is also mentioned in military thinking:Lese majeste

Cole then turns to the role of the king and states: KingIndeed, from the cable of the 9th, we know that the king did more than acquiesce. Then Cole turns more directly to the palace and its involvement: QueenAs in 2006, when the role of the palace was clear, the king and the coup leaders tried to cover his tracks and those of other royals, even when they were obvious. While Cole predicts that the monarchy will be the biggest loser from the coup, this was be but a short-term setback as the king and his propagandists set about rewriting the history of this event.

The third cable is from about a month after the coup. On 5 November 1976, Cole writes about the current political situation. Again, this cable, reporting the Danish Ambassador, shows clear palace involvement, with the king planning for post-coup political arrangements well in advance of the coup: ThaninIn short, nothing changed all that much for the palace in deciding events in 1976 and in 2006. They were involved and were enthusiastic about being involved.





Baby steps and backward steps

21 09 2011

While there has been some good news on the new government, especially in recent days, there are also some odd reverses being reported.

Good news has come with, for example, Yingluck Shinawatra’s statement that lese majeste is to be addressed. Bad news is seen in a report from Prachatai where it is revealed that Minister of Interior Yongyuth Wichaidit has had the not too bright idea that the previous government wasn’t all that good at protecting the monarchy.

PPT might agree if Yongyuth meant that the emphasis on lese majeste and the monarchy’s willing political entanglements had done little more than reveal the true nature of the monarchy and its associated regime.

Yongyuth, however, states that the monarchy is “above” policy and “to protect the institution was the soul and spirit inherent in the blood of all Thai people.” That’s royalist nonsense and ahistorical drivel. But then this bombshell:

The government has the idea to revive village scouts in concrete form for the sake of the reconciliation of Thais to encourage them to love the country and religion, and to be an important force in the future.  No budget will be allocated for this, but [the government] will promote the idea of sacrificing for the country.  And the main task is to fight the drugs problem….

PPT recognises that there is some mixing of policies going on here, but the sentiment associated with “reviving” the village scouts is truly retrograde. Of course, the scouts were never gone. They may have aged, been turned into cyber-scouts seeking out lese majeste, and so on, but they remained close to the Border Patrol Police and cherished their links to the monarchy (see the scan of the first page of an old academic article (left). Here is how they were described in the official U.S. history of the period:

Political tensions between leftist and rightist forces reached a bloody climax in October 1976. On October 5, right-wing newspapers in the capital published a photograph of student demonstrators at Thammasat University reenacting the strangling and hanging of two student protestors by police the previous month. The photograph, which was later found to have been altered, showed one of the students as being made up to resemble the king’s son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. The right wing perceived the demonstration as a damning act of lèse-majeste. That evening police surrounded the campus of Thammasat University, where 2,000 students were holding a sit-in. Fighting between students and police (including contingents of the paramilitary Border Patrol Police) broke out. The following day, groups of Nawa Phon, Red Gaurs, and Village Scouts “shock troops” surged onto the campus and launched a bloody assault in which hundreds of students were killed and wounded and more than 1,000 arrested. That evening the military seized power, established the National Administrative Reform Council (NARC), and ended that phase of Thailand’s intermittent experimentation with democracy.

The idea of re-engaging the right-wing village scouts belongs to the right-wing of the 1970s and the Jurassic royalist elite of today, not to any serious government.

A second story that reminds PPT of old days and bygone ideas is the Bangkok Post report that the self-proclaimed killer General Panlop Pinmanee is an adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck and wants his old job back at the International Security Operations Command (ISOC).

It isn’t that often that we agree with both the Post’s yellow-hued opinion page scribes and with the bitter Suthep Thaugsuban on anything. However, we agree that the ever-ambitious Panlop is simply someone who should be bypassed. In fact, he is another general who should be tried for his abuses over many years.

Panlop was once accused of involvement in an assassination attempt on Thaksin. Panlop denied this in a curious way:

Thaksin sacked Pallop, a retired Army general, after a car belonging to an Isoc officer was found packed with a significant amount of explosives and parked near the prime minister’s residence on the route normally taken by his motorcade.

The officer, Army Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana, was later arrested and charged with possessing explosive materials, including TNT, without a permit.

“You know me. If I was behind it, I would not have missed,” Pallop, visibly shaken, said. “I wouldn’t have sent Thawatchai to drive around Thaksin’s residence. I would have set it off without any warning.”

The officer involved was Panlop’s driver. Panlop explained he was an experienced leader of “death squads,” so he would not have pussy-footed around in killing the premier.By 2008, Panlop was a yellow shirt (see picture right).

Oddly, Panlop later went over to Thaksin’s side and was a divisive but dangerous figure, apparently accepted because he was prepared to spill the beans on royalist coup plotters.

Prior to this, Panlop was already notorious for his murderous actions at the Krue Se mosque. This is Wikipedia’s account:

It was revealed that Pallop’s order to storm the mosque contravened a direct order by Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to seek a peaceful resolution to the stand-off no matter how long it took. Pallop was immediately ordered out of the area, and later tendered his resignation as commander of the Southern Peace Enhancement Center. The forward command of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), which Pallop headed, was also dissolved. A government investigative commission found that the security forces had over-reacted. The Asian Centre for Human Rights questioned the independence and impartiality of the investigative commission. In 3 May 2004 during a Senate hearing, Senator Kraisak Choonhavan, noted that most of those killed at Krue Se Mosque were shot in the head and there were signs that rope had been tied around their wrists.

Why anyone would even think of dealing with Panlop is remarkable statement of extreme pragmatism. But Panlop says “he was ready to work there [ISOC] once he was ordered to do so.” Let’s hope the order never comes and this ambitious old man is sent packing or down with the navy’s submarines.

These are worrying and contradictory times.





New documents posted

13 09 2010

PPT has added three documents to our Commentary page on Lese majeste and the monarchy. While the quality of the PDFs is not always great, these three, all from 1977, are worth a read:

Chang Kuo Tao, “All the king’s men”, AMPO, 8, 3, 1976, pp. 18-26.

Paul Heiecke, “On the role of the king in Thailand”, Thai Information Bulletin (Paris), No. 13, Nov-Dec 1977, pp. 24-32.

Gareth McKinley, “Knights, pawns … and kings, Inside Asia, November/December 1984, with information on lese majeste and the monarchy’s political role.

Natee Pisalchai, “Village Scouts”, Thai Information Bulletin (Paris), No. 6, January 1977, pp. 10-22, on the notorious state-organized, royal-patronized semi-fascist movement.