With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





The king and his rightists I

10 11 2020

Yesterday PPT posted on an award to Australian journalists for their reporting on Thailand’s minister Thammanat Prompao, a convicted heroin trafficker.  We felt readers might like to see the latest from one of those journalists. We reproduce it in full, with photos added by PPT:

King of compromise? Thailand’s Vajiralongkorn plays the long game in face of protests

By Michael Ruffles
November 8, 2020

The tyres hit the tarmac of Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport. The prince steps out in his army uniform. It has been a long flight from Perth, where he has been training with the SASR for months since completing four years at Duntroon, but his day is not over yet. The 24-year-old is off to temple on a political errand.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn meets a saffron-robed figure, a monk who for 10 years was Thailand’s military dictator before being ousted. The sanctuary in the temple is a signal of royal support, and the meeting is a pointed one as political protests grow at the university campus nearby. It does nothing to quell the anger. It is October 2, 1976. Four days later the campus is the site of a massacre that haunts Thailand to this day.

When King Vajiralongkorn flew in to Bangkok from Germany on October 9, 2020, he landed in a similar political storm. For all the social and economic changes over the decades, young protesters are similarly angry at the military’s dominance and thwarted democracy.

It is also personal: the King’s life in Germany, the women in his life and use of taxpayer money are all the target of criticism, satire and outrage. Yellow-clad supporters counter that the nation, religion and monarchy are core to the Thai identity.

Exiled academic and royal critic Pavin Chachavalpongpun says it is as if “somehow politics got stuck”.

“Almost everything, if you just close your eyes it seems like we go back to 1976,” Pavin says from Kyoto. “The source of the problem has remained with the monarchy, and in particular with the same figure [Vajiralongkorn]. And with the kind of tactics, building up vigilante groups, supporting hardcore royalists to come out, using both propaganda and violence to intimidate the pro-democracy movement.

“This is amazing that we have changed very little from that point to now.”

Vajiralongkorn was an important, if perhaps unwitting, figure in 1976. Actors in a student play were accused of staging a mock execution of the then crown prince and on October 6 a coalition of right-wing militia and police launched a pre-dawn assault on Thammasat University. Forty-three were killed, including five who were lynched. No one has been held accountable. The army seized power in the name of defending the monarchy.

In the past month, protest leaders have been arrested multiple times, flash mobs have sprouted across Bangkok and tear-gas and water cannon have been deployed. Riot police have been out in force but unable to stop protest tactics adopted from last year’s demonstrations in Hong Kong. The words “republic of Thailand” have appeared at protest sites and populate segments of Thai social media with alacrity.

The three official aims of the self-styled People’s Party, or Khana Ratsadon, are the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a rewrite of the military-backed constitution and reform of the monarchy. The royal reforms they want include greater transparency and accountability, and to rein in the use of taxpayer funds at a time when Thailand’s tourism-dependent economy has been hammered. The issue of the monarchy is the most contentious and has brought issues that have long been suppressed by harsh laws and media self-censorship to the fore.

The tensest moment came after a Rolls-Royce carrying the King’s youngest son, Prince Dipangkorn, and Queen Suthida strayed into a protest zone on October 14. British foreign correspondent Jonathan Miller described it on Channel 4 as a “major security lapse”. The more suspicious saw it as a ruse to turn public opinion against the young demonstrators.

Through it all, Vajiralongkorn has stayed in the spotlight. He has lived mostly in Germany since 2007 and had the constitution rewritten to make it easier for him to rule from abroad, but has postponed his return to Europe. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made pointed comments about Vajiralongkorn being unable to rule from Bavaria, which has complicated matters. “I think the King is wise to not go back now because at least they want the story to fade away,” Pavin says.

Vajiralongkorn has also been greeting supporters. Together with Queen Suthida, his Noble Consort Sineenat and his two daughters, the King has walked among them, posed for selfies and offered moral support. At one such event last Sunday, Channel 4’s Miller stood behind a staunch royalist former monk and scored a scoop. He asked the King what he would say to the protesters.

“I have no comment,” Vajiralongkorn said, waving the question away. “We love them all the same. We love them all the same. We love them all the same.”

Miller asked if there was room for compromise, to which he said “Thailand is the land of compromise” before moving away.

Political commentator Voranai Vanijaka, the editor-in-chief of news website Thisrupt, says the events are designed to rehabilitate the prestige of the monarchy and strengthen the royalist base.

“With the King remaining in Thailand, royalists now have the presence of the King as motivation, something near and dear to fight for,” Voranai says.

“The royal walkabouts are designed to do just that. In recent weeks, we have seen increased activities from royalists, with more royalist celebrities coming out to lead protests and gatherings. This is a push back against the Ratsadon Movement.

“The game is to win public legitimacy, which side has more support, which side can claim millions, which is the greater cause, monarchy or democracy.

“The words by the King are as they are, something he’s supposed to say. Royalists say it’s a shining example of the King’s greatness. Ratsadon makes sarcastic memes and signs.”

Activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, who has led the push for reform of the monarchy and faces sedition charges, tweeted in response: “Yes, land of compromise. But protesters are arrested, cracked down on, assaulted. Those criticising the institution are kidnapped. Yes.”

Pavin, an associate professor at Kyoto University whose Royalist Marketplace Facebook group boasts two million members, says Vajiralongkorn and his immediate family have been filmed telling supporters in almost identical terms that they need to fight to correct a misunderstanding of the monarchy.

“Himself, two wives and his two active daughters are totally in sync, this is not coincidental,” Pavin says. “They have to defend the monarchy, that I understand, but if you read closely whatever these people say to the loyal subjects is the same thing. This has been calculated.”

As far as compromise goes, Pavin believes the King “did not mean what he said”. Talk of replacing the Prime Minister has been circling – there is often talk of a coup in Thailand, where there have been a dozen successful putsches in the past century.

Pavin says the fate of the Prime Minister could be a bargaining chip for the King, giving the protesters a victory. But it was more likely the monarchy and military wanted to exhaust protest leaders and outlast the movement.

“This is a tactic that the King has been adopting for some time now. I think eventually they just hope that the persistence on the part of the palace and the government would eventually win, meaning that as long as they can hold on to the status quo then they would emerge as the winner.”





Further updated: The monarchy-coup two-step

8 11 2020

Prior to the rally in the evening, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that some”15 companies of crowd control police” were to be “deployed at the Royal Plaza and the Bureau of the Royal Household to maintain law and order during today’s rally by anti-government protesters.”

The police stated that they expected the protesters would march on “Ratchadamnoen Avenue to either the Royal Plaza or the Bureau of the Royal Household.” And that’s pretty much what happened.

In anticipation, a “national security unit had prepared negotiating teams to talk with the protesters to minimise the rally’s adverse impacts on the general public … [and] “would strictly prohibit the protesters from demonstrating within a 150m-radius of HM the King’s palace.”

Metal barriers were set “between the anti-government protesters who will gather in front of McDonald’s and a group of royalists who intend demonstrating on the opposite side of the monument to reduce confrontation…”. There was no clashes as most of the yellow shirts – as if by magic – had all left by the time the pro-democracy event got fully underway.

Police also use “55 public buses from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to support their task of ‘facilitating traffic’ at the pro-democracy rally at Democracy Monument.”

The buses were used near the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace complex, together with some razor wire and metal barricades, with hundreds of police manning them.

Clipped from The Nation

The “Free Youth group posted a message inviting people to join the demonstration.” It reportedly stated that:

a letter listing their demands would be submitted to HM the King via the Office of His Majesty’s Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Privy Council as well as the PM. The letter also says the protesters do not want a violent confrontation and will call on the government to stop hurting the people and violating their rights.

They also assembled post boxes to receive letters from the public to the king.

All of this seemed quite well choreographed, so it was rather odd to learn that “Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the government has not prepared any special measures to handle the protesters.”

As the protesters marched, they “were prevented by police on Sunday evening from reaching the Palace Office to petition for reform of the monarchy.” In doing that, at “around 6.45pm, police had used high pressure guns to spray water on the protesters.”

Oddly, the police could then be heard apologizing for using water cannon – no dye and no irritants – this was confirmed in live broadcasts by protest leaders. They stated “they accepted the apology with a grain of salt, and asked them to explain their past behaviour.”

While protesters breached an initial police cordon, they stopped short of the main police line, and the Bangkok Post reported that volunteer marshals kept the protesters away from the main police cordon.

At that point, “protest leaders read out a collectively agreed message, undersigned by the ‘People’, calling for reform of the monarchy before the crowd dispersed and the rally ended” at around 9.30pm.

It was difficult to assess the size of the crowd. As we write this post, the only estimate we had seen was “tens of thousands.”

The rally appeared somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events and it remains to be seen where the protesters go from here.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the rally and says that “[a]ctivist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon said that the letter writing activity is organised because they want those in power to listen to the voice of the people…”. A translation of the joint statement is included:

From the untainted people to King Vajiralongkorn,

With care, not cruelty

With well wish, not hatred

With hope, not fear

It is an absolute truth that all humans are both loved and loathed. Blood and roots do not judge whether a man should be loved or hated. Love and faith come from your own action.

A common man might have a choice to be surrounded by those who love and have faith in him. Even though it might turn out that around him are full of immoral, incompetent, obsequious people, still it is his choice.

However, a king cannot do so for he cannot choose between love and hatred.
It does not matter whether the people love the king or not, he must love them all the same.
If the king can talk to the people who love him, he must also talk to the people who do not all the same.

When you hear all the flattering praise from the people, you must also hear fearless criticisms and suggestions all the same.

When the king truly cherishes democracy, all people will find happiness.

The three demands from the people are the utmost compromise.

With power of equal human dignity,

“People”

Prachatai also reports that one innovation of note: A “We love the king” sticker with added words:

“We love the king that allows us to check.”
“We love the king that spends the tax worthwhile.”
“We love the king that do not endorse the coup.”

Update 2: Quite a few newspaper accounts – and a couple of readers – disagree with our statements that the protest yesterday “seemed quite well choreographed…” and “somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events.” They reckon it was another remarkable event. For example, Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt says “What happened last night, 8 November, was unprecedented.” He adds:

Ratsadon marched to the Grand Palace to submit letters to King Rama 10, with an envelope addressing him by his first name. The official letter’s content explained to the king how a king should behave.

Think about it in the context of Thai culture, a group of tweenies addressing the king by his first name and writing a letter explaining how the king should behave.

It’s not only unprecedented. It’s a world turn upside down.

After firing water cannons into the crowd, the police commander told the protestors he could not let them pass, for the area he’s guarding is a sacred site.

“Sacred” is the keyword.

Ratsadons are defying Thailand’s most sacred institution….





Greed and control

24 07 2020

Voranai Vanijaka asks: “To whom does Thailand belong: the King, the general, or the people?” Anyone who is of a democratic mind would argue for the people as an inclusive notion of representation.

Clearly, though, the military thugs who seized the state in 2014 reckon Thailand belongs to them. They intend to manipulate and control well into the future, with the military’s:

Phalang Pracharat Party on Tuesday formally nominated its new party leader Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan as the Interior Minister for the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

The nomination, if accepted, would replace the current Interior Minister Gen. Anupong Paochinda who has no party backing. The party also proposed four more senior party members as new ministers, but PM Prayut Chan-ocha said it’s ultimately up to him to decide who will get which Cabinet posts.

Observing this, academic Titipol Phakdeewanich of Ubon Ratchathani University, said “the nomination of Prawit to be in charge of the powerful Interior Ministry is an attempt to ensure the government’s advantage in upcoming local elections.” He added:

The coup makers want to consolidate control to plan for local elections…. The local elections process has been delayed but if Prawit is appointed he can control provincial governors, especially in the northeastern region.

The greed is unbelievable.





Chinese Information Operation

21 04 2020

We at PPT don’t usually pay much attention to what the Chinese Embassy is doing in Bangkok. However, a recent story by Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt caught our attention.

Referring to The Great Pacific Twitter War, he explains that the Chinese Embassy has gotten in on the attacks by Chinese nationalists on Thais and others that’s been going on for a week or so.

The thing that sprung out at us was the Chinese Embassy’s hamfisted Information Operation, complete with trolls and fake news. It issued the following statement:

Statement by the Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand Concerning Recent Online Statements Related to China

I have noticed there are many online statements related to China recently. First of all, I want to underline that the One China Principle is irrefutable and China is firmly opposed to anyone making any erroneous statement inconsistent with the One China Principle anytime, anywhere. Having said that, I want to point out that the One China Principle is a long-standing principle consistently recognized and supported by the Thai government and the Thai general public. The recent online noises only reflect bias and ignorance of its maker, which does not in any way represent the [long]standing stance of the Thai government nor the mainstream public opinion of the Thai People. The scheme by some particular people to manipulate the issue for the purpose of inflaming and sabotaging the friendship between the Chinese and Thai people will not succeed.

The friendship between China and Thailand dates back to ancient times, and the expression of “China and Thailand as one family” is a genuine epitome of our bilateral relationship. Be it the Asian financial crisis, the Wenchuan earthquake in China, the Indian Ocean tsunami, or the COVID-19 we are facing now, China and Thailand, as well as the people of both countries, have always stood firmly together and extended each other support and assistance during these trying times, which speaks volume of the fine tradition of the two peoples sharing weal and woe. At the most critical moment of China’s campaign against the COVID-19, we are blessed with valuable support from the Thai royal family, the Thai government and various social sectors. Now that the situation in China is turning around,the Chinese government, Chinese enterprises and social organizations are rallying up to provide Thailand with assistance to defeat the virus, despite enormous domestic pressure of epidemic rebound. The people from both countries feel deeply indebted and grateful to each others’ kindness.

Virus respects no borders, and there is no “sin” when it comes to this epidemic. Working together with concerted efforts is the only right way forward. We deeply believe that the long-tested China-Thailand friendship will stand the trial of this epidemic, and the kinship of “China and Thailand as one family” will emerge stronger with more vitality after we jointly overcome this challenge.

โฆษกสถานเอกอัครราชทูตจีนประจำประเทศไทยแถลงการณ์เกี่ยวกับความคิดเห็นต่อประเทศจีนบนโลกออนไลน์ในช่วงนี้

ดิฉันสังเกตพบว่า ในช่วงนี้มีการแสดงความคิดเห็นบนโลกออนไลน์ของทั้งประเทศจีนและประเทศไทย ก่อนอื่น ดิฉันขอเน้นย้ำว่า หลักการจีนเดียว เป็นหลักการที่ไม่ต้องสงสัย ฝ่ายจีนยืนหยัดคัดค้านบุคคลใดที่แสดงความคิดเห็นที่ผิดพลาดต่อหลักการจีนเดียวไม่ว่าจะสถานการณ์ใดก็ตาม ในขณะเดียวกัน ขอชี้ให้เห็นว่า หลักการจีนเดียว เป็นจุดยืนที่รัฐบาลไทยและประชาชนชาวไทยยึดมั่นมาเป็นเวลานาน ความคิดเห็นส่วนบุคคลบนโลกออนไลน์สามารถสะท้อนอคติและความไม่รู้ของตนเท่านั้น แต่ไม่สามารถแสดงถึงจุดยืนที่มั่นคงของรัฐบาลไทยและความคิดเห็นกระแสหลักของประชาชนชาวไทยได้ คนบางกลุ่มบนโลกออนไลน์ใช้โอกาสนี้ทำให้เรื่องขยายใหญ่โตลุกลามออกไป พยายามวางแผนมุ่งร้าย ยุแยงเพื่อทำให้ผู้คนผิดใจกัน ซึ่งความคิดนี้จะไม่มีทางประสบความสำเร็จอย่างแน่นอน

มิตรภาพระหว่างจีน-ไทยมีมาช้านาน “จีนไทยใช่อื่นไกล พี่น้องกัน” เป็นคำบรรยายที่แท้จริงของความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างทั้งสองประเทศ ไม่ว่าจะเป็นวิกฤติการเงินในเอเชีย หรือแผ่นดินไหวเมืองเวิ่นชวนในประเทศจีน ไม่ว่าจะเป็นสึนามิในมหาสมุทรอินเดีย หรือการแพร่ระบาดของโรคโควิด-19ในวันนี้ก็ตาม จีน-ไทยและประชาชนทั้งสองประเทศต่างก็ดูแลและช่วยเหลือซึ่งกันและกัน ร่วมฟันฝ่าความทุกข์ยากนี้ไปด้วยกัน ซึ่งสะท้อนให้เห็นถึงประเพณีอันดีงามระหว่างทั้งสองประเทศที่ช่วยเหลือเผื่อแผ่กันในขณะที่ต่างฝ่ายต่างก็ลำบาก ในช่วงเวลาที่ตึงเครียดที่สุดของการต่อต้านการแพร่ระบาดของจีน พระบรมวงศานุวงศ์ รัฐบาลและทุกแวดวงสังคมของไทยได้ให้การสนับสนุนอันมีค่าแก่จีน เมื่อสถานการณ์การแพร่ระบาดของจีนเริ่มดีขึ้นเป็นครั้งแรก แม้ว่าจีนเองจะมีแรงกดดันอย่างยิ่งจากกรณีโรคระบาดย้อนกลับมาอีกครั้ง รัฐบาล ผู้ประกอบการ ตลอดจนแวดวงสังคมของจีนต่างก็ให้การสนับสนุนและช่วยเหลือฝ่ายไทยอย่างสุดความสามารถ ประชาชนของทั้งสองประเทศต่างก็ซาบซึ้งใจเป็นอย่างยิ่ง

ไวรัสไม่มีพรมแดน ยิ่งไม่มี “บาปดั้งเดิม” การเผชิญกับการแพร่ระบาดของโรค การจับมือกันรับมือเป็นวิธีเดียวที่ถูกต้อง พวกเราเชื่อมั่นเป็นอย่างยิ่งว่า มิตรภาพอันยาวนานระหว่างจีน-ไทยนั้นจะสามารถผ่านบททดสอบการแพร่ระบาดของโรคนี้ไปได้ หลังจากประสบการณ์ในครั้งนี้ มิตรภาพที่แสนพิเศษดังคำกล่าวที่ว่า “จีนไทยใช่อื่นไกล พี่น้องกัน” จะสามารถเปล่งพลังที่ยิ่งใหญ่และแข็งแกร่งมากขึ้น

One-China policy is always dear to the Beijing regime’s heart and propaganda. The “ancient times” blarney is always repeated and the Communist regime claiming to be “blessed with valuable support from the Thai royal family” is jaw-dropping, but not unusual for the Embassy. The thing that amused us was the capacity of the Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand speaking for Thailand’s government and the Thai people.

While visiting the Chinese Embassy Facebook page, we noticed another post that seems to take IO in Thailand to the Americans and fans conspiracy theory in Thailand. It posts this discussion of a recent academic paper and claims it supports the claims emanating from China that the virus originated in the USA. It does nothing of the kind, stating that the paper “charts the ‘incipient supernova’ of COVID-19 through genetic mutations as it spread from China and Asia to Australia, Europe and North America…”. The paper should also debunk conspiracy theories in the USA that China created the virus in a lab.





Power

7 05 2018

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post. He was once with The Nation and has a reputation for biting op-eds. His most recent outing deserves some attention.

He observes that there have been a series of scandals for the military regime over the last six months. We think there have been far more and over a longer period, but let’s go with his six months of troubles, “starting from November of last year. It began with junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha berating a fisherman down south for daring to matter-of-factly ask him tough questions. Next came deputy junta leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon flashing his posh taste for luxury watches, which supposedly were borrowed from generous friends.”

What has happened about those watches? The National Anti-Corruption Commission has gone very quiet since Gen Prawit told them their case was over. We assume the NACC has done as it was ordered and there’s no case for the boss to answer.

Voranai then mentions “former national police chief Somyot Poompunmuang, who ‘borrowed’ 300 million baht from a massage parlour tycoon…”.

Somyos and some of his loot

What has happened there? As far as we can tell, the wealthy cop is off the hook. His sloshing about in other people’s money is a bit like the watch saga; it is just normal behavior for the powerful.

And so on.

Voranai observes, as we do, that “[n]one of these gentlemen [sic.] think they have done anything wrong.”

Of course they don’t. They are powerful, entitled and deserving.

He adds:

These aren’t isolated incidents to be treated separately, mind you. Here the common theme is that the rich and powerful, the elders or phu yai, who are leaders of society, do whatever they want, however they want — as has been done for decades and centuries before. The sense of entitlement is of medieval proportions.

But these men are not behaving simply as feudal lords did. This is a Thailand dominated by market capitalism dominated by “whales” who reward their political fixers. The entitlements of these whales far outweigh those of the police chiefs and political flunkies who do their bidding and put them on boards or pay them retainers for services to be rendered.

 

Where we distance ourselves from Voranai is when he makes claims that we are all to blame, that it’s cultural. It isn’t. It is a system of political and economic power that needs to be smashed.





Updated: Coup!!

22 05 2014

PPT went out to eat and of course, the coup was announced.

This event is not unexpected, and the tenor of announcements in the controlled media is that a National Order and Maintenance Committee – the military bosses – are arresting people (not yet clear who and how widespread), grabbing control of even more of the media, implementing a curfew and the usual things these military leaders do when they take over. There are some unconfirmed reports of shooting.

Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Pratimaprakorn, Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, Navy chef Adm Narong Pipattanasai, Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew became Prayuth’s deputies.

It is becoming clear that the plan is exactly what the royalist and anti-democrats have wanted: a search for a “neutral” premier. Look for a former military commander or a privy councilor or someone who fits both categories.

Weng

Given that the Bangkok Post published not one but two op-eds supportive of military intervention today, we assume the editorial board is dancing in the streets (until curfew at 10 P.M. One was by Voranai Vanijaka, who stated, among other now dumb as a box of rocks statements, this:

Look for an interim government, appointed. Look for reforms, not necessarily to tackle corruption or to solve the education crisis, those issues take years, and we wouldn’t want an appointed government for years.

But definitely look for reform measures to ensure future political stability and economic opportunity. In this, look for factions and individuals to be persuaded to fall in line and do as told.

In addition, look for these measures to be more effective in setting Thailand on the ‘’right’’ course, as compared to after the 2006 coup.

Then, look for a reasonable period of time until the military is sure that the peace is kept. Three months, six months, a year, however long it may take.

After which, look for the return of the democratic election and things to actually go back to normal – well, normal for Thailnd, that is.

A scenario is mere speculation based on past lessons to ascertain likely future possibilities. If there is any certainty, it is that democratic elections will return.Voranai

The other op-ed was by a died-in-the-wool anti-democrat at the Post:

Dopey shit

Pretty base “journalism.”

Update: Following these two cheering op-eds for the military and its form of fascism, the Bangkok Post manages an  editorial that seeks to polish Prayuth’s ego and posterior and justify military intentions, but concludes with this: “The sad thing is it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” Well, of course it is not the solution, but the Post has been part of the problem, failing to clearly stand for democratic process.





Updated: Bumbling academics

25 01 2014

PPT is continually amazed by the antics of academics associated with the anti-democrats. Sadly, many of their interventions reflect badly on them as academics.

We have seen them using foul and misogynist language, making stuff up and some of them, wig in place, leading blockades of various homes of ministers.

Nothing wrong in a democratic society with putting your wig on and blocking the premier’s house or getting so antsy with some foreign journalist that you say quite bizarre things, but it is the “academic” bit that is troubling.

Most of this lot simply are not academics in the usual sense of the word. Few of them contribute anything at all to the usual research debate that drives scientific and cultural knowledge. When they write it is opinion pieces that show scant knowledge of their subject. When they speak, it is propaganda.

PPT was set thinking about this when we read an op-ed by a Chulalongkorn University researcher who has published reasonable research articles in the past. Ukrist Pathmanand has written useful papers on Thaksin Shinawatra, telecommunications and the military.

Hence, we were surprised by his piece at the Bangkok Post: where he commented on the anti-democratic movement and international relations and seemed to us to demonstrate some remarkable academic blindness.

He tries to explain why China and the U.S. have “react[ed] differently to democracy in Thailand, and the political rallies led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).”

He puts this in terms of “specific national interest.” He says:

… the term “national interest” used here does not necessarily convey the cliched concept of a conspiracy theory, which has been used excessively to imply an attempt to lead a certain political ideology and /or to discredit a rival party.

To be honest, we don’t understand this idea of a “conspiracy.” Are we at PPT missing an important debate? We thought the term had a particular meaning and location in international relations writing, as briefly mentioned by Wikipedia:

The national interest … is a country’s goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural. The concept is an important one in international relations where pursuit of the national interest is the foundation of the realist school.But even if a conspiracy theory is not the case here, what is certain is that each world superpower wants to secure its interests in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region.

He alerts us – if that was at all necessary – that Thailand has a “national interest,” and then turns to the “strikingly different reactions from the international community” to the anti-democrats.

So Ukrist wants us to understand different reactions by the U.S. and China. But then this:

The West and Asian giants like China clearly voiced their support for the democratically elected government. Of course, as diplomatic etiquette would dictate, it’s not likely any country would say otherwise _ showing support for the democratically elected is a principle they hold dear.

Readers might be surprised to learn that China “holds dear” the “principle” that it should “support for the democratically elected.” Readers might also find this claim for the U.S. made absurd by recent history.

Based on these false claims, Ukrist then explores “differences” that turn out to be not differences at all.

He babbles about China being a superpower, apparently unaware of the very large academic debates about this, and refers to “neoliberal” China’s “fast, active, or even aggressive policy regarding matters within the Southeast Asia region including Thailand.” He refers specifically to economic interests and FTAs, and decides: “It’s not likely China as a huge trading partner would give up those multi-billion transactions so easily,” and adds:

With opportunities for extra political and diplomatic negotiations arising from major trade, China certainly sees a democratically-elected government as a means by which to secure its position.

Again, readers may wonder what he’s on about. PPT thinks Ukrist is saying that the Chinese government must support the Yingluck Shinawatra government in order to protect its economic interests. Perhaps, but it doesn’t require an elected government to do that, as has been shown in many other places where China happily invests. He continues:

Chinese-language and English-language media have portrayed the situation as threatening and chaotic, without mentioning the positive sides of the protests, including the fact that they give various opinion groups a chance to voice their views _ an unlikely scenario for the Chinese government to endorse.

Yes, this yellow-shirted intellectual is confused by China’s response. Perhaps if he’d researched a bit, he’d have found that the Chinese regime has a penchant for supporting incumbent governments that maintain political and economic stability. We are unsure whether Ukrist thinks this is good and appropriate or not. He seems confused.

But the comments on the U.S. reveal perhaps a little more. He gets agitated that “the prototype for democracy worldwide has “revealed a paradoxical reaction towards the situation, fiercely supporting the government while turning a blind eye to the people’s movement and civil society whose protest is largely peaceful.”

Appealing for elections and peaceful resolution of a crisis “while [sending] strong signals … to warn the military against staging a coup” seems “paradoxical”? We are lost, but Ukrist “explains” his tortured logic:

The ideological framework and reaction of the US can be traced back to a biased attempt to undermine the notion of “Thai-style democracy”.

He doesn’t explain “Thai-style democracy” but tramples on:

What’s noteworthy is how the US and the Western media, who should have understood the development of democracy in Thailand, failed to grasp the reality that democracy has been prevalent in Thailand through past elections, during each of which the campaign for votes was widespread and regular.

And the point is? We are sure the previous sentences are garbled and he means something else, for he writes that:

Thailand’s democracy has unique complications similar to the development of democracy in other nations in Southeast Asia where traces of oligarchy remain influential, as well as local influences and power, and faith in an individual figure.

Oligarchs and faith in individuals? Has Ukrist never studied democratic politics anywhere else? But his point seems to be that “[d]emocracy comes in various forms … and it would be either ignorant or narrow-minded if the US and Western media fail to differentiate ‘anti-government’ from ‘anti-democracy’.” In fact, PPT reckons that is exactly what they are doing.

Ukrsit then lets his imagination outpace his already flawed logic. He says the while some “rally leaders [are] trying to court military involvement, the civic group that has been the backbone of the rally desires no coup.” Which civic group is this? The extremists “students”? The Democrat Party? Perhaps he means just the people who show up for the rallies? But is that a “civic group”? There have been plenty of signs at the rallies asking for a coup.

For some unknown reason he gets upset that “active political expression is undermined by the attempt of the Western media to brand the protest a festive carnival.” He seems to completely miss the point that such descriptions are not negative at all and are even read by many as supportive of the protesters.

So if you’ve been lost in this potpourri of “academic analysis,” this “academic” explains:

Of course, the US has been enjoying economic, political and military benefits in the Southeast Asia region, but it’s the political issue that’s perennially on top of Washington’s agenda, isn’t it?

And the whistles that have been blown to banish authoritarianism and corruption in Thailand are not different from the song of protests sung in North Africa, Turkey and Ukraine.

In other words, all of this is to explain that both China and the U.S. support the incumbent government, one for economic interests and the other for “political” or even ideological reasons.

Is it the political – and he means democracy – that always wins for Washington? Perhaps Ukrist could ask the Egyptian military? Ukrist doesn’t even consider the U.S.’s very substantial investments and capital stock in Thailand; these are well in excess of the Chinese.

Perhaps both China and the U.S. are tired of the ridiculous nature of Thailand’s politics? Perhaps they are reflecting their investors? Perhaps Ukrist could try doing a little research rather than being a propagandist.

Update: Voranai Vanijaka’s interventions in debates of late have been rather good and interesting. That’s a big compliment as we have been very critical of him previously. His op-ed today at the Bangkok Post reflects on some of the issues we raise above: “academics” not really being able to teach about the past. In our view, this is often because they don’t know it because they haven’t researched it. He asks:

The transitional period is something every society goes through, but with all the histories out there to learn from, we still manage to be in such a mess. This is simply because we are clueless about ourselves and the world around us.

How are we to shape the future, if we haven’t learned about our past? How are we to understand where we are today, if we don’t study the history that led to the present?

So often, both sides get it wrong. Voranai suggests this as one issue that needs to be studied: “How society copes in a land where feudalism, democracy and dictatorship are in such a tangled mess.”





Ethnicity, culture and political venom

17 11 2013

Yesterday, we added this as an update on a vaguely related post that we have now decided to make a post by itself:

While reading the newspapers today, PPT was also a bit taken aback to suddenly come across a couple of pieces raising race as an issue. We have already posted the story from The Economist, and in that it is noted that: “… Thaksin, an ethnic-Chinese billionaire, is an odd leader for a group dominated by non-Chinese Thais from the north-east. But they like the populist economic policies, such as a rice-price support scheme attacked this week by the IMF, which he and his sister have pursued.” Well, they are also claimed to like the king, and he’s Sino-Thai too, as are almost all of Thailand’s big business people and major politicians. Northeasterners were particularly attracted to Chatichai Choonhavan, and he was also Sino-Thai.

But it is at the Bangkok Post that the ethnicity line is used more mischievously. In an editorial, the Post states at length that Yingluck’s decision-making in government is driven by her ethnicity:

the Thai-Chinese community champions the family unit. Whether in business or politics, the family is ever present. Never underestimate its cultural importance. As a younger sister – youngest in fact – of a Thai or Thai-Chinese family, obedience to elder family members, especially the patriarch, is the norm, the honourable, time-honoured, expected and righteous thing to do.

It hammers this line and concludes:

Leadership means one must be made of stern stuff. If one can’t stand up for oneself, how can one stand up for one’s country? Between the choice of family and country, as the prime minster, Ms Yingluck must choose the country first, in every single decision.

It does seem odd that suddenly ethnicity is made to matter.

Of course, they could have mentioned the king as an example of a Sino-Thai who has put country before family. But perhaps that example is a bit difficult to deal with as he isn’t the youngest daughter in the clan and his family has done very nicely indeed, with various members of the family doing pretty much what they like with the benefit of taxpayer funding.

The reason we are elevating and update to a post is to continue attention to the Bangkok Post’s sudden and one-sided attention to culturalist explanations of behavior. While most of what Voranai Vanijaka says in his op-ed at the Post is seemingly a mixture of culturalist half-truths and smart-arsed cynicism, we must agree that this paragraph really struck a chord:

We are a society built upon cults of personalities, relationships and superstitions. As such, we have a difficult time differentiating personalities from ideals, and we tend to attach our loyalties and beliefs to personalities, rather than ideals. Democracy takes a back seat.

He’s right about this. And Thailand is less than a month from its really, really big enforced celebration of its biggest personality cult. The king’s birthday has grown from a relatively small affair in the 1940s to become (North Korea-like) a huge celebration of a deified individual, making his birthday a national day, father’s day and the embodiment of “Thai culture.” Of course, it is all based on half-truths, cynical marketing and the triumph of the palace’s political manipulators.

Voranai mentions General Prem Tinsulanonda’s period as prime minister in the 1980s: “After Gen Prem Tinsulanonda stepped down in 1988, Thailand began a new experiment with democracy. The result was one heartbreak after another.”

Of course it has been like this. As much as anyone since General Sarit Thanarat, Prem worked assiduously to promote and fund the monarchy. He is responsible, as much as Sarit and the king himself for creating a democracy that was doomed to fragility and the palace’s repeated intervention in politics. It is not going too far to say that democratic politics is weak in Thailand because that’s how the police power brokers like it.

Ethnicity and culture can be powerful, but they have little to do with this outcome. Instead look to the nest of political vipers – palace, military, judiciary and Sino-Thai tycoons – that have their political way and enrich themselves.





With two updates: The Democrat Party and its failures

9 09 2013

On Sunday, in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Voranai Vanijaka managed to criticize the Democrat Party for its multiple failures, not least at the ballot box, without ever giving credit to all the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties since 2001 for their remarkable political savvy and capacity to win elections. The best Voranai can do is put multiple election victories, many by landslides down to good PR and babble about a “democratic dictatorship.” We think he means parliamentary politics.

In other words, pro-Thaksin parties are really very, very bad and very, very nasty, but their PR covers all this up for the apparently stupid electorate who chose them.

And, oh yes, the Democrat Party helps out by being politically hopeless.

All the party of the elite has to do is get better PR locally and internationally, and, hey presto, they’ll get into power. Hence he can doodle about foreigners having only a superficial understanding of Thai politics but the fact is that the Democrat Party itself seems to have a jaundiced and superficial view of the nature of Thailand’s politics and the way it has changed. When Voranai writes of PR, how different is this from the view that all voters are paid, misled or stupid?

Thailand has changed and the Democrat Party and the royalist elite are being left behind.

PPT can’t help wondering if the Democrat Party should also ditch its name; in recent years it has not shown any penchant for democratic politics. Perhaps, too, if it is to be involved in electoral politics in any serious way it should ditch its tainted leaders Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban, both forever stained by their orders that resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 and injuries to thousands in 2009 and 2010.Abhisit and Suthep

The sense that politics is all about PR stunts is seen when Voranai notes that: “The Democrats [he means the Democrat Party] suffer the image of a conservative, pro-establishment party with a too-comfortable alliance with the military. This simply does not speak well to the international community that promotes democracy.”

You see, its “image.” No, Voranai, it is a fact. This is exactly what the Democrat Party really is, for the local electorate, and it is not what they want.

But Voranai seems to assume that the Democrat Party is serious about parliamentary politics. A story at the Bangkok Post suggests otherwise:

The Democrat Party expects chaos and political game-playing in the joint parliamentary session this week when the chamber resumes the constitutional amendment debate.

Based on the past week’s experience, this is not a prediction, but a threat.

The Democrat Party demands that every one of its MPs should be able to speak on every article in the bill. In most parliaments – the U.S. being a major exception – such a tedious tactic is soon set aside by speakers, as set out in, for example, Robert’s Rules.

Even if they can speak forever, the Democrat Party is still going to refer the bill to the Constitutional Court, which makes all the delaying rather silly except that it allows the Party to bring the parliamentary system and elected politicians into such disrepute that whole system, they hope, will collapse.

If anyone doubts the democratic destructiveness of the Democrat Party, then read the Bangkok Post’s interview with Deputy Democrat Party leader Korn Chatikavanij.Korn_tea

After babbling about party reform and admitting the party has not been able to recruit many outstanding members … since politics became polarised after the 2006 military coup,” Korn says “… it is possible the Democrats may start to lead people onto the streets…”.

Start? They have already been doing it, including organizing protests. Again, Korn is making a threat.

Also at the Bangkok Post there’s a short report on three academics trying to explain political conflict. None seem to be reported as explaining conflict, but Pasuk Phongpaichit’s call for “old power cliques” to accommodate to “the country’s changing social and political terrain…”:

She said the refusal of the old power groups, which included the Democrat Party, to adapt has caused the conflicts.

The Democrat Party is at a remarkable low point. Its issues and allies are not just conservative but reactionary.

We agree with Voranai (and Pasuk) on one point: if the party is democratic and supports the parliamentary system, then it needs to be a stronger party that strengthens the system rather than undermining it. It can only do that with a new, untainted leadership and policies that don’t plagiarize but challenge the pro-Thaksin parties.

To be honest, we don’t think it has the capacity for such change. That’s bad for democracy.

Update 1: The paucity of the Democrat Party’s ideas and debate is further demonstrated in a recent Khaosod report that has former premier Abhisit attacking current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as อีโง่ or “a stupid bitch” in the following video:

The video runs the selection twice but the point is clear. As Khaosod says:

Abhisit′s uncharacteristic rudeness might also reflect the larger shift in attitude of the Democrats. The party has recently embarked on aggressive tactics in its attempt to oust the government including organising street protests and creating chaos inside the House of Parliament during debates on contentious issues.

Abhisit reportedly reinforced his misogyny:

Abhisit did not apologise for his now-notorious remark when reporters questioned him at the Democrat Party headquarters earlier today.

He claimed that he did not refer to Ms. Yingluck specifically when he said those words on the stage. “I was merely following what I saw on Google,” Mr. Abhisit insisted (typing “stupid bitch” in Thai on Google search would bring up images of Ms. Yingluck).

Smart ass rich lads treating women badly is unlikely to curry favor with anyone other than the patriarchal right-wing royalists.

Update 2: Khaosod has gone to extraordinary lengths to point out that its translation of อีโง่ as “stupid bitch.” It does this in part because other English-language newspapers have translated Abhisit’s sexist rant in more “generous” terms, perhaps protecting the errant Democrat Party leader.

For PPT, Khaosod’s translation is accurate and carries the venom Abhisit intended.

Several outlets have suggested that Abhisit’s comment was not directed at Yingluck personally. The context, in the video above, makes it clear his misogynist attack was directed at the premier.