Release the students, return power to the people

28 06 2015

The Nation reports that 53 “leading academics and activists yesterday demanded that 14 arrested student activists be immediately released and called on the public to stand up to the junta.”

This call came as the military dictatorship downplayed the possibility of the students each receiving 7 years in jail under Articles 116 and 83 of the Criminal Code.

Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, who has repeatedly stated that he knows but refuses to name a mysterious “mastermind” he alleges is “behind” the students and warned their supporters:

If you direct them in the wrong direction, disturbing the country’s peace and order, I warn you stop it. We have identified you all. Most people do not approve of your actions because they want the country to be peaceful.

Like others in the junta, he’s either delusional or a liar and probably both. As usually happens under this deranged leadership, we can expect some arrest and a claim of a network and plot, with a likelihood of lese majeste accusations and undefined threats to national security.

Meanwhile, the academics and activists, who are “calling themselves People Behind the Neo Democracy Movement, issued a statement to demand that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) return power to the people.”

These supporters of students and democracy “gathered at Suan Ngern Mee Ma, a training centre that served as a shelter for the student activists before their arrest on Friday.”

In a statement, they “emphasised their stance in opposing … a dictatorship and the ‘selfishness and ineffectiveness’ of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha [The Dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha].”

The Nation identified the “most prominent” of these activists as “social critic Sulak Sivaraksa, political scientist Kasian Tejapira, former Thammasat University rector Charnvit Kasetsiri, and noted writer Suchat Sawatsri.” It reports that “[o]ther signatories … include Chulalongkorn University political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan, Thammasat University anthologist Yukti Mukdavijit, political scientist Pongkwan Sawasdipakdi, and Same Sky magazine editor Thanapol Eiwsakul.”

They asked: “What kind of society is the NCPO [military junta] leading Thailand to? Calls for democracy and justice using non-violence have become criminalised…”.

The arrested students have repeatedly “denied a claim by the authorities that political groups were behind their moves.” They declared: “There is no need for us to prove anything. We don’t have anyone behind us.”

They also rejected the ridiculous paternalism and authoritarianism of the military dictatorship. They stated: “Prayut[h]’s administration is scared of opponents’ opinions because they are well aware that they can’t run the country…. They are not capable of solving problems. But they persist to stay to preserve their own power and interests amid the national calamity.”

The students called on the “people to come out and call on the junta to return their power…”.

Handmaidens of the military junta

5 08 2014

At University World News, there’s a useful account of the salivating anti-democratic “leaders” of Thailand’s academic institutions who have thrown in their lot with the military dictatorship.

These handmaidens to the junta have been variously denigrated on social media as dogs having their stomachs rubbed, spineless royalists, academic jewelry for the junta, and as horrible examples for their students. Most of this is true, but hardly gets at their betrayal of what many consider to be the independent and critical role of academics. (Of course, there have been plenty of academics in many places who acquiesce to and support horrid regimes.)

Thai “academics” have a very long history of sucking up to and supporting military regimes. When General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected prime minister, he surrounded himself with prominent professors keen to promote “semi-democracy,” military and monarchy. In more recent times, royalist academics have donned yellow shirts and supported all kinds of fascist ideas.

As PPT noted some time ago, the presidencies of universities have been a bit like the judiciary, targeted and taken over by royalists in a planned “coup” that gave them control of universities across the country. Under the military dictatorship, they have already been moving to shore up military fascism.

This most recent report notes:

Rectors from nine of Thailand’s top public universities have joined the junta-picked lawmaking assembly established three months after the military staged the country’s 13th coup d’état on 22 May….

The nine rectors are from some of the country’s top universities including Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Chiang Mai, Kasetsart, Ramkhamhaeng, the National Institute of Development Administration, Srinakharinwirot, Khon Kaen and Mahidol.

… Also appointed was Thammasat University council Chair Noranit Sretabutr.

Some of the universities’ websites carried congratulations posted by their administrations on the appointment of the rectors.

Naturally enough, with their administrations being so supportive of military fascism and with a repressive military regime in place, critics of these spineless “academics” have had to bite their tongues.

Former Thammasat University rector Charnvit Kasetsiri who wrote an open letter “calling on Noranit and Thammasat Rector Somkid Lertpaitoon to ‘refrain’ from associating with bodies created by the junta.” Too late, really, as these two have long been associated with anti-democratic positions.

More outspoken was Yukti Mukdavichit, “an anthropology lecturer at Thammasat University, published an online open letter to the university’s rector and faculty, saying the decision to join the assembly was a ‘disgrace’ for a university known in the past for resistance against authoritarian regimes.”

Thongchai Winichakul, a history U.S.-based history professor, president of the Association of Asian Studies, and a former Thammasat student leader, “criticised the rectors’ decision to join the assembly as ‘shameless’ and likely to affect the credibility of the institutions and the academic profession.”

He’s correct to observe that: “these rectors have … overtly played a leading anti-democracy role, against electoral democracy, and in creating a justification for the latest coup…”. He added:

As of now, it appears that the majority of Thai academics prefer serving the establishment because, after all, they are the privileged ones in Thailand’s hierarchical society. Most of them support their rectors in playing such a disgraceful role….

These handmaidens of the military dictatorship will be unaffected by such criticism. They signed up to military fascism and royalist anti-democracy a long time ago, and they owe their positions, wealth and esteem to support from the military, palace and associated anti-democrats, not to any notions associated with academic work.

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