Tanks don’t solve the problem of flooding!

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Generalissimo Prayut has been scaring little children and telling them not to listen to “bad people” who spread anti-junta views.

The General scaring kids
The General scaring kids

No doubt he doesn’t want us to believe that elections will be postponed beyond 2018. Yet all his appointed representatives who pass laws and write constitutions according to the junta’s diktat are tying themselves in knots about the junta’s so-called “road map” for political anti-reforms and the future anti-democratic elections.

Their road map is beginning to look like a road map to nowhere, a bit like the severed roads in the flooded south.

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There is no let up in the rain at the moment and the people in the south are suffering as a result.

Anusorn Tamjai, an economist from Rungsit University, has estimated that the serious flooding in the south will cause up to 120 billion baht’s worth of damage to the economy of the region. Three hundred thousand families have been affected and there have been over 20 deaths. Amazingly, this economist had the courage to suggest that the junta might postpone the purchase of weapons for the bloated military. People have been asking questions on social media about the 50 Chinese tanks which have been bought at the expense of investing in flood affected areas and at the expense of building better railways and other useful public projects.

The Thai military has only used its tanks and weaponry to stage military coups and to suppress pro-democracy protesters in the streets. The military’s weaponry is the material basis of its illegitimate political power.

Yet the over-confident and authoritarian buffoon who is Prime Minister has blamed ordinary people for the flood crisis. Prayut said that the people didn’t listen and move to higher ground. He boasted that since he became head of the army almost ten years ago he has been “solving” problems caused by flooding.

It is also good to know that King Wachiralongkorn is concerned about the people. It was announced, in true royal mumbo-jumbo, that the Privy Council had “invited” the King’s wishes to be made public.

Wachiralongkorn is so concerned about others that he kept hundreds of graduates at a university in Chiang-Rai waiting for hours because he turned up late to the degree ceremony. He eventually arrived with his disgusting little white mutt trotting behind him. The ceremony ended around mid-night. Exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun commented that His Majesty was running on “Munich time”, a reference to HM’s preferred residence. Wachiralongkorn probably only came back to Thailand to collect his crown and is now itching to get back to his “palace” and “women” in Germany. So much for his devotion to the Thai people!

The devastation caused by flooding in Thailand is a result of a lack of infrastructural investment, poor living standards and a lack of a welfare state for citizens. It is the military junta and the conservative anti-democrats who are the neo-liberal extremists in Thailand. They have long opposed any state funding to modernise Thai society and reduce inequality. They have supported the overthrow of democratically elected governments that sought to make minimal changes to the situation. They have also made sure that neoliberal fiscal discipline is written into the constitution. It is they who are guilty of causing the present flooding crisis.

The “road map” to a military “guided democracy” is designed to keep society in this backward deep-frozen state.

The Thai version of Marx’s Capital

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

It is 150 years since the first publication of Capital. Despite the fact that the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) was established in the late 1920s and played an important role in the struggle against the military dictatorship from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Karl Marx’ s monumental study of capitalism was not translated into Thai until 1999, long after the collapse of the party.

The reason for this is that during the CPT’s entire existence until its demise in the late 1980s, it was a Stalinist party and in the early 1960s it adopted the Maoist version of Stalinism.

Stalinism is the antithesis of Marxism. While maintaining Marxist jargon, Stalin turned the whole notion of Socialism and Communism on its head. Socialism or Communism which had previously meant the self-emancipation of the working class and the abolition of classes and the eventual withering away of the state, became a dictatorship of communist party over the working class, thus allowing the state to exploit and extract surplus value from workers. It was therefore hardly a priority for Stalinists to read and study Marx’s Capital. In fact it would have been positively dangerous for workers under “Communist” rule to understand how they were being exploited, just like workers in the West.

Maoism in China retained all these aspects of Stalinism, but also relegated the role of workers to a secondary position. For Mao, the victory of the Communist Party would rely on a military victory of a peasant army led and controlled by Communist Party intellectuals. Instead of the cities being the centre for the struggle for socialism, the strategy was to “surround the cities with the countryside”. The true and immediate aim was national liberation and the creation of a strong China, not socialism. The CPT followed this Maoist line by inventing colonialism in Thailand. It built a popular front of people from different and antagonistic classes to fight for the so-called liberation of Thailand from the USA. For the CPT, Thailand was a “semi-feudal, semi-colonial” society. This was despite the fact that Thai feudalism had been overthrown from above by King Chulalongkorn in the 1870s when he set about building the Thai capitalist state.

Maoism also encouraged an anti-intellectual attitude. Instead of studying the works of Marxists throughout the world, and the works of other progressive thinkers, Maoists were urged to learn by rote the rather mundane writings of Chairman Mao in his Little Red Book. Former students who joined the CPT in the jungle, after the 1976 massacre of the Left, recalled how there were no works of Marx available to read in CPT strong-holds.

Wanla Wanwilai wrote that his CPT base had a small library but apart from a single book by Lenin on Historical Materialism, the other books were by Chairman Mao. They often sat in the library talking but never really read anything. According to Wanla they were ignorant of politics, economics and world affairs.

Wipa Daomanee (Comrade Sung), who looked after a CPT library in a jungle camp, wrote that those who had not taken advantage of the flourishing of left-wing books in open Thai society after the 14th October 1973 uprising against the military, did not stand a chance of improving their reading in the jungle.

Another ex-Maoist activist from the 1970s, now a well-off businessman, told me during a CPT re-union, that “Marxism was useful to me in developing my business”. It is most probable that he had never read any Marx while he was with the CPT.

For these reasons, the CPT never organised the translation of Marx’s Capital into Thai and it certainly did not encourage party members to read it in other languages. Before the 1970s some left-wing intellectuals like the economist Supa Sirimanon were the first Thais to read Marx in English, and Supa’s writings on political economy reflected this. He was influenced by the British Marxist J. F. Hutjesson, who was invited to teach political economy at Thammasart University by Pridi Panomyong, leader of the 1932 revolution against the absolute monarchy. But Supa Sirimanon was never a member of the CPT and he did not attempt to translate Capital into Thai.

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The first Thai to translate Capital was Matee Eamwara (เมธี เอี่ยมวรา) and his Thai translations from Chinese of Capital volumes 1 and 2 were first published in hardback in 1999 by Teeratus Publishing Company (สำนักพิมพ์ธีรทรรศน์). He also use an English version, translated by Ben Fowkes and David Fernbach, to compare with the Chinese. Matee Eamwara was previously known for his work in producing dictionaries. He also wrote a book on Marxist political economy. Unfortunately, it seems that he did not manage to complete the translation of Capital volume 3 as he was very old when he produced the first two volumes.

The first translation of Marx’s Capital produced by Matee Eamwara was a land mark in Marxist political economy for those of us who had re-established a small non-Stalinist Marxist organisation in Thailand at the time. University students were also able to read the work. However, the language in Matee’s translations reflected its Chinese source and was difficult to read, unlike the European translations.

Despite the fact that the first Thai translation of Capital only appeared in 1999, other works by Marx and Engels had been translated in the 1970s. “Wages, Price and Profit” was one such work which is still used by militant trade unionists to discuss the Labour Theory of Value. Other works included “The Communist Manifesto”, “Socialism Utopian and Scientific”, “The Origins of the Family Private Property and the State” and “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man“. They were either translated anonymously or by people using pen names for obvious reasons. Only the translations of Engels’ “The Origins of the Family Private Property and the State” and “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man” were translated by a known writer: Kularp Saipradit, who was a contemporary of Supa Sirimanon.  None of these translations were done by the CPT.

In 2010, I produced a digital note-form summary or guide to reading Marx’s Capital volumes 1-3 in Thai, based on the Penguin English version, translated by Ben Fowkes and David Fernbach, and this is available on the internet at http://bit.ly/129xlhF. Readership of this document is probably limited.

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In 2016 a much more substantial abridged version of all the 3 volumes of Capital, translated by Boonsak Sang-rawee (บุญศักดิ์ แสงระวี) was published by Chum Silapa Tamada (สำนักพิมพ์ชุมศิป์ธรรมดา). Boonsak Sang-rawee has translated many works from China, including books on Mao. Indications are that this is a much easier version to read than Matee Eamwara’s original translation. This latest publication should make Capital more available to a wider range of Thais.

Further reading

Wanla Wanwilai วันลา วันวิไล (๒๕๕๙) ตะวันตกที่ตะนาวศรี 2519 Net.

Wipa Daomanee (2003) Looking back to when I first wanted to be a Communist. In: Ungpakorn, Ji Giles (ed) Radicalising Thailand: New Political Perspectives. Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University.

 

Twenty years of military dominated politics in store

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

As the year 2016 draws to a close we can look forward to years of military dominated politics. The “20 year National Strategy”, set down by the junta and its hireling law-makers, is designed to position the military jack-boot firmly on the back of any “elected” government in the future. Government policies will have to conform to this backward National Strategy, no matter what the electorate desire and naturally the National Strategy is royalist and neo-liberal. Of course the term “elected” is a very impressionistic description, since any future elections will be designed to obtain the “best” result, allowing for a weak puppet government palatable to the military.

But the so-called elections are in the far-distant future because king Pumipon conveniently died a few months ago, allowing the military to spend millions on the ceremonies associated with his death, which are being used to whip-up royalist mania. Pumipon’s death will allow the whole political process to be put on ice. There will not be any elections in 2017. They probably will be postponed to late 2018 at the earliest, and if the military appointed rubber stamp assembly doesn’t finish its drafting of terrible laws, the election could be rescheduled into 2019.

The junta’s draft political party law shows that they want to put political parties in a straight-jacket. Naturally anyone wishing to set up a party will be vetted, in best authoritarian traditions and any party which doesn’t fit the junta’s requirements will be disqualified.

The law raises the level of punishment for “selling” political positions to ridiculous extremes. People could be executed for doing this!! But naturally, no punishment for wrong-doing applies to non-MPs who become Prime Minister. This is just in case the Generalissimo were to be invited to this top position once again in the future.

What is more, this draft law stipulates that political parties must have a minimum of 500 founding members who each pay at least 2000 baht to the party. This amount of money represents about 25% of what most workers earn in a month. So the poor farmers and ordinary workers cannot possibly found a political party. Once again we see the results of “A Coup for the Rich”!

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In 2017 we shall continue to see the grotesque play act of men in military uniform pretending to grovel to the demented king Wachiralongkorn in a pathetic attempt to make us believe that they are “taking orders” from this imbecile. Word has it that Wachiralongkorn has appointed a number of his women to high-ranking but powerless military positions, which no doubt will have to be funded by the public. However, in an honest moment Wachiralongkorn said that his heart was warmed that General Prem Tinsulanon was re-appointed as head of the Privy Council. Without experienced generals on the Privy Council, the clueless king would not know how to best serve the ruling class. But the Privy Councillors need to be patient as Wachiralongkorn is a slow-learner.

Meanwhile the repression and censorship continue. The new “Computer Censorship and Democratic Crimes Law” has passed the junta appointed parliament and government control of the internet is set to further increase with the future introduction of a “single internet gateway”. There has been sporadic opposition to these measures, but the dictatorship needs to be overthrown in its entirety  in order to fully achieve freedom of speech.

It has been made “serious crime” to “like” or “share” the BBC Thai service’s web post of Wachiralongkorn’s biography, despite the fact that most Thais already know the truth. The whole of the ruling class and society are to be set in an official state of denial. “Lèse-majesté” is designed to silence the truth about royalty and the military. Loyalty is to tell lies. Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Dictatorship is Democracy!

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But there is some good news. His Excellency, Generalissimo Prayut has been awarded the position of “Great Political leader of exercise” by the World Health Organisation, for his participation in outdoor aerobics! Well this is according to junta sources anyway. It is difficult to independently verify the truth about this, but since the junta is made up of self-declared “good people”, we ought to trust them, I’m sure.

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At the risk of repeating myself, the fact of the matter is that without building a mass social movement to overthrow the military, the terrible state of Thai politics will continue. Remember that the middle-classes and the conservatives are totally responsible for this state of affairs and the NGOs also played their part in the destruction of democracy.

As 2016 changes to 2017, spare a thought for Thailand’s lèse-majesté political prisoners, especially Somyot Pruksakasemsuk.

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Should you go on holiday to Thailand?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The image of foreign tourists lounging on the beautiful beaches of Thailand, oblivious to the present reality of the state of Thai politics and society, with its military dictatorship, suppression of free speech and its political prisoners and exiles, is extremely distasteful. It is perhaps only less distasteful when compared to the appalling image well-off Western tourists enjoying their holiday in Haiti while the local population were ravaged by an earthquake and a cholera epidemic with no clean water or medical facilities.

To be honest, I fail to understand people who travel to another country for a holiday, or for any other reason, without attempting a basic understanding of the state of society in those countries in order to act in a sensitive manner.

But this short article is not really aimed at those idiots who go through life prioritising their own happiness, oblivious to what is going on around them.

Nor is this short article about “safety” issues in travelling to Thailand, where the notoriously inefficient and corrupt police not only fail to deal with crimes against tourists, but are may be even involved in the crimes themselves by colluding with the various mafias that control holiday resorts. And of course, the military who now control the police are no better. [See http://bit.ly/1WjMcfF ]

The issue about whether politically progressive and conscious people should visit Thailand is complicated. I am not really an advocate of individual boycotts which do not work. Collective action is so much more effective. Academics taking a collective decision to boycotting meetings in Thailand would be very useful, but most academics are not politically progressive and conscious people. They are more concerned with their ability to carry out research in Thailand, which means bowing to the diktats of the regime.

I myself have in the past holidayed in Vietnam, Lao and Cambodia, all of which were and still are dictatorships with political prisoners and a lack of freedom. I never travelled to Burma because at the time the leader of the pro-democracy opposition asked tourists not to come, especially because the generals were creaming off the profits from the tourist industry. Yet this same former opposition figure is now a supporter of oppression against the Rohingya.

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If you must take a trip for a holiday in Thailand, you should make a serious attempt to educate yourself about what is going on in the country right now. You should understand the present royalist hype without falling into the trap of seeing all Thais as king-lovers. You should understand the repression and be aware of the lèse-majesté prisoners locked up in appalling Thai jails. You should be aware of the lack of justice, the state of prisons and the lèse-majesté law itself. [See http://bit.ly/298T4ZU ]

You should not on any account take part in any nonsense king-related activities or spare an ounce of respect for the royalism of some Thais. You might prudently keep your head down over such matters so as not to be prosecuted or hounded by violent royalist mobs.

You should be aware that the mainstream media in English is totally under the thumb of the military junta.

You should be aware that Thailand and many Thais are very racist due to ruling class socialisation. People from neighbouring countries suffer most from this racism and oppression and you will probably be served food or drinks by oppressed migrant workers earning less than the minimum wage. The daily minimum wage in Thailand is 300 baht. Please compare that with your daily expenditure while you are on holiday. [See http://bit.ly/1JaeTJY ]

You should be aware that Thailand is a very unequal society, with a huge gap between rich and poor. This is not just economic, but also social. People of lower status are referred to in derogatory terms, use different words to describe their “superiors” and often have to grovel on the ground in front of those with more power.

Finally you should know that Thai women do not have the right to choose legal and safe abortion and therefore control their bodies. This is enforced in the name of Buddhism, while this same official interpretation of Buddhism condones military violence. Thai women also have to refer to themselves as “little mouse” to show that they are inferior to men. [See http://bit.ly/2hivBxz ]

Whether you chose to holiday in Thailand is your decision. But please don’t tell us exiles about your holiday because it causes us pain as we can never go back to Thailand.

Thailand is a grossly unequal society

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

A recent report by Credit Suisse showed that the top 1% of Thais owned 60% of the nation’s wealth. This should come as no surprise to anyone. When challenged about this, the Dictator Prayut only managed a pathetically feeble excuse, saying that it would be “very hard” to do anything about this “because people don’t trust the state”. Well, it might be true that people don’t trust the dictatorship, but that is hardly a reason for the gross inequality in Thailand. In fact, if there was a popular uprising against the dictatorship and the state, it would do much to help eradicate inequality.

Thai-Rut newspaper cartoonist, "Sia", drew this to expose inequality. In the past he has been summonsed to an "attitude" changing session by the junta.
Thai-Rut newspaper cartoonist, “Sia”, drew this to expose inequality. In the past he has been summonsed to an “attitude” changing session by the junta.

The causes of Thailand’s inequality lie with the lack of democracy, the domination of the military, the extreme ideology of the monarchy and the fact that there is a serious lack of a strong labour movement with its own political party.

Despite the fact that Thailand’s GDP is 40 times smaller than that of the USA, Thailand has 3 billionaires who are among the world’s richest 85 people in the world. They are the monarchy, which is the 8th richest monarchy in the world with $44.24 billion, Dhanin Chearavanont, 58th richest man in the world with $12.6 billion and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, 82nd richest man in the world with $10.6 billion. Taksin Shinawat is the 882nd richest man in the world and the 7th richest Thai with $ 1.7 billion. At the same time, most ordinary workers in the private sector earn a minimum wage of 300 baht per day ($9.3) and migrant workers and workers in the agricultural sector earn even less.

Generalissimo Prayut’s official salary is ten times that of a qualified nurse and 16 times what ordinary workers earn. But of course that does not include all the shadowy earnings and multiple positions that many top generals enjoy, which far exceed their official salaries.

The rich, from the monarchy downwards, pay little or no tax. The majority of the tax burden being placed upon ordinary working people and the poor. Eighty percent of government tax from Thai citizens is collected in the form of regressive Value Added Tax and taxes on petrol, alcohol, cigarettes and vehicles. Only 19% is collected from income tax, which the rich avoid anyway. It has long been this way with ordinary people being forced to keep the elites in their luxurious life styles through exploitation of labour and collection of taxes. The rich are parasitic blood-suckers.

Abolition of the monarchy, down-sizing the military and introducing progressive taxation on the rich would go far towards redressing inequality.

Diamond-studded "Santa" outfit for one of the Princess' dogs.
Diamond-studded “Santa” outfit for one of the Princess’ dogs.

Thailand has no welfare state. There is no universal unemployment benefit and most elderly people do not have real pensions. Yet billions are spent on the already over-rich monarchy and the bloated military. A Welfare State was proposed by the leftist revolutionary leader Pridi Panomyong just after the anti-monarchy revolution in 1932, but it was successfully and vigorously opposed by the conservative ruling class, including the monarch, Rama 7th. Pumipon was also very much against a welfare state, instead proposing the reactionary “Sufficiency Economy” ideology. In this ideology, the richest man in Thailand claimed that the poor needed to “learn” to live within their means.

The “Sufficiency Economy” dogma was enthusiastically taken up by the rest of the ruling class, especially the military dictatorships of 2006 and Prayut’s present dictatorship. As an extreme neo-liberal ideology, it fitted well with free-market beliefs and both the worship of the free-market and the “Sufficiency Economy” were written into various military sponsored constitutions, binding future governments to anti-poor policies. The yellow-shirted middle-classes loved this because they had long derided Taksin Shinawat’s Universal Health Care scheme and his weak attempts to improve the standard of living for ordinary people. The present junta are threatening to introduce “co-payments” into the healthcare scheme and have devolved the minimum wage rate in order to keep wages low. They have also tried to prosecute former Prime Minister Yingluk for her government’s rice price support scheme which helped farmers. Of course Taksin was no socialist, he tried to avoid tax, and was also committed to the free-market, although he also favoured grass-roots Keynesianism by which the state intervened to help the poor. These policies were denounced by yellow-shirted academics as “populist vote-buying”. It would be “better” for the country if the poor, who make up the majority of the population, just starved or lived short and bitter lives.

What was shocking was the way in which many NGOs lapped up the “Sufficiency Economy” ideology because of their anarchistic rejection of state welfare. Academics like Chris Baker also praised it.

Welfare states are built through the struggle of social movements, especially the trade unions. Unfortunately, a combination of Maoist rejection of the working class by Thai left-wing radicals in the past, a patronising attitude to unions by the NGOs today, and ruling class repression, has meant that both the left and the unions remain too weak. This a problem which needs to be urgently addressed if we are to build a more equal society.

Abolition of the monarchy would not only save millions of baht, which could be put to better use, it would also end the obscene crawling on the ground in front of “big shots” and would be a political and ideological blow against inequality.

The stupidity of Royal Language in Thailand

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

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In Thailand a special “Royal Language” is enforced when writing or talking about members of the royal family. The vocabulary in this royal language comes from Sanskrit via Cambodia. It applies to verbs used to describe the various actions of the royals, nouns for parts of their bodies and also their belongings. Not only this, the royals can never be called by their names but must be referred to by long strung-out titles which describe how ordinary people are lower than the dust beneath their feet.

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The new King-name of the odious Wachralongkorn is a good example. It is: “SomdetPrajaoYuHuaMahaWachiralongkornBdintornTepyawaRangkun” which means “His Majesty, God Above Us ,The Great Wachiralongkorn, Succeeding in all Future Endeavours, Descended from Angels.” And this is the name of the guy who failed his education and abuses women!!

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The sight of the dysfunctional and awful members of the royal family being described in such complicated terms, inherited from Cambodia, is farcical in itself because most royalist despise Cambodians. However the prolonged illness of king Pumipon before his timely death added to this farce.

Official declarations from the Palace about the king’s health were peppered with royal language describing his fevers, his lungs, his breathing, his kidneys, his urine, his blood, his head etc. Doctors were described as “offering” treatment in terms similar to offerings made to the gods. The words used were so complicated and unknown to the vast majority of Thais that each sentence had to carry translations into Thai in brackets behind each royal word. Otherwise we would not have understood any of the health bulletins.

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In one of the final bulletins, they even started to use English. The term “Continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT)”, which the king was receiving, was described only in English. This might have been because they hadn’t had time to think up the royal terminology for such treatment or it could be that they wanted most Thais, who do not understand English, not to understand that Pumipon had serious kidney dysfunction, was critically ill, and about to die.

Pumipon took up an entire floor at an important state hospital in Bangkok. They even seemed to allow his dog to enter the hospital, but no doubt it only carried special and harmless royal germs.

Another aspect of the use of royal language in Thailand is that it is applied to foreign royals like the parasites in the UK and even the Pope. This is in spite of the fact that royal language is never used in the West.

All this is designed to ram it down our throats that the royals are super-humans with a higher status than us mortals. It is designed to try to ensure that we accept that there is a “natural order” in society. For those tempted to ignore this, there is the despicable lèse-majesté law used to enforce “respect” for the royals and also to protect the military and conservative elites and even the king’s dog.

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Lèse-majesté is the oppressive law used to jail most political prisoners in Thailand today and many Thai exiles abroad, including myself, are living outside Thailand because of this law.

Forward to a truly democratic republic!!

Further reading: http://bit.ly/2cHdvPQ , http://bit.ly/1IcAlO9 , http://bit.ly/1pUMYo5

The struggle for a Thai democratic republic continues

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The appointment of the odious Wachiralongkorn as Thailand’s new king is a public declaration by the Thai ruling class and the military dictatorship that the abuse of women is something to be celebrated. Once again the monarchy is a stain on Thailand’s reputation. See http://bit.ly/1vQ1War

Back in 2009, I wrote a short article about what would happen when Pumipon eventually died. It is worth a brief revisit…

I wrote that “when Pumipon dies, the army and the conservative elites will hold a gigantic and very expensive funeral for him. Resources which ought to go to building welfare and raising wages will be used for this. Extensions of other King activities could take the whole thing to ten years! Pictures of the King will increase even more”.

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The reason for the huge funeral events, before and after the actual cremation, is in order to shift the propaganda machine into an even higher gear. The conservative elites are desperately trying to promote and re-promote the ideology of the monarchy. Anyone who opposes the military, or the authoritarian elites and anyone who campaigns for democracy, is being accused of lèse-majesté and of trying to “overthrow Pumipon”. The fact that he is dead is of little consequence. He is the symbol of the monarchy.

The junta is using lèse-majesté against people who share the BBC Thai biography of Wachiralongkorn. For the dictatorship truth about the monarchy is a threat. Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery.

Right now, the extremely unpopular and disrespected Crown Prince is being shifted on to the Throne. He will be under the larger than life picture of Pumipon. We will never be able to forget Pumipon and his so-called “wonderful works”. Extra-long King’s anthems, with Pumipon’s pictures, are being played in cinemas and Pumipon’s birthday on 5th December will still remain a public holiday. We will see the Crown Prince, but the words “Pumipon” will be blaring out from real and virtual loud speakers.

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After Pumipon, the powerful military remains. The uniforms, tanks and guns have not disappeared. The raw and repressive power of the conservative elites rests with the army. But the generals and the extreme royalist middle-classes are uneasy because their sole former source of legitimacy for their destruction of democracy has died. That is why they will extend the “Pumipon activities” for as long as possible. This will include ceremonies to refer to him as the “Great King” (Maharaj) and the building of more ugly monuments.

If it was true that Pumipon “united and held the country together, creating peace”, as trashy Western journalists love to claim, then Thailand would now be descending into violent chaos. This is not happening. The military and the conservative elites are still in power. What is more, under Pumipon Thailand has been in political crisis since 2006 and it was in chaos in the mid-1970s. Pumipon was the opposite of a unifier or a creator of peace and happiness. The only thing he did in his role as monarch was to try to create stability for the military and the conservatives.

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After Pumipon, the generals now pretend to go to the palace and “receive orders” from the new king, or even claim that he is approving their actions from his huge villa in Germany. Occasionally, when it is some minor and rather silly issue, the generals will follow the Wachiralongkorn’s requests just to keep him happy and compliant. But on all important matters of policy, they will be merely informing him of their decisions.

The picture below illustrates the military’s gigantic play acting involved in using Wachiralongkorn for their own purposes. The generals crawl on the ground to create the myth that the king is all powerful. Then they do what they want in his name and repress anyone who doesn’t knuckle-under.

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If the Crown Prince is hated and despised by many Thais, why has the military promoted him to be the next King? If Pumipon was all powerful, why did he not appoint his favourite child, the Princess, as his heir to the Throne? The answer is that Pumipon was too cowardly to decide anything. The military appointed the Crown Prince because their false claim that the monarchy is steeped in “ancient tradition” would collapse by any deviation from such an appointment. The Princes is unmarried by life-style choice and has no heir. Not only that, changing the succession, because the Prince was unsuitable, would mean that the monarchy could always be changed and even be abolished.

Unfortunately Taksin has sown idiotic illusions among many Red Shirts that Wachiralongkorn will be a liberal monarch. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that Wachiralongkorn will be liberal about is helping himself to our money so that he can enjoy himself.

After Pumipon, the work of those who want a republic will not be made easier. The King’s death will provide opportunities and dangers. We have seen that the royalists have become more desperate and dangerous. But the legitimacy of the junta and its supporters can be attacked. Democracy does not fall from a branch like a ripe fruit. We have to organise to reach up and pick it and at the same time, reach up and pull down the conservative elites and their entire authoritarian system.

Thai politics