Why is there no “power vacuum” in Thailand?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

For years many Thai and Western commentators incorrectly claimed that King Pumipon was a powerful monarch who controlled the military, the judiciary and the civil service. If this were true, then there would be a serious power vacuum in the country today, months after the king’s death.

The fact of the matter is that no such power vacuum exists.

This important fact should be a wake-up call for academics and commentators to reassess their flawed analyses. Yet there has been total silence from those who once claimed that Pumipon was an all-powerful monarch.

Why is there no power vacuum today in Thailand?

It cannot be that Pumipon is still controlling things from the grave!!

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No one with any intellect would try to explain it by saying that Wachiralongkorn had stepped in as the new King and was now exercising power instead of his dead father. As a clueless playboy, Wachralongkorn has the unenviable task of trying to behave in a regal manner. He was put on the throne by the military and conservative elites and he is totally beholden to them in every way, just as his father before him was beholden to them.

Of course the powerful elites have to throw Wachiralongkorn a few expensive bones to keep him sweet, including pandering to his vicious and demented whims, when it does not affect their power, and also giving him an enormous amount of wealth which was originally created by poverty stricken working people.

One of his whims is to spend most of his time outside Thailand, in his palace in Munich. This is what lies behind his demand to change the junta’s constitution so that he has flexibility in appointing others to sign laws on his behalf (or not) while he has a fun time abroad. Yet some misguided folk try to paint this as “royal meddling in politics”. The truth is that demanding to amend the military’s awful and authoritarian constitution to suit his personal lifestyle, is of little overall significance to the present state of democracy. It merely reflects the fact that he cannot be bothered with the tedious ceremonial duties of kingship and doesn’t want to live in Thailand. He wants the Crown, but not the job.

In some ways, the intermittent “exile” of Wachiralongkorn may be a good thing for the military and the elites. He can be out of the lime light when he lives abroad, causing less scandal, while the military can keep on using the monarchy for their  own legitimacy.

To understand why there is no power vacuum in Thailand today, we have to understand the nature of the Thai ruling class and the source of its power.

Power at the top of society comes in two major forms: naked coercion and ideological legitimisation. Examples of naked coercion are the actions of the ruling class’ security forces. In Thailand this has included gunning down pro-democracy activists in the streets, numerous military coups and the use of the courts, the lèse majesté law, and the prison system to muzzle dissidents.

The Thai ruling class is a poisonous and vicious patron client network which draws in new recruits to its “elite feeding trough”, where fortunes are to be made at the expense of the hard-working poor. During Pumipon’s life, this vast parasitic organism maintained its legitimacy by creating a false image of the King as an all-powerful god and benefactor to “his people”.

The high profile ideological status of the King started from his systematic promotion by the military dictator Sarit Tanarat. Therefore the increasing importance of the monarchy after its initial overthrow in the 1932 revolution was closely connected to the need have an ideology to counter Communism in order to protect the status quo.

The use of “Nation, Religion and King” as a conservative ideology, where the King symbolised the “heart of the nation”, the head of religion and the embodiment of “all that is Thai”, has remained central to Thai ruling class ideology to this day. Socialisation of the population using this ideology is an attempt to create a population loyal to the generals, the top officials and the rich. Gross inequality is an integral part of this ideology.

The Thai ruling class, which is made up of the army, the capitalists and high-ranking officials, are a modern ruling class: conservative, anti-democratic and barbaric. It is not the King who is in charge of this bunch of thugs. It is they who use the symbolic role of the King to protect their interests. Therefore army generals, politicians, businessmen and privy councillors prostrate themselves on the ground and pay homage to the monarchy in order to protect the vital false images which underpin their ideology. Many have mistaken this play act as a sign of royal power. But this is only a shallow analysis.

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There is no power vacuum today because the ruling class, especially the generals, have not lost their naked power of coercion in any way. In fact the demobilisation of opposition to the dictatorship by the Red Shirt leadership has only strengthened the power of the junta. In addition to this, the ruling class are still coasting along, using up the reserves of their royalist ideology left over from Pumipon’s time. However, at some point they will have to recharge their legitimising ideology. How they actually achieve this will be an important question on their minds given the real nature of the new king. For now they are hoping that fixing the political system into a 20-year straight jacket will ensure that their interests are protected.

The Dictatorship’s so-called reconciliation is a sham

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The Prayut Dictatorship’s so-called reconciliation is just a sham. It is merely an attempt at forcing the pro-democracy side to concede to a form of long term “Guided Democracy” at gun point.

The various pompous generals have been lying once again, claiming that the military is a “neutral party” in the political crisis and that it can therefore act as an unbiased referee for reconciliation.

Yet, how can the military be neutral when it was the very institution that overthrew the elected Taksin government in 2006?

How can the military be neutral when it deliberately stood by, doing nothing, and allowed the yellow shirts to take over government house and the international airports?

How can the military be neutral when it organised the unelected Abhisit Government from a military camp and imposed him on the Thai people as their Prime Minister? Abhisit’s party, the Democrats, have never won an overall majority in any Thai election.

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How can the military be neutral when it deliberately used snipers and tanks to shoot unarmed pro-democracy red shirts who were demanding elections in 2010?

How can Prayut’s military be neutral when he urged people not to vote for Yingluk’s Pua Thai Party in the 2011 elections?

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How can the military be neutral when they deliberately did absolutely nothing to protect the 2014 elections from Democrat Party mobsters, some led by the fascist monk “Isara”, who is close to Generalissimo Prayut? There was no attempt by the military to defend the democratic process or the rule of law. Prayut was just waiting for an excuse to stage a coup.

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How can the military be neutral when the current dictatorship is using the lèse-majesté law against opponents of the military junta in order to jail pro-democracy activists? How can it be neutral if it hauled large numbers of pro-democracy activists into military camps for “attitude-changing” sessions so that they would stop opposing the military? Arrests and harassment of those who believe in democracy continues to this day.

How can the Thai military ever be neural when it has a long history of destroying democracy and engaging in corrupt practices over the last 70 years?

The true cause of the Thai political crisis is not the fault of “bad politicians” as the military likes to claim. It is because the military, the conservative elites and the reactionary middle-classes, including the NGOs, failed to respect election results and viewed ordinary citizens with contempt, claiming that they were “too ignorant to deserve the right to vote”.

Whatever we might think of them, Takisin’s parties won at election times over and over again because they were genuinely popular with the electorate for very logical reasons. The universal health care scheme was one such reason. This is why the current shower of anti-reformists, appointed by the junta, are busy crafting a “Guided Democracy” system where the views of the military and the conservatives will be more powerful than the will of the people. This is enshrined in the junta’s awful 20 year political strategy and road map.

So talk of “reconciliation” by the military is merely forced capitulation to the junta’s plans so that they can hold sham elections.

But what would genuine reconciliation for peace and democracy look like?

  1. The military would remove itself from politics and all the generals who have been involved in military coups would resign from the ranks, retire, and promise never to engage in politics. The military budget would be slashed and the various sections of the armed forces placed under genuine democratic civilian control.
  2. The Democrat Party and various anti-democratic mobsters would have to agree to abide by the results of all democratic elections.
  3. The military constitution would be scrapped and fresh democratic elections would be held under the 1997 constitution until that constitution can be improved at a later date. An electoral commission would be chosen from a balance of representatives of various political groups. Foreign observers might be necessary to ensure clean elections.
  4. All political prisoners would be released and political trials stopped. Authoritarian laws such as lèse-majesté and the military’s various censorship laws would be abolished.

Of course this is just a pipe-dream so long as a vigorous pro-democracy social movement is not present to force through such a democratic conciliation process.

 

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.

Thailand is run by barbarians in uniform

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

As some prisoners are released under a traditional amnesty on the occasion of Thailand having a new king, the jails continue to fill up with political prisoners.

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Latest victim is Jatupat Boonpatraksa, better known as “Pai Dao Din”. Naturally Pai is merely “guilty” of opposing the blood-stained Generalissimo Prayut and his junta. A well-known student activist and member of the “Dao Din” student group from the north-east, Pai has long been a thorn in the side of the soldiers who destroyed democracy and who are now busy helping themselves to wealth and more power. The Dao Din group joined up with the New Democracy Movement student group from Bangkok to protest against the junta and its new authoritarian constitution. These students also highlighted military corruption.

The barbarians in uniform have been out to get Pai for a while. The opportunity came when the BBC Thai language website posted a truthful biography of the new king Wachiralongkorn. When Pai “shared” this post on social media he was selected for the special treatment: a lèse-majesté charge. Others sharing this post have not been charged and anyway, Thai citizens have a right to know about the man who has been forced upon them as the new king by the military. Ironically most politically conscious Thais already know that Wachiralongkorn is an unintelligent play-boy thug.

Pai’s hearings in court were held in secret and he has been repeatedly denied bail even to sit his final examinations, which could deny him his university degree. Added to this is the disgusting anal searches that he has to endure “because he might smuggle drugs into prison”. It all amounts to gross bullying, victimisation and a total lack of justice.

Three thousand six hundred people signed a petition for Pai’s release and groups of activists have made solidarity visits to the prison. The authorities tried unsuccessfully to sabotage their train journey. Unfortunately we are yet to see the building of a mass social movement that can actually force the junta from power and release the political prisoners.

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When a group of activists lit candles outside the court to call for Pai’s release on bail, a junta flunkey Seup-pong Sipongkun, Spokesman for the Courts, warned the young activists that they were “in contempt of court”. So the junta’s crack-down on freedom of speech includes banning any comment about Thailand’s contemptable kangaroo courts!

Of course, Pai should not just be released on bail. The false charges against him and all the other political prisoners, such as Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and those whose names are not well-known by the public, should be dropped. Somyot sent Pai an open letter from prison to boost Pai’s morale.

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Meanwhile the leadership of the UDD, or what was known as the Red Shirts, have been sentenced to jail terms for various non-offences including leading a peaceful protest outside Privy Councillor General Prem’s house ten years ago! Not only is there a lack of justice in Thailand, but the wheels of injustice move at a snail’s pace. Of course, none of the whistle blowing and airport blocking yellow shirts are in jail. Nor is Prayut’s favourite fascist monk, who disrupted the last elections, in jail either.

Generalissimo Prayut has stated that so-called “reconciliation” should take place without the release of prisoners. Yet, the existence of political prisoners is a mark of a barbaric and uncivilised society. Prayut’s rants are known for being stupid and erratic, more so even than those of Donald Trump. It’s almost as if he is on hallucinating drugs. In a recent rant he said that he believed that the Thai language could become the international language of the world as Thailand became a super power. Perhaps he was dreaming of being the dictator of the world!!

Reports from across the border in Burma indicate that Aung San Suu Kyi’s government is also keeping up the pace of jailing political prisoners who dare to criticise her political team and her close friends, the barbaric generals. Social media in Burma faces restrictive laws just like Thailand. It is good to see the two despotic regimes working in harmony after centuries of warfare between the two countries!

Just to add to the barbarity, the “hang-em and flog-em” brigade in Thailand are calling for the death penalty for politicians who cause serious loss to the treasury through corruption. Naturally the corrupt generals who forced their way into power at gun-point and then set themselves, their friends and relatives up in multiple lucrative state jobs, will continue to enjoy impunity. So will those generals and royals who squander state money on weapons, tanks and lavish life styles.

The country is being ruled by barbarians.

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.

Thai politics