“Nation, Religion and Monarchy” is a constant source of violence

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The images of mob violence carried out by fanatical royalists after the Thai king’s death is a stark reminder that the ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” is a constant source of violence in Thai society. This is why calls for peace and understanding are likely to fall on deaf ears.

In historical terms it comes as no surprise that the institution of the monarchy has always been associated with violence. In the feudal “Sakdina” period, forced labour and the trade in products of forced labour, was the source of wealth for the monarchy. Many ordinary people tried to escape this violent coercion by moving into rural areas far away from kings and their soldiers. Naturally, the process of becoming a king was little different from the process of becoming top boss in a criminal gang. It relied on naked violence. Frequently big men fought it out to take the throne, even in the early Bangkok period.

Even when the Sakdina system was no longer sustainable and the Absolute Monarchy came into being under king Chulalongkorn, violence was at the heart of the new royal dictatorship and it was used to suppress those who wanted to seek political self-determination, such as those in the north-east or Patani.

After the 1932 anti-monarchy revolution, the ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” was redefined and modernised in the 1950s for use in the Cold War by the dictator Field Marshal Sarit, who used military violence to take power. Sarit was a brutal and corrupt ruler who promoted and used the monarchy for his own ends. The monarchy became a symbol of the collective conservative Thai ruling class.

Sarit executed socialists like teacher Krong Jundawan without any trial. This was justified by saying that it was necessary for national security and to protect “Nation, Religion and Monarchy”.

After the 14th October 1973, when Sarit’s protégés killed pro-democracy students in the streets to try and maintain power, the king had to step in to protect “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” from the rapidly radicalising movement of students and workers. The royal family, top military generals and conservative politicians cultivated fanatical royalist mobs and para-military police who eventually attacked students and workers at Thammasart University on 6th October 1976. People were hung from trees, shot and beaten to death. The justification was that these were leftists bent on insulting and overthrowing the monarchy. “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” were saved through a bloodbath against unarmed civilians.


In more modern times the ideological slogan of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” has had a fourth word reluctantly added, almost as an afterthought. We now see the slogans “Nation, Religion, Monarchy and the People” as a backdrop to military press conferences.


The royals have always been photographed in military uniform, often holding guns and even the females like the queen have used the language of violence. A few years ago she was quoted as saying that she wished she could just pick up a gun to fight Patani dissidents.



Today during the imposed mourning period for the king, a mixture of violence and socialisation are being used to enforce a public expression of royalism. Howling mobs of fanatical royalist attack anyone believed to be anti-royalist and this has the backing from the general who runs the so-called ministry of justice. Those in power today got where they are now through the barrel of the gun and seek to maintain power to protect the monarchy using all sorts of violence, including the lèse-majesté law. Victims of royalist mob violence are arrested and charged under this draconian law. The use of the law is an act of violence against thought and body. It is there to prevent free thinking and to lock up dissidents.

Lèse-majesté cases mushroom under military regimes, both the present one and the previous Abhisit led government which was controlled by the military.

We need to build a counter ideology which opposes nationalism, fanatical Buddhism and royalism in order to reduce state-sponsored violence in Thai society. That involves building a strong social movement opposed to military rule.

Military Junta exploits of King’s passing could backfire in Patani

  • By Adam John

    The Military Junta should be careful how it reacts to the passing of King Pumipon. Emotions are high right now in Thailand which the military will no doubt aim to exploit to consolidate its political power over the country.

    In fact, the Military Junta has already taken steps to intensify its attack on freedom of expression by demanding all internet service providers (ISPs) to spy on its users and report any ”inappropriate content”. Prachatai English reported that the secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBCT) has threatened to persecute ISPs which do not comply with this order and even international social media giants Facebook and Twitter are expected to get in line.

    The Junta’s actions mean that it has decided to continue its disregard of the international community’s concern over the right to freedom of opinion and expression and calls for the repeal of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) which was voiced during Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 11th  2016.

    Arbitrary arrests were another major concern raised during Thailand’s UPR. Last week on October 12th  2016, police and military personnel arrested 44 Patani Malay students in Bangkok under the guise of national security yet no evidence has been presented against the detained students, apart from suspected bomb making material which turned out to be Budu – a fermented fish sauce – used for making a popular breakfast dish in Patani called Nasi Kerabu. Futhermore, it was reported that the State officials who arrested the students did not even know the names of all of the people they arrested and the police refuse to say where some of the detained Patani youth are being held.

    The Military Junta will likely use recent events to silence remaining dissidents but if it decides to further exploit the current mood of the nation to suppress and mistreat Patani Malay activists, the Patani Liberation Movement will likely look to exploit State abuses for their own political advantages including drawing more support from the Patani Malay population.

    The conflict in the contested Patani/Deep South region of Thailand clearly escalated after human rights abuses and extrajudical killings committed by State officials which occurred in Tak Bai in Narathiwat province on October 25th 2004 when 85 demonstrators died. Many of the civilians who were arrested and beaten by the military and police at the demonstration in Tak Bai ended up joining the Liberation Movement and some even became high ranking commanders.

    The Military Junta would be wise not to make the same mistakes of former Thai governments if it wishes to avoid prolonging or even intensifying the conflict in Patani.

    Patani Malay student activists are planning to commemorate the 12th anniversary of Tak Bai on October 25th. After the recent arbitrary arrests of the students in Bangkok, many people will understandably be on edge. If the Military Junta decides to ban such peaceful initiatives like it did on International Peace Day last month in Patani, the response could be highly destructive for peace in the region and will only make violence seem like the only option to many for creating political change.


Ugly and dangerous royalist hysteria turning into witch-hunts

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The death of the Thai king and the atmosphere of repression under the military junta has unleashed an ugly and dangerous royalist hysteria which is rapidly becoming a witch hunt against those who believe in democracy and equality. Anyone not wearing black in the streets or anyone rumoured to have supposedly “insulted” the king is being persecuted and threatened with violence while the authorities look on approvingly. The general in charge of the ministry of “justice” has even approved of mobs bullying dissidents.

The military and police have been taking advantage of the situation and arresting any dissidents who have been accused of insulting the king by the fantatics. No hard evidence is necessary. One such person was arrested after police “found” a single methamphetamine pill.

There were three cases of angry mobs attacking people in various southern provinces only days after the death of the king. These are areas where Sutep and his Democrat Party mobs drew support for their anti-election rampage through Bangkok in 2014. Many of these thugs may now be engaging in the royalist witch-hunts.

Mob of fanatical royalists
Mob of fanatical royalists



On the tourist island of Koh Samui, a howling crowd of 500 fanatical royalists forced a young woman to grovel in front of a picture of the king and ask for forgiveness at a local police station for apparently “insulting” the king. The police clearly sided with the crowd.

An elderly woman was slapped in the face in front of police for apparently “insulting the monarchy”…

There have been numerous threats to people on social media for not changing their profiles to black and white.

Riantong Nanan
Riantong Nanan
Riantong as part of a fascist-type mob organised to disrupt elections
Riantong as part of a fascist-type mob organised to disrupt elections

Self-appointed “Witch-Hunter General”, Major General Riantong Nanan, director of Monkutwatana Hospital, has incited people to “deal” with Aum Neko, exiled trans-gender prodemocracy activist, who has been given asylum in France. He also threatened to do her harm himself.

Aum Neko
Aum Neko

A fanatical royalist also posted on her face book that someone should “deal” with me in England as a result of my call for a republic.

Fanatical royalist threatening me
Fanatical royalist threatening me

It reminds many of us of the kind of atmosphere created around the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasart University.

Why aren't you wearing black?
Why aren’t you wearing black?

But what it exposes more than anything is that love and respect for the Thai monarchy is hardly voluntary or natural in the case of millions of people. It exposes that the royalists are really frightened of a possible republican mood in the country after the death of Pumipon.

Let us hope that their fears are justified!!


Thailand should be a republic

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The military and the monarchy are so tightly wrapped around each other, like two venomous snakes, that it is necessary to abolish the monarchy as part of the struggle against the military dictatorship.

The Thai military claim that its main reason to exist is to protect the monarchy. But it is the ideology of the monarchy, and all the repression that accompanies this ideology, that props up authoritarian and corrupt military regimes, both past and present.

This is a major reason why we need to fight for a republic. But the actions of key members of the royal family are another reason.


The future king, Wachiralongkorn, is a vicious, sexist, thug. He is a man who totally disrespects women and doesn’t care if we all know it. He is also well known for inappropriate behaviour at public functions. For example, allowing his pet dog to run up and down the high table, spreading germs at official dinners, where it licked the plates of foreign guests and lapped water from their glasses.

His dead father preached the “Sufficiency Economics” ideology, pretending to be frugal, when in fact he was the richest monarch in the world. King Pumipon has never lifted a finger to defend democracy or criticise the military for killing pro-democracy citizens. This weak and cowardly king also loved his dogs more than his fellow Thais. (See my full obituary on this same site).


The Queen and her daughters have supported the middle-class mobsters who helped bring about two recent military coups. They are thoroughly reactionary.

These royal parasites are treading on thin ice. As the monarchy goes into a downward spiral, those in power become more manic and oppressive in their royalism. Lèse-majesté charges against opponents of the junta have sky-rocketed. Military courts are the order of the day and an authoritarian sham democracy is being crafted in order to hold “elections” in the future.

After the death of the king people are being witch-hunted on social media for not changing their profiles to black and white.

Ever since the barbaric military crack-downs in the 1970s, right up to the two recent military coups, the military has continuously sought to legitimise itself by using the monarchy. In attacking democracy during the present crisis, the royalists have continually insulted the “ignorant poor”, claiming that government policies to raise people out of poverty are somehow “corrupt”. These are the enemies of all decent working people.



Yet, Taksin and his fellow business elites are no different. They all promote the monarchy to serve their own interests. For all these members of the Thai ruling class, the monarchy is a symbol of the “natural order of things”, where some are born to rule and the rest are born to be exploited under capitalism.

The tension and division between those who are deeply fed up with the royals and their military allies and those who claim to adore the monarchy above their own lives, is rapidly deepening. The Thai monarchy is well past its sell-by date. Yet change is never automatic or inevitable. All of us who wish to see a free and equal society in this country must work hard to push forward to a democratic and socialist republic. This will take serious political organisation.

6th October: Why are Somsak, Jaran and Ji in political exile abroad?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Many events have been planned for the 40th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 blood-bath, and that is a good thing, especially because of the involvement of young people who are from a different generation. But the question which needs to be addressed today is: why is it that Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Jaran Ditapicha and Ji Ungpakorn are all now political exiles in Europe? All three academics have close links to the 6th October 1976 events.

To answer that question we need to explore the link between the military and the weak monarchy and how the military uses the monarchy to justify military coups and cold-blooded murder of unarmed civilians. We need to explore how to abolish Lèse-majesté. We need to discuss whether Thailand should be a republic. But most of all, we need to discuss how to build a mass movement to topple the current military junta.

Somehow I feel that none of these issues will be discussed at this year’s events.

Latest news concerning the 6th October commemoration is that Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong activist who was due to speak at the 6th October event in Thailand, was been refused entry to Thailand on the request of the Chinese dictatorial regime. He was detained at Bangkok airport and has been sent back to Hong Kong. This is another important issue that needs to be discussed.

On the 6th October 2000, the monument for the 6th October at Thammasart, which had been planned since 1996, was finally finished. Those attending the opening ceremony were in the majority ex-October generation. No high-up officials of the Thai state came, or were invited. The International was played as the monument was unveiled. One column in the Thai language daily Krungtep Turakit reported the ceremony under the headline “socialism will return”. It is clear that any revival of the Thai socialist and democratic tradition will have to confront the history of 6th October and all its legacies head-on. There is no real mystery concerning the event, although those who wish to cover-up the truth claim this. The main point that the Thai ruling class collectively resorted to violence and brutality in order to destroy the struggle for social justice and democracy is obvious to all who care to look. The ruling class have never changed their spots and this is important to discuss today. The killing of pro-democracy Red Shirts by General Prayut and the conservatives in 2010 proves this. The human rights abuses by Taksin before that only add to the evidence. Today we once again live under a corrupt and brutal military dictatorship headed by Prayut. The modern Left has to win the argument with significant sections of society that 1976 shows the real nature of those who control the capitalist system and continue to rule over us to this day. Two even greater tasks of winning the argument for socialism and democracy involve, firstly, learning the lessons from both the achievements and mistakes of the Communist Party of Thailand (C.P.T.), and secondly, the re-examination post-C.P.T. ideology and the much needed methods of struggle by mass social movements in order to overthrow the present dictatorship.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/2d1iZbj  and http://bit.ly/1qGYT9r

Thai junta behaving more and more like royalty

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Having bullied and threatened the population into accepting its authoritarian constitution, the Thai military is busy expanding its political influence in order to dominate political society in the decades to come.

Already, each area of government is dominated by military personnel, either directly or indirectly. Apart from dominating the cabinet, soldiers are in charge of administrating matters in the provinces, acting to suppressing dissidents, acting like police officers, supposedly “solving” local disputes, and overseeing development projects. The junta have also used its dictatorial powers to transfer various officials and replace them with pro-junta cronies.

The process involves much nepotism and corruption, both legal and illegal. It is a great time to be in the military. The opportunities for rich picking abound.


Added to this is the process of acting more and more like royalty and political celebrities. This process started some time ago with the egotistical General Prayut who gave himself supreme and unchecked powers. He also started to behave as though he himself was the king, with only a brief nod to the incapacitated invalid Pumipon.



Recent pictures from the north of Thailand show the wife of Prayut’s younger brother opening a small dam which she is supposed to have “graciously given” to the local people. Like royalty, she doesn’t seem to be able to walk herself and a large banner proclaims her generosity. Officials are seen fawning around her. It is a mini version of all the nonsense surrounding the King’s rural development works, and also shows an attempt to establish the military as a benefactor to the people. This would be useful in any future elections where the military might wish to set up its own political party.

Latest reports, however, indicate that this expensive dam has been washed away by heavy rain.

Water tanks for the peasants paid for out of public funds carrying the names of Prayut’s brother and his wife


Of course Prayut’s younger brother was promoted to a command position by the Generalissimo himself. Other relatives of top generals have also benefited from the destruction of democracy. Prayut’s nephew, the son of this same younger brother, is in charge of a company which has been involved in 11 government contracts worth 155,603,000 baht. Naturally, this and the various military coups were carried out with the aim of eradicating corruption and political bribes to the people by politicians.

Prayut greets long-lost relative
Prayut greets long-lost relative

On further consideration, the generals are not very dissimilar from the royals. They both share qualities of self-delusion, greed, the belief in their “devine right” to govern without ever being elected, and tendencies towards bullying mixed with stupidity.

Meanwhile the generals have just published their budget for 2017. The Ministry of Defence and Police get 312 billion baht while the
Ministry of Health gets less than half that amount at 126 billion baht. No mystery about their priorities here!

Thai Paris Debates: Gramsci and building political consensus

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

During the recent Paris seminar on Thai politics, held on the tenth anniversary of the 19th September military coup, there were many interesting debates. I shall comment on the discussion around consensus and divisions in Thai society.


Somsak Jeamteerasakul explained that in the 20 years up to the 2006 military coup, there was a “royalist” consensus or hegemony among the population, with little divisions in society. Yet since the 2006 coup, Thai society has been deeply divided. This, Somsak believes, is something that does not exist in Western democracies where he claims there is a democratic consensus.

This is obviously a broad view which ignores the continuous discontent among the Malay Muslims in Patani. But in my opinion what appeared as a “quiet period” with little political divisions among the Thai population was merely a shallow surface view. In every society there are divisions based on competing class interests. A brief look at Western Europe or the United States today reveals serious conflicts around the issues of austerity, defending the welfare state, labour rights, support or opposition to the European Union, the issue of war or the attitude to migrants and refugees. This has resulted in growing support for Socialists but also for the Fascists.

The supposed Thai consensus for 20 years before the 2006 coup was a result of economic growth but also the defeat of the Communist Party of Thailand and the weakening of political dissent. Even so, class struggle continued to bubble under the surface with strikes and protests by workers and small farmers.

The point to keep in mind here is that there is no real consensus in any capitalist society and periods of apparent class peace soon end in explosions of discontent. An important factor which ended the quiet period in Thailand was the 1997 economic crisis and the choices made in response to this by various political actors, especially Taksin and his Thai Rak Thai Party. [See http://bit.ly/2d9UUAu , http://bit.ly/2bSpoF2   or http://bit.ly/2cmZkAa  ]

Somsak is now trying to find a way to build political peace in Thai society by seeking a “democratic consensus” between red shirts, other pro-democracy activists, and the middle class. Remember that the middle class has a recent history of outright opposition to democracy and to associated measures which improve the economic status of workers and small farmers, which Taksin’s political parties tried to push forward.


Somsak, who I regard as a friend, seems to view Marxists like myself as figures of fun who are hopelessly deluded, but he also tries to legitimise his views by quoting Gramsci on the issue of hegemony.

Now this reminds me of the mis-use of Gramsci by the leaders of the Spanish left-wing party Podemos. They claim to be attempting to build political hegemony in Spanish society by moving beyond the concept of “Left” and “Right”. They also wish to ignore the issue of class and class struggle.

Yet Gramsci was a Marxist, who did not in anyway, believe that you could move beyond or ignore class struggle. His ideas about hegemony were about how to counter the prevailing ideas of the ruling capitalist class with ideas which were in the interests of workers and small farmers. This was with the aim of moving towards a socialist revolution. It was not about building cross-class unity.

Instead, Somsak wants to distort the ideas of Gramsci in order to achieve a compromise and political peace between the reactionary middle-classes and the workers and small farmers in Thailand. It would be a pseudo-peace based on giving up the ideals of equality, human rights and democracy. The explanation for Somsak’s views lies with his rejection of the possibility of building mass movements from below. He regards the red shirts as mere foot soldiers of Taksin and can see no way forward in terms of social movements.

Another pro-democracy activist, Rangsiman Rome, from the student NDM, also expressed a desire to “talk to the other side” in a recent BBC interview. Again, this arises from the rejection of a need to build mass social movements. [See  http://bit.ly/2dizkuE %5D and http://bit.ly/2a0A4TK   ]

Yet there is a real potential for building a new mass movement for democracy, independent of Taksin, out of the remnants of the redshirts, from the 10 million people who voted against the military’s constitution, and from the progressive students. This needs determined political and organisational work and also the creation of a left-wing political party. If such a movement became strong in the future it could pull many elements of the fractured middle-classes to support its agenda, rather than capitulating to the current reactionary agenda of the right-wing core of the middle-classes. In the past the Thai middle-classes have been pulled in the direction of supporting democracy or dictatorship, depending on the balance of class forces. This is the same for other countries. [See http://bit.ly/2aDzest ]

The sad fact that the pro-democracy movement is currently weak means that it is highly unlikely that Thai society is “waiting to explode”, as claimed by pro-democracy academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who also spoke at the Paris seminar.


Somsak and Pavin’s “top-down” view of society means that they believe in the political power of the king, which is something with which I disagree. I believe that the king is a puppet of the military. But for Somsak the king’s power comes from the fact that no one can criticise him while he does not necessarily have to give out obvious orders to the military. My answer to this is to say that God can also not be criticised in many societies, yet God, despite not existing in reality, can be used as a puppet by many ruling classes! [See http://bit.ly/2cBnidg ]

Finally, one further interesting point came out of Somsak’s talk about consensus and military coups. He pointed out that a number of military coups in the past have been directed against military governments by their rivals. In other words the military has been highly fractured. For me this is another nail in the coffin of the theory of a “Deep State” opposing Taksin. [See http://bit.ly/29H0FC9 ]

Thai politics