Not even an attempt to hide the lack of democracy

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

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Generalissimo Prayut’s dictatorship continues without any attempt to hide the lack of democracy after the sham elections in March.

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Pig-face Prawit

The line-up of government ministers is the same as during the period after Prayut’s coup in 2014. The current parliamentary dictatorship merely brought in a handful of unprincipled anti-democratic politicians to act as decoration for the government. Apart from Prayut, the corrupt General “Pig-Face” Prawit is still in charge.

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Ja New

Following the recent brutal attack on the pro-democracy activist Sirawit Seritiwat or “Ja New”, Pig-Face Prawit and the chief of police made the outrageous statement that Ja New would only receive police protection if he ceased his pro-democracy political activities!

The only thing we can conclude from this is that the military organised the gangsters who attacked Ja New as a warning to opposition activists to cease their activities or face violence.

Academics and activists who have raised the issue of this violence have received visits from soldiers.

Rather than trying to catch those who attacked Ja New, the police have concentrated on tracking down people who implied on social media that the authorities were involved in the outrage.

Meanwhile Generalissimo Prayut continues to rule by decree, using article 44 of the military constitution. He seems to see no real difference between his military government, with its appointed parliament after the coup, and the present parliamentary dictatorship, and he is right.

Prayut’s parliamentary dictatorship has retained the power of the military to detain pro-democracy citizens in military camps, without charge, for infamous “attitude changing sessions” [See  https://bit.ly/30ycYc1 ].

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village land rights activist jailed

More social inequality is being perpetuated with poor villagers being thrown off their land to make way for so-called national forest parks, and then receiving draconian jail sentences, when they try to reclaim their land. Meanwhile the rich and powerful can break the law with impunity.

The General Secretary of the junta’s Palang Pracharut Party, has announced that the rise in the minimum wage that the junta party advertised in their manifesto before the election will not now take place. The supposed reason is that Thai workers are lacking in skills!

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Chatumongol Sonakul with best friend

The new Minister of Labour is reactionary aristocrat Chatumongol Sonakul, who is a member of Sutep’s whistle-blowing anti-democrats. As a former Governor of the Bank of Thailand, appointed by the Democrat Party, when they bailed out the rich at the expense of the poor after the economic crisis, he opposed Taksin’s measures to stimulate the economy and was replaced. He is clearly an extreme neo-liberal.

Both the above examples show that dictatorship is designed to reduce the democratic space and justice on a class base. Dictatorship and military coups are good for the rich and the business class. Dictatorship facilitates the use of neo-liberal, free-market policies against the interests of the poor.

As I have previously stated, it will take more than verbal opposition in parliament to get rid of Prayut’s parliamentary dictatorship.

Further reading:

Flawed Thai elections:  https://bit.ly/2RIIvrD

What now after the election: https://bit.ly/307AgpF

The Thai Junta’s Road Map to “Guided Democracy”: https://bit.ly/2QMrGf9

Guided Democracy after the Flawed 2019 Election: https://bit.ly/2Wm6bzI

Parliamentary Dictatorship:  https://bit.ly/2RTlleU

Thailand needs a movement like in Hong Kong

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Thailand desperately needs an anti-dictatorship mass social movement like in Hong Kong. When I say “like Hong Kong” I don’t mean that it should be a carbon copy of the Hong Kong movement, but it needs to be a real mass movement aiming to clear away the Prayut parliamentary dictatorship and the legacy of military rule, including the military constitution and all the institutions set up by the junta.

It is now 3 months after the so-called elections and no new government has been set up. But this means very little since the junta are still in charge with Prayut as Prime Minister.

It does not take a genius to see that there is no freedom, democracy or justice in Thailand. Those who cannot see this, chose not to see it because they favour authoritarian rule.

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The recent brutal attack on the pro-democracy activist Sirawit Seritiwat or “Ja New” and the continuing operations of military death squads in neighbouring countries, is one horrific aspect of the state of Thai politics. The fact that Generalissimo Prayut can come out and say recently that he doesn’t want to be forced to stage another coup, is another.

But what is lacking from many pro-democracy activists and politicians is a clear idea of how to bring down the junta. It is long past the time when people can still believe that the elections could change things. We all know that the constitution needs to be amended and the military reformed. But the question is how?

It is a pure pipe-dream to think that this can be done through a parliament which is a result of rigged elections. It shows a lack of responsibility to just say that the constitution or various junta laws need to be amended and scrapped and that the election laws need to be changed without saying how this can be done.

The “Long Coup” from 2006 to the present day, when elected governments were overthrown by the military and the judiciary, with the help of royalist protestors and much of the NGO movement, did not finish when Prayut held false elections earlier this year. We are now in a process of “parliamentary dictatorship”, planned and implemented by the junta. What is important to remember is that this long destruction of democracy was never carried out using an elected parliament, or by respecting the law and the constitution. It was carried out using the brute force of the military in tandem with mass mobilisations of reactionary, anti-democratic, social movements.

For this reason it should be clear that the opposition MPs in the present parliament cannot hope to make any significant changes. The illegitimate rules of the junta cannot be used to get rid of the illegitimate junta.

It is high time for a serious discussion about building a real pro-democracy social movement. Such a mass movement needs to be better than the red shirts that came before. It needs to be independent of establishment parties that seek to control and limit the struggle and it needs to be linked to youth and labour.

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Hong Kong protest movement

It takes real people, meeting face to face, in order to build the networks necessary to construct this movement. The question is: are there enough activists on the ground to achieve this?

 

Further reading:  https://bit.ly/2RTlleU

Parliamentary Dictatorship? Now we have the real thing!

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

During the period of the democratically elected governments led by Taksin Shinawat, many Thai reactionary academics, NGO activists and Yellow Shirts whined about a “Parliamentary Dictatorship”. This was merely because Taksin’s party had an overwhelming majority in the elected parliament and many of his supporters were also in the fully elected Senate. Of course, it was pure nonsense and it was obviously a ploy to justify opening the door to military intervention.

But now in Thailand we have the real thing. We have a military-appointed Senate and an engineered parliamentary majority for Generalissimo Prayut and his junta, despite the fact that Prayut’s party and various allies, won less votes than anti-military parties. [See https://bit.ly/2Wm6bzI ].

So what are the consequences of the present Parliamentary Dictatorship?

The junta will continue in power and there will be no change to the militarisation of society. Soldiers will act like policemen, hounding and interrogating anyone suspected of having pro-democracy sympathies. Soldiers will muscle their way into public meetings, filming participants at will. They will sit in at negotiations between trade unions and employers and any improvement in wages and conditions will be suppressed by soldiers. Troops will intervene in all forms of protests, from strikes to local village protests over environmental issues.

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The militarisation of schools and colleges will continue and pro-military brain-washing of the younger generation will continue through the media and through Children’s Day events.

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“Academic conferences are not military camps”

Military corruption and nepotism will continue and the generals will carry on with their arms shopping sprees, paid for by an ever-bloated military budget.

The use of the draconian lèse-majesté law and the so-called computer crimes law will continue as a tool to stifle freedom of expression. Prisoners of conscience will still spend years in jail. Alternative media will be persecuted.[See https://bit.ly/2wFBxXt Also https://bit.ly/2WCrr44].

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Migrants and refugees in Thailand will receive poor treatment and some will be deported back to be jailed or killed by despotic regimes. [See https://bit.ly/2KBFchd ].

The courts will continue to act as agents of the military junta and the National Human Rights Commission will carry on turning a blind eye to government abuses of human rights. Rich people and generals will get away with all kinds of crimes, including encroachment of National Parks, while poor villagers are subjected to stiff punishment.

Violent attacks upon and disappearances of dissidents will continue, both by the junta’s thugs in Bangkok and the junta’s death squads acting across the border in Lao or Cambodia. [See https://bit.ly/2WYJ2aGhttps://bit.ly/2WW4dqB ].

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The military will still be in charge of policy in Patani, with military suppression of the right to self-determination by the Muslim Malays being prioritised over a political and peaceful solution. [See https://bit.ly/2QTqJ1n , https://bit.ly/2bemah3 ].

The junta will continue its neo-liberal economic policies which favour the rich and increase inequality and any dreams of building a genuine Welfare State will have to be put on hold. The untold wealth controlled by the nasty idiot King Wachiralongkorn will not be curbed. Nor will his disgusting behaviour.

All this will continue unless ordinary Thais get organised in a pro-democracy social movement which eventually overthrows the military junta and the system of Guided Democracy.

 

Guided Democracy under the Thai Junta’s Jackboots

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Finally we can see the end result of the March 2019 Thai election. As predicted, the junta and its servants have fixed it so that Generalissimo Prayut can continue to be Prime Minister, extending the life of the military junta under a veneer of “democracy”. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this is a system of “Guided Democracy under the Junta’s Jackboots”.

Generalissimo Prayut has taken a lesson from the brutal General Sisi of Egypt. He can now pretend to have been a “democratically elected Prime Minister”, despite the fact that he is not even an elected member of parliament.

Most of us could see this coming for years before the actual election was held.

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From iLaw

Prayut’s first act was to stage a military coup, overthrowing a democratically elected government in 2014. Before and after the coup, Prayut’s team brutally suppressed opposition to his regime. The junta then set about designing their “Guided Democracy” system by drawing up the military Constitution, the 20 year National Strategy and the warped election rules. As the election approached, the junta used the Constitutional Court to dissolve one of Taksin’s parties. The junta appointed all 250 of its people to the Senate. It then delayed the count after the election. This allowed the Electoral Commission to take seats from the Future Forward Party and give them to a number of small parties which had won miniscule numbers of votes. This helped to reduce the number of anti-junta seats.

On 5th May, the entire senate obediently raised their hands for Prayut and together with pro-junta parties he was able to claim the post of Prime Minister. He had previously changed the rules so that an unelected figure could become Prime Minister and the Senate and Lower House would sit together to elect the Prime Minister.

This is despite the fact that anti-junta parties had won more popular votes and constituency parliamentary seats than the pro-junta parties. Generalissimo Prayut lost the election, but is now claiming to be a democratically elected leader. No doubt Western governments will use this fig-leaf to restore full and friendly relations with the Thai government and sell it more arms.

Needless to say, the idiotic and nasty King Wachiralongkorn had nothing to do with any of the plans for Guided Democracy or the outcome of this election. To claim that the King is behind all this is to divert attention from the real gangsters in the military. [See https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL ].

Democrat Party prostitutes itself to enter the government

As usual, the mis-named Democrat Party prostituted itself to enter the junta’s government. The party has never won an election and even lied to the electorate before this election that it would not support Prayut, but eventually it showed its true colours and got into bed with the bloody dictatorship. This is the second time that the party has loved up to the military. In 2010, it was part of a military installed regime that shot down a hundred pro-democracy demonstrators in cold blood.

Future Forward and Pua Thai Parties obsessed with playing by the rules

The leadership of the Future Forward and Pua Thai Parties remain obsessed with playing by the junta’s rules. Before the election they promised that merely voting in the junta’s election would result in the end of military rule and an end to the military’s Constitution. When they felt they had been treated unfairly they only resorted to the junta’s kangaroo courts. This strategy has reached a dead-end.

The leadership of the Future Forward and Pua Thai Parties threw away the golden opportunity to use the legitimacy of winning the popular vote to organise a broad-based social movement against the dictatorship. Even now they are refusing to consider building such a movement.

Against Dictatorship

Lessons from Thailand and all over the world show that entrenched dictatorial regimes can only be overthrown by mass movements outside parliament. [See https://bit.ly/2aDzest ]. It will be up to grass-roots activists to build such a movement, independent from the politicians of mainstream parties. This is what I am advocating in my Thai language blog “Turn Left Thailand”.

Further Reading:

Flawed Thai elections.  https://bit.ly/2RIIvrD

The Thai Junta’s Road Map to “Guided Democracy”.  https://bit.ly/2QMrGf9

Thai Politics after the 2019 Election. https://bit.ly/2UsA30a

 

The reactionary legacy of Prem Tinsulanon

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

General Prem Tinsulanon, who died last week, was a true representative of the reactionary Thai ruling class. He held the office of Prime Minister in a “Guided Democracy” system between 1980 and 1988. In this system he was not an elected Member of Parliament, but held office with the support of various right-wing political parties in an elected parliament. This is the kind of scenario that Generalissimo Prayut dreams about for his own political career.

Along with most military officers since Pibun, he was a royalist. This meant that he understood the importance to the military of using, promoting and defending the monarchy.

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After the bloodbath at Thammasart University on 6th October 1976, hundreds of students went to join the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in jungle strongholds. At the time, the Communist Party had a great deal of support among sections of the population and started to pose a threat to the ruling class. However, as the students became disillusioned with the lack of internal democracy inside the party and the loss of support from the China for the CPT struggle, which was a result of the changing geo-political situation, they started to drift back to the cities. The Chinese government placed more importance on building ties with the Thai government than supporting the CPT. [See https://bit.ly/2d1iZbj ]

Prem took advantage of this situation and reversed the hard-line policies of the post 6th October governments towards the communists. When he became Prime Minister in 1980, he announced the “Prime Ministerial Order 66/23”, which in effect, gave an amnesty to CPT fighters who wished to return to normal life. This helped to destroy the CPT and helped to end the armed conflict. Prem showed his political insight when he told the media that “the students joined the Communists because they were brutally suppressed. The way to undermine the Communists was to establish justice in society”.

Prem also seemed to understand the need for a political solution to the armed struggle in Patani. His government co-opted local religious leaders into mainstream politics in order to control the situation, while at the same time never giving in to separatist demands or any progressive policies which might go against the interests of the ruling class. This resulted in a temporary peace, but it did not last, since the real grievances were never addressed.

In April 1981, when Young Turk military officers tried to stage a coup against his government, Prem publically took the king with him to a military base in Korat, thus signalling to the Young Turks that their attempts had failed.

After stepping down as Prime Minister in 1988 he joined the Privy Council. As Chairman of the Privy Council, his main role was to be the key link between King Pumipon and the military and business class. He advised the weak and cowardly king on many key occasions.

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One such occasion was when the ruling class needed to find a way out for the generals to save face after General Suchinda Kaprayoon’s failed attempt to cling on to power one year after his military coup in 1992. A mass popular uprising overthrew Suchinda in 1993 but the ruling class needed to maintain control. Prem organised to get Suchinda and the leader of the anti-military uprising to grovel in front of King Pumipon on national TV.

Soldiers like General Surayut Julanon were under Suchinda’s command and during the attempts to put down the pro-democracy uprising in 1993, Surayut was responsible for violence against medics treating wounded demonstrators in the Royal Hotel. Later Surayut became a military appointed Prime Minister after another coup in 2006. He has now been appointed as temporary Chairman of the Privy Council.

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As so-called “Elder Statesman” and Chairman of the Privy Council, Prem always sided with military officers who staged coups and destroyed democracy, including Generalissimo Prayut’s military junta.

On the issue of the conflict in Patani he maintained his support for Thai imperialism by opposing the suggestion, made by the National Reconciliation Commission, that the local Yawee language be used as a working language, alongside Thai, in all government departments in Patani.

On the issue of Taksin Shinawat’s brutal war of drugs, where hundreds of people were killed without trial, Prem was featured of large posters warning people that using and dealing in amphetamines would send them to their graves.

Prem earned the intense hatred of red shirts because of his closeness to King Pumipon. Many red shirts mistakenly believed that Pumipon ordered the killing of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. It was in fact the military who gave the order and carried it out with the support of Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. But Prem became a target for much abuse by people who were afraid to directly criticise the monarchy because of the draconian lèse-majesté law.

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General Prem Tinsulanon was a reactionary, anti-democratic, member of the Thai ruling class. His death is being celebrated by those who wish to see a democratic Thailand.

 

Further reading: Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy (2010).  http://bit.ly/1TdKKYs

 

Two months after junta’s election: dictatorship and brutality continue

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Two months after the Thai junta’s flawed election, nothing has changed despite the junta party losing the popular vote to pro-democracy parties.

The junta is still in charge and no new government has been formed. The 250 junta-appointed senators are in place, ready to lift their hands up to vote for Generalissimo Prayut’s continued premiership. [See “Thai Politics after the 2019 Election” https://bit.ly/2UsA30a ].

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Pro-democracy activists are still having to appear in the Kangaroo Courts, accused of violating the junta’s illegitimate laws by staging peaceful protests. Some were protesting against the cold-blooded killings 9 years ago of redshirt pro-democracy demonstrators at the hands of Generalissimo Prayut and the military appointed PM Abhisit Vejjajiva.

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More charges are being sought by the junta against leaders of pro-democracy parties in an attempt to undermine them. Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has been suspended as an MP by the Constitutional Kangaroo Court. The charges are extremely dubious. Yet the election fraud by Prayut and his gang have never been considered by any courts.

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And most shockingly of all, the junta’s death squads are still operating against dissidents in exile in Lao. Recently, Chucheap Chewasut (or Uncle Sanam Luang), Siam Teerawut and Kritsana Tapthai were detained by Vietnamese authorities while attempting to cross the border from Lao. They were handed over to Thai officials and immediately disappeared. There are serious concerns that they have been murdered by a Thai junta death squad.

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Chucheap Chewasut or Uncle Sanam Luang
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Siam Teerawut

This shows that the Vietnamese government is cooperating with the Thai junta’s murderous policies. The Malaysian government has also handed over Thai dissidents to the junta. This is an indication of the total lack of basic human rights in South-East Asia.

Earlier this year, DNA analysis confirmed that two bodies found in the Mekong River at Nakorn Panom were that of “Pu-Chana” and “Kasalong”, close comrades of Surachai Darnwatananusorn. There was also a third body in the river which belonged to Surachai. That body disappeared. All three men had been living together in exile in Lao after Prayut’s military coup. They had been missing from their homes for over a month and there were clear signs of abduction. The bodies were washed ashore on the Thai side of the Mekong River. The victims had been brutally mutilated, killed, tied up in sacking with concrete weights, and thrown in the river. Evidence points to the actions of a junta death squad. [See https://bit.ly/2WW4dqB ].

Faiyen

Now the members of the radical music group “Faiyen”, who are also in Lao, are in mortal danger of being murdered. A campaign to save them has gone viral with the slogan #SaveFaiyen. But social media campaigns are not enough. Faiyen group members need concrete support to move to a third country in Europe and be given asylum. Procedures are in motion, but it is hoped that they can escape to safety before the death squads reach them.

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Faiyen members with Surachai

All these exiles were critics of the monarchy and the military junta. Chucheap Chewasut ran an opposition internet radio station under the name “Uncle Sanam Luang” before his disappearance.

Romchalee Sinseubpol, a singer in the Faiyen group, also ran an opposition radio station under the name “Yammy”. She, along with other members of Faiyen were active on social media, criticising the monarchy.

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Two months after the Thai election, it is back to the junta’s blood-spattered business as usual.

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Popularity of Thai king sinks to new low

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Following the expensive and wasteful coronation of the despicable Wachiralongkorn, the popularity of the Thai monarchy has sunk to a new low. This is hardly surprising given his behaviour and general character. [See https://bit.ly/2VRw0v9 ].

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Wachiralongkorn peering out of his ridiculous cage-like fancy dress

Among young people, lack of respect for the monarchy can be seen in messages on social media, especially on twitter, which are both explicit and ambiguous. One of the trending hashtags that has gone viral is #กูให้พวกมึงรู้จักพอเพียง which is what was written on a sign near former princess Srirasmi’s tin shack toilet. In English it means “I have provided this for you so you lot can know sufficiency”. It is written in crude language and makes a reference to Pumipon’s Sufficiency Economics ideology. Of course neither Pumipon, Wachiralongkorn, nor any other members of the royal parasite family ever practiced sufficiency or restraint of their greed.

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The social media posts seem to indicate that anger and disgust at Wachiralongkorn have become stronger than fear of the draconian lèse-majesté law. It supports the reports from many sources that respect for the monarchy is almost non-existent among young people. Of course, to be absolutely sure about this, a proper statistical poll would have to be conducted. But this is not possible in Thailand at the moment.

Behaviour by the royals, which includes insisting on stopping all traffic, and even temporarily pausing nearby rock concerts, as they travel along the normally congested roads of Bangkok, can hardly help the popularity of the royals.

Also the practice by various members of the royal family in insisting that they do not have to pay for luxury goods in Bangkok shops, can be added to the list of disgust for the royals. None of them are immune from such behaviour, including the royals who claim to be “commoners”. [See https://bit.ly/2SHQrZW ].

The crisis of legitimacy for the monarchy will be something which will deeply worry the military junta and its friends. Even the yellow-shirted middle-class royalist reactionaries cannot hide their lack of support for Wachiralongkorn. The numbers of ordinary people attending the coronation ceremony, who were not forced to come because of their government jobs, was far less than the people who attended Pumipon’s funeral.

In the past I have speculated about this problem and suggested that one of the junta’s options would be to rely less on the monarchy to legitimise military intervention in politics and to promote the 20 year National Strategy. [See https://bit.ly/2l63Z1I ]. Another option is to concentrate on promoting nationalism. Recent changes to the National Anthem video on all TV channels indicates this to some extent. The junta has also organised electoral fraud in an attempt to give itself “democratic” legitimacy.

The junta and its allies who have been spouting about defending the monarchy with their lives are in a weak position because they are now trying to defend a rotten indefensible king.

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They are now trying to defend a rotten indefensible king.

But a Thai republic will not just emerge automatically from the sinking popularity of the monarchy. For this to happen, a pro-democracy social movement opposed to both the monarchy and the military will have to be built. This is because the monarchy is still being used by the military to defend its actions and they may try to emphasise the institution rather than the individual who is on the throne.  What is more, politicians and monarchies can find ways of reviving their popularity.

The present Thai king is both vile, unpopular and weak. He is hardly the powerful “absolute monarch” claimed by some. [See https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL ]

This is a good moment to campaign for a democratic republic.

 

Thai politics