Let’s talk about political reform (2): Scrap Lèse Majesté

Numnual  Yapparat

We are writing a series about political reform where we will focus on the main areas that need to be reformed to serve the interests of the majority.

I have written articles about the justice system and why it desperately needs to be changed. You can find those articles in this blog. The law that has been used to bully people who think differently from people in the power is “Lèse Majesté”. This is the ugliest law in Thailand because anyone can be a victim. The most progressive part of the pro-democracy movement has been advocating abolishing or reforming the law. But, Pua Thai and the parties that are participating in the coming election, do not want to touch “Lèse Majesté”. If we are to achieve full democracy we seriously need to scrap this law.

Lèse Majesté is a political law designed to restrict freedom of expression and the ability of citizens to criticise or check the power of those in public positions. The law protects the elites, especially the military.

There are several political prisoners sentenced to jail for decades, especially those who are charged with “Lèse Majesté”.  The only way to get released is to admit guilt. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has refused to admit guilt. He has done nothing wrong. He has told stories about the conditions in jail. The prisoners have to wear chains on both legs which weigh 5 kg. The prisoners have to clean the chains regularly otherwise they go rusty and people’s legs become infected. It will leave a nasty scar on prisoners’ bodies for life.  Somyot found the clinking of the chains, every time he tried to walk, very depressing. Standard practices in jail are mainly designed to reduce the humanity of prisoners. If you are in jail you are treated like an animal.

According to Somyot, the court hearing processes have been designed to intimidate defendants. The judges have unlimited power. The justice system is long overdue for reform. Thailand needs a jury system and we need the right to criticise judges. At present they are protected against any criticism by their own version of lèse majesté.

Today Somyot wrote about political reform. He said only idiots would believe that real political reform would come from Sutep’s mob. He reminded us that the Democrat Party is a party that has a long record of opposing reforms such as decentralisation, labour rights and the establishment of a social security fund.

Somyot ended his article with the statement: “Since ivory cannot emerge from a dog’s mouth, so political reform can never grow out of the protests of the political scum who are trying to shutdown Bangkok and lead Thailand to the edge of  catastrophe”.

Reform will be meaningless if it does not result in Somyot’s freedom.

Let’s talk about real “Political Reform” (1) Promoting economic equality

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Oxfam has reported that the richest 85 people on the globe between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together. Those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population. The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world[1].

Many top billionaires are in the West. Thailand’s GDP is 40 times smaller than that of the USA , but Thailand has 3 billionaires who are among the world’s richest 85 people. According to Forbes, they are:

King Pumipon,  8th richest man in the world with  $44.24B

Dhanin Chearavanont,  58th richest man in the world with $12.6 B

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi,   82nd richest man in the world with $10.6B

Taksin Shinawat is the 882nd richest man in the world and the 7th richest Thai with $ 1.7B

These figures show that there is an urgent need to address economic inequality in Thailand by introducing a Super Tax on the rich in order to build a welfare state. Such a tax was originally proposed by Pridi Panomyong in 1933, but vetoed by the elites. But when we hear the “good and the great” preach about the need for “reform”, don’t hold your breath waiting for them to talk about a wealth tax or a welfare state.

(Photo Credit: tankist276/Shutterstock.com)

Top Doctors Disgrace themselves!

Numnual  Yapparat

Deans of Medical Faculties from 8 universities[1] have disgraced themselves by issuing a statement in support of “reforms before the election”. It is deeply disappointing. I was expecting them to condemn the senior doctor from Songkla who used sexually abusive language against Yingluk. But no, they seem not to care at all about gender equality. More disgracefully, they are on the wrong side of democracy.

These are their demands:

  1. Political reform as soon as possible, before holding the election.
  2. To end the violence the caretaker-government must resign and make way for an elite appointed government.
  3. The election should be take place after drawing up new election rules acceptable to anti-government forces.
  4. All parties should refrain from violence and distortion of the truth.
  5. Negotiations to take place between Sutep’s mob and the caretaker-government in an attempt to move forward to reconciliation.

Practically, what does this mean?

“Political reform before an election” means that they want to fix the election and make sure that the Democrats win. In this way, they can make sure that all the power will still be in the hands of elites. They wish to cheat shamelessly. They cannot bear to see ordinary people have equal rights.

Who has been causing the violence in the last few months? It is Sutep’s mob who have forced the closures of government offices and tried to wreck the election. It is Sutep’s mob who abused the tax officer who was accused of going to work in the south. It is Sutep’s mob who used guns against the police. So what is this nonsense about “both sides refraining from violence”?

Reconciliation between anti-democratic forces and those who want democracy can only result in a “half democracy”.

I would love to see ordinary doctors who are pro-democracy come out to say something about their seniors’ ill-behaviour.

Top people from prestigious institutions are really disgusting! University deans have recently degraded themselves by suggesting that we do not need an elected Prime Minister. Yes, they supported the coup in 2006 and cooperated with the junta. They claim that we need someone who is “knowledgeable” to do the Prime Minister’s job. These people are working in education sectors where they are supposed to enlighten their fellow citizens. But they are very backward. They have become a great barrier to progress. They do not support students who dare to ask questions about the world around them. They like to teach students to be slaves.

To be honest I think these people need to be removed and in the future all the high public positions should be elected.


[1] Siriraj Teaching Hospital, Mahidol University, Thammasat University, Burapha University, Chulalongkorn University, Songkla University, Naresuan University and Rangsit University.

Sutep’s mob starts to lose momentum. But what about political reform?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

For months now Sutep’s violent and anti-democratic mobs have tried their best to frustrate the functioning of the democratically elected government and prevent a general election from taking place. They surrounded offices where election candidates were trying to register, occupied government ministries, attacked police with guns and tried to “shut down Bangkok”. Recently they tried to occupy the government printing press which was printing ballot papers. But so far they have failed in their aims. The military has not obliged the protesters by staging a coup, Yingluk is still the care-taker Prime Minister and the election seems set to take place on 2nd February, at least in most provinces, including Bangkok. The hands-off approach of the government seems to be paying off in this war of attrition.

Sutep and his gang are not without powerful supporters. Many big business owners, including those from S&P and Sing Beer, have been seen supporting the protesters and one of the princesses has even worn the red white and blue colours associated with them. Rectors of all the universities, top civil servants and some sections of the electoral commission have given them support too. But the military is still sitting on its hands, refusing to stage a coup or to help the government by making sure that the election takes place.

What makes it different from the situation in 2006, when Yellow Shirts helped pave the way for a military coup, is that some military leaders know that a coup will achieve nothing to their benefit. It would only work if a long-lasting and brutal dictatorship was installed. More importantly, unlike 2006, there is a Red Shirt mass movement which is determined to defend democracy and even the academics and NGO activists who welcomed the 2006 coup are now wary of appearing to support the destruction of democracy. This is because the 2006 coup and the shooting of nearly 90 pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010 did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the electorate for Taksin’s Pua Thai Party and it was obvious to anyone who cared to look at the facts that people were voting for pro-poor policies.

Pro-democracy candle-light protests have now been taking place throughout the country. On these protests people are demanding that their vote be respected. They are also calling for an end to the violence. The significance is that large gatherings of these people, equalling those of Sutep’s mob, have taken place in Bangkok in recent days. Most residents of the capital city are sick and tired of what is going on.

Sutep’s mob have been suffering sporadic and isolated gun and grenade attacks by unknown assailants. The only thing we can say for certain is that this will act as a disincentive to middle class people to attend his protests. Many of the hard-core protesters are southerners, part of the Democrat Party’s patron-client network. Sutep seems to be redirecting his efforts to his southern home base, calling for people to occupy government offices in his fiefdom provinces while his “Shut Down Bangkok” strategy falls apart.

It should be noted that in the deep-south Muslim Malay provinces, the locals are not supporting Sutep.

It would be mere rumour-mongering to try to indicate who is behind the attacks on Sutep’s mob. There are many possibilities. It might be frustrated Red Shirts. It might be elements in the military who want to trigger a coup. Or it might be rogue Sutep supporters who want to rejuvenate the anger of their movement and also trigger a coup. But as yet there is not a shred of evidence to back any one of these possibilities.

It would be wrong to believe that we are seeing the beginning of the end to the crisis. If the election takes place in all provinces, except in the Democrat’s southern back yard, there will not be enough MPs, according to election law, to be able to open parliament and elect a government. The stale-mate will continue and any political accident can occur.

 

Political Reform

Much is being said about the need for political reform. Those who want reform to take place before an election are merely calling for the rules to be changed so that a conservative minority can dominate politics instead of Pua Thai. Their so-called reforms would shrink the democratic space.

But it is worrying that the government and many people who support democratic elections are just happy to have elite-driven “reforms” which merely scratch the surface.

For political reform to mean anything other than the partial destruction of democracy, it must be a process involving the majority of the population, not just elite experts and those in high places. It must aim to increase elections, not just for all senators, but also for those in charge of public enterprises, security forces, the judiciary, local schools and local hospitals. It must include the abolition of the lèse majesté law, the contempt of court law and the computer crimes law. These are all laws which censor dissenting voices. Reform should also tackle the problems of so-called “independent bodies”, such as the electoral commission, the human rights commission and the anti-corruption commission, which are stacked with right-wing conservatives. The whole concept of needing “independent bodies” to restrict the democratic wishes of the majority needs to be challenged.

Political reform should also aim to reduce inequality by building a welfare state and it should encourage the development of efficient infrastructure which does not harm the environment. High-speed trains and electricity generation from sunlight and wind would be important components of this. Such projects would also create jobs. We need education reform to move away from authoritarian teaching and learning by rote. We need to humanise the prison system and reduce the prison population.

Political reform will be meaningless without reducing the power and influence of the military, both in politics, the media and in state enterprises. Soldiers who stage coups and kill protesters should be brought to justice. A jury system should be introduced to democratise the courts. The military constitution of 2007 needs to be abolished and we need to make sure that a future constitution does not enforce free-market neo-liberal economic policies or the Sufficiency Economy, as the 2007 constitution does.

But you would be hard-pressed to hear any of these proposals among the present chatter about political reform in Thailand.

This article should be read along-side 2 other articles:

There is no “crisis of succession” in Thailand

The Democrat Party is a party of Old Political Patronage

 

More sexually abusive language from Sutep’s mob

Numnual  Yapparat

(Please check new updates at the end of this article)

On the previous post I have mentioned the dirty professor who sexually insulted Yingluck. Yesterday was even worse. A group of doctors from the Faculty of Medicine at Songkla University, gave appalling speeches. Yes, I am waiting to see the reaction of women’s rights groups, but none of them have come out so far. In Thailand we have had plenty of so-called “rights’ groups” but some are utterly useless because they are on the wrong side; the side of those opposing democracy.

When Doctor Prasert Vasinanukorn, from Songkla was giving his speech, his colleagues stood behind him cheering, grinning and laughing.

  1. “If you want to be a heroine, just resign and then we will salute you by presenting you with a medal with your naked body featured on it”.
  2. “Please pay attention; if the Prime Minister is expecting a baby, I would pick her up in an ox-cart to give birth at Had Yai. I will have an extra service for you by doing virginal repair surgery. I can guarantee that your new husband will feel on top of the world”.
  3. “The Prime Minister still has some time left to be a nude model. Resign now before your periods come to an end. Otherwise it would be too late to start a new career”.
  4. “If the Prime Minister became unwanted, seriously, I would volunteer to be her servant. I would buy and change her sanitary towel for her”.

The most disturbing fact is that these are doctors who need to work under the strictest code of conduct. Hearing their words you might ask yourself, how we can trust these people. What sort of methods will they use to diagnose patients? How do we know that they do their job properly? How do we know that they are not going to strip patients’ dignity? Will patients’ confidential details be disclosed when these doctors get angry?  Their behaviour is so horrifying. If this happened in Europe, these doctors would be suspended and have their licenses revoked.

I was a little bit in shock and furious after listening to them, but then I had a thought. It is great to know who they are. Normally, they used to live and work in the shade, enjoying their privileges. These dirty doctors have been brought under the spot light and now they need to be pasteurised, otherwise they would spread their filthy sexist disease to others. In our political reforms we need to work out how to prevent this sort of doctor reaching a high position. We need doctors who respect patients regardless of their gender and race. We need a health care system that puts patients before profits.

Thai women gained the right to vote in 1932 after the revolution that overthrew the absolute monarchy. But even today, we do not have abortion rights. When discussions about abortion take place, the authorities give the right to make decisions to monks instead of women.   Sexist speeches can be heard both from the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts. However, the Red Shirts are more careful. Nuttawut Saikua, a UDD leader, used to say on Red Shirt stages that the speakers need to pay respect to GLBT and women’s rights.  But on Yellow Shirt stages we have seen this barbaric sexist carnival.

NEWS UPDATE 16/01/2014

* I got welcome news today.  Women and GLBT rights groups have come out and issued statements to condemn the sexist speeches. They demanded that all political speeches should respected women and GLBT rights.  This is an important step forward.

However, the bad and disgraceful news is that the president of the Thai Medical Council Somsak Lo-leka, has stated that the sexually abusive speech given by Doctor Prasert Vasinanukorn, from Songkla, did not break any medical professional ethics. However, he said that doctors need to be more polite.

Heading to a new level of political crisis

Numnual  Yapparat

The Free television channels have been giving more than 70% of their air time to anti-democracy protesters in Bangkok. If you look at the majority of Sutep’s supporters faces, you will see that these people are Southerners who live in rural areas. Yet Sutep and others claim that his main support comes from the Bangkok middle classes.

What sort of speeches can be heard from their stage? Dr Jate, a professor at Narasuan University, openly insulted Yingluck in a disgracefully sexual manner. What kind of political reform can this species want to push forward?

Several main roads have been blocked; if ordinary folk want to pass they need to pay a “fee” to those thugs who are Sutep’s storm-trooper guards. The fee depends on the guards’ mood.

Most Thais support the Election. Many have come out on the streets to light candles, wearing white t-shirts as a symbol. Today, some have been to one of the military bases to voice their demands that the military must not intervene in politics to destroy democracy.  Some police stations also stated that they support the election. Many who disagree with the Sutep’s gang live in Bangkok. These campaigns have spread to numerous areas, both in Bangkok and the provinces.

The most stunning pro-election rallies are those organised by the Red Shirts in a number of provinces, especially in the North and North East. The numbers of people who turned out are very impressive.  The Red Shirt leaders announced that they are going to hold big rallies in four provinces.

At the top, among the elites, it is another story. Yingluck said today that she wants to hold a special meeting to see whether they could be able to postpone the election. If this happens, it will be bad news for democracy. Pua Thai has let down their pro-democracy supporters again and again.

The good news is that some Pua Thai politicians are saying at various rallies that the election must not be postponed. Ajarn Vorajet from the progressive Nitirat Group has also written an article condemning those who want to postpone the election. These people are trampling on the rights of the majority, he said. He further explained that if some districts cannot hold the election, the law allows the Election Commission to hold special elections for those districts at a later date.

However, we know that the Election Commission is working hand in glove with Sutep. The military is also refusing to protect the democratic election and has sent soldiers to prevent the police from using violence against the protesters! No doubt they believe that in Thailand only the army is allowed to kill protesters.

The other side of Bangkok

Today, thousands Bangkok people, including many university students and political activists, held a protest to demand an end to Sutep’s mob violence. They called for everyone to respect the right to vote. These photos support our earlier post explain why the political crisis is not really about “Bangkok vs the rural areas”, as suggested by many journalists and academics. As we previously mentioned, the 2011 election results showed that the registered Bangkok electorate were evenly split between the Democrats and Pua Thai.

The protests in Bangkok today, were mirrored by similar protests in the provinces.

BK 10 Jan

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Thai politics