Tag Archives: Covid 19

Conspiracy Theories thrive under Prayut’s dictatorship

The Prayut dictatorship in Thailand is a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. This is because Prayut and his military gang tell lies, instinctively, in order to justify their rule and to protect their interests. This means that the population quite rightly do not believe most of what they say. The problem is to find alternative truths. But real scientific truths are not the only alternatives on offer, especially in a society with little freedom of expression and accountability. What is seen by many people as an alternative “truth” can often be the nonsense of a conspiracy theory.

I shall give two examples of conspiracy theories circulating in Thai society right now: theories about the Covid vaccines and about the King. Both examples are a danger to those wishing to struggle for an alternative and democratic society.

Covid Vaccines

The military government’s handling of the second and more serious wave of Corona virus infections in Thailand has been a total shambles, especially when vaccination of the population is concerned. In mid-June 2021, the total number of people who had contracted the virus reached nearly 200,000, with the total number of deaths standing at 1,449 in a population the size of Britain. Only 4.5 million people have received 2 doses of a vaccine, just over 6% of the population. Despite the number of deaths being significantly lower than in Western Europe or the United States, the Thai government has failed in its vaccination programme. This is due to the fact that protecting the health of the general population has never been a priority and also due to the mindset of the generals who are running the country. They arrogantly believe that soldiers can solve any crisis, usually by military means. The government failed to order enough vaccines early in the day and initially restricted it to just one single company; the local production unit of AstraZeneca, owned by the King. The junta were clearly aiming to revive the flagging popularity of the monarchy. Later, they have had access to the Chinese Sinovac vaccine in larger amounts.

The lack of a welfare state or single national health service is also a huge problem, allowing for fragmentation of vaccine delivery and allowing private institutions to import some vaccines. One such private organisation is linked to a princess. Corruption and nepotism have also been playing their part, with big-shots jumping the queues.

In such circumstances conspiracy theories about the lack of efficiency and dangers of Sinovac have been circulating, despite the stamp of approval from the WHO. Other un-scientific rumours about AstraZeneca have also been doing the rounds, with people favouring the Pfizer vaccine, which is not being offered to the general public. The efficiency of all three vaccines are comparable and all three have side-effects. But the benefits of the vaccines for the vast majority of people outweigh the potentially dangerous side-effects. In a properly organised vaccination programme, different vaccines would be available to different people to try to minimise these side-effects. Such a programme does not exist under the Thai junta.

By swallowing conspiracy theories, activist become unable to make powerful criticism of the government and unable to offer real alternative visions of how to run the health service or other aspects of society.

“The King is dead”

Another conspiracy theory doing the rounds of social media a few weeks ago, was the “news” that king Wachiralongkorn had “died”. There was no reliable evidence to back this up and unfortunately it was not true. But this conspiracy theory was lapped up by those who are obsessed with the royal family. When it was found to be untrue, no apology or explanation was forth-coming.

These people also believe a much more harmful conspiracy theory that the idiot king Wachiralongkorn holds real political power in Thailand and can give orders to the military junta, which these people believe to be “merely” a tool of the king.

As I have explained in previous posts, that the myth about the power of the king lets the junta off the hook because many activists see the junta as irrelevant. This results in ignoring important discussions about vital strategies to overthrow military rule. The conspiracy theorists merely say that if you overthrow the junta, the monarchy will still remain in power. This is not actually true, as the survival of the monarchy is totally dependent on the military and important sections of the capitalist class who use it for their own purposes. [See: Wachiralongkorn’s power https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL and Can an absolute ruler hold power from abroad? https://bit.ly/3hxGFCv .]

What is more, none of these royal conspiracy theorists have, or are interested in having, a credible strategy for overthrowing the junta. Recently when someone on the popular (anti-royal) “Royalist Marketplace” site suggested the need for strike action, like we are seeing in Burma/Myanmar, in order to overthrow the dictatorship, this was dismissed out of hand by one leading light on the site. No alternative strategy was on offer. [See:  Rubber ducks cannot defeat the military http://bit.ly/3tmU5YB .]

This is a very serious issue as the youth-led revolt, which erupted last year, is going down to defeat, with the leaders facing serious lèse-majesté charges and the prospect of spending years behind bars as a result. Unless a realistic strategy for overthrowing the military is taken up in order to revive the movement, this could be the depressing outcome.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Continued repression, racism, and military stupidity under Prayut’s Dictatorship

Two pro-democracy youth leaders, Parit Chiwarak “Penguin” and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul “Rung”, have been on hunger strike for some weeks. Penguin started his two weeks before Rung. They are protesting against the fact that they have repeatedly been denied bail while awaiting trial on lèse-majesté charges.  Three other leaders have also been denied bail, while others who are out on bail still face serious charges.

The military junta’s attack on freedom of speech and the pro-democracy protest movement, has been stepped up because Prayut and his gang feel that the large protests, which erupted onto the streets last year, have ceased and the movement is now weaker.

Unlike the heroic protests in neighbouring Burma/Myanmar, Thai activists have not organised workers’ strikes and this is an important factor. [See https://bit.ly/3x4c9ca ].

While I do not believe that hunger strikes are useful strategies in the struggle against the heartless junta and their lackeys in the courts, I disagree with those in the movement who are putting pressure on Penguin and Rung to abandon their hunger strikes. Penguin and Rung are brave and intelligent activists and we should respect their personal decisions to refuse food; not make it harder for them.

There have been daily solidarity gatherings outside courts in Bangkok and Chiang Mai to demand the release of all detained activists and this is vital. But further, more powerful, actions by the organised trade unions need to take place. Unfortunately there is little sign of this right now.

While this is going on, U.S. academic, David Streckfuss, who has written about Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, faces expulsion from Thailand after living in the country for 35 years. The junta’s authorities pressurised Khon Kaen University to sack him. Without his job, his visa has been terminated. He is clearly being victimised for his stance on democracy and his association with activists.

The political situation is just getting worse and the COVID policies of the junta are a cruel farce.

There has been an increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID and this has coincided with the Songkarn water festival, when people travel back to the provinces or go on holiday. Many cases are associated with entertainment establishments. The numbers of infected people are low, as a proportion of the population, compared to Western Europe, the USA, Brazil or Mexico, and fortunately the number of deaths is also low. This is despite the fact that the junta is incapable of organising to protect the population, with the vaccination programme lagging far behind many countries. [See https://bit.ly/3bGCRvc for an analysis of COVID in Thailand last year.]

Yet, what is unbelievable is that the government insists on admitting everyone who tests positive into hospital, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, and the vast majority do not. This has cause chaos in hospitals and delayed essential treatment for non-COVID patients.

The junta has long been using COVID as a political excuse to crack down on protesters, but in recent days the army have used COVID to whip up racism against Karen refugees who came across the border, fleeing bombardment by the Burmese military. They were pushed back by the Thai army. Then the army organised to spray the open ground near the river where these refugees had been sitting with disinfectant, claiming to stop the spread of COVID. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that this was necessary or would have any effect. Rather it was a disgusting attempt by the army to portray migrants and refugees as vectors of disease!

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Junta lashes out at critics using Lèse-majesté

The Thai military junta is ramping up the use of the draconian lèse-majesté law against critics, opposition politicians and dissidents.

The latest person to be charged with this authoritarian law is opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. His “crime” was to question the Covid vaccine policy of the junta, which has approved a contract between Siam Bioscience and AstraZeneca for the Thai company to produce the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine for sale in Thailand and South-East Asia. Siam Bioscience is 100% owned by King Wachiralongkorn and so far has had a poor financial record and no experience of vaccine production. The junta is also buying a small amount of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.

Thanathorn estimates that most Thais will not begin to be vaccinated until the end of the year, unlike in neighbouring countries. In addition to this there will not be enough of the vaccine to cover the whole population.

Cutting down Thanathorn is part of a long process of destroying the official parliamentary opposition to the junta, which installed itself through a military coup, followed by sham elections. Thanathorn’s Future Forward Party was forced to disband by the junta’s courts and Thanathorn himself banned as an MP, mainly because his party enjoyed significantly popularity, especially among young people. This is at a time when Taksin’s opposition Pua Thai Party has shrunk to a shadow of itself after a war of attrition waged upon it by the military and the conservatives, which used coups and their courts to try to reduce Taksin’s influence among the electorate. The present junta hopes to stay in power for 25 years! [See https://bit.ly/3731MIZ ].

To add insult to injury, the vaccine produced by Siam Bioscience is being called “the gift from the King”, which it certainly is not.

Wachiralongkorn is the richest person in Thailand, but this has absolutely nothing to do with his abilities in any field. He is an intellectually challenged brutal playboy.

So lèse-majesté is being used to stop Thais questioning Covid policies. It is also being used to prevent discussion about reforming the scandal-ridden monarchy and campaigning for democracy. Scores of young people who led the recent protests against the junta have now been charged under this law. This is hardly surprising, as retired academic Thak Chaloemtiarana recently commented that the demand to reform the monarchy is a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the military.

I have argued for a long time that the monarchy is an important tool for the military in attempting to legitimise their rule and the lèse-majesté law is designed to protect this so-called legitimacy. The target of protests must be the military junta rather than the idiot king Wachiralongkorn. [See the myth of Wachiralongkorn’s so called power https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL ].

In the eyes of the junta, criticism of the monarchy and the military is a much more serious “crime” than murder, rape or terrorism. A few days ago a 63 year old woman was sentenced to 87 years in jail (reduced to 43 years and 6 months) for sharing video clips criticising the monarchy!! She has already spent 3 years in prison awaiting trial.

The Thai junta and ruling class are truly a bunch of barbarians.

Yet the impressive youth protest movement seems to be stuck in a rut and unable to move forward to respond to these attacks on liberties by the military. Unless the movement regroups and takes a turn towards the working class by attempting to organise strike action and civil disobedience, it will lack the power to overthrow the junta. [See https://bit.ly/3p3LlnI ].

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Possible causes of lower Covid 19 infections and deaths in South-East Asia compared to Western Europe and the USA?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

I have been struggling to find an answer to why South-East Asia has low Covid 19 infections and deaths compared to Western Europe and the USA [See https://bit.ly/2WFX00l ].

These are my preliminary thoughts and guesses on the matter. The possible causes are not necessarily in scientific order of importance.

  1. The age profile of the populations in South-East is very different to Western Europe, with many more young people and far fewer elderly people in South-East Asia. This would affect mortality rates. Younger people may also catch the virus and only have mild symptoms which are not recorded.
  2. Under-reporting of Covid 19 deaths? Without wide-spread testing we shall not know how many people caught the virus without becoming sick. However, we can see the death rates. Much of the “unexplained excess death rates” in South-East Asia may well be due to Covid 19. For example in April a Reuters study of data from 34 provinces in Indonesia showed that more than 2,200 people had died from Covid-19-like symptoms that were not reported as such. This indicates the number of victims in Indonesia is likely to be far higher than the official death toll of 895. There has also been under-reporting of Covid-19 deaths in Western Europe, for example in Britain, Italy and Spain. But under-reporting in some South-East Asian countries might be much greater.
  3. Connectedness of countries to the world system of trade, investment and tourism is likely to be an important issue, since Covid 19 had to travel from China to other countries. According to the World Bank, before the pandemic, Western countries had many more international tourist arrivals than South-East Asia. In 2018 France had 89 million international tourists, followed by USA (80 million), Spain (83 million) and Italy (62 million). This compares to 38 million for Thailand, followed by 26 million for Malaysia, and 16 million for Indonesia. In terms of international flight passenger arrivals in 2019, major airports in the USA had the most. Heathrow airport in London had 81 million, while Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris had 76 million, with Bangkok having 65 million. At the same time many travelers in European countries cross borders by road and rail. Government policies also had an effect. In Britain just 273 out of the 18.1 million people who entered the UK in the three months prior to the coronavirus lockdown were formally quarantined. At least 1,800 private aircraft landed in the UK during lockdown without tracking or screening passengers or crew. So Western countries are more internationally connected than South-East Asian countries. It is interesting to note that the official figures for Singapore and Malaysia are highest for South-East Asia. These two countries have high connectedness to the world economic system. This connectedness issue may also be a factor which helps to explain why Covid 19 figures in Eastern Europe are lower than Western Europe.
  4. The rate of “Obesity”, which is a high risk factor for serious symptoms and deaths, may be part of the explanation. Obesity in South-East Asia is much lower than in Western countries. Recent figures from the CIA show that obesity as a % of the population is 36% for the USA, 28% for the UK, 24% for Spain, 22% for France and 20% for Italy. The levels of obesity in Thailand are 10%, 7% in Indonesia and 2% in Vietnam.
  5. The warm and moist climates of South-East Asian countries may be a factor which has limited the spread of the virus, although this is still a debatable point among scientists and health workers. Some research papers from Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropic Medicine have questioned the belief that warmer climates help to reduce the spread of the virus. Traditional flu does show peaks in winter and troughs in the summer. But some laboratory studies have shown that the corona virus is less effective in warm, moist atmospheres.
  6. Effective government measures in terms of lock-down and contact tracing can only be attributed to the low level of Covid 19 infection and mortality in Vietnam, where there were draconian rules put in place from early on. The Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Cambodian governments had chaotic responses, which potentially might have put millions at risk. Singapore seems to have protected its middle-class citizens while sacrificing migrant workers who were locked up in un-hygienic dormitories.

The Cambodian politician Sam Rainsy has also suggested that immunity to Malaria and some genetic factors might also be responsible for low Covid 19 rates in South-East Asia [See https://bit.ly/3dRzMtW ]. But there is no scientific evidence so far to back this up.

Others have suggested that wide-spread wearing of face masks is an issue, but these masks are of limited efficiency and did not prevent the pandemic in China, where people also wore masks.

Some suggest that the lack of kissing and hand-shakes may be a factor. But same sex people touch each other in other ways in the region, often more so than in the West.

Despite what appear to be low Covid 19 infection rates and deaths in South-East Asia, the economic and social effects of government lock-downs and very weak social welfare support systems are causing a real crisis of poverty for millions of working people and this should not be ignored. This is also a serious issue in many poor countries of Africa and Latin America.

[See problem in Thailand: https://bit.ly/3bGCRvc  and https://bit.ly/2Syd7L8 ]



Is poverty a greater threat to Thais than Covid 19?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

While I am very reluctant to tempt fate by making any conclusive remarks about the effect of the Covid 19 world pandemic on Thai society, there are indications that the spread of the virus and the death rates in Thailand are much lower than the figures from Western Europe and the USA. But the effects of the parliamentary military junta’s lock-down rules on the poor have been devastating.


The lower levels of Covid 19 deaths in Thailand are little to do with government measures. The figures are similar to other South-East Asian countries.

See https://bit.ly/2KWTPdV

If we look at the number of deaths per million people, the Philippines has the highest at 6, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore with 3. Thailand’s figure is 0.8. This compares to the appalling figure of 598 for the U.K.

The lower proportion of elderly people in the population of South-East Asia may be a small factor, but this must surely be countered by the much higher levels of poverty and ill health.

Some research papers from Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropic Medicine have questioned the belief that warmer climates help to reduce the spread of the virus. Traditional flu does show peaks in winter and troughs in the summer. But the figures above mean that we have to wonder whether hot and humid climates and strong sunlight and UV radiation, together with more time spent outdoors, do have a significant effect on reducing Covid 19.

The extremely low Covid 19 figures for Vietnam show that the country’s draconian lock-down measures plus testing and tracking are also significant. So I do not advocate any premature lifting of lock down measures anywhere.

Of course, we must also be mindful of the quality of data from governments that hide the truth and record Covid 19 deaths under other categories due to lack of testing.

While the present levels of Covid 19 cases and deaths in Thailand are low, the threat of hunger and destitution among the poor is shocking. The closure of entertainment establishments, restaurants, street stalls, workplaces associated with the tourist industry, and many factories, means that millions are trying to survive on no income. This can be seen by the desperate queues for food and cash hand-outs from charitable organisations.



Meanwhile the government’s support for the unemployed is totally inadequate and shambolic. This shines a light on glaring inequality in society and the fact that Thailand does not have a welfare state. The rich and the elite continue to ride on the backs of millions of poor workers and peasants and the King and other royal parasites live in unbelievable luxury. Wachiralongkorn flies between his five-star hotel in Germany and his palace in Thailand, often ordering food and other items to be flown out to him in Europe according to his whims.

Wachiralongkorn’s hotel in Germany

To add insult to injury, the military are still trying to spend millions from public funds on expensive weaponry.


The whole situation is made much worse by the fact that the conservative elites have worked hard to destroy a democracy that was moving towards building a more inclusive and equal society since 2006. Whatever the faults and crimes of the Taksin government, and there were many, Taksin’s policies reflected a more modern vision of an inclusive society with universal health care, job creation and improved education. The alliance between Taksin’s elected governments and the working class and peasantry was just too much for the conservatives. Hence we are now saddled with a parliamentary dictatorship led by the military [see https://bit.ly/2Wm6bzI and http://bit.ly/1TdKKYs ]. It is this parliamentary dictatorship which is causing such hardship for the poor during the world Covid 19 pandemic. Given that we will be going into a world economic depression on the scale of the 1930’s, the situation for ordinary Thais can only get worse.

Read my previous article on Covid 19 in Thailand: https://bit.ly/2Syd7L8


Bungling military idiots put millions at risk of Covid 19 in Thailand

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

At time of writing (3rd April 2020) the official figures for those infected with the corona virus stood at 1,978 with 19 deaths. This figure may well under-estimate the spread of the virus as there have not been any systematic tests like in South Korea. We also know that the parliamentary junta is prone to lying. However, if other countries are anything to go by, Thailand may well be at the beginning of a steep rise in viral infections.


Despite warning signs from China in early February, the Thai government has failed to properly implement basic measures necessary for containing the viral pandemic. These should include closing non-essential workplaces and postponing public events, encouraging social distancing, organising efficient testing and tracking and making serious provisions for treating patients in hospitals. Support for workers affected by the viral pandemic have been minimal and often are chaotic.

The blog site “Doctor on Duty” reports that there is no proper coordination between the Ministry of Health, state hospitals and private hospitals. There continues to be serious shortages of face masks and protective equipment, with profiteering and corruption rife. Testing is uncoordinated with little evidence of the free testing promised by the government. In fact the government has been caught lying on a number of occasions.

picture from Bangkok Post

On March 3rd, the government ordered the suspension of all sporting events, but the army-run stadium in Bang Khen district still went ahead with fights on March 6th in front of a large number of spectators. People who attended this event have caught the virus and some have died. This is a typical example of how the military behave like the Mafia, doing what they like and making money on the side at the same time.

scenes at the coach station

On 22nd March the governor of Bangkok ordered the closure of shops, restaurants, tourist sites, educational institutions and service sector establishments. The next day there was pandemonium at the long distance coach stations, as thousands of laid-off workers hurried to return to their family homes in the provinces to avoid destitution. The effect was to export the virus out of Bangkok to provinces all over the country.  On 26th March a state of emergency was declared, with several travel restrictions.

Thai migrant workers returning from places like South Korea have been insultingly called “little ghosts” in the media and have received appalling treatment in quarantine centres. According to Khaosod newspaper, Thai fishery workers who returned from Malaysia were surprised to find that the coronavirus “quarantine facility” they had to stay in for the next 14 days turned out to be nothing more than tents pitched on the side of a road.

picture from Khaosod

For middle-class Thais and students, trying to return from abroad, the government has forced them to obtain a doctor’s certificate and an embassy letter before they are allowed on a flight. Imagine getting a doctor’s certificate of good health in a European country under pandemic lock down!


The government announced some financial aid for the self-employed and temporary employees. People were to be given 5,000 baht per month for 3 months. At the end of March almost 20 million people registered for this aid in less than 48 hours, almost seven times the number estimated by authorities. Not only were there problems with the on-line registration, but large tightly-packed queues gathered outside the government savings banks, thus helping to spread the virus. But all those who registered might not even be guaranteed payments.


Large multinationals Honda, Mazda and Ford closed their auto production lines in late March, for a period of at least 3 weeks, laying off 11,000 workers on full pay. They claimed that this was to protect workers. It is likely that this was a measure to retain skilled employees during a time of very low orders, so that production could be resumed quickly. Workers in company accommodation were not allowed to leave the premises.


In other areas, workers in small parts factories have been laid-off due to orders drying up from China and other manufacturing countries. These workers will have to rely on Social Insurance pay-outs.

Covid crash

The World Bank has predicted that the Thai economy will shrink by around 5%, almost double the shrinkage in GDP following the 2008 global recession. Yet the situation could turn out to be much worse. Prolonged shut downs in major economies could cause shrinkages of over 15% worldwide and this would have a knock-on effect on Thailand.

Government spending on Covid 19 was only about 3% of GDP in early April, far less than some other countries such as Singapore. No doubt the majority of the money was being channelled to businesses rather than citizens. Yet an editorial in the Bangkok Post on 3rd April stated that: “Instead of offering deferrals on principal and interest payments on residential mortgages, auto and business loans for a long or indefinite period, the majority of banks and financial companies have come up with packages which are tailor-made to ensure handsome profits will still go into their pockets.”

Meanwhile it is business as usual for the military, with more planned weapons purchases.


But the most disgusting scene of all is the Oaf-King Wachiralongkorn living it up in style in a German luxury hotel along with his concubines and servants. This has caused much anger among the public and people have been expressing this anger on social media in indirect ways, despite the draconian lèse-majesté laws.

It is high time to sweep away the monarchy and the military junta which props up this long-out of date relic. This is a time when people should be increasing their criticism of the Prayut government and preparing to build movements to overthrow the military in the future.

SEE A MORE UP-TO-DATE ARTICLE ON COVID 19 IN THAILAND HERE: Is poverty a greater threat to Thais than Covid 19?  https://bit.ly/2WsTqFq

See more on Prayut’s “parliamentary dictatorship” https://bit.ly/2x2OnD5

See more on the Oaf-King Wachiralongkorn https://bit.ly/3dNQewd  and https://bit.ly/2UCXKSY