Tag Archives: Military Dictatorship

The 1932 Revolution

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Thailand was well integrated into the world market in the 1930s and as a result of this, suffered the effects of the 1930s economic depression. The political fall-out from this was that a group of civilian and military state officials, under Pridi Panomyong’s Peoples’ Party, staged a revolution which overthrew the absolute monarchy of Rama VII in 1932. The first declaration of the revolutionaries clearly identified the economic crisis as bringing things to a head, with mass unemployment, cuts in wages and increased taxation experienced by the mass of the population. The Royal Family was notably exempted from these tax increases!

The 1932 revolution was carried out on the back of widespread social discontent. Farmers in rural areas were becoming increasingly bold and strident in their written criticism of the monarchy. Working class activists were involved in the revolution itself, although they were not the main actors, and cheering crowds spontaneously lined Rachadamnern Avenue as the Peoples’ Party declaration was read out by various representatives stationed along the road. The landmark work of Thammasart historian Nakarin Mektrairat details this wide movement of social forces which eventually lead to the revolution. It is important to stress the role of different social groups in creating the conditions for the 1932 revolution, since the right-wing historians have claimed that it was the work of a “handful of foreign educated bureaucrats”. In fact, there has been a consistent attempt by the right, both inside and outside Thailand, to claim that ordinary Thai people have a culture of respecting authority and therefore show little interest in politics.

The 1932 revolution had the effect of further modernising the state and expanding the base of the Thai capitalist ruling class to include the top members of the civilian and military bureaucracy, especially the military. The reason why the military became so influential in Thai politics, finally resulting in 16 years of uninterrupted military dictatorship from 1957, was that the left-wing revolutionary leader, Pridi Panomyong, failed to grasp the need to build a mass political party, choosing instead to rely on the military. In addition to this, the working class was still weak in terms of social forces which could oppose the military. Nonetheless, it would be quite wrong to conclude that class struggle was non-existent.

Pridi

Pridi wrote the first declaration of the Peoples’ Party, which was strongly anti-monarchy. He also drafted an economic policy paper which set out plans for the nationalisation of land, a super tax on the rich and a welfare state. Yet Pridi’s weakness meant that the economic plan was shelved and compromises were made with the conservatives about the role of the monarchy.

Never the less, the 1932 revolution meant that the role of the monarchy was significantly changed for the second time in less than a century. In the 1870s King Rama V abolished Sakdina rule in favour of a centralised and modern absolute monarchy. Sixty years later, the 1932 revolution destroyed this absolute monarchy so that the king merely became one weak and powerless member of the Thai ruling class. This is the situation today. It is important to understand this, because there has been a tendency by both the left and the right to exaggerate the importance of “long-lasting traditions” about the Thai monarchy. Todays’ monarchy may seem to have the trappings of a “traditional” king, especially to those observers who see the degree to which King Rama IX was revered among huge sections of the population. Yet the influence of this institution has fluctuated over the last sixty years and the “sacredness” of the monarchy has in fact been manufactured by military and civilian rulers to provide themselves with political legitimacy.

Thailand’s Military “New Order” Continues

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Three years ago I wrote about how Big Brother Generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha had pushed forward the militarisation of politics, economics and society. The aim was to create Thailand’s New Order, Suharto-style, with a double function for the military. What Suharto called “Dwifungsi”, was designed to enshrine the political and social role of the military in addition to the usual defence functions. As with Indonesia under the dictator Suharto, the long-term aim of the Thai junta is to install “Guided Democracy” in the interests of the conservative elites.

The latest chapter in this militarisation is the enforced “induction” of state employed doctors, dentists and pharmacists, within the central region, in a military camp. According to reports, these new health care professionals are forced to undergo military style training while soldiers shout, insult and scream at them. The so-called induction involves standing in the sun and rain for hours, crawling through mud, jumping over fires and being humiliated by Drill Sergeants. Participants have described it as a form of torture. It is obvious that this has nothing to do with instilling the ideals of “patient centred care” or respect for future patients. It has nothing to do with democracy. But the military block-heads who are running the country would never understand such ideals anyway.

At the same time, pictures have been published from an elite primary school in Bangkok of soldiers brain-washing little kids from years 3 and 4. The children were taught how to march like soldiers and no doubt had their heads filled with anti-democratic ideals.

Three years ago the junta made sure that all government ministries were controlled by military personnel.  Top civil servants who were in post before the coup were replaced by those who were loyal lapdogs or cronies of the junta.

New executive board members were appointed to state enterprises, with military men on every board and with HE Generalissimo Prayut as overall chairman. Civilian cronies were carefully chosen from among the ranks of the whistle-blowing middle class mobs who hate democracy. Historically the military has always used the state enterprises as cash cows to line their own pockets. This is especially the case with the profitable ones like the Petroleum Authority or the Airports Authority. This corrupt tradition started with the dictatorships in the 1950s.

Prayut also put himself in charge of the economy, ensuring that it took a nose-dive while the generals enjoyed huge benefits. Those who are poor have been insulted for “being lazy”.

Conveniently, the so-called Counter Corruption Commission stated at the time that junta members did not have to declare their ill-gotten earnings before and after holding office, unlike previously elected politicians.

In every region, military officers carry out normal policing duties and some people are still being tried in military courts.

Three years ago schools were having to change their curriculums to follow the dictates of the junta. Discipline, nationalism and love of Big Brother were emphasised in the new moral code. State employed teachers now have to strictly adhere to uniform dress-codes. But education must be done on the cheap in order to fund the bloated military and junta budget.

Three years ago the junta reassured the mass media that sending in troops to sit in their offices was “nothing to worry about”. According to the uniformed thugs, the media were “free to report the news”. They just had to avoid reporting anything critical of the junta. Now the junta has drafted a new law to heavily control the media in the future.

After his 2014 coup, Prayut ensured that the country had a military constitution and he packed the so-called “reform committees” with lackeys of the military in order to enshrine his dream of Military Guided Democracy.

Culture of dictatorship responsible for Thai education failings

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

While conservative newspapers like the Bangkok Post agonise over the state of the Thai education system, complaining about the inability of students to engage in critical thinking, they cannot identify the most important cause of this problem: the culture of dictatorship.

Today, anyone who criticises the military junta is faced with repression, insults from the authorities, or short stretches in military camps undergoing “attitude changing sessions”. The military are present at all levels of society, enforcing dictatorship down to grass-roots levels. Last year, the mere distribution of red plastic bowls at Songkran was enough to invite arrest.

However, when I talk about the culture of dictatorship in Thai society, I do not mean just the fact that the country is ruled by a military junta today and for long periods in the past. This is an important part of this appalling culture, but it is only one aspect.

The draconian lèse-majesté law, which forbids any critical thinking about the monarchy, is part of this culture of dictatorship even when there are elected civilian governments. The extreme right-wing ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy”, enforced in all schools and constantly promoted by the military, is part of this. The ingrained hierarchical nature of Thai society, where citizens have to crawl on the floor before the royals, where lower-class people have to bow their heads and show respect to those who are richer and more powerful than themselves, and where all this nonsense is decreed to be “Thai Culture”, cannot possible encourage critical thinking.

Long periods when it was deemed to be a “crime” to be a communist or socialist also blocked off the flowering of alternative viewpoints in open society. “National Security”, for the elites, is used to silence dissent. The idea of “one Thai nation” was not even challenged by the Communist Party because of its nationalistic ideology. Public playing of the National Anthem and the fact that citizens are forced to stand to attention at 8am and 6pm mean that there is no room for critical thinking about Thai nationalism. This is reinforced by the extremely high levels of official racism.

Until recently, people were afraid to admit to being atheists on official documents because it would lead to accusations of being a communist. This is part of the culture of dictatorship.

The weakness of trade unions in Thai society is linked to the main stream anti-socialist ideology. This in turn strengthens hierarchy and undermines alternative views about society which could encourage critical thinking.

Justification for military coups and so-called “reforms”, which decrease the democratic space, send out a message that citizens are “too stupid” to be allowed to choose their own governments. The middle-class reactionaries claim the people are not ready for democracy because of poor education. Therefore they need to be educated “in the right way”. Of course, this is a lie. Lack of democracy, caused by the actions of the elites, is the real obstacle to critical thinking.

Given that no mainstream newspapers or TV stations and no mainstream academics ever question this culture of dictatorship, it is a wonder that any young students can learn to think for themselves. Even the term “think for yourself” has been hijacked by the dictatorship to imply that those who have dissenting views are somehow brain-washed by people like Taksin and therefore those who “think for themselves” must obviously agree with the military and the conservatives.

Yet, as a former university lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, and a follower of Thai current affairs, I know that each generation of young Thais throws up critical thinkers. But it takes courage to do this. Today there are young students locked away in Thai jails for thinking for themselves, most are charged with lèse-majesté.

Apart from the culture of dictatorship, inequality in education is also a factor helping to keep the Thai education system in a poor state. This was highlighted by a couple of Finish educational researchers recently. But here the issue is closely linked to the culture of dictatorship because this culture exists to entrench inequality and to protect the elites. Those who have taken part in the destruction of democracy in Thailand are extreme neo-liberals who are totally opposed to a welfare state, progressive taxation or increasing wages. They justify all this with free-market ideology, including the former king’s reactionary “Sufficiency Economy”. Finland’s high education standards are a result of a welfare state, strong trade unions and a history of democracy.

The struggle to educate oneself, and the struggle to liberate oneself, are part of the same struggle. Thai citizens do not need to be fed “better” education by conservative experts, they need to throw off the chains of the culture of dictatorship.

What do the royalist really want?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In recent times we have seen anti-democracy mobsters roaming the streets of Bangkok demanding “True Democracy under the power of the King”. The military is constantly harping on about need to protect the institution and prerogatives of the monarchy. If we were to take the hysterical shouts from the Thai royalists at face value, we would be led to believe that they want to see a return to an Absolute Monarchy or at least an increase in royal political power.

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Yet this could not be further from the truth. These demands are a coded way of saying that they want less democracy and more authoritarianism under the power of the military and the conservative elites with the monarchy simply being used as a rubber stamp for everything they do.

Ever since the 1932 revolution led by the People’s Party that overthrew the Absolute Monarchy, amid mass support from the general population, there has been only one single royalist revolt and that was 1 year later in 1933. The Boworadet Rebellion was led by royalist Prince Boworadet in October that year. It lasted 12 days and was decisively defeated by government troops backed up by volunteers including trade unionists.

Decisive action by government troops and citizen volunteers defeated the Boworadet Rebellion .
Decisive action by government troops and citizen volunteers defeated the Boworadet Rebellion .

This was really the end of the dreams of the royalists that they could restore the absolute power of the monarchy. From this period onwards, according to historian Thongchai Winichakul, the royalists merely sought alliances to increase the importance of the monarchy in political society.

Pibun
Pibun

Until the military coup carried out by Sarit Tanarat in 1957, the most powerful factions of the armed forces and police under the triumvirate dictatorship of Pubun, Pin and Pao were strongly anti-monarchy, seeking to severely restrict the public duties and role of the king. The civilian faction of the People’s Party under Pridi, even though it compromised about moving forward to a republic, was never the less totally against restoring the power of the king.

Pumipon visits his patron, Sarit, who was on his death bed
Pumipon visits his patron, Sarit, who was on his death bed

It was the rise of Sarit, a military man with no connection to the 1932 revolution, that the royalists saw their opportunity to increase the status of the monarchy. This was made much easier by the heightened tensions in South-East Asia under the Cold War. The monarchy became a conservative anti-communist symbol and the U.S. very much supported this and the dictator Sarit.

But at no point did the royalists even dream of re-establishing the absolute power of the king. The military dictators who were in power in the 1960s, including Sarit, had no intention of giving up their power to the monarchy either. Their promotion of the king was so that he could be used more effectively as a tool to justify their actions and to justify elite class rule.

When we consider the situation in modern day Thailand, neither the present military junta nor politicians like Sutep Taugsuban had any intention of handing over their power and influence to the ailing king Pumipon and they certainly do not want king Wachiralongkorn to rule over them.

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The military justified their 2006 and 2014 coups by claiming that they were protecting the monarchy when the monarchy was never under threat from Taksin and his allies. It was merely their standard justification for toppling democratically elected governments. The military are very confident about using the monarchy for their own ends. They have had years of practice and high-ranking and retired military generals surround the throne via the Privy Council, allowing them to run the monarchy.

Politicians like Sutep and the middle-class Yellow Shirts also need a justification for calling for the overthrow of elected governments or for wrecking elections. When they call on the monarchy to intervene, as they did in 2006, it was a call for a military coup under the guise of a “neutral and unifying” king. When in 2014 they called for “True Democracy under the power of the King”, they wanted authoritarianism under the power of the military and themselves. At that point king Pumipon was clearly on his deathbed and incapable of intervening in anything. Their excuse for the destruction of democracy was that the poor were too stupid to deserve the right to vote and were therefore manipulated by Taksin.

The middle-classes, the military and the conservative elites have appropriated both “the Nation” and “the Monarchy” to mean themselves.

Twenty years of military dominated politics in store

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

As the year 2016 draws to a close we can look forward to years of military dominated politics. The “20 year National Strategy”, set down by the junta and its hireling law-makers, is designed to position the military jack-boot firmly on the back of any “elected” government in the future. Government policies will have to conform to this backward National Strategy, no matter what the electorate desire and naturally the National Strategy is royalist and neo-liberal. Of course the term “elected” is a very impressionistic description, since any future elections will be designed to obtain the “best” result, allowing for a weak puppet government palatable to the military.

But the so-called elections are in the far-distant future because king Pumipon conveniently died a few months ago, allowing the military to spend millions on the ceremonies associated with his death, which are being used to whip-up royalist mania. Pumipon’s death will allow the whole political process to be put on ice. There will not be any elections in 2017. They probably will be postponed to late 2018 at the earliest, and if the military appointed rubber stamp assembly doesn’t finish its drafting of terrible laws, the election could be rescheduled into 2019.

The junta’s draft political party law shows that they want to put political parties in a straight-jacket. Naturally anyone wishing to set up a party will be vetted, in best authoritarian traditions and any party which doesn’t fit the junta’s requirements will be disqualified.

The law raises the level of punishment for “selling” political positions to ridiculous extremes. People could be executed for doing this!! But naturally, no punishment for wrong-doing applies to non-MPs who become Prime Minister. This is just in case the Generalissimo were to be invited to this top position once again in the future.

What is more, this draft law stipulates that political parties must have a minimum of 500 founding members who each pay at least 2000 baht to the party. This amount of money represents about 25% of what most workers earn in a month. So the poor farmers and ordinary workers cannot possibly found a political party. Once again we see the results of “A Coup for the Rich”!

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In 2017 we shall continue to see the grotesque play act of men in military uniform pretending to grovel to the demented king Wachiralongkorn in a pathetic attempt to make us believe that they are “taking orders” from this imbecile. Word has it that Wachiralongkorn has appointed a number of his women to high-ranking but powerless military positions, which no doubt will have to be funded by the public. However, in an honest moment Wachiralongkorn said that his heart was warmed that General Prem Tinsulanon was re-appointed as head of the Privy Council. Without experienced generals on the Privy Council, the clueless king would not know how to best serve the ruling class. But the Privy Councillors need to be patient as Wachiralongkorn is a slow-learner.

Meanwhile the repression and censorship continue. The new “Computer Censorship and Democratic Crimes Law” has passed the junta appointed parliament and government control of the internet is set to further increase with the future introduction of a “single internet gateway”. There has been sporadic opposition to these measures, but the dictatorship needs to be overthrown in its entirety  in order to fully achieve freedom of speech.

It has been made “serious crime” to “like” or “share” the BBC Thai service’s web post of Wachiralongkorn’s biography, despite the fact that most Thais already know the truth. The whole of the ruling class and society are to be set in an official state of denial. “Lèse-majesté” is designed to silence the truth about royalty and the military. Loyalty is to tell lies. Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Dictatorship is Democracy!

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But there is some good news. His Excellency, Generalissimo Prayut has been awarded the position of “Great Political leader of exercise” by the World Health Organisation, for his participation in outdoor aerobics! Well this is according to junta sources anyway. It is difficult to independently verify the truth about this, but since the junta is made up of self-declared “good people”, we ought to trust them, I’m sure.

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At the risk of repeating myself, the fact of the matter is that without building a mass social movement to overthrow the military, the terrible state of Thai politics will continue. Remember that the middle-classes and the conservatives are totally responsible for this state of affairs and the NGOs also played their part in the destruction of democracy.

As 2016 changes to 2017, spare a thought for Thailand’s lèse-majesté political prisoners, especially Somyot Pruksakasemsuk.

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Thailand is a grossly unequal society

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

A recent report by Credit Suisse showed that the top 1% of Thais owned 60% of the nation’s wealth. This should come as no surprise to anyone. When challenged about this, the Dictator Prayut only managed a pathetically feeble excuse, saying that it would be “very hard” to do anything about this “because people don’t trust the state”. Well, it might be true that people don’t trust the dictatorship, but that is hardly a reason for the gross inequality in Thailand. In fact, if there was a popular uprising against the dictatorship and the state, it would do much to help eradicate inequality.

Thai-Rut newspaper cartoonist, "Sia", drew this to expose inequality. In the past he has been summonsed to an "attitude" changing session by the junta.
Thai-Rut newspaper cartoonist, “Sia”, drew this to expose inequality. In the past he has been summonsed to an “attitude” changing session by the junta.

The causes of Thailand’s inequality lie with the lack of democracy, the domination of the military, the extreme ideology of the monarchy and the fact that there is a serious lack of a strong labour movement with its own political party.

Despite the fact that Thailand’s GDP is 40 times smaller than that of the USA, Thailand has 3 billionaires who are among the world’s richest 85 people in the world. They are the monarchy, which is the 8th richest monarchy in the world with $44.24 billion, Dhanin Chearavanont, 58th richest man in the world with $12.6 billion and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, 82nd richest man in the world with $10.6 billion. Taksin Shinawat is the 882nd richest man in the world and the 7th richest Thai with $ 1.7 billion. At the same time, most ordinary workers in the private sector earn a minimum wage of 300 baht per day ($9.3) and migrant workers and workers in the agricultural sector earn even less.

Generalissimo Prayut’s official salary is ten times that of a qualified nurse and 16 times what ordinary workers earn. But of course that does not include all the shadowy earnings and multiple positions that many top generals enjoy, which far exceed their official salaries.

The rich, from the monarchy downwards, pay little or no tax. The majority of the tax burden being placed upon ordinary working people and the poor. Eighty percent of government tax from Thai citizens is collected in the form of regressive Value Added Tax and taxes on petrol, alcohol, cigarettes and vehicles. Only 19% is collected from income tax, which the rich avoid anyway. It has long been this way with ordinary people being forced to keep the elites in their luxurious life styles through exploitation of labour and collection of taxes. The rich are parasitic blood-suckers.

Abolition of the monarchy, down-sizing the military and introducing progressive taxation on the rich would go far towards redressing inequality.

Diamond-studded "Santa" outfit for one of the Princess' dogs.
Diamond-studded “Santa” outfit for one of the Princess’ dogs.

Thailand has no welfare state. There is no universal unemployment benefit and most elderly people do not have real pensions. Yet billions are spent on the already over-rich monarchy and the bloated military. A Welfare State was proposed by the leftist revolutionary leader Pridi Panomyong just after the anti-monarchy revolution in 1932, but it was successfully and vigorously opposed by the conservative ruling class, including the monarch, Rama 7th. Pumipon was also very much against a welfare state, instead proposing the reactionary “Sufficiency Economy” ideology. In this ideology, the richest man in Thailand claimed that the poor needed to “learn” to live within their means.

The “Sufficiency Economy” dogma was enthusiastically taken up by the rest of the ruling class, especially the military dictatorships of 2006 and Prayut’s present dictatorship. As an extreme neo-liberal ideology, it fitted well with free-market beliefs and both the worship of the free-market and the “Sufficiency Economy” were written into various military sponsored constitutions, binding future governments to anti-poor policies. The yellow-shirted middle-classes loved this because they had long derided Taksin Shinawat’s Universal Health Care scheme and his weak attempts to improve the standard of living for ordinary people. The present junta are threatening to introduce “co-payments” into the healthcare scheme and have devolved the minimum wage rate in order to keep wages low. They have also tried to prosecute former Prime Minister Yingluk for her government’s rice price support scheme which helped farmers. Of course Taksin was no socialist, he tried to avoid tax, and was also committed to the free-market, although he also favoured grass-roots Keynesianism by which the state intervened to help the poor. These policies were denounced by yellow-shirted academics as “populist vote-buying”. It would be “better” for the country if the poor, who make up the majority of the population, just starved or lived short and bitter lives.

What was shocking was the way in which many NGOs lapped up the “Sufficiency Economy” ideology because of their anarchistic rejection of state welfare. Academics like Chris Baker also praised it.

Welfare states are built through the struggle of social movements, especially the trade unions. Unfortunately, a combination of Maoist rejection of the working class by Thai left-wing radicals in the past, a patronising attitude to unions by the NGOs today, and ruling class repression, has meant that both the left and the unions remain too weak. This a problem which needs to be urgently addressed if we are to build a more equal society.

Abolition of the monarchy would not only save millions of baht, which could be put to better use, it would also end the obscene crawling on the ground in front of “big shots” and would be a political and ideological blow against inequality.

Patani: NGOs, Civil Society Groups, and the National Human Rights Commission back Thai state repression

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Recently there was another bomb attack at a market and a shooting outside an educational establishment in Patani. Who should take responsibility? Who should be condemned? And in this war between the oppressive Thai state and those fighting for self-determination, which side should we support?

The NGOs and those claiming to be so-called “civil society” groups in the South are quite clear. They issued a declaration condemning the Patani fighters and urging the forces of the Thai state to catch and deal with the perpetrators. They also urged the insurgents to stop using violence.

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There were no declarations from these groups urging the military junta and the Thai state to cease violence against the local Malay Muslims, no condemnations of Thailand’s violent occupation of Patani and no urgent requests that all the generals, politicians, soldiers and police who have committed state crimes be brought to justice.

Another group, calling itself the National Human Rights Commission, condemned the insurgents and urged support for state forces of “law and order”. This commission remained silent after the killing of unarmed red shirts in 2010 and has failed to condemn the use of lèse-majesté.

So the NGOs, so-called “civil society” groups, including civil servant associations, and the National Human Rights Commission, all show double standards and take the side of the oppressive Thai state in Patani.

Arundhati Roy once wrote that “any government’s condemnation of terrorism is only credible if it shows itself to be responsive to persistent, reasonable, closely argued, non-violent dissent. And yet, what’s happening is just the opposite. The world over, non-violent resistance movements are being crushed and broken. If we do not respect and honour them, by default we privilege those who turn to violent means.”

The people of Patani are prevented from forming legal political parties which advocate independence. The Thai constitution rules out any division of the country. Various members of the ruling class have repeatedly dismissed any ideas of autonomy or even proposals to use the Yawee language alongside Thai in Patani. State officials commit acts of violence with total impunity.

All Thai citizens are forced to respect the authoritarian ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” and those who do not are thrown in jail or witch-hunted by mobs of fanatical monarchists. Naturally the “religion” in this context is Buddhism.

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The peaceful protest against the detention of friends and relatives, organised by villagers at Takbai 12 years ago, resulted in the state murder in cold blood of nearly a hundred young men. No single state official has been prosecuted.

Torture and extra judiciary killings carried out by the Thai state are commonplace and any genuine rights organisations seeking to expose this are threatened by the military.

So how are those people who oppose Thai rule and repression, supposed to act in a non-violent manner? What space for them to act in such non-violent ways has been created by the NGOs and so-called civil society groups who backed various military coups?

A quick review of some historical events shows the way in which the Thai state has used violence and repression against the Muslim Malays of Patani.

1890s King Chulalongkorn (Rama 5) seized half of the Patani Sultanate. The Sultanate was divided between London and Bangkok under the Treaty of 1909.

1921 Enforced “Siamification” via primary education took place. Locals forced to pay tax to Bangkok.

1923 The Belukar Semak rebellion forced King Rama 6 to make some concessions to local culture.

1938 More enforced “Siamification” took place under the ultra-nationalist dictator Field Marshall Pibun.

1946 Prime Minister Pridi Panomyong promoted local culture and in 1947 accepted demands by Muslim religious leaders for a form of autonomy, but he was soon driven from power by a coup led by Thai nationalist military leaders. Patani leader Haji Sulong proposed an autonomous state for Patani within Siam.

1948 Haji Sulong was arrested. In April the same year, police massacred innocent villagers at Dusun Nyior, Naratiwat.

1954 Haji Sulong was killed by police under orders from police strongman Pao Siyanond.

1960-1970 Thai state policy of “diluting” the Malay population was initiated by re-settling Thai-Lao Buddhists from the North East of Thailand in the Patani area. This was carried out under various military regimes, starting with Field Marshall Sarit Tanarat. A ban was imposed on the use of the Yawee Malay language in state institutions including schools.

The school and education system has long been used to enforce “Thainess” by the state. Given this fact, it is hardly surprising that government teachers are targets for the insurgents. Even Buddhist monks in Patani are now totally compromised by their close links with the military.

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For this reason we must be clear that the violence in Patani is the responsibility of the Thai state and it is this state which should be condemned for its actions. The violence of those fighting oppression cannot be compared to the violence carried out by an oppressive state. We should therefore side with the people who are struggling for self-determination.

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Despite the fact that I support those fighting for self-determination, the insurgent armed struggle strategy prevents the building of mass political movements for freedom. It shuts out the role of ordinary people because of the civil war conditions and often results in the death and injury of innocent civilians.

Using “ghosts” to attack the Thai security forces and then not claiming responsibility might have some military advantages, but such advantages are massively out-weighed by the political disadvantages. By not claiming responsibility for attacks on “legitimate military targets” and by not confining attacks to such targets, the insurgents allow the Thai military to use death-squads, usually out of uniform, to attack and kill local activists and ordinary civilians who are on government black-lists. The government and mainstream media can then paint a picture of the insurgents as “armed gangsters” who kill people indiscriminately. This spreads fear among the local civilian population and is counter-productive to building real mass support among local villagers and also among the general Thai population in other regions. The ghost war strategy plays into the hands of the Thai state’s dirty war.

The Patani insurgents cannot hope to beat the Thai military in an armed struggle. They are significantly less well armed and funded and the local population which might support the insurgency is a small minority of the population within the current Thai state.

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To make any political progress towards liberation and self-determination, the Patani movement needs to abandon the armed struggle and build a mass political party which can operate openly without registering as an official party under Thai state legal constraints. This party should put forward political demands which go beyond just “Patani nationalism”. The party would have to address economic and social issues and be capable of winning support from local Thai Buddhists and also capable of winning solidarity from social movements in the central, north and north-eastern regions of Thailand. The experience of the IRA struggle against the British state or the struggle of other minority separatist movements shows that the demands for freedom cannot be won through armed struggle but must be achieved through political means.