Tag Archives: Monarchy

Repression, Nationalism, Racism & anti-women: Thailand’s Parliamentary Dictatorship

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

It is difficult to spot the difference between one year ago under the rule of the military junta, and today under the rule of the military Parliamentary Dictatorship. In fact the only difference is that after the fixed elections earlier this year, the junta is using parliament as a fig-leaf for the continued dictatorship.

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Following the brilliant ant-junta protests a week ago, the police have filed charges against the organisers of the peaceful and legitimate protests in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This is yet another example of the continued repression against the right to protest. It is hoped that any prosecutions will be met with an escalation of action on the streets.

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To prove who is really in charge, the Ministry of Defence has come out and condemned these pro-democracy protests. This again highlights the militarisation of Thai society and politics which has been going on since the 2014 coup.

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Added to this is the ridiculous accusations of lèse majesté by ultra-conservatives against people posting pictures of the protests with posters of the dead king in the background. These anti-democratic dinosaurs wish to make previous monarchs into holy relics. Yet, the individual most responsible for bringing the institution of the monarchy into disrepute, in the eyes of Thai citizens, is the present king Wachiralongkorn.

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This is due to his debauched life-style in Germany, his insulting behaviour towards women and his never-ending greed. This is why the Thai ruling class need to keep putting up posters of his dead father in their desperate attempt to prop up royalism.

The junta is trying to stir up racism and nationalism to deflect attention away from the lack of democracy and the deteriorating standard of living for most Thais. The Parliamentary Junta’s aristocratic Minister of Labour has been mouthing off about the need to arrest so-called illegal migrants who he accuses of “stealing jobs from Thais”. This is an age-old process of racist scape-goating. It is never true. Migrant workers fill low income and dirty-job niches vacated by locals. The Thai economy would be in a serious state without migrant workers.

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Rescuers carry body of civilian killed by military rangers

In Patani, the hated military rangers have murdered three innocent civilians in the province of Naratiwat. The rangers planted weapons and ammunition around the corpses and tried unsuccessfully to claim that those killed were insurgents. Eventually the military were forced to admit this and issued an “apology”. But that is not good enough. The rangers are hated and feared by local Malay Muslims for their trigger-happy and racist behaviour. The situation is made worse by having a military national government and by the deep racism and nationalism supported by the Thai ruling class. Peace can only be achieved if the military are forced to withdraw from Patani and national politics and citizens are able to exercise self-determination.

Thailand is one of the most unequal societies in the world. This is due to the monopoly of power by the conservative elites. Yet the present military government has defined women’s sanitary towels as “luxury” items for tax purposes. Women’s sanitary products are more expensive in relation to Thai incomes than in Western societies. This injustice has quite rightly caused a storm of indignation on social media. Sanitary products for women should be supplied free of charge as a necessary service to all women. They are not things that women can choose to buy or not to buy.

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As we turn the corner to 2020, it is to be hoped that the level of protests against the Parliamentary Junta will increase and the military will be forced out of politics. For that to happen it will take organisation.

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Wasteful, greedy, idiotic and insulting to women

[sharing or liking this post in Thailand risks a long stretch in prison]

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Thai people are being subjected to a lavish and wasteful ceremony in order to crown the idiotic, vicious, sexist and greedy Wachiralongkorn. The aim is to legitimise the illegitimate military junta and the rest of the barbaric Thai ruling class.

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Wachiralongkorn peering out of his ridiculous cage-like fancy dress

Wachiralongkorn never did very well at school or college. He was not interested in studying. But now this self-centred idiot claims the right to be crowned Head of State, sitting on an enormous pile of wealth.

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A Head of State should have some basic manners when conducting themselves in public. Yet he shows total lack of respect for Thai citizens. A good example is arriving hours late for a degree giving ceremony, where he just kept hundreds of students waiting until midnight.

At a high level dinner in Thailand, Wachiralongkorn allowed his dog, “Air Chief Marshall Fufu” to run up and down the high table, sniffing and licking food off the plates of Thai and foreign guests. It did not occur to him that this was a problem. He finds it impossible to tell right from wrong.

Wachiralongkorn is also known to have driven his jet on to the runway at Bangkok international airport to block the plane of the Japanese Prime Minister. This was over a personal grudge about a woman. For him, his self-centred behaviour was more important than diplomatic relations.

Members of the diplomatic community have long gossiped about how Wachiralongkorn is incapable of holding an intellectual conversation with anyone. This meant that ambassadors tried to avoid the embarrassment of meeting with him.

But much more importantly, Wachiralongkorn as King, is an insult and a slap in the face to over 35 million Thai women.

The fact that Wachiralongkorn falls in love or in lust with many women is not wrong. If he wants to take nude photographs of them to keep for himself, that is a personal matter between them and him. But his behaviour shows his basic disrespect for anyone, especially women.

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Millions of Thais and non-Thais have seen the video of Wachiralongkorn with his now ex-wife Srirasmi . They are sipping wine and eating by a swimming pool. She is naked and he is fully dressed. No accounting for taste, one might say. But it goes far beyond that. The male servants are in full uniform and there are people taking the video and snap shots. Wachiralongkorn makes his ex-wife crawl on the ground, naked, to take cake, like he was feeding a dog. Millions of Thais have seen a whole clutch of nude pictures of his other various girlfriends. He is an arrogant sexist pig. He does not have an ounce of respect for women. He abuses them with his power and money. And his money is taken from the collective wealth of the Thai people. He is now the most wealthly man in Thailand.

Why were these pictures released to the Thai public on the internet? It is hard to guess what goes on in Wachiralongkorn’s depraved mind. He is so alienated that he does not know how to respect anyone. The release of these pictures is not an accident. They have been coming out at regular intervals for years. Maybe he wants to destroy the women’s dignity and show that he is boss. Maybe he wants to show off that he can “pull” beautiful women. Maybe he feels that no one can touch him and he can do what he likes. In other words he doesn’t give a damn.

After Wachiralongkorn ditched Srirasmi, he has subjected her to systematic abuse, ordering his minions to make her life a living hell. The picture below from the German newspaper Bild asks whether she is under house-arrest.

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And this, also from Bild, is the tin shack which Wachiralongkorn has forced Srirasmi to use as a bathroom and toilet while under house arrest. The sign reads “I have provided this for you so you can know sufficiency”. It is written in crude language.

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Now we hear that Wachiralongkorn has appointed one of his many mistresses to be Queen. He also has a habit of appointing his women to high positions in the military. This tedious behaviour only adds to the burden of Thai citizens in paying for the lavish life-styles of these parasites.

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The mainstream Thai press have been busy reporting the so-called “achievements” of the new queen. None of these amount to anything. That is not surprising given that the only abilities of the royals that really matter are the ability to have sex and procreate and the ability to be a parasite living off the hard work of citizens.

Do not forget that his mother, the old Queen, looked upon her son with fondness and forgave all. They are close. The old Queen and one of her daughters openly supported the semi-fascist PAD and Sutep’s anti-democratic mob. His father, Pumipon, remained silent, refusing to criticise his son. This is a filthy rich dysfunctional family, like most royal families. We should get rid of the lot of them and this includes the equally parasitic Crown Princess Sirintorn and her elder sister Ubonrut.

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Remember that in Thailand people are forced to stand up and show respect to the Head of State. Draconian laws exist to enforce this. People must crawl and use Royal Language. They must wait in snarled-up traffic as the Royals rush past. They must pay taxes to support the Royals’ rich life-styles. Today this includes Wachiralongkorn’s palace in Germany, where he chooses to spend most of his life, jetting back and forth to Thailand when necessary. It shows that he really does not care about Thai society and merely wants to be King.  It also shows that he has little power and is just a useful tool of the military. [See https://bit.ly/2EOjsNL and https://bit.ly/2teiOzQ .]

The fanatical royalist generals who are in power today claim that the monarchy needs to be defended to the end because it is a symbol of the Thai nation. They claim that those who criticise the monarchy are a threat to national security. But this symbol of Thailand, which the generals promote, is an expensive embarrassment. Wachiralongkorn is idiotic, vicious, sexist and greedy. He does not represent the vast majority of Thai citizens.

Yet the generals are hedging their bets. The new TV video to accompany the National Anthem at 6pm stresses nationalism under the military. Clearly just relying on the rotten monarchy is not a very safe bet.

Those looking for a far better symbol of Thailand can look to the struggles and sacrifices of ordinary Thai citizens in the long-running fight for freedom and democracy. The Head of State should therefore be an elected ordinary citizen.

Thailand should be a Republic.

Politics of the Sewer

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The nomination of Princess Ubonrut, eldest daughter of the late Pumipon, (full name: Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi), as a candidate for Prime Minister by Taksin’s Thai Raksa Chart Party, is a new low for Taksin and his fellow politicians in all his parties, for the former Red Shirt leaders in Thai Raksa Chart, and for people who should know better like Chaturon Chaisang. But worse than all that, it is a symbol of the total degeneration of the Thai electoral system into the politics of the sewer, especially after the interventions of the military.

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Most people with half a brain and an ounce of democratic principles will not need to ask themselves about Ubonrut’s qualifications for the position of Prime Minister. But this might need to be spelt out for some Thais. Has Ubonrut ever been in touch with the lives of the majority of poor people in the country? Has she ever said anything progressive? Has she ever supported the struggle for democracy and justice? Has she ever condemned the military? Has she ever opposed the backward idea of hereditary public positions? The answer is clearly No! The only experience she has had in recent years is to promote herself in rubbish TV programmes while living her life in a bubble of luxury.

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The nomination of Ubonrut by Thai Raksa Chart is a slap in the face for all the Thai people who made huge sacrifices in the struggles for democracy, equality, justice and human rights. It spits on the memories of the 1932 revolution, the 14th October 1973 uprising, the 6th October 1976 massacre, the 1992 uprising and the great Red Shirt movement. Many people sacrificed their lives during these events. Ubonrut’s nomination spits on the very idea of democracy and peoples’ participation by saying that ordinary citizens cannot make any social changes and that the only person that can challenge the military has to come from the royal family. It is an exact mirror image of what the Yellow Shirt PAD protesters believed when they were trying to unseat Taksin.

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But there is a background to all this. Taksin deliberately destroyed the Red Shirt mass movement, the biggest pro-democracy movement in Thai history, after the election of Yingluk. He, along with the donkeys that led that movement, put it into cold storage and killed it so that it could no longer oppose the military. It is a terrible shame that progressive Red Shirts were unwilling or unable to build an alternative leadership of the movement.

Historical experience from Thailand, and elsewhere, shows that so-called “clever manoeuvres”, which involve adopting the reactionary ideology or views of opponents, always end badly. Ubonrut’s nomination will not destroy the power of the military, its 20 year National Strategy or the extreme political and economic inequality in Thailand. Even now, the mainstream Thai media is still using outdated and feudal Royal Language when referring to Ubonrut, although we are led to believe that she is a commoner. Worse still, the nomination opens the door to a “government of national unity”. All this merely represents another attempt at an elite settlement between Taksin and his opponents.

Some people seem to confuse “form” with “content”. Ubonrut’s nomination is not a consolidation of any mythical absolute monarchy. This is confirmed by the fact that King Wachiralongkorn has now come out against Ubonrut’s nomination, claiming that it drags the monarchy into politics.

It is a process which was aimed at cementing a conservative alliance between Taksin and the military within the framework of “Guided Democracy”, leaving out any space for democracy or participation by Thai citizens.

For those of us who are totally opposed to this “politics of the sewer”, we must redouble our efforts to build a progressive mass movement and to oppose the reactionary ideology of the ruling elites.

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Military rule has increased inequality

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The shocking levels of increasing inequality in Thailand have been recently revealed by the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2018 [See https://bit.ly/2RxcMFM , https://bit.ly/2QKpW63 ].

The report shows that inThailand, the richest 1% own and control 66.9% of all wealth. This compares to 51.5, 57.1, 46.6, 32.6, 24.6 and 35.3% for India, Russia, Indonesia, China, the UK and the USA, respectively. The Gini coefficient, which is a measure representing the income or wealth distribution of a country, also shows the stark inequality in Thailand. A value of 100% indicates absolute inequality, whereas 0% would indicate total equality. Thailand’s Gini coefficient stands at 90.2% compared to 63.1, 85.4, 84.0, 76.7 and 65.8 % for Japan, India, Indonesia, Finland and Australia, respectively.

Writing in the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia in 2015, Kevin Hewison wrote that “Economic and political inequalities in Thailand are mutually reinforcing conditions that have resulted from the ways in which the gains of rapid economic growth have been captured by elites. Preserving these privileges produces a political structure that is exclusionary and dominated by an authoritarian elite.” [See https://bit.ly/2Ac81L6].

Since the 2006 military coup against the elected Taksin government, I have argued in my book “A Coup for the Rich” that the Thai political crisis has its roots in the way that Taksin’s party responded to gross inequality and the 1997 economic crisis. This response gave him a huge electoral advantage and threatened the status quo [see https://bit.ly/2aE7zc6 ].

It is hardly surprising that military intervention in Thai politics has increased inequality since the ruling class faction represented by the military and the royalist conservatives are extreme neo-liberals.

With the upcoming elections, it is good that some political parties, like the Future Forward Party, are talking about the need for a welfare state. But their proposals do not go far enough, as they do not advocate a supertax on the 1% of the richest Thais. Prominent among this 1% is the Thai monarchy, which is obscenely wealthy. The wealth of the Thai monarchy is part of a deal struck by the military since dictator Sarit’s time. In return for allowing the King to control such wealth he was expected to toe the line and support and legitimise military dictatorships and all manner of authoritarian behaviour by the elites. The military and the elites then use the lèse-majesté law to protect themselves and their puppet king. This arrangement has continued under Wachiralongkorn. But it is not just the monarchy that makes up the 1%. It is comprised of the owners of top Thai multinationals such as the CP Corporation.

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To tax this 1%, the power of the elites, which is ultimately guaranteed by the military, has to be broken. This means taking on the military. It means being able to talk about the monarchy by scrapping the lèse-majesté law.

In addition to this, the minimum wage needs to be raised to civilised levels, perhaps raising it by more than 100%. Other wages need to be raised too. This requires the building of a strong trade union movement, something which has been ignored for too long. Even the Future Forward Party has not made any commitment to this; not surprising since the party leader is a business tycoon.

What should never be forgotten is that social equality is fundamental to building participatory democracy. Those who worry every day about how to make ends meet often struggle to become politically active in order to bring about change.

Apart from strong trade unions, we need a socialist party of the working class in order to advocate progressive policies which go well beyond the achievements of Taksin’s Thai Rak Thai or the promises of the Future Forward Party.

How to access my publications

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

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The Failure of Stalinist Ideology and the Communist Parties of Southeast Asia (1998). https://bit.ly/1OEfsJo 

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Thailand: Class Struggle in an Era of Economic Crisis (1999).   http://bit.ly/2kPNX9E  Book about the Thai labour movement.

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From the city, via the jungle, to defeat: the 6th Oct 1976 bloodbath and the C.P.T. http://bit.ly/1TKgv02   or   http://bit.ly/2d1iZbj

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A Coup for the Rich (2007).  https://www.scribd.com/doc/41173616/Coup-For-the-Rich-by-Giles-Ji-Ungpakorn or http://bit.ly/2aE7zc6  Book written in response to the 2006 military coup.

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Why have most Thai NGOs chosen to side with the conservative royalists, against democracy and the poor (2009).   http://bit.ly/1UpZbhh

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Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy (2010).  http://bit.ly/1TdKKYs  Book written during the continued crisis of democracy.

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Thai Spring? Structural roots of the Thai political crisis (2011). http://bit.ly/245WxhD

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Lèse Majesté, the Monarchy, and the Military in Thailand (2011) http://bit.ly/1cLbFtr or http://bit.ly/2cexlW1

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The Festering Sore: Thai State Crimes Go Unpunished (2012)   http://bit.ly/1qGYT9r

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The Bloody Civil War in Patani (2013) http://bit.ly/2bemah3

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The role of Thai Social Movements in Democratisation (2015). http://bit.ly/2aDzest

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What led to the destruction of Thai democracy? (2016). http://bit.ly/2cmZkAa or http://bit.ly/2bSpoF2

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Thai Military Re-adjusts its Relationship with the Monarchy (2017).  http://bit.ly/2xGDiSu Paper which looks at the role of the military and the monarchy after Pumipon. Also discusses the 20 year National Strategy for “Guided Democracy”.

 

Claiming that the king is all powerful is a convenient excuse to do nothing

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Even after the prolonged illness and eventual death of King Pumipon it is unbelievable that there are some Thais who still claim that the new “idiot” King Wachiralongkorn is all powerful and able to control the military junta.

One reason for prolonging this conspiracy theory is the mutual excitement that any discussion about the monarchy arouses. Given that the junta uses the lèse majesté law to imprison anyone who criticises the monarchy, it is understandable that discussions of “prohibited” subjects should cause such excitement. However, as I have explained in a number of my blog posts, the monarchy has always been weak and used as a tool by the military. In the case of Wachiralongkorn this is even more the case than it was for his father, who at least had some credibility in the eyes of many Thais. The lèse majesté law is also in existence in order to protect the military, who always claim to be protecting and representing the monarchy. [See https://bit.ly/2F73RoD, https://bit.ly/2teiOzQ, https://bit.ly/2AF9ozT ]

But excitement and gossip do nothing to further the struggle to increase the democratic space in Thai society.

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In practice, those who have been involved with protesting against the junta’s dictatorship on the streets of Bangkok have targeted the military and their policies. If such protests began to rebuild a pro-democracy social movement from the ruins of the Red Shirts, it would be a powerful force for progressive change. In the past Thai pro-democracy movements have overthrown military juntas. They have also had an effect in pressurising governments to change policies. Even today, when the movement is not as strong as in the past, small and continuous protests by young activists have kept up the pressure on Prayut’s junta to make sure that there is no back-tracking on elections. Also campaigns to defend the universal health care service have so far stopped them introducing payment fees.

Yet there are those who belittle these struggles against the junta by saying that “democracy cannot be established without getting rid of the monarchy”. They claim that Wachiralongkorn is controlling the junta. Some of the more extreme commentators, who titillate their internet audiences with anti-monarchy stories, even go as far as to say that they are not against the military.

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Given that in the present political climate it is not possible to demonstrate against the monarchy, the claims that the king controls the junta are just a recipe for doing nothing. By demanding something that is unrealistic, without also actively fighting for realistic changes, the demands become abstract. Yes, it is right that we aim for a republic, but we need to fight in the here and now for the ending of the junta and its 20 year plans to influence politics. Yes, it is right to aim for socialism, but as Rosa Luxemburg explained, socialists must also be the best fighters for reforms under capitalism.

Some Thais, who erroneously state that King Wachiralongkorn is ruling Thailand as an Absolute Monarch, also campaign against the military junta. But there is an inconsistency in their thinking because if it is the case that Wachiralongkorn is the most powerful person in Thailand, then the only meaningful campaign would be against the monarchy.

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The real anti-democratic thugs in Thailand are Prayut and his cronies and the sooner we build a mass movement against the military, the sooner we can have democracy.

Two main reasons why Thailand should be a republic

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

There are two main reasons why Thailand should be a republic and they do not include the myth that King Wachiralongkorn is supposedly an Absolute Monarch.

If we consider the reason why many countries such as Britain, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands and Thailand have retained the institution of the monarchy from a previous era, we can understand the role of monarchies under modern capitalism.

Monarchies fulfill a reactionary ideological role which tries to promote the idea that class divisions and inequality are somehow “natural”. Monarchies are a statement that most people are born “low” while some are born “high”. It is only the high-born folk who deserve to be surrounded by immense wealth and it is only they who have the God-given right to determine political, social and economic policies.

The reactionary ideology of the monarchy serves to legitimise privilege, elitism and a lack of democratic space in society. It is an ideology which protects the ruling capitalist class. So it becomes “natural” for bosses to dictate policies in the workplace and for big business to exclude ordinary citizens from making economic policy. It becomes “unnatural” for anyone to suggest that we take away the immense wealth and power of the few in order to distribute it among the many.

The ideology of the monarchy also serves the purpose of trying to claim that we are all part of one nation with similar interests; the “National Interest”. This is an attempt to reduce class conflict.

Of course, this reactionary ideology is constantly being challenged from below, in Europe and in Thailand, which is why the elites seek constantly to reproduce it.

In this way, the monarchies and capitalist ruling classes of Britain, Sweden, Spain and The Netherlands are little different from the Thai monarchy and the Thai capitalist ruling class. This is despite some differences in detail, such as the functioning lèse-majesté law and the practice of crawling on the ground before the king in Thailand.

Many Thai political commentators are unable to break free from the socialisation by the Thai state and wrongly believe the ruling class myth that the king is all powerful. They are encouraged to believe this by ruling class nationalism which promotes the idea that Thailand is somehow unique. Therefore comparative studies of other countries are irrelevant. Therefore foreigners “cannot possibly understand Thai politics and society”. Some foreign academics, like the ones from the “Cornell Mafia”, but others too, just love to perpetuate myths about the unique Thai or Asian psyche which makes Thai or Indonesian politics so “mysterious”. Sharp analysis disappears among statements about “barami” (charisma) or about the “fact” that Asians love powerful leaders.

In Thailand the role of the monarchy is to legitimise the actions of the military, big business and the conservative bureaucracy. Thus, the military use the excuse about protecting the monarchy in order to install themselves in power and to try to crush opposition. Elected business politicians like Taksin also used the monarchy to help with his legitimacy. The difference between Taksin and the military is that the military have only royal legitimacy to justify their political interventions.

I have argued in many posts on this site, and also in longer articles, that King Pumipon and King Wachiralongkorn did not and do not have political power. The main obstacle to freedom and democracy today is the military junta. But it is the ideological role of the monarchy which we also need to abolish.

King Wachiralongkorn has not created a new “absolutist” regime, but what he has been busy doing is feathering his own nest. He insisted on a change in the military’s constitution so that he could continue to enjoy the good life in Germany without having someone else appointed over his head to act on his behalf. He has reorganised royal wealth by concentrating it in his own hands. He has asked the Bangkok zoo and other organisations to move out of prime real-estate land so that he can earn higher profits. It is all about personal greed and that is all he is interested in and all he can actually control.

This brings us to the second reason why we need a republic in Thailand. The Thai king is one of the wealthiest people in the world and given the average levels of wealth of the majority of ordinary Thai citizens, this is an obscenity. If all this ill-gotten wealth was taken off the monarchy we could improve education, health care and build a properly funded welfare state.

So the two main reasons for creating a republic in Thailand are the reactionary ideology symbolised by the monarchy and the fact that it is a parasitic institution wasting millions of much-needed resources.

12 years since the 19th September 2006 coup

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The major forces behind the 19th September coup were anti-democratic groups in the military and civilian elite, disgruntled business leaders and neo-liberal intellectuals and politicians. The coup was also supported by the Monarchy, although the King did not order it to take place. Most NGOs also supported the coup. What all these groups had in common was contempt or hatred for the poor. For them, “too much democracy” gave “too much” power to the poor electorate and encouraged governments to “over-spend” on welfare. For them, Thailand is still divided between the “enlightened middle-classes who understand democracy” and the “ignorant rural and urban poor”. In fact, the reverse is the case. It is the poor who understand and are committed to democracy while the so-called middle classes are determined to hang on to their privileges by any means possible.

The junta claimed that they had appointed a “civilian” Prime Minister. Commentators rushed to suck up to the new Prime Minister, General Surayud, by saying that he was a “good and moral man”. In fact, Surayud, while he was serving in the armed forces in 1992, was partly responsible for the blood bath against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. He personally led a group of 16 soldiers into the Royal Hotel which was a temporary field hospital. Here, his soldiers beat and kicked people. Three months after the 2006 coup, on the 4th December, the King praised Prime Minister Surayud in his annual birthday speech.

The new military appointed cabinet was stuffed full of neo-liberals. The Finance Minister, Pridiyatorn Devakul, was a man who believed in “neo-liberal fiscal discipline”. He was opposed to “too much spending” on public health. After the coup the Budget Bureau cut the budget for Thai Rak Thai’s universal health care scheme by 23% while increasing military spending by 30%. Pridiyatorn threatened to axe many good mass transit projects which could solve Bangkok’s traffic.

The poor, who form the vast majority of the Thai electorate, voted enthusiastically for the two flagship policies of Thai Rak Thai. These were a universal health care scheme (the first ever in Thailand) and a 1 million baht fund loaned to each village to encourage small businesses. Thai Rak Thai won a second term of office with an overall majority in parliament in 2005. It is easy to see why. The main opposition party, the Democrats, spent the whole four years attacking the health care system and other social benefits. They said that it contravened “fiscal discipline” and Tirayut Boonmi and Ammar Siamwalla echoed Margaret Thatcher in talking about “a climate of dependency” built up by “too much” welfare.  Previously the Democrat government, which came to power immediately after the 1997 economic crisis, had used taxes paid by the poor to prop up the financial system. The banks were in crisis due to wild speculation by the rich which resulted in non-performing loans. The Democrats supported the 19th September 2006 coup because, according to deputy leader Korn Chatikavanij, “there was no constitutional” method of getting rid of Taksin. Korn then went on to praise Prime Minister Gen. Surayud, saying that the new appointed government was “not a military government”. He also said that he “respected” the junta for trying to establish political “stability”.

There was of course a very nasty side to the Taksin government which was overthrown by the coup. During their first term of office they waged a so-called “war on drugs” in which over 3000 people were shot without ever coming to trial.  In the Patani they waged a campaign of violence against the Muslim Malay-speaking population. The government was also responsible for the murder, by the police, of defence lawyer Somchai Nilapaichit, who was defending people from the Patani.

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Immediately after the coup, a coalition of young people sprang into action. Only two days after the 19th September, while armed troops were still on the streets of Bangkok, the “19th September Network against the Coup” organised the first of many illegal public demonstrations. Many people from different groups cooperated with the Network. Our slogans were simple: “No to Taksin and No to the Coup”.

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Soon after the September coup, I published a book titled “A Coup for the Rich” . The book was given to the Special Branch by Chulalongkorn University, where I taught politics. This resulted in my exile in the UK to avoid charges of lèse-majesté. Many other Thais are now in exile abroad because of their political views.

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The 19th September 2006 coup marks the beginning of the present period of political crisis and the destruction of democracy in Thailand.

 

The Thai monarchy has changed many times. It can be abolished.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

This year’s anniversary of the 1932 revolution, which occurred on the 24th June, was an important one. There is a major ideological battle to achieve hegemony over the history of the event. [See http://bit.ly/2pwS5Pg ]

The importance of history is in what it can tell us about the present. It is important not to see the present monarchy, even in Pumipon’s time, as an unchanging “left-over” from feudalism. A brief study of Thai history can explain this. But the important conclusion is that it is possible to abolish this parasitic institution once and for all.

Before the major transformation of the Thai state into a centralised capitalist model in the 1870s, “Thailand” as a nation-state did not exist. The back-projection of “Thailand’s history” from the modern era to Sukotai (1270) and Ayuttaya (1350-1782) must therefore be seen as rewritings of history by people such as Luang Wichitwatakarn and Prince Damrong, to serve modern nationalistic ideology.

Before the early Bangkok period the dominant economic and political system in the central and northern region can best be described as the “Sakdina” system. This was a loose political entity based on clusters of powerful cities, such as Sukotai, Ayuttaya, Chiangmai, and Krungtep (Bangkok), whose political power changed over time and also decreased proportionately to the distance from each city. Not only was there no such thing as a centralised nation-state under an all-powerful king, but political power to control surplus production was also decentralised.

In this Sakdina system, control of surplus production, over and above self-sufficiency levels, was based on forced labour and the extraction of tribute. This was a system of direct control over humans, rather than the use of the ownership of the means of production to control labour. Its importance was due to the low population level. The majority of common people (Prai) living near urban centres were forced to perform corvée forced labour for monthly periods. There were also debt slaves (Taht) and war slaves (Chaleay Seuk). This direct control of labour was decentralised under various Moon Nai, nobles and local rulers (Jao Hua Muang) who had powers to mobilise labour. The result was that under the Sakdina system both economic and political power was decentralised away from the king.

Trade also played an important part in the economy. Control of river mouths as export centres became more important as long distance trade increased. Local rulers sought a monopoly on this trade in cooperation with Chinese merchants who ran sailing junks as far as China and the Arab world.

Although the increasing penetration of capitalism and the world market into the region had already increased the importance of money and trade, in the early Bangkok period, it was direct pressure from Western imperialism and class struggle from below that finally pushed and dragged the Bangkok rulers towards a capitalist political transformation. The British imposed the Bowring Treaty of 1855 on the rulers of Bangkok. This treaty established free trade and the freedom for Western capital penetration into the area without the need for direct colonisation. While the monopoly over trade, enjoyed by the Sakdina rulers of Bangkok, was abolished, vast opportunities were created for the capitalist production and trade of rice, sugar, tin, rubber and teak. An opportunity also arose to centralise the state under a powerful ruler. Thailand’s Capitalist Revolution was not carried out by the bourgeoisie in the same style as the English or French revolutions. In Thailand’s case, the ruler of Bangkok, King Rama V or “Chulalongkorn” brought about a revolutionary transformation of the political and economic system in response to pressure from an outside world, which was already dominated by capitalism, political rivalry with the nobles and class struggle from below in the form of people avoiding forced labour.

This revolution involved destroying the economic and political power of Chulalongkorn’s Sakdina rivals, the Moon Nai, nobles and local Jao Hua Muang. Politically this was done by appointing a civil service bureaucracy to rule outer regions and economically, by abolishing their power to control forced labour and hence surplus value. Forced labour was abolished.

The Absolute Monarchy of Rama V was a thoroughly modern centralised institution, created in order to serve the interests of the ruler of Bangkok in an emerging capitalist “Thai” nation. It is this modern form of capitalist monarchy which was overthrown only sixty years later in 1932. The further transformation of the monarchy into a Constitutional Monarchy, as a result of the 1932, revolution was a contested area. Radicals wanted a republic, moderates wanted a Western-style Constitutional Monarchy and the ultra-conservative among the military wanted to create a false image of a god-like and powerful monarchy which they could manipulate for their own purposes. The ultra-conservatives were the ultimate victors with the help of the royalist old guard who had now given up any hope of restoring the Absolute Monarchy.

With Wachiralongkorn on the throne the importance of the monarchy will be reduced as he is not fit for purpose. [See http://bit.ly/2l63Z1I]

The monarchy today is a mere puppet of the military with a falsely created image of “power”. But “power” is always concrete and political power cannot be separated from the power to determine state policies on social and economic issues or international relations. Today that concrete power lies with the military. [See http://bit.ly/2AF9ozT   ]

New Monarchy now less important to Thai Junta than before

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Despite the manic funeral ceremony from Pumipon, the new monarchy in the form of Wachiralongkorn will be less important for the junta and its conservative allies in the future.

King Pumipon was never a powerful figure who could order the military, the capitalists or the politicians to do his bidding. The reality was that Pumipon was merely a willing tool of those in power, especially the military. His role was always to provide a strong ideological legitimacy for the elites and their actions, especially the actions of the army. Pumipon was never brave or resolute enough to be a political leader. His ideological role was not just about defending the military and the undemocratic elites. His reactionary “Sufficiency Economy” ideology was designed to oppose any redistribution of wealth and to support neo-liberalism by opposing state intervention to alleviate poverty. [See http://bit.ly/2oppTvb]

King Wachiralongkorn is even more weak and pathetic than his father. This is because he lacks all credibility because of his terrible behaviour, which robs him of any respect, even among royalists, and the fact that he has absolutely no interest in affairs of state. In terms of providing any legitimacy for the actions of the military or the elites, Wachiralongkorn is not fit for purpose.

So what is the junta going to use to replace the role of Pumipon? One option which they are engaged in right now, is the crafting of the “National Strategy”. This is a set of political and economic rules which will have a higher status than any laws. It will restrict all future governments and government institutions to the narrow path laid down by the junta. It will be policed by the National Strategy Committee, headed by Generalissimo Prayut, various sub-committees filled with junta appointees, and by the military backed Constitutional Court and the Election Commission.

It is claimed that this National Strategy Committee, which is part of the grand design for a system of “Guided Democracy” will ensure good governance and good stewardship of the nation. The junta and its friends have been banging on about “good” people for years. Not surprisingly, good people are those who think and act like the authoritarian generals. So Thailand has had a number of “good” military coups and other “good” acts have included shooting down “bad” unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators.

It is also falsely claimed that the National Strategy can create unity, reconciliation and political reform.

The ruling class, and especially the military, will still cling to, quote and enforce the reactionary ideology of “Nation, Religion and Monarchy” and the use of the draconian lèse majesté law will continue when the military and the status quo is criticised by dissenters.

But those in power will now depend much more on quoting the “sacred” National Strategy, as though it had genuine legal status, in order to legitimise suppression of the opposition.

We should not be surprised at the changing role of the monarchy. It has never been set in stone. In the period up to the overthrow of the generals in 1973, King Pumipon was just one factor among many providing legitimacy for the military. Anti-communism and the ideology of “Nation Religion and Monarchy” were the mainstays of the dictatorship. Of course Pumipon was promoted as a symbol of anti-communism. But the manic propaganda promoting him to a god-like status only took off after the communist threat had subsided.

The lèse majesté law is also flexible in its purpose. After the recent military coups it was used more to protect the military than Pumipon and the recent  lèse majesté charge against Sulak Sivaraksa because of a public speech about King Naresuan, who ruled the Ayutthaya Kingdom 400 years ago, shows that it can be used against those who question Thailand’s manufactured nationalist history.  Questioning this history is a threat to the status quo.

In addition to this, the junta has drawn up a law to prevent anyone from criticising the Constitutional Court. Anyone who does this will risk a prison sentence. As already mentioned, the Constitutional Court is to be used to police the National Strategy and in the past it has been used to overthrow elected governments.

In some ways the Thai National Strategy can be seen as similar to Indonesia’s “Pancasila”, which was a set of five guiding principles initiated by President Sukarno and later used to suppress left-wing or religious opposition, especially under the dictator Suharto. Pancasila was also used to repress the rights of populations to break away from Indonesia and to justify a lack of democracy. Pancasila’s so-called legitimacy was based on the need for national unity and order and General Suharto often pointed to the chaos of the early years after independence to justify it. The Thai junta will use the same justification.

Whether or not the Thai National Strategy can become the “New Monarchy” remains to be seen and depends on whether the junta can convince the majority of citizens to willingly accept it. In the meantime, Wachralongkorn will enjoy spending his millions in his palace in Germany and the Thai ruling class will try to keep him out of the limelight.

Read full paper here: http://bit.ly/2xGDiSu