Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Debunking the Flawed Thai Succession Crisis Thesis: Part 2

This is my 2nd post on debunking some of the myths that have crept in around the “Succession Crisis” thesis as being determinative of Thailand’s present political problems. 

True to form, after my last piece, Andrew Marshall launched into quite a silly and pointless personal attack against me on both twitter and Facebook. It’s a shame he can’t engage with debate in an honest and open manner.

No matter. It certainly wasn’t my intention to get into a slanging match with Andrew Marshall when I wrote my last piece but it was certainly an attempt to critique some of his rather weak and unsubstantiated strategic arguments - those being that the Succession Crisis defines Thailand’s present political crisis.

"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1971).
To add to my previous post what I wanted to look at briefly was the rise of democracy in Thailand and how that has presented an epoch-shifting threat to the dominant, authoritarian hegemony that has coalesced itself around the military and the “network” rather than the historical footnote of the royal succession.  

This authoritarian hegemony, which has relied on myths of nation, a militarisation of certain key components of Thai civil society - particularly the academy - a virulently censorious culture that seeks to impose, through use of force, cultural and social homogeneity, and which ultimately relies on Army violence and a politicised judiciary to coerce this onto an increasingly unwilling population, can easily be defined as a political form of Thai fascism. 

Those who seek to maintain this fascistic status quo have historically centred themselves, and sought to dominate and control, the armed forces, the Democrat Party, the majority of the Thai media (and, in particular, the English language Thai media), significant elements in the academy and other educational institutes, the aristocracy, the civil service, the so-called “independent institutions”, cultural and religious bodies and the judiciary & legal professions. Thai fascism has also historically been supported internationally by US governments and the US military in exactly the same manner the US aided and abetted violent, anti-democratic and fascistic regimes in Central and South America.  

I’ve often been criticised for using the term “fascism” too loosely in the Thai context. I would counter that my use of the term is based on an analysis of the evidence as presented by Thailand’s body politic and that, in fact, I’ve only used the term as a factual descriptor not as a throw-away term of abuse. It is my view that Thai politics and culture is so deeply rooted in a virulent form of fascism that it has become naturalised and unconscious. Stepping out and stating “this is fascism” is far more of a “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment than actually stating that the Emperor, himself, is naked, so to speak.

So, in my view, the word “fascism” has been consciously underused to describe the politics of Thailand - hence my need to balance this up by its repeat use. This deliberate avoidance of the term is particularly so with much of the Western media in Bangkok, many of whom end up becoming subsumed into the unconscious ideology of Thai fascism and then personally invest in maintaining this social and economic status quo that they too benefit from individually. They collude with it - Thai-style Lord Haw Haws.

What is being challenged at the moment in Thailand, the real hegemonic crisis if you like and the precise moment where “a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”, is the threat posed to Thai fascism by the emergence of Thai democracy. In a sense a “new” Thailand is being born, a new political and social consciousness is slowly developing (albeit unevenly), and there’s literally nothing that Thai fascism can do to prevent that - unless, of course, it enacts a genocidal-scale massacre upon the Thai population.

The Succession Crisis in this scenario is a mere detail. One could even argue that without a Succession looming that the situation could be more tense and ready to fracture. The possibility of Succession at least gives the illusion of potential for some room for movement in the over-arching crisis. Without that possibility of change attitudes may be even more entrenched and extreme violence and civil war more likely.

The Succession Crisis as definer of the present political crisis is a nice easy hook. It looks perfect on book covers, as a conference title and also provides a nice, neat, easily identifiable backdrop for the lazy Western media corps in Bangkok. It also means that the Western media corps don’t have to explain their connivance with and refusal to report on the spectre of Thai fascism that has cast such a shadow over the “Land of Smiles.” But it needs to be challenged and it needs to attract the right kind of intellectual rigour before it can ever come close to being considered "determinative". Accepting it as a "received" wisdom should not be the position of progressive thinkers on Thai politics however attractive it may look as an oversimplified marketing device.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Koh Tee's Words Are Nothing When Set In The Context of Thai Fascist Violence

As Red Shirt militant Koh Tee goes on the run for his alleged “lese majeste” comments on a YouTube documentary the Yingluck government - true to form - has capitulated spectacularly at the first bit of pressure from the “Monarchy Network”.

The documentary in question - made by the partly Fox Media-owned & Murdoch-run “VICE” media group (the backstory on James Murdoch, who basically fled the UK after criminal activity at the now defunct News Of The World newspaper joining VICE's board is interesting) - mostly resembled brainless backpackers using Thailand’s increasingly violent political crisis as a backdrop for their hipster thrills. In fact so clueless were Vice that they didn’t even realise the danger they put both themselves and Koh Tee in by releasing the finished product that they did. 

No matter - the hysterical and histrionic response from the Thai fascists in the Army, Democrat Party and PDRC was entirely predictable. 

This Thai fascist bloc, who’ve murdered and killed Thai citizens with complete impunity, are notorious for perceiving words to be more dangerous than bullets. The Democrats can order troops to slaughter unarmed Thai civilians and rationalise this as “necessary”. The Thai Army can carry out that slaughter and claim, with a straight face, that it was nothing to do with them. The PDRC have repeatedly tortured, kidnapped and even murdered pro-democracy activists yet their leaders are never held to account or even properly investigated.

Yet, if a militant Red Shirt speaks a certain form of language about a particular subject, the entire weight of the state apparatus is brought to bear upon them in an instant.

Admittedly Koh Tee’s language and threats and his claims to being “armed”, would mark him down for arrest in most democracies.

However, it is also clear that the actions of Thai fascist bloc would not only mark them down for arrest in most democracies but would likely even have them marked down as the terrorist organisations they almost certainly are. 

In other democracies Abhisit’s political career would’ve ended years ago, Suthep and his gang of PDRC thugs would be serving 30year prison sentences and Prayuth would never have got anywhere near any position of responsibility in any organisation. Furthermore the Thai Army would be under civilian control, the February 2nd election result would’ve been ratified and there’d be no 112 lese majeste law with which to try Koh Tee.

In the final analysis Koh Tee’s words are nothing when compared to the vicious, violent and increasingly fascistic context of Thai politics within which he uttered them.

The government's relentless pursuit of Koh Tee, whilst failing to hold the Army to account for the 2010 Bangkok Massacre, further marks them down as preferring to kowtow to the unelected "network" than to serve the rule of law and the electorate. 

Another certainty is that the schism between Pheu Thai and their supporters will grow wider if they only act in the interests of the powerful. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

หลักฐานโผล่: กลุ่มเผด็จการฟาสซิสต์กปปส.กำลังคุกคามมหาวิทยาลัยไทย

โดยกลุ่มกปปส.ซึ่งมีความเชื่อมโยงกับพรรค “ประชาธิปัตย์” ได้ส่งจดหมายเรียกร้องให้มหาวิทยาลัยติดตั้งป้ายสนับสนุนกปปส. และเข้าร่วมกิจกรรมที่สนับสนุนกปปส.เท่านั้น

ผมได้รับจดหมายที่เขียนถึงรองคณบดีคณะวิศวกรรมศาสตร์ จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย ซึ่งเป็นมหาวิทยาลัยที่มีชื่อเสียงในกรุงเทพฯ

แม้ว่าจะไม่มีคำขู่อย่างชัดแจ้งในจดหมายดังกล่าว แต่กลับมีคำขู่โดยนัย เนื่องจากกปปส.กระตุ้นให้มหาวิทยาลัยทำการดังกล่าวเพื่อปกป้อง “สถาบันกษัตริย์ ชาติ และศาสนา” และสนับสนุนการถอดถอนนายกรัฐมนตรีที่มีความชอบธรรมตามระบอบประชาธิปไตย ตามรัฐธรรมนูญ และเป็นที่นิยม นางสาวยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร

และชัดเจนว่าในขณะนี้กลุ่มกปปส.มีความตั้งใจที่จะให้ร้ายป้ายสีกลุ่มเคลื่อนไหวเรียกร้องประชาธิปไตยโดยการอ้างว่าแกนนำนปช.มีความคิด “ต่อต้านสถาบันกษัตริย์” ซึ่งเป็นข้ออ้างเดียวกับที่กลุ่มเผด็จการฟาสซิสต์ไทยมักใช้เพื่อสังหารหมู่ผู้เรียกร้องประชาธิปไตยอย่างโหดเหี้ยม

ในขณะนี้ดูเหมือนว่ากลุ่มกปปส. จะตั้งใจกดดัน และอาจใช้วิธีการข่มขู่หากจำเป็น เพื่อให้มหาวิทยาลัยไทยดำเนินการตามแนวทางต่อต้านประชาธิปไตยอย่างดุเดือด


Evidence Emerges of Thai Fascists, the PDRC, Threatening Thai Universities

A letter supposedly sent by Thai fascist organisation, the "Democrat" Party-linked PDRC, has emerged that demands Thai university management only display pro-PDRC banners and engage in pro-PDRC activity.

The copy of the letter I have received is addressed to the Deputy Dean of the Engineering Faculty at Bangkok's prestigious Chulalongkorn University.

Thai fascist leader Abhisit Vejjajiva rating at a Bangkok rally

Whilst there is no explicit threat in the letter there is certainly an implied one as the PDRC exhorts the university to act in defence of "King, nation and religion" in order to support the unseating of Thailand's democratically-mandated, legally-constituted and popular Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

It is also clear that the PDRC are now intent on smearing the pro-democracy movement via false claims that the UDD leadership is "anti-monarchy" - similar claims have been used previously by Thai fascist movements to rationalise bloody massacres of pro-democracy activists.

The PDRC now seem determined to pressure - with implied threats if necessary - even Thai universities to follow their aggressive anti-democracy platform. 

A rough translation of the letter follows whilst a pdf copy of the original letter is at the bottom on this post.

To Deputy Dean of Engineering Faculty 

PDRC will hold rally on the day that the CC will hand down the verdict to remove YL in order to express our will that we want the neutral govt to resolve the conflicts in Thailand, topple taksin regime and reform the country before election.

It is necessary for PDRC to ask for cooperation from your university to get the students to join our rally in order to show pure power without backing of any political side. We ask you to follow these requests:

1. Use all kind of university’s media to make people love and uphold the nation, religion and the King as well as advertise the PDRC movement that we fight for these three pillars of the country - and we are especially opposed to the anti-monarchy movement.

2. Set up the unit to distribute UDD leadership’s anti-monarchy speech in order to destroy legitimacy of UDD and supporters of caretaker govt.

3. Invite students, lecturers and workers who are under your command to join PDRC movement by telling them that this is being done to protect the nation, religion and the King as well as opposing  corruption in the caretaker govt.

4. Put up the banners supporting PDRC inside your university and only advertise PDRC’s news.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Debunking the Flawed Thai Succession Crisis Thesis: Part 1

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

Today the BBC's rather dim and politically dodgy (AKA openly sympathising with fascists) Bangkok correspondent, Jonathan Head, raised the issue of the Succession that will follow the death of Thailand's elderly king as being the determining factor in the present political crisis that is gripping the country. 

I've long thought the idea that the "Succession" issue is determinative of the present Thai political crisis as being based on the kind of lazy analysis which seeks to avoid the tougher questions required by a more complete historical and political investigation.

The main agent in pushing this theory, Andrew Marshall, is quite well-known for attacking anyone who dares challenge him on the Succession theory - something he has sought to claim ownership of - and given that most challenges come from the fascistic end of the political spectrum that might be an appropriate response.

However, it is my view that by purely focusing on Succession to such an over-determinative level the debate on the Thai political crisis is being skewed away from a more in-depth analysis and, in fact, actually plays into the hands of the very fascistic/ultra-royalist forces that Marshall's platform claims to oppose.

For a start claiming that the "Succession" is THE determining factor in the present Thai crisis doesn't explain 80years of attacks on Thai democracy, 18 coups, several massacres and many constitutions. Where was the present Succession crisis when Pridi was ran out of Bangkok, when Sarit took power, when the guns were turned on the pro-democracy activists in 1973 and 1976? 

Furthermore does anyone seriously believe once the Succession issue has been resolved - and I mean in either direction - the Army and the billionaires backing the PDRC are just going to allow democracy to flourish unchallenged? Does anyone seriously believe that the USA are going to stop using Thailand as the SE Asian pivot from which to play their  vicious strategic power games? Will the CIA torturers, the arms dealers, the criminals, the gold hoarders just decamp? Will the Thai generals, the Democrat Party fascists and the monarchy network all suddenly embrace democracy and allow accountable civilian rule to take root?

Of course not. And it would only be the most delusional naif who would think that is the case. 

Thailand's present crisis is rooted in a long-term political and historical struggle and can only be analysed via that prism not via the social media marketing strategies of those who want to sell their latest book however well-intentioned they might be.

Arguing that "Succession" is the ultimate crisis in Thailand would be like a bunch of chickens debating the importance of which kind of predator is coming to devour them. Ultimately, the "Succession" crisis is meaningless when the wider context of power is considered. In effect, the real crisis is not a "Succession Crisis" but a "Democracy Crisis".

I certainly don't claim to have all the answers and do believe the Succession is a genuine crisis for certain groups in Thailand but, in my view, believe that pushing the debate into this one determining direction will ultimately deny the opportunity for a wider analysis to take place and for the answers to Thailand's crisis to be found.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Thailand: Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

Statement of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD)

We Oppose the Ruling of the Constitutional Court Intended to Render the 2 February 2014 Election Unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court has ruled on a matter forwarded to them by the Ombudsman under Article 245 (1) of the Constitution. The matter in question was whether or not the general parliamentary election held on 2 February 2014, in line with the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), was constitutional. In a statement announced by the Chief Spokesperson  of the Constitutional Court, the Court commented that there were 28 electoral districts in which there were no candidates who submitted applications to contend in the 2 February 2014 election.  The Court further commented that elections cannot be held in those districts after 2 February because the effect would be that the general election was not held simultaneously on the same day across the kingdom. Therefore, the Court ruled that the 2 February 2014 election was not one that was held simultaneously on the same day throughout the kingdom. The effect of this ruling is to make the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013), particularly the setting of the date of 2 February 2014 for the election, unconstitutional and in contradiction with Article 108, paragraph two, of the Constitution. It is the view of the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy (AFDD) that this ruling of the Constitutional Court ruling contains the following problems of constitutionality and political legitimacy: 

1. Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of Thailand stipulates that the Ombudsman can propose a matter to the Constitutional Corut when he thinks that there is “any provision of law that begs the question of constitutionality.” Therefore, the substance of the case that the Ombudsman has the discretion to send to the Constitutional Court to consider must be a “provision of law.” But in this case, the clearly visible problem is that the substance of the case is “the holding of the general election.” When the substance of the case is not a “provision of law,” the Ombudsman cannot propose the case to the Constitutional Court, and if the Ombudsman forwards such a matter to the Constitutional Court, it is the duty of the Court to refuse to accept the request for examination. The acceptance of the aforementioned matter by the Constitutional Court is unconstitutional in line with Article 245 (1) and is equivalent to the Constitutional Court singlehandedly amending the Constitution and altering the substance of the permitted cases for examination under Article 245 (1). There is no provision in the Constitution that gives the Constitutional Court the authority to do so.

2. Article 108, paragraph two, of the 2007 Constitution of Thailand prescribes that, “The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a Royal Decree in which the day for a new general election must be fixed within the period of not less than forty five days but not more than sixty days as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives and such election day must be the same throughout the Kingdom.” The facts show that the election day was set for the same date (2 February 2014) throughout the whole kingdom in the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013). The aforementioned setting of the date of the general election was therefore constitutional.

But in this case it appears that the Constitutional Court has used evidence of events that occurred after, and were unrelated to the setting of the date of the general election, as the basis of their examination. In other words, the Court used the fact of candidates not being able to register to compete in the election in 28 electoral districts to claim that if a general election was held in these districts after 2 February 2014, it would mean that the general election was not held on the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. The Court made this claim even though the Constitution does not mandate that the general election must occur on the same day throughout the whole kingdom. There may be acts of god or other unavoidable incidents which may make holding an election on the same day as the rest of the country impossible in some districts. The Constitution stipulates only that the election day must be “set” to be the same day simultaneously throughout the kingdom. Therefore, the setting of the date was already done constitutionally. 

3. In addition, there is also the fact that, on the whole, the 2 February 2014 election passed in an orderly fashion. The Constitutional Court’s raising of the instances of not being able to register to run for election in some districts as a result of obstruction by some individuals in order to claim that the section of the Royal Decree on the Dissolution of Parliament (2013) that set the date for the general election was unconstitutional was done with the intention to spoil the  election. In addition to having no basis in law, there is an additional problem of interpretation of this ruling. Have the ballots of those people who went to vote on 2 February 2014 been destroyed or not, and under the authority of which Constitutional or other legal provision? 

4. Analyzed from a perspective of political struggle, it can be seen that the obstacle to the election came from the collaboration between the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and individuals who support the PDRC inside and outside the Parliament, and collaboration between those who are overt and covert in their actions to destroy parliamentary democracy. In addition, the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) did not act with an intention to work in line with their framework of authority and duty in order to successfully hold elections. Therefore, an effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court is to prop up opposition to electoral democracy and make it come to fruition. This ruling disregards and neglects the rights of the people: those who hold the authority [in the country] and can express this authority in line with the rules and regulations that are in force. 

5. This cooperation to oppose democracy will continue to create a political vacuum in order to open up the space for an extraconstitutional prime minister and government to come to power, and in order to push forward amendment of the Constitution in a direction that will weaken and devastate electoral democracy. The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy therefore condemns these attempts, those that have occurred and those that will occur in the near future, as antithetical to the basic rights and liberties of the people. 

6. It is clear that from the 2006 coup up until the present, all of the independent agencies and the judiciary have become instruments of a powerful minority group acting in opposition to democracy. This group does so simply because they wish to swiftly destroy their political opponents. This has allowed the independent organizations and the judiciary to become distorted and seized to be used in the service of the destruction of democracy and the economic development of the country for the the sole purpose of causing the nation to become stagnant in a smelly, clogged whirlpool of violent conflict without end. Therefore, it is time for the people to come together to demand that the independent organizations and the judiciary are reformed and checks and balances are established. It is time to demand that these important mechanisms of the country come to be under the supervision of organizations representive of the voice of the majority. The people must take on these important tasks and make these changes come to fruition in the near future. 

7. This method of spoiling elections has progressed for nearly a decade and may cause the nation to fall into a state of violence from which there is no exit. This state will remain until every authority and every side in Thai society comes to respect the equal voting rights of the people. 

The Assembly for the Defense of Democracy would like to assert that the only solution for Thai society at present is to accept the principles of “equality of the people,” “sovereignty belongs to the entirety of Thai people,” “legitimacy of the majority,” and “respect in the rights and liberties of minority voices.” This is necessary to carry out reforms to eradicate the mechanisms that are antithetical to democracy, and before democracy, which is barely holding on at present, is completely destroyed.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Wikileaks Reveals Human Rights Watch As Supporters of Illegal Thai Army Coup

 With the strong smell of a coup or other Thai military engagement wafting through the air in Bangkok it seems apt to remind readers of Human Rights Watch's position on the last coup in Thailand in 2006.

In October 2006 Sunai Phasuk, HRW's Thai researcher, visited the US Embassy and made a number of astonishing comments to the assembled embassy staff which they recorded for posterity and which were then later released by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Wikileaks.

HRW's secret support for an illegal military coup
In the cable dated October 17th 2006 Phasuk makes clear his support for an illegal military coup which overthrew not only a democratically elected government but also abrogated Thailand's 1997 Constitution (consider the most democratic in Thailand's history) by saying 

As a staunch anti-Thaksin activist [Phasuk] was initially relieved to see the Thaksin administration forced out. 

Reading further into the cable Phasuk also engages in an astonishing and shameless piece of Thai Political Doublespeak by claiming that a military coup designed to terminate democracy was actually an attempt to "restore democracy". 

In addition Phasuk also expresses his loyalty and admiration for the Thai Army - which is extraordinary give the 17 previous coups and massacres they'd been directly involved in, and never mind the massacre at Tak Bai the Thai Army had played a huge part in and which had occurred only two years earlier.

The cable states that Phasuk

emphasized that he was close to many officers and, in fact, taught many of them in his capacity as a guest lecturer at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy and the Royal Thai Air Force Academy.  He said that he had always held the military in high regard for their sense of honor and dedication to the country.
Of course none of Phasuk's secret fawning admiration for the Thai military, his obvious politicisation, his abandonment of the rule of law, his support for those attacking democracy and his bogus claims to being "neutral" have ever been questioned by one single member of Bangkok's international media. 

Yet that same media are more than happy to continue quoting Phasuk as though he is some credible, impartial source rather than the pro-coup phoney that he appears to be.

I guess Bangkok's international media corps prefer an easy life to actually pursuing the truth. Penthouse flats, maids and swimming pools to maintain.

We can only speculate on the latter.