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The 2014 Thai Coup

Back on 22 May 2014 the Thai army removed the elected government from office (again!); the army declared a curfew and started a crackdown on any and all objections to their seizure of power.

Here is a record of events leading up to the coup; together with events in the months afterwards.

Above all else this is not a repeat of the 2006 coup which after a short period of calm allowed the PTP (in Thaksin's name) to return to elected office.

The army says that it will restore democracy to Thailand; but the “democracy” Thais inherit when the junta eventually steps down is going to bear little resemblance to the political system in Thailand of the past fifteen years–or to internationally accepted norms of what constitutes democracy.

The likely 2015 constitution, for which there may be no referendun, will be written to ensure that no red shirt, Thaksin-backed or provincially-supported numerical majority will again prevail over Thailand's historically established power centres.

There are two collections of pictures that are linked to this story.

Pictures of Bangkok under military government.

Pictures from the Thai coup leaders' happiness campaigns.

I was in Thailand from 14 May to 23 June 2014. Below are a collection of notes, reports, twitter comments and links to news reports and online commentaries as events unfolded over the last year since the most recent coup.

Updates (most recent at the top)

Democratic Contraction in South East Asia New Mandala

Thailand and the Specter of ‘International Standards’ The Diplomat

Military expands powers with Bangkok black site Bangkok Post

Thailand beach murders: A flawed and muddled investigation BBC (@pakhead)

Koh Tao Murders: Court Says DNA Trumps Other Flaws in Case Khaosod English

Proustian questions for our leaders Bangkok Post

Tell The World That the Junta is 99% Popular Khaosod English

Media told not to revive doubtful issues regarding the murder of British backpackers in Koh Tao Thai PBS

Media Reform Committee Considers a Crackdown on Online Media Using Article 44 Khaosod English

Prayuth Releases Another Patriotic Ballad Khaosod English

Myanmar pair face verdict over British murders on Koh Tao Malay Online

Dog v dog: Theatrics of the Thai interregnum New Mandala

Thailand's netizens are living in a climate of fear TelecomAsia

A long list of unimpressive achievements Bangkok Post

Who are you calling a bitch? The Economist

Police summon 11 activists for violating political gathering ban Prachatai

Can We Talk? Khaosod English

Freedom of speech reaches 'new low' in junta-ruled Thailand Reuters

Democracy delayed, democracy denied in Thailand East Asia Forum

Rajabhakti Park: The corruption case the Thai junta doesn’t want you to talk about Asian Correspondent

This absurd dog story augurs ill for Thailand’s future The Guardian

Facebooker Charged For Defaming Royal Dog 'Tong Daeng' Khaosod English

Benedict Anderson: Outsider view of Thai politics Benedict Anderson died in December 2015. Prachatai reprints a speech in gave in Chiang Mai in 2011. Well worth a read.

Thailand: Junta Critic Feared ‘Disappeared’ HRW

“Liking” the wrong picture on Facebook can get you 32 years of prison in Thailand Quartz

Thai park exposes corruption claims and murky politics BBC

Will Thailand's Military Be Held Accountable for the Country's Economic Woes? The Diplomat

Hundreds more face arrest over Facebook posts on scandal The Nation

Junta to charge hundreds more with lese majeste for pressing ‘like’ on FB Prachatai

Junta presses lèse majesté, sedition charges over man liking Facebook pictures  Prachatai

Revealed: Thailand's most senior human trafficking investigator to seek political asylum in Australia The Guardian

Thai junta hits out at British ambassador for ‘supporting law-breakers’ over student detentions The Telegraph

Police Probe US Ambassador for Defaming Monarchy Khaosod English

What's Going on Inside Junta's 'Black Site?' Khaosod English

The Thai Monarchy and Its Money New York Times

Yingluck barred from talking politics at EU parliament  Prachatai English

Abused too easily and often, lese majeste law is indefensible The Nation

Ultra-Royalists Nationwide Demand Investigation of US Ambassador Khaosod English

Ultra Royalists Call for Removal of U.S. Ambassador Khaosod English

Thailand knew deported Chinese were refugees awaiting resettlement in Canada: U.N. document Reuters

Thai Economy and Spirits Are Sagging New York Times

Seven More Warrants Issued For ‘Royal Impostors’ Network Khaosod English

Blind love of nation is the blindest of all Bangkok Post

Nestle Admits to Slavery in Thai-Sourced Seafood Khaosod English

Still better then Thaksin? New Mandala

PM accuses red shirts of unrest plot Bangkok Post

What happens when the King's gone? Asian Review

Police Allege Radical Redshirt Cell Behind Foiled Terror, Assassination Plot Khaosod English

Assassination Plot Foiled, Police Say; Conspirators Arrested Khaosod English

Purge Continues as Cops, Army Chief Aide Charged Khaosod English

Embattled lecturers charged with junta’s gathering ban deny charges Prachatai

Prayuth’s Brother Appointed to Lead Review of Rajabhakti Park Graft Khaosod English

Thailand Deports 2 Dissidents to China, Rights Groups Say New York Times

US Voices Frustration Over Democracy Progress in Thailand Associated Press

Thai Junta's persecution of the media Reporters without borders

Kingsguard Named ‘Royal Impostor,’ Stripped of Decorations Khaosod English

Detained Famous Thai Fortuneteller Dies in Military Prison Associated Press

Thai junta coins new history book to legitimise its rule Prachatai

Thailand: The Clock is Ticking International Policy Digest

Thailand’s Junta Leader Threatens to Stay on “Forever” CFR

Source: Disgraced CIB Chief’s Assets Found at Dead Lese Majeste Suspect’s Home Khaosod English

Military Summons Prachatai Reporter Over Lese Majeste Infographic Khaosod English

‘New’ Rice Scheme Reveals Thailand Junta’s Dearth of Ideas The Diplomat

In Thailand, come for the fun. Snap a selfie, though, and go to jail. Global Post

Military summons students commemorating 1973 student massacre Prachatai

Dissent and dictatorship in Thailand New Mandala

Bangkok bomb: Has the case been solved? BBC

Troubling questions about Bangkok blast probe Straits Times

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal mix tennis, politics on Thailand trip AP

A conversation with Chomsky New Mandala

How my attitude was 'adjusted' by the NCPO The Nation

Thai authorities to step up surveillance via ‘single internet gateway’ Prachatai

Prayuth Threatens to Silence Critics Amid Uptick in Detentions [Transcript] Khaosod English

Thai Draft Constitution Is Rejected by Junta-Backed Council New York Times

Thailand's controversial draft constitution explained BBC

Special Report: Thai junta hits royal critics with record jail time Reuters

Opinion: Low stakes for Thai military junta in constitution draft vote Asian Correspondent

Exclusive: Who's Really Behind Thailand’s Erawan Shrine Bomb Blast? The Diplomat

Thailand’s Military Delivers Oppression Rather than Happiness Cato Institute

Riding for the royals New Mandala

Peaceful yet violent: the Thai paradox that still baffles the West Spectator

Bangkok bombing: Was it the Grey Wolves of Turkey? Daily Telegraph

Thai TV uses fake suicide vest image for Bangkok bombing TRT (Turkey) News

The Thai Government Is Whitewashing the Bangkok Bombing to Reassure Tourists New Republic

Thailand Blames Troubled Bombing Inquiry on Lack of ‘Modern Equipment’ Time

Backdrop of Bangkok bombing: A country sliding into dictatorship LA Times

Thailand's new draft charter drawing fire Nikkei Asian Review

Thai junta turning tragedy to farce New Mandala

Game of thrones The Economist

Bangkok Bombing: Governor Defends Rushed Reopening of Shrine Khaosod English

Thailand’s slipping smile: Bangkok bomb blows hole in country’s image Globe and Mail

Analysis: Transparency is essential in Bangkok bombings probe Asian Correspondent

Contradictions mount as Thai authorities hunt Bangkok bombing suspect Asian Correspondent

Story of Sasiwimon: Mother of two given 28 years by military court Prachatai

Despite Lack of Evidence, Thai Media Points Blame at Uighurs Khaosod English

Bangkok bomb blast wrongfoots Thailand's junta Guardian

Thai Coup Alienates US Giving China New Opening Yale Global Online

UN 'appalled' by Thailand's disproportionate lèse-majesté sentences Prachatai

Northern military court sends mother of two to 28 years in prison under lese majeste Prachatai

Military court sets new record on lese majeste sentence; man gets 30 years behind bars Prachatai

Man jailed for 30 years in Thailand for insulting the monarchy on Facebook The Guardian

Army Chief Says Elections Could Be Delayed Khaosod English

Thailand's generals don't have an economic plan Bloomberg

Thai sex shops, street bars survive graft crackdown; some call it a junta show Bloomberg/Japan Times

Thailand’s Junta Pushes Back Election Date Again The Diplomat

Political implications of Thailand’s royal succession New Mandala

Revealed: how the Thai fishing industry traffics, imprisons and enslaves The Guardian

Thai Junta Govt to Stay Until 2017: Official Khaosod English

A Thai House Divided New York Times

Democracy; don't hold your breath Bangkok Post

Thailand on global trial Bangkok Post

Australian and Thai journalists on trial for human trafficking report Guardian

Thai Minister Asks French Diplomat to Extradite Lese Majeste Suspects Khaosod English

Junta Asks Overseas Thais to Explain Coup to Foreigners Khaosod English

Junta says international organizations don’t understand the Thai political context of the 14 activists' arrests Prachatai

Thai monarchy on verge of dramatic change Japan Times

Keep Quiet, we're building democracy Bangkok Post

Thai authorities to add heavier penalties for online threats to national security Prachatai

Happy 48th Birthday Yingluck NickoBuongiorno blog

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Thailand US Department of State

How the West Helped Thailand Became a Dictatorship Foreign Policy Journal

Pro-Yingluck activists summoned for talks with military Bangkok Post

Prayuth Rebukes Reporters in Gloomy Rant  Khaosod English

Dark Ages - Violations of cultural rights under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law FIDH

Thailand: UN committee slams abuse of lèse-majesté laws FIDH

Transcript: Prayuth Chan-ocha Al Jazeera

NCPO to ask reporters not to upset PM Bangkok Post

Prayuth: Thai Lese Majeste Suspect Living in Exile 'Not a Thai' Khaosod English

Thai Junta bans criticism of law on criticism Asia Sentinel

Testimony from wife of lèse majesté prisoner serving longest Article 112 sentence in history Prachatai

Prayuth watches game of thrones and wants Thailand's faceless men Coconuts

PM Prayut won't rush Thailand's transition to democracy Channel News Asia

Fighting the junta from abroad: Struggle goes on for Thailand’s political exiles Asian Correspondent

The Contrecoup in Thailand New York Times

Disgraced Palace Official Faces Death Penalty, Police Say Khaosod English

A Kingdom in Crisis – What’s All the Fuss About? Journal of Contemporary Asia

Junta Tells Reporters to Stop Asking Confrontational Questions Khaosod English

Thailand’s Quiet Dictatorship International Policy Digest

Thailand haunted by the ghost of absolutism East Asia Forum

Military court in northern Thailand holds lèse majesté deposition hearing in camera Prachatai

UN experts express 'grave concern' over 21 lèse majesté cases Prachatai

The Thai Junta's doublespeak New Mandala

Specter of Instability Rising Again in Thailand The Diplomat

Thailand's Yingluck Shinawatra in display of 'ordinary life'  BBC

Infographic: Thai junta leader to cut short ‘boring’ Friday night rants Asian Correspondent

Thai junta presses lese majeste charge against ex-PM, Thaksin Prachatai

Between Two Worlds: Thailand’s Coup One Year On Asia Foundation

Thai Govt Revokes Thaksin's Passports, Citing 'Damaging' Interview Khaosod English

Thailand revokes ex-PM Thaksin's passports on 'security' concerns

27 May 2015 AFP

Thailand's foreign ministry Wednesday said it had cancelled fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's passports because he was deemed to have "endangered national security" in a recent interview.

The billionaire telecoms tycoon-turned-prime minister, who was toppled by a coup in 2006, sits at the heart of Thailand's bitter political divide and now lives in self-exile to avoid jail on a corruption charge.

The foreign ministry said it was asked to take action against Thaksin after police deemed that "part of his interview endangered national security or national reputation".

It was not immediately clear which interview was being referred to or why it was deemed to breach security rules, but last week Thaksin made rare public comments in an overseas interview broadcast on CNN and at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul.

In its statement the foreign ministry said two passports belonging to Thaksin had been cancelled with effect from May 26.

Since going into self-imposed exile, he has travelled frequently and has been based in Dubai.

"The Foreign Ministry decided that reasons cited (by security agencies and police) were enough to cancel his passport under the ministry's regulations," the statement said.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the impact the move would have on Thaksin's ability to travel but he is also believed to hold passports from other countries.

Last May Thailand's generals ousted the government of Thaksin's younger sister Yingluck in a coup shortly after she was removed as premier by a controversial court ruling.

Parties led by or aligned to the Shinawatras have won every election since 2001, and they are loved in the nation's rural north for their populist policies.

But opponents comprising large swathes of the military, judiciary and royalist elite in Bangkok and the southern portion of the country accuse them of cronyism, corruption and financially ruinous politics.

In a CNN interview broadcast last week as Thailand marked a year since the military takeover Thaksin said he would wait for the right moment to re-enter Thai politics.

Thaksin: 2014 Coup Makers Helped by Traditional Elites Khaosod English

Prayuth on Anti-Monarchy Plot, the 'Two Types of Thai People,' and Student Activists Khaosod English

One Year After the Coup, Thailand Languishes in Darkness Robert Amsterdam

Thailand’s Banned “King” The New York Times

Thailand: Unprecedented number of lèse-majesté detentions call for urgent reform of Article 112 Interntaional Federation of Human Rights Organisations

Thailand’s Section 44 Could Be Worse Than Martial Law Global Voices

Thailand's media under pressure Al Jazeera

Red shirt sacked from job after bullying by ultra-royalists Prachatai

Thailand’s push for democracy falters as junta tightens up on civil freedoms The National

It's not possible to eradicate those with different views The Nation

Thailand’s Self-Absorbed Dictatorship The Diplomat

Red shirt TV issues statement against blackout order Prachatai

There Was No Crackdown in 2010, Says Abhisit Witness Khaosod English

Pol-la-muang: The making of superior Thais New Mandala

Thai bookseller given jail term for royal defamation Zee News India

Thai junta enjoys absolute power as opposition quietly bides its time Washington Post

Prayuth Asks Media to Expose Redshirt Violence in 2010 Crackdown Khaosod English

Trickery and False Promises in Thailand

10 April 2015 New York Times editorial

In a cynical sleight of hand, Thailand’s military junta lifted martial law last week only to replace it with even more draconian powers for the ruling military junta led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

This is not what Thailand’s friends and allies, including the United States, had in mind when they encouraged the junta to lift martial law imposed after a military coup last May. No one should be fooled by this move, designed more to provide a political fig-leaf for foreign investors and for Thailand’s tourism industry, which is suffering because tourists have trouble getting travel insurance for countries under martial law. It has little to do with restoring democracy.

After seizing power last year, General Prayuth promised elections and a return to civilian rule of law. Not only do those promises remain unfulfilled, but General Prayuth, in place of martial law, has now granted himself sweeping executive, legislative and judicial powers under Article 44 of Thailand’s interim Constitution.

Under Article 44, military personnel down to the rank of second lieutenant may be appointed as “peace and order maintenance officers,” with the power to search, arrest and detain people with no judicial oversight. Since the May coup, more than 1,000 academics, activists, politicians and bloggers have been detained or sent to Thai military installations for “attitude adjustment.”

General Prayuth also now claims “the power to close down the media, arrest people, order for people to be shot.” He said recently with apparent seriousness that he would “probably just execute” journalists who did not toe the government’s line. The United States, the United Nations, the European Union and human rights groups were quick to condemn the general’s remarks.

Back in January, Daniel Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, delivered a message from President Obama warning Thailand’s military junta it was “losing credibility in the eyes of its international friends and partners by not moving more quickly to end martial law.”

General Prayuth appears to have heard the part about martial law but apparently did not choose to hear the rest of the message, which urged the restoration of civil rights, the drafting of a new constitution with democratic participation, and free elections.

Those are the main ingredients of any plausible strategy to heal the political and regional divisions that have fomented political chaos and now risk transforming Thailand, a major regional power, into a pariah state.

Thai princess celebrates birthday with amnesty of 38,000 prisoners The Straits Times

The pen and the sword : The junta’s plans for Thailand’s future grow clearer, though no more welcome

2 April 2015 The Economist

Ten months after seizing power in a coup, Thailand’s junta chafes at still having to defend its record. It will soon start handing out to passers-by in busy parts of Bangkok the first of 10,000 glossy booklets recounting the junta’s glorious achievements. It probably hopes the missive will help to quell creeping discontent in the capital, and save Prayuth Chan-ocha, the general serving as Thailand’s prime minister, from endless questioning. He recently said he had been tempted to punch a journalist in the face.

The army’s propagandists have plenty to scribble about. Unburdened of democratic process, its rubber-stamp parliament, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), has been cranking out new laws—more than 60 since it was set up in September. Among other things it has banned foreigners from paying Thai women to be surrogate mothers. It is mulling economic reforms to help online entrepreneurs (critics warn of more censorship and cyber snooping). It is also legitimising aspects of martial law, including tougher rules on protests and the right to detain civilians for nearly three months without charge.

Just as busy are the bigwigs whom the junta has put in charge of writing a new constitution. Many of the constitutional proposals, which will be published in draft form in mid-April, aim to shrink the power of political parties. They may include reducing the size of the national assembly’s lower house and encouraging the growth of independent candidates. It all seems designed to prevent any party gaining the dominance that was enjoyed by Pheu Thai, a populist outfit abhorred by Bangkok’s coup-backers but which easily won both the general elections it contested.

A new constitution may well allow for an unelected prime minister in times of crisis—a similar rule kept the army in charge throughout the 1980s. Thailand’s half-elected senate will probably be replaced by a fully-appointed one with more powers—a “House of Citizens”, the idea’s supporters call it. The constitution may also create high-level committees to make sure that future governments continue social and economic programmes which the junta is now launching.

Yet as the army tightens its grip on the political machinery it is finding it harder to command obedience among ordinary Thais. Student protesters are proving indefatigable. Prosecutors will soon decide whether or not to charge four high-profile activists who staged a mock election. An uptick in low-level violence is perhaps the biggest concern. Recently someone threw a grenade at a Bangkok courthouse. In February two pipe bombs exploded outside a shopping centre in the capital. And on March 22nd police found a cache of explosives hidden in forests not far from where the junta will soon hold a cabinet meeting.

Heavy-handedness could embolden dissent rather than suppress it. Two young people sentenced to 2½ years in prison for their part in a satirical play are among many feeling the stricter enforcement of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. On March 19th Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister until last May, learnt that she faces a trial for negligence in political office that could see her jailed for a decade. Anti-corruption officials want the NLA to consider banning more than 200 of her former MPs from holding political office.

The junta says that its new constitution will be finalised in September, perhaps allowing for a general election to be held next February. But before that it will have to decide whether the constitution should be put to a referendum, as happened in 2007. The junta’s supporters seem to be discouraging the idea, claiming that it would delay the return to democracy.

As for politicians from Thailand’s two main political parties, both turfed out of parliament by the coup, they are starting to look unusually united in their opposition to the junta’s plans. This month Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the pro-establishment Democrat Party and a former prime minister, called the constitutional proposals “a step back for democracy”. Members of Pheu Thai warn that the new constitution could cause fresh conflict. The generals had always promised that their takeover would help Thailand’s feuding politicians find common ground. It has happened in ways they did not intend.

Four media organizations voice concern over press curb order Thai PBS

UN Human Rights Chief alarmed by Thai Government’s adoption of potentially unlimited and “draconian” powers UNHCR

Thailand 'still in the same boat' after martial law lifted The Guardian

Thai PM Prayuth Chan-ocha moves to 'consolidate military power' DW.de

Thailand PM 'to replace martial law' with new restrictions BBC

Beware of those who see the need for Article 44 The Nation

Thai leader moves to lift martial law, impose absolute power The Japan Times - via AP

In Thailand, a mercurial junta ruler known for his words Associated Press

Thailand’s social media battleground New Mandala

Police detain, aim to jail prominent democracy activist Prachatai

Thai PM Prayuth warns media, says has power to execute reporters Reuters

Leader of Thai junta threatens to 'execute' journalists who 'do not tell the truth' Khaosod English

Human Rights Officials Barred From Visiting Alleged Torture Victims in Prison Khaosod English

Ex-princess's brothers jailed 5.5 years Bangkok Post

Thai man jailed for 18 months for insulting monarch Asian Correspondent

Terror Suspect Charged With Insulting the Monarchy Khaosod English

Thai Court Says Ex-Premier Yingluck Will Be Tried Over Rice Bloomberg

Old Man Thailand Feels Pain of Economic Arthritis Bloomberg

It's scary when the abnormal becomes normal The Nation

Nattatida accused of bomb plots Bangkok Post

Missing 2010 Crackdown Witness Emerges from Army Custody Khaosod English

Witness of Redshirt Crackdown Deaths 'Abducted by Military' Khaosod English

Thailand's mass impeachment action 'aimed at destroying Shinawatras' political network' Deutsche Welle

Thai panel urges impeachment of 250 The Boston Globe

Police Detain Activist on Anti-Coup Walk Khaosod English

Big Brother’s watching me watching him Bangkok Post

Wreck/Conciliation? The Politics of Truth Commissions in Thailand Journal of East Asian Studies

Anti-coup group creates situation: junta spokesman Prachatai

Political heavyweights debate Thailand’s future… under heavy scrutiny Asian Correspondent

Anti-junta activists urge court of justice to defy military rules Prcahatai

Thai Coup Alienates US Giving China New Opening Yale Global

Parents of former Thai princess jailed for 2-1/2 years Reuters

Fed Up With Media Coverage, Prayuth Launches PR Gazette Khaosod English

March 2015: King visits royal project at Dusit Palace - and yes this is the 21st century.

Media Must Do More Than Report Facts, Says Prayuth Khaosod English

For sale: What Rolexes, Dom Perignon reveal about Thai police corruption CTV News

Rolexes, Buddha statues: A unique auction in Thailand opens window to police corruption Associated Press

Law unto itself: Thai junta fuels doubt by churning out legislation Reuters

Thailand’s Big Step Backwards The Diplomat

A high price is necessary to prevent military takeovers The Nation

Channel 3 Investigated for Misidentifying Crown Prince’s Ex-Wife Khaosod English

Prayuth Threatens to Summon TV Hosts 'For Discussion' Khaosod English

Thai graft regulator expands its influence FT (registration required)

PEN International condemns 'Wolf Bride' verdict Prachatai

Thammasat university fires lese majeste critic Somsak Jeam Prachatai

Old man indicted for lèse majesté for asking questions about constitutional monarchy Prachatai

Junta-appointed lawmakers pass controversial Military Court bill Prachatai

Thailand’s generals have failed: it is time that democracy, in spite of its problems, is restored The Guardian editorial

Democracy, Thai-Style Boston Review

Liberty Dies As Thailand's Military Monopolizes Power: Junta Dispenses Repression Instead Of Happiness Forbes

In latest outburst, Thailand's Prayuth reminds reporters of his powers Bloomberg

The U.S. Needs to Get Tough on Thailand The Diplomat

Deconstructing Panitan Watanayagorn: Can Thailand be Isolated from the World? Prachatai

Thai junta lays groundwork for its own guided democracy Asian Correspondent

Prachatai has an infographic listing (12 February 2015) some of the ordinary activities the authorities have suppressed over the past nine months. People who've “committed” these acts have been arrested for “undermining Thailand's national security.” It is a remarkable list and indicates just how insecure the military government is:

1.Holding a blank A4 paper or A4 paper with anti-coup messages
2.Covering one’s face, eyes, and mouth
3.Helping arrested protesters
4.Holding “Peace Please” T-shirt
5.Imitating the Hunger Games three-fingered salute
6.Gathering at McDonald’s
7.Reading George Orwell’s 1984 novel
8.Eating sandwiches in public
9.Playing the French national anthem
10.Wearing a Red Shirt while selling crispy fried squid
11.Issuing a statement denouncing the coup
12.Wearing “people” mask
13.Wearing “respect my vote” t-shirt
14.Approaching or being approached by journalists
15.Running for democracy
16.Holding placards that read “holding placards is not a crime”
17.Posting a photo with anti-junta and “No Martial Law” messages on Facebook
18.Holding academic seminars on the political situation
19.Gathering people to watch the premier
e of Hunger Games 3
20.Distributing leaflets featuring a poem about democracy
21.Giving three-fingered salutes to Prayuth, the leader of the junta
22.Selling fruit products with (former Prime Minister) Thaksin Shinawatra’s square face logo

Army Chief Threatens Legal Action Over Torture Allegation Khaosod English

Parents of Thai ex-princess arrested for lese majeste BBC

Thailand’s Dictators in Denial Wall Street Journal

Different Battle Bloomberg

Thai Junta to Diplomats: Lese Majeste is 'Cultural Offense'

Tariq Ali in conversation with journalist and author, Andrew MacGregor From Telesur - via YouTube

Press briefing notes on Libya, Malaysia, Thailand and Venezuela - UN Commissioner on Human Rights

Thai junta’s new censorship bill the first to define right/wrong sexual acts Prachatai

NACC To Prosecute Former PM For Yellowshirt Crackdown Khaosod English

Former Pheu Thai MP Held Incommunicado by Army for 3 Days Khaosod English

Lese Majeste Charges Filed Against Parents of Former Princess Khaosod English

Sister of Former Princess Jailed for Insulting Monarchy Khaosod English

A case of double standards, both Thai and American The Nation

The right wing doth protest too much, methinks Prachatai

Police arrest 6 suspects in the alleged online lese majeste network Prachatai

In red heartlands, Thai army keeps a lid on dissent Reuters

Yingluck Impeachment Not Unexpected – Thai Democracy 2.0 ßeta Under Development Establishment Post

Editorial: Grow Up Thai Junta, and Learn About Democracy Khaosod English

Thailand: Human Rights in Free Fall Human Rights Watch 2015 annual report

Moral Disorder
Whatever the generals think, smashing Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother is no cure for Thailand’s ills

Jan 31st 2015 The Economist

For 15 years Thaksin Shinawatra has dominated Thai politics—and for most of that time the country’s generals and their supporters around the ailing king have tried to destroy him. The populist billionaire fled into exile two years after a coup deposed him in 2006, but his sister, Yingluck, still won an election in 2011 and ruled as his proxy, with Mr Thaksin pulling the strings from Dubai. But she was ousted last May in a constitutional wrangle—and soon afterwards the army took over. Now rampant abuses stemming from a rice subsidy programme that was overseen by her government, have led to a sham impeachment of her. Criminal charges will follow.

This time, finally, the generals and courtiers may have cornered the Shinawatras (see article). Ms Yingluck is in effect a hostage in negotiations with Mr Thaksin, whose position has weakened. He has lost the backing of Thailand’s crown prince, while a purge in the police force has weakened a key bastion of his support. Mr Thaksin may now sacrifice his political ambitions to safeguard his family and fortune. Some Thais will cheer, longing for calm after years of political stand-offs and street protests that often spilled into violence. But the junta’s determination to abolish democratic politics spells trouble, probably the bloody kind, in the future. It should think again.

There was much to fault in the way Mr Thaksin ran his country, both before and after he fled abroad to avoid a jail sentence for abuse of power. With support from a poor, rural heartland in the north and north-east, neither he nor his sister paid enough heed to the interests of Bangkok’s middle classes or the southern provinces. In office Mr Thaksin favoured his own considerable business interests and weakened public institutions. He was a Berlusconi with less of the bunga-bunga. Appallingly, in 2003-04 he ordered an extrajudicial assassination programme that killed thousands of supposed drug dealers. His sister was less authoritarian but also less competent.

And yet the Thaksinite governments were probably no more corrupt than their predecessors were. Crucially, the Shinawatras did much to transform the lives of some of the country’s worse off. They built country roads, boosted education and provided health care for the poor. The old elites resented this, not least because they liked to think of the king traditionally atop an ordered hierarchy with deferential peasants at the bottom grateful for royal charity. Without putting it in so many words, Mr Thaksin implicitly challenged that dispensation, and a majority of Thais approved. But soon after he or his loyalists were back in office, the political stand-offs and the street violence would resume.

Last May the generals intervened to break the dismal cycle, claiming impartiality. They spoke of reconciliation and tried to start discussussions with Mr Thaksin. But recently they have changed their minds, perhaps to please the establishment around the court of the old king. Impeaching Yingluck is only part of it. The generals are drawing up a constitution designed to keep populist parties like Mr Thaksin’s Pheu Thai from power. They intend to rule for as long as it takes to restore a supposed moral order.

This will do Thailand no good. The lesson of the past 15 years is that ever more Thais want a say in their country. Banishing the Shinawatras will not change that. The West should make clear to the generals that a constitution that bans Thailand’s most successful party from power is a step backwards. If they still go ahead, military ties should be broken. The era of Thaksin may be ending; but the democracy that he so imperfectly represented is Thailand’s only hope.

Thaksin times The Economist

Thai general delivers tin-eared masterclass

30 January 2015 The Financial Times

Thailand’s military junta is delivering an Asian masterclass in the kind of tin-eared elitism that is galvanising support for new anti-establishment parties across Europe. While tensions linked to the country’s class system, political representation and the division of economic spoils are simmering in the pot, the ruling generals seem to have chosen to screw the lid still more firmly on.

The latest example: a press conference given by the prime minister and leader of May’s coup, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who had already been irritated this week by disobliging remarks made about the junta by the top US diplomat on Asia during a visit to Bangkok. Never a fan of the media, the Thai premier’s frustration boiled over when a journalist at Thursday’s event asked him a pointed question about the military’s deepening habit of summoning critics for “attitude adjustment”.

“You will be summoned too, if you keep asking many questions like this,” he said. [Translation from Thai by Khaosod English]

“You ask unconstructive questions. I want to ask you, is it a right thing to do, challenging my full power? Even though I have such full power, these people still challenge it like this.”

That was just the warm-up. He went on:

“I am [the head of] the government. I have full power. Is it the right thing to challenge it like this? I have relaxed my power too much already these days.”

When another reporter accused the junta of tightening its clampdown on dissent, Gen Prayuth bristled further:

“So what? So what? In the past, you said I was incompetent. Now that I am intensifying, you are angry. What the hell do you want me to do?”

He then complained about the recent publication in the media of a picture of him pointing his middle finger. “I am not mad on power,” he said.

“You don’t understand it. You keep picking on me. Yesterday, for instance. How can you photograph me like that? I was pointing my finger. You bastard. You chose to photograph me pointing my finger. This is what they call a lowly mind.”

The rant captures well how the junta is firmly in control of Thailand yet jittery about the tensions roiling beneath the country’s surface. It also shows how the top brass are strangely hurt by suggestions that they might not be acting in the best interests of Thais.

The generals and their backers seem genuinely to believe they are doing what is self-evidently right for the country – and outbursts like Gen Prayuth’s suggest they don’t have the imagination to understand, still less accommodate, anyone who disagrees.

Soldiers with democratic hearts? New Mandala

PM vows intensified martial law MCOT

Thai Junta Renews Summons Orders to Quash Criticism Khaosod English

Military summons prominent anti-coup politician over FB and twitter post Prachatai

Thailand: New developments, same old problems Nouse.co.uk

Opinion: Thailand-US diplomatic spat a sign of cracks in junta’s confidence Asian Correspondent

Thai Military Govt Summons US Diplomat After "Disappointing Speech" Khaosod English

Prayuth blasts US envoy’s remarks, calls himself ‘democratic soldier’ Asian Correspondent

Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore:

"The prospect for Thailand’s democracy is dim. The conservative middle class and its movements have helped usher the old powers, especially the military, back on to the centre stage of Thai politics. The longer Thai society remains deeply divided, the more expansive military’s power will be. The new Constitution, the new electoral system, the judiciary and
the armed forces will help them retain their domination. Thailand will evolve into a full authoritarian regime in disguise.

This is not one of the reasons the NCPO claimed for staging a putsch but it is the great consequence that Thai society will have to live with."

Yingluck impeachment is an execution of Thai democracy The Conversation

Remarks at the Institute of Security and International Studies - Daniel R. Russel,Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Chulalongkorn University
US Dept of State

Yingluck's impeachment is a sideshow for Thailand Nikkei Asian Review

Thailand's Military Junta Impeaches and Bans Former Prime Minister Yingluck Bloomberg

The Unquiet Agony of the Young Doves: Thailand After the Coup

Thai royalists threaten New Zealand to hand over lese majeste suspect Prachatai

Full English Text of Yingluck's Post-Impeachment Statement Khaosod English

The impeachment of Yingluck Shinawatra: Worth the trouble for a show-trial? Asian Correspondent

Thailand’s Culture of Impunity The Diplomat

Junta leader admits controversial digital economy bills target lese majeste Prachatai

Royal succession, military rule come together in Thailand Nikkei Asian review

Did foreign diplomats really praise Thai junta reforms? (UPDATE) Asian Correspondent

Yingluck in the dock The Economist

Political and Public Affairs Office
Embassy of Canada
15th Floor, Abdulrahim Place
990 Rama IV Road
Bangrak, Bangkok 10500

15 January 2015

Dear Sir/Madam,

Earlier today the Thai state-owned broadcaster - Mass Communication Organization of Thailand (MCOT) issued a press release that noted Ambassador Calvert as both praising progress on the government’s reform roadmap and stating that Thailand would “successfully introduce true democracy”.

I can only assume that the Ambassador has been egregiously misquoted.

Thailand is under the rule of a military junta that seized power in May 2014 from a democratically elected government. The army-written and backed constitution of 2007 was torn-up. A new constitution is being drafted which will be far removed from the democratic principles of the people’s constitution of 1997.

Despite being removed from power, and despite their being no constitution, the former Prime Minister is facing an impeachment process to remove her from a post which has already been forcibly removed from.

Since the junta seized power all dissent has been silenced through a series of arrests and detentions. Public meetings are illegal. Dissenters are tried in military and not civilian courts. There is no right of appeal. Thai citizens who believe that the actions of the military are wrong have been forced to flee the country.

Elections have already been postponed from 2015 to 2016. When and if elections are held they will ensure that the only possible outcome is one that the ruling junta is willing to support.

The fact that the Ambassador’s name and position are being quoted as praising Thailand (and by implication it’s military government) would be acceptable if he were the North Korean Ambassador. But he is not. Ambassador Calvert represents a nation that enjoys basic freedoms, such as freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of peaceful assembly. Our elected governments, and our official representatives, remain accountable to Canadians

The Ambassador should issue a denial of the words attributed to him and require a formal apology from MCOT.

Yours faithfully,

Robert A Scott

The press release follows:

Ambassadors praise Thailand for implementing national reform roadmap

The compliments came from the ambassadors of Russia, Australia, Switzerland and Canada who met Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn today.

Russian ambassador to Thailand Kirill Barsky said he welcomed the emphasis on reform and was pleased with results of the official visit to Thailand of Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov last Friday. He said that it was agreed to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Thai-Russian diplomatic relations beginning next year. The anniversary falls in 2017.

Paul Robilliard, Australian ambassador, said he followed Thai politics and admired the Thai government for allowing all parties to have their say in national reform. Thailand is at the center of Southeast Asia and his country's most important trading partner.

Ambassador Robilliard said that on the 10th anniversary of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement this year, both countries would increase mutual trade and investment. He promised to bring Australian businesses to explore trade and investment opportunities in Thailand.

Gen Tanasak quoted Swiss ambassador Christine Burgener as praising the government for listening to all parties on national reform. She promised that Switzerland was ready to share its experience in election organisation and suppressing corruption with Thailand.

Canadian ambassador Philip Calvert said that Thailand had progressed in its reform as planned in the government's reform roadmap, Gen Tanasak said.

Ambassador Calvert hoped Thailand would successfully introduce true democracy. He also praised Thailand for its leading role in forming the ASEAN Community and its coordination of relations between ASEAN and China. He promised to boost bilateral cooperation in trade and investment. (MCOT online news)

Thai UNHCR closes FB page after being threatened by Thai royalists over lese majeste suspect Prachatai

Impeaching Yingluck Shinawatra New Mandala

Hunting in the name: Thai junta’s fervor over lese majeste fugitives abroad Asian Correspondent

Thai Junta Engineers a Thaksinless Constitution Asia Sentinel

Thai authorities to publish fable books for children to promote junta's nationalistic Thai values Prachatai

Thai junta takes further steps towards online mass surveillance, censorship Asian Correspondent

Editorial: Thai refugee right to push for democracy NZ Herald

Thailand sets up lese majeste panel Asia One

Thai junta gives green light to bill on mass surveillance Prachatai

Thailand wants refugee returned New Zealand Herald

Thai junta warns against protests ahead of former prime minister's impeachment ABC Australia

Lockdown and anxiety in Thailand Straits Times

Don't Oppose the Junta, Thaksin Instructs Redshirts: Source Khaosod English

Land of wiles Focus Asean

Prayuth regime tightens the screws on critics of monarchy Straits Times/China Post

Thailand Blocks Overseas Opposition Voice Asia Sentinel

Thai King's Chief Adviser Praises 2014 Coup Khaosod English

2014 updates (most recent at the top)

Thai authorities to seek Facebook’s help to crack down on lèse majesté Prachatai

The ‘Thaksin Regime’ vs. the ‘Good People’ Asian Correspondent

Historian Summoned Over 'Elephant Battle' Lese Majeste Charge Khaosod English

Thai Defence Minister Repeats Threat To Shut Down Media Khaosod English

ICT Pledges To Sniff Out Anti-Monarchy Chat Messages Khaosod English

Thailand's Military Junta Destroys Democracy, Enjoys Exercising Power: Generals Postpone Elections Before Rigging Them Forbes

Thai Smuggling Ring Tied to Prince? Asia Sentinel

Thailand’s crown prince vying to become a modern Henry VIII National Post

Thai monarchy facing the end of an era SCMP

The making of pseudo-democracy New Mandala

Thai Junta Chairman Vows to Hunt Down Critics of Monarchy Khaosod English

Le crime de lèse-majesté confisque le débat public thaïlandais Le Monde

Thailand's game of thrones Phnon Penh Post

Thailand’s Royal Succession Battle Comes Into (Slightly) More Open View The Diplomat

Delaying the day of reckoning The Economist

In Bangkok, Filmmaker Takes Break From Zombies for Patriotic Fare WSJ

Wear yellow this month campaign begins Thai PBS

Thai crown prince causing the elites anxiety Japan Times

Ex-Pheu Thai MP Sentenced to 30 Months For Lese Majeste Khaosod English

Lese majeste warrant for billionaire related to crackdown on high ranking police network Prachatai

What's behind the downfall of Thailand's Princess Srirasmi? BBC

Thailand’s Bar Girl Princess is ‘Disappeared’ Asian Correspondent

Family of Thai Princess Is Stripped of Royal Name New York Times

Thailand crown prince strips wife's family of royal name BBC

Let Thais choose their own constitution Nikkei Asian Review

Reports of Thailand's Revival Are Greatly Exaggerated Bloomberg

6 ways to get into trouble with Thailand’s military leaders Toronto Star (of all places!)

Thai royalty 'defamed': Top policeman charged in probe BBC

Analysis: Jonathan Head, BBC News, Bangkok (27 November 2014)

"What are we to make of the dramatic arrest of so many senior police officers, of allegations of massive wealth and corruption, and charges of insulting the monarchy?

The military government that seized power six months ago has promised to rein in corruption, but until now had little to show for this.

But why the serious charge of lese majeste? And why did one suspect, the key to this network we have been told, jump to his death from a tall building after being arrested?

The police accuse the suspects of somehow using the monarchy in their gambling and smuggling deals. But how could they do that? No ordinary police officer would be able to pretend that they had a connection to the royal family to advance their business interests.

As a journalist based in Thailand, the lese majeste law bars me from even mentioning what every local journalist is quietly saying this is about. This is an especially sensitive time, with King Bhumibol's health so visibly frail.

I know this will be infuriating for readers eager to understand some of the hidden currents swirling in post-coup Thailand, a country whose future is still clouded with uncertainty. But I am afraid that is a reality of working here.

Any suggestion that this purge is somehow connected to the monarchy must be left unexplored, unconfirmed, and undiscussed."

Thai Prince Said to Trigger Police Purge Asian Sentinel

The Military Vows to Rule Thailand Until 2016 and Ramps Up Political Purges Time

Interview: Thai Democracy Is Gone and Won't Return Anytime Soon Foreign Policy

6 months after the coup here are a few reports on the current state of Thailand

Thai junta struggles to move forward Nikkei Asian Review

Thailand: Unending Repression 6 Months Post-Coup HRW

Can Thailand move beyond the Coup Foreign Policy

Why Thailand's Junta Is Afraid of The Hunger Games Bloomberg Business Week

PM orders intensive "civic education" for students Bangkok Post

Thai news website editor jailed for ‘defaming king’

2 high ranking police arrested for lèse majesté

23 November 2014

Thai junta appears to have started a crackdown on senior police allied to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. One of those facing charges is Srirasmi's uncle. Another died in suspicious circumstances

A court on Saturday approved an arrest warrant for two high ranking police officers accused of defaming the King, asking for bribes, money laundering and misconduct.

On the same warrant, three other police officers and three civilians were named. Their charges relate to bribery, encroachment into protected areas, and illegal possession of wild animals.

The arrest warrant was issued by the Royal Thai Police.

The two high ranking police officers charged with lèse majesté are Pol Lt Gen Pongpat C., Commander of the Central Investigation Bureau, and Pol Maj Gen Kowit R., Deputy Commander of the Central Investigation Bureau.

Now the thing to note here is that Lt Gen Pongpat is the uncle of Srirasmi, the wife of the Crown Prince.

Thai PBS (effectively a government news agency) reported today that more than one billion baht in cash and many other valuables such as rare Buddha images and land title deeds were found in the house of CBI commissioner Pol Lt-Gen PongpatChayapong, according to informed police sources.

The sources said that police teams searched the houses of Pol Lt-Gen Pongpat and seven other policemen and civilians arrested by the police and seized large amount of cash and other valuables especially at the house of the CIB commissioner.

Police are now investigating to determine how the commissioner had amassed the assets.

Pol Lt-Gen Pongpat, his deputy, Pol Maj-Gen KowitWongrungroj and four other police officers were arrested on charges of malfeasance in office and bribe taking among others. They have all been temporarily relieved from police service pending investigation.

All the eight arrested suspects are currently separately held in eight different detention cells. Pongpat is held at Taopoon police station whereas his deputy is held at Paholyothin police station.

It was reported that a committee has been set up to consider disciplinary actions against the CIB commissioner and five other officers.

According to ASTV-Manager Online who cited a high ranking officer as the source, the five have been arrested. They were interrogated at an unknown place and have pleaded guilty to all charges.

Khaosod noted that the five police were earlier removed from their posts and were transferred to the Operations Centre of the Royal Thai Police, along with the late Pol Col Akkharawut Limrat, who died under mysterious circumstances on Thursday.

To add to the mystery surrounding death of Col Akkharawut his body was cremated the day after his death without a proper autopsy. Such a rapid funeral is very unusual in Thailand.

This does appear to be a purge of police officers that are close to the Crown Prince's wife. What this means in the medium and longer terms remains to be seen.

A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century’, by Andrew MacGregor Marshall

23 November 2014

Review by Paul Handley in The Financial Times

Sulak Sivaraksa has hovered for decades at the edges of Thai politics, never a real threat to anyone as he advocated a socially activist Buddhism, mainly to audiences of university students. Last month Sulak nevertheless was accused for the fourth time of lèse-majesté, which can bring 15 years in prison. His offence? To challenge the heroic battlefield story of Naresuan, who ruled the kingdom of Ayutthaya at the turn of the 17th century.

The Thai constitution holds it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir or regent. It says nothing about others in the royal family, the monarchic institution or the current Chakri dynasty, much less an earlier realm full of bellicose royals. But that is where Thailand is now, as it endures the long twilight of the reign of Bhumibol Adulyadej. Applied sparingly during most of Bhumibol’s 68 years as king, the law of lèse-majesté has been invoked dozens of times over the past five years in a desperate effort to shore up respect for the throne.

This is just one of the symptoms, Andrew McGregor Marshall writes in A Kingdom in Crisis, of a country in existential panic over what happens when Bhumibol, almost 87 and in poor health, passes away. The overthrow and exile of popular prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the deadly street battles of pro-throne yellow shirts and pro-Thaksin red shirts, and the two military coups since 2006 are all manifestations of the same problem: who controls the succession and who succeeds.

Like this writer, Marshall, a former Reuters journalist, has given up a comfortable existence in Thailand, and any hope of returning, to tell the story of how the succession crisis has paralysed a country once seen as Asia’s democratic beacon. And it is a deep crisis: it is no secret that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is disliked and feared. But there are no great alternatives to his rule.

Readers of Marshall’s work will know him as a strident advocate against the royal family. With little direct information on the thinking of the king and palace elite, he mines the WikiLeaks files of US diplomatic cables, which show that succession is on everyone’s mind. One document, from early 2010, is especially devastating. Three top royal advisers, two of them former prime ministers and one a foreign minister, freely disparage the crown prince to the US ambassador. Yet what they also make clear is they have no idea what to do about him.

Marshall suggests that generals of the current junta, as well as other elements of the Thai elite, aim to sabotage the prince’s accession even at risk of a civil war. Here he is on weak ground, however, offering no evidence of a plot besides fear of Vajiralongkorn and a history of succession intrigue in ancient Siam. It is possible that the crown prince could be blocked but what then? For Marshall, popular revolution is nigh-inevitable: “The people of twenty-first-century Thailand will not allow democracy to be taken away without a fight.”

Never mind that the people are deeply divided themselves. Thailand’s history is also replete with pragmatic, last-minute deals done to pull back from the brink. Marshall at least owes it to readers to sketch out other possibilities – that the prince’s sister Sirindhorn could take the throne, or that it could skip a generation and fall to one of his daughters or even a once-estranged son. Indeed, the prince, 62, does not appear to exhibit a strong desire to don the crown.

But whether Marshall’s theory is right or not is secondary. The fact remains that Thailand’s elite have violently wrested control of the state from the elected government in order to manage succession, and yet have not convinced anyone that they have a viable plan. That is frightening for Thai people, red shirts and yellow shirts alike. And as Marshall makes clear, this ominous void has in turn made Thai people increasingly question the role of the monarchy itself – not exactly the outcome the elite wanted.

A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century, by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Zed Books, RRP£14.99/$24.95, 248 pages

Paul Handley is author of ‘The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej’ (Yale)

Exclusive interview with Khon Kaen student activist detained for 3-fingered salute Prachatai English

28 weeks later in post-coup Thailand: Some personal thoughts Asian Correspondent

Democracy and the rule of law must be restored to Thailand The Guardian

Prayuth: Don't Ask For Democracy - And Don't Ask For Election, Neither Khaosod English

Thailand martial law to stay 'indefinitely' BBC

General Prayuth Meets Katniss Everdeen Human Rights Watch

Hunger Games Premiere cancelled ahead of abti-coup protest Khaosod English

Thai Junta's '12 Values' Film To Launch On 6 Dec

18 November 2014 Khaosod English

A film depicting Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s moral teachings will premier across Thailand this December, officials say.

Panadda Diskul, Permanent Secretary of the Office of Prime Minister, announced yesterday that the film will be shown on all state-owned TV channels and screened in 73 cinemas owned by Major Cineplex across the country for free on 6 December.

The film, called "Thai Niyom (Thai Pride)," is also intended as a tribute to the 87th birthday of His Majesty the King, which falls on 5 December, a public holiday in Thailand, Panadda said.

The film is based on the "Twelve Values" that Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth penned soon after leading the 22 May coup.

"This is our first effort to comply with Gen. Prayuth's policy that called for a production of a film that promotes national identity," said Panadda when he announced the start of the filming on 9 October.

According to Panadda, the film consists of twelve separate 10-minute shorts, each of them dedicated to illustrating one of the values. The short movies were directed by twelve different directors, Panadda said.

"The presentation of each film is different, but it's all based on the principle of encouraging children and young people, and all Thais, to uphold good morality," Panadda explained at the press conference yesterday.

An example of the Twelve Values banners public schools are required to hang in classrooms.

In July, Gen. Prayuth said in a public address that he wants every Thai to adhere to the following principles:

1. Loyalty to the Nation, the Religion, and the Monarchy
2. Honesty, sacrifice, endurance, and noble ideology for the greater good
3. Gratitude for parents, guardians, and teachers
4. Diligence in acquiring knowledge, via school studies and other methods
5. Preserving the Thai customs and tradition
6. Morality and good will for others
7. Correct understanding of democracy with the King as Head of State
8. Discipline, respect for law, and obedience to the older citizens
9. Constant consciousness to practice good deeds all the time, as taught by His Majesty the King
10. Practice of Self-Sufficient Economy in accordance with the teaching of His Majesty the King
11. Physical and mental strength. Refusal to surrender to religious sins.
12. Uphold the interest of the nation over oneself.

In addition to the upcoming film, Ministry of Education has already unveiled a poem and pop song based on the Twelve Values.

To ensure that all Thais will take the Twelve Values to heart, authorities have also instructed public schools and state agencies to hang a banner listing Gen. Prayuth’s teachings on their premises.

Gen. Prayuth, who is wielding a near-absolute power as Prime Minister and junta leader, is frequently extolled as a champion of the Thai people by state media.

A patriotic ballad Gen. Prayuth allegedly wrote "in one hour" has been played nonstop on state-owned media for months. The General also gives weekly televised lectures about morality to the public and has banned protests or any display of dissent against his rule.

Thailand: Beautiful and Bitterly Divided
New Yorker magazine - Richard Bernstein - November 20, 2014 Issue
This report was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Thailand has long had the image of a benign, stable country, which is a chief reason it has long been seen, at least by Americans, as a great hope for the future in Southeast Asia. It is relatively prosperous, growing not quite as fast as nearby China but at impressive rates of up to 7 percent a year. It is the world’s second-largest exporter of rice and the leading exporter of computer hard drives. Its troubling Muslim insurgency in the south is mainly restricted to a small part of the country. Thailand is ethnically largely homogeneous, overwhelmingly Buddhist, and ruled by a revered, exceedingly long-serving king. It is a beautiful country, with verdant mountains, a gorgeous seacoast, and rich alluvial, if flood-prone, plains. Millions of visitors have been drawn to Thailand for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and its physical charm, not to mention its reputation as a sex-tourism destination, for those who can pay for it.

But for the past eight years, Thailand has been in the grip of an extraordinary political crisis, pitting two intransigent mass movements, known as Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, against one another, each ready to take to the streets whenever it feels that the other has gained the upper hand. More than one hundred people have been killed in political violence as the crisis has unfolded and many more have been injured. Four elected governments have been removed from power, two of them by military coups d’état, the second of them on May 22 this year, when the army commander in chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, took control of the country after several months of disorder.

Between November last year and the time of the coup, twenty-eight people were reported killed in political violence. The two sides were reported to be arming themselves and preparing for battle. Many people in Thailand feel that the coup was unjustified, that different measures could have been taken to restore order, but many others welcomed the army’s takeover, convinced that if Prayuth had not stepped in, the country would have descended into civil war.

What is it about Thailand, America’s chief ally in Southeast Asia, that has led to so fierce and intractable a struggle for power? The standard explanation is that a new, politically aroused, and determined rural majority—largely current or former rice farmers—has emerged, and it threatens to take power from the entrenched establishment—what is called the Bangkok elite. This elite has lost every election held in Thailand for the last thirteen years. Beaten at the polls, it has kept itself in power through police and military and judicial intervention. In one instance, a prime minister opposed by the elite and its supporters was dismissed by the Constitutional Court because his appearances on a television cooking show violated the rule against working for private companies. The latest elected leader to be ousted is Yingluck Shinawatra, youngest sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist billionaire who was elected in 2001 and ousted in 2006, notwithstanding his support from the Red Shirts. Weeks before the latest coup, Yingluck was removed from office by the courts, which acted as thousands of Yellow Shirt protesters paralyzed the day-to-day functioning of the government. They wanted to do away with democratic elections altogether.

The central figure in the confrontation between new power and old is Thaksin himself, a charismatic business tycoon whose election as prime minister in 2001 marked the first stage of the Thai conflict. Thaksin was a dynamic and even visionary figure. He revolutionized Thai politics, creating a new majority among previously ignored and disenfranchised rural people in the north and northeast. He had a chance to go down in Thai history as the man who led his country into a new, more prosperous democratic era. But Thaksin also had a very Thai tendency to use his office for personal enrichment, and he was persuasively accused of resorting to dictatorial methods, for example, appointing relatives and cronies to key positions, thereby undermining the independence of important regulatory agencies. This gave his rivals a good reason (or, in the view of his many loyal supporters, a flimsy pretext) for resorting to a kind of mob action to get rid of him.

A second feature of Thai politics is its apparently ineradicable tradition of interference by the army, a powerful and often admired institution in the country, which has a history of tense relations with some of its neighbors. There have been literally dozens of coup attempts, at least twelve of them successful, since 1932, when Thailand became a constitutional monarchy. Other times, when the army has not taken control directly, it has used its power behind the scenes to select a civilian leader to rule in its place. It did that at least once during the current crisis, in 2008, when it pressured some parliamentarians from one party to defect to another, so that the army’s choice of a new prime minister could take office without a popular election.

Finally, there is Thailand’s monarchy, with its king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been on the throne for nearly seventy years and is regarded as a kind of bodhisattva, an embodiment of wisdom, a living saint. His semidivine image is deemed by those seeking power to be of crucial, legitimating importance, an essential ingredient of national unity. King Bhumibol has always come across as modest, unpretentious, and under the control of the super-elite group of counselors who surround him. He is popular and respected—and protected from criticism or even any deep questioning by the strictest lèse-majesté laws in existence in the world. It is criminal to question his legitimacy. But he is reported to be in poor health, nearing death, and the expectation of his demise has added to the stakes in the Thai struggle.

Thaksin, who now lives in Dubai but exercises a powerful influence over the Red Shirts, is a threat to the establishment, not merely because he wins elections and is corrupt, but because he is the only nonroyal figure in Thailand whose prestige rivals that of the king. It is likely to be far greater than that of the king’s successor, his son Maha Vajiralongkorn, with whom Thaksin is reputed to have cultivated close relations. Thaksin, in other words, threatened to supplant the super-elite groups whose privileged status derives from their closeness to the current king. This explains why throughout the political crisis of the past eight years the gravest accusation made against Thaksin, whether accurate or not, is that he aimed to put the monarchy under his control. Conversely, the proudest boast of the Yellow Shirts and of the establishment figures who supported them is that they are defenders of the royal family, without whom, they are convinced, Thailand would fall into disarray.1

The slogan of the new military junta that took power last spring from Thaksin’s sister is “Returning Happiness to the People,” which, it says, it will achieve in part by promoting reconciliation between the two contending sides. General Prayuth, the commander in chief of the Royal Thai Army at the time of the coup, and a career officer with a plainspoken and confident manner, might try to appease the Red Shirts by continuing some of the populist programs of rural investment that were invented by Thaksin and by suppressing any flare-ups of protest.

But the Thai political divide may be too wide and bitter, with too much accumulated enmity and too many incompatible interests at stake, for it to go away because an army commander orders it to do so. The junta may present itself as politically neutral and striving for reconciliation between what are called “the colors,” but its seizure of power is nonetheless and with good reason perceived to be a victory for the Yellow Shirts. If it tries to crush the power of the Red Shirts, then the calm that has prevailed in Thailand since the coup is very likely to give way to another round of furious confrontation. “The coup may have reduced chaos and violence…in the short term,” a study by a leading Washington think tank said a few weeks after the military takeover, “but it will not solve this crisis, nor Thailand’s core problems.”2

Thaksin is the scion of a wealthy Sino-Thai family from near the ancient capital of Chiang Mai in the Thai north. He made his fortune in the 1990s from a government-granted telecommunications monopoly. In 1998 he created a new party, called Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais), that permanently transformed Thai politics.

Thaksin turned out to be an inventive and popular campaigner with new ideas; in the elections in 2001, his party won more seats in parliament than any party had ever won in a Thai election. He became prime minister, and he immediately began to fulfill his campaign promises. His underlying idea, inspired by the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, who came to Thailand for a visit, was to increase the number and kinds of assets that could be used in the countryside as collateral for low-interest loans. “Capitalism needs capital, without which there is no capitalism,” Thaksin said in a speech in 2003. “We need to push capital into the rural areas.” He created a stimulus program that included microcredits to farmers, cash infusions to Thai villages, low-interest education loans, and a new national medical plan by which anybody could get treatment for a flat fee of 30 Thai baht, about one American dollar.

His opponents accused him of overspending, but Thailand’s growth rate, which was low following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, quickly went up to about 7 percent. Thaksin’s program marked a shift in the amount of the national budget that went to Bangkok, with more now going to the provinces. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio has over the years varied between 40 and 50 percent, moderate for a developing economy.

Throughout the countryside, peasants felt that for the first time a dynamic, forceful national leader had made the prosperity of the rural areas his main priority. Thaksin fortified his position with a somewhat heterodox Buddhist concept in a country where Buddhist concepts are part of the political discussion. The dominant philosophical strain of Buddhism, associated with the king, stressed what was called the sufficiency economy: the notion that a certain economic simplicity, an absence of greed, and an acceptance of modest circumstances were virtuous. The desire for more was a manifestation of the illusion of the self.

In his speeches, Thaksin promoted a different strain of thought represented by a contemporary figure named Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, who emphasized the obligation to improve the world rather than store up merit for the next. After the anti-Thaksin coup of 2006, a new constitution that enshrined the sufficiency economy as a guiding principle was adopted in a national referendum, but despite a propaganda campaign in its favor, polls show that it was rejected by 62.8 percent of people of the northeast provinces.3

The rural awakening that expresses itself now in Red Shirt activism was not all due to Thaksin. He came along at a time when the Thai countryside was already becoming more aware of the outside world, more sophisticated, and more demanding. Over the years, tens of thousands of farmers or former farmers have gone to work at the thirty industrial parks scattered across the country where computer hard drives and other advanced products are made. Many thousands of other villagers have gone to the cities, Bangkok especially, where they work as motorcycle taxi drivers, domestic servants, or in the country’s highly developed tourism and sex industries.

These rural immigrants are well aware of glamorous shopping malls that remain outside their economic reach, and they keep close contacts with their original villages, sending back money to parents and children they have left behind, or going back to vote. The anthropologist William Klausner, who has studied rural Thailand for sixty years, observed in one of his essays about a visit he paid to a village during the Thaksin era that the traditional Buddhist abbot had lost his importance to a political activist who is pro–Red Shirt. “Political views are held adamantly and aggressively, at least by Thaksin supporters,” he wrote, estimating that those Thaksin supporters made up 95 percent of some villages.4

In the north and northeast most villages designated themselves Red Shirt villages. A Red Shirt flag would often fly at the their entrances along with a poster of Thaksin. A local Red Shirt radio station broadcast news and interviews with him even after he was ousted from power and went into exile. All this Red Shirt activity was banned by the junta.

Thaksin served out his full term as prime minister, and then, in the regularly scheduled elections in 2005, his Thai Rak Thai party won 375 out of 500 parliamentary seats, a crushing defeat for its main rival, the Democratic Party. Thaksin started his second term as the most powerful elected official in Thai history. “He did the proper studies and sent the right message to the rural voters,” Pichai Chuensuksawadi, editor in chief of the English-language Bangkok Post, told me on a visit I made to Thailand a couple of years ago. “Most important, he delivered [some improvements] right after the 2001 election. From there, his popularity increased and there was support even from the establishment. On the other side, he gutted the democratic processes.”

It was that “other side” that was Thaksin’s fatal flaw. In the early days, opposition to him consisted of wealthy businessmen in Bangkok who began to see him as a threat to their interests. But anti-Thaksin feelings rapidly grew into a genuine mass movement, consisting of journalists, many civil servants, people in the professional classes, a few labor unions, parts of the military and the police, and some members of the royal family, although they did not openly say so. Many people within this opposition had no apparent economic interest in Thaksin’s fall from power. But they came to see him as a potential elected dictator, a strongman in the Vladimir Putin mold, or perhaps comparable to Hun Sen, whose tight control of neighboring Cambodia has always been legitimized by supposedly free elections.

Thaksin’s chief biographers, Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, have documented his dubious practices.5 He was accused of withholding state advertising from newspapers that reported critically on him and pressuring news organizations to punish journalists who did the same. He trampled on individual rights in a campaign against drug traffickers that involved literally thousands of extrajudicial killings by Thaksin’s forces—not a minor violation of the rule of law.

And then there was Thaksin’s conspicuous, even brazen use of his political position to further enrich himself and his family. In 2006, after his landslide election victory, his family sold its holding company, the Shin (for Shinawatra) Corporation, to a Singaporean sovereign fund, making a profit of nearly $2 billion, on which Thaksin managed to pay no capital gains taxes. The courts found no criminal wrongdoing in this transaction. Still, the sale showed how Thaksin could manipulate the law for his own benefit, and it gave new ammunition to a former supporter, a media tycoon named Sondhi Limthongkul, to win over mass support for an anti-Thaksin campaign.

Sondhi in 2006 founded the People’s Alliance for Democracy, which adopted yellow, the color of the monarchy, as its symbol, and soon the Yellow Shirts embarked on a series of demonstrations demanding that Thaksin step down. This is what led, after a few months of turmoil, to the 2006 coup, when Thaksin was in New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Two years later, he was convicted of abuse of power in a transaction involving a land deal in Bangkok. He was sentenced to two years in prison, which caused him to leave Thailand in 2008.

Still, he remains a dominating presence in Thailand, making decisions for his Thai Rak Thai party or, since that party was banned after the 2006 coup, its differently named successors. In 2010, after the military oversaw the installation of an unelected Democratic Party government, 300,000 members of a group formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship—aka the Red Shirts—occupied the commercial center of Bangkok, a district of expensive shopping malls and hotels adjacent to the expansive greenery of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club—all symbolic of the social and economic gulf between the rural insurgents, with their weathered skin and unrefined accents, and the paler, more refined establishment that was keeping Thaksin out of power. After three months, the army, using guns and live ammunition, cracked down on the Red Shirt occupation, clearing the commercial center and killing roughly eighty demonstrators. Twelve soldiers were also reported killed.

The military attack of 2010 remains a vivid memory for the Red Shirts, and a deep grievance. There has been no comparable effort by the police or the army to control the Yellow Shirts, even when their actions were clearly not just disruptive but illegal. In 2008, the Yellow Shirts commandeered hundreds of buses and occupied Bangkok’s airports for over a week, basically sealing off Thailand from much of the outside world. Among other things, they surrounded the parliament building with razor wire to prevent a newly named prime minister from running the government. Such actions were used by the army to justify installing a new, anti-Thaksin civilian government in 2008, but in 2011, elections were held and, as usual, the Thaksin party won a clear majority of votes. Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who had been named by Thaksin himself as the leader of his party, now called Pheu Thai (For Thais), became prime minister.

In November 2013, the Red Shirt–controlled lower house of parliament passed a general amnesty. It would have forgiven Yellow Shirt leaders for their part in the 2010 anti–Red Shirt crackdown, but it would also have enabled Thaksin to return to Thailand. This set off a new round of furious protests. Yellow Shirt militants forced their way into several government ministries, which they occupied for months. The police, in a rare official attempt to keep the Yellow Shirts under control, attempted to block them from seizing Government House, the office of the prime minister; nonetheless the building was surrounded and Yingluck had to be taken to an undisclosed location for her protection.

She called for new elections, but the Democrats refused to take part in them, instead sending their party workers to block polling stations. This led the Election Commission to invalidate the election results on the grounds that not enough votes had been cast. During their protests, Yellow Shirts seized several television stations in Bangkok and forced them to broadcast a speech by Suthep Thaugsuban, a ferociously anti-Thaksin former deputy prime minister who had emerged as the Yellow Shirts leader. Suthep demanded that Yingluck resign and “return power to the people” within two days. He also called for the abolition of Thailand’s system of democratic elections and for the government to consist of a council appointed by the king. That is essentially what Thailand got after the army took power: a council of ministers appointed by General Prayuth whose members, wearing identical white uniforms with gold braid, presented themselves to the king, who approved them, early in September.

The speculation in Thailand these days has mostly to do with General Prayuth and how he will manage the Thai crisis in the coming months. So far he has kept the country quiet, announcing a great many new measures in weekly broadcasts and promising a return to civilian rule, eventually. But perhaps the more important question is what the Red Shirts will do, and whether they will return to mass protest. The Red Shirts are not practitioners of nonviolence; many people felt threatened by them when they took to the streets in Bangkok in 2010. And yet it is hard not to sympathize with them. The leaders they voted for in free and fair elections have been removed from power as a result, essentially, of mob rule, encouraged by the elite and, in the end, validated by the army.

As for Thaksin, he is in many ways a compromised figure, ready to use his vast fortune to gain power. But was he the kind of strongman whose actions justified his overthrow by the military? What is clear is that the opposition party refused to participate in elections because it knew it would lose to him. “The solution would have been to enforce the law,” a prominent business consultant, Apirux Wanasathop, told me in July. He was speaking of the refusal of the police and army to restore order in Thailand by stopping the rampages by the Yellow Shirts. While Thaksin was in power, he said, he “still had to be accountable” to voters and the courts. “He would have been checked, but there is no check on the military.”

The junta has sought to eliminate Thaksin’s long-distance influence by banning Red Shirt activity, closing down the Red Shirt radio stations, and keeping watch on former Red Shirt leaders, who risk going to prison if they speak out. In an especially Orwellian touch, the regime has deleted Thaksin’s name from school history textbooks.6 Meanwhile, the Thai economy has slowed to an estimated 1.5 percent growth per year; rural indebtedness is rising, and the rice farmers who owe the money have been unable in places to plant crops because of a threat of severe drought.7 In other words, as that Washington think tank put it, the junta remains saddled with Thailand’s “core problems,” and chief among these is the anger and alienation of the rural majority whose awakening is what brought about the Thai political crisis in the first place. Don’t be surprised if the Red Shirts try once again to take power.

1 See Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (Zed, 2014) for a full elaboration of the theory that a crisis over Thailand’s looming royal succession is the root cause of the turmoil. ↩

2 See Phuong Nguyen, Gregory B. Poling, and Kathleen B. Rustici, “Thailand in Crisis: Scenarios and Policy Responses,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 2010. The CSIS study outlined three possible future scenarios: the rise of a moderate middle, continued military rule, or civil war. ↩

3 See Claudio Sopranzetti, “Burning Red Desires: Isan Migrants and the Politics of Red Desire in Contemporary Thailand,” South East Asia Research, Vol. 20, No. 3 (2012). ↩

4 See William J. Klausner, Essays on Thai Culture in Transition: Social and Political Implications (Bangkok: Institute of Security and International Studies, 2010), pp. 64–67. ↩

5 Thaksin (University of Washington Press, second edition, 2010). ↩

6 Thomas Fuller, “Loved and Hated, Former Premier of Thailand Is Erased from Textbook,” The New York Times, September 16, 2014. ↩

7 Thomas Fuller, “Household Debt and Signs of Drought Squeeze Economy in Thailand,” The New York Times, October 6, 2014. ↩

A Kingdom in Crisis - Banned

13 November 2014

Once again the Thai junta's attempt to conceal facts and silence opinions backfired. Yesterday they banned "A Kingdom in Crisis", a new book on the Thai monarchy by Andrew MacGregor Marshall. Today the ban received international coverage, which is sure to boost the book's sales worldwide. Here are some reports:

AP: "Thai Police bans book criticizing monarchy"

AFP: "Thai police ban British journalist's book for 'defaming' royals"

BBC: "Thai police ban Scot's book for 'insulting' royal family"

Telegraph: "Thailand bans Briton's book that 'defames monarchy'"

Various other international media ran AP's and APF's stories:

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/…/thai-police-bans-book-criticizing-m…

Daily Mail: www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Thai-police-ban-British-journalists-b…

The Irish Independent: http://www.independent.ie/…/thai-police-ban-book-on-monarch…


Game of thrones South East Asia Globe

Junta leader chides newspapers' use of dramatic headlines Khaosod English

Prayuth Asks Media To Stop Reporting About Thaksin

3 November 2014 - Khaosod English

Thailand’s military ruler has asked the media to “cooperate” by not publishing news about the controversial former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

"The media should not publish news about that," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said today after a reporter asked him about Thaksin’s recent trip to southern China. Photos of the trip have been widely shared by Thaksin's devoted supporters on social media.

Gen. Prayuth continued, "Don't publish photos of persons who violate the law. That is all. Why are you still featuring news [about him?]"

He then stressed that he was merely asking for "cooperation," not issuing a prohibition of any kind.

Thaksin, a telecoms tycoon turned politician, was ousted in a military coup in September 2006. Shortly before a court convicted him in absentia of corruption charges in 2008, Thaksin fled the country and has been living in self-imposed exile ever since.

Despite living abroad, Thaksin has continued to wield considerable influence over Thai politics, mostly through the successive governments and political parties that have pledged their allegiance to him. The former Prime Minister is an immensely polarizing figure in Thailand, and the Kingdom’s political factions are still largely drawn along pro- versus anti-Thaksin lines.

Since staging a coup this May against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister, Gen. Prayuth's military junta has sought to dismantle Thaksin's extensive network of supporters. Hundreds of politicians, activists, and academics perceived to be sympathetic to Thaksin were summoned and briefly detained by the military after the coup, while a handful of Thaksin loyalists have fled the country to avoid persecution.

The junta has also ordered a number of reshuffles to minimize the influence of Thaksin's allies in the police force and bureaucracy.

In a press conference this morning, Gen. Prayuth claimed that news and photos of Thaksin could cause conflict in society. He asked the media to exercise good judgment and avoid creating disputes with their coverage.

"Everyone is entitled to freedom of the press, freedom of the people," the junta chairman said. "But if these freedoms lead to conflicts or violate other people's rights, they become inappropriate. Therefore, please don't make me use laws or power or force. I ask you to engage in conservations and find solutions for the problems that have been building up in the past."



Thailand’s post-coup ‘reform’ process: Only a few ‘good’ men at the helm Asian Correspondent

Thai youth fear junta's school reforms will dim job prospects

30 October 2014 - from Reuters

Sixteen years old and studying 13 hours a day, high school pupil Worapot doesn't have time to waste matching up to a military-led government's idea of what makes a good Thai.

The generals who led a coup in May have prioritised school reforms to inculcate a strong sense of national identity - or Thai-ness - in a country whose traditional values hinge on unquestioning respect for the monarchy, religion and elders.

For Worapot, the son of junior civil servants who together earn $1,800 (1,124.5 pounds) a month, a more practical goal would be creating an education system that commands respect in the job

"Now the system might get even worse," said Worapot, as he sat on the steps of a language school in a bustling Bangkok shopping district where he is taking extra lessons in English.

Still to lift martial law, the junta has given education the biggest slice of the 2015 budget, raising teachers' pay and redrawing the national curriculum with the aim to introduce it at the start of the next school year in May.

Aside from giving Thai history and culture more emphasis, classes in "moral soundness and virtues" will be introduced.

Worapot's frustration with the new policies is magnified by the prospect that the job market will become tougher once a trade pact, due to start next year, brings together 600 million people in Southeast Asia.

He wants to be able to compete with better-off Singaporeans and Malaysians rather than be patronised for quaint moral codes or nationalist sentiments.

"I want to be their equal or better. Not to be ridiculed," he said, while using a Thai-to-English application on his iPad.

For years, education in Thailand has been handicapped by a reliance on rote-learning and stress on skills that support basic jobs but just do not cut it for a booming middle class that aspires to better jobs and better pay.

Technocrats have long called for changes to put more stress on developing critical thinking skills rather than conformity, whereas Thais often shy away from showing individuality for fear of "losing face", or causing embarrassment.

The reforms envisaged by the junta - including civic duty and morality classes to promote "a sense of pride in being a Thai" - do not appear to be the answer.

"The way the government promotes certain values may not fit well with the development of 21st century skills," said May Sripatananskul, education initiative project manager at the Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI), a Bangkok-based independent think-tank.

Multinationals based in the kingdom already complain of a shortage of skilled and professional labour.

"Most graduates may not have basic skills adequate to the needs of the company - for example, practical command of the English language, communication, time management and behavioural skills," Krisda Utamote, director of corporate communications at BMW Group Thailand, told Reuters.

Thailand's education system is routinely ranked as one of the worst in Southeast Asia.

Attempts by previous governments to bring students up to speed with their Asian peers - from free, "Made in China" computer tablets for primary school children to foreign exchange programmes - have proved ineffective or disastrous.

In the UN Development Programme's 2014 human development index, Thailand ranks 89th out of 187 countries for education.

Taking over an economy laid low by months of political unrest and martial law, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief, has said he will do "everything" to ensure Thailand remains a hub for foreign investors.

The policymakers chosen to oversee the school reforms have raised some eyebrows, however.

Prayuth's education minister, Narong Pipathanasai, was chief of Thailand's navy until September. And Art-ong Jumsai Na Ayudhya, the aristocrat tasked by the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC) with re-drafting the curriculum, believes in UFOs and the paranormal powers of ancient Egyptian pyramids.

A petition calling for his removal has gathered over 3,000 signatures. Art-ong did not reply to a Reuters request for an interview, while OBEC said it was "under orders from the highest level not to comment on education policy."

As a percentage of gross domestic product, Thailand already spends more on education than Germany, but that has not brought success.

TDRI's May bemoaned the amount wasted through inefficiency, and the failure of higher pay to translate to better quality teachers. The largest chunk of the budget is spent on the primary and pre-primary segments.

Yet, Thailand ranked 90th out of 144 countries for the quality of primary education, the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report showed. Neighbouring Malaysia, whose per capita GDP is double Thailand's $5,779, ranked 17th.

Past studies by U.N. agencies have noted that while access to primary education is fairly equal across Thai society, more should be invested in secondary and tertiary levels, where both access and quality need improvement.

Better-off families avoid public schools if they can. The well-heeled, living in Bangkok, have the choice of sending their children to international schools where annual fees average 400,000 baht ($12,300), according to a 2013 survey.

"I can do without patriotism and morality classes," said businessman Krissada Pornweroj, while waiting for his son outside a British school in the capital.

"We want him to get in to a good English boarding school."

The negative economic implications of the country's weak classroom performance will be compounded by a shift in Thailand's demographics.

While most of Southeast Asia will enjoy relatively young populations decades from now, Thailand bucks the trend. It currently has a population of around 66 million people.

Once the working-age population starts to decline in 2020, according to U.N. estimates, economic growth could suffer.

"Thailand does run the risk of losing competitiveness," said Rahul Bajoria, an economist in Singapore at Barclays Plc.

"Historically, the Thai labour force has been more productive than Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia but without sustained focus, that productivity gap can narrow." (1 US dollar = 32.4200 Thai baht).

Thailand’s lese majesty law stifles legitimate dissent  Al Jazeera

Thailand Has Entered the Interregnum : Paper from ISEAS Singapore

"Executive Summary

The concentration of power in the hands of PM Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha and the NCPO, the high level of repression, the widespread censorship and heavy propaganda, are signs not of strength but of the weakness of the current military regime.

The health of the King and Queen appears to be in decline. The reign of the King is coming to an end and the succession is imminent.

Thailand has entered an “interregnum” phase. The political situation is much more uncertain, unstable, and fluid than it appears. The lèse majesté law, which prevents discussion of the monarchy at this crucial time, distorts the true political situation.

The objectives of the military regime and its supporters are the same as after the 2006 coup, which are, to destroy Thaksin Shinawatra and his support base and to neutralize the threat that electoral politics poses to the domination of the royalist bureaucracy symbolically led by the King.

Given its weakness and the political uncertainty surrounding the imminent succession, it is unlikely the regime will succeed in achieving these objectives."

Patrick Jory is Senior Lecturer in Southeast Asian History at the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland. This issue is part of ISEAS’s Thailand Studies Programme.

Thailand: Breaking the silence Asian Correspondent

Thailand loses bid to join UN rights body

Thailand: Address human rights concerns in order to be a credible and legitimate UNHRC member FIDH

Not saving Thailand’s face: the backlash of police corruption in tourist murders Asian Correspondent

Murder, Scapegoats, and a Coup d’État Columbia Political Review

Thai regime hunts for legitimacy in Myanmar The Japan Times

4 months on - a coup assessment from the Indo-Pacific review

17 October 2014 - Junta policies set Thailand back

Nearly four months after seizing power, Prayuth has firmly consolidated political power. Yet the institutions and policies that he has enacted are so blatantly partisan that one must seriously question how they will bridge the Thailand’s deeply divided society. As Atiya Achakulwisut so elegantly put it, “what the coup leaders want is an obedient Thailand,” not an inclusive democracy. His policy missteps and gaffes have raised serious questions about his ability to garner legitimacy through performance. Everything Prayuth has done has systematically disenfranchised a majority of the population and the reforms that he has identified in his roadmap to establish a “Thai-style democracy” will consolidate power in the hands of the military and unelected bureaucrats and jurists amongst the Monarchist elite. Once again, the military’s intervention into politics has sown the seeds of the next political conflict, which will be in the absence of King Bhumipol. Thailand may appear calm now, but it’s in for a very bumpy ride. -

The full article is here:


Asian Review of Books: A Kingdom in Crisis

Thailand’s Prayuth Becomes a Philosopher King or not....

Lights, Camera, Junta, Action: Film About Prayuth's Teachings Announced Khaosod English

Thailand’s Coup and the Threat of the King’s Death

9 October 2014 Written by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Strategic Review

This is excerpted from a much longer article discussing the implication of the Royal succession which can be in Strategic Review magazine.

The Thai Army’s claim that it is politically neutral, is seeking to find a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis and that it genuinely wishes to broker reconciliation between different political factions is simply fraudulent.

In retrospect, from November 2013 to May 2014, it was evident that the military had cooperated closely with antigovernment protesters to make the country ungovernable in order to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and her government.

At the time, there were relentless anti-government demonstrations, accompanied by the occupation of state offices, the blockage of roads and highways and the disruption of general elections on Feb. 2.

The demonstrators held Bangkok hostage, defying arrest warrants and resorting to violence against some “red shirt” activists who support the Yingluck government. As antigovernment “yellow-shirt” protestors roamed the streets in defiance of the law, the military was waiting for the appropriate moment to directly intervene in civilian politics. It was clear that the chaotic situation served to legitimize the coup.

In addition, while politicians from the ruling Pheu Thai Party were summoned or even in some cases arrested after the coup, no members of the antigovernment faction led by Suthep were detained. In fact, they were allowed to continue their political activities. For example, the Suthep faction organized several post-coup parties to celebrate what was deemed a political triumph – but one that ended in a military coup.

Maj. Gen. Amnuay Nimmano, the acting deputy commander of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police, even attended a birthday party for Suthep on July 5, despite political gatherings being prohibited by the military. This reaffirmed the existence of a plot drawn up by the military and antigovernment protesters to remove Yingluck from power.

In retrospect, I was among many analysts who were initially convinced that the time was not ripe for the military to stage another coup. This was simply because the previous coup of 2006 offered various valuable lessons for the Army. That coup gave birth to the pro-Thaksin red-shirt movement with their strong anti-coup agenda. I was convinced that the military would not want to become entangled in another complicated situation. For one thing, the brutal crackdowns on the red shirts at the hands of the Army in Bangkok’s Rachaprasong district in 2010 have not been resolved, and no soldiers have been brought to justice. With this still in play, it should have kept the Army out of politics for a while.

It is important to note that the Thai Army has never worked alone in staging a coup; it has often received instructions from the Royal Palace. However, it seemed that the monarchy was not in a position currently to influence internal politics the way it once did. Partly, this is because King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is in ill health, in addition to his many years of self-politicization. When there were no instructions from the palace, not making a move was usually seen as the best move for the military.

There were other political weapons that could have been used to undermine political opponents, rendering the blunt instrument of a military coup unnecessary or even counterproductive. Here, the role of the Thai courts and independent state agencies is crucial.

Months prior to the coup, these institutions apparently launched coordinated attacks against the Yingluck government, with the Constitutional Court ordering her to step down over the bizarre case of her transferring Thawin Plainsri from his post as secretary-general of the National Security Council, and then there was the Anticorruption Commission’s ardent investigation into the state rice-pledging scheme.

Topping this off, following the dissolution of parliament in December, the election commission initially obstructed the government’s plan to hold a new election. Meanwhile, the highly politicized Human Rights Commission, led by Amara Pongsapich, was rather quiet when the Suthep-led protesters threatened the electoral rights of fellow Thais by blocking polling stations and even harassing voters.

On the contrary, Amara rushed to condemn the government whenever possible, for example, by warning Yingluck not to “touch” antigovernment protesters. All this convinced me that a coup would have been redundant. Meanwhile, the Yingluck government seemed passive, with the prime minister agreeing to step down at the behest of the Constitutional Court. Obviously, there seemed to be no incentives for the coup. But how wrong I was.

Taking into consideration the context, in many ways, the coup came as a surprise. Its abrupt nature could well indicate some changes within the walls of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Yet without solid evidence, any discussion on what could have happened among key figures of the Royal Family would only be speculation.

Instead, the 2014 coup was a Royal coup. But it is a Royal coup in a slightly different political context, compared with the one in September 2006. Back then, the military and Royal Palace worked together to try and permanently remove Thaksin, who was first elected prime minister in 2001, from Thailand’s political scene. Thaksin had emerged as a looming threat to the political domination, economic wealth and social status of the country’s old establishment.

Thaksin’s effective populist policies were successful in winning the hearts and minds of Thailand’s remote regions, thus competing with the long years of Royal projects that underpinned the relationship between the King and his subjects.

The 2014 coup was staged to manage the imminent royal succession. Therefore, it was a royal coup with the urgent task of taking back political control of Thailand. “It’s like a musical chairs game,” said Ernest Bower, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “When the music stops – when the king dies – whoever has power gets to organize the next steps.”

Getting rid of Thaksin and his proxies remains a priority, but more importantly, the coup makers wanted to ensure that the next monarch would benefit their own position in the country’s power structure. It is an open secret that key members of the “network monarchy,” which is driven by the old establishment, have expressed disapproval of the heir apparent, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.

A series of cables turned up in Wikileaks in 2010 detailing discussions between Gen. Prem Tinsulanond, head of the Privy Council; Anand Panyarachun, a former prime minister; and Siddhi Savetsila, a Privy councilor, with John Eric, who was US ambassador to Thailand 2007-2010. The contents revealed that these palace representatives perceived the Crown Prince as unsuitable to be the next monarch.

With his complicated personal life and lack of popularity and moral authority among the Thai public, the palace’s inner circles feel the Crown Prince is not a good choice. But more importantly, what the traditional elite fear most is the possibility that the Crown Prince forged some kind of political alliance with Thaksin, a claim that had been reported in the press a decade ago.

This could prove to have been the underlying cause of the 2014 coup. The military may seek to hold onto power until after the royal succession. Thailand’s military ruler and prime minister, General Prayuth, has a reputation as a staunch monarchist and has ruled that violations of the controversial lèse-majesté law – a sweeping ban against anything deemed as offending the monarchy – will be heard in military, rather than civilian, courts.

Of course, one may never know the real relationship between the Crown Prince and Thaksin. Yet, the unknown itself stirred up enough anxiety on the part of the palace and its network for it to ensure that during the royal transition, they must be in charge of the parliament and that the military will be on their side.

The elite also needed to guarantee that Thaksin and his proxies were not able to make decisions that could affect the royal succession in ways that would serve Thaksin’s own interests.

It is premature to assume that the network monarchy might already have an alternate candidate in mind to be the next monarch. But according to the Succession Law, it is clear and undeniable that the Crown Prince will ascend to the throne. He was given the title in 1972 – a quintessential step that prepares the king-in-waiting for the throne. There is a misperception that Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, his younger sister, was elevated to Crown Princess. It is not true.

Much of the talk about other candidates reflects wishful thinking, or a lonely hope, by members of the traditional elite who may dream about replacing Vajiralongkorn with Sirindhorn.

The looming transition and its political impacts

The point of this essay is not to discuss possible candidates to become Thailand’s next monarch. Rather, it is about discussing the reasons why the royal succession has become so important for Thailand in reshaping the contour of its politics, and how the crisis has deepened on the eve of the royal transition.

First, one must come to terms with the fact that the monarchy has an immense role in politics, and that King Bhumibol has been an active political actor. The King sits at the apex of the Thai political structure, and since the early days of the Cold War, has worked closely with the military to build a new political landscape.

As Australian professor Andrew Walker argues: “Thailand’s democratic failure is the most striking legacy of his [Bhumibol’s] long reign. For decades, antidemocratic forces in Thailand have been able to use the image of the King to undermine the credibility of elected politicians. A long series of military coups have been staged in the name of the King, in order to supposedly protect the country from the depredations of corrupt politicians.

“The King has never used his pre-eminent stature to challenge the use of military force to overthrow an elected government, but has consistently permitted antidemocratic acts to be staged in his name. Since Prayuth’s seizure of power, there has not been one word from the palace about the importance of protecting Thailand's democratic system. Thailand’s overinvestment in the monarchy as a symbol of national unity means that institutions which can constructively manage conflict have never been able to flourish.”

Sadly, it is unlikely the monarchy will be willing to negotiate with democracy anytime soon.

The next significant conundrum concerns the coup’s impact on Thailand’s political and societal landscape. The fact that the monarchy has become politicized over the decades, while openly taking sides amid the political divide, will also accelerate its decline.

At the same time, there have been mounting lèse-majesté cases since the 2006 coup. The more royal defenders use the law as a weapon, the more this will hurt the monarchy, and overusing it could inevitably bring an end to the institution. Currently, there is a move by the junta to silence, not just critics of the coup, but also those critical of the monarchy. Writers and academics have been hunted, not just because they have spoken out against the coup, but also because they were seen as a threat to the monarchy.

Despite this pessimistic view of the current political crisis, the eventual Royal succession could benefit Thai democracy in the long run. Any conflict inside the palace would be a lose-lose situation for the current Chakri Dynasty. Conflict between contenders for the throne would likely bring instability to the monarchy, and possibly enable democracy to find a way to blossom.

Second, the Army itself will be affected by the coup. This is Thailand’s 19th coup since it abolished the absolute monarchy in 1932. The latest putsch will surely further deepen military involvement in Thai politics. The military has long lost its professionalism. In many ways, the coup paved the way for the military to perpetuate its role in politics. Once entering politics it is difficult to withdraw. This time, like during many past coups, the military used its so-called mission to defend the monarch to justify its intervention.

That explains why the military is keen to exploit the lèse-majesté law to prove its responsibility and duty as the defender of the monarchy, which in turn means the defender of national security. But the longer the military remains in politics, the more it will serve to obstruct democratization.

Already, the military has sought to weaken democratic institutions, aroused by the fear that strong politicians such as Thaksin could return to the political scene. It is therefore expected that the military will redesign the Constitution to be even less democratic. Some analysts already suspect that the junta will adopt Myanmar’s parliamentary model, which reserves 25 percent of its seats for the Army.

Alternatively, the coup leaders could opt for a combination of elected and appointed members of parliament. And if the ultimate objective is to take control of the Royal succession, which could be a few years away, we may see the military further entrench itself in politics.

This is dangerous for Thailand’s long-term prospects. The Army has reportedly begun the process of totally dismantling the red-shirt movement in the country’s North and Northeast provinces. Troops have been sent to these peripheral regions to harass and detain its members. Already, many red-shirt villages have been closed down and core community-level leaders have been detained and released on condition that they don’t get involved in politics again. Some have been forced to befriend the yellow shirts. In early July, there were cases of Thai soldiers forcing a squid vendor to take off her red T-shirt, and a shopkeeper to remove a Pheu Thai sticker on her icebox, citing the need to prevent conflict. The eradication of red shirts could weaken democratic networks in Thailand.

Third, the coup will have implications for key independent state institutions, including the courts. It is clear that during the past decade, these institutions have not really been independent, but instruments of the traditional ruling elite used to undermine its opponents.

In the period leading up to the May coup, there was a formulated attack against democratic institutions to bring down Yingluck. These institutions have been politicized and employed by the country’s leaders to safeguard their interests. But in so doing, they have destabilized the judicial system. In the long run, if the courts cannot guarantee justice for all Thai citizens, it will remain a source of conflict. Violence could be inevitable.

Indeed, the political role of the courts has already instigated a sense of anger and resentment among the red shirts over the persistent injustice and double standards of the judicial system.

Fourth, Thai society will directly taste the sour fruit of the coup. The deep-seated polarization has gone beyond the point of reconciliation. It all began in 2005 when the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy began politicizing the monarchy to separate itself from its enemies. A political fault line has been drawn along the monarchy to the extent that those who disagree will immediately be painted as an enemy.

Yet, the rhetoric has continued among the Royal family and Army generals about the need to create a kingdom of unity, reconciliation and, now, a “happy society.” The fact that the military has embarked on cracking down against “one color” while leaving the “other color” untouched is a double standard. The coup has done nothing but widen the rifts within Thai society. Unless all sides come to terms with the country’s political changes and begin to respect democratic rule, Thailand might never have a stable society.

Where will Thailand go from here? It seems that the military is there to stay, assuming that its political interference is linked with the Royal transition. The Army chief has not clearly stated when an election will be held. The short-term prospects for Thailand remain grim. Freedoms will be curbed, the media will be further controlled, and political parties will cease to exist.

Human rights violations will become the new normal. In the long term, Thailand will move backward, perhaps as far back as the 1960s, when authoritarian regimes were considered a political necessity, on the pretext that Thai society needs to be urgently healed and only the military can do the job.

Without a doubt, the royal succession will add another layer of complication to Thai politics. If Vajiralongkorn becomes the next king, the royalists may be unhappy, while his supporters, possibly within the red-shirt camp, may approve. This will prolong the conflict. If the Princess somehow becomes the next monarch, then a bigger problem is waiting for Thailand. A Royal struggle will come to define Thai political life, as the eligible heir apparent will exercise his legitimate right to defend his throne. Thailand could slip into a political coma.

Somewhere along this road, democracy will eventually re-emerge. The question is: when and in what form? It will take time before democracy can be restored, especially after so many years of politics being dominated by the network monarchy. Hopefully a new monarch – no matter who it is – operating in a shifting political environment will realize that the monarchy will have to adapt and become compatible with democracy. Its survival depends on how well it does so.

The Army has been entrenched in politics for several decades, and it will be a challenge for future civilian governments to depoliticize the military. It will not be an easy task, and the Army will not allow it to happen easily, as was evident in the case of Thaksin when he tried to emasculate the military during his premiership. The result was the coup of 2006.

However, one must also bear in mind that while domestic factors, such as the role of the future monarch and possible actions by the red-shirt movement, are important, international factors can also play a role in strengthening Thailand’s battered democracy. Democratization has swept across Southeast Asia, most notably Indonesia but even Myanmar seems set to go in that direction.

Thailand cannot turn its back on such a phenomenon. External pressures will come to partly influence future governments in accepting international norms and practices, and in behaving as responsible members of the international community.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a frequent contributor to Asia Sentinel, wrote this for the Asian Strategic Review, a journal of policy and ideas based in Indonesia. He is associate professor at Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.

This Is Not A Book Review Chiang Mai News

Yingluck Barred From Attending Fireball Festival Khaosod English

Martial Law and the Criminalization of Thought in Thailand Asia-Pacific Journal

The two entangled conflicts that are tearing Thailand apart The Independent

An ailing king and succession intrigue put coup leaders on edge The Conversation

Reconciliation Trainings Target Northeastern Villages Isaan Record

Thai Junta's road map will lead to uncertainty

6 October 2014 Indo-Pacific review

Since it seized power on May 22, Thailand’s military junta, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has plowed ahead methodically with its declared intention of suspending Thai democracy to repair it while “returning happiness” to the people.

But as political power becomes increasingly concentrated within the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta is officially known, its declared roadmap for peace, order and economic stability appears to be leading Thailand to some place likely to prove unpalatable to the electorate. It is already clear that a miracle is needed for Thailand’s latest coup to end well, but the risk that the adventure will turn sour will grow in the coming months. To be sure, the junta signaled from the start it means business. In just over four months, it has promulgated an interim constitution and stacked the hand-picked, 220-member National Legislative Assembly with active and retired generals.

In turn, the NLA unanimously chose then army commander Prayuth as caretaker prime minister. As if on cue, he promptly selected a 32-member cabinet, again dominated by the military. As he reached mandatory retirement age on Sept. 30, Prayuth hand-picked Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr to succeed him as head of the army. Both generals were battalion commanders in the 21st Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division, known as the Queen’s Guards. This military unit under the Queen’s longstanding patronage is now ascendant in Thai politics. Retired generals Prawit Wongsuwan and Anupong Paochinda, also former army chiefs from this faction, are both ensconced in cabinet — Prawit as deputy prime minister and defense minister, Anupong as interior minister. Prayuth’s iron grip on Thailand during the coup is therefore unmistakable.

The NCPO is his politburo (military spokesmen do not deny this), and the assembly his rubber-stamp legislature. Unlike past coup leaders, Prayuth and his military cohorts are ruling and running Thailand themselves, rather than delegating authority and autonomy in areas such as foreign relations and investor liaison to technocrats and policy professionals, as previous coup-installed governments did. Generals occupy crucial technocratic portfolios in the Prayuth cabinet — notably foreign affairs, transport, commerce and education. Only a few technocrats have found their way into cabinet, and they are mostly holdovers from the last coup administration back in 2006-07.

Unsurprisingly, the NCPO is also shaping the transition back to democratic rule. After four months in power, the junta has come up with a 250-member National Reform Council whose task is to propose political reforms, and oversee and approve a new constitution. A 36-member committee that will draft the new constitution will be nominated by the NRC, the assembly, the cabinet, and of course the junta, which will also select the committee president. Leaving no doubt about its intentions, the NCPO has already codified 10 broad charter preferences into Article 35 of the interim constitution, mainly addressing past corruption and abuse of power among elected politicians. The article also stipulates that the permanent constitution must ensure a democratic system that is “suitable for Thai society.”

This constitution-drafting formula evokes the arrangement following the 2006 coup. The 2007 charter was largely oriented toward keeping former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his party machine at bay. This time, the net will be cast more widely. The new constitution is likely to be a broader, more “anti-politician” document that removes political power from elected forces and restores it to the traditional pillars of the bureaucracy, the military and the monarchy. This is in line with Prayuth’s view of Thailand as a country with a glorious past that has been corrupted by democracy.

The junta’s response is to minimize elected popular representation and elevate the role of unelected institutions deemed to draw legitimacy through traditional moral authority. The constitution-drafting process next year will thus be a battleground for competing visions of Thailand, pitting supporters of this long-established but undemocratic political order against a more recent but unformed and incomplete system based on electoral rule. Thailand’s key problem is that it has not yet found a middle path that both establishment centers of power and their electoral opponents can live with.

The evidence so far suggests the NCPO is not attracted by the idea of a new compact between the two that could carry Thailand forward.

The longer-term implications are an inevitable mess. With unaccountable absolute power, Prayuth and his NCPO members will have the incentive to hunker down beyond the limits of their roadmap, which pledges to restore democracy and hold elections by October 2015. If they are widely seen to be doing a good job, the generals in and out of uniform will want to keep doing it. If they are seen to be doing a bad job they will want a second chance.

The top brass will also fear retribution from opponents once they leave power. In addition, the generals are accompanied by their own vested interests, which have much to lose without political power. At least, Prayuth and his military comrades may insist on being the midwives of Thailand’s transition beyond the glorious but fading era of King Bhumibol Adulyadej — who is now 86 and has been on the throne for 68 years.

Not for decades has Thailand been ruled so directly and blatantly by a military government in strongman fashion, with a pervasive hold on the decision-making apparatus. The mounting risks of an unfolding collision are clear. Thai society has grown up opposing military rule for the past four decades, including popular uprisings that famously restored democratic rule in 1973 and 1992.

There is no evidence it will put up with a military dictatorship for the long term, notwithstanding the initial positive reception of the coup. On the other hand, the military government is hierarchical, its organizational culture based on chains of command and control that are not open to debate and public participation. An unaccountable government will in any case lose touch with popular sentiments and grievances. This mismatch of top-down military government underpinned by traditional institutions with democratic trappings can only be a recipe for disaster.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak teaches international political economy and directs the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok

Book depicts Thai monarch as pawn of country's elite SCMP

Divided Kingdom National Geographic

Thailand stifles memories of past conflicts Financial Times

Changing of the garb

2 October 2014 - The Economist

The top generals have swapped their uniforms for civilian dress, some four months after toppling Thailand’s electoral democracy in a coup d’état. On September 30th, the coup leader and prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (looking natty in blue, pictured), stepped down from his position as army chief. His successor, General Udomdej Sitabutr, has assured Mr Chan-ocha that the army will not oust his brand-new government with a military counter-coup. It almost went without saying that General Sitabutr will do everything in his power to protect the monarchy.

Thailand’s political future is still up in the air. To survey predictions for the duration of military rule is to hear estimates ranging from one year to indefinite. The overall direction will become clearer once the civilian-styled former generals draw up a replacement for the constitution they shredded. They have already handpicked a 250-member panel to draft a new document within 120 days—and with it, to devise political reforms for the country’s broken political system. The idea is to repair the whole thing from the top down. Thailand’s new rulers have been candid: they intend to prevent the reinstatement of the winner-takes-it-all system that allowed the party of Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms tycoon who became a populist prime minister, to win every election held since 2001.

The king was supposed to appoint the members of the panel on October 2nd.The body will consist of one representative from each of Thailand’s 77 provinces, plus and 173 people from eleven “subject areas” specified in a retrograde interim constitution. Those subject areas range from politics and public administration to the economy and civil society. The make-up of the panel shows that those who disagree with the current political order will find no place in it. The nature of the political reforms they are to dream up remains a mystery. Whether Thailand’s self-appointed rulers wish to subject the new constitution to a popular referendum remains unclear.

Thailand’s politicians have been kept out of the process of “political reform”. Most of them have agreed to refrain from political activity following a brief “attitude-adjustment” programme the junta administered to them in the week after the coup. Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the triumphant mob, which had set out to oust the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, has sidestepped public life to become a monk. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the main pro-establishment Democrat Party, continues to give the occasional bland statement. Ms Yingluck appears to be going about her life quietly. And her brother Thaksin has been watching Thailand’s new political order take shape haplessly, from his exile in Dubai.

The Thai military and business elites have traditionally scorned the elected politicians as a venal lot, the sort who promote their own personal status with little regard for the welfare of the kingdom. It is typical of Thai elites to cast populist policies as corrupt. The Bank of Thailand is perhaps one of the few central banks to keep money supply unchanged even as GDP growth plunges to zero. It has kept money supply unchanged since end-2013—a remarkably irresponsible act. The Fiscal Policy Office, the finance ministry’s think-tank, is drafting a monetary and fiscal package designed to control populist policies. (It might yet find its goals undercut: on October 1st the government sanctioned a $11 billion stimulus package to help farmers and create jobs. In essence it is a cash transfer to farmers, an expensive sop offered with the hope that it might revive the listless economy.)

As is the case throughout much of South-East Asia, the power elite in Thailand does not accept the fundamental nature of democracy. They believe that the rule of an “accomplished” few is preferable to the judgments of the people.

So what might their new rules look like? There is a strong expectation that the junta may put restrictions on voting. The idea is popular among some circles in Bangkok, where people have long grumbled that their votes do not count more than those of poor and uneducated farmers. But junking universal suffrage outright would probably be hard to get away with. A more likely path is a partly appointed parliament. That would leave those with the power to appoint—the monarch, the army and the bureaucracy—to retain control over the balance of power. At the same time, power might be shifted further away from parliament, into the hands of appointed regulatory groups. All such “reforms” would be likely to meet the scorn of Thailand’s silenced majority, as well as that of university professors and intellectuals, and some foreign governments.

The streets of Bangkok are calm these days. The only reminder that anyone is resentful about being governed by unelected leaders is the image of the protests in Hong Kong, which has been splashed across the front page of Thai newspapers. The same papers have also reported the results of a recent poll which shows that 90% of Thais are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the junta’s performance. (How would you answer if the army asked how you like their rule?) However doubtful the poll results, many people do seem prepared to let the junta try improving governance and reboot the political system. The same people are uncertain whether it will be successful. The dissenters are keeping quiet but there are a large number of unhappy people from all parts of the political spectrum. Arbitrary power is arbitrary power, and Thais do not remember it fondly.

The only way the army can get away with its dictatorship is if it embarks urgently on the only reliable path to political stability in Thailand: a policy to redistribute wealth in ways that stimulate growth and draw the whole population into the modernisation process. This is the path that will make most Thais happy. It also happens to be the only way in which the junta can justify an extended period of acting as the sole caretaker of a broken system.

The junta’s rule is likely to go on for a while, if for no other reason than that its members cannot bear even the thought of the politicians being in charge when the king dies. It helps that the bureaucracy and most of the wealthiest Thai families back the military government. These rich Chinese-Thai families, along with the Thai elites, control much of the country’s assets. In the course of the 20th century a small group courtiers and businessmen have played their cards right with the monarchy and managed to join them. The result is that 0.1% of Thais own half the nation’s assets, a concentration of wealth that makes America’s mind-bogglingly unequal wealth distribution (where 0.1% of citizens own 22%) look like a socialist dream come true.

These very wealthy families crave control and stability above all, not the sort of rapid economic growth that raises living standards for all. So it has always been in their rational interest to support conservative governments. Badly burned in the economic collapse of 1996 and 1997, they fear permanent shifts in government policy, competition and a rising price of access to capital, labour and land. Many saw the rise of the Shinawatras as an immediate threat to their own status, if not their wealth.

The current lot of generals must have noticed that as the only guarantors to the moneyed establishment they find themselves in a good bargaining position. They might as well raise their price for having re-established peace and order—and so they are considering a tax on land and inherited wealth. That is surely not populism, but it might not feel so different to some people.


Have Funds, Will Travel Prachathai

Thailand’s leader will write soap operas to ‘return happiness’ to the people Washington Post

Govt Turning Junta Leader's Teachings Into Ballad Khaosod English

G'ment faces self-imposed bumps ahead Bangkok Post

Junta leader offers his services to the nation… in writing soap opera scripts Bangkok Pundit

The Wheel of Crisis in Thailand A series of articles in Cultural Anthropology magazine - 23 September 2014

Ongoing criminalization of thought and expression in Thailand Asian Human Rights Commission

Thai students required to recite Prayuth’s 12 core values daily Asian Correspondent

Law and irony in Thailand New Mandala

Thai junta hounds opposition across borders Japan Times

"Unelected Prayuth" warns against political forums Bangkok Post

Thailand's military junta raids university seminar on democracy arresting seven Independent

Its really best when you sya nothing at all Bangkok Post

Thailand’s Election Commission travel to Scotland to 'learn how to vote' Independent

Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe in bikinis Independent

Students to recite '12 core values' of the nation daily Nation

Reform School

16 September 2014 by Harrison George

Educational reform is going to be tricky. I mean, where to start?

The Office of the Vocational Education Commission or OVEC (sibling to Basic Ed or OBEC and Higher Ed or OHEC) (stop giggling there; if they hadn’t called it that it would be Further Ed) (OK you may laugh now) has already had to start its reform by recalling its Basic Mathematics textbooks. Or more accurately the covers.

It seems that the modus operandi for graphic artists tasked with finding something that will bore the pants off students looking at it time and again throughout their course is simply to nick a picture or two from the internet. And this time they decided on the image a young lady holding a folder whose label could be changed from the original Japanese to read ‘Mathematics’ (use of English and a general non-Thainess is de rigueur on educational book covers).

They had not counted on the numerous Vocational Education students taking Basic Mathematics who (a) consume significant amounts of Japanese internet porn and (b) don’t mind betraying this by gleefully pointing out that the young lady is a well-known porn star.

This time, fortunately, the Ministry had used a fully clothed image. Some years ago, they shipped out some misprinted primary textbooks with more hard-core stuff inadvertently included.

So reform will mean cleaning up more than the water hyacinth that seems to exercise the military mind. (Why don’t they just prosecute whoever introduced that noxious weed into Thailand?) (Oh, I see.)

But perhaps a bigger problem exists over at OBEC who took out a full page ad in last Friday’s Bangkok Post to set out their policies for 2015.

And the first question is ‘Why?’

It’s not as if OBEC needs to tout for custom. Education, at least the bit that OBEC is responsible for, is compulsory in Thailand, so they’re guaranteed a market and even the schools that OBEC doesn’t run itself have to abide by OBEC’s policies.

And how many students under OBEC’s care could have sufficient command of English to read what they intend to offer over the next year? Well, not very many, I’ll bet, because the deficiencies in the English of the policy statement are baffling to this native speaker.

The manifesto begins with a paragraph-long 50-word sentence that tells us that ‘developing children’ in the ‘context for development of Thai students’ is a ‘vital basis’ for ‘improvement of living standards going forwards’.

So ‘developing children’ takes place in the context of the development of students. And driving buses similarly takes place in the context of, er, bus driving and, well, the universe exists in the context of the existence of the universe. Hmm.

And what exactly is an ‘improvement of living standards going forwards’. Are there improvements that go backwards?

But this is just the opening blurb. We soon get down to the nitty-gritty, and we learn that as of next year, ‘primary students in Grade 3 should have Literacy, numeracy and reasoning abilities.’ Well, yes, I think we can all support that, even if numeracy and reasoning fans might be miffed at not getting the capital letter that Literacy enjoys. But what are Prathom 3 students getting now? Not Literacy, numeracy and reasoning?

We also learn under ‘Focus on teachers and educational personnel’ that ‘Principals who must be helped are urgently developed.’ Now I would have thought OBEC would prefer to develop principals who don’t need to be helped, but I admit to knowing little about educational management. Or culture, so I am bemused by upper secondary students adjusting to ‘live in a multi-cultural society on a basis of Thai culture’.

But what we all want to read about is the morals/civic duties/patriotic history bits that have already been heavily trailed by the junta punters over at the Min of Ed. And these are fascinatingly enumerated in Policy 2 of Focus on Learners: ‘Students are instilled with ethics, moral values, in harmony, reconciliation, conformity, patriotism, devoutness, imperial loyalty, pride with Thainess and drug free.’

Now I think we’d suspected all along that all this talk of harmony and reconciliation was a smokescreen for demanding conformity, but I am mystified by ‘imperial loyalty’. What empire? The nearest empire to here must be Japan and loyalty to that doesn’t quite square with patriotism. Why should Thai students be instructed to worship something Japanese?

Unless this goes back to the young lady on the cover of the maths textbook.

No, I’m afraid that this waste of OBEC’s advertising budget has proved only one thing. Educational reform can’t be left in the hands of people who clearly need reform themselves.

About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).


Loved and Hated, Former Premier of Thailand Is Erased From Textbook New York Times

Meet Asia's newest strongman: Thailand's General Prayuth CNBC/Global Post

Uniform reaction:The generals introduce “true democracy”, Thai-style

12 September 2014 - The Economist

The senior officers who seized power in a coup in May are stepping up their campaign to establish what they call “true democracy”. In late July the junta appointed a parliament stuffed with cronies and officers from the Queen’s Guard regiment. Now General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the coup leader and prime minister (pictured, above), has formed a cabinet made up of the junta and former officers plus a few senior bureaucrats. The election commission has been called upon to appoint a group of people to write a new constitution. It has also, of all institutions, been asked to come up with ideas for preventing populist parties from winning office in future.

The streets of Bangkok, the capital, are calm; indeed many residents were relieved when the army stepped in to end months of debilitating confrontation between the government of the then prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her opponents on the streets. Still, the junta refuses to lift martial law. Meanwhile, the officers who in 2006 ousted Ms Yingluck’s billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, have made their comeback.

A former army chief, Prawit Wongsuwan, is a deputy prime minister. Anupong Paochinda, who preceded General Prayuth as army chief, is interior minister. Tanasak Patimapragorn, the Thai army’s chief of defence forces, is the new foreign minister and the contact for Western governments—who remain unsure how to deal with a country now run by soldiers.

The consensus among most seasoned observers is that the latest spell of army rule will blow over like the last one, which was soon followed by civilian rule and then fresh elections (which Ms Yingluck won in a landslide). Pro-establishment newspapers report that the new government’s term is just a year. But what if, instead, the generals’ “road map to democracy” intends to put an end to electoral democracy altogether, recast Thai society, and establish a long-term rule of “moral people” who are not chosen through the ballot box? Their sense of purpose plays into fears of such a possibility.

The junta’s moral underpinning is a brand of puritanical paternalism. A clean-up is in full swing intended to purge the informal economy of unregistered labour, smuggling, prostitution, gambling and drug-dealing. There is also a sense that the generals feel the need to play Mr Thaksin’s populist game. The last government’s scheme to subsidise rice was financially disastrous. Yet the junta has insisted that the farmers should be paid off, so boosting incomes in the poor countryside. A planned rise in the consumption tax has been frozen, and fuel prices have been sharply cut. Entry to cinemas showing patriotic films (or the World Cup) has been made free of charge. And to much surprise the generals, guarantors of the monied establishment, are considering a tax on land and inherited wealth.

The junta’s many difficulties may explain all this populism. The economy has stopped growing because exports are stagnant, consumption is sluggish and investment and tourism figures have declined. Bangkok’s main international airport is the only one in Asia with falling passenger numbers. The government insists that Thailand remains one of the best places to do business, with reliable electricity, an industrial base and educated workers. Yet even it can see that some of the country’s magic has been lost.

There will now be much emphasis on investment in infrastructure. The generals love railways as much as any planners. They have earmarked $23 billion for rail links to China that are unlikely to pay for themselves. Thailand does not have much in the way of bulk goods that need to be transported by rail. Meanwhile, passengers have been shunning railways for decades because fuel is cheap and the road network good.

What lies ahead? For now, managing expectations downwards so far as the economy is concerned seems a sensible precaution. Much depends on the health of the ageing King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His demise could well entrench the junta and prolong its illiberalism. The junta has already seized on the king’s long-held notions of a “sufficiency economy”, which in essence is a call for everybody from the rural poor upwards to take their place in a social hierarchy overseen by the king’s benevolence. Arch-royalists are telling people that in a sufficiency economy the correct measure of your standard of living is happiness, not income.

Superstition is never far away. The prime minister has complained that anti-coup groups have resorted to the use of black magic against him. For all that the generals are out to smash the movement that Mr Thaksin created and runs from self-imposed exile, they are handling the task delicately. A court has delayed a ruling on whether Ms Yingluck will face charges over her messed-up rice policy. When it feels more confident, the junta may deal with the Shinawatras more harshly.

Ordinary Thais may sense a greater threat. Human-rights groups fear that military courts, last seen in the 1970s, might be set up in Thailand’s restive south, scene of a rumbling Islamist insurgency. And the generally kid-glove treatment of the political classes since the coup sits uncomfortably with reports of the disappearance and even torture of anti-coup activists. A better sense of the new direction will come with details of the constitution. Its contents are not yet openly discussed.

Education Commission Recalls 'Porn Star' Math Textbooks Khaosod

Unhappy Ending:The future is not bright for the leader of Thailand's coup. Foreign Policy

Amnesty Alleges Torture in Thailand Since Coup VOA

thailand: attitude adjustment: 100 days under Martial Law Amnesty International

Thailand’s Military Ruler Grows Increasingly Eccentric but No Less Dangerous Time

Military overload

10 September 2014

The Bangkok Post reports today that the annual Thai army reshuffle will see the appointment of a record 1,092 generals; this for an army that totas 555,000 troops or whom 245,000 are reservists. One general for every 500 soldiers

The USA has a total military strength of 2.2 million soldiers with a maximum of 652 generals  - a number enshrined in Law. And by the way an army that reports to a civilian elected government.

The Navy meanwhile has a remarkable 41 admirals for its 17 ships.

Thai authorities reportedly to conduct mass surveillance of Thai internet users, targeting lèse majesté Prachathai

Simple logic seems to have fallen victim to the coup The Nation

New crackdown on criticism has ominous overtones Bangkok Post

Lese Majeste Theatre Activists Denied Bail Again Khaosod

The wisdom of General Prayuth New Mandala

Thai elites and coups; it is all about controlling the people Greanville Post

2 September @pakhead "Lots of cops and NCPO guys at the @FCCThai now to stop human rights programme going ahead this afternoon."

Steve Herman @W7VOA "Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Cross Cultural Foundation & Amnesty Int’l had planned to unveil #Thailand human rights report"

FCCThai @FCCThai "Please note: This afternoon's event, "Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable" has now been cancelled."

Uncertainty over rights talk after warning from military

Chaturon testifies in military court  Bangkok Post

Thailand's military run government

31 August 2014

So Thailand has a new government with the King's endorsement of junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s new cabinet.

Military men are in charge of almost every key ministry. Not one of them has been elected.

Prayuth, who took power in a May 22 coup, placed 11 military officers in the 32-member cabinet, including as defense minister, foreign minister, interior minister, commerce minister, education minister and justice minister. The new finance minister is a civilian, Sommai Phasee, who was part of the government installed by the Thai army following Thailand’s last coup in 2006.

The appointments, which include two former army chiefs from Prayuth’s faction of the military, indicate that Prayuth will continue to rely on those close to his junta.

Even those not from the military are “at least people who are devoted to one side of the political divide and see themselves as more righteous leaders,” said Andrew Stotz, chief executive officer of A. Stotz Investment Research in Bangkok. “These people may see a rebalancing of power as a higher priority” than a rush to elections, he said.

There will be no rush to elections. Let us be clear here. There will be no election until after the next succession. And the electoral map will be rewritten such that there can only be one winner of the election....and that will not be the red shirts, Thaksin or anyone affiliated to them.

The junta and its appointed bodies have to write a new constitution and enact unspecified measures to “reform” Thai politics and society.

Several members of Prayuth’s new cabinet were also members of the government appointed after the 2006 coup. Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former Bank of Thailand governor who will serve as Prayuth’s deputy premier for the economy, was finance minister after that coup. Sommai, the new finance minister, served as Pridiyathorn’s deputy before resigning in 2007 after a court convicted him of abuse of power over suspension of state agency official three years earlier.

“Recently, Sommai Phasee has said he would focus on tax reforms and boosting the economy,” said Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng. “We believe it is hard to see exciting policies from him or this interim cabinet that focuses on economic reforms rather than populist policies.”

From the military, Prawit Wongsuwan, a former army chief and defense minister, will be a deputy prime minister and defense minister, Thanasak Patimaprakorn, the supreme commander of the armed forces, will be a deputy prime minister and foreign minister and Anupong Paochinda, a former army chief, will be interior minister.

Prajin Juntong, the air force chief who has overseen the economy for the junta since the coup, will be transport minister, Chatchai Sarikulya, the assistant army chief, will be commerce minister, Paibool Khumchaya, the army assistant commander-in-chief, will be justice minster, and Narong Pipathanasai, the head of the navy, will be education minister, for which he is clearly well - qualified!

The NCPO has control over the ministires that have always been considered the wealthiest for the people in power - transport, interior and finance.

The new cabinet has only two female members, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul and Deputy Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.

Thailand’s ultra-monarchists export vigilante justice FT

Crackdown Victims Families Demand PM Prayuth Tried In 'People's Court' Khaosod English

Jonathan Head on twitter commented on the arrest and charging of relatives of people killed in the 2010 crackdown: "So the Thai army shoots dozens of people in 2010. Now it charges relatives of those it shot with criminal libel for protesting about it." Exactly.

Relatives of those killed in 2010 crackdown arrested for defaming junta leader, released Prachathai

In Praise of the Junta Chiang Mai City News

Thailand: Court Ruling Furthers Impunity HRW

Is the Thai Junta Really Going to Jail Sommeliers for Recommending Wine? TIME

Bizarre court ruling dismisses ex-Premier’s murder case

28 August 2014

A criminal court in Bangkok on Thursday dismissed a murder case against a former prime minister and his deputy. Prior to the most recent coup the court had accepted this case.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the former prime minister following the 2006 coup, and Suthep Thaugsuban, the former deputy prime minister, are accused of premeditated and attempted murder for ordering the military to clear central Bangkok of antigovernment protesters in 2010, an operation that resulted in more than 90 deaths and hundreds of injuries.  

Both Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep denied the charges and submitted a petition to the court arguing that the DSI did not have the power to handle the investigation against them.

Army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who was last week annointed as Thailand's prime minister by a junta-appointed legislature, is often described as the architect of the 2010 crackdown.

The Criminal Court said today that it was true that the two men had declared the state of emergency and ordered soldiers to crackdown on the protesters, and allowed them to use weapons and live ammunition. But the court addede that Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep issued the order while performing the duties of the prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively.

The Criminal Court, therefore, ruled that the case against the two men comes under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions and that it has no authority to handle the case.

The Criminal Court of Thailand had previously ruled that some of the protesters were killed by bullets coming from the direction of troops.

The decision was disputed even from within the court itself. The Thai news media reported that the decision was accompanied by a separate “note of disagreement” by Thongchai Senamontri, the president of the Criminal Court, who said the court had the authority to rule on the case.

The court’s decision transfers the prosecution into the hands of the National Anticorruption Commission, an institution that has no experience with murder trials and has made little progress in investigating the case.

Chokchai Angkaew, a lawyer for the families of the deceased protesters, struck a pessimistic tone about the future of the case. He also disputed the notion that the case must be transferred to a special court for officeholders. “Killing people is not part of their job,” he said.

Mr. Chokchai said he would appeal the ruling. He added that there had been many cases tried in criminal courts involving officials accused of causing death, including police officers shooting the wrong person.

Payao Akhard, the mother of a nurse killed during the crackdown, said the decision on Thursday followed a pattern in Thailand where politicians involved in wrongdoing elude prosecution.

“This is Thailand, where the people are always the victims and politicians from all sides never learn any lessons,” she said.

Ms. Payao said she realized that prosecuting a military crackdown might be difficult now that the military has seized power. “Many people who are in power today were involved in the crackdown,” she said. “No murderers will put themselves in jail.”

The country's National Anti-Corruption Commission is now expected to consider whether the pair abused their power with the crackdown.

If it believes there is sufficient grounds, the panel can forward the case to the attorney general for possible submission to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

Suthep, who went on to lead months of street protests against Abhisit's successor Yingluck Shinawatra, appeared in court sporting a shaven head and the orange robes of a Buddhist monk after entering the clergy.

Abhisit meanwhile was seen smiling in court after the ruling.

The idea that a criminal court cannot try a murder charge is silly. But it is likely that the court was either doing what it thinks the junta expects or doing as it was told. Whatever the facts it is a fair bet that this is now case closed.

Meanwhile Thaksin's lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, commented on twitter that "dropping murder charge is junta's payback to Suthep for services rendered. This reprehensible and shameful farce will not stand." All mouth and no action, Mr. Amsterdam.

Thai army arrests hundreds under martial law  Al Jazeera

Martial Court sentence 7 anti-coup protesters to 3 months in jail Prachatai

Thailand's crisis explained ZenJournalist

Is Khon Kaen the new model of justice? Bangkok Post Spectrum

The Thai junta’s anti-majoritarian rule

Newly instituted laws show a disdain for electoral politics and will reduce power of majority voters

23 August 2014 by Puangthong Pawakapan for AlJazeera America

On Aug. 20, Thailand’s rubberstamp parliament appointed junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha as the country’s prime minister, paving the way for the formation of a new interim government. In late July, nearly two months after ousting former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically elected government in a bloodless coup, the military junta running Thailand declared an interim constitution that gave Prayuth sweeping powers. The unconstitutional dispensation of power has drawn comparisons to 2006’s military takeover, which tried and failed to ban then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his political party from Thai politics. As in 2006, the 2014 coup alleged Yingluck’s rule was corrupt. The latest attempt similarly promises to end corrupt politics in all forms and drastically reform the country’s electoral democracy.

While Prayuth’s appointment by a legislature he handpicked is simply procedural, the ongoing constitutional politicking suggests a dangerous backward slide into the kind of authoritarianism not seen in the country since the 1970s. The coup leaders have in essence forced Thailand back to being a bureaucratic polity, where the military, bureaucrats and business elite maintain unchecked political power over elected representatives.

The constitution already awards Prayuth the power to issue orders and suppress protests. It also allows the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – the governing body formed after the coup – to claim that its own power is lawful while its opponents are violating law, peace and order.

There is a historical precedent for the NCPO’s totalitarian power grab. After staging a similar coup in 1959, military strongman Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat instituted martial law; section 17 of the 1959 constitution carried statutes similar to section 44 of the new constitution. Though he ruled over a dark time for Thai democracy, Sarit was popular among the people for revitalizing the Thai economy. The NCPO hopes to replicate Sarit’s model by galvanizing popular support.

However, unlike Sarit, Prayuth has yet to earn the respect and awe of the public. For example, while critics in Thailand have largely remained quiet for fear of repercussions, anti-coup activists on social media continue to poke fun at the general’s lack of charisma. The NCPO’s repressive measures against peaceful anti-coup activities — barring people from eating sandwiches, reading George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” or showing symbols of resistance such as a three-finger salute in public — have drawn public ridicule. Moreover, unlike in the 1960s, Thais today understand participatory politics and are well aware of their political and economic rights. Sooner rather than later, such stringent suppression will likely face popular challenges.

The junta’s constitution reveals its strong distaste for politicians and electoral politics. This is unsurprising: It was drafted by members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) who were singlehandedly chosen by the junta; of 200 NLA members, 106 are military generals. It bars members of political parties from being appointed to the Cabinet until they have been party members for more than three years. It also prohibits all active politicians and voters from participating in the country’s future design, leaving political power exclusively in the hands of the military and top bureaucrats.

Such anti-democratic sentiments and distrust of politicians, particularly among the urban middle class, have long dominated Thai politics. The trend began in the late 1980s, when then-Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan’s Cabinet was ridiculed as a highly corrupt “buffet.” The military toppled his government in 1991 after two and a half years, to little public opposition. Since 1992, several elected governments have faced corruption scandals and were similarly forced out of office before serving full terms.

Military intervention has traditionally been seen as an effective step to end corruption. For example, protests led by the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy repeatedly urged the military to intervene and end entrenched corruption in Thaksin’s government, a wish that was fulfilled by the 2006 coup. However, despite concerted efforts by the judiciary, army, Democrat Party and media to ban Thaksin and his allies, Thaksinite parties made a comeback, winning a parliamentary majority in the 2007 and 2011 elections.

“Even if it strengthens check-and-balance mechanisms on corrupt politicians as promised, the junta's reforms will likely erode Thailand’s electoral democracy by reducing the power of majority voters. ”

Popular support from rural communities played a large role in ensuring Thaksinite parties’ electoral successes. This is another familiar political grievance: Rural voters are generally viewed as unqualified to vote, prone to selling their votes in exchange for short-term personal gains. Conservative elites have long alleged the rural regions of northern and northeastern Thailand are susceptible to “vote buying.” (During last year’s protests, the anti-Thaksin movement led by Democrat leader Suthep Thuagsuban, which paved the way for the latest coup, loudly echoed these sentiments and managed to obstruct early elections planned for February.)

Most of these allegations are not true. A number of recent studies confirm (PDF) that vote buying is no longer a decisive factor in election results and that voters are increasingly motivated instead by development projects. For example, schemes such as universal healthcare coverage and rural-based funding projects have significantly enhanced the livelihood and political participation of local people. But inflammatory political rhetoric from Bangkok-based intelligentsia and media continues to paint a picture of rural voters easily bribed by populist policies, which in turn fuels the middle class’s distrust in electoral politics.

The junta has taken several steps to pre-empt future populist politicians and policies — at all levels. On July 3, shortly after the coup, it ordered its legal arm to include permanent constitutional measures preventing populist policies that it claimed could endanger the Thai economy. On July 15, the NCPO issued another order suspending local administrative elections, including provincial, sub-district and Bangkok’s district council elections. Instead, it appointed government officials to replace members of these agencies when the current officials’ terms expire.

The 1997 constitution and 1999’s Decentralization Act mandate local agencies to provide public services to their constituents. Research shows that their work has improved local services and the quality of living, as well as increased public participation. But the media, anti-democracy academics and the anti-graft agencies continue to lament widespread corruption and nepotism in community-based projects run by local administrative units.

Prayuth plans to undertake yearlong political reforms and reconciliation before holding a new election in late 2015. Even if it strengthens check-and-balance mechanism on corrupt politicians as promised, the reforms Prayuth is trying to create will certainly erode Thailand’s electoral democracy by reducing the power of majority voters. It will ensure that rural voters will not have a say in who represents them in government. Unfortunately for these voters, the military regime will remain stable as long as its suppressive machinery is intact. The prosperity the junta promises to create will serve elites and the urban middle class in Bangkok. It will also deepen the precarious social rifts in Thailand.

Puangthong Pawakapan is associate professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

Amid outward calm, climate of fear cements Thai military rule Reuters

Top General Is Named Thai Prime Minister, Sealing Military’s Rule NYT

Thailand’s travails in five charts FT

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha anointed Thailand’s interim prime minister FT

Thai Junta Chief Takes Title of Premier to Add Legitimacy Bloomberg

Thailand’s Crooked Army Asia Sentinel

Abhisit’s stories PPT

Peace, order, stagnation : As the economy stumbles, the junta has an image problem

8 August 2104 The Economist

The army has long been the most powerful force in Thai political life, and has wholly monopolised it since its latest coup in May. Bangkok, the capital, remains calm, and many ordinary Thais do not miss the self-serving political classes who were booted out. Still, how popular the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta calls itself, really is remains hard to say. It is a criminal offence to criticise it, and the press is muzzled. Lèse-majesté cases are piling up. The junta has even banned a computer game, Tropico 5, in which players set up their own military dictatorship in a fictional paradise where sunny beaches and political corruption “coexist in perfect harmony”.

The coup leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, and his fellow soldiers have been busy putting up a façade that bespeaks legitimacy. The coup has the endorsement of the 86-year-old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. On August 7th the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, chaired the opening ceremony for a new national assembly to replace the elected politicians who were kicked out. Stuffed with army officers and members of the old Thai establishment, it will be a rubber-stamp affair.

It is all a throwback to an earlier, simpler era. Unlike the generals of 2006, when the last coup took place, the current lot are intent on retaining complete control. A temporary constitution grants the army men absolute powers. And to safeguard against the generals ever coming before the courts in some future reckoning, it grants an amnesty for actions related to the toppling of the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The 2006 coup leaders ousted her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms billionaire turned authoritarian politician whose populist parties have for years won every election that has been permitted. Back then the generals thought they could marginalise Mr Thaksin as a political force and encourage a return to a tutelary democracy guided by the establishment around the king. Those who removed Ms Yingluck now realise that they must ensure the Shinawatras are wholly spent as a political force. The generals let Ms Yingluck leave Thailand for Paris on July 20th to attend a birthday party for Mr Thaksin. They did so on the condition that she returns to face possible charges relating to her time as prime minister. Yet some must be calculating that she will join her brother in self-imposed exile. Without competitive elections, the Shinawatras are powerless.

The Orwellian name the junta has given the new dispensation is “genuine democracy”. There is, in truth, a reformist element to its programme, including a desire for less inequality and an impartial enforcement of laws. Many of the populist proposals, such as reforms to health care, are taken straight from Mr Thaksin’s playbook.

Yet finding people with stature and experience to front the new order is not proving easy. For foreign minister, the junta tried to recruit Surin Pitsuwan, a former secretary-general of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations. At home and abroad, he is one of Thailand’s most respected figures. But he could not be tempted. South-East Asian diplomats say the Thai foreign ministry is paralysed, lacking guidance.

With no proper interim government, portfolios are unlikely to be filled on merit. Although a non-businessman is running the state airline, at least he is the air force chief. How, though, to explain the head of the navy heading the ministry of culture?

The junta seems to realise it has an image problem. This matters to it because for all the emphasis now on political stability, the economic mood is jittery. The economy has shrunk precipitously this year. Exports, in a country that depends more than most on them, have stopped growing. High household debt further complicates matters. Thailand is likely to be Asia’s most lacklustre economy this year. Economic revival is the generals’ priority.

From day one, therefore, General Prayuth has tried to reassure investors. He has made himself head of the Board of Investment, which has swiftly approved billions of dollars worth of pending applications. General Prayuth is leading a splurge in infrastructure spending, including on two high-speed railways worth $23 billion that are seen as vital future links to China. But approving such projects is one thing; getting them up and running so that they start to have a positive economic impact is quite another. Nor is the quest to reassure outsiders helped by the certain knowledge that cronies of the army (whose officer corps at times resembles a business club) will be hungry for the juiciest deals.

As for democracy, that will have to wait. General Prayuth gives October 2015 as the probable date for an election. The junta will not say, however, what restrictions it might impose. Given that the whole point of this coup, and the last, was to overturn a winner-takes-all electoral system that served Mr Thaksin so well, it would be a wonder if no restrictions applied. Whether the next full constitution, Thailand’s 20th, will be put to a popular referendum is equally unclear.

What the generals want, above all, is for “moral people”, not elected populists, to run the country. It is heartening that the junta has shown some concern to bring about a reconciliation, however unlikely, between the pro-Thaksin “red shirts” and their opponents, who paralysed Bangkok in giant protests from late last year. But that does not necessarily mean the army will allow Thaksinite politicians to take part in drafting the new constitution, let alone run in the proposed election.

Most Thais would like to see their country emerge one day as a prosperous, truly democratic leader within South-East Asia. Thailand’s economic growth since the 1960s has raised incomes and provided education to most of its citizens. But the pillars on which future prosperity rests are crumbling. A strong commitment to the rule of law, a well-regulated financial system, and transparency in how fortunes are made are all in short supply.

For now the army men taking Thai society back to the past are legally unassailable. Many Thais may in any case give them the benefit of the doubt. But at some point the self-appointed leadership will be unable to justify its continued existence. The junta may yet surprise everybody by pushing reforms, healing society’s deep rifts, and restoring democracy. But do not count on it.

Thailand junta reactivates ‘cyber scout’ program to curb online dissent Asian Correspondent

Buying loyalty: An 8 per cent salary rise for government officials will cost the state about an additional Bt20-30 billion per year.

Rungson Sriworasat, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Finance, said that in response to the National Council for Peace and Order's intention to increase government salaries, an initial study found that the salary rise would cover all government officials including retirees.

Why was Thai red shirt activist Kritsuda detained for so long? Bangkok Pundit

Five hundred days of dictatorship

Aug 5th 2014, 8:05 by The Economist | BANGKOK

The Army has been the most powerful force in Thai political life since the introduction of constitutional monarchy in 1932. Since its most recent power grab, in a coup d’état sprung on May 22nd, a junta has been busy building a façade of legitimacy—as if to obscure from view their new dictatorship. An interim constitution grants absolutistic powers to the military men, who effectively administer the monarchy. It also grants an amnesty for crimes related to the toppling electoral democracy and the tools necessary to ensure that martial law persists. A handpicked bunch will draft a similar piece of paper within the next 120 days. It is unclear whether the expected result, which is to be Thailand’s 18th constitution, will be put to a referendum.

To make it all fly, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s military dictator and prime-minister-in-waiting, had to prostrate himself in front of the 86-year-old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. The ailing monarch’s blessing was the only available source of legitimacy. Accordingly, the interim charter makes mention of the king no fewer than 38 times. Shunting responsibility to the king in this way is a time-tested trick.

On July 31st the king endorsed the members of a new national assembly, a 200-member strong rubberstamp composed of 105 military officers (including 40 generals, 21 lieutenants-generals, 17 chief air marshals and 14 admirals). Professional politicians were ineligible. The civilian half of the new legislature includes civil servants, academics, ex-senators and figures from the private sector (in all, ten women made the cut). An opening ceremony for the assembly will be chaired by the crown prince on August 7th. One of its tasks will be to give General Prayuth, the man who appointed all legislators, the job of prime minister. Unlike the coup-makers of 2006*, who quickly delegated power to handpicked civilians, General Prayuth and his classmates are intent on retaining complete control.

The army has given itself 500 days or so to establish “genuine democracy” by fiat. It will appoint a 250-member strong National Reform Council and then task it with proposing political, social and economic reforms. The stated point of the exercise is to “create the democracy with the King as the Head of State appropriate to the Thai society”. The key characteristics of such a democracy are supposed to include free and fair elections; an end to corruption, misconduct and inequality; and the impartial enforcement of laws. It all sounds perfectly “appropriate”. But it seems the generals have in mind a few extra characteristics.

For a start, no political comeback for Thaksin Shinawatra or his sister Yingluck, the siblings who won every election since 2001. Without competitive elections, the Shinawatras are powerless, albeit rich. The generals let Ms Yingluck leave Thailand to attend the Mr Thaksin’s birthday party in Paris on July 26th. That puts Ms Yingluck in a position to decide whether to return to Thailand—and face criminal charges—or join Thailand’s long list of exiled former prime ministers.

The junta says there will be a big election in October 2015. Thus far it has refused to say if it will impose any restrictions on the franchise. But it would be a wonder if it didn’t. For the whole point of the coups of 2006 and 2014 has been to overturn the winner-takes-all system which served Mr Thaksin so well, in favour of governance by “moral people” who cannot win elections.

Much of the elite feels offended to hear a spade called a spade. But there can be no mistaking that Thailand’s government has slipped from the reach of any popular majority. The dictatorship which has replaced it will make every effort to outlast the lifespan of the current king.

Most Thai citizens (and most Western governments too) would like to see Thailand emerge someday as a prosperous, democratic republic, a leader within South-East Asia. For them the near-term future looks unpromising. Large parts of the economy are essentially criminal conspiracies based on smuggling, prostitution, gambling and corruption. Research by the World Bank shows that only half of all income shows up in Thailand’s national-accounts data—which is among the lowest rates in Asia.

And while the benefits of Thailand’s economic growth since the 1960s have raised incomes and provided health care and education to most Thais, the pillars of future prosperity look shaky. The things that will be required by further development—rule of law, a well-regulated financial system, transparency of wealth, a strong commitment to a scientific society—are in short supply.

The junta’s very existence represents a rejection of the rule of law. While its commitment to stamp out corruption sounds good, graft is too entrenched to be rooted out by the army alone; like the government it replaced, the officer corps is essentially a business club, serving the country’s elite. The financial system, long under the control of the wealthiest Thais and leading Thai-Chinese business groups, will remain a closed shop. The central bank, which became notorious for its mismanagement of the financial crisis in 1997 and 1998, has since pursued a course that is directly supportive of the wealthy and has significantly slowed growth. Much has been written about the successes of the Thai economy, but Thailand’s record in raising peoples’ standards of living post-1997 is actually worse than that of any other country in East or South-East Asia (with the notable exception of North Korea**). The secretive policies of the Crown Property Bureau, the palace’s investment arm and the biggest conglomerate in Thailand, reflects a deep resistance to transparency. Finally, if freedom of thought and expression are to be the basis of any scientific society—then Thailand will just have to wait.

The forces that are leading the society backwards are now unassailable, according to the letter of the law. They shield themselves from every other kind of criticism by their association with the monarchy. Challenging a state that has been endorsed by the king is socially unacceptable—and now it is a criminal offence, too.

Eventually public opinion will turn against the junta. But a social response to economic failure will take time to develop. Thailand’s economy is short of labour, with nearly full employment. Its fiscal position is enviable by most European and Asian standards.

Yet a meaningful economic recovery in the second half 2014 would be nothing short of a miracle. Imports fell 14% year-on-year in June and industrial output fell 6.6%. Overall production, consumption, investment and tourism all slumped. Investment, which follows demand, will not pick up until the collapse in domestic demand has been reversed. High household debt and consumers’ reluctance to invest their black money are likely to complicate a return to rapid growth. Whatever happens in the next few months, Thailand is likely to be the slowest-growing economy in Asia this year.

At some point the self-appointed leadership is bound to weary of defending itself on the pretext of building a democracy. Most dissenters appear to have resigned themselves to the fact that their views will not matter for a while, perhaps two or three years. Many are too busy simply trying to make ends meet.

To stay in power till the next royal succession, the generals must prove that their brand of authoritarianism can improve the lot of 68m Thais. If they pulled it off, theirs would be the first coup anywhere since the end of the cold war that actually raised the pace of income growth. It will never be known what Thailand could have achieved for itself this decade within a democratic framework. If Thailand’s own history is a reliable guide, abandoning democracy can be expected to lead straight to economic stagnation and exacerbated inequality.

Thailand: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activist HRW

Military court to try first civilians Nation

Thai government bans 'military rule' computer game The Guardian

Meanwhile this from the Nation on 5 August:

"The Culture Ministry on Tuesday explained that the simulation game Tropico 5, which allows players to build their own forms of government on a remote island, was banned because it contained content that appeared to be offensive to the monarchy.

Cultural Promotion Department chief Chai Nakhonchai said a subcommittee of the Video and Film Office had examined the game and voted 5-1 to ban it, with two abstentions.

He said the prohibition under the Film and Video Act 2008 was because the game allowed players the freedom to name the country and its leader or king as they pleased, and therefore the content was deemed offensive to the Thai monarchy and might affect national security and the country's dignity."

Honestly - I do not make this nonsense up!

Former Thai minister faces jail for defying junta Channel News Asia

Thitinan Pongsudhirak: Geopolitical ripples from Thailand's coup Nikkei Asian Review

Thai authority bans game which allows players to stage a coup Prachatai

Major General South East Asia Globe

Transport plan takes lead from Pheu Thai Bangkok Post

Junta denies torturing red-shirt activist Kritsuda, insists her happiness was real Prachatai

Pongsapat sorry for shooting mistake Bangkok Post

A Thai Political Detainee’s Story of Abuse Asia Sentinel

NCPO ‘deterring’ honest opinion polls Bangkok Post Spectrum

The deafening silence of those defying orders  Bangkok Post Spectrum

Thailand's shamed academia

2 August 2014

The Nation reports today that the high-profile academics who have made it onto the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) clearly have one thing in common - a stance against the so-called "Thaksin regime".

The Nation story makes it clear that sharing an anti-Thaksin outlook is of utmost importance. Instead of sharing an outlook for law and order, equal justice for all, due process, freedom of speech, individual and equal opportunity for all, the Junta has focused on "selecting" those holding anti-Thaksin views.

Personally I hope that Thaksin does not return to Thailand. The country does need to move on. But it also needs to move on from the rule of elite and privilege. The trouble is that the new leaders are overwhelmingly a part of the Suthep camp. Thaksin and the red shirts are painted as the sole reasons for protests, deaths and injuries; the army is not a neutral player (and it never was).

The junta is not preparing for a future "democracy;" it is preparing to solidify a regime in which one side (the red shirt side) can never win again.

The academics chosen to join the NLA also played an active political role during the protests against the government of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, which rocked the country for about six months from late last year.

Among these academics are the top executives of higher-educational institutes, namely, Somkid Lertpaitoon of Thammasat University (TU), Rajata Rajatanavin of Mahidol University, Chalermchai Boonyaleepun of Srinakharinwirot University, Wutisak Lapcharoensap of Ramkhamhaeng University, and Pirom Kamolratanakul of Chulalongkorn University.

The academics expressed their stance against the Yingluck-led government mostly under the banner of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT).

These academics also opened their campus grounds for people interested in joining an anti-Yingluck march on December 9 led by the group that is today known as the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Moreover, they ordered the temporary closure of their campuses on some days, citing risks of violence from the political turmoil. Their move, however, was widely interpreted as a tactic to heap more pressure on the Yingluck-led administration.

After she called for the House's dissolution, the CUPT still recommended the postponement of the general election and urged the formation of a national government.

The council's sixth statement also recommended that the caretaker government led by Yingluck following the House's dissolution step down to take responsibility for the political violence.

Somkid, from Thammasat, is also a drafter of the 2007 Constitution, which was introduced in the wake of the 2006 coup.

Taweesak Suthakavatin, head of the lecturers' council of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), has also been appointed an NLA member. People who are against the "Thaksin regime" will have heard his name before, too.

A few years ago, he co-founded the political group Siam Prachapiwat to press for political reform and a tough crackdown on corruption.

When the PDRC took to the streets, he also often appeared on its stage.

Other academics recruited to the NLA are Kittichai Triratanasirichai, president of Khon Kaen University, Niwes Nantachit, president of Chiang Mai University, Wuttichai Kapinkan, president of Kasetsart University, Pradit Wanarat, president of NIDA, and Noranit Setabutr, president of the TU Council.

In years gone by Thammasat University was at the forefront of Thailand's movements in support of democracy. Lies were lost on 1973 and 1976. That great legacy is being eliminated.

The academic world should be at the forefront of protests against military rule, the elimination of free speech and unlimited powers of arrest and repression. Instead by aligning themselves with the junta they are compliant in this oppression.

Sadly, regardless of how many innocent people are killed in the coming weeks, months, and years, Thailand will remain an undemocratic country lacking social justice until it allows people to openly criticize its powerful institutions — government, military and monarchy. And Thailand's academic institutions should be supporting that critical thinking. Not simply becoming a mouthpiece for a ruling military.

Coup as counter-insurgency in Thailand

Thailand has more military in its parliament than Burma

Thailand turns army green

31 July 2014

His Majesty the King on Thursday night endorsed a list of 200 members for the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). This is effectively Thailand's new government. All hand-picked by the coup leaders. Non were elected by the people.

More than half of them are former and active military officers as expected.

One member is the coup leader's own brother. Gen. Prayuth’s brother Lt-Gen Preecha Chan-ocha (who is 3rd army region commander) as well as Gen Prawit’s brother Patcharawat Wongsuwan and another member from the Wongsuwan family are in the Assembly.

The interim legislature includes 105 people holding military ranks and 11 from the police. The 84 civilian members include academics, businesspeople, technocrats and former senators.

This is an assembly hand-picked by the Junta. Inevitably it is an assembly that supports the coup and the army. In also includes former two-time PTT CEO Prasert, Khunying Songsuda Yodmanee (daughter of former dictator Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn and who as AUA President protested against the US position on the coup), former Senate President Surachai Liengboonlertchai and Pornpetch Wichiatcholchai, legal adviser to the National Council for Peace and Order and who is tipped to be voted in as President of the NLA.

The NLA members inevitably include many people who are seen as being members of the anti-Thaksin movement. They include Klanarong Chanthink, former member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, former senator Surachai Liangboonlertchai and former senator Somchai Sawaengkarn.

Several of them are active and retired military officers, including Adm Kamthorn Pumhiran, Lt Gen Chart-udom Tithasiri, Lt Gen Preecha Chanthara-ocha, and Gen Boonsang Niampradit.

Several leading academics were also appointed, including Noraniti Setthabutr, former rector of Thammasat University, and Somkid Lertphaithoon, former rector of Thammasat who is known to be against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Former envoy Kitti Wasinon, Boonthak Wangcharoen, chairman of the Thai Bankers Association, and Naronchai Akrasanee, former Commerce Minister, were also appointed.

Som Chatusriphithak, an elder brother of former finance minister Somkid Chatusriphithak, was also appointed.

Leading businessmen in the NLA include Boonchai Chokwatana, chairman of Saha Pathanapibul, Suphan Mongkolsuthee, chairman of Federation of Thai Industries, and Issara Vongkusolkit, chairman of Mitr Phol Sugar and chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Out of 200 members there are twelve women. Very representative?

The legislature is to convene August 7 and will nominate the interim prime minister, who will then choose Cabinet members.

An appointed reform council will also work with a constitution drafting committee to create a permanent charter to take effect July 2015, according to the timetable. Neither body has yet been appointed.

The New Thailand-Myanmar Axis The Diplomat

Reality check

25 July 2014

The Nation newspaper is reporting that the NCPO may pick trusted allies for the Legislative Assembly. Not so much "may," of course it will.

The National Legislative Assembly is likely to be packed with military officers, bureaucrats and those with close ties to the junta as the NCPO will favor those they can trust to ensure unity within the 220-member unelected law-making body.

In addition many military brass are also expected to join the future cabinet and other organisations, such as the reform and reconciliation councils.

None  of this is a surprise but here is the view of Panitan Wattanayagorn who was an advisor to Abhisit's Democrat government and is now a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn. He says that the problem with the country's political system is that only one group of people has acquired power and previous charters have given them huge power but provided a weak checks and balances system.

"We must design a mechanism that gives opportunities to people from various sectors of society to become MPs,'' he said.

Besides, the charter should reflect "Thainess" from the Thai way of life, the submission culture, the belief in seniority and military hierarchy, he said.

While there is a third alternative to the dictatorial parliamentary system and military dictatorship, Thais choose not to go for the third way out because they prefer populist policies and favour totalitarianism, he added.

Oh dear; Thailand gets governed by military rule because of its "submission culture."

A passport to happiness is all you need Bangkok Post

Thailand's draft constitution will not restore democracy, expert says ABC Australia

Thailand’s Military Government Thinks John Oliver Is a Threat to Its Monarchy Vice.com

Thailand: Two Months Under Military Rule HRW

Thailand: Interim Constitution Provides Sweeping Powers HRW

Thailand's interim charter

23 July 2014

After tearing up the 2007 army drafted constitution Thailand now has a new provisional 48 clause constitution that was apparently endorsed yesterday by the Thai king in a phot-op with the coup leader.

But the military junta will remain in power to give advice to the new government in running the country smoothly and peacefully until some form of elected government is in place.

The army is also given absolute power to resolve any real or perceived problem not just relating to national security but also to bring reconciliation, and unity to the country.

The constitution's clauses have raised concerns among critics about the enormous powers granted to the junta chief.

"This gives the power for the NCPO to commit any actions that might contradict or even go beyond the power given under this constitution," said Ekachai Chainuvati, a law lecturer at Bangkok's Siam University. "It states explicitly that he can perform any actions, such as reshuffling civil servants, drafting any laws or even punishing people judicially."

NCPO head Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was granted an audience with the King on tuesday evening at Klai Kangwon Palace in Hua Hin.

On television a legal adviser to the NCPO, Dr Wisanu, stressed the necessity to give special power to the NCPO so that the past two-month efforts in reconciliation and reform would not be a waste.

The charter also states that the NCPO will have no more than 15 members and will work in cooperation with the government.

But he said the NCPO will not interfere in the work of the government but merely to give advice, or sitting outside to make sure it functions properly.

The cabinet will comprise 36 members, including the prime minister, while the national legislative assembly will have 220 members, the national reform council not more than 250, and a 36- member charter drafting committee, he said.

Significantly, the 48-article document makes no provision for a referendum on a permanent constitution that is to be drafted.

The interim charter’s Article 48 granted amnesty for the coup makers and the subordinates. In Thailand there are good and bad amnesties!

There is more detail here from the splendid Bangkok Pundit.

Thailand’s Democracy Under Siege

Thailand under the junta: Paranoia and conspiracy Al Jazeera

Can Thailand save its democracy? Washington Post editorial.

Thailand's Inevitable Revolution

Authorities can shut media down if found criticising junta: NCPO

18 July 2014 Prachatai

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued its 97th announcement stating that the authorities can shut down any media, whether print, television, radio or online, if it disseminates information deemed threatening to the monarchy or national security, or criticises the work of the NCPO.

The announcement, which was issued at around 9.30 pm on Friday, is similar to the 14th and 18th announcements which prohibit media from interviewing academics and government officials in a controversial way. They also prohibit media from disseminating information that could incite violence or create rifts in society.

The NCPO has also granted to provincial governors, Interior Ministry officials and the police the power to halt any activity that opposes the work of the NCPO.

What Life Is Really Like Under Military Rule in Thailand (old 29 May article but very relevant)

Thai Junta’s Pledge to Send Back Burmese Refugees Sparks Concern

Email on 14 June to Travel Daily News Asia

Dear Sir

Your article of 14 July “Downtown Bangkok to host spectacular “Thailand Happiness” street festival extravaganza” in Travel Daily News states that Bangkok will host an event that is a “big-bang effort to show the world that Thai tourism is more than back to normal.”

This is embarrassing nonsense unless you regard the following as normal:

Suspension of basic human rights and free speech; arrests made for simple acts such as eating a sandwich or reading “1984”.

Massive suppression of “red-shirt” politics and activities in particular in Thailand’s north and north-east.

Significant increase in press and media censorship. Many tv/radion stations closed.

Huge propaganda campaign to justify army-led coup.

Army detentions of anyone who is suspected of anti-coup activities.

Payments to civilians for providing evidence of anti-coup activity.

Cancellation of Thai citizenship/passports of Thai citizens overseas who have not responded to junta orders to return to Thailand for detention.

Increasingly zealous use of articles 112 (lese majeste) and 116 (computer crimes) to detain citizens under highly questionable charges.

Martial law. Use of military courts rather than civilian courts with no right of appeal.

The country is under a military-led dictatorship and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Any future election will be under a new constitution that ensures only an army-supported/approved government may be elected.

If you truly believe that this is a rapid move back to normality then you have given up on fundamental human rights and freedoms; and that should embarrass you and your organisation.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Scott

No reply.

Email on 9 June to David Shepherd organisation:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Your 9 July article “Nature benefits from Thailand's military coup” is embarrassing nonsense.

“If you are considering a holiday in Thailand, please do not be concerned about the politics or problems and feel safe to continue with your vacation here. It is not dangerous and everything is quiet and moving back towards normality very rapidly,” wrote your correspondent.

Suspension of basic human rights and free speech; arrests made for simple acts such as eating a sandwich or reading “1984”.

Massive suppression of “red-shirt” politics and activities in particular in Thailand’s north and north-east.

Significant increase in press and media censorship. Many tv/radion stations closed.

Huge propaganda campaign to justify army-led coup.

Army detentions of anyone who is suspected of anti-coup activities.

Payments to civilians for providing evidence of anti-coup activity.

Cancellation of Thai citizenship/passports of Thai citizens overseas who have not responded to junta orders to return to Thailand for detention.

Increasingly zealous use of articles 112 (lese majeste) and 116 (computer crimes) to detain citizens under highly questionable charges.

Martial law. Use of military courts rather than civilian courts with no right of appeal.

The country is under a military-led dictatorship and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Any future election will be under a new constitution that ensures only an army-supported/approved government may be elected.

If you truly believe that this is a rapid move back to normality then you have given up on fundamental human rights and freedoms; and that should embarrass you and many of your supporters.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Scott


Dear Robert

Thank you for your email. We would like to apologise for the article you mention. It was not checked properly and has now been removed.

Best wishes


Vicky Flynn
Head of Brand and Communications
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation & TigerTime


Thailand and Myanmar: Traditional rivals now brothers in arms

Revocation of passports by junta restricts freedom of movement and creates spectre of statelessness

Thailand Trafficking Downgrade Likely to be Maintained, Says Phuketwan Editor

Thailand's New Military Government Is Secretly Vacuuming Up Facebook Data

BBC to run 'pop-up' news stream in Thailand

10 July 2014

The BBC World Service will run a ‘pop up’ news operation in Thailand from Thursday 10 July. It will launch at 18.30 Thai Time (GMT +7).

The operation will be digital-only and ‘social first’, that is, a news stream on social media, with both Thai and English content, and it will run for an initial period of three months.

The move follows the military coup in May after which international channels, including BBC World News TV, were taken off air temporarily.

Liliane Landor, Controller of Language Services for the World Service, said: “One of the fundamental principles of the World Service is to bring impartial and accurate news and to countries when they lack it. We think the time is right to trial a new Thai and English digital stream to bring trusted news and information to people inside Thailand.

“Thailand is one of the most digitally advanced societies in South East Asia and this means we can set up this operation quickly and cost-effectively.”

The World Service’s Thai Service closed in 2006 after more than 60 years on air.

The BBC has sought and received approval from the Foreign Secretary for this move, as set out in the Operating Licence governing the relationship between the World Service and the Government.

Hugo Swire, the Minister for South East Asia, said the move was an "excellent idea" which would "help support the freedoms of expression and thought which are such critical parts of any successful democracy", and that "this initiative embodies what the BBC is all about".


The news stream will launch tomorrow on Facebook, with Thai, regional and international news in Thai and English.

Thailand has 96m mobile subscriptions out of a population of 67m.

Thailand has 24m Facebook users, with over 13m in Bangkok alone (a growth of 320% in last 12 months).



Police charge singer-turn-red-shirt activist Tom Dundee with lese majeste

9 July 2014 Prachatai

The police charged Thanat Thanawatcharanon, aka Tom Dundee, a country singer-turn-red-shirt activist, with lese majeste and offences under Computer Crime Act.

About 20 military and police officers, led by the Technology Crime Suppression Division, arrested Tom, at his house in Phetchaburi province on Wednesday.

Tom’s wife told Prachatai that he was charged for his speech at two red-shirt rallies, held by Kotee Red Guard, in November 2013, and the video of his speeches was uploaded to Youtube.

The singer was earlier charged with defying the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order for not reporting himself with the military after summoned. He was then released on bail.

In 2010, the Network of Voluntary Citizen to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook pressured the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to prosecute Tom for his speech at a red-shirt rally in Ratchaburi province.

Thailand: Editor Arrested for Facebook Comments

8 July 2014 Human Rights Watch - Brad Adams, Asia director

(New York) – The arrest of a magazine editor for posting comments critical of the military on his Facebook page is emblematic of the military government’s deepening disregard for fundamental rights and freedoms, Human Rights Watch said today. Thai military authorities should stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining peaceful critics of the May 22, 2014 military coup and of martial law.

Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Fah Diew Khan (Same Sky) magazine, was placed under a seven-day administrative detention order on July 5 and transferred to police custody.

“Arresting an editor for a Facebook criticism of military rule shows just how far the junta will go to silence critics,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The military can neither arrest all critics nor wish them out of existence.”

Thanapol posted a Facebook message at 3:30 p.m. on July 4 indicating that the military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), had ordered him to stop making critical comments about the military authorities. Thanapol told colleagues that he then received a phone call from an unidentified military officer asking for a private meeting on July 5 at a coffee shop in Bangkok’s Soi Paholyothin 7 neighborhood. The officer assured Thanapol the meeting was only to exchange opinions and that he would not be arrested.

On July 5, Thanapol went to the meeting at about 12:30 p.m. and talked for 10 minutes with a man in civilian clothes who was later identified as Lt. Col. Pasakorn Kulraviwarn. Then Thanapol made a telephone call to a colleague, saying he would be taken into military custody. Shortly thereafter, soldiers in civilian clothes escorted him to a car.

From the car, Thanapol told his colleague by phone that he was being taken to the 2nd Cavalry Division. Around 6:30 p.m., the authorities imposed the seven-day administrative detention under martial law and transferred Thanapol to the police Crimes Suppression Division.

The military had previously detained Thanapol on May 24, after he was summoned under a martial law order. When he was released on May 30, Thanapol had to sign an agreement that he would not make political comments, become involved in political activities, or travel overseas without permission from the NCPO. Failure to comply could result in a sentence of two years in prison or a fine of 40,000 baht (US$1,250).

Since the May 22 coup, the military authorities have severely restricted the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The authorities have targeted numerous dissidents and critics for censorship, arbitrary detention, and prosecution before military courts. More than 300 people have been held in military custody, including ruling party and opposition politicians, activists, critics, and journalists, as well as people accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or taking part in peaceful anti-coup activities.

The military authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain people despite publicly asserting that the practice has stopped. In an apparent response to international condemnation, the NCPO announced on June 24 that everyone being held without charge in military custody had been released. Yet, the NCPO has provided no information about them.

Two days later, the military authorities announced that the formal summons procedure would be discontinued. However, Human Rights Watch found that on June 30 the NCPO issued at least one summons order without any public announcement, targeting Jom Petchpradab – an outspoken news anchor – and 17 other people.

University professors from Bangkok and other provinces have also been ordered to report to the military authorities, sometimes without written orders. In one such case, Hara Shintaro – a well-known Japanese professor at Prince of Songkhla University in the southern province of Pattani – was threatened with arrest on June 17 by the 4th Army Region commander, Lt. Gen. Walit Rojanaphakdee, who accused him of making comments that caused “disharmony in the society.”

“Arbitrary arrests of dissidents and critics are part of a wider human rights crackdown under military rule in Thailand,” Adams said. “Concerned governments should take a strong stand and demand that the military authorities fully abide by Thailand’s international obligations and build a road map for the restoration of a democratic government based on human rights.”

Protester may face lese majeste for holding “Long Live USA” placard on July 4th

8 July 2014 Prachatai

Thai police arrested and charged a woman protester for gathering to show support for the US in front of the US embassy, Bangkok, on 4 July, or the Independence Day.

The police charged Chaowanat Musikphumi, aka “Nong,” with defying the coup makers’ order. The police also told her that by holding the placard “Long Live USA Day,” she may have violated the Article 112 under the Criminal Code or the lese majeste law. The police accused that the phrase aimed at parodying “Long Live the King.”

She tried to explain to the police that the phrase “long live” can be used in many contexts.

Other messages on the placards of Chaowanat read:

“Long live USA day

Pl. help us, we need democracy. But, Thai elite dislike democracy.Thai junta pretended not to know, Thanks God give today.

USA, AUS, EU, NZ, etc... Please help us. No martial law. No coup”

On 4 July, while Chaowanat, 52, gathered with other protesters at the embassy, she was detained twice by the plain-clothes authorities, but was then released. The military and police later arrested her at her house in eastern Bangkok o 6 July. She was now detained at the Crime Suppression Division.

The police also had the record that she also joined the protest against the coup at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center a day after the coup, Chaowanat told Prachatai

Thai Junta Compares its Coup to Burma’s 1988 Crackdown

This is simply depressing but it does show how the Junta is thinking and where it has found its inspiration/encouragement

2 July 2014 Reuters

"Thailand’s military on Friday compared its seizure of power in May to restore stability after months of unrest to the brutal crackdown by Burma’s former junta in 1988 to snuff out a pro-democracy movement.

Thailand’s military justified its intervention by the need to restore stability after months of unrest and demonstrations by pro and anti-government protesters.

Perhaps unwittingly, the deputy chief of the Thai junta likened its seizure of power to one of the darkest chapters in the rule of Burma’s junta, its crushing of pro-democracy protests in 1988 when at least 3,000 people were killed.

“Myanmar’s government agrees with what Thailand is doing in order to return stability to the nation. Myanmar had a similar experience to us in 1988, so they understand,” said Tanasak Patimapragorn, supreme commander of Thailand’s armed forces, following a visit to Bangkok by Burma’s army chief General Min Aung Hlaing."

Siamese dreams in the time of the junta

Thai Game Plan: Drive Shinawatras into Exile : Asia Sentinel

If There’s Going to Be a Thai Civil War, Isaan Will Be Its Front Line : Time

Vice Media News - on one month since the coup

NCPO keeps special powers over govt Interim charter grants coup-makers amnesty

When truth is missing from the land of (pretended) smiles

When truth is missing from the land of (pretended) smiles Prachatai.org

Leaning on Thailand’s Junta New York Times

Some thoughts on Thai political crisis: Claudio Sopranzetti

Suthep’s gaffe will haunt the junta

The Ratchada-Phisek land Scandal

Thailand's Divided Military

30 June 2014 AWSJ

Thailand's generals justified last month's coup as a necessary step to prevent political conflict from escalating. But the military has larger objectives: bringing the loyalists of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to heel; rewriting the constitution again; and ensuring the dominance of arch-royalist forces at the twilight of the current monarch's reign.

However, the Thai military is itself riven by factions, making these goals difficult to achieve even after the coup. In a worst-case scenario, the competing forces within society could form alliances with sympathetic generals, leading to civil war.

Ever since its formation in the late 1800s, the Thai military has suffered from factionalism. Some military cliques have been based around military personalities, graduating classes, units or corporate interests, while at least one has been somewhat ideological. But the most powerful factions have been centered around and most favored by Thailand's monarch.

In 1978, the arch-royalist military faction of Prem Tinsulanonda came to dominate the armed forces. That year, Gen. Prem became army commander. Then from 1980-88 he served as prime minister. In 1988, he joined the king's Privy Council and in 1998 became its chair. Throughout this time he continued to hold sway over the military and built up a following of officers in all branches.

Then in 2001 Gen. Prem's faction was directly challenged by incoming Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former police officer who also possessed extensive military connections. Mr. Thaksin succeeded in appointing his own loyalists within the military and police. In 2003, Mr. Thaksin's own cousin Chaiyasit Shinawatra was made army commander, and Mr. Thaksin gained influence within the Wongthewan army faction based around the elite Kings Guard.

But Gen. Prem and his followers fought back. In January 2004, he managed to install a member of the "Eastern Tigers" faction based on the Queens Guard, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, as army commander. Though Gen. Prawit retired in 2005, the 2006 coup against Mr. Thaksin was led by Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratklin, Gen. Prawit's former deputy.

Moreover, the 2006 coup was spearheaded by crack officers belonging to the Eastern Tigers clique, and led by Generals Anupong Paochinda and Prayuth Chan-ocha, successive unit commanders of the Queens Guard.The 2006 coup resulted in most Wongthewan officers being relegated to peripheral positions while Eastern Tigers officers gained top leadership posts.

Such a situation meant that Thailand's military became increasingly divided between those who benefited from the post-coup promotions and those who did not. Lower-ranking and intermediate-level officers tended to be more sympathetic to Mr. Thaksin while higher-ranking officers were vehemently anti-Thaksin. In the 2007 and 2011 general elections, most armed forces personnel voted in favor of pro-Thaksin parties.

In 2009 and 2010, the armed forces violently repressed pro-Thaksin protestors, but this tainted the image of the military and increased the popularity of Mr. Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra. In the 2011 election, she led the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai party to victory and became prime minister.

That was an opening for the pro-Thaksin forces to again increase their influence within the military by promoting loyalists. However, Gen. Prayuth outmaneuvered them and the Eastern Tigers continued to dominate key positions. Today, Gen. Udomdet Sitabutr—an Eastern Tigers loyalist and confidante of Gen. Prayuth—holds the position of deputy army commander and is expected to succeed Gen. Prayuth in October.

Though the Eastern Tigers faction dominates the military today, the King's Privy Council, which is still headed by Gen. Prem, has recognized that military stability demands the Wongthewan faction also receive some top postings. Since 2010, Wongthewan members such as Gen. Daopong Ratanasuwan, Gen. Paiboon Khumchaya and Gen. Kampanat Ruddit have been given high-level army positions.

Why did the 2014 coup take so long to happen? It could have been carried out when demonstrations began in November 2013. However, in late 2013 and early 2014 Thailand's generals and palace courtiers were divided about what course of action to follow. With no clear instructions, the troops stayed in barracks.

By May, however, arch-royalists composed of persons from the palace, privy council, judiciary and the Eastern Tigers faction coalesced to jettison the Yingluck government. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was established shortly thereafter, headed by Army Commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. Most of the NCPO army leaders are members of the Eastern Tigers faction, though some belong to Wongthewan.

Today, Gen. Prem's arch-royalist military faction continues to dominate the military in conjunction with the Eastern Tigers. The 2006 coup placed this clique in the military's top positions while the 2014 putsch sustained and reinforced their power.

By casting Mr. Thaksin in the role of bogeyman, the senior brass has rationalized a leading role for itself. But Thailand remains highly polarized over Mr. Thaksin's hold over popular politics and repression only increases sympathy for him. The military is itself divided with many lower ranking officers supporting the former prime minister.

This dynamic will make it impossible for the military to return real power to an elected government in the foreseeable future. Even if civilian government resumes, the generals will continue to exercise control from behind the scenes. The hard choices that could lead to reconciliation and political development are unlikely to be addressed until the next monarch is securely on the throne.

Mr. Chambers is director of research at the Institute for Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Reflections on a Post-Coup Thailand

30 June 2014 The Diplomat

On a TV screen in one of Bangkok’s BTS trains, a skit with the theme samakkee (unity) was playing again and again, featuring all parts of Thai society talking about the importance of unity in Thailand. With the new post-coup military government in power, headed by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the message conveyed in the propaganda piece is clear – the Thai military government wants Thai society, deeply divided between Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts, to bridge their differences, and that the Thai military is the only legitimate institution that can maintain the unity of the royal kingdom.

The concept of “samakkee” dates back to the reign of the Rama VI King Vajiravudh (1910-1925), who incorporated it into his nationalist ideology. The same concept was also featured significantly by Thai governments (military and civilian) during the Cold War period in its anti-communist insurgency campaigns. Right now, after another military coup that ousted the Pheu Thai Party government, it seems the military is once again tapping into royal-nationalist ideology, such as samakkee (unity), samanchan (social harmony), and sandiviti (peaceful means), to convey the legitimacy of its control.

Authoritarian governments prefer the use of these slogans to justify their control. The Chinese Communist Party in the recent past, for example, propagated the concept of hexie shehui (harmonious society) at a time when it perceived rising social unrest that began in the early 2000s. Indeed, there are quite a few similarities between Chinese “harmonious society” and Thai “unity & solidarity.” We can observe a similar kind of acquiescence amongst the general public toward authoritarian power in both countries. Certainly there are sporadic protests in Thailand against the coup, and there are also many individuals openly challenging the military government, like those using the three-finger resistance hand gesture. In reality, though, these open gestures of political defiance are few and far between. Indeed, there have been few large-scale, anti-military social movements.

This is not to suggest that ordinary Thai people do not have grievances about the coup and the military government: They do, although there is considerable support among the urban, middle-class Yellow Shirts. What is noticeable is the tremendous degree of political conformity within Thai society toward the military as the legitimate political authority. This conformity is partly a result of political repression. Hundreds of former government officials, liberal academics, and political activists have been summoned to report to the military. There has also been a crackdown on freedom of expression in social media, shutting down alternative viewpoints in the Thai public sphere. Many people have also practiced self-censorship and refrained from openly challenging the military government out of fear of losing their jobs or attracting trouble for their businesses.

Nevertheless, conformity to military authority is evident on a much wider scale. It was manifested in Bangkok immediately after the coup, when most people willingly abided by the curfew with minimal enforcement from the military. On a taxi ride from the Suvarnabhumi Airport to a hotel in central Bangkok, two days after the coup when the military government imposed a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., I saw that the otherwise boisterous Bangkok streets were silent and dark at 11:00 p.m., even though no clear military enforcement was in evidence. During the day when walking around central Bangkok, everything seemingly normal and it was almost impossible to realize a coup had taken place just three days before. It was this sense of “everything is normal and life goes on” that made the coup difficult to comprehend.

In the immediate aftermath of the coup, the U.S. and several other Western governments voiced criticisms of the military government. The U.S. government’s punitive gestures in canceling military aid, although more symbolic than substantial, has drawn noticeable backlash and opposition from Thailand. Further speculation abounds as to whether such diplomatic pressure could instead push Thailand closer to China, particularly after a high-level Thai military delegation visited Beijing on June 11. Although the diplomatic relationship between China and Thailand cannot be defined within the general Sino-U.S. rivalry dynamic, there will likely be a further increase in political, military, and economic cooperation. Given that Thailand and China do not have any major conflicts of interest (unlike Vietnam and the Philippines, which have ongoing territorial disputes with China), and that China’s general tendency is to work with whomever is in power, the current Thai military government might find in China a willing and workable partner.

Every day, Thai TV stations broadcast a national song clip repeatedly. In it, the royalty and military are heavily featured as symbols of Thai national unity. With the military and the royal family exerting such strong control over Thai politics, and with both evidently deeply intertwined, it is indeed difficult to imagine a clear future for a democratic Thailand. For one, the royalty, as the symbol of Thai national unity, is allegedly embroiled in a succession problem, and it is difficult to predict what will happen after the aging king is gone. There is also little societal pressure to demilitarize Thai politics. Although Prayuth promised elections after 15 months, once the military government has carried out some necessary “reforms,” it is still impossible to envision a Thailand (even if a democratic election is carried out) without the deeply entrenched military as a political force that intervenes in politics at will.

Dr. Enze Han is lecturer in the International Security of East Asia, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London.


Coup updates - day 37

In The Land Of Smiles, One Must Be Happy — The Military Says So - Mint Press news

Thailand's Military Rulers Criminalize These 4 Harmless Acts Global Post

Army chief slams Suthep and anti-coup duo Bangkok Post

Coup updates - day 36

The Seismic Shifts Behind the Coup in Thailand The Asia-Pacific Journal

China steps into the breach Nation.

Thailand Military Junta Needs to Ease Back on its Repressive Freedom of Expression Policy The Establishment Post

Thai army to appoint national assembly stacked with military officers

26 June 2014 AFP Thailand's army rulers will appoint a national assembly stacked with military officers to pick an interim government leader, officials said on Thursday, as they seek to retain their influence over the kingdom's political transition.

In the first real hint of the shape the politically fraught country's next administration may take, army sources told AFP that the military will select the 200 assembly members and that the junta itself will not be dissolved.

"We have learned our lesson. By pushing power in other people's hands, they may not do what we expect them to do," said an official under the condition of anonymity.

The kingdom's generals are keen to avoid ceding as much power to the interim government as they did following the last coup in 2006.
- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/south-east-asia/story/thai-army-appoint-national-assembly-stacked-military-officers-201406#sthash.LODtoBDW.dpuf

Thailand’s junta sets up media watchdogs to monitor anti-coup dissent

26 June 2014  

Thailand’s military junta has set up watchdogs to monitor all kinds of media for content that is deemed as “inciting hatred towards the monarchy” or providing “misinformation” that could potentially complicate the work of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), as the junta calls itself.

The committee is chaired by Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew, deputy NCPO chief for special affairs. Its members comprise representatives of agencies including the Royal Thai Police Office, army, navy, air force, Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office and Public Relations Department.

The meeting agreed to set up four panels to “monitor” the media:
◾A panel to follow news on radio and television stations, led by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC);
◾A panel to monitor news in the print media, led by the Special Branch;
◾A panel to monitor news on the social media, headed by the permanent secretary for information and communication technology; and
◾A panel to monitor international news, led by the permanent secretary for foreign affairs.

Upon finding news items deemed detrimental to the NCPO and the royal institution, they are to send a daily and weekly report to Pol Gen Adul and the NCPO chief [army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha].

“Media censorship panels formed“, Bangkok Post, June 25, 2014

“All agencies have a duty to the people and the various media to make them understand the work of the NCPO, while at the same time to clamp down on the spread of ‘information’ that could incite hatred towards the monarchy and also on misinformation,” Pol Gen Adul was quoted as saying by the Isara News Agency.

The set up of the panels and the large-scale cooperation between the military, government sectors and “independent” federal agencies is another sign of attempts to tighten the control over the narrative in the news and social media, which have been repeatedly warned by the junta not to broadcast content that “could negatively affect the peace-keeping work of the authorities”. There has been no clarification on what this would entail, exactly.

During the military coup of May 22, 2014 all TV stations were only broadcasting announcements by the military and several satellite TV stations (mostly associated with the political protest groups) were ordered to cease broadcasting and have remained off air since. Others, including foreign news channels, were gradually allowed back on air under the condition that they do not air shows debating the political situation.

The junta has also been trying to combat dissent online, especially on social media. Efforts are made (with the cooperation of Thai internet service providers) to block access to anti-coup and anti-monarchy content. Reportedly, at least 200 websites have been blocked and social media users have been warned not to spread “wrongful” information that may “incite unrest”.

Authorities have suggested creating a national online gateway in order to filter out undesirable website and are even considering a national social network that they’re in full control off. The junta has also reportedly resorted to gathering user information via phishing, fooling the unsuspecting user into installing an app on their social network.

In late May, a brief block of the social network Facebook sparked uproar online, while statements by the Ministry for Information and Telecommunication Technology (MICT) and the NCPO over whether or not the Facebook-block was ordered or it was an “technical glitch” contradicted each other. It emerged later through a the foreign parent company of a Thai telco company that there actually was an order to block Facebook, for which it got scolded by the Thai authorities.

The special emphasis by the junta on alleged anti-monarchy content is highlighted by the fact that since the military coup all cases that fall under the draconian lèse majesté law are now under the jurisdiction of a military court.

Manop Thiosot, a spokesman for the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), voiced his concern over the establishment of the junta’s media monitoring bodies. “Without clear guidelines it could negatively affect the public’s right to information and severely restrict the work of the media,” Manop said in an interview with the newspaper Krungthep Turakij. He called on the NCPO to clarify their working process and make it transparent.

The junta is making it again clear that it will not tolerate dissent and criticism, all in the name of “avoiding misunderstanding” as it puts it. It aims to control of the post-coup narrative, but will struggle to get a handle on the multiple ways people are getting their information and communicating with each other, as well as the diversity of opinions those media outlets have spawned.

Coup updates - day 35

Thai general denies military coup was planned BBC

I've seen coups in Thailand before. This one feels like it's for keeps The Spectator

Thai Rath newspaper reports next wave of anti-coup protesters will be wearing white at malls on Sunday

Thai junta to censor media causing “hatred toward monarchy”

25 June 2014 Prachatai

Thai junta has set up working groups to monitor all media channels and will censor media that spread information which lead to “hatred toward the monarchy,” and false information.

Police General Adul Saengsingkaew, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, in his capacity as Deputy Leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta’s temporary administrative body, told the Thai media on Tuesday that five bodies have been set up to monitor five types of media:

- Broadcast media will be monitor by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), the state regulator,

- Print media will be monitored by the Special Branch Police,

- Online media will be monitored by the ICT Ministry

- Foreign media will be monitored by the Foreign Ministry.

“All agencies are responsible for clarifying about the works of NCPO to the people and the media and keep an eye on all kinds of media, suppress the news which cause hatred toward the monarchy, spreading false information,” Issara News Agency quoted Pol Gen Adul as saying.

Coup updates - day 34:

New to twitter

@tscd.en Welcome to an official twitter account of Thai Student Center for Democracy.
All of our updates will be officially announced here.

Actually, our members had to go to the Army Club near Rangsit to pick up their stuffs today at 10.00 but later they were brought to Army club at Dheves to discuss with Gen.Paiboon instead and were released at 1530. They all are safe.

1. When we reached at the army club, a colonel stared and asked us
"You guys ate sandwiches, you are the foreigners? Are you Thais?

2. One of our members answered "I'm born and have been raised in Thailand"

3. the colonel "You're Thai, why did you have to eat sandwiches? you adore those foreigners? then, better to go eat in somewhere else..."

4. the colonel "Here is Thailand, you should eat the things belong to Thais, why did you have to eat those of the foreigners? "

5. Our member "Sir, i'm thinking to eat Pat-Krapao" The colonel was silent and later said "Well, if you dare to eat, i'd dare to arrest you"

(I have linked to the Pad Krapao reference - after it was banned! In a Thai Army Headquarters canteen).

Also on twitter:

DrLeeJones: The Thai chargé just told me king didn't endorse #ThaiCoup or appoint Prayuth, just "noted" an "institutional change." Meaning: a constitutional monarch's role is merely to passively note whoever has seized power in Bangkok as the new govt.

John Oliver on the Thai coup

Thai Police General Offers Cash for Snapshots of Dissidents

Missing activist appears on Army TV, saying she’s “more happy than words can say”

Embarrassing Cracks Emerge in Thailand’s Post-Coup Establishment - Four years of planning. Not such a reluctant leader.

Thailand - A democracy at risk - US State Department

Army Bans Political Satire From Buddhist Lent Candles

24 June 2014 Khaosod

This year's annual giant candle parade in Korat will lack its usual touch of humour due to the Thai army's order that no political satire can appear on the candles.

The parade of giant candles marks the beginning of the three-month Buddhist Lent (Kao Pansa), during which monks are required to stay overnight at their temples throughout the entire rainy season.

In previous years, the parade's magnificently crafted candles not only featured Buddha and mythical beasts in Buddhist cosmology, but also political figures to raise laughter from the crowds of worshipers and tourists.

However, artisans interviewed by Khaosod say that there will be no reference to politics in this year's celebration in compliance with instructions from the 2nd Region Army, which is stationed in the province.

According to the candle artists, the soldiers told them that the ban on political satire is necessary to maintain the atmosphere of "reconciliation" and to avoid any further conflict in the society.

Some of the political figures featured in last year's candle parade include then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the Democrat Party's Deputy Chairman Suthep Thaugsuban.

The ban is the latest attempt by the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to "decolourise" Thailand's politics and stifle any display of political expression in the wake of the military coup on 22 May.

Instead of the traditional tongue-in-cheek references to politics, the main features of the candle parade this year will involve Lord Buddha and His Majesty the King, artists say.

The event is scheduled to take place on 12 July along the seven-kilometre stretch of road in Nakhon Ratchasima's town centre.

A panel of judges will pick the most beautiful candle in the parade, and the winning team of artists will receive a special award from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

Ex-lawmakers vow 'fightback' against coup

24 June 2014

The former leader of the toppled Pheu Thai party on Tuesday launched the first official opposition group to the nation's coup-making junta, bidding to draw together dissidents within the country and outside its borders.

Charupong Ruangsuwan, who was leader of the Pheu Thai party as well as a senior minister, will lead the "Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy" from self-exile in an unnamed country, according to the following declaration marking the group's founding.

Dear Fellow Thais,

It is now tragically evident that Thailand has returned, once again, to a vicious cycle of absolute dictatorial governance. The military junta regime that enacted this - in the name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) led by the Army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha - has used force to seize power from a democratically-elected civilian government. This is an outrageous act that has violated both Thai and international laws.

It is clear that the junta’s actions are nothing but a grand larceny. What they have stolen, however, are your most precious sovereignty and fundamental rights that are legally guaranteed under democratic governance. It’s impossible to put a price on these rights because they are directly equivalent to basic human dignity - a treasure whose value is immeasurable.

Moreover, the junta has violated the rule of law, abused democratic principles, and destroyed your rights, liberties, and human dignity. These are their most destructive crimes. The junta’s attempts to propagandise these criminal acts as legitimate are predictable - with their false promise to return “peace and order” - being nothing more than a deception wherein they attempt to rationalise and excuse their criminal actions. Their ultimate aim is to attempt to persuade ordinary Thai people to believe that dictatorship is superior to democracy. This game plan of demeaning and discrediting your sovereignty is one that has always been played out by Thai dictators and, as always, it has failed and will fail.

We condemn all the arbitrary and repressive violations of the rights and liberty of Thais and foreigners by the Thai military regime and its allies in their continued attempts to turn Thailand into a “state of fear”. The military regime have also claimed that at some point they will transfer sovereign power back to civilian authorities.

What they mean is that that will have created a new puppet structure whose sole purpose will be to re-entrench anti-democratic elements into Thailand’s body-politic and to sabotage the development of Thai democracy. Any such structure will need to be removed before a more democratic and civilised society can be built.

On behalf of Thais worldwide who are committed to the principles of democracy and universal human rights, I hereby announce our complete and total refutation of the legitimacy of the NCPO. The military regime and its conspirators have no legitimate power whatsoever to govern the country’s economy and society.

Furthermore, we will do everything in our power to prevent the re-entrenchment of anti-democratic elements in Thailand, to defend all forms of freedom, to demand respect in all forms of human rights, and to establish a full democracy as permanent pillar of Thai society.

In order for Thais to establish a full democracy in which sovereign power lies fully with the people, we again completely refute the legitimacy of the Thai military regime and officially announce the establishment of the “Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FT-HD) on this day Tuesday, June 24th, 2014. This organisation will now become the centre for all Thais who possess an unyielding desire for full democracy, in full compliance with the principles of democracy, universal human rights, international laws, and non-violence.

The term “Free Thai” or “Seri Thai” - with its connections to the resistance movement during World War II - has a deep resonance with ordinary Thais, reflecting their genuine desires for freedom and dignity. We are fortunate today that Thais have such an historical role model in order to struggle against yet another oppressor. And our oppressors need to be clear - we will not remain inactive and accept the imposed order and we will fight together until victory is fully realised.

Colleagues in Thailand and other nations around the world have therefore agreed to pursue the following initial goals for the establishment of the “Organisation of Free Thai for Human Rights”:

1. To oppose the military dictatorship and its aristocratic network, and establish the people’s complete and unchallenged sovereignty;
2. To restore and strengthen Thai democracy so that it becomes the stable founding pillar of the Thai state;
3 To guarantee and nurture respect for human dignity, equality, freedom, and peace;
4 To promote a free and fair economy;
5 To reform Thai culture so that its values are fully consistent with democracy;
6. To fully develop and improve the quality of life for all Thai citizens

I hereby announce the establishment of the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FT-HD). Our struggle will become possible when all groups and sectors work hard and actively together so that we can meet our common goals.

Announced on Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
Mr.Charupong Reuangsuwan
Secretary General

Coup updates - day 33

Suthep in talks with Prayuth ‘since 2010’ Thaksin regime target in secret talks Bangkok Post

A Yellow Shirt Leader Says the Thai Coup Was Planned in 2010 :Time

Suthep’s statement is clear, concise and incriminating. He simply claims that he and Gen Prayuth have been discussing the need for a coup since 2010. Prayuth will be angry. He will want it withdrawn or may even deny it, but the damage is done.

Prayuth and Suthep worked together, engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow the elected Yingluck government from a time prior to its election, after it was elected and obviously schemed and plotted “to bring down former prime minister Yingluck …, including the period leading up to the coup when she was defence minister.”

Later in the day a spokesperson for the military junta has rejected the revelation by the former anti-government protest leader that the army has been seeking to overthrow the previous government for years.

According to Mr. Suthep, he has discussed with Gen. Prayuth how to root out the influence of Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his political allies as early as 2010 - a year before Former Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra won the 2011 election and took the helm of the government.

Col. Winthai Suwaree, spokesman of the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said on Friday that the report was false, insisting that there is no such talk between the protest leader and the general.

Suthep also said that he and Gen Prayuth continue to communciate regularly using the Line app.

Protecting Thailand’s king with a gag Pavin Chachavalpongpun in the Gulf News - originally Washington Post

Snitch on your friends; citizens as spies.

23 June 2014 Prachatai

The Royal Thai Police would give rewards of 500 Baht for each picture taken of any person taking part in the anti-coup activity as clue for arrests, according to Royal Thai Police deputy commissioner Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung.

He said if the public see anyone expresses symbolic intention that opposes the control of the National Council for Peace and Order, and can take photos and send them to the police as a evidence leading to the arrests, the person would get 500 baht as rewards.

He said such photos can also be taken from social media or other application in the internet.

Note from @pakhead on twitter:

Agree many people welcome coup. But how many oppose? Real fear in RS areas. Who dares speak now, when they cd face years in jail?

But when will election be? And under what kind of constitution? Limiting franchise to finish TS will only stoke RS resentment.

Coup updates - day 32

In all fairness ...surprising article from Andrew Biggs in the Bangkok Sunday Post magazine

On twitter today from Jonathan Head:

Saw a middle aged woman bundled into a police truck at Wat Pathum just for wearing 'Respect My Vote' T-shirt. 1 month after #Thaicoup

Am now told 2 women arrested at Wat Pathum this morning. 1 just accompanied 72 year-old with offending T Shirt. Neither said or did anything

Lone protester reading 1984 and eating sandwich arrested at Siam Paragon. Cops everywhere. 6 more detained for holding sandwiches. Madness!

Police detain 8 anti-coup protesters

22 June 2014 The Bangkok Post

Police arrested eight people Sunday for demonstrating against Thailand's military junta, including a man who was dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" outside one of Bangkok's most luxurious shopping malls.

The arrest was the first known case of anyone being detained for reading as a form of protest since the military seized power last month.

Handfuls of anti-coup protesters have staged several silent readings of the classic book elsewhere in the capital in recent weeks because they say its indictment of totalitarianism has become relevant after the army deposed the country's elected government in a May 22 coup.

A police officer said all the arrests took place in and around Siam Paragon, a crowded, upscale mall in downtown Bangkok that is one of Southeast Asia's largest. It was the world's most photographed location on Instagram last year.

The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to give information to the media.

A reporter who witnessed the lone man reading Orwell's book said he was taken away by half a dozen plainclothes police. The reporter, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the man first read the book quietly, then held it up as officers approached and journalists took photos.

When questioned, the man said he was reading the book for "liberty, equality and fraternity" — the slogan of the French Revolution. The man was also playing the French national anthem on his smartphone, the reporter said.

Several other people were also detained in the shopping mall's food court for preparing to hand out sandwiches, mimicking another recent protest in which a small group of student activists from Bangkok's Thammasat University gave out what they said were "sandwiches for democracy".

The eighth arrest Sunday was of a woman wearing a T-shirt with the words "Respect My Vote" on it. The phrase became popular among pro-democracy groups trying to counter anti-government protesters who obstructed elections on Feb 2 that were later annulled in a controversial court ruling.

The protesters had accused the then government of corruption and abuse of power, and had repeatedly called for it to be overthrown and urged the army to intervene. The government, meanwhile, had argued that the nation's fragile democracy was under attack by protesters, the courts, and finally the military which staged the coup.

The junta that took power last month has proven to be one of the most repressive regimes in Thailand in more than four decades. Military authorities have made clear they will tolerate no dissent. They have summoned hundreds of people perceived as threats to public order - mostly members of the ousted civilian government, activists and intellectuals; most of those released have had to sign pledges saying they will not instigate unrest.

Coup updates - day 31

Thailand: Grim outlook for human rights after a month of martial law

21 June 2014 Amnesty International

There appears to be no end in sight to violations of a range of human rights one month after martial law was declared in Thailand, Amnesty International warned today.

Since the military declared martial law on 20 May 2014, the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been harshly restricted and extended powers of detention have resulted in some 511 individuals including political activists being arbitrarily detained, though most were held for a few days.

“Sacrificing human rights for political expediency is never a price worth paying – Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are protected. They must stop arbitrary detentions and prosecutions of peaceful critics,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

“It is high time Thailand’s military rolls back the repressive and vaguely worded orders it has put in place, many of which violate Thailand's obligations under international human rights law.”

Waiving constitutional protections and detention safeguards has undermined respect for human rights and the rule of law, and may have contributed to the possible enforced disappearance of at least one activist.

Kritsuda Khunasen, a prominent political activist, has not been seen or heard from since she was reportedly arrested in Chonburi Province, south-east of the capital Bangkok, on 28 May.

Arbitrary detention, denial of bail and prosecution are increasingly being used as measures to keep people from speaking out about the political situation. Hundreds of people – more than 90 per cent of whom are political allies or supporters of the former government, as well as academics and journalists – have been arbitrarily detained, after being ordered to report to authorities.

Failing to report to authorities is now a criminal offence, and those who have reported and been released are threatened with prosecution if they engage in activities perceived to be against the military takeover.

Authorities have charged critics for acts of peaceful dissent under security legislation and laws that severely restrict human rights, in violation of Thailand’s international legal obligations. Using social media to call for demonstrations, and even clicking “like” on certain Facebook posts may be treated as criminal offences.

Authorities are also speeding up prosecutions under Thailand’s lèse majesté law – which criminalizes criticism of the monarchy – and is denying bail to those charged under it.

Beyond directly silencing the media, the restrictions are creating an environment of self-censorship and uncertainty about freedom of expression that is not conducive to free participation in discussions about reconciliation and Thailand’s political future.

“The raft of repressive measures in place in Thailand paints a grim picture of the state of human rights under martial law. The military authorities must immediately revoke these restrictions and stop detaining and prosecuting activists for peacefully exercising their human rights,” said Richard Bennett.

Amnesty International renews calls for authorities to make public the identity and whereabouts of all individuals held under martial law. The organization is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained solely for exercising peacefully their human rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Anyone suspected of a recognizably criminal offence should be charged and prosecuted in civilian courts, and in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness.


Twitter notes:

Junta admits activist #Kritsuda detained by military since 28May; won’t disclose detention location-‘she needs focus’

And no, Kritsuda hasn’t got any lawyer b/c “she hasn’t been charge w/ any crime”; all treated “like family” w/ 24 hr access to medical care.

NCPO spox explained to @hrw: #Kritsuda was “in a reporting process” & there are “no violations of her human rights.” - She has been detained in an unknown location without charges and without legal support for four weeks - exactly what would be a violation of her human rights?

Most depressing abt post-coup period is no one in PT or RS will openly demand answer on issues like Kritsuda.

NCPO Detains Red Activist 'To Help Her Meditate'

Thailand: Account for ‘Disappeared’ Political Activist

Former minister Chaturon faces Computer Crime charges

Thai police create fake FB app to get Thai net users’ information, target users trying to open blocked sites

Open up to spur cultural revolution

For all the economic meddling do not forget the clear primary agenda of the coup leaders is to create a parliament that royalists control.

Coup updates - day 30

The elephant in the room; Thailand's royal succession and the coup Indo-Pacific Review

"Thai democracy cannot move forward when it is up against an elitist bureaucracy that is deferential to the crown, a military that acts in its own self-interest, though in the name of the crown, and the crown itself, three institutions that are – if not anti-democratic – then at least skeptical towards majoritarian rule. A weakened monarchy will also undermine the military and bureaucracy. Then and only then, will Thai democracy have a fighting chance. Nothing scares the generals more than this."

What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup “Democracy” Look Like?

June 20 2014 Council for Foreign Relations - Joshua Kurlantzick

"As an excellent piece in the Associated Press notes this week, Thailand’s junta appears to be entrenching itself for the long haul. Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has named himself to Thailand’s Board of Investment. The junta is putting other cronies at the heads of major state-controlled companies, Prayuth has left the timetable for a total return to civilian rule purposefully vague, and the coup leaders also have refused to say exactly what that civil government will look like, or what Thailand’s next constitution will look like either. (The generals essentially ripped up the previous constitution after launching the coup in May.)

However, you can bet that the “democracy” Thais inherit some time after the junta steps down is going to bear little resemblance to the political system in Thailand of the past fifteen years–or to internationally accepted norms of what constitutes democracy. Having learned from Thailand’s 2006 coup, when the army failed to totally undermine the power of rural voters, the junta likely will push through new legislation that will never allow Thailand’s numerical majority to prevail over other power centers again.

Instead, expect the post-coup “democratic” government to look like this:

1. Appointed members of parliament or those selected from Hong Kong-style “functional constituencies” will have immense power in the next civilian government. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee protestors, who paralyzed Bangkok for months in late 2013 and early 2014 and helped trigger the coup, often pushed for such a scheme. A scheme in which appointed members of parliament constitute a large percentage of the chambers would dilute the rural majority’s power and keep Bangkok effectively in control of the legislature, which is especially important during a monarchical succession. (This idea of non-elected MPs has a long history, and dates back to previous elite protests in Thailand in the late 2000s.) The army leaders have said that they want to cool political temperatures and do not favor any side of Thailand’s poisonous color-coded politics, but that vow of neutrality already has been proven completely false. Expect the military to push through an appointed/functional constituencies scheme in which at least half of parliament’s upper and lower house (the Senate previously had non-elected members) is selected this way.

2. Prominent members of Thaksinite parties will be banned from politics for life, unless they have already turned tail and totally given into the junta, like former Thaksin ally and former Minister of Agriculture Sudarat Keyuraphan. Since Thaksin first won the prime ministership in 2001, the judiciary, the palace, and the military have used five-year bans to keep pro-Thaksin politicians out of office, but the elites underestimated the staying power of Thaksin and of rural voters. Indeed, many politicians who were banned, like former minister Chaturon Chaiseng, were able to come back after five years and again lead Thaksinite parties and serve in ministerial positions. Expect the army and its selected constitution drafters (all of whom will be appointed and not elected) to find a way to keep the most important pro-Thaksin politicians out of politics for the rest of their lives. It used to be said that, in Thailand, everyone in politics always gets a chance to come back, no matter what they have done in the past…but that was then, and this is a different time in the kingdom.

3. The judiciary and other institutions will be made even stronger. Since 2006, the judiciary and other bureaucratic institutions have been key weapons in the Bangkok elites and middle classes’ battle to maintain control of politics, but at times Thaksinite parties have managed to put some of their own allies in key judicial and bureaucratic posts. No more. The junta will leave a constitution and legislation that both makes the judiciary and other institutions stronger and insulates these institutions from any control at all by an elected prime minister.

4. The army’s constitution drafters will figure out a way to provide an amnesty for the 2014 coup-makers who, after all, broke the law by seizing power. Amnesty for the coup-makers? That’s one Thai tradition that isn’t going out of style."


As for the new constitution - Post Today: Military source says there will be no constitution referendum

Many articles appearing - usually from self serving people in the industry - saying that tourism to Thailand has never been safer. Safe does not equal ethical. Look at Thailand for what it is. If 25 million people stayed away the military would get a very loud message.

Thairath Online reports that the Commander of Technology Crime Suppression Division admits the mistake of shutting down the Association of Tennis Professionals websites (www.atptennis.com and www.atpworldtour.com) due to his misunderstanding of being gambling websites.

He said the Police's Technology Crime Suppression Division has beefed up on measures against all kind of gambling websites. They would be shut down if found to constitute any kind of gambling.


Coup updates - day 29

Red Shirt DJ interviewed by BBC was invited for a talk with military in Udonthani; Jonathan Head confirmed that the "farmer in my report also summoned. But message was clear: don't say anything negative to foreign media."

Thailand junta tries to silence its critics to protect the king Washington Post

China is a big winner from Thailand’s coup East Asia Forum

Military raids and Thai Red Shirt disquiet Al Jazeera in Khon Kaen.

Thai police, foreign ministry join forces to arrest 'Rose' Utterly, utterly clueless. She is a British citizen living in the UK. She will never be extradited to face a military court in a country living under military rule following the removal of an elected government.

NCPO rebukes Human Rights Watch on rights issue (and the government has blocked HRW Thailand's web site).

Cambodia blames Thailand as 220,000 migrant labourers cross border - this would be the leading story across news networks if it was not for the unfolding civil war in Iraq.

@pakhead on twitter: "Andy Hall, Phuketwan, Reuters, Telenor. Message is don't deliver bad news abt Thailand even if it is true." He is right.

@Pravit "No Hunger Games salute, no eating sandwich as a form of protest, no drawing of 3-finger on banknotes, no protest >NO RIGHTS?"

Thailand needs 'organised' corruption

Investors, local and foreign, understand corruption. It’s a natural extension of the economy. It can’t be avoided. But it can be dealt with.

19 June 2014 Bangkok Post Editorial Opinion - Writer: Voranai Vanijaka

Investors prefer organised corruption to disorganised corruption. They would like to know who needs to be paid, and once paid they like things to get done. This is organised corruption. The key is, only one group should be paid. No more.

In Thailand, the problem is the payments never stop. New faces always come to collect, old faces keep getting hungry again, and you’ve got to pay them all.

Over the past 20 years, most of the times corruption in Thailand has been a gangbang. It keeps going. It doesn’t stop. And, then, maybe only half the work gets done.

Here’s a firsthand story. Once upon a time there was a famous Hollywood director filming in Thailand. It was a movie about a bisexual Greek general who tried to conquer the known world over 2,000 years ago.

Being a fan of the drinks and the ladies, of which we have plenty, the director quite enjoyed working in Thailand. But he also swore to the gods that he would never film a movie in this country again. Why? Because the payments never stop.

There were always new faces showing up to collect their tea money, and even old faces keep asking for more.

This director understood greed. After all, in one of his most famous movies the main antagonist did proclaimed this famous line, ‘’Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit.’’

Well, this was before the director experienced Thai greed.

Investors know that to invest in Thailand, they have to prepare a special budget for corrupt politicians and officials. But it’s very difficult for the accountant to prepare a tea money budget when corruption is so disorganised.

Foreign investors often marvel at Thailand’s resilience, or luck, or a combination of both, even while at the same time making complaints about the kingdom.

Given that we are notorious for corruption and inefficiency, our economy continues to push through in even the worst of times. Take the last decade of political upheavals, natural disasters and worldwide economic melt down.

But it isn’t going to last forever without some drastic changes, especially with the beating the Thai economy has been taking of late.

If there’s capitalism, then there’s corruption, especially in a developing country. The two go together like a horse and carriage.

There is no getting rid of corruption; no one understands this better than investors, local or foreign. But again, make it organised corruption (and keep it to a minimum), rather than a disorganised one.

Coup updates - day 28

Thailand's 'polite coup' should put itself on right side of history:David Streckfuss Nikkei Asian Review

A Young Thai Activist Has Vanished, and the Junta Isn’t Saying Anything

In Thailand, a Struggle for Control of State Firms

So HRW Asia in Thailand is now blocked by the military junta. Not good. www.hrw.org/asia/thailand

Coup updates - day 27

Telenor Group axes Asia chief over Facebook row - how do you embarrass a military junta - you tell the truth! This was a Bangkok Post story that the newspaper has now deleted as Telenor have argued that the story is not true. Which suggests that the BP should check its sources.

Jonathan Head on twitter: "I suppose the message is clear. Corporates can be bullied by threatening their bottom line. I'm sure it won't be lost on NCPO."

HRW: Thai junta has 'severely harmed' faith in democracy

Coup updates - day 26

NCPO targets universities in PR drive - Education, indoctrination, intimidation?

Military raids and Thai Red Shirt disquiet

"A source said Gen Prayuth placed great emphasis on the need to educate scholars and students at Thammasat University on NCPO objectives as the campus is an important venue for anti-coup protesters and Nitirat Group members."

Thailand’s Junta Flexes Its Muscles Online

Mr. Heinecke cannot have his coup and eat it too

Ominous signs for migrant workers in Thailand

The Bangkok Coup: Shock and Awe

Cambodian exodus from Thailand grows to 160,000

On twitter:

Pravit Rojanaphruk@PravitR "I have no problem with patriotism but I have a big problem with ultra nationalism & xenophobia"

Thai coup leaders' goal: Democracy on their terms

16 June 2014 The Associated Press

From the day Thailand's military coup leader seized power last month, he has promised unspecified reforms to restore stability and return to civilian rule and democracy. Yet, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has mentioned a striking obstacle to a "fully functional democracy" - elections.

According to the general, elections themselves have contributed to years of bitter political division and sometimes-violent street protests in Thailand. The military says intractable turmoil forced it to step in and topple a government for the second time in a decade.

"We need to solve many issues, from administration to the budget system to corruption," Prayuth said in a recent radio address, "And even the starting point of democracy itself - the election."

He continued, "Parliamentary dictatorship has to be removed. All these have caused conflict and unhappiness among Thai people."

The statement was the strongest sign yet of what many analysts suspect is the true aim of the May 22 coup: limiting the impact of future elections in Thailand by relying more on appointed institutions or some other formula to limit majority rule.

The elected government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was weakened by six months of often massive protests and a succession of court rulings. Anti-government protesters blocking polling places and a subsequent court ruling scuttled February elections that Yingluck's party had been widely expected to win.

Opponents of the ousted government are intent on removing the influence of Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire former prime minister who was himself ousted in a 2006 military coup. He has lived in self-imposed exile for years to avoid serving time for corruption charges he says were politically motivated, and it was a proposal to grant him amnesty that sparked the protests against his sister's government.

Thaksin's supporters have won every election since 2001, to the ire of many in Thailand who see him as a corrupt demagogue who abuses power and buys votes with populist promises.

The general didn't explain what he meant by "parliamentary dictatorship," nor has he elaborated on any specifics of reforms, but he made clear his opinion that the current electoral system was not working.

"They always say 'reform,' and what does 'reform' mean? At one level, it means get rid of Thaksin, his people and control his power base," said Thongchai Winichakul, a Thai scholar and professor of history at the University of Wisconsin.

Support for Thaksin is strongest among poorer, rural Thais, particularly in the country's north and northeast. His opponents are concentrated in Bangkok and the south, and are more likely to be wealthy or middle-class.

"In their view, people keep electing the wrong government. There is the core of it," said Duncan McCargo, professor of Southeast Asian Politics at Britain's University of Leeds, said of the anti-Thaksin forces who have repeatedly turned out into streets, taking over government buildings and once even occupying Thailand's international airport for a week.

The most recent protesters, led by a former leader of the main opposition party, Suthep Thaugsuban, complained of "the tyranny of the parliamentary majority" and called for setting up an unelected council to usher in reforms. That roughly matches the plans of the junta - officially known as the National Council for Peace and Order - though for the moment it is promoting "happiness" and reconciliation as it cracks down on all forms of dissent.

It is unclear how coup supporters intend to reform Thai democracy, but Thongchai expects they will attempt to balance the popular vote of the electorate with the wisdom of what is known as the "khon dee," or "virtuous people."

"The most important matter to those who speak of traditional principles is rule by the virtuous." Thongchai said. "Harmony and consensus is supposed to be the behavior of this rule by the virtuous because the 'subjects' are supposed to be grateful and loyal to the virtuous."

Many opponents of the ousted government say they are the ones who stand for true democratic values, and that it is Thaksin's brand of roughshod politics that goes against traditional Thai values of harmony and consensus, as columnist Tulsathit Taptim suggested in a recent article for the Nation newspaper.

"A 'winner takes all' democracy is too much for Thailand. It makes the losers sour and the triumphant side do whatever is necessary to keep the status quo," Tulsathit wrote, adding, "This style of democracy is not totally democratic, at least over here."

Or as Prayuth said in his speech June 6, saying, "We understand that we are living in a democratic world, but is Thailand ready in terms of people, form and method?"

From 1932, when Thailand became a constitutional monarchy, until 2001, when Thaksin was swept into office, the country was for the most part ruled either the army itself or, later, a select group of politicians who, while elected, were closely aligned with the country's elite. Thaksin, a former policeman turned telecoms tycoon, upset the status quo in the eyes of many by amassing power for himself and refusing to give it up. He has remained powerful even from his current home in the United Arab Emirates; when his sister's Pheu Thai Party rose to power in 2011, it employed the slogan "Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts."

Thaksin's opponents, unable to beat him at the ballot box, have used other methods to counter him. After the last military coup in 2006, a new constitution was written that made the Senate partially appointed, though the House of Representatives remained a fully elected body. The Senate, in turn, appoints judges and leaders of other institutions who have largely been viewed as anti-Thaksin.

"In many ways, this coup is an extension of the 2006 coup, which many in the military see as a failure in that it didn't go far enough in eliminating the Thaksin network," said Michael Connors, a scholar in Malaysia.

Apparently, Thailand's coup leaders still haven't figured out how to restore at least the appearance of democracy while avoiding yet another election victory for Thaksin supporters, said Charles Keyes, a longtime scholar on Thailand at the University of Washington who has written a book on the rise of the populist movement in Thailand's northeast.

"What the military has to do is to be seen as restoring democracy or else they are going to be a pariah. There has to be some movement in that direction and I think there will be movement in that direction," Keyes said. "But whether it will be really restoration of democracy as most of the rest of the world would see it - well, that is the question."

Another question: Will Thailand's next version of democracy be accepted by the millions who keep voting for Thaksin-allied parties?

"Many things have changed in Thailand. Measures that may have been acceptable even a few years ago may well not be today," said Michael Montesano, co-coordinator for the Thailand program at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. "If the result is something that many Thais see as undemocratic, then that is a recipe for more instability."

A culture of exploitation

16 June 2014 - The Bangkok Post

This could be the worst week ever for Thailand and its international human rights image. Overseas media has been heavily criticising the nation for lack of action on slave labour. The sudden and highly alarming raids and forced deportation of tens of thousands of migrants has attracted strong, negative attention in the region and among non-government groups. And in a couple of days, it is almost certain Thailand will be dumped by a US human trafficking report into the "worst of the worst" offenders category, equal to North Korea, Saudi Arabia and other slavery enablers.

How did it come to this imperfect storm of humiliation? It is particularly galling that the country is making such headlines in international circles while trying to adjust to yet another military regime. Between global refusal to welcome the army's actions and a storm of criticism on the most basic questions of human rights, it is a trying time. It is clear what happened to get the country into this mess. It is equally clear that vigorous action against human trafficking will solve the problem.

But it's not quite that simple to do. Take the latest problem first. For reasons that are as unclear as most of its actions, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) last week began sudden and forceful roundups of illegal migrants. Army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong said the roundups, most of them during the curfew, were a security measure to remove all illegal aliens from Thailand. So tens of thousands of migrants were crammed inhumanely into military trucks, taken to the border and dumped. It is only an extension of similar, recent treatment and extortion of migrants and refugees, most notably Rohingya.

Immediately, there were reports from NGOs of brutality, beatings and — from Cambodian sources — alleged nine deaths by troops. NCPO chief Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a statement praising migrant workers, meaning those with work papers. But around the region, there was only negative reaction. The reports of savage handling of the migrants should be addressed; the indiscriminate raids and heartless dumping should stop. But the new regime's appeal to nationalism and deportations will likely prevail, ensuring the country's image abroad will continue to suffer.

Last week, Thailand was the only country in the world to vote against a new International Labour Organisation pact that calls on each nation to free slaves and provide help. Also, a series of articles in the British media has once again exposed the indentured labour that supports Thailand's thriving seafood industry. Even the largest national conglomerate, the CP Group, was able to confirm that only 72% of its output is untainted by forced labour.

This week's US report on human trafficking, considered a "gold standard" by the world, will most likely further shame the country. Dropping Thailand into the so-called "Tier 3" of nations comes after three years of cautions from Washington, the UN and elsewhere.

A culture of acceptance of exploitation of migrants from neighbouring countries has enveloped the country. This has been caused by lack of action by successive governments, political and military. The current regime, instead of taking action against human trafficking, has piled on yet another layer of problems with its deportations at gunpoint.

It is not necessary to pass more laws, but to track and arrest traffickers under current laws. It is not necessary to protest international criticism, but to note the problems and act accordingly.

Coup updates - day 25

Over 70,000 Cambodians leave Thailand. Why? UPDATE: Now, over 100,000

No Detail Too Small for Thai Junta

Absolutism is fashionable

Thai cyber police step up royal slur patrols

Today's Junta promoted free movie - The Legend Of King Naresuan 5 - as reviewed by the Bangkok Post "If you find this review boring, sorry, but that’s my feeling thinking about the film, too. Thinking is still allowed, I believe, in this place and time."

Channel 11 sacks news director for violating junta’s order

The National Broadcasting Services of Thailand, or Channel 11, “suspended” news affairs director for violating junta’s orders forbidding media to create conflict or oppose the work of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)

The order said that Charoensri Hongprasong, Channel 11’s news director on June 13 broadcasted content deemed violating the junta’s orders no.14 and 18 that forbid all kinds of media to disseminate information criticising the NCPO.

Channel 11’s director decided to replace Charoensri with Jittima Wutthiwat, a senior communication officer to work as a news director.

Coup updates - day 24

Twitter notes:

Hobby Nganadeeleg : 'Reconciliation' in Thailand really means: 'know your place in the hierarchy'


Thailand's 'polite coup' should put itself on right side of history: David Streckfuss Nikkei Asian Review

Coup? What Coup? The Thai Junta Is Denying Everything

Still blocked websites include The UK's Daily Mail, Zen Journalist,

Police were at my niece's school yesterday representing the NCPO to tell the students that there should be no gambling...

Cambodian labour exodus from Thailand continues today

14 June 2014 - Thai PBS

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for Asia-Pacific said 37,000 Cambodian migrants left Thailand on Friday and another 6,000 tried to leave Saturday morning, bringing the total to 60,000 over the past seven days.

IOM is an inter-governmental organisation in the field of migration, with 155 member states, a further 11 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries.

IOM’s Cambodia office has sent three buses to help transport the returnees, but is concerned that flows have suddenly increased over recent days, placing a strain on services at this, the main border crossing, between the two countries.

“There are usually only about 100 migrants coming through each day,” said Leul Mekonnen, IOM’s acting chief of mission in Cambodia.

“But we are already seeing more than 1,000 a day and we do not know what the coming days hold.”

IOM Cambodia is working closely with Cambodian immigration officers at the Poi Pet Immigration Centre at the request of the Department of Immigration to assist the migrants with onward transport to their provinces.

More than half of the migrants are women and children. Aside from transport, there is also a growing need for food, water, health care and shelter. IOM is currently assessing needs and looking for emergency funding to deal with the sudden influx.

“IOM’s primary concern now is the safety and dignity of vulnerable migrants,” said Mr Mekonnen. “We are doing our best to get them home as soon as possible.”

Pol Lt Col Benjapol Rodsawat, deputy chief of Sa Kaeo immigration police, said local officials were trying to explain to Cambodian workers that they should not be afraid if they work in Thailand legally, saying that the key border checkpoint in Aranyaprathet would never be closed.

Pravit Khiengpol, director general of Thai Labour Ministry’s Employment Department said a number of Thai companies would suffer a shortage of workers following the mass exodus of the Cambodian workers.

Official statistics show that a total of 441,569 Cambodian workers have registered with the Employment Department.

Meanwhile China’s state news agency Xinhua reported Friday Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered 150 military trucks to transport those migrant workers back to their home provinces.

On Wednesday, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the massive deportation was due to the Thai military coup, which forced factories and enterprises to stop using illegal migrant workers, according to Xinhua.

He also dismissed news reporting that Thai military had shot Cambodian workers.

Coup updates - day 23

On twitter: @PravitR: Notice: I am restricted by my 'agreement' under duress in order 2b freed not to join, aid or lead anti-coup movement

What @PravitR said about psychological warfare is becoming clearer and more obvious every day. Oh, look! Free movies and football!

If you are with us, we give you cash. If you are against us, we will send you to jail. Choose wisely #ThaiCoup

Unity is a codeword for conformity which is a code word for "shut up if you dont agree with us."

#Bangkok Metro to delay fare hike by 90 days in line with #ThaiCoup junta directive to return happiness to the people

Just fyi  - Bangkok and Chiang Mai are still under a midnight to 4am curfew

@PravitR Labour leader nabbed at airport. How many more arrest will it takes before the Thai military junta feel secure? #Thailand #ThaiCoup #ป

Continuation of curfew 3 weeks after coup means Thai junta feeling not in control yet.

Quora Question: Why Is Thailand So Prone to Military Coups?

Thai Junta To Foreign Journalists: 'Don't Call It A Coup'

Thai military boosts ultra-nationalism, hopes to bring “reconciliation

CAMBODIA: statement calling for Thai government to humanely treat Cambodian migrant workers with respect for their rights and dignity

On CP Foods and slave labour: (all from Patrick Winn of the Global Post)

The @guardian series offers best chance yet of consumer-led push to fight forced labor in Thailand's fisheries. But don't hold your breath.

Thailand's dodgy sea-caught fish supply chain — ghost ship to mothership to fishmonger — is nearly lawless. A crackdown would be daunting.

Ppl asking me if @guardian really "broke" the story. No. Nor did I. But they implicate CP Foods and supermarkets by name — and that's HUGE.

Ending forced labor requires overhaul of Thai police. Cops aren't just ignoring the problem. Some are profiteers and abettors of the trade.

What are the odds of Thai police eradicating seafood slave trade? Similar to odds of police shutting down all the brothels in Bangkok.

Bangkok Post editorial: Close net on slave trade

Reports of Burmese migrants working in shops at Pratunam being arrested and taken for deportation regardless of legal status & work permit.

Now Thai military has block @vicenews documentray http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6nCNlnNXcg&feature=youtu.be #thaicoup #thailandcoup

As junta vow 2 crackdown anti-coup message on social media, most vocal Thai voices on Twitter now those using false name.

In March, the constitutional court struck down Yingluck's gov't plan of ฿2 trillion infrastructure plan as unconstitutional - meanwhile the Thai junta is considering a ฿3 TRILLION infrastructure plan, adding ฿1+ TRILLION to ousted gov't plan. Bangkok Post And this time there are no checks, no balances, no accountability and no one to day no.

Andrew Hurd on twitter "junta should have no trouble implementing PT's policies now that Dems/PDRC are no longer obstacles. funny, that."

Activist denies violating NCPO order

Thai junta ushering migrants across Cambodian border

Thai leaders employ ancient hero to boost their cause

13 June 2014 By Michael Peel in Bangkok for the Financial Times

Thailand famously banned the Hollywood movie The King and I for its allegedly offensive and distorted picture of the country’s monarchy. Now the new military junta in Bangkok is delivering its riposte: 35,000 free seats to see the sword-wielding biopic of an earlier royal ruler promoted as a nationalist hero for these troubled post-coup times.

Just as the gentle Oscar-winning 1956 musical starring Deborah Kerr as a British governess in the 19th-century court of King Mongkut drew criticism from inside and outside Thailand over its accuracy, so The Legend of King Naresuan Part V’s tale of triumph over the Burmese also relies on a contested version of history.

The official glorification of the film fuels the increasingly patriotic atmosphere conjured by Thailand’s rulers of three weeks, as they seek to crush dissent in the fractured country and bind people to a traditionalist vision of nation, king and religion.

“We need Thais to understand sacrifices made by monarchs in the past, the sacrifice of Thais and the unity of Thais in the past,” Col Winthai Suvaree, an army spokesman who also plays the king’s brother in the latest film, told reporters this week. “So Thais today will have love and harmony after many years of political divisions.”

The junta’s push behind the biopic of the ancient King of Siam includes a special showing for military officers on Saturday at Bangkok’s swish Siam Paragon mall, due to be attended by General Udomdet Sitabutr, right hand man to coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The links between the army and the film are already strong: King Naresuan has been played throughout the series by Wanchana Sawatdee, a cavalry officer plucked from the barracks for the role.

The movies, depicting the king as a heroic defender of the realm during his 1590 to 1605 rule, have been lavished with state funding and are already a popular hit. One teacher who has seen the latest episode described being in tears at scenes of Burmese forces killing Thais, adding half-seriously that she would never visit Myanmar as a result.

Only a minority of critics pause over the veracity of events depicted in films that even their director, MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, has admitted are a “blend of history, plausibility and imagination”. There are scant reliable written records of the period, with doubts cast over whether famous events such as a cockfight between the king and the Burmese crown prince even happened.

King Naresuan has been celebrated during previous times of crisis in Thailand, including after the 1767 Burmese sacking of the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya and then again during the 1960s battles with communists, noted a sceptical 2007 analysis of the monarch by a writer using the pseudonym “Little Elephant”. The author’s hidden identity is a wise precaution in an environment where draconian lèse-majesté laws threatening 15 years in prison have been extended so that they now cover past kings as well as the living monarch.

Critics see the films as more than mere escapism, forming part of a culture of patriotic and even jingoistic propaganda that is undermining the Thai education system and in particular its ability to teach critical thinking. The junta has already said it wants to change the curriculum to give even more weight to the values of “being Thai, national pride and upholding the institution of the monarchy. One student recalls how she learned nothing negative about the country’s past until one of her university lecturers observed that history tended to be written by the winners.

“That was the first time I learned something about the possible truth,” she recalls. “We were always told we should feel grateful to our ancestors, including the nobles, because they faced difficult times to protect the nation.”

Despite relatively high spending on education, Thailand ranked only 50th out of 65 countries surveyed in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2012 Pisa reading, maths and science test – well below its much poorer neighbour, Vietnam. Asked what the best way to reform the education ministry was, one despairing academic told the FT: “Dynamite”.


Coup update - day 22

Thai military boosts ultra-nationalism, hopes to bring “reconciliation

Migrant labourers flood border

Pact to halt forced labor snubbed by Thailand, Gulf: ILO

Thai Military Junta Says the Putsch Should Not Be Called a Coup

Thais Win Free World Cup Soccer Broadcasts

Thai junta orders free World Cup TV

Prominent Thai activist Sombat Boonngamonanong could face up to 14 years in jail for inciting unrest and disobeying the junta

Amnuay threatens to arrest people who post anti-coup messages

June 12 2014 The Nation 

Deputy Metropolitan Police chief Pol Maj Gen Amnuay Nimmano Thursday threatened to track down and arrest those who posted anticoup messages on the social networks.

He said the Metropolitan Police was now cooperating with the Technology Crime Suppression Division to track down the people who posted anticoup messages as well as items seen as encouraging people to come out to protest against the junta. He said the messages violated Article 116 of the Criminal Code.

Amnuay said the first batch of arrest warrants against those who have posted such messages could be approved by the court in a few days.

He added that anyone sharing anticoup messages would also be in violation of the law and could face arrest.

He said police had taken photos of seven persons who made the Hunger Game salute during a rally on June 7 and would seek arrest warrants against them

The Story of Thaksin Shinawatra

London Review of Books - Richard Lloyd Parry

The man who came closest to persuading me of the virtue of toppling a democratically elected government was a former investment banker and English public schoolboy called Korn Chatikavanij. All the foreign journalists in Bangkok know Korn, and a conversation with him is one of the pleasures of any reporting trip to Thailand. You meet him in the lobby of one of the big hotels, or in his office above a coffee bar – a tall, self-deprecatingly dashing figure with high cheekbones and exquisite shirts. He is brilliant, charming and droll, and his presence works like air-conditioning on the perspiration and stench of Thai politics. Over the course of an hour with Korn, it resolves into the clarity of a well-turned op-ed, a tutorial with a bright young don, a conversation at a metropolitan dinner party. Then you step outside, and it is all blood-heat and anguish again.

Korn went to Winchester, then to St John’s College, Oxford, then to S.G. Warburg and J.P. Morgan. His great friend and confrère Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of Thailand’s Democrat Party, was at Eton (where he was known to contemporaries such as Boris Johnson as Mark Vejj), then at St John’s with Korn. A former Democrat MP from a younger generation, Akanat Promphan, now spokesman for the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee, was educated at Charterhouse and Oxford. The first time I met Akanat was at a vast government office complex in central Bangkok which had recently been taken over and occupied by protesters intent on driving the elected prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, from office. I had just come from a very different scene on the other side of Bangkok, a sweaty open-air stadium filled with Yingluck’s supporters in the pro-government Red Shirt movement, many of them country people from the north of Thailand. But Akanat and I drank cappuccinos among a visibly more affluent crowd. Some of them stood outside in the sun, listening to speeches of ear-dunning volume from a battery of amplifiers. Many of them curled up in the air-conditioned atrium beneath the immigration department, passing the time on tablets and smartphones.

Thailand’s political crisis is a sorry tale of bad losers and a broken political system. But it is also an old-fashioned, 20th-century-style class war. Above all, it concerns one of the great dilemmas of democracies: what to do about unacceptable politicians who, for all their obvious iniquities, are elected fair and square. Which is to say that it is the story of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin became prime minister in 2001, after making a billion in telecoms, and early on distinguished himself with the kind of policies that could have been designed to alienate Western governments and liberal public opinion. In southern Thailand, he launched a brutal campaign against Islamic insurgents which left scores of innocent people dead. In his version of the war on drugs, the police were permitted to shoot anyone whom they suspected of being a dealer. He bullied his critics in the media, and deployed his wealth to political and personal advantage. (In 2008, in a verdict that may or may not have been political in nature, he and his wife were convicted in absentia of a multi-million-pound property cheat.) He was cheerfully unabashed about diverting government largess towards regions that voted for him, and depriving those that didn’t. ‘Democracy is a good and beautiful thing,’ he once said, ‘but it’s not the ultimate goal as far as administering the country is concerned. Democracy is just a tool … The goal is to give people a good lifestyle, happiness and national progress.’

‘Democracy, but …’ has been the unvoiced slogan of postwar authoritarians across South-East Asia, and it has generally been tolerated so long as happiness and progress are indeed delivered. Like earlier leaders in Singapore and Malaysia, although in double quick time, Thaksin changed the lives of millions of Thais for the better. Unlike them, he was not merely feared and respected for his efforts, but adored.

His cheap healthcare programme gave many poor villagers access to affordable medical treatment for the first time. A micro-credit scheme allowed them to lift themselves out of subsistence-level poverty. His energetic response to the 2004 tsunami – hugging victims, directing the aid effort, galvanising bureaucrats and politicians – made him a hero. Until Thaksin, no Thai prime minister had served out his allocated term. Thaksin won, and then won again with an increased majority, and after he was deposed in a coup, his supporters won too, and went on winning.

The horrified loathing that he excited in the minority was partly political, the response of an established ruling class that found itself abruptly and indefinitely locked out of power. Thaksin’s populism – the fact that he put into effect policies that many voters supported – was held to be a hideous confidence trick perpetrated on credulous people of inadequate education. The shock of defeat became entangled with older, atavistic feelings, an unacknowledged contempt on the part of the ‘light’-skinned, prosperous merchants of the centre and south for the poor ‘dark’ farmers of the north-east, with their distinct languages, and ethnic affinities with the historic enemies, Cambodia and Laos. By the mid-2000s, an anti-Thaksin campaign, the Yellow Shirt movement, mobilised against him and in support of Abhisit and Korn’s Democrat Party. In September 2006, the tumultuous demonstrations they unleashed became the excuse for the generals to step in.

The Korn argument was that in order to preserve Thai democracy in the long run, it had first to be saved from Thaksin, and from itself. The vast Shinawatra wealth and Thaksin’s strategy of appointing his own placemen to powerful government jobs was rotting the country’s institutions from within. This was the justification for tolerating the 2006 coup (Korn said at the time that it made him ‘sad’, but raised no objection). Ever since then, to an almost comical degree, Thai people have been demonstrating over and over how strongly most of them disagree.

After the coup, which shooed Thaksin off into exile in Dubai, the generals convened an assembly of tame delegates who rewrote the country’s constitution to give the Democrats a better chance of winning. An election was held, but Abhisit lost again, to a party of self-declared Thaksin supporters. The Yellow Shirts responded with a new campaign of mass protest and disruption, occupying the prime minister’s office and then Bangkok’s international airport. Soon Thaksin’s proxy prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, was forced out of office for the crime of having appeared on a cookery programme, in violation of new rules about politicians having two jobs (in an earlier incarnation, he had been a well-known TV chef). After a few months of confusion and more court rulings in his favour, Abhisit, with Korn as his finance minister, ended up in power – without the bother of having to win an election. Thaksin’s Red Shirt supporters mounted huge demonstrations of their own, which were suppressed by the army with the loss of 91 lives. But, inescapably, the moment came for Abhisit’s Democrats to do what they have always done least well, and fight an election. In 2011, they lost again, to Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, a businesswoman with no political experience.

Thaksin referred to Yingluck as his ‘clone’ – and this was exactly what many of those who voted for her wanted to hear. Not surprisingly for one so green, she struggled as prime minister, badly mishandling the response to a season of devastating floods. Even more serious was a catastrophically misjudged rice ‘pledging’ scheme in which the government bought the crop from farmers for about 50 per cent above the world price, in the belief that by cornering such a large supply, it could move the market. When prices remained stubbornly low, the government found itself unable to pay the farmers, and – thanks to the atmosphere of jeopardy engendered by the political crisis – unable to borrow money from the banks. There were stories of desperate farmers hanging themselves in their barns: a policy intended to help the Thaksin family’s most loyal rural supporters inflicted grievous hurt on them instead, and gave more ammunition to Yingluck’s enemies.

Her worst mistake, though, was a bill that would have delivered a broad amnesty for crimes associated with the political turmoil of the post-coup years. Among its beneficiaries would have been Abhisit, who has been charged with child murder in the aftermath of the 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirts – and at this even some of Yingluck’s own supporters jibbed. The opposition insisted that it was a ploy to get Thaksin off his own criminal conviction and allow him to return to Thailand and to politics. By the time the government abandoned the bill, crowds of more than a hundred thousand had taken to the streets of Bangkok in protest.

At this point, the end of November 2013, the opposition faced a choice. Yingluck, out of her depth from the start, was doing more harm to the Thaksin brand with every month she remained in office. At this rate, the Democrats would have a chance at the prize that had eluded them since 1992: victory in a democratic election. Not the next time around perhaps, but maybe in the election after that. With a few more of Yingluck’s cock-ups, and a lot of well-organised, patient campaigning in Thaksin country, it should have been possible to re-engineer for good the polarised demographics which had done such damage to Thailand. This, as he more or less admitted to me in February, was Korn’s intention. ‘After we’d won the first round [when Yingluck dropped the amnesty bill], a lot of us thought that was the time to channel our efforts to winning an election,’ he said. ‘But we didn’t do that.’ Instead, Abhisit and Korn had the reins of opposition torn from their hands by a very different figure – Suthep Thaugsuban.

Suthep is a Democrat, but the opposite of Abhisit in image and temperament: a pot-bellied man of the people, a sneering, relentless demagogue, fizzing with gleeful cunning. A former local headman from Surat Thani in southern Thailand, where his family were big in shrimp and oil palm, Suthep had been deputy prime minister under Abhisit, and is blamed by many for the brutality of the suppression of the Red Shirts in 2010. He had led the charge against the amnesty bill. Now, instead of banking his winnings, he threw the entire pot on the table in a wild, all-out effort to force Yingluck from power.

The crowds that had marched in such numbers to knock down the amnesty bill found themselves summoned again to demand the immediate resignation of the cabinet in favour of an unelected People’s Committee made up of ‘good people’ who would ‘reform’ politics (again) in preparation for a return to some kind of vaguely democratic system at an unspecified point in the future. The intention – to find a way of neutralising Thaksin’s majority support in the country – was transparent: no elected government could accept such terms. When Yingluck offered to talk, Suthep refused. He wanted the army to step in and enforce his demands in another coup.

Suthep’s people invaded government ministries, blockaded Yingluck’s office and built encampments at traffic intersections in central Bangkok. The campaign ebbed and flowed, but from last December the atmosphere of disorder and low-level violence was constant. Twenty-eight people, including anti-Thaksin protesters, loyalist Red Shirts and policemen, have died since then, many in mysterious drive-by shootings and grenade attacks. The point was to make it as easy as possible for the generals to use the traditional pretext of coup-makers – the need to restore order. But the army commander, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, proved stubbornly resistant.

Since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has averaged a coup, or an attempted coup, every four years, so it could almost be regarded as one of a general’s ceremonial duties. But even Prayuth – a former head of the Queen’s Guard and, by reputation, a reactionary conservative – could see how disastrous for Thailand the 2006 intervention had been. The sickening polarisation of Thai society did not begin then, but it received a jolt of malevolent energy when Thaksin was precipitated from power. Overnight, he went from being a dodgy quasi-authoritarian – a tackier version of the rulers of Singapore and Malaysia – to a democratic martyr, an elected leader driven out at the point of a gun. Inside Thailand and abroad, those who had disdained his methods and style found themselves compelled to take his side. The reproaches from foreign governments, and the suspension of US military aid, made the anti-Thaksin forces shrill and defensive. And the whole costly effort turned out to have been futile: having fixed the system to the best of their ability, the opposition lost at the ballot box again. ‘This is a political problem that needs to be solved by political means,’ Prayuth said last November. ‘Don’t try to make the army take sides because the army considers that all of us are fellow Thais, so the government, state authorities, and people from every sector must jointly seek a peaceful solution as soon as possible … However, we are monitoring from a distance.’

The distance lessened drastically on 22 May when Prayuth unilaterally suspended the constitution, dissolved the senate and arrested, for a few days at least, everyone who was anyone in Thai politics (including Abhisit, although not Korn, who deftly remained above it all). So far, at least, this coup has been as bloodless as the last, although the post-putsch atmosphere is darker and more strained. More than five hundred people have been detained, the junta refuses to say how many of them are still locked up or where, and Prayuth, a humourless, epauletted Dalek, has made it clear that anyone who annoys him can expect to join them. (In the firing line are Thai journalists, two of whom were called in and threatened for the offence of pressing him with ‘inappropriate’ questions as he stalked off the stage during a press conference.) ‘Our intentions are pure, and we will remain transparent,’ Prayuth said, brandishing a document apparently signed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ex post facto licence for sedition without which no Thai junta could flourish.

It is still not clear why Prayuth changed his mind about intervening, but he is already showing signs of the haste and naivety that make many military men unsuited to politics. He laid the ground for the coup two days in advance when he declared martial law, and ordered the government and opposition to a meeting to resolve their differences. For a moment it looked as if this might work in the Thaksinites’ favour: negotiation was what they had been calling for all along. Predictably enough, the first session did not accomplish very much. When there was no narrowing of differences the following day, Prayuth stormed out and had everyone in the room arrested. A wilier and more patient man would have made a bit more effort to cajole and bully the two sides into a compromise.

Unclear as always – and the subject of heated disagreement among observers of Thailand – is the influence on public events of Bangkok’s royal court. As a constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol has ruled for 67 years, and has become the repository of deep-seated longings for authority and stability. To describe him as adored is inadequate: there is no deeper or more enduring cult of leadership outside North Korea. He is 86, and up until last summer had spent four years, on and off, in hospital. His heir, Maha Vajiralongkorn, is protected by lèse majesté laws which mandate a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for anyone judged to have insulted members of the royal family. Take what follows, then, as prudent understatement: the crown prince may not be quite as popular as his father.

It is a widely held conviction among opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra that he exerts a sinister influence over Vajiralongkorn. Their fear is that when the crown prince succeeds to the throne, he will use his influence to oversee the political and legal rehabilitation of Thaksin, who will return to Thailand and pick up where he left off so abruptly in 2006. As the US ambassador, Ralph Boyce, wrote in 2005, in a cable published by WikiLeaks, ‘the king will not be around for ever, and Thaksin long ago invested in crown prince futures.’ This apprehension may be what has driven the anti-Thaksin campaign in the past seven months, and what motivated General Prayuth’s coup last month: if Thaksin is not stopped soon, it may be too late.

In 2006 the generals got in, wrote their new constitution within a year, and got smartly out. The National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta calls itself this time around, speaks of a vague ‘roadmap’, including a three-month cooling-off period and the drawing up of another new constitution, leading back eventually to ‘full democracy’ in 15 months or so. By shutting down the protests, the coup has improved traffic in Bangkok, and may eventually calm investors and tourists (the economy shrank by 2.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year). But it is impossible to see how it will do anything but aggravate Thailand’s long-term problems, which derive from the inability of a minority, and an entrenched political establishment, to accept the will of the majority.

Thaksin himself has remained prudently quiet, but there can’t be any doubt that support and sympathy for him have increased even more since the coup. After the last one, the Red Shirts embarked on a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience which was quelled with bullets. Having been foiled for a second time by the army, they have an even stronger case for taking violent and radical action. A band of Red Shirt escapees has already established in Cambodia what may turn into a government in exile, while the junta has announced the seizure of guns and explosives, and put in front of a court martial 22 Red Shirt ‘terrorists’ accused of plotting attacks in the north – of course the existence of such a threat helps to justify the curfew, censorship, indefinite detention, and other offences against civil liberty the coup has brought with it. I don’t yet credit the talk of a Red-on-Yellow, North-on-South civil war.But a scenario of that kind is no longer the crank fantasy that it seemed to be even a year ago. This coup will further polarise the country. Either it will end like the last one, in another victory for the Thaksin side, which will be even less inclined to compromise and forgive. Or the coup leaders will succeed in finding a structural way to suppress the will of the pro-Thaksin majority, which will embed deeper still its sense of injustice and rage.

Many people bear responsibility for Thailand’s divisions, prominent among them Thaksin, who must dearly wish that he had rubbed his enemies’ noses in it a bit less gleefully during his years in office. But the suave villainy of the Democrat Party, and of men like Abhisit and Korn, is insufficiently recognised. They understand how democratic opposition works, and how defeat, over time, strengthens losing parties, by purging them of what is unrealistic and superfluous, and forcing them into congruence with the aspirations of voters. Twice they have had the opportunity to reject military force and to insist on the primacy of elections; twice they have held the generals’ coats for them, and watched civil rights being trampled on, in the hope of gaining some respite from their own chronic unelectability. The Democrat Party’s leaders – young, attractive and cosmopolitan – could have positioned themselves as mediators between a corrupt, complacent old elite and a corrupt, arrogant new power. Instead, they chose their natural side in the class war, and achieved the feat of losing the moral high ground to a man such as Thaksin. Their responsibility, and their disgrace, are very great.

Thailand: Salute to the past

12 June 2014 - The Financial Times -  Michael Peel and David Pilling

Banners unfurled near Bangkok’s Victory Monument proclaim that what Thailand needs most is unity for the sake of “nation, religion and King”. The message, part of the new military junta’s campaign to “return happiness to the people”, is backed by a programme of festivals featuring free food, orchestral music and young women in camouflage miniskirts.

“Foreign people don’t do coups but Thai people do because they want better politicians,” says Natt, a medical student scurrying past a poster in the pre-curfew throng. He hopes the officers who appeared on television three weeks ago to announce the military’s 12th successful putsch in 82 years will step aside as they have done before – but only once harmony has been restored. “A little time in the future, the army should stop ruling and create a new group of politicians, who can be peaceful like 10 years ago.”

Turning the clock back to a simpler age shorn of ideological disputes has emerged as the core goal of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the coup leader, who portrays himself as having reluctantly taken action to save a divided nation from itself. One senior politician opposed to the ousted government blames his own political class for forcing the military’s hand and likens it to a national “reset”.

This coup, though, shows signs of developing into something less neutral than that term implies: a conservative counter-revolution against forces assaulting the old paternalist certainties of southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Thailand now stands not so much at a crossroads as on the verge of a full-scale U-turn. With each day, the gap grows wider between its reputation for liberal openness and the military’s rule by arbitrary detention, censorship and diktat.

Critics say the generals and their allies have parlayed genuine concerns about the failings of Thailand’s shaky parliamentary system into a war on societal changes. Those shifts have consistently delivered governments not to the liking of Bangkok’s royalist, military, bureaucratic and business establishment. A campaign by coup supporters to curb the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former prime minister, is broadening into an effort to force the politically awakened rural Thais who support him – and civil rights campaigners who do not – to unlearn their new ideas and return this formerly feudal absolute monarchy to an age when everyone knew their place. “Certain groups in society have come to the conclusion that democracy is not going to suit them,” says an academic who, like many others, asks not to be named because the junta has outlawed criticism. “They’re unreconstructed. They think they have a natural right to rule.”

General Prayuth launched his putsch after more than six months of street protests and debilitating political crisis had left almost 30 people dead, the elected Puea Thai-led government paralysed and the economy pushed towards recession. The coup also came amid whispered talk about the succession to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the 86-year-old monarch who marked 68 years on the throne this week. A widespread theory is that some members of the establishment are uneasy about the prospect of Maha Vajiralongkorn, the crown prince, becoming king, and favour instead the accession of Princess Sirindhorn, his sister. Strict lèse-majesté laws that carry prison sentences of up to 15 years make open discussion of royal succession impossible.

Years of political turmoil have sapped Thailand’s growth rate, which is now consistently behind the pack of southeast Asian nations it once powered. Big infrastructure projects designed to tap Thailand’s potential as a regional hub have mostly stayed on the drawing board.

Gen Prayuth has said elections will not be held for at least a year, during which time the military will oversee the appointment of a government and the running of political reconciliation camps for opposing groups. The security forces have already raided homes, made scores of arrests and unearthed what they say are secret weapons stockpiles held by militant “redshirt” supporters of the ousted government. Thousands of troops and police have periodically flooded Bangkok’s streets to stifle scattered, peaceful and, until now, small-scale, flashmob-style demonstrations.

So far Gen Prayuth’s brand of autocracy has been more Singaporean than Syrian. Intimidation through the law – for example freezing critics’ financial assets – is preferred to torture chambers or shooting protesters. But rights groups says some activists are being held incommunicado, while the ban on dissent is as sweeping as in a totalitarian state. Academics are being summoned to answer for their opinions and demonstrators hauled off for making a three-fingered protest salute borrowed from the film The Hunger Games. The permanent secretary of the prime minister’s office took to Facebook to call for people to snitch on government officials who express ideas that were “unconstructive and threatening security”. The junta is stepping up its use of lèse-majesté laws, with the threat that offenders will be tried by military tribunals.

The redshirt movement and other supporters of the ousted government are lying low. Some have gone into hiding, others into exile, and still more have kept quiet after being forced to sign gagging orders. Asked why they do not fight back, an otherwise measured member of the toppled administration offers a flash of anger – and an implicit warning of conflict to come. “If an insane person is holding a knife at your throat would you tell him he has no legitimacy to do that?” he says. “Now is not the time.”

Supporters of the coup skate over the repression and hail the stability that has returned after what they describe as the military’s light-touch intervention. A sign above the exit roadway at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport warns visitors that martial law is in force, yet it is possible to tour the city and its many tourist spots without seeing a soldier.

The stock market has rallied, a leading consumer confidence index is up for the first time in more than a year and the anxiety created by sporadic grenade attacks and gun battles during the anti-government demonstrations has largely disappeared. Even some Thais who consider themselves democrats and are instinctively uncomfortable with military intervention speak of their relief, given what they see as the lack of alternatives to an increasingly violent political battle. A song supposedly written by Gen Prayuth has attracted more than 190,000 hits on YouTube, concluding with the promise: “The land will be good soon. Happiness will return to Thailand.”

For coup opponents, the army is no neutral restorer of peace, but the central agent of a traditional elite whose interests it is now acting to protect. The junta’s plans for change are likely to prove the most sweeping gerrymandering yet of a system changed repeatedly to stifle the influence of elected representatives and bolster the power of the courts, regulators and appointed bodies of the great and the good. Asked what the military means when it speaks of re­form, a political analyst says: “I know exactly what they mean. It will mean some sort of rigging of the rules in favour of the political establishment.”

This great rupture in the former kingdom of Siam was triggered by Mr Thaksin, a telecoms and media plutocrat who more than a decade ago threw his resources into reinventing himself as a populist politician. Where weak, elite-focused coalition governments once fought for spoils between long periods of military rule, Mr Thaksin sought to cement his power by appealing to the previously marginalised, but electorally numerous, voters in the poorer north and northeast of the country. He offered subsidised healthcare, cheap credit and rice subsidies. The perception that he honoured his pledges made him the first prime minister to serve a full term – and to be re-elected with an increased majority. His run ended in 2006 when, amid a swirl of corruption and human rights abuse allegations, he was ousted in a coup. He fled the country to escape a corruption conviction but continued to exert strong influence on the governments of proxy parties elected after he left. Critics accused him of remotely running the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra, his sister who was prime minister until May, by phone.

Coup opponents say the military and the establishment behind it have drawn the wrong lessons from Mr Thaksin’s rise and fall. They see him as a demon whose influence can be exorcised, rather than a cipher for change in a country where the World Bank says income inequality had grown to the highest levels in east Asia. “[Bangkokians] think he . . .  mesmerises the people,” says a businessman. “Get rid of him and the people will become nice and subservient again.”

This nostalgic view sits comfortably in a country where the “deep state” has grown increasingly gerontocratic. The 18 members of the privy council, an influential but opaque royal advisory body of former armed service chiefs, judges and politicians, have an average age of 78. Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the 93-year-old president, spent his junior school years under an absolute monarchy that lasted until 1932. A prime minister from 1980 to 1988, Gen Prem has played a powerful role in moulding Thailand’s political landscape for decades.

If some in Thailand’s elite are rooted in the past, other parts of the country have moved on. Rural Thailand in particular is now richer, more aware of its power and less tolerant of being patronised by educated urbanites. At its worst, the elite attitude descends into grotesque characterisations of rural Thais as ignorant “buffaloes” who do not deserve the right to vote. Weluree Ditsayabut, the recently crowned Miss Universe Thailand, tearfully renounced her title this week after she was lambasted for social media comments in which she accused redshirt activists of dirtying the country’s soil and called for them to be executed.

The military’s answer to these profound schisms is to double down on what some see as an already overweening culture of patriotism. Gen Prayuth has said he wants schools to “reinforce the values of ‘Being Thai’, national pride, and upholding the institution of the monarchy”.

The junta’s often guileless public statements suggest a degree of sincerity or even an idealistic, belief in its mission to protect Thailand. But when security forces talk of the need for critics to “have their attitude adjusted”, it shows the lack of any sense that other Thais might have a different vision, or that the country is being shaped by new and perhaps irresistible forces.

The suspicion is that the generals are trying to recreate a Thailand of their imagination, not deal with the country as it now exists. It is a misalignment that could make a sporadically violent struggle even more explosive.

As Natt, the student at Victory Monument, puts it ominously: “In my opinion, this isn’t finished. There will be more controversy – and more fighting.”

Economic policy: Junta battles own legacy and long neglect of investment

Thailand’s military junta has pledged to revive the country’s spluttering economy. But the generals are already grappling with fears about instability, unhelpful regional trends and doubts sparked by the legacy of their own history in power, writes Michael Peel.

The new rulers in Bangkok promised consumer-friendly policies after their May 22 coup but have yet to show how they will reverse the impact of a seven-month political crisis that has sent tourism numbers plunging and chilled private sector investment.

China Mobile’s deal this week to buy 18 per cent of True Corp, the Thai telecommunications company, was a vote of confidence of sorts. Yet General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s junta faces pressing decisions on how to direct public spending to renew decaying infrastructure that has left Thailand trailing regional peers.

“In the past 10 years, governments have failed to implement projects,” says one banker. “The point is: where is the vision to link Thailand with the rest of southeast Asia?”

A Thai stock market rally that drove the benchmark Set index up almost 5 per cent after the coup appeared to be finding its limit on Wednesday, as shares were 0.4 per cent down in afternoon trading. Figures from the government’s Board of Investment delivered another reality check this week, showing that the value of applications for foreign and domestic projects plunged 42 per cent to $9.5bn in the first five months of this year compared with the corresponding period last year.

The military has raised questions with initial appointments ahead of the selection of a new government

The economy shrank 2.1 per cent quarter on quarter during the first three months of 2014, and could well go into recession in the second.

The junta has tried to lift the financial gloom of both the public and business by signalling transport investments, capping fuel prices and starting to pay billions of dollars owed to rice farmers under the ousted government’s botched subsidy scheme.

It says it wants to exploit closer economic integration between southeast Asian states, some of which have been taking business from Thailand’s flagship manufacturing sector.

But the military has also raised questions with some of its initial appointments ahead of the selection of a new government slated for later this year. Gen Prayuth has made himself chairman of the Board of Investment.

He has also appointed as junta economic adviser Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former central bank governor. He played a similar role after the coup in 2006 and upset foreign investors with what some saw as economically nationalist policies.

Coup updates - days 20 and 21

DTAC Punished For Revealing Junta’s Role in Facebook Shutdown

Liking anti-junta Facebook is crime: Thai police

The issue of Heinecke’s open letters: Businessmen must not distort the facts

Western nations, media must not distort the facts

The Thai Junta Wants to Its Force Critics Living Abroad to Return Home

Welcome to the Thai junta! We’ve got fun and games

Thai Junta Promises to Spread Happiness With Free World Cup Matches

Note on twitter: When the #junta does it, it is restoring national happiness. When its the elected governments that do it, it's corruption

Junta spokesman at the FCCT on Wednesday night: a few notes from various twitter feeds:

Werachon: we avoid the word coup because what happened in Thailand is completely different."

"This was not coup!" Says Col. Weerachon, "just a change of administration"

Col. Weerachon just compared the military detentions to the US’ Patriot Act…!

Speakerperson reiterates AGAIN that how many people are detained. Answer maximum 15 ppl from Col. Weerachon

Those detained were asked to "put the country's interests before their own interests" (Col. Werachon to @FCCThai)

Col Weerachon just played down Yingluck's "detention" for a few days to a simple invitation to lunch

"#Thaicoup aftermath is same as USA after 9/11."

Col. Weerachon claims that conditions of detainees are good w/ ”air condition, good food, entertainment etc - is that detention?”

Thai junta holding the mother of all garage sales

TelecomAsia - 11 June 2014

A couple of weeks into the coup and the intentions of the National Council for Peace and Order are now becoming clearer with the junta working hard at winning the hearts and minds of the people through their wallets. For farmers, the junta has arranged for long-delayed payouts for rice and has ordered a crackdown on loan sharks, while the middle class has seen food, fuel and income tax freezes or cuts. On the other extreme, investors are promised a wide menu of infrastructure projects to pick from ranging from water management to rail, but key of which for the telecom sector is the 900/1800-MHz auction pencilled in for August.

Army commander and junta leader General Prayuth Chanocha also appointed himself as the chairman of the Board of Investment and has been busy courting Chinese investors while his minions hold happiness concerts and crackdown on sandwich-wielding protesters (do not ask).

State-owned telco TOT corporation has announced it has written to the Junta asking for permission to participate in the spectrum auction.

But, what about deregulation? What of the promise for non-competition with the private sector? Well, dear reader, that was part of the 2007 constitution that was torn up by the army.

After the coup there is no more article 47 calling for an independent telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, no more article 84 paragraph one prohibiting the state from competing with the private sector and no more article 48 banning politicians from holding interests in telecom companies, not that 48 is relevant in any argument just yet.

Without 84(1) state telcos TOT and CAT are arguably free to compete with the private sector, turning back the deregulation clock by decades. Indeed, without a constitution it effectively means the auction can be held any which way they want as there are no laws to provide checks and balances.

Is that a good thing? For the people of Thailand, definitely not. Disastrous management by meek pencil-pushing bureaucrats under the control of politically-appointed boards have turned the two state telcos into a bottomless money pit, squandering spectrum, resources and creating two fat-cat rent collectors that have used their prodigious lobbying power to stonewall deregulation and reform.

But sheeple can be controlled with propaganda and psyops and hardly matter in a dictatorship. The question is what will the foreign investors think if the NCPO approves TOT’s bid? Will they cry foul and run to the WTO to call for sanctions? Or would it make more sense for them to take advantage of the lack of checks and balances the military is offering and participate in the spectrum grab before a new constitution is in force?

Judging on the stock market gains, it is safe to say that foreign investors like what they are seeing so far.

However, there is always the risk that the NCPO simply gifts the state telcos spectrum and leave scraps for Telenor, Temasek and now China Mobile (True) to fight over. Currently, TOT is only asking for permission to bid, but in the past, it has argued that the government should just hand over spectrum ostensibly for national security.

This is not an unthinkable scenario.

On the broadcasting side of the NBTC, commissioner Supinya Klangnarong has expressed her frustration and said that the regulator might as well give up on the digital transition and reallocation of spectrum as the junta was micro-managing the show and taking direct control.

Meanwhile, the telecom regulator has been given a stay of execution. A subcommittee of the National Anti-Corruption Commission had recommended that the four of the five telecom commissioners of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission be indicted for corruption following the 3G non-auction. If the full committee accepts the report and indicts the regulator, they will be forced to cease work immediately.

However General Prayuth has signalled that he will disband the anti-corruption watchdog as well as the election commission, the constitutional court and all political parties in order to create an atmosphere of unity and reconciliation in a move that has seen most of the redshirts, the pro-Thaksin supporters that the junta was ostensibly against, fall into line.

Elsewhere, in the MICT, the Ministry of internet censorship in Thailand as it is commonly called, bureaucrats are eager to please their new military bosses pushing forward plans for a single international internet gateway run by, hardly surprisingly, CAT and TOT so as to make monitoring and censorship easier.

This plan, in fairness, started before the coup, but has found a second wind since.

Sources have confirmed rumours that the MICT is at least in the vendor consultation phase of a total lock-down of the domestic internet. Under the plan, every Thai citizen will need to authenticate an internet log-on session with a smart ID card.

Earlier reports said that every citizen will have at most 6 IP addresses allocated at any one time. Asked how foreigners can access the internet, the permanent secretary answered, “I have not thought of that yet,” one vendor said.

The MICT is also pursuing the Chinese playbook and is working on what is often referred to as a Thai Facebook that would allow for easier identification of perpetrators who dare to not be happy, though plans for that seem less well developed as of now.

Telenor has confirmed that the total Facebook outage days after the coup was because Dtac has received orders from the regulator, the NBTC, to shut down Facebook access, putting end to speculation on what caused the outage.

One news channel said the shutdown was on orders from the MICT, while the official line, towed by most telcos said that it was simply a massive network failure.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit has flatly denied issuing any such order, not that many people believe what he has to say at this juncture.

But none of that matters as everyone is happy in this country now. Farmers are happy, office workers are happy, investors are happy and even supporters of the ousted government are happy and now joining in reconciliation meals photo-ops and happiness concerts. Anyone not happy is simply called in for attitude readjustment (yes, the junta actually uses that term) until they are happy and sign a letter promising to stay out of the way, or, in just a few cases, court martialled.

Coup updates - day 19

Thai junta to explain itself to international rights groups

Thai Junta Expands Power Over Lucrative Sectors

Telenor says Thailand’s recent Facebook outage was ordered by the government (note that Finnish company Telenor controls DTAC)

Thai Generals Go After Exiles and Academics

Colonel Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, deputy spokesmen of the Royal Thai Army claims that there has been a lot of misinterpretation of information, and suggests the public follow only the official channel to get the right information - National News Bureau of Thailand

Nitirat key man Worajet Pakirat is among those summoned today, who include many red-shirt leading figures. Bangkok Post

A man and a woman arrested at a Bangkok mall yesterday for protesting against the coup will undergo a process to “have their attitude adjusted“, said deputy national police chief General Somyos Phumpanmuang. The pair, who come from Chon Buri and Samut Prakan, had got news about anti-coup activities from social media, Somyos said. He said police had been unable to convince them to change their attitude because “the chip was implanted too deep in their brain”. The Nation

As Bangkok Pundit noted : "Need one even comment?"

And finally here is what the schools are allowed to teach now:

Coup updates - day 18

In Thailand, Growing Intolerance for Dissent Drives Many to More Authoritarian Nations - New York Times

Who's going to check the generals? BKK Post: "The question then becomes, who’s going to check and balance the ruling military regime? The answer is, no one. Such is the nature of absolute rule, and therein lies the problem."

"Thailand: Deepening repression as high-profile activist arrested, others summoned by military courts" Amnesty International

Arrests as soldiers, police deploy to curb Thai anti-coup flashmobs

Cheer up, Thailand! Junta aims to return happiness AP

"Pol.Gen. Somyot Pumphanmuang, deputy chief of the Royal Thai Police, said that today's operation relied heavily on undercover agents to mark, track down, and arrest potential protesters." - that was very clear today.

Arrests as soldiers, police deploy to curb Thai anti-coup flashmobs

On twitter: "Please remember that #ThaiCoup junta lifting curfews on tourist places isn't helping any detained people, freedom of speech nor democracy." Exactly.

It is telling to note the number of new twitter accounts that have emerged in Thailand since the 22 May coup. They are all anonymous and all appear to be pro-coup - many targeting comments at the foreign media. Sometimes they have western sounding names. As new accounts they are almost certainly a part of the junta's pr campaign - eg @richard50691454

Tweet of the Day: "Tourists - Remember, your civil rights ARE NOT affected. The suspension of civil rights will ONLY affect the people cleaning your hotel room"

Coup updates - day 17

Thai police: We'll 'get you' for junta criticism

Thai junta rolls out PR campaign for the “courteous coup”

Thai Junta Gears Up Against Antiroyalists: Army Threatens To Try Anyone Who Criticizes Royal Family

Foreign countries urged to understand Thailand better

NCPO hits back at Human Rights Watch

And the award for most unlikely headline goes to "Gen Prayuth says junta respects democratic process"

Thailand's junta want to rule for years without elections. The United States will never endorse that, so the dictators are turning to China for support - this started with a meeting between the Junta and Chinese business interests yesterday.

Police & soldier in Chiang Mai report that they have arrested 613 suspects in 5 days - 66 for illegal firearms, 302 drug related, 145 others

6,000 troops and police should be deployed Sunday at 5 locations in #Bangkok to deter any anti-#ThaiCoup protests

"Pol Gen Somyos (the national deputy police chief) warned whose who planned to join the protest either voluntarily or involuntarily to think twice that they might be used by foreign media to tarnish the reputation of Thailand. He accused foreign media of harbouring ill-intent against Thailand" ThaiPBS

Somyos added that authorities were also checking if any foreign news agencies were directed to intentionally exaggerate reports and pictures of confrontations between demonstrators and police and soldiers in the way that affected the image of Thailand.

Propaganda time: Reports of miraculous weapons finds. The most recent “news” is another example of the unbelievable peddled, via a compliant media, as justifying illegal/unconstitutional rule by military dictators.

That anyone believes that neatly packed bags of weapons are suddenly “found” by police and military in obscure places is remarkable. It is little more than crude propaganda.

Meanwhile the coup leaders are summoning rampant nationalism to defend their cause with “traditional values” associated with “being Thai” to “be reinforced, especially through the school system” and attacks on the foreign media for damaging the image of Thailand.

More on last night's speech:

General Prayuth’s Speech: A Manifesto for Failure

June 6, 2014 www.leejones.tk

"Thailand’s new military dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, gave a long, rambling, televised address today which is worth reviewing to see how it relates to my analysis of the recent coup and its prospects.

The speech justifies the coup as necessary “to stop the ongoing violence”. But as I stated, there was no obvious “ongoing violence”. Violence had peaked some months ago and apart from the odd incident here or there, did not appear to be escalating at all. This is indeed I found puzzling about the timing: the opportune moment had passed. This is why I suggested something else must have been happening behind the scenes. Prayuth goes on to say that martial law was needed to uphold the law, specifically to “stop movements of military-grade weapons and explosive devices… [and] stop armed groups from committing violent acts. Since 22 May, many members of armed groups have been apprehended and a large amount of military-grade weapons have been seized.” This lends further support to my suggestion that the Eastern Tigers faction may have been alarmed by movements of smuggled weapons.

Prayuth presents the junta as a neutral arbiter just wanting to make Thais “happy” again, insisting that “all sides must cooperate and unite, and stop using violence. Differences should be discussed in order to find agreeable solutions, move the country forward”. He presents the rounding up of over 300 individuals as perfectly even handed, the length of internment merely determined by the degree to which the individual is violent, and says anyone needing prosecution under the law will be prosecuted. In reality, of course, the junta has already shown its deep bias by rounding up many more red-shirt figures than yellow-shirts, and by treating the latter less harshly than even relatively neutral figures. While PDRC leader Suthep Thaungsuban – wanted on murder charges and public order offences – was quickly released and has yet to face justice, journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk was interned for a week.

The regime’s hypocrisy also goes further, of course. Prayuth justifies the purging of government offices by saying those moved “were involved with the previous government and needed to be moved in order to resolve the conflicts”. Conversely, Yingluck and half of her cabinet were removed from office by the constitutional court for reshuffling just one official. Similarly, Prayuth announces the payment of THB92,000m to farmers as part of the rice-pledging scheme. This scheme was the basis of a corruption charge that was similarly filed against Yingluck to remove her from office. Prayuth even says the junta will consider long-term infrastructure projects such as railways; again, Yingluck’s policy of building high-speed rail links was overturned by the constitutional court. As Prayuth observes, the “caretaker government was unable to perform their duties effectively” — but he does not note that this was because his anti-Yingluck allies in the judiciary, parliament and the PDRC deliberately paralysed the government while the security forces did nothing to uphold the government’s right to govern. Now he has the nerve to copy the very policies for which Yingluck’s government was flayed. Prayuth laughably insists that projects will not be undertaken to court “popularity or [for] political reasons like in the past”; in reality, the junta is courting political support just as much as Yingluck had.

As these infrastructure plans suggest, the speech ranges extremely widely across many policy areas, illustrating my observation that the junta is unusually ambitious this time around in terms of undertaking a “comprehensive” reform of Thai society. The detailed plans cover public utilities, road building, agricultural price fixing, the use of natural fertilisers, pro-competition interventions, the creation of special economic zones, and the development of green energy through public-private partnerships!

The real ambition lies in their political “roadmap”:

1. “Reconciliation” through army-facilitated talks at every level of society.

2. The imposition of a new constitution and the appointment of a new government, alongside a “reform council” to “resolve the conflicts”.

3. An election, once “reconciliation and unity have been achieved”.

The gap between 2 and 3 is of course exactly where this military regime will fail. The claim is that, through the Internal Security Operations Command (initially established in the Cold War to kill leftists), the army can bash heads together and make people come to a consensus on how the country can be taken forwards in a peaceful and stable manner. As I argue in my piece, the only way out of the decade-old crisis is a new settlement among key social forces that more equitably distributes power and resources and permits social conflict to be contained within stable state institutions. The army’s claim to wish to attempt something like this, whilst obviously undesirable, might just be workable if (a) the army was genuinely a neutral broker among the protagonists and (b) the two sides were genuinely willing to compromise.

In reality, neither condition obtains. As indicated above, the faction behind this coup, the Eastern Tigers, are blatantly partisan. This faction overthrew Thaksin in 2006 and have been predominant ever since. General Prayuth led the bloody crackdown on the red-shirt protestors in 2010 in which over 90 people were killed. The Eastern Tigers’ god-father, General Prawit Wongsuwan (now chair of the junta’s “advisory board”, possibly soon to be PM in phase 2 of the roadmap, if Prayuth himself does not take the job) was defence minister under the anti-Thaksin, Democrat-led administration of 2008-11 (itself brought to power by behind-the-scenes military manoeuvering), and was seen as a backer of the anti-Yingluck PDRC protests. While the military under General Prayuth’s command did nothing to defend the Yingluck government, failing to maintain the public order necessary for elections to proceed, it is now copying the very policies for which Yingluck and her colleagues were pilloried. The military is not just incapable of serving as a neutral broker – its dominant faction has always been a part of the yellow-shirt faction. The only heads Prayuth is interested in bashing are those of red-shirts; and he threatens to stay in power as long as necessary to make them submit. The purge that has already begun is about constraining their power to resist a settlement that will inevitably be one-sided and anti-democratic.

As for the second condition, the traditional elites that form the powerful core of the yellow-shirt faction show no willingness to make fundamental concessions to their opponents. They maintain a fundamental contempt for the lower orders, seeing them as “uneducated people” who do not deserve to play a full role in Thailand’s governance (when in reality they are savvy, rational voters). They promote nonsensical ideas of a “sufficiency economy” – attributed to the king – which basically instructs poorer Thais to be satisfied with just getting enough to get by, to lower the “unreasonable” aspirations for socio-economic advancement that Thaksin courted and responded to. While they occasionally flirt with Thaksinistas’ policies – like the rice-pledging scheme and low-cost healthcare – this is merely a cynical ploy to buy off Thaksin supporters, which has never been fully successful because it does not represent a genuine reallocation of power. The traditional elite looked to the coup precisely to avoid having to make any real concessions. Given that their allies are now in control, it beggars belief that they will suddenly reverse their position and make the concessions necessary to achieve a just and lasting social compact.

The most likely way forward is therefore a re-run of 2006/7: a more interventionist junta, for sure, meddling in many policy areas, but one that can only produce a biased, one-sided settlement that can only elevate its yellow-shirt allies in a successor democratic regime by fundamentally rigging the system against the forces that actually enjoy majority popular support. That did not work in 2006/7, and there is no good reason to suppose it will work now."


Coup updates - day 16

Curfew lifted in Cha Am, Hua Hin, Krabi and Phang Nga - in effect immediately

General Prayuth is giving his second weekly tv propaganda address...and it lasted nearly an hour.

Televised speech by Thai junta chief Gen Prayuth touched on everything from morality and tourism to waste disposal and football gambling.

Prayuth: #ThaiCoup done ”to safeguard democracy”, judiciary not working, country was becoming ”immoral”

Prayuth: HM The King has clearly shown us that good governance is important.

Gen. Prayuth: I do not want the international community to view us as lawless people who use violence to get what we wan

Prayuth: Some problems have been going on since 9 years and not resolved in the democratic process as it should have

My intention is to create unity among Thai people, who live in a moral and just society that doesn’t accept corruption.

We must help teach each other Thainess, cultural values, respect for the monarchy.

Some foreigners come to Thailand thinking they can do illegal things here…

Media that are known for polarizing content (…) their contracts will be reviewed. I ask for all media to stop creating conflict.

To students, HR groups and younger gen., please refrain from movements, understand Thailand needs time to improve and heal.

The former government does not had much respect on the international stage. Really? How about now?

Some other notes from his speech tonight:

The song you hear on TV Pool right now is written largely by Prayuth.

Prayuth: We need to ”reinforce of meaning of being Thai”, with the help of Minstry of Education

Prayuth to activists: If you want to protest today, how longer will you have to keep on protesting? Over and over and over?

Prayuth: Don't fear us if you do nothing wrong, or if you prove you've done nothing wrong.

Prayuth to activists: Why 3 fingers? Why not 10 fingers or two full hands and help rebuild our nation?

Prayuth, complaining: When I speak too little, you don't understand. When I speak a lot, small things are picked on and distorted.

On foreign reaction, Prayuth: We are not quarrelling with anyone. Thais have wasted too much time fighting each other. This must end.

Prayuth on TV also claimed success in war weapon crackdown and vowed to heed social media feedback.

Pratyuth on TV has vowed investigation of rice stocks, and gradual sale of rice bought from farmers due to concern over prices.

Prayuth on TV has stressed strict control on budget use and project approval, pledging utmost transparency.

A quick summary of where things are now:

So-called populist policies were previously denounced as spendthrift and corrupt and blocked by the anti-democrat street protests that shutdown government and by the courts and “independent agencies.” Now the dictatorship is unashamedly promoting theses such as the dual track rail policy.

“Be happy” campaigns that urge the population to forget the coup and its repression are all the rage.

The junta is emphasizing patriotism and the role of the monarchy in its propaganda and has expanded use of lese majeste to restrict opposition to the coup.

Law is now determined by the dictatorship, and enforced through military courts.

Censorship and the monitoring of the population is expanded to unprecedented levels.

Meanwhile, the dictatorship expands the number of people “called in,” detained and arrested and imprisoned for opposing the regime, its laws and its ideology.

Thailand's Kasetsart University threatens to expel students who take part in anti-coup protests - that will happen elsewhere as well.

Ex minister Chaturon Chaisang's prison detention has been extended to 20 June; he was not granted bail. The former education minister, on Friday, was brought from Bangkok Remand Prison to a Court Martial. He is the first civilian to be tried in the Court Martial which is empowered by military junta to try civilians; he has been charged with resisting the junta’s order to report himself and with instigating unrest in the country.

He was seen handcuffed and in brown prisoner outfits when he arrived at the court at about 8.30am.

The court detained him after investigators told the court that they had to question four more witnesses.

Come on, get happy

6 June 2014 The Economist - Banyan

A Few days after the country’s return to despotism, a reporter asked Thailand’s new military dictator about a timetable for elections. General Prayuth Chan-ocha snapped at him, and stormed off the stage. The junta later summoned two journalists for asking “inappropriate” questions.

At some point General Prayuth will face subtler questions that are no less delicate. Now that Thailand’s 18th constitution has been binned and needs a replacement, will there be a referendum asking the people to approve it? Or, even more disconcerting: Did the men behind the coup, a group of arch-royalist officers who set out to dominate the army a decade ago, bother to clear their actions with the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn? If not, then has he, the heir-apparent, at least been reassured that the military establishment is not seeking to displace him with a different royal successor, when the time comes?

In Thailand, in 2014, curiosity about such questions can land an inquisitive mind behind bars for at least two reasons. First there are the strict lèse-majesté laws, and now a new civic duty has been announced, which is to keep criticism to oneself. But not to worry: the generals have alternative activities planned for the people.

One of their priorities is a push for Gross National Happiness. The day after the coup General Prayuth told diplomats that economic revival was a big priority. Returning happiness to the people is to be counted a separate issue, apparently. A week later, and state agencies have been reported to be working on a Happiness Index. The Nation, a pro-establishment newspaper that has come to read like a Thai variation on one of Vietnam’s Party-controlled papers, reported that under the generals all of the existing economic plans have been amended—in order to boost gross national happiness. Perhaps this is all an allusion to the happiness-minded people of Bhutan, also Buddhists who adore their king? Then try picturing Bhutanese marching through Bangkok in jackboots.

On June 5th the junta organised its first “Return Happiness to the Public” event. Staged at Victory Monument, which had recently been the site of small-scale protests against the coup, it featured dancers in camouflage outfits; a spicy routine by the orchestra of the Royal Thai Army; plus free food, and haircuts. A few hundred or so fans of the army showed up, and its Thai Psychological Operation team says it was pleased with the attendance. The next gig is planned for Sunday.

The generals’ path to happiness is not to be confused with a plan for prosperity. Instead “happiness” provides a conveniently fuzzy sort of camouflage for Thailand’s new government and its repressive policies. And for all it may be found lacking in conceptual rigour, the idea of happiness does seem to be catching on in some quarters. For the elite, nostalgic dreams have suddenly become reality. The good old days—when the idea that Thailand might one day become a meritocracy looked comical—are back.

It remains the case that Thailand is a great place to do business. The World Bank ranks its business environment 18th of 189 countries rated. But it is also true that the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998, and the fear it instilled in the elite, led to an erosion of the groundwork for fast economic growth. There is no real reason why Thailand’s GDP, which grew at nearly 10% a year in the decade before the economic collapse, should have been trundling along at an average of just 4% in the years since 2000.

The tectonic friction between the traditional elite and electoral democracy has played a big part for the relatively sluggish growth. The 1997 crisis marked the beginning of a turf war over resources, a war which has only worsened with time. The elite’s greatest success after the crisis was to retain ownership of the financial system. The crash had reduced many billionaires to being merely rich. Throughout—both during the period of impressive growth from 1957 to 1996, and in the period of reduced expectations that has followed—Thailand’s rigid social pyramid has meant that the monarch is still richer than anyone else. The palace sits on assets worth an estimated $40 billion; more than the combined wealth of the country’s next four richest tycoons.

This imagination of Thai society as a pyramid, with the king for its apex, a tiered bureaucracy to assist him, and a broad peasantry living happily at the base, is still alive in many minds (a government agency published a memorable depiction of the pyramid in 1984). The idea that everything good should radiate from the top downwards has had the effect of blunting popular pressure for widespread benefits. In a striking contrast, China's GDP per capita surged from $650 to $5,700 between 1997 and 2012 (measured on a GNI-per-head-basis, per the Atlas method). In the process China has overtaken Thailand, where incomes rose from $3,000 to $5,200. And Thailand’s relatively poor performance is not the result of a somehow predestined middle-income trap. It is something more like a self-inflicted wound (see chart). Pick any country in East or South-East Asia and make the same comparison. Thailand’s record post-1997 in raising peoples’ standard of living is thoroughly unimpressive.

This failure to return to more rapid growth has been the foundation for the deep divisions that have riven Thai society since 1997. The emergence of Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms-tycoon-turned-populist-politician, coincided with ordinary citizens’ demands for greater participation in politics. Mr Thaksin had many deep flaws. He unleashed a “war on drug dealers” which was in effect a programme of extra-judicial killings. His brutal and incompetent policies in trying to quell an insurgency in Thailand’s south, in its mainly Muslim provinces, only brought more bloodshed. And like Sarit Thanarat, a military dictator who had been at the centre of a American-sponsored revival of royalism that began in 1957, Mr Thaksin made sure that economic rents accrued to himself and his cronies first.

But also like Sarit, Mr Thaksin insisted Thailand had to become a modern state and set out to build the foundations for it. He introduced a simple idea to Thai politics that had been ignored by his rivals: find out what people want, and give it to them. Ever since he has been unbeaten at the polls. The national discussion of economic policy, including that led by the current junta, has concentrated on the idea of reducing the cost of household expenditures.

To the chagrin of the traditional elite, “Thaksinomics” also had the effect of diverting the flow of public money to where his voters live. When Mr Thaksin came to power in 2001 the Thai state spent 84% of the national budget on the capital, Bangkok, and only 16% on the provinces. By May 2014, when the courts removed his sister from the post of prime minister, the provinces’ share had increased to a quarter.

Thailand’s junta has been blunt. The point of its methodically executed coup is to eradicate the influence of the Shinawatra family from the body politic. The country should expect a new constitution that puts paid to the idea that the people chose their own government. If it takes deploying soldiers in the malls of Bangkok to stifle coup protests, so be it, or so the regime seems to think. At the moment everybody appears to be bending like bamboo to the power of the junta. One wonders what will happen when the novelty of repression wears off.

The army inherits an economy that was rendered stagnant by Suthep Thaugsuban, the street-level embodiment of the traditional elite—the civil service, the judiciary and the royal court that surrounds the frail King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the army itself. If history is any guide, its first priority will be to set up a system that maximises their slice of the pie, disregarding the size of the pie as a whole. One consequence of this time-tested approach is likely to be prolonged economic and social failure. Another is that Thailand is likely to retain one of the most unequal income distributions in the world.

It is unclear what the army can do to reverse a collapse in domestic demand. The coup itself is perhaps the biggest obstacle to reviving it. The junta has begun paying off rice farmers and some of that cash will be spent, but much of it will be used to service existing debt. The coup has put a hedgehog in the pockets of consumers and producers. Some 62 countries have issued travel warnings for Thailand. The army is talking about big infrastructure projects, trains and urban transports. But few of these projects are shovel-ready and their impact will not be felt for some time. Crucially, investment follows demand; with the latter collapsing, the former will show little patience for languishing on.

This leaves exports as a possible route out of stagnation. The relatively strong baht, supported by a current-account surplus that was fed by a collapse in imports, does not help. The day investors hear about a currency’s shock devaluation to spur on hyper-competiveness, they tend to forget everything else. Were that to happen, it would also be the day the generals started talking economic sense.

The shadow of the next royal succession is hanging over the kingdom. In the words of someone who has spent time with people near the top of the pyramid, this sense of anxiety is like the curvature of the universe: you cannot see it, but its existence can be proven empirically. Absolutist rule, administered by the army, is not likely to end any time before the current king’s death. The generals are claiming that they aim to bring about a new kind of restoration, of the “happiness of the people”. Whatever that may mean, it had better not depend on the arrival of prosperity.

Reconciliation centers push for peace and unity

National news Bueau of Thailand

Date : 5 มิถุนายน 2557

In response to the roadmap of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) regarding national reconciliation, various relevant agencies have begun to launch programs and activities as part of the national reconciliation efforts.

In its roadmap, the NCPO wants to achieve national reconciliation as soon as it could-- within two to three months' time if at all possible.

The Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) has set up Centers of Reconciliation for Reform in both the central and the regional areas of the country. A working group has also been formed to set guidelines for the operations of the centers. The reconciliation process will begin from family units to villages, sub-districts, districts, and provinces.

The NCPO has tasked the ISOC with the responsibility of organizing dialogues between all rivals in order to achieve social harmonization. At the same time, activities and programs aimed at restoring happiness to the people have been held by several agencies.

For instance, concerts have been performed by soldiers, policemen, and civilians at various areas, such as the Victory Monument in Bangkok. Apart from concerts, medical check-ups have also been offered at no charge. The objective is to “return happiness to the people” after lengthy political tensions.

The Government Public Relations Department (PRD) is scheduled to organize a program dubbed “Music in the Park,” starting from 5 June 2014. The program takes place at the park within the compound of the PRD Headquarters in Bangkok every Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, the PRD will establish reconciliation centers in Bangkok and other provinces to provide channels to create better understanding between the people and the military. The department will produce spots, programs, and features to be disseminated through its radio and television networks, as well as websites.

The Ministry of Culture is adjusting its cultural activities to promote national reconciliation. For example, cultural tours and mobile cultural events, to be arranged soon, will include content on reconciliation and unity. Emphasis will be placed on creating awareness and unity among the people. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security is also preparing activities to rehabilitate society, reduce conflicts, and bring about peace and happiness.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Interior has instructed all provinces to set up reconciliation centers to help create an atmosphere of social harmony and encourage local people to accept different views.

The reason why the NCPO decided to take control of the nation was that the prolonged political deadlock and protests had been massively damaging the nation as a whole. There were also various violent incidents prior to the coup, many of which involved the use of war weapons.

According to the NCPO, when the situation returns to normal and a successful reform and national reconciliation as well as social harmony have been achieved, the country will move towards the next phase-- a general election.

Note: AP on NACC investigation of Yingluck's assets: Regimes that come to power through a coup usually seek to publicize alleged corruption by the governments they overthrew as a way of discrediting them and justifying their own takeover.

Thailand's Army Bristles at U.S. Criticism of Coup

Chiang Rai Martial Court summons anti-coup protesters to hear charges

In Thailand, a Growing Intolerance for Dissent

Free Speech Under Attack in Southeast Asia

Thai Military Looks to Boost Nation's Spirits

The round up of coup dissenters continues : Anti-coup leader Sombat Boonngam-anong (on twitter @nuling) has been taken from Chon Buri to Bangkok reports the Bangkok Post

Siam Voices "Due to the military coup of May 22, 2014 and subsequent censorship measures we have placed certain restrictions on what we publish"

How sad it is that debate is now impossible; that stating your opposition to the coup endangers the personal freedoms that people have fought for throughout history.

Foreigners support for the coup

6 June 2014

I have been meaning to write about this for a while.

One of the surprises of this coup is how extensive its support from foreigners living in Thailand. Their views are widely written in the forum pages of ThaiVisa and in the letters pages of the Nation and the Bangkok Post.

One of my friends is an academic leader; someone who has liberal views on many things and strong views on most.

His view of the coup is simple:

"they should have done this weeks ago, to pre-empt any of the violence that has already occurred, cos there is no common ground between the 2 parties, so its just a continual stalemate. What choice do they have but to adapt the constitution before the next election to give it a chance to be accepted by both parties and to represent the majority... AND at the same time protect the significant minority, which right now is not the case.

Agree the curfew might last a few days till this settles down over the weekend, but then it will be back to normal and the army will appoint a nominated PM and interim government, right?

Final comment…..All the condemnation from the UK and the US and others is crap and a load of bollocks really.…and are not helping the situation by such rhetoric and bluster…typical though!:)"

He continues noting that the Yingluck government was "not addressing the needs of the other significant minority thru some type of reform that would give them a voice and protect their interests.....agree the coup cuts across and against all rights but if it's to stop imminent violence to give time to put something workable in place, if rather that happen than see carnage on the streets.... They need to decide way forward sooner than later though..."

The views he expresses about potential carnage and the need for action are common; they are widely stated by the coup leaders as well; they are also not backed up by any supporting evidence: the reality of this coup is fairly simple:

1. There was no evidence of imminent violence. There were sporadic attacks – there have been for years.
2. There was no evidence to support any claim of expected "carnage" on the streets – that is simply hyperbole
3. What significant minority are supposed to be protected; in this case he means the yellow shirts/ the people that Suthep was leading around Bangkok – the Democrat party who had two years in power to develop an agenda and policies that appealed to the people in order to get the party elected at the ballot box….and who then decided to sabotage democracy by not participating in the February election.
4. The 2007 constitution as I keep saying gave more than enough checks and balances to restrain any non Democrat government – they had huge protections built in through a largely unelected bodies and so called independent institutions created by the 2007 constitution – the NACC and the Constitutional Court just for starters.
5. In the meantime journalist, academics, professionals and politicians are being hauled in/summonsed to meet with the junta, and then spirited away to unknown locations for an unknown period of time and held without contact to families or friends. That cannot be right.
6. The objective for this army led coup will be to eliminate Thaksin and all his support from Thai politics. Business leaders/CEOs with connections to Thaksin have been summoned today – including Premchai at Italian Thai who I know. They will to be told to stop all contact and all contracts with Thaksin and his businesses. But, eliminating Thaksin from politics is not going to stop the political awareness/movement that he mobilised.
7. The coup is more likely in the long term to increase violence; this was the Bangkok Post the morning after the coup: “it’s the very act of a military takeover that is likely to stir up stiff resistance, provoke acts of violence and possibly cause more loss of life. This coup is not the solution.” People who value freedom and democracy will oppose the coup and will oppose military dictatorship. Contrary to the propaganda machine you do not have to be a Thaksin supporter, a red-shirt or anti monarchy to oppose the coup.
8. As for the UK, US, Germans, Japanese, Singaporeans, French, UN, HRW, EEC – they are all saying the same thing. As significant investors into Thailand they have every right to be heard and their message to Prayuth and his merry men is very consistent. This idea that foreigners should stay out of Thai affairs in simply nonsense.

Two interesting facebook posts from Sulak Sivaraksa

Sulak Sivaraksa, born March 27, 1933, is the founder and director of the Thai NGO “Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation”, named after two authorities on Thai culture, Sathirakoses (Phya Anuman Rajadhon) and Nagapradeepa (Phra Saraprasoet). He is also the initiator of a number of social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organizations in Thailand, such as the College SEM (Spirit in Education Movement

May 31 - 2014 Coup: Old Wine in a New Bottle?

At first sight, the most recent coup d’état on 22 May 2014 seemed to have learned admirably well from the failures of the previous coup in 2006. But what have and what haven’t the military leaders learned from the 2006 coup? Here are some observations.

1. The martial law was declared two days in advance of the actual seizure of state power. The Senate was allowed to linger on for a brief while and was subsequently dissolved. Power was seized and monopolized by one leader. Royal endorsement only came on 26 May at a ceremony in which the king was not present. The president of the Privy Council didn’t seem to play any role in this process too. And the junta leaders didn’t have an audience with the king. These measures were taken to show that there wasn’t any connection between the monarchy and the coup; the military alone was responsible for it. Whether or not this is plausible is entirely a different matter.

2. This time the coup group, officially known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), didn’t appoint a prime minister to govern on their behalf. The junta has moved swiftly to undermine or destroy Thaksin Shinawatra’s power-base by transferring to inactive posts the Ministry of Defense permanent secretary and the National Police Chief—along with a number of senior police officers and provincial governors who are said to be connected to Thaksin. We will have to see whether or not the military junta will be successful in eradicating Thaksin and Co.’s political power this time; the 2006 coup failed dismally in this feat.

3. The junta’s appointment of MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and Somkid Jatusipitak as advisors to handle economic and foreign affairs matters respectively is interesting. Both men belong to the opposite poles. They are however honest and highly competent. It will be interesting to see if they can work together and whether or not NCPO listens to their advices. Professor Yongyut Yuttawong is also capable and upholds a strong sense of ethics. Ultimately, how many more qualified technocrats will be enlisted to work for NCPO—aside from the legal experts who have served under every recent military dictatorship?

4. We have to wait and see whether or not the new set of administrators will courageously work to dismantle structural injustice and to what extent they understand the sources of poverty, oppression and exploitation faced by the majority of people in the country. Moreover, will they continue to denigrate local knowledge forms as well as autonomy? Will they attempt to move beyond the populist and corrupt policies of Thaksin and Yingluck?
NCPO’s plans to construct roads and dams around Bangkok may prove as disastrous as Yingluck’s approval of a massive budget for dam construction in the name of flood relief. Is it far-fetched to demand that NCPO call for a referendum before launching any massive construction projects?

5.The creation of the Military Court is a double-edged dagger. If the objective is to improve the justice process in the country, then it must be accompanied by the nourishment of mindfulness, emancipatory knowledge, and tolerance—and not to say of a major overhaul of the education and Sangha systems. I’m afraid these issues are not on the priority list of NCPO.

6. Summoning individuals to report to the junta or detaining them seems to have spiraled out of control. It may lead to a culture of misinforming and denouncing innocent persons, a kind of McCarthyism. The sooner this path is avoided, the better. (The suspension of US military aid to Thailand is simply a weak PR ploy. The US has always had deep ties with every postwar military dictatorship in the country.)

7.As shocking as this may sound but the present military leaders should look to Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat as a role model. Despite his terrifying flaws Sarit was also pretty clever. Sarit’s closest confidant as well as advisor was very talented. The Field Marshal was able to make highly competent individuals work for the wellbeing of the country such as Puey Ungphakorn in the domain of finance and economics and Tawee Boonyaket in the field of constitutional drafting.

8. NCPO won some praise as it disbursed payment to rice farmers under the rice pledging scheme of the previous government. But in the wake of the 1947 coup in an effort to reduce public dissent, the price of certain essential commodities was also cut. The 1947 coup-makers justified their action under the pretext of fighting corruption. Arguably, they ended up being even more corrupt than the deposed government.

9. Hopefully, the drafting of a new constitution and formation of a civilian government will not take an inordinate amount of time as during the Sarit years. Likewise, let’s hope that oppositional intellectuals and politicians will not be liquidated as during the Sarit dictatorship.

10. The Sangha Act of 1962 issued by Sarit is a root cause of the Sangha’s downfall in the country. If this Act is not amended or revoked, the future of Buddhism looks bleak in the kingdom.
Sulak Sivaraksa

PS : Perhaps, the leader of NCPO should take the time to study the life of Pompey, a great military-general-turned-political-leader. In his biography of Pompey Plutarch writes:
“Life out of uniform can have the dangerous effect of weakening the reputation of famous generals…. They are poorly adapted to the equality of democratic politics. Such men claim the same precedence in civilian life that they enjoy on the battlefield…. So when people find a man with a brilliant military record playing an active part in public life they undermine and humiliate him. But if he renounces and withdraws from politics, they maintain his reputation and ability and no longer envy him.” Anthony Everitt adds that “The trouble was that Pompey was a poor political tactician and also uninspiring public speaker.”
I am aware that the leader of NCPO doesn’t have the time to read this article. But if his trustworthy and clever subordinates alert him to the message in this postscript it may be beneficial to the present situation.
The English name of คสช is National Council for Peace and Order. Its Latin equivalent would be “otium cum dignitate.” That is, peace/leisure (otium) is inextricable from dignity (dignitate). If human rights are trammeled on and freedom of expression is denied, then an order is peaceful only in name. It will be a false peace.

23 May Reflections on 22 May 2014 Coup

Now is the time to rely on humor more than sorrow, anger or hatred. It’s not good to be attached to any particular sentiment. And the dream that the military would not launch another coup d’etat proved to be illusory, implying that perhaps subconsciously we have given too much respect to soldiers.

We must not forget that the military is a state within the state. If politicians—popularly elected or otherwise—deviate too far from the lines drawn by the military, they won’t accept it. Unfortunately, the military hasn’t learned much from their previous mistakes; that is, every coup thus far has been a fundamental failure, and the military must take full responsibility for this. As in the wake of previous coups, the military might appoint a ‘neutral’ person to be prime minister or ask for a royal-appointed premier. In any case, the military cannot deny responsibility for the consequences of such decision. Let’s look at the case of royal-appointed premiers like Sanya Dharmasakti, Thanin Kraivixien, and Anand Panyarachun. These three are all good and honest individuals. The first is good like a monastery-attendant or church-goer. The second is a good rightwing extremist. And the last one is a good neoliberal. The royal-appointed prime minister in the wake of the 2006 coup is a highly disciplined military general as well as a devoted Buddhist. A simple question must be asked: to what extent have these four individuals been successful? Have they been good to the poor and excluded in society?

Will the National Council for Peace and Order, which seized the helm of state power on 22 May 2014, be able to find a better knight on a white horse than any of these four individuals? Even if the junta cannot find a white knight to solve the multiple crises the country is confronting, does any one of them truly understand the structural injustice of Thai society as well as the asymmetrical regional order in the Asia Pacific? Are they aware of the dangers of American or Chinese imperialism—or MNCs, some which are Thai-owned such as CP and ThaiBev? The latter two actors may not be as ‘bad’ as Thaksin Shinawatra simply because they have refrained from becoming directly involved in politics. But they have benefited enormously from state power in a way that the remaining 80-90 percent of the people have not. In sum, if the right questions are not posed, even a white knight will not be able to deliver better answers or solutions. We will be stuck in a vicious deadlock.

Let’s now move on to more specific issues.

1. Let me repeat an important point yet again. When we say that we want our country to be a constitutional monarchy, shouldn’t we also emphasize that fact that the monarch must be under the constitution and therefore is not a divine ruler? As such, the monarch must not possess any divine rights or celestial privileges. Royal activities and management of royal property must be rendered transparent and accountable. Thus, for instance, the Crown Property Bureau must be put under state control and made accountable to public scrutiny. Furthermore, the notorious Article 112 of the Criminal Code must be abolished (in accordance with the king’s wish, which was expressed publicly several times). These measures will also help enhance the stability of the monarchy.

2. Many Red Shirts are not pawns of Thaksin Shinawatra. They have bravely struggled for freedom from domination by the “ammarts” (e.g., the royal class, forces of absolutism, state officials who oppress ordinary citizens, well-to-do Bangkokians who look down on the poor and rural folks, etc.). If we cannot grasp this important point we will not be able to cope with the intensifying class antagonism in the country. At the same time, we must also not forget that this struggle should also be articulated in the direction of freedom from exploitation by capital. This is because often times we are not only dominated but also exploited. And the dominated can also be one of the exploiters.

3. The problem of class domination and urban-rural divide can be traced back at least to the reign of King Chulalongkorn. Of course, King Rama V initiated many reforms that truly benefited the kingdom. At the same time, many of them also had disastrous consequences, which can be felt till the present. A case in point is the centralization of power in Bangkok. This has led to asymmetrical and oppressive relations politically, culturally and economically between Bangkok and the provinces (especially in the Southern and Northeastern parts of the kingdom). The pertinent point may not be to make everyone enjoy the privileges and benefits of the rich, the dominant, the included or the powerful but to make the latter refuse or forgo these privileges so that they will be on a par with the marginalized or excluded. This may be a true basis for equality.

4. There must be a major land reform in the country that guarantees equal land rights to everyone. Land-grabbing must be halted. Unproductive landlords who extract monopoly rents must pay much higher taxes; or the landless poor should have the right to make good use of unproductive lands. The Crown Property Bureau owns approximately 30 percent of the land in Bangkok. ThaiBev owns roughly the same size in Chiang Mai province. Is this acceptable? Must this issue be politicized?

5. When talking about democracy, the focus must be on its emancipatory kernel, not its form. Take a look at Thai MPs during 1932-1947. Despite the Japanese occupation and the autocratic prime minister, many MPs were autonomous and possessed moral courage. They admirably devoted themselves to the wellbeing of fellow citizens and the country as well as to the causes of democracy and national independence. A number of them joined the Free Thai Movement, which helped to restore de jure sovereignty in the country in the wake of WWII. However, after the Second World War several of them were assassinated such as Tiang Sirikun a politician from Sakon Nakhon province, Chamlong Daoruang from Mahasarakham, Tawin Udul from Roi Et and Thong-in Phuriphat from Ubon Ratchathani. Although Pridi Banomyong was not assassinated his reputation was seriously tarnished and he had to spend the rest of his life in exile. If we fail to recognize the virtues of these figures it will be difficult to restore moral courage in parliament. The majority of our MPs will simply be bootlickers and servants of the powers-that-be. Many in the public will continue to venerate false heroes like militarist figures who massacred the people and trammeled on democracy such as P. Phibunsongkram, Sarit Thanarat, Phao Sriyanond and, more recently, Chatichai Choonhavan.

6. Thus the importance of education cannot be overemphasized. When Pridi Banomyong founded the University of Moral and Political Sciences (Thammasat University), he intended not only to cultivate knowledge but also Dhamma. He saw Dhamma as a powerful weapon to serve emancipatory causes as well as to empower the people. If universities today understand the substance of this idea they will rethink and arrest the trend towards privatization and move education in the direction of the Threefold Training. Suffice it to say that this entails using morality, meditation, and wisdom for emancipation; that is, the overcoming of the forces of greed, hatred, and delusion in the contemporary world. For instance, an education guided by the Threefold Training will work to narrow or eliminate the obscene gap between rich and poor; will take environmental sustainability seriously; will see the perils of capitalism and consumerism; will reduce selfishness; will cultivate truth, goodness, and beauty; and so on.

7. Lastly, the mainstream mass media needs a major overhaul in both structure and contents if it is to serve as a means of emancipation, if it is to help us envision alternatives to the present order. How this will come about requires a collective undertaking.

These are just some of the crucial issues to think critically about in order to rejuvenate the emancipatory potentials of democracy. My wager is that democracy will be rejuvenated only by first passing through Dhammic Socialism.

Pridi Banomyong envisioned democracy along the lines of Dhammic Socialism. He tried to learn about Dhammic Socialism from Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in order to adapt it to Thai society. He failed. The military coup in 1947 destroyed Pridi’s political life and quashed the democratic movements in the country. The emancipatory potentials of democracy have yet to be reclaimed to these days. NCPO may be successful in breaking the back of Thaksin Shinawatra and Co., but if the junta doesn’t grasp the abovementioned issues it will never be able to transform the crisis into a new beginning. In other words, the junta or any post-coup government established by it will fail as disastrously as in all previous coups.

Please take my words as a cautionary advice, not as a curse or belittlement because I have always tried to be a kalyanamitta or virtuous companion to everyone. As a kalyanamitta I have to say things that the junta may not want to hear. If the junta doubts my sincerity, then this is the best that I can do to help it.

Sulak Sivaraksa
23 May 2014


Associated Press : Thailand's new military government moved against two of its top targets on Thursday, capturing a top organizer of protests against its recent takeover and launching a probe into the finances of the former elected prime minister.

Protest leader Sombat Boonngam-anong himself was the first to announce his own arrest, posting a message Thursday night on his Facebook account saying simply, "I've been arrested."

Thai media later reported that Sombat, also known as Nuling, was captured in a house in Cholburi province, about two hours east of Bangkok.

Sombat had defied an order from the new military government to report to the authorities, and went into hiding, going online to organize anti-coup protests in Bangkok.

The website of the newspaper Khaosod reported that he was arrested by police officers of the Technology Crime Suppression Division working with the army, and that he had been traced on the internet by the National Intelligence Agency.

The new government has warned that it is closely monitoring online activities, and plans to expand its surveillance capabilities.

Several dozen people have defied the order to turn themselves in, and some are known to have fled to neighboring countries. The junta has declared that those who don't surrender themselves may be subject to a two-year jail term.

Sombat was one of the first people to organize protests against Thailand's previous coup, in 2006, and became known for imaginative and non-violent tactics.

Earlier Thursday, Thailand's state anti-corruption agency said it would investigate the assets of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and four members of her Cabinet involved in a controversial rice subsidy program.

The move by the National Anti-Corruption Commission followed the May 22 coup that overthrew the elected government Yingluck had led. She was forced from office herself by a court ruling earlier in May that she had abused her authority in approving the transfer of a high-level civil servant.

Coup leaders in Thailand usually seek to publicize alleged corruption by the governments they overthrew as a way of discrediting them and justifying their own takeovers. Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra faced similar treatment after a 2006 coup ousted him from the prime minister's job. He is in self-imposed exile to escape a jail term for a conflict of interest conviction.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission had already indicted Yingluck over charges of dereliction of duty in overseeing the rice subsidy program, charging that she failed to heed advice that it was potentially wasteful and prone to corruption. The Senate could have held an impeachment trial that might have barred her from politics for five years, but the parliamentary body was dissolved by the army after the coup.

The commission is known for having made several significant rulings against Yingluck and her government, which her supporters suspect was part of a conspiracy to oust her from office.

They believe that independent agencies such as the commission, along with high level courts, are aligned with Thailand's conservative traditional ruling class - guided by royalists and the military - who were alarmed at the political power of the Shinawatra family and its political machine. Thaksin and his allies have won every general election since 2001.

The independent agencies and courts were seeded with anti-Thaksin personnel after the 2006 coup.

In its earlier ruling, the commission said it was unclear whether Yingluck was involved in corruption or had allowed it to take place. Very few, if any, prosecutions in court have been launched in connection with the rice program.

Yingluck, along with most of her government, was briefly detained by the army after the coup.

The brief announcement said three former commerce ministers and a former deputy commerce ministers would also be investigated, without elaborating why it was forming a new subcommittee to probe them.

The subsidy program bought rice from farmers at above-market prices in an effort to boost rural incomes.

As the world's top rice exporter, Thailand hoped to control the market and push up prices. But India and Vietnam increased exports, which prompted stockpiling by Thailand as it tried to contain losses from its subsidy policy. The program incurred huge financial losses for the government, though there is no reliable estimate of the total.

The program was denounced by Yingluck's critics as being designed to win votes. But it became a major political weapon against her when protesters began rallying against Yingluck last November and successfully pressured banks not to lend to the government, delaying the payments to farmers.

Shortly after the coup, the new military government announced that it would make the long-delayed payments.

Coup updates - day 15

The Thai Junta Is Using Pretty Girls in Skimpy Camo to Win Some Popularity : Time

Thai junta 'brings happiness to the people' with parties and selfies : The Guardian

Thailand's junta sidelines pro-Thaksin police, governors : Reuters

Songsuda Yodmani and the 2014 coup : New Mandala

The next "Returning Happiness to the People" fair will be held at Nong Chok Park, BKK, on Saturday 5 pm - 7 pm

Talking about cronyism; the coup leader's younger brother Lieutenant General Preecha Chan-ocha is in charge of restructuring police - not so different from having your sister as Prime Minister!

Thailand becomes the land of the inverted smile

5 June 2014 The Financial Times

Much of the electorate has tasted the fruits of democracy. For the elites that is the problem

Thailand’s coup is a public relations fiasco. A short-tempered general talking breezily about his junta’s wish to “restore happiness to the people and stamp out conflict”. Hundreds of people, including academics, rounded up for questioning. Soldiers descending on tiny groups of protesters. People facing arrest for reading books (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or for making three-fingered salutes (The Hunger Games). It is all so horribly retro. Thailand has become the land of the inverted smile.

That is not, though, how it looks to many in Bangkok, at least not to those loosely described as “the elite” and their supporters. To them, the coup has ended a period of mob rule in which allies of Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled former prime minister, hijacked democracy for their own nefarious ends. Some may not exactly relish living under a military dictatorship. But many view it as a necessary evil, a prelude to a more workable form of democracy purged of corruption and winner-takes-all majoritarianism.

Songkran Grachangnetara, a columnist and one of a few people in Thailand who still dares to speak his mind, is scathing about such views. “People were crying out against a democratic dictatorship,” he says, referring to widespread concern about the perceived abuses of majority rule. But few, he says, seem as worried about a real dictatorship run by real soldiers.

Still, it is worth considering why many in the Thai elite – a useful if imperfect term broadly defined as the military, bureaucracy and monarchists – find Thailand’s version of democracy so offensive.

It all began when Mr Thaksin, a business tycoon turned politician, became prime minister in 2001. Initially supported by sections of the elite, he quickly lost favour. He was widely seen as corrupt, dishing out goodies to his businesses and those of his cronies. His government was accused of human rights abuses. Perhaps worst of all, many saw his grab for power and patronage as disrespectful to the king.

For those who hated Mr Thaksin, there was a huge problem: he was unstoppable. He convinced a huge and previously marginalised voting bloc in the north of Thailand that he represented their interests. It took a coup, in 2006, to dislodge him. That got rid of Mr Thaksin but not Thaksinism. After the junta left, allies of the exiled prime minister swept back into office. In 2011 his sister Yingluck Shinawatra – whom Mr Thaksin unhelpfully called his “clone” – was elected.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha will not repeat the “mistakes” of 2006. From his point of view, the military handed back power too quickly. It also left a constitution that could not prevent the election of a pro-Thaksin government. For many in Bangkok, democracy is a busted flush. It has become equated with corruption and with what one critic calls the “disease of populism”.

Not all the criticism is wide of the mark. There is much to dislike about the governments Mr Thaksin has run, in person or by proxy. As in many other fledgling democracies, the law is too weakly enforced to prevent the abuse of power or the installation of crony capitalism.

But much of the criticism is spurious. It is doubtful whether Mr Thaksin’s government was any more corrupt than many others, including some notorious former military rulers. Nor is Thailand’s democracy necessarily more compromised than those of its neighbours. India, Indonesia and the Philippines have all persevered with voting anyway. The idea that Thai politics has no checks and balances is also flawed. One could just as easily argue it has too many. In recent years, no fewer than three prime ministers have been dismissed by the courts – a powerful check if ever there was one.

Dislike of democracy stems largely from the paternalistic idea that peasants cannot be trusted to vote sensibly. The assumption is they simply elect whoever promises to offer them the biggest bribes. In fact, Mr Thaksin won his popularity by offering rights over charity. Whether he was sincere, or whether he was simply playing a cynical numbers game, is almost beside the point. His policies struck a chord with an electorate for whom previous systems had been devoid of democratic meaning. Much of the Thai electorate has now tasted the fruits of democracy. For the elites that is precisely the problem.

The generals envisage harmony through the use of “reconciliation centres”. No wonder Nineteen Eighty-Four is a touchy book. They also propose to enact electoral “reform”. People speculate that could mean a partially appointed lower house or multi-seat constituencies. Almost inevitably, the aim will be to dilute democracy, not to strengthen it.

Such tactics might work for a bit. But in the long run, the social forces unleashed by Thaksinism will not be so easily ensnared. Democracy is not perfect. Unequivocally, it can be abused. In the end, however, it does mean majority rule, albeit with certain safeguards for the minority. That must be the basis of any lasting political settlement. It is not one likely to emerge from the generals’ playbook.

Junta summons activists-lèse majesté suspects in exile

5 June 2014 - Prachatai

"The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Wednesday around 10.30 p.m. summons 21 more people including activists in exile and facing lèse majesté charges, such as Gi Ungpakorn, Junya Yimprasert, Jakrapob Penkair as well as Chatwadee Amornrapat who was recently sued by her parents for offending the monarchy.

Jakrapob Penkair, former Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office under the premiership of Samak Sundaravej and a founding member of the red shirt UDD, was sued for his alleged offensive speech at Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in 2008. He lives in exile since 2009.

Joe Gordon, a naturalised American citizen who was in 2011 given 2.5-year sentence for posting a translation of “The King Never Smiles” on his blog, was also summoned.

Thai-British Gi, former political science lecturer at Chulalonkorn University and a red shirt faction leader, and Chatwadee now reside in the UK, while Jakrapob now lives in Cambodia.

Junya, a labour activist and campaigner, has left the country since 2010 and recently received asylum status from Finland. Police issued arrest warrant for Junya in 2013 due to content in one of her books.

The list also includes Choopong Teethuan, who was issued arrest warrant 2011 due to the alleged defamatory content on his online radio show. His whereabouts is unknown.

They were ordered to report themselves at the Thai Army Club in Theves, Bangkok by June 9th, 12 p.m.

The Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law, stipulates that "Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years." Critics of the law say it is abused as a political tool and severely limits freedom of expression."

Wasting their breath; these people are not coming back to Thailand. Though it does beg the question of why is Thaksin not on the list?


Coup updates - day 14

The curfew has been lifted in Pataya, Samui and Phuket - as the generals try to salvage their tourism industry

“Not only Thais but foreigners opposing #Thai coup on Twitter now being reported 2 junta Twitter account by vigilante. #ป #รปห #Thailand” – Pravit Rojanaphruk on Twitter this evening.

Thailand’s coup: brokered by the army and PDRC

Oddly timed Thai coup a sign of trouble in military and monarchy

Despite the threats, I will not bow to Thailand's despots

Thailand's Military Is Forcing People to Stop Worrying and Love the Coup

Life as a 'guest detainee' of the military

Coup updates - day 13

BBC World is back on the air in Thailand after being blocked for 12 days - and the lead story is about a royal abdication (in Spain!) closely followed by events remembering the 25th anniversary of the army crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square (#TAM25)

Under the military regime, are we still citizens?

Taxi driver charged with lese majeste over politics talks with passenger

Chiang Mai academics report themselves to the military

junta thinks they can wean people off Thaksin by adopting his populist policies, but their ruthless unfairness just helps Thaksin

National News bureau of Thailand announcements:

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has urged Thai people to cooperate with the NCPO and considered the benefits for all, said the spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree.

Protesters against the seizure of power are urged to comply with the orders and announcements of the NCPO, because if they continue to violate them, the laws will be enforced more strictly. The demonstrators fall into two categories: those who do not really understand the facts, and others who oppose the officials intentionally. Meanwhile, he is convinced that the majority of Thais are ready to make sacrifices for peace and order in society, and cooperate with the officials.

The Ministry of Commerce and Big C Super Center collaborate in organizing a low-priced food court project in line with the policy on assistance for low-income people of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Deputy Director-General of the Department of Internal Trade Santichain Sarathawanphaet said food courts in Big C would offer 26 food items at the special price of just 30 baht each. As for food prices in food courts in general, the official said most of them fell within the price range announced by the department. Internal trade officers would still randomly inspect the food prices, Mr Satichain said.

The department will peg the prices of 205 commodities until 31 October 2014. Entrepreneurs who have been affected by rising costs of production can request the department to consider allowing them to increase prices of their products.

Provincial Police Region 5 has mobilized a force numbering about a thousand officers to suppress crime, drug dealing, and other social vices, in order to maintain peace and order in the Chiang Mai region.

Because of criminal activity which has caused social and economic problems in the province, the NCPO and Provincial Police Region 5 are confronting the criminals and suppressing their activities to return harmony to the community, and restore confidence to the many tourists and residents of Chiang Mai Province.

Coup updates - day 12

Useful - Who’s who in the Thai coup?

Still no foreign news media broadcasting in Thailand.

Junta spokesman to Q whether the 3-finger salute is illegal: "It depends on the intention and context". Hmm, what intention/context is bad?

Suddenly arms caches and arrests everywhere all over the country, where do those new law enforcement skills come from all of a sudden? - For instance:

Crackdown sees 3,000 people arrested over 5 days in Khon Kaen (Police region 4)

From The Nation - 2 June 2014

More than 3,000 people were rounded up and a large number of heavy weapons seized under a coordinated crackdown by police, military officials and civilian volunteers in provinces that come under the jurisdiction of Provincial Police Region 4. The raid began last Wednesday and wrapped up on Sunday.

Pol Lt-General Detnarong Suthichanbancha of Provincial Police Region 4 said the 279 teams led intelligence and sting operations before laying siege to 500 areas and 2,700 illegal entertainment venues. Some 3,413 suspects were rounded up and slapped with charges ranging from gambling, drug trafficking, prostitution and the illegal possession of arms.

Of those arrested, 382 were charged with illegally possessing arms and 407 guns, 1,028 bullets and seven grenades were seized from them.

Army ponders arrest for three-finger sign - Bangkok Post

Meanwhile Lumpini police confirm [3 salute finger lady] was detained by undercover cops; she is in military custody now - source Thairath Earlier today Dep. Police Chief was dismissive that it was undercover police that had kidnapped the protestor in a taxi. He stated that police did not detain that way and he said it could be her husband; although he added he was unsure. Really!

Thai police criticized for posing as journalists - Associated Press

Thailand’s main press association has voiced concern that undercover police appear to be posing as journalists after a video circulated showing a man with official press ID arresting an anti-coup protester in the capital.

The Thailand Journalists Association said Monday the tactic would have an “immense impact” on the safety and credibility of journalists and urged police to revise their strategy.

The video posted on the website of the Matichon newspaper shows several men escorting a woman to a motorcycle, as she calls for help and asks them not to arrest her.

One of the men is wearing a black badge around his neck that says “PRESS” along with a green cloth that looks like the arm bands issued by the journalists’ association for reporters to wear at public protests.

Thai authorities to build state-owned social network site

2 June 2014 Prachatai

The ICT Ministry will propose a plan to build state-owned Facebook-like social networking site called Thailand Social Network.

Surachai Srisarakam, permanent secretary of the ICT Ministry, said the Thailand Social Network is part of the ministry’s plan to build the country’s digital infrastructure, called “Smart Thailand,” according to Matichon Online.

The plan includes building the state-owned nation Internet gateway and creating the nation’s social network site, in order to increase the efficiency of the authorities’ censorship.

In the plan, initiated by the military junta, the private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have to connect to the state-owned ISP TOT, so that it will be easier for the authorities to block websites and prevent terrorism, he said, adding that the ICT Ministry will oversee the national gateway.

The concrete plan will be finished within two month, the official said.

Thai authorities have long been complained that major social media operators, such as Google, Youtube, Facebook and LINE, do not cooperate with them when asking for users’ data and blocking sites.

Junta Embarks On 'Happiness' Project

2 June 2014 Khaosod

In an effort to "return happiness" to Thai society after months of political unrest, the military junta is organizing road cleanups, army-band concerts, and free haircuts for the people

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led a coup on 22 May, recently said that "happiness" of Thai people is among the top priorities of the military junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

"Thai people, like me, have probably not been happy for nine years, but since May 22, there is happiness," Gen. Prayuth said in a national address laying out a roadmap for the country, which includes 2-3 months of "national reconciliation" followed by about a year of constitutional reforms.

Today, soldiers from a cavalry division based in Saraburi province were deployed to cleanup the area around Victory Monument in central Bangkok - the site of several anti-coup demonstrations last week.

Billed by the military as "Big Cleaning Day," the effort was aimed at bringing beauty and cleanliness back to the people, army officers said.

The military also held free concerts over the weekend, with soldiers playing guitars, keyboard, saxophone, trombone, and drums to the applauses of enthusiastic and happy-looking audiences.

The concerts also featured free haircuts and dessert.

This Friday, the NCPO will begin airing its weekly television program keeping the public informed of the army’s efforts to return happiness to the country.

"It will be an explanation of the NCPO's works, and will answer people's questions," said an army spokesman 31 May.

Since seizing power, the NCPO has summoned and detained more than 300 people, censored and closed down a number of TV stations and radios, and arrested protesters who voiced their opposition against the military junta.

NCPO spokesman Col. Winthai Suwaree said today that the military's crackdown on dissidents is a necessary part of the happiness project.

"Although those who disagree with the NCPO's ways are few, they affect the NCPO's mission to return the happiness to the country," Col. Winthai explained.

Coup updates - day 11

Very disturbing video posted by the Bangkok Post on its facebook page and widely shared online -  A woman was forced into a taxi by suspected plainclothes police officers after she allegedly flashed three-finger signs signalling her opposition to the military coup near Asoke BTS station this afternoon. (Bangkok Post video)

Protesters in Thailand have adopted the 3-fingered salute from the movie The Hunger Games.

More political figures called in

Bangkok is in near lockdown today with 8,000 troops and police protecting eight different locations where they anticape there may be anti-coup protests. The question is where was the army when the PDRC/Suthep mob was running rampant around Bangkok. Note also the compliance of the BTS in closing stations at Chitlom, Ploenchit and Rajdamri so that possible protestors cannot easily move around the city. Different world.

Jonah Fisher from the BBC "The army have deployed the sort of security in Bangkok today that would have made the Feb elections a walk in the park."

@PravitR tweeting on his time spend in captivity:

"Will write as full story as possible abt my detention inside army camp very soon. Both in Thai & English. Stay tune!

Being detained inside army base was like being in Big Brother reality show but 1 who decides not viewers but mil. junta.

Despite all our differences I thank all army officers from the Commander downward who treated us well & accorded us with respect.

 I can't attribute some quotes or describe some surreal scenes bcoz some will b affected. But d story is there!

Day 2 we ate breakfast as nat'l anthem was played on TV a Col. told us who didn't stand up. "I know u all r patriotic 2."

I have been 'freed' from the military base but neither I nor Thailand is free.

I was under detention inside military base with people including a former deputy PM, PAD leader Sondhi L., former Dem MP Jittitsara

While under detention in Military Base I told base's top brass shutting down streets 2 stop protests won't solve problem."

Coup updates - day 10

31 May 2014

Thailand’s secret story: the battle for a $37b royal estate

Jonathan Head (BBC) on twitter: "It is clear Thai military are coming down very hard now on anything negative about the monarchy. Seems a big concern of theirs."

Since 1932, when the absolute monarchy was abolished, Thailand has had 25 general elections and 19 coups, 12 of them successful. best estimate - no one is entirely sure of the correct number.

Reconciliation activities start with get-together parties, friendly talks - ThaiPBS news reading like the Pyongyang Times. Such nonsense.

The Junta plan

31 May 2014

We were blessed to have a 40 minute speech from coup leader General Prayuth to listen on all tv and radio channels on Friday night.

The man has a style of delivery that is devoid of all personality. And he is going to present to us every Friday night.

In a speech that went everywhere, even to wind turbines, he said he would appoint an interim government, write a new constitution and carry out large-scale public works projects. The junta also disclosed for the first time how long it intended to remain in charge — at least into the second half of 2015.

The country may return to democracy in around 15 months as long as “peace, order and reform is achieved,” said Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the junta.

He said it would take at least two to three months to achieve reconciliation in the deeply divided country (after over 8 years of protests and deaths he is being optimistis. You cannot effect reconciliation at the point of a gun. It would take about a year to write a new constitution and set up an interim government. Only then could elections be held, he said.

He said there are three phases to work through:

1. Phase 1 of roadmap will involve efforts to achieve national reconciliation ASAP and take about 2-3 months.  Aside from security operations, reconciliation centers will be established to pave the way for reforms in the second phase.

A reform committee will be set up to pave the way for a confrontation-free second phase. It is unclear as to its objectives or who the members will be.

In Phase 2 there will be a temporary constitution which will be draw up by legal experts. Again no specifics. Will the new constitution address issues around the succession?

A national assembly will be set up to choose a PM. Again no discussion of who will be on the assembly. I assume Prayuth already has a good idea who he wants as PM.

To appoint the PM and Cabinet Ministers and to rewrite the Constitution would take around one year (after the reconciliation period), "but it will depend on the situation." ie it can be delayed as long as we want.

In Phase 3 there will be a general election under a democratic syste that is acceptable to all sides. "Laws will be changed so we can have just and good leader" and to ensure that Thaksin can no longer form a government!

“We understand we live in a democratic world,” General Prayuth said. “Please give us time to change attitudes, values and many other things.”

The military has closed a number of television stations, barred criticism of the coup in the news media, blocked websites and arrested members of an as-yet small movement that has protested the coup. A curfew that was imposed when the junta seized power has been relaxed to only four hours a night and most businesses in the country are operating normally.

General Prayuth said he was seeking to “return happiness to the Thai people and foreign nationals residing in Thailand.” He also said that he had been unhappy for nine years; which made you think he should have taken a holiday at some stage. Or even gotten a dog.

His plans will appeal mainly to one side of the country’s political divide. The general’s plan for an appointed legislative council was similar to the demands of Suthep's protest movement, rooted in Bangkok’s conservative establishment, that in the months leading up to the military coup had paralyzed the now-deposed governing party.

The general used the moralistic language of the protest movement to describe his goals. “Rules and regulations will be amended in order to have a good, honest and moral leader to govern the country,” he said.

General Prayuth said the government would continue large-scale projects started by the previous government for flood prevention around Bangkok and a revamped train network.

He did not offer specifics on what reforms might be enacted, but analysts have speculated that the junta may seek to further reduce the role of elected representatives. After the last military coup in 2006, the upper house of Parliament was changed from a fully-elected body to a half-appointed one. One of the framers of the Constitution written after that coup, Wicha Mahakhun, said then that “elections are evil.”

Mr. Thaksin’s movement has won every national election since 2001, but its leaders have been removed from power five times, three times by courts that have sided with the Bangkok establishment.

The new constitution will be written to ensure that Thaksin and his supporters can never lead Thailand through a general election. Expect a large part of the elected house to change to functional constituencies.

General Prayuth talked of a reconciliation process that would last three months. But it will be reconciliation through criticism of the previous regime. Criticising this coup is illegal.

Seeing red no longer: Thai Army smothers dissent

31 May 2014 Reuters By Aubrey Belford and Pairat Temphairojana

NONG SAE, Thailand, May 30 (Reuters) - The red flags that once hung in this Thai village of green and gold rice fields in Thaksin Shinawatra's northern heartland have been taken down.

Hidden or burned, too, are the red T-shirts, protest horns and membership cards of the street movement that had rowdily supported the ousted government of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck.

"We don't trust that if we put a red flag in our house that our family will be safe," Jamrus Lunna, a local farmer, told Reuters. "We need to think for our family first."

Since seizing power in a May 22 coup, the army has rapidly imposed its grip on the northern and northeastern strongholds that have been loyal to the billionaire Shinawatra clan since Thaksin's populist premiership that began in 2001. (To read a Special Report on the coup, click on )

Radio stations run by the "red shirts" - the movement formed to oppose the 2006 coup that deposed Thaksin - have been raided, activists rounded up and protests thwarted.

In Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces in the far north, at least 20 local red shirt organisers were detained. Most have now been freed, but the military appears to have successfully muzzled their movement and disrupted their networks.

Mahawon Kawang, a red shirt DJ, closed down his Chiang Mai radio station and went into hiding shortly after Prayuth announced the coup. Within hours, troops had surrounded the shophouse of his sister, Ampai Khayan, on the city's outskirts.

Failing to find Mahawon, troops took his brother-in-law, Duangkaew Khayan, instead. Surveillance camera footage seen by Reuters shows Duangkaew being escorted into the night at 10:01 p.m., one minute past the junta's newly announced curfew.

"He's not a leader. I've never seen him mobilising anyone," Ampai said.

Mahawon said the army's tactics won't work for long, especially since the seven-day detention period has expired for many activists.

"There will be resistance but it will be without any leaders, it will be natural," he said. "There will be more and more dissent because the people see the injustice."

The heavy-handed approach appears to be stemming the kind of uprising warned of by Thaksin's loyalists in the lead-up to the military takeover.

Daily anti-coup protests peaked in Thaksin's hometown, Chiang Mai, on Saturday, when at least 200 people jeered at and sporadically jostled with police, but have fizzled since. Red shirt radio stations have been silenced and troops and police have been posted at points throughout the city.

In a flower shop in the village of Non Harn, Pichai Phetpiphut said he spent the night of the coup at a military base. His wife, red shirt organiser Manussaporn, was released on Tuesday.

Nearby, Sangwalae Siwichai, a 54-year-old red shirt sympathiser, sat with other activists making signs for a planned flash mob protest.

"We gather in small groups peacefully in several landmarks of the city, take photos, leave the area, and post it on Facebook so that people can share it. Then we repeat it," she said.

"The army is probably keeping an eye on us. It's scary and our protests may not be noticed, but we need to keep on trying." (Editing by Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)

Thaksin Thinks, Prayuth Acts

31 May 2014 By Anders Engvall, Guest Contributor New Mandala

The coup by the National Council for Peace and Order under General Prayuth Chan-ocha will lead to an acceleration of Thaksinomics, rather than its demise.

The junta has already embraced key elements of the Thaksin’s dual track development policy, combining international economic liberalism with domestic populist schemes, by reviving the 2-billion baht infrastructure program and rapidly making payments to farmers under the rice-pledging program. As hypocrisy knows few boundaries, Democrat and former Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij has quickly hailed the junta’s payments to farmers under the rice scheme, after years of criticizing the same program when implemented by Yingluck.

A key message in the 2012 election campaign was that “Thaksin Thinks, Puea Thai Acts” and the junta seemingly tries to adapt a “Thaksin Thinks, Prayuth Acts” model when restoring key economic policies of the party they just overthrew.

Economic policies may be a minor issue compared to the gross human rights violation in the aftermath of the coup, including arbitrary detentions, restrictions on free speech, and the suspension of democracy. Yet, reviving the ailing economy is top priority for Thailand military junta and its success in reinitiating growth will have a major impact on events in the aftermath of the coup.

Realizing that the complexities of a modern economy is beyond the grasp of aging generals, the junta quickly brought in a policy making team largely made up of former Thaksin loyalists. Somkid Jatusripitak a co-founder of Thai Rak Thai that held both commerce and finance positions in Thaksin cabinets will oversee foreign affairs for the military government. Pridiyathorn Devakula overseeing the juntas economic policy, was appointed Governor of Bank of Thailand during the first Thaksin administration. He also served as finance minister in the military government following the 2006 coup that introduced disastrous capital controls leading to a collapse of the stock market. Narongchai Akrasanee, a former Minister of Commerce that served as an advisor to the Thaksin government, will assist Pridiyathorn.

The rapid adoption of Thaksinomics by the junta, is a reflection of the model’s total dominance within Thailand’s policy circles. It’s dual track nature – with economic liberalism to attract foreign capital combined with populist domestic programs to attract broad domestic support – is attractive to policy makers seeking to both maintain Bangkok centered economic growth and appease the largely rural electorate. Thaksinomics is likely to continue to dominate the country’s economic policies given the repeated electoral success of Thaksin’s political parties and the lack of credible alternative models, as the elitist sufficiency economy has failed to attract widespread rural support.

The junta’s economic team faces a difficult task with an economy in contraction. Political uncertainty has stalled investment and consumer sentiment fell to a 12-year low in the months before the coup. Key economic decisions will put the military government at a test. While future support to rice farmers will be difficult to swallow for the Bangkok-based supporters of the military takeover, removing all subsidies is out of the question. With market prices at a third of the price guaranteed under the Yingluck government program, ending rice subsidies would ensure a quick demise of any rural support for the junta. We are most likely to see a continuation of rice support and other populist programs under new names, in moves similar to the rebranding of Thaksinite policies done after the 2006 coup and the Abhisit government.

The suspension of all checks and balances under direct military rule opens up opportunities for gross corruption. A country with a long history of military power grabs, Thai generals inevitably amass huge fortunes while in power. Resumption of the 2 billion-baht infrastructure program, appointment of generals to the boards of state-owned enterprises and the inevitable increase of the military budget will ensure that the junta leaders not only grab political power, but also a fair share of the Thailand’s riches.

Anders Engvall is a Research Fellow at the Stockholm School of Economics

Coup updates  - day 9

30 May 2014

Dire Straits - I want my, I want my, I want my BBC....

In Thailand "army control of the country's traditional media is Big Brother-like in scope and absurdism" The Wire

Reuters: "That message of military benevolence has been reinforced with looped footage on morning news of farmers emerging from banks counting fistfuls of notes and others sporting ''We love the army'' stickers, holding placards thanking the new government for paying up. The propaganda machine is in full swing to discredit anti-coup demonstrators, with bulletins interrupting programming to ask the public to resist what they say are inducements of 400 baht offered via Facebook to attend protests."

Just a reminder that these are the people running the country now: "Thai security forces spend $30 million on fake ‘bomb detectors’"

Bangkok Post: "The coup junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Thursday night summoned leaders of the red-shirt movement in Nakhon Ratchasima province, demanding they report to the Army Club in Bangkok on Friday....Others also ordered to report by the NCPO were former government chief whip Amnuay Klangpha and other politicians of the Pheu Thai Party in Nakhon Ratchasima"

This is really no more than an example - in the north and east most people are just rounded up and taken away rather than summoned.

It is a purge....and it is extensive.

PDRC leaders draw flak for lavish party

Brace for it: Thailand could be run by a military junta for years

MOPH warns against mental stress resulting from over-consumption of news

Special Report: Option B - The blueprint for Thailand's coup

Social-Media Companies Skip Meeting With Thai Junta

Thailand's Generals in a Corner

Thailand Isn't Banning Social Media, It Needs It For Propaganda

Thai coup-makers controlling the message

Egypt relieved as threat of democracy recedes 

May 29, 2014 Pan Arabian Enquirer (For Egypt read Thailand!)

CAIRO: Egyptians were this morning breathing a sigh of relief following reports that the country had narrowly escaped a brush with democracy.

With news from Cairo confirming that an army general with a list of human rights abuses to his name had won an election with over 90 per cent of the vote, many were now looking forward to a renewed period of military-led democracy-free stability for Egypt.

“Sure, we’ve had an exciting few years,” said Tina Alamuddin, a supermarket worker in Alexandria. “But just like when you’ve been on holiday somewhere, it is nice to be back.”

“I did enjoy putting a tick in a little box,” added Ali Palais, a retired janitor in Cairo. “But knowing that there could be serious consequences should it put it in the wrong one gave me that warm, familiar feeling of old.”

A few home truths

30 May 2014

There is some appalling propaganda and self-justification coming from the Thai junta who now rule this nation.

So let's deal in a few truths:

1. The junta has justified its power seizure by pointing out that the elected government, led by a Pheu Thai, was too dysfunctional to govern the nation.

That dysfunction was largely owed to Suthep's street movement that chased elected politicians out of their offices, took over government house, occupied the streets and sabotaged an election because they knew Pheu Thai would win. The movement — linked to Thailand’s pro-establishment Democrat Party, which hasn’t won an election for two decades — repeatedly egged on the military to seize power and deliver their demands.

And that is what has happened. The movement called for a suspension of elections so that a hand-picked council of statesmen could run the country. The junta is now busy setting up a council similar to what the “people’s coup” movement imagined.

2. Farmers are happy because they have been paid.

The money was held up because the government was barred (as a caretaker government) from either borrowing or passing a budget while the country awaited elections. The February election results were annulled. A July 20th election will not happen now that the coup has taken place.

3. Veera in the Bangkok Post on 30 May. "Thaksin, it was reported, told the government not to back down on its demand for an early election as a solution to the political conflict. The hardline and uncompromising stand prompted the military takeover and the suspension of the Constitution, except for the provisions regarding the Monarchy."

Actually, the demand was the government resign and essentially give power over to the Establishment to appoint their own government. The government refused. In other parliamentary democracies, when there is a crisis in confidence in the government, a dissolution and a new election is the way out. To Veera and other coup apologists, this is seen as a hardline and uncompromising stand….

Note that the government had resigned. There was an election in February. The Democrats refused to take part.

4. Veera again "At least as far as we can see, a potentially violent confrontation between the two rival groups, PDRC and UDD – and even the much-feared civil war as wildly predicted by some foreign media – have been thwarted for now and perhaps during the period the military is in power." You here this a lot - that there was certain to be a bloodbath. There is no evidence that this was likely. The same was argued to justify the 2006 coup. Repeating the same argument loudly does not make it right.

5. Veera on vote-buying: "How do you stop vote buying? And how can you stop a party which is in full control of local administrators such as kamnan and village heads from using these men and women to help in their election without certain reforms being made to the electoral process?

To quote Bangkok Pundit - "There is no evidence that vote-buying is the reason why the Democrats cannot win. If you are looking for a reason, look at the word “incompetence."

Bangkok Post - 6 December 2013 :  "Vote-buying claims nothing but dangerous nonsense"

6. Veera on mega-projects: "Veera continues: "How do you deal with your elected representatives if they blindly endorse trillion baht mega projects, backed by only a few fact sheets and completely lacking feasibility studies or public hearings, simply because they were told to do so? Mind you, many of these hopeless MPs will stage a comeback in parliament if an election is held soon, as demanded by the international community and foreign media."

In this case we appear to have staged a coup so that the militar can implement the same projects but in this case without any oversight as the Constitution is suspended and all executive and legislative power rests with the junta?

The reason that those MPs can stage a comeback is they will be elected. No one elected the junta.

7. Veera continues on understanding democracy: "Almost a decade of colour-coded political conflict and after more than six months of protests against the government, many Thais have a clear understanding of democracy but in a different light from the western perception of it. To them, democracy is not all about elections and going to the polls and then leaving the fate of their country in the hands of the elected representatives. Or giving them a blank cheque so that they can fill in any numbers they wish."

It is not “many”. It is a minority. A minority who can’t win and continue to lose so they need to rewrite the rules so they can become a majority. This would be achieved if Thailand gets a Constitution which makes around 30-50% of MPs functional constituencies (where professional organizations select the respective MPs from their members). Think Hong Kong with a guaranteed pro-China legislative assembly.

8. Veera continues: "Democracy is about more than just elections. It is also about accountability, transparency and good governance. And since many of the politicians do not believe in and do not have accountability, transparency and good governance desires, many voters will not go to the polls without reforms that hold their representatives accountable.

They do not just yearn for the return of democracy but also for a truly responsive and accountable parliament and government."

Parliament accountable to who? The minority who boycotted the election? If the majority do not like the government they can vote it out. But successive elections since 2001 have shown what the majority want.

So post coup does Thailand have accountability, transparency and good governance now? And how can a new appointed government supported by the minority meet those high minded objectives?
Thailand's Generals in a Corner

Rule by fear risks repeating the darkest hours of Thai history.

29 May 2014 - Wall Street Journal editorial

The military coup in Bangkok is getting nastier by the day, as the army continues preemptively to lock up academics, journalists and opposition politicians. At least 250 people have been detained since last week, although perhaps half have since been released and spokesmen say the remainder are being treated well.

Criticism of the junta is now a crime. Universities have been told not to hold any political events. Gatherings of more than five people are banned. Reporters were told to ask easier questions of their new rulers. Facebook FB +0.50% was briefly blocked on Wednesday. Meanwhile protests made up of hundreds of people continue to occur daily, including Thursday at Bangkok's Thammasat University.

The Thammasat campus is a significant venue because the military massacred about 100 students and other protesters there in October 1976, an event that led to nationwide killings and repression. While the situation in Thailand now is different, some Thais are drawing parallels to that period. Those who have criticized the military in the past now fear for their safety and are preparing to leave the country, at least temporarily.

Their fears may yet prove unwarranted, but they are not irrational. The generals claim unlimited powers in the name of national unity; nobody can hold them accountable. They have backed themselves into a corner so that any criticism must be silenced before they can hand power back to a civilian government that will grant them amnesty. The fact that criticism keeps coming suggests the coup will lead to a prolonged period of military rule.

Former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang refused an order to surrender and gave a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand Tuesday calling for new elections. He predicted that rather than damping down political conflict, this coup will exacerbate it. As he finished, he was pulled from the stage by soldiers and taken away. The junta says he and others will be tried in a military court without defense counsel for breaking martial law.

We should be clear, given Thailand's strict lese majeste laws, that King Bhumibol Adulyadej is not responsible for this dangerous situation. In recent years he has said that he should not be above criticism, and opposed an appointed prime minister to replace the elected government. The Thai generals who claim to serve him have ignored his instructions.

The result is likely to be huge economic losses and a further blow to the military's prestige. After the 2006 coup, the junta appointed retired Gen. Surayud Chulanont to run the country. But other generals continually interfered, and the country veered toward economic nationalism. Corruption also worsened, which was especially damaging because that had been the main justification for overthrowing the elected government.

The military has not yet revealed its government lineup, but a 10-member advisory board announced Wednesday was heavy on generals, including the leaders of the 2006 coup. Thailand seems to be condemned to go on repeating the worst episodes of its past. The generals are intent on ruling by fear, but as Thais continue to resist they risk a showdown worse than that in 1976.

Coup updates - day 8

Explaining the coup to the foreign media: Lt. Gen. Chaichalerm to foreign journalists "Thai people have different way of thinking to you. I have a different upbringing to you."

Thailand: Halt Military Trials, End Arbitrary Arrests  (the HRW Thailand page is now blocked by the military)

Thai military raids target ‘red shirt’ protest leaders - Channel 4 news from Chiang Mai

Thailand’s Army Tears Up the Script

Thai Military Steps Up Efforts To Control Coup Narrative

Surveying the wreckage of Thailand's monarchy - Philip Bowring

Thai coup-makers controlling the message Al jazeera

Coup updates - date 7

28 May 2014

BTS, MRT and Airport Link open until 23:00 from today

Army says 200 of 253 people summoned appeared. 124 have been released. 53 at large. And those 124 released from military custody aren't allowed to give any political opinions

Top MICT official  told Jonathan Head at the BBC that they are considering a single government ISP 4 all internet access - but it would take months.

The Junta leadership ordered the creation of "reconciliation centres" around the country, in order "to create unity and end the division," according to an army spokesman. The centres will be a run by community leaders chosen by the junta and will disseminate information approved by the leadership to the public. (Orwellian!)

Sixteen senior police officers in redshirt provinces of Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Khon Khaen, Udon Thani, and Bangkok were transferred Tuesday to inactive posts at the Royal Thai Police head office.

They were ordered to report to the Special Action Operation Centre at the head office at 4.00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Jonathan Head on the arrest of Chaturon at the FCCT yesterday: "Honestly, I didn't know if army would come. Our job at FCCT was to provide venue for news maker 2 meet media" - "It is not my job to advise army but sending soldiers in like that to detain an unarmed man is overkill." - "He was there to talk to journalists. He offered no resistance. Could have been detained outside."

Bangkok Pundit who has been blogging for a decade about Thailand's politial morass said tonight "that in mind together with the increasing censorship restrictions, summoning of anyone critical of the junta (and the summoning and rebuking of journalists for asking Prayuth “aggressive” questions), incommunicado detentions etc it is clearly not the best time for critical blogging. Hence, until things change, will need to slightly alter the style of this blog to one that will be quoting more from articles and giving emphasis to interesting details. Readers will need to draw their own conclusions. An example is from this post about the summoning of journalists. You can draw your own conclusion whether you think the summoning of 2 journalists for asking Prayuth questions is justified because you could view that those with good intentions should never be questioned and the Thai military is the entity to save all of Thailand and always acts with the nation’s interest at heart….. Or you could take a different view…." Reading between the lines will be needed!

Class War: Thailand's Military Coup

28 May 2014 By Walden Bello, Foreign Policy In Focus | News Analysis

After declaring martial law on Tuesday, May 20, the Thai military announced a full-fledged coup two days later. The putsch followed nearly eight months of massive street protests against the ruling Pheu Thai government identified with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The power grab by army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ochacame two weeks after Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, was ousted as caretaker prime minister by the country’s Constitutional Court for “abuse of power” on May 7.

The Thai military portrayed its seizure of power as an effort to impose order after two rounds of talks between the country’s rival factions failed to produce a compromise that would provide Thailand with a functioning government.

Deftly Managed Script

The military’s narrative produced few takers. Indeed, many analysts saw the military’s move as a coup de grace to Thailand’s elected government, following what they saw as the judicial coup of May 7.

It is indeed difficult not to see the putsch as the final step in a script deftly managed by the conservative “royalist” establishment to thwart the right to govern of a populist political bloc that has won every election since 2001. Utilizing anti-corruption discourse to inflame the middle class into civil protest, the aim of key forces in the anti-government coalition has been, from the start, to create the kind of instability that would provoke the military to step in and provide the muscle for a new political order.

Using what analyst Marc Saxer calls “middle class rage” as the battering ram, these elite elements forced the resignation of the Yingluck government in December; disrupted elections in February, thus providing the justification for the conservative Constitutional Court to nullify them; and instigated that same court’s decision to oust Yingluck as caretaker prime minister May 7 on flimsy charges of “abuse of power.” Civil protest was orchestrated with judicial initiatives to pave the way for a military takeover.

The military says that it will set up a “reform council” and a “national assembly” that will lay the institutional basis of a new government. This plan sounds very much like the plan announced in late November by the protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, which would place the country for a year under an unelected, unaccountable reform panel.

The military’s move has largely elicited the approval of Suthep’s base of middle-class supporters. Indeed, it has been middle-class support that has provided cover for the calculated moves of the political elites. Many of those that provided the backbone of the street protests now anticipate the drafting of an elitist new order that will institutionalize political inequality in favor of Bangkok and the country’s urban middle class.

The Thai Middle Class: From Paragons to Enemies of Democracy

The sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset once celebrated the middle class as paragons of democracy. But in recent years, middle-class Thais have transmogrified into supporters of an elitist, frankly antidemocratic agenda. Today’s middle class is no longer the pro-democracy middle class that overthrew the dictatorship of General Suchinda Krapayoon in 1992. What happened?

Worth quoting in full is an insightful analysis of this transformation provided by Marc Saxer:

The Bangkok middle class called for democratization and specifically the liberalization of the state with the political rights to protect themselves from the abuse of power by the elites. However, once democracy was institutionalized, they found themselves to be the structural minority. Mobilized by clever political entrepreneurs, it was now the periphery who handily won every election. Ignorant of the rise of a rural middle class demanding full participation in social and political life, the middle class in the center interpreted demands for equal rights and public goods as ‘the poor getting greedy’… [M]ajority rule was equated with unsustainable welfare expenses, which would eventually lead to bankruptcy.

From the perspective of the middle class, Saxer continues, majority rule overlooks the political basis of the social contract: a social compromise between all stakeholders. Never has any social contract been signed which obligates the middle class to foot the tax bill, in exchange for quality public services, political stability and social peace. This is why middle classes feel like they are “being robbed” by corrupt politicians, who use their tax revenues to “buy votes” from the “greedy poor.” Or, in a more subtle language, the “uneducated rural masses are easy prey for politicians who promise them everything in an effort to get a hold of power.”

Thus, Saxer concludes, from the viewpoint of the urban middle class,

policies delivering to local constituencies are nothing but “populism,” or another form of “vote buying” by power hungry politicians. The Thai Constitutional Court, in a seminal ruling, thus equated the very principle of elections with corruption. Consequently, time and again, the “yellow” alliance of feudal elites along with the Bangkok middle class called for the disenfranchisement of the “uneducated poor,” or even more bluntly the suspension of electoral democracy.

Impossible Dream

However, the elite-middle class alliance is deceiving itself if it thinks the adoption of a constitution institutionalizing minority rule will be possible. For Thailand is no longer the Thailand of 20 years ago, where political conflicts were still largely conflicts among elites, with the vast lower classes being either onlookers or passive followers of warring elite factions.

What is now the driving force of Thai politics is class conflict with Thai characteristics, to borrow from Mao. The central figure that has transformed the Thai political landscape is the exiled Thaksin Shinawatra, a charismatic, if corrupt, billionaire who managed through a combination of populism, patronage, and the skillful deployment of cash to create a massive electoral majority. While for Thaksin the aim of this coalition might be the cornering or monopolization of elite power, for the social sectors he has mobilized, the goal is the redistribution of wealth and power from the elites to the masses and—equally important—extracting respect for people that had been scorned as “country bumpkins” or “buffaloes.” However much Thaksin’s “Redshirt” movement may be derided as a coalition between corrupt politicians and the “greedy poor,” it has become the vehicle for the acquisition of full citizenship rights by Thailand’s marginalized classes.

The elite-middle class alliance is dreaming if it thinks that the Redshirts will stand aside and allow them to dictate the terms of surrender, much less institutionalize these in a new constitution. But neither do the Redshirts at present possess the necessary coercive power to alter the political balance in the short and medium term. It is now their turn to wage civil resistance.

Since the coup, about 150 people have been reported detained—including Pravit Rojanaphruk, a prominent reporter for Thailand’s Nation newspaper known for his criticism of the anti-government protest movement that precipitated the military’s intervention.

What now seems likely is that, with violent and non-violent civil protest by the Redshirts, Thailand will experience a prolonged and bitter descent into virtual civil war, with the Pheu Thai regional strongholds—the North, Northeast, and parts of the central region of the country—becoming increasingly ungovernable from imperial Bangkok. It is a tragic denouement to which an anti-democratic opposition disdaining all political compromise has plunged this once promising Southeast Asian nation.

Thai ministry says blocks Facebook to stem anti-coup criticism

28 May 2014 - Reuters

Thailand's information technology ministry blocked Facebook on Wednesday and planned to hold talks with other social networking sites to stem protests against the military government, a senior official said.

"We have blocked Facebook temporarily and tomorrow we will call a meeting with other social media, like Twitter and Instagram, to ask for cooperation from them," Surachai Srisaracam, permanent secretary of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, told Reuters.

"Right now there's a campaign to ask for people to stage protests against the army so we need to ask for cooperation from social media to help us stop the spread of critical messages about the coup," he said.

Print and broadcast media have already been instructed to refrain from critical reporting of the military's May 22 takeover.

Army Loudspeaker 'Hijacked By Imposter' At Victory Monument, Military Says

28 May 2014 Khaosod (You really cannot make this up!)

The military officer who berated anti-coup protesters and called the foreign media "scoundrels" at a protest at Victory Monument earlier this week was not a military officer after all, the army has claimed.

According to deputy army spokesperson Col. Sirichan Nga-thong, the man behind the loudspeaker was an imposter who collaborated with anti-coup protesters to smear the Thai army.

"At this moment, there has been dissemination of texts or video clips that intend to portray soldiers as power abusers," Col. Sirichan said, citing the video clip of an an hour-long rant against anti-coup protesters and foreign media emanating from an army humvee at the anti-coup protest at Victory Monument on 26 May.

The video, which has since been blocked in Thailand, captures a speaker accusing anti-coup demonstrators of being unpatriotic "scums" who are being paid to protest. He also directs an unusual amount of scorn towards the foreign press covering the protest, going as far as calling them "scoundrels" who want to sabotage Thailand.

However, Col. Sirichan insisted that the speaker in question was in fact a provocateur "dressed up in military uniform," and that the anti-coup movement is circulating the video clip to vilify the army.

"Such action is inciting hatred against security forces. I beg you to stop," Col. Sirichan said in a press conference yesterday. "I insist that all soldiers perform their duty with restraint in every aspect."

Col. Sirichan also threatened to take legal action against those who published the video clips.

Curiously, during the several hours in which the alleged imposter was manning the loudspeaker from inside an army humvee, none of the surrounding military personnel made any effort to stop him.

In the past week, military spokespersons have made a number of bold assertions that appear to lack substantial evidence.

When a photo of a crying soldier went viral on the internet over the weekend, the army came out with a public statement clarifying that the soldier was crying from pepper spray fired by an anti-coup protester, not from ympathy for the demonstrators his troops were trying to contain. Witnesses at the scene did not report seeing any use of pepper spray.

On Monday, another army spokesperson accused anti-coup demonstrations of being organised and funded by tuu maa (illegal slot machine) mafia, who allegedly pay each demonstrator 400 - 1,000 baht to join protests.

The military has repeatedly warned the media not to report any material that might "incite unrest" or undermine the mission of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO), which seized power from the former government on 22 May. The NCPO has already blocked over 200 websites, and is drafting plans for a internet gateway that will allow the military to censor online material more efficiently, Prachatai English reports.

Junta Consolidates Power With Police, Governors Reshuffle (DPA)

28 May 2014 By Cod Satrusayang for Khaosod English

BANGKOK (DPA) — The ruling Thai military junta said Wednesday it had ordered the reshuffle of key positions within the national police force with immediate effect.

Several provincial governors, including in the northern city of Chiang Mai, have also been reassigned to positions that hold no executive power.

Most of those that were reassigned were put in post by the previous civilian government.

Earlier Wednesday, the leadership ordered the creation of "reconciliation centres" around the country, in order "to create unity and end the division," according to an army spokesman.

The centres will be a run by community leaders chosen by the junta and will disseminate information approved by the leadership to the public.

The junta announced late Tuesday the members of an advisory council that will help it administer the country.

The council will advise the junta in several fields including security, foreign affairs and the economy.

General Prawit Wongsuwan, coup-leader Prayuth Chan-ocha's old commanding officer, will lead the council, the junta said.

Also included is Pridiyathorn Devakula, an aristocrat who will advise on economic matters. Pridiyathorn will be reprising a familiar role, as he served as finance minister under the last coup-appointed government in 2006.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power last week after seven months of anti-government protests that led to violence and a political stalemate.

Since coming to power he has imposed a curfew, censorship of the press and summoned more than 200 people including journalists and academics, many of whom are detained on army bases.

Late Tuesday, the hours of the curfew were shortened from 10 pm to 5 am (1500-2200 GMT), to midnight to 4 am.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for the immediate release of journalists.

"Journalists are vital to the flow of information, particularly during this time of political upheaval," said CPJ deputy director Robert Mahoney.

"It's not the army's job to decide what news organizations can publish."


A climate of fear sweeps Thailand

27 May 2014 Financial Times Editorial

No one should be in any doubt about the nature of the Thai coup. This is no benign military intervention aimed at restoring order to the fractious democratic process. Rather, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the coup-plotter-in-chief, has imposed a brutal dictatorship that has snuffed out freedom of expression and civil liberties. The constitution has been suspended, giving the military free rein to act without fear of reprisal. Freedom of the press has been ended. Gatherings of more than five people are banned and Gen Prayuth has warned that anyone who disobeys will face a military court. Extraordinary to think it, but Thailand may now be a more repressive country than Myanmar.

 Tales coming out of Thailand over the past few days are disturbing. Not only opposition leaders but also members of the press, academia and non-governmental organisations have been told to report for questioning. Many have re-emerged, although few have yet spoken of their ordeal. Human Rights Watch has documented cases such as that of Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, a human-rights activist who was taken on Sunday, along with her son, to Bangkok’s Army Club. Released on condition they spoke to no one, their whereabouts are unknown. Ms Sukanya has campaigned for the freedom of her husband, convicted of anachronistic laws designed to shield the monarchy from criticism. In such cases, Gen Prayuth’s grimly mordant pledge not to violate human rights “too much” is more of a warning than an assurance.

Make no mistake about it. There is a climate of fear in Thailand. Especially in the northeastern provinces where the self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has his support base, many local leaders have gone into hiding. Even in Bangkok, where the “yellow shirts” who strongly oppose Mr Thaksin hold sway, a 10pm curfew is in operation.

Gen Prayuth likes to give the impression of being a reluctant dictator, forced to take control due to the increasing risk of violence and civil unrest. That does not bear scrutiny. This coup appears long in the plotting. Valid criticism against the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra was buttressed by a steady stream of propaganda and half-truths that brought demonstrators on to the streets. Her government slowly became a shell, weakened by a campaign of civil disobedience and the decision of the constitutional court, which dismissed her as prime minister. When the army finally moved into the vacuum, there was in effect no government to topple. Some yellows may genuinely prefer a military government run by unelected generals than an elected one in the hands of a leader they despise. But some have been suckered into preparing the ground for a military coup de grâce.

What should happen now? First, western governments should move decisively to show their abhorrence of the military takeover. The US has already suspended joint manoeuvres with the Thai military. It should now consider sterner measures, including sanctions. The EU should follow suit. The west must make clear it will not turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. Gen Prayuth should be urged to restore democracy as quickly as possible by charting a path back to elections. In truth that will be impossible if the opposition remains implacably opposed to a Thaksin-leaning government. Thais of all colours must learn to accept the will of the majority even if it challenges their perceived interests. Parliament, not the streets, is the place to battle out differences.

Sadly, Gen Prayuth looks unlikely to step aside quickly. This time the generals – or possibly their proxies – may be hard to budge. These are dark days for Thailand. The hope must be they do not grow darker still.

Reporters Reprimanded For Asking Prayuth 'Aggressive' Questions

27 May 2014 - Khaosod

The military has rebuked two reporters from prominent Thai newspapers for asking "aggressive" questions to military junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, an army secretary says.

"Gen. Prayuth has instructed me to tell them that today he is not only the commander-in-chief of the army, he is now the leader of the country, who exercises both legislative and administrative powers,” said Lt.Gen. Pollapat Wannapak, chief secretary to the Royal Thai Army. “Therefore, in order to answer any questions for the public, he has to carefully consider things."

The chastised reporters are Supparerk Thongchaiyasit from Thai Rath newspaper, and Wassana Nanuam, a self-styled "military reporter" from the Bangkok Post.

In a press conference yesterday, Mr. Supparerk and Ms. Wassana asked Gen. Prayuth whether he planned to appoint himself as the new Prime Minister, and when he expects a new election to be held.

Gen. Prayuth refused to answer either question.

"Do you want to be Prime Minister? Do you?" Gen. Prayuth taunted Mr. Supparerk in response.

"I do! I do!" the Thai Rath reporter shouted back, provoking laughter from other journalists.

Today, army secretary Lt.Gen. Pollapot called Mr. Supparerk and Ms. Wassana’s behavior unacceptable.

"Now it is not the time for [Gen. Prayuth] to answer these questions, especially about the appointment of new Prime Minister,” Lt. Gen. Pollapot said. “Furthermore, asking questions in such an aggressive manner is not appropriate. Therefore, we ask for their cooperation not to do that again in the future."

The army secretary added that Gen. Prayuth has expressed concern that "aggressive" questions from the media may affect the public's confidence in his ability to lead the country.

Lt.Gen. Pollapot said that Ms. Wassana, who consistently reports favorably on military affairs, was also "asked" by the army to close the comment section on her official Facebook account. However, Ms. Wassana informed them that while it is impossible to "close" the comment section on her Facebook, she has asked others to stop debating about military issues on her page, Lt.Gen. Pollapot said.

Freedom of press in Thailand has been severely restricted since the army seized power from the elected government on 22 May. The military junta has shutdown TV and radio stations, blocked dozens of websites, and "asked" the Thai media to avoid reporting anything that undermines the military's mission.

A prominent journalist from The Nation, Pravit Rojanaphruk, was ordered to report to the NCPO two days ago and has not been released since.

Thai military detains ex cabinet minister

27 May 2014 - VOA

Thailand's ruling military has detained a minister in the ousted government, minutes after he denounced last week's coup as illegitimate.

Soldiers burst into the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand Tuesday and took former education minister Chaturon Chaisang, who had just given a talk.

Chaturon had defied the junta’s order to surrender under martial law.

Speaking to journalists minutes before he was taken away, Chaturon insisted it was legitimate for anyone to peacefully demonstrate or speak out against the coup - acts also deemed illegal by those now in control.

"Coup d'etat is not a solution to the problems or conflicts in Thai society but will make the conflicts even worse," he said.."It is also a great concern that if those with authority cannot handle the problems well, it may lead to violence and greater losses."

The army seized power Thursday, saying the move was necessary to end violence, restore public order and carry out political reform.

Chaturon, an ally of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup, disputed that the military intends to carry out true political reform.

Rather, he said, it intends to put a system into place ensuring only those favored by the elite, the military and the royalists will be able to govern the kingdom.

Army Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak, a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order, was asked during a VOA interview shortly after Chaturon’s remark whether the junta believes the billionaire former prime minister’s influence is the root cause of Thailand’s troubles.

“That is the main reason that caused the fundamental problem of Thailand,” he said.

The coup leader, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, is now running not only the country’s military, but all the instruments of government.

Weerachon said the military does not have a timetable for return to civilian rule and elections.

“If suppose we had a magic medicine to fix all the problems in Thailand within one week we would be more than happy to restore peace and order, the same system back to Thailand within one week," he said. "It depends on all the conflict parties, if they cooperate, if they agree that ‘OK, let’s take a break.”

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister who was brought to power after her party won a majority of the legislative seats in the 2011 election, was forced to resign May 7 as caretaker prime minister when a court ruled she and nine members of her cabinet had abused their power.

Her successor as interim prime minister, Niwattamrong Boonsongpaisan, lost his job in last Thursday's coup.

The director of City University of Hong Kong’s Southeast Asia Research Center, Mark Thompson, said Thailand’s army clearly has an agenda.

"Each time the military has shown it clearly sides with the so-called 'Yellow Shirts,' the traditional elites who oppose Thaksin, who are based in big business, the bureaucracy, the courts and have support in the monarchy,” he said.

Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile for years because he has faced prison for a corruption conviction should he return home.

Still, he remains Thailand’s most influential and polarizing political figure. He or his allies have won every national election since 2001, supported by the rural poor.

The military has carried out 19 coups or attempted overthrows of civilian governments since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

Thailand’s 86-year-old King has been ailing for years but remains a deeply revered figure.

A royal command was issued in his name Monday to General Prayuth to run the governing military-led counsel.

The coup has drawn international criticism. The U.S. Defense Department says it is canceling U.S. military exercises with Thailand and planned visits by U.S. and Thai military officials.

Thailand's army has staged 12 coups in the last 80 years.

VOA's Ron Corben and Gabrielle Paluch contributed to this report.

Junta appoints advisors

27 May 2014

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan [former Army C-in-C] has been appointed Chairman of the NCPO.

Somkid Jatusripitak [former Finance Minister under Thaksin] is responsible for foreign affairs

Pridiyathorn Devakula [former Finance Minister under the Surayud government] and Narongchai Akrasanee [former Senator and Minister of Commerce] are responsible for economic affairs

Wisanu Krue-ngam [former cabinet secretary-general under Thaksin] is responsible for legal and justice affairs

Gen. Anupong Paochinda [former Army C-in-C and main person behind 2006 coup] is responsible for security affairs

This looks like the beginning of a cabinet. Jonathan Head at the BBC gave this analysis:

Interesting there are 2 people from Thaksin's former cabinets in Thai military council now. Both distant from Thaksin now. But inclusion of Generals Prawit and Anupong - both hardliners behind PDRC - shows real character of military council. Gen. Prawit, new chairman of NCPO, has long wanted a top job.

More on the support that Anupong and Prawit gave to Suthep and the PDRC can be seen in this Reuters article from December 2013

Powerful forces revealed behind Thai protest movement

Friday December 13th - Reuters - By Jason Szep and Amy Sawitta Lefevre

His whistle-tooting crowds of supporters are dwindling. His threats against Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra veer from the bold to the bizarre.

But behind Thailand's fiery anti-government protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, are two powerful retired generals with palace connections, a deep rivalry with the Shinawatra family and an ability to influence Thailand's coup-prone armed forces.

The forces behind Suthep are led by former defense minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and former army chief General Anupong Paochinda, towering figures in Thailand's military establishment, said two military sources with direct knowledge of the matter and a third with connections to Thai generals.

A glimpse into Suthep's connections sheds light on how he could prevail in a seemingly improbable bid to oust a leader who won a 2011 election by a landslide and impose rule by an unelected "People's Council" of appointed "good people", even as his street rallies start to flag.

Although retired, Anupong, 64, and Prawit, 67, still wield influence in a powerful and highly politicized military that has played a pivotal role in a country that has seen 18 successful or attempted coups in the past 81 years.

It is unclear how far that influence goes, or how decisive they could be. But both have close ties to army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. And all three have a history of enmity with Yingluck's billionaire brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who they helped oust in a 2006 coup.

The military sources said that if Suthep's protests lead to violence, the two could help sway the military to intervene or even to seize power on the pretext of national security, allowing Suthep to go ahead with his People's Council, though analysts say such a scenario appears unlikely in the immediate term.

The two were not available to comment despite requests from Reuters.

Anupong and Prayuth served with the Queen's Guard, an elite unit with greater autonomy from the rest of military, with its allegiance foremost to the monarchy rather than the direct chain of command, said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of South East Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

While most Thais still express steadfast loyalty to 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, his throne is seen as entwined with the political forces that removed Thaksin, especially ultra-nationalists who in the past have worn the king's color of yellow at protests and now back Suthep.

As his reign gradually draws to a close, long-simmering business, political and military rivalries are rising to the surface, forcing Thailand to choose sides between supporters of the Bangkok establishment or those seeking to upend the status quo - a constituency associated with Thaksin.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has yet to command the same popular support as his father, raising questions over whether royal succession will go smoothly. The palace did not reply to requests for comment.

Prawit and Anupong had expressed readiness to intervene if there was a security crisis, such as a crackdown by police on protesters or clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators, and if Suthep's plan for an interim government was constitutional, said the source with military connections.

Army leaders say they are neutral in the crisis. But Tanasak Patimapragorn, supreme commander of the armed forces, will meet on Saturday with Suthep and his allies, who have openly courted violence on Bangkok's streets in hopes of inducing a military coup or judicial intervention to bring down Yingluck.

Suthep says the meeting shows he has public backing of the military. But a statement from the supreme commander says the meeting is a "public forum" that includes civic groups.

On the face of it, Suthep's bid to upend Thailand's current political order looks far-fetched.

The former deputy prime minister has called for a parallel government and a volunteer police force. He wants Yingluck arrested for insurrection and has ordered civil servants and the army to report to him, not the government.

Struggling to defuse the crisis, Yingluck has set parliamentary elections for February 2, which Suthep and his allies have ignored but which a pro-Shinawatra party is almost certain to win, as they have in every election since 2001.

The military has provided little security for her caretaker government at protests, such as on Thursday when demonstrators cut power to Government House, Yingluck's office, and scaled a wall to enter the compound.

The military has left police to control the crowds, unlike 2010 when a Democrat-led government was in power and the soldiers used force against pro-Thaksin protesters.

"That means a government that is not supported by the elite cannot enforce the law. Once a lot of violence takes place and the government cannot enforce the law, then this country becomes a failed state. Then there can be a pretext for the military to come in," said a senior member of Yingluck's Party.

The army denies it is taking sides.

"We try to avoid getting ourselves involved directly or be seen as taking sides," army spokesman Colonel Werachon Sukondhadhpatipak said, adding that the military is trying to encourage all sides to remain peaceful rather than conduct crowd control.

Asked if the military supported the government, he replied: "At the moment, yes."

The impasse is a reminder of the turmoil that has overshadowed Thailand for much of the last decade.

On one side is Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who redrew the political map by courting rural voters to win back-to-back elections in 2001 and 2005 and gain an unassailable mandate that he then used to advance the interests of major companies, including his own.

On the other are the elite and establishment, threatened by his rise. Thaksin's opponents include unions and academics who saw him as a corrupt rights abuser, and the urban middle-class who resented, as they saw it, their taxes being used as a political war chest for Thaksin, his sister and their allies.

Failure to quell the demonstrations makes her vulnerable to the same military and judicial forces that toppled two Thaksin-allied prime ministers in 2008, said Boonyakiat Karavekphan, a political analyst at Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok.

"If Prawit and Anupong back Suthep, it could help sway the decision makers in the military to not side with the government which gives Suthep's movement more legitimacy," he said.

"No matter how you look at it, the military is an important pressure group in Thai politics," he said. "The people's movement has come as far as it can on its own. It now needs a push from other quarters."

Anupong was a leader of the military coup that removed Thaksin in September 2006 and two years later recommended on television that the Thaksin-allied prime minister step down. As army chief, he oversaw a bloody crackdown on Thaksin's red-shirted supporters in 2010 in which 91 people, mostly red shirts, were killed. Anupong made Prayuth his heir apparent.

A former army commander, Prawit was a mentor of Anupong and a defence minister under the previous government replaced by Yingluck in the 2011 election. He's also a close associate of former general Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, leader of the coup against Thaksin, who now lives in self-exile to avoid jail for corruption, a charge he says was politically motivated.

"Suthep is playing the game on the outside while Prawit tries to play the game on the inside," said a senior military official who could not be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. "General Prawit has been clear about his aspirations to become prime minister."

Anupong and Prawit were present at a December 1 meeting between Suthep and Yingluck at a military camp, according to three aides of military officials who attended.

One military source said Prayuth was being pulled in two directions, with Anupong and Prawit on one side, and a need on the other to restore the military's image after the 2010 clashes and ensure an untarnished retirement in 2014.

Thai coup updates - day 6

Democracy hits a dead end in Thailand

Thailand's 1950s coup - Wall Street Journal

Game over for democracy in Thailand - Sydney Morning Herald

Photo report - Thailand at night under the curfew

NCPO targets social media rumour mill

Thai coup: Ex-minister speaks to BBC before arrest

Thai military faces hurdles in controlling Thaksin country in the north and northeast

From tonight the curfew will operate from midnight until 4am.

The National Council for Peace and Order has set three conditions for individuals ordered to report themselves to the military junta and later set free. The three conditions are: they must not leave the country unless with authorization from the NCPO chief; they must refrain from all political activities anywhere; and they are willing to face legal actions and to have their financial transactions frozen if they break to first two conditions. The punitive actions for violating the conditions are two year imprisonment and/or a fine of 40,000 baht.

Advisors were appointed to the Junta - see above. Including two hardline Generals. General Prawit Wongsuwan appears to be the real power behind the 2014 Thai Coup d'Etat. He may still be appointed Prime Minister.

Gen. Prawit, Prayuth, and Anupong are also "Queen's guard" - appointments reflect the influence of this clique within the Thai military

Chaturon Chaisaeng - ex education minister who was arrested at the FCCT today will be indicted in a military court. Troops detained Chaturon after entering a conference room at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok where he was speaking.

Amnesty International, Thailand Chapter, has called on the NCPO to compile and release a list of all those summoned and held, including the place of detention. "The NCPO should stop arresting people who decently and innocently organise peaceful anti-coup activities," Amnesty International Thailand said. "If arrested, they should be charged with a criminal offence; otherwise they should be freed."Detainees should also have access to lawyers and family contacts, the group added. (Bangkok Post)

Big question is what is happening to those people still in detainment and why aren't people talking upon their release?

Still no major international news broadcasts with CNN, CNBC< Bloomberg and the BBC still blocked

Veteran analyst Dan Fineman of Credit Suisse produced the following key points:

"No one in 2006 expected that the coup would usher in eight years of political turmoil, but we could certainly envision several more years of conflict following this coup. We do not take seriously forecasts of civil war, but we fear that GDP and EPS forecasts will need to be marked down for the next 2-3 years."

"We do not expect elections for another 1.5 to 3 years."

"We estimate popular support for the military as barely sufficient at present, with a likely bias toward declining support over time. Based on voting patterns in the 2011 elections, we estimate that just 30% of the population are strong supporters of the army, with 40% strongly opposed and 30% in the middle."

"It would be wrong to consider the Reds a spent force."

"We fear that the military has mounted a tiger and will not be able to step down."

"We still see no clear end game for Thailand's political conflict."

Meanwhile paying rice farmers has changed from being a "dangerous populist measure" to being "an important economic stimulus."

Taylor Swift cancelled her Bangkok concert after the coup - “I’m sending my love to the fans in Thailand,” Swift tweeted.” I’m so sad about the concert being canceled.” Ironically the tour was called The Red Tour.

Phuketwan trial set for 2015

26 May 2015 - Bangkok Post

Two journalists are to go on trial in March on charges of defaming the Thai Navy, for posting online an article on human trafficking, one of the defendants said Monday.

Phuket Criminal Court set March 18-20 as the trial date for Australian Alan Morison, editor of news website PhuketWan, and his Thai reporter Chutima Sidahathien, Morison said by phone.

"It's pretty unusual for a judge to schedule a trial that far ahead," he said.

The pair were indicted on April 17 for putting online parts of a Thomson Reuters article on the trafficking of members of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya group in southern Thailand and Myanmar.

They face charges of criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crime Act, and possible imprisonment if found guilty.

It is the first time the Thai military has used the Act, designed to prosecute hackers and other IT offences, in a defamation case.

The journalists' first day in court Monday in Phuket, 750 kilometres south of Bangkok, follows Thursday's coup by the military.

The coup makers have put in place strict controls on the media.

"So far the coup has been bad for our case in that we had planned a mediation meeting with the navy at the National Human Rights Commission on Friday, but after the coup the navy had a good excuse not to show up," Morison said.

The defendants maintain that the Thai Navy was not named as a participant in the alleged trafficking.

Thomson Reuters journalists Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall last month won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for the article, which was reprinted on the PhuketWan site in July.

Who to believe - the Thai army or a BBC reporter

26 May 2014

First read this story: Source: Khaosod English.

Army 'Explains' Viral Photo of Tearful Soldier

BANGKOK — It was pepper spray, not sympathy for anti-coup protesters, which drove the soldier in the now-viral photo to cry, claimed the Royal Thai Army in a statement posted on Facebook.

The widely-circulated photo shows a soldier with tears rolling down one of his cheeks as he stood alongside other troops.

The photo was accompanied by a caption alleging that he was one of the soldiers that attempted to contain anti-coup protesters near Ratchaprasong Intersection in downtown Bangkok on Sunday. The caption said he was driven to tears by the demonstrators who berated him for siding with the military.

However, according to a statement posted on the Facebook page of the 1st Cavalry Division, King's Guard, the soldier did not cry in response to the protesters' rebukes.

"The truth is, it was caused by demonstrators spraying pepper spray on his eyes," the army statement said. "That's why he cried."

There was no information on whether the alleged pepper-sprayer has been arrested.

Then read this tweet from Jonathan Head - the BBC's SEA correspondent:

"This is nonsense. Nobody sprayed anything but verbal abuse in his face. Dozens of us saw it."

Now which is more likely - I know which the army wants most Thai people to believe.

Court farce over 2008 airport closures

26 May 2014

The Criminal Court has postponed to December 15th the examination of evidence in the case against 96 People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members indicted on various charges relating to the seizure of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in 2008....which for the mathematically challenged was a mere 6 years ago and caused billions of baht in damage to the Thai economy as well as ruining travel for tens of thousands of people and causing financial damage to all airlines operating into and out of Bangkok.

The court initially set today, May 26, for examination of evidence in the case in which the 96 defendants have been indicted on terrorism and other charges related to the airports' seizue.

Defence lawyers asked the court to postpone the hearing because many of the defendants were not able to appear before the court.

Some of them had been detained by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), some taken by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to report to prosecutors, some were summoned to report to the NCPO, and others including Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang were sick.

The court examined the request and decided to postpone the hearing to Dec 15 at 10am.

To date not one person has been prosecuted for the airport closures. It is unlikely that anyone ever will be.

Coup update - day 5

26 May 2014

Time magazine - Bitter and On the Run, Thailand’s Red Shirts Prepare for a Long Fight

Associated Press - Thai coup leader: Don't protest, it's no use

Japan Times - Desperate Thai elites get their wish for a coup

There was another protest at Victor Monument this afternoon. Having got the local media under its control the army has turned its attention to the foreign press - with army loud speakers calling in english: Foreign press. Game is over. Go home.

Signs on just-erected barriers around Victory Monument read (in Thai): “Closed for Repairs.”

Just like the BTS did not stop at Victory Monument due to overcrowding!

Prayuth warns media organisations will NOT be able to help their journalists who post "inciteful" message's on social media

Junta asks media to avoid using the term "seize power"; suggests "control national administrative power" instead.

The nationwide curfew from 10pm to 5am remains in place tonight.

Schools re-opened today

Very symbolic: Army just stated that the country administration will be based in the Army Club, future Ministers will be based there

Universities instructed to ‘cooperate’ with junta’s orders, academics summoned by army.

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban and 24 core members of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee were given bail by the Criminal Court after they were indicted by the public prosecutors with eight criminal charges, including insurrection.

The Queen's Birthday Party at Bangkok's British Embassy on 11 June will not now take place สถานทูตอังกฤษของดจัดงานฉลองวันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระราชินีนาถอังกฤษ11มิ.ย.- I was not invited!

Coup leader Commander-in-Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has been appointed as head of the NPCO by royal command, confirming him as prime minister. The ceremony, held at 10.40am this morning, was not televised. In a speech to media Gen Prayuth said:

Army Not Seeking Power For Itself
Military Coup Staged to Preserve Order
Military Working With Senior Bureaucrats to Ensure Smooth Running of Government
Urged Media to Provide Accurate Information
Warned of Action Against Persons Posting Inflammatory Social Media Messages
Reiterated That Lese Majeste Cases to Be Heard by Military Court
Army Has Capability and Experience to Run the Country
King Endorsed Coup as Matter of Tradition and Protocol
Indicated Election Can Be Held if Calm Returns
No Timeline For Election

The nation reports that coup leader General Prayuth has asked for public understanding over the transfers of three senior officials, saying they have done nothing wrong but the move was made for the "sake of suitability" in the current situation.

This is exactly the same action at ex Prime Minister Yingluck took to remove a civil servant - yet she was removed as PM by the constitutional court for her action. One rule for some and one rule for others.

Coup update - day 4

25 May 2014

The military has explained its reasoning to launch the military coup to the international community. Presented without comment:

1) Thailand has different situation and political environment to other countries. 2) The military has clear evidences and reasons to seize power. The evidences and reasons will later be shown to the international community. 3) Democratic ruling in Thailand has caused a lot of lives.

In summary:

1.This is Thailand
2.We'll tell you later
3.Democracy sucks

Source: “NCPO cites three reasons to explain to need for coup making: Winthai“, The Nation, May 25, 2014

The Nation's report stated that "Referring to a telephone conversation between US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris and National Council for Peace and Order chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Winthai said the conversation was initiated as both countries were old allies. During the conversation, Winthai said Harris expressed concerns but as a military officer he understood the situation."

The US Embassy tweeted - "Beware of false reports regarding alleged statements; the U.S. remains concerned by #ThaiCoup and calls for immediate return to democracy." This was after it identified the above report in The Nation newspaper (suggesting that the US Pacific Fleet commander had called Prayuth to tell him that he understood!) as an outright lie stating : "@nationnews your "understanding" article is completely false, there has been no call from @USPacificFleet."

The Nation has not retracted the story. Amazing.

Banyan in The Economist is scathing of the coup: "The darkened horizon".

In the days main events:

11.30pm The curfew is still in effect from 10pm to 5am.

Thailand's ruling junta warned protesters it would not tolerate any further rallies against its coup after tense standoffs Sunday between soldiers and angry crowds in the capital Bangkok. - See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/south-east-asia/story/thailand-coup-junta-ultimatum-defiant-anti-coup-protesters-20140525#sthash.VoPO14Lp.214zPXiQ.dpuf

Still no major international news networks allowed to broadcast.

The NCPO has instructed more people to attend its HQ. Most of those invited are widely seen as having links to Thaksin. 5 more academics have been summoned together with a range of business leaders.

The five academics are:

1 Banjerd Sinkaneti, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University

2 Surapon Nitikraipot, Rector of Thammasat University

3 Harirak Sutabutr, ThammasaT Business School

4 Chai-anan samudavanija, a former Professor of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University.

5 Teerayut Boonmee, Faculty of Sociology of Thammasat University.

Among 30 (approx) business leaders are Premchai Kanasutra (Italian-Thai), Srettha Thavisin and Anant Asavabhokhin.

On twitter someone wrote "The Thailand military is clearly targeting at the Thaksin affiliations at the moment. Clear sign of the false pretense of #ThaiCoup ." I think that just about nails it.

A royal command appointing Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is expected to be issued on Monday, reports said.

A ceremony for the army chief to receive the royal command would be held at the army headquarters Ratchadamnoen Avenue at 10.49am. I assume the timing is in some way auspicious.

After the ceremony, Gen Prayuth will address the nation via the Thai Television Pool to outline further steps to be taken including the proclamation of an interim constitution and the setting up of the national legislative council (to act as Parliament).

This is 2006 all over again but more draconian and more determined.

CNN: Military says Yingluck Shinawatra no longer in detention. The former PM's aides tell us she does not have freedom of movement. She appears to be under house arrest.

Anti- coup protests in Bangkok today. They started at Amarin Placa and moved to Victory Monument, which commemorates the Thai “victory” in the brief Thai-Franco War. Bizarrely there was also a small pro-coup rally at Democracy Monument…oh, the irony!

This morning Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken columnist for English-language daily The Nation, tweeted that he was reporting to the junta: "On my way to see the new dictator of Thailand. Hopefully the last."

He has not been heard from since.

The FCCT issued the following statement today:

"Statement on the detention of Thai journalists

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is deeply concerned by the detention of journalists by the new military authorities in Thailand, following the imposition of martial law on Tuesday and a full coup d’etat on Thursday.

Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Same Sky magazine, was arrested following an anti-coup protest on Friday. On Sunday, 25 May, Pravit Rojanaphruk, a journalist with The Nation newspaper, was taken into custody after answering a summons to report to the military.

The military is already imposing strict censorship on the media, blocking access to foreign television networks, restricting what Thai networks can broadcast and blocking hundreds of internet websites. While this may impede coverage in the short term—and make it harder for journalists on the ground to produce accurate, balanced reports—it will not diminish interest in this story or make it go away.

Freedom of expression and the right of journalists to work without fear of arrest or physical violence are core principles of the FCCT. The professional membership of the FCCT therefore urges the new military government to stop detaining journalists, lift media restrictions and release those already being held.

At this difficult time for Thailand, the free flow of reliable information is vital to finding a peaceful resolution to this long-running and seemingly intractable political conflict."

Banyan's column in the Economist is scathing of the coup - under the title "The darkened horizon"

The NCPO issued a 37th announcement, granting authority to the Army Court to prosecute all crimes in violation of Article 107-112 of the Criminal Code, or the crimes against the monarchy including Thailand's lese majeste law. Crimes regarding national security and sedition as stipulated in Article 113-118 of the Criminal Code will also be prosecuted by the Military Court.

The announcement also said that those who violate the NCPO's orders will be subjected to the Military Court.

Civilians are not allowed to have lawyers representing them in the Military Court, and cannot file a lawsuit at the Court by themselves.

The following is attributable to U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf and was released today:

"We are increasingly concerned about actions the military has taken, just a few days after it staged a coup. It has dissolved the Senate, detained a number of people, called in some academics and journalists, and continued to restrict the press. We again call on the military to release those detained for political reasons, end restrictions on the media, and move to restore civilian rule and democracy through elections."

At least 100 people, mostly top politicians, have been detained incommunicado so far. Deputy army spokesman Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said they were all being well-treated and the military's aim was to achieve a political compromise.

Weerachon said all those held have had their cellphones confiscated because "we don't want them communicating with other people. We want them to be themselves and think on their own."

"This is because everybody involved in the conflict needs to calm down and have time to think," Weerachon said. "We don't intend to limit their freedom — it's to relieve the pressure."

Today's most bizarre comment on twitter : Abhisit Vejjajiva : "I sincerely thank you for your concerns. I apologize for not being able to defend democracy by pushing for reforms under the Constitution." If he wants to apologise try apologising for sabotaging democracy!

Coup fears

24 May 2014

So where are we tonight?

The army have now taken full control of the political process with the removal of the final (partially) elected body, the Senate.

Now he has full control where next for General Prayuth. Does he really want reform; if so what are his objectives and what is his timescale?

The “anti-Thaksin” forces think the 2007 Constitution did not go far enough; supported by the fact that Thaksin's parties have won every election since then. Any new constitution is likely to impose further controls to reduce the chance of a "red" government winning and to limit the policies that an elected (red) government could implement through so-called “independent” checks-and-balances.

The “pro-Thaksin” forces (including the red shirts) think the 2007 Constitution went too far and want fully-elected Senate (which is key as the Senate appoints the members of the “independent” organizations). Basically a return to the 1997 constitution.

Given how far the two major groups are apart it will be the make-up of any reform body that determines where power lies.....and it is unlikely to be in support of Thaksin related parties.

The big difference between now and 2006 is that back then the pro-Thaksin protest element was weak. There were few protests against the coup or the interim government.  The Thaksin forces were not strong enough to vote down the 2007 constitution and even if they had the alternative was no more palatable. So it made sense for Thaksin to seek to win the 2007 election with the opportunity to change the Constitution later. That has not worked out so well either.

In addition the coup will also attract support from some of the so-called silent minority. There are those who are not necessarily Puea Thai supporters who oppose the coup. They may not agree with or share a pro-Thaksin agenda, but they want an election before reform; they have no wish for military rule and the sacrifice of a democratic structure.

Early protests are in greater numbers than in 2006. They are likely to grow. I suspect the North is in uproar. Anger is real. But so is the tension driven by uncertainty.

Of course there are also many people who support the army and who believe the coup was necessary. Their memory is short. The 2006 coup solved nothing. It is hard to be in the middle of this winner-takes-all fight. Both sides are that polarised. This could get ugly very easily.

Thai coup - day 3 update

24 May 2014

11.00pm Bangkok Post: "An army spokesman said the unavailability of CNN and BBC on pay-TV was due to "technical problems" and attempts were being made to solve them.
However, TrueVisions said the channels remained off the air because "there may be materials that do not comply with NCPO announcements".

The army has to do better than straight-faced lies.

10.00pm Curfew again tonight and major news networks are still not available.

Prominent ‘The Nation’ journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been summoned to report to the military. His is the only name on the latest order. This is sad news.

7.00pm The NCPO also announced on Saturday evening that Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew had been moved to an inactive post in the Prime Minister's Office.

Also moved to inactive posts were Tarit Pengdith, the head of the Department of Special Investigation, and Nipat Thonglek, the permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry. Both men had been seen as loyalists to the ousted government and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Curiously it was moving a civil servant who was considered an opponent of the Yingluck government that has her removed from office two weeks ago. I guess once the constitution has been torn up the old rules do not apply.

Prayuth dissolved the Senate and took over parliamentary authority.

Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has revealed plans to set up a government in exile, in a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the military, following confirmation of a coup to remove the government led by his presumed proxy and sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The decision was relayed by Mr Thaksin's legal adviser, Robert Amsterdam, and revealed exclusively by the ABC. (Australian)

The idea of a government in exile is frankly silly. And it will be motivated more by Thaksin's self interest than by any thought for the UDD and Puea Thai support in Thailand.

According to Bangkok Post military correspondent Wassana Nanuam the junta claims that the Office of His Majesty Principal Private Secretary has ’acknowledged’ the letter by army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha informing the King of taking over power and also the declaration of martial law earlier this week. Unlike in previous coups, the coup-leader (i.e. the army chief) didn’t seek an audience with the King this time in order to avoid “dragging His Majesty into the conflict”, as he was reportedly saying.

Acknowledged is very different from approved.

NPOMC calls in 18 Thai newspaper to a meeting at Army Club at 2PM tomorrow.

Anti-coup protests have also been taking place in the northern city of Chiang Mai this evening. The army presence there was strengthened noticably today and a number of arrests have been reported

The military junta has changed its English name from the clunky “National Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order” (NPOMC) and is now the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) (2006 revisited when the name changes were almost daily)

Japan-based Thai academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun responded to army summons by asking if he can send his pet chihuahua instead. Pavin is works at the Kyoto University as a professor of Southeast Asian studies.

Thai television stations have been ordered not to broadcast interviews with political analysts and academics.

11.00am The National Peace and Order Maintenance Council (NPOMC) has summoned another 35 critical acdemics and activists for 1.00pm today. Some of them were former lese majeste prisoners. The list included some members of the critical legal scholars Nitirat (the Enlightened Jurists), Thamasat historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul known for his outspoken criticism against the monarchy. Others include Law Prof Vorajet Pakirat, Pol Gen Pracha Promnok. Sonthi Limthongkul, Suwat Liptapanlop, Suthin Klangsaeng, Dr Pawin, Suda Rangupan, Sudsanguna Suthisorn.

Reports surfacing that Yingluck and the Shinawatra family have been detained to bargain with Thaksin. If true the army is little more than a hostage taker.

Thai military junta spokesman tells BBC they are detaining people to "help them relax"...

Military: Those who were told to report and dont show up face not more than 2 yrs in prison or 40,000 baht fine.

There are anti-coup protests at Major Ratchayothin cinema in Lad Phrao.

Thai coup - updates

23 May 2014

10.00pm Curfew time - goodnight Bangkok.

Gen Prayuth to diplomats this afternoon: NPOMC to take care the country till peace and order return, and reform before election. He is sounding more like Suthep by the day. This really is giving Suthep everything that he asked for.

Robert Amsterdam (remember him) weighs in: Nothing explains Thailand more clearly than elites citing "approval polls" of a coup while at the same time refusing elections.

9.30pm Army spokesman Col Werachon Sukhondhadhpatipak says Gen Prayuth "doesn't want to bother" the King with a personal visit. Presumably he does not have to explain himself if he already has approval.

9.00pm Thai military spokesman on detentions: "We want them to stay away from tensions. We want to give them some free time to relax" Colonel Werachon Sukhondhadhpatipak says Yingluck Shinawatra and family will be detained for "not longer than a week

8.00pm Prayuth playing hardball with the Shinawatras. Homes in Chiang Mai searched. Yingluck et al locked up. Maybe to pressure Thaksin to give in. About 30 army troops from Kawila camp today searched the houses of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and her sister, Mrs Yaowapa Wongsawat, at Green Valley housing estate in Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai.

Thai army detains ex-PM Yingluck - BBC

Announcing his new government structure Gen Prayuth also said that General Prayuth said NPOMC had attached importance to the protection of the Monarchy and that those who defame or insult the Monarchy would be dealt with harshly in accordance with the lese majeste law.

Troops arrested few protesters in central BKK. No habeas corpus applies, and they don't have to appear before a judge. That's Martial Law.

Insider's report on coup decision

7.00pm Note on twitter - and there may be some truth to this: I expect within the next 4 weeks armed resistance will start in Chiangmai Mai and Isaan. Lots of sabotage in Bangkok

5.45pm There is a small, well-organized protest against coup staged near MBK, this is a trial balloon to gauge the army’s reaction.

5.00pm Prayuth says 4 TV stations will be allowed to broadcast this evening, provided they do not violate the law. Not sure what this means for foreign stations.

At the border - Direct from a Laos border official: Thais cannot come into Laos, Lao cannot go into Thailand. Foreigners can pass freely.

Thailand’s stock market fell more than 2 percent a day after the country’s military seized power in a bloodless coup. Other Asian markets were mostly higher Friday, helped by weakness in the yen. (Source: Associated Press)

Curfew again tonight.

Media censorship, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on freedom of movement still exist.

Yingluck Shinwatra reported to Army HQ. She is reportedly still detained.

The Peace and Order Maintaining Council (POMC), which has seized power, has told social media users not to post content that could be considered opposing or critical of the Thai military.

@Saksith on twitter - "Consensus of vox pops on Thai TV (in full military control): ”#ThaiCoup is good, everyone was fighting, things will calm down. Yay!” - when you control the medium the message can be whatever you want it to be.

10.00am Members of Thaksin Shinawatra's family have been banned from leaving the country

BTS Skytrain services operate from until 21.00 tonight

The MRT services are operating from 6.00 - 21.00 with the last train leaving from Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue at 20.13

My mother in law says that the army coup is good for the country - for her anything is good for the country except the reds.

7.30am New York Times: "After a decade of misrule, the Thai people deserve greater respect for human rights, stronger institutions and more accountability. Rule by martial law is the opposite of the rule of law; it fosters an environment conducive to rights violations and should be revoked." — The New York Times condemns Thailand's coup

John Kerry - US Secretary of State on twitter: "No justification for #ThaiCoup. Urge restoration of government & return to democracy for sake of ppl ASAP"

In a statement Kerry said: “While we value our long friendship with the Thai people, this act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military,” Kerry said. “We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also urged Thailand to restore a democratically elected civilian government. “I am extremely concerned by today's coup,” Hague said in a statement. “We look, therefore, to the authorities to set out a quick clear timetable for elections to help re-establish the democratic framework of governance.”

Part of the military engagements include the U.S.-backed Carat naval drills in the Pacific that Thailand and several other countries are participating in.

All Thai TV is being run by the Military, international broadcasters including Australia Network still off air

Internet service providers have also been ordered to report to the military

Former PM Yingluck Shinawatra has been ordered to report to the military - Ousted PM Yingluck and ministers to report to army this morning.

Other Shinawatra family members have also been ordered to report to the military

Australian Foreign Min. Bishop tells ABC the country reviewing its relationship with Thailand, "gravely concerned” by Thai Coup.

Thailand's new ruling junta on Friday warned it would block social media platforms in the country if they carry any content provoking violence or opposing their military coup. "If we find any to be in violation, we will suspend the service immediately and will summon those responsible for prosecution," said a directive read out on national television.

No incidents reported overnight during the curfew hours.

A Reckless Coup in Thailand

23 May 2014 - New York Times

"BANGKOK — The Thai military removed all doubt about its intentions in declaring martial law earlier this week, and on Thursday officially announced that it was taking control of the government, the 12th time it has done so since 1932.

The newly created Peace and Order Maintaining Command, composed of the commander in chief of the army and the commanders of the Royal Thai Navy, air force and police, announced that it had suspended the Constitution — except for articles related to the monarchy, the activity of the courts, and some “independent” administrative agencies. The military said that it was acting to protect the peace and resolve the long political impasse that had brought mostly peaceful protests and counterprotests to Bangkok. It arrested the leaders of different political factions even as they were engaged in negotiations.

But unless the P.O.M.C. can quickly establish a road map for return to civilian rule, it risks setting off a cycle of violence and human rights violations. The sooner the military revokes martial law, the better for Thailand. The army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, imposed martial law on Tuesday and declared himself the “supreme commander” but strenuously denied that he had, in fact, carried out a coup.

The P.O.M.C.’s authority is based on Thailand’s martial law statute, which has been severely criticized for the unfettered powers it grants the military. Using it, the military asserts superiority over all civilian authority in matters of security and public order, including the power to arrest and detain people without charge for up to seven days and carry out warrantless searches.

Martial law enables the military authorities to rule by fiat, in effect suspending the human rights guaranteed under the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. The law also provides the military with immunity from any claims for compensation arising from its actions.

The military has imposed a curfew and set strict controls on the media. This follows its actions in the first hours of martial law, when the P.O.M.C. moved to shut down TV and radio stations, and issued orders forbidding the media to issue reports “that might distort the facts, cause confusion among the public, or lead to further violence.” In addition, social media sites and users were prohibited from publishing content that “misleads the public” or “escalates the conflict” or “opposes the operation of the P.O.M.C.”

Initially, the P.O.M.C. had been careful to invoke only a few of its powers under the law, in order to bolster its assertion that its actions did not constitute a coup. But now it risks an internal backlash and possibly international sanctions — including from the United States, the Thai military’s main backer.

The acting prime minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, was the only political leader who escaped arrest. Mr. Niwatthamrong was already in a weak position as a caretaker leader who only recently replaced Yingluck Shinawatra, ousted earlier this month by the Constitutional Court on contested grounds.

Ms. Yingluck herself was standing in for her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the leader of the so-called Red Shirt movement. His period in office as prime minister proved deeply divisive and was characterized by serious human rights violations; he was ousted in the last coup in 2006 and fled the country to avoid prosecution for corruption.

The Red Shirts, who keep winning national elections based on a constituency drawn largely from the provinces, have been at a political impasse with their rivals, the Yellow Shirts, who represent Bangkok’s more affluent population. The Yellow Shirts have been able to overthrow various Shinawatra-linked governments through a combination of military intervention and judicial and administrative maneuvers.

It is this conflict, largely played out in protests in Bangkok, that allowed the P.O.M.C. to justify its intervention. In the nation’s capital, troops and police officers appear to be exercising restraint. Let us hope this continues, for there is a long history of rights violations under martial law in Thailand.

In some 30 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, martial law was already in place before Tuesday, in some cases for years. Extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture have been documented under military jurisdiction. There has been almost no accountability for these violations.

General Prayuth has provided little explanation for his actions this week, given that the political friction of past months was confined to Bangkok. Moreover, it’s hard to justify shutting down media outlets: There is an escalating risk of violence if the media is unable to report on the situation.

After a decade of misrule, the Thai people deserve greater respect for human rights, stronger institutions and more accountability. Rule by martial law is the opposite of the rule of law; it fosters an environment conducive to rights violations and should be revoked."

Bangkok tonight - a summary

22 May 2014

The situation is still confusing. At 23:00 in Bangkok here is a summary:

What has happened:
A coup ostensibly led by the Army Chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha. It is less clear who planned the coup and who gave it permission to go ahead.
Political leaders from both side are ‘in control/custody’ by the army. The list includes Suthep Thaugsuban (PDRC leader), Abhisit Vejjajiva (Ex-PM and opposition leader), key ministers in Pheu Thai government, 5 key red shirt leaders.
Some red shirt leaders throughout the country are in custody.
Acting PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan is missing.
2007 Constitution is now defunct. The Cabinet and elected government is gone.
The junta have maintained the senate and the justice courts.
All TV stations are under army control. Normal programs are replaced by a military graphic and occasional briefings.
There is a 10pm to 5am curfew.

Whereabouts of Niwatthamrong, also Yingluck Shinawatra.
Suggestions that the Shinawatra family members fled the kingdom. No confirmation yet.
Nothing from Thaksin yet.
The location of people that have been detained.
The role of Hua Hin in this latest coup.

This coup has been planned in detail. Two days ago the 3.00am introduction of martial law was carefully executed with troops in place at key locations. Political leaders were invited to army HQ for negotiations. Those negotiations lasted just one day. On the second day with all the leaders in one place and attending in good faith to negotiate they were rounded up and detained in from of the world's media. It really could not have been easier.

The question is who planned and approved the coup? It does appear to be that hard line conservatives are behind the army putsch. The big picture of this coup is ‘conservative forces consolidate their power’. How the red shirts react and how determined the generals are to eliminate the potential for red shirt power or government will determine the direction of this coup.

We will probably see a new Prime Minister appointed over the weekend. The senate will act for the full parliament and nominate a new PM. That is likely to be General Prawit Wongsuwan, ex-Army chief and a genuine hard-liner.
The new junta government will run the country for 1-2 years.
A new Constitution will be drafted, call it the 2015 Constitution. It will be more draconian than the 2007 Constitution and will greatly limit the red shirt vote.
Suthep, Abhisit, PDRC, Democrat Party, and all anti-Pheu Thai leaders will be released in the next few days. Pheu Thai and red leaders will be in custody longer.
The short term (1-3 months) outcome will be stable but it is a lull, a temporary peace.
Red Shirts will be driven underground almost like a resistance movement. There will be unrest not dissimilar to the threats in Southern Thailand. If the Constitution is undemocratic and the election is postponed indefinitely, the country (especially the junta government) will face the insurgency in North and Northeastern which is the red shirts’ bases.
The worst possible scenario is a chronic civil war. Same as Thailand’s ongoing Deep South Insurgency.

This all needs to be considered alongside the one issue not openly discussed in Thailand; but is hugely relevant to the timing and to who the key players will be.

Now the Thai coup is real

22 May 2014

Updates on the army coup announced to day at 4.30pm

10.15pm Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has condemned today’s coup and urged the army to restart political dialogue.

9.00pm Confirmed: Soldiers weapons are loaded, unlike yesterday (Wednesday).

8.30pm Political gatherings of more than five people are banned with one year prison term for violators.

8.30pm All major shopping malls in #Bangkok will close until further notice at 8pm every night due to the curfew

8.30pm  French President officially “condemns takeover of power by the Army”

8.30pm UDD reporting that "many of our co-leaders have been detained without whereabouts - families have not been informed - they are most likely detained at army camp"

8.00pm - new name -  The Peace Maintaining Committee is now the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council

8.00pm - all foreign tv networks are now blocked.....cnn, bbc, cctv, "All radio and television stations, satellite and cable, must stop normal programming and broadcast army content until told otherwise," Winthai Suvaree, a deputy army spokesman, said in a televised statement.

7.30pm Thailand’s Constitution has been temporarily suspended. The caretaker government has been dismissed. Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced himself as head of council that will run a temporary government.

7.30pm Army says that the 2007 Constitution abolished except monarchy articles. Senate still functions. So do 'independent' orgs and courts.

7.20pm Thai army spokesman says that people heading to the airport to leave Thailand can do so at any time day and night.

7.00pm BTS (skytrain) closes at 9pm and MRT (subway) at 8pm due the curfew.

7.00pm Reports advise that the army has arrested all the red shirt leaders at their Aksa Rd location. Some gunfire was heard. Protestors are leaving for home.

6.35pm Thai military announces TV and radio stations to cease normal program and air army’s programs & announcements.

6.20pm The Thai army has ordered a nationwide curfew from 10pm to 5am. Assume all night events have been cancelled. No announcements yet what will happen to foreign tourists who are arriving at airport tonight. Can they get into Bangkok or not?

6.00pm Post-coup censorship in Thailand this evening seems to be limited to domestic television and radio. Foreign television stations can still be accessed and the Internet is still online:

5.30pm Soldiers are dispersing protesters at the rally sites in Bangkok. Red shirt leader Jatuporn and PDRC leader Suthep, the chief figures of the two rival factions, have both been detained by the military.

5.00pm A coup has taken place in Thailand this afternoon. Army chief Prayuth is addressing the nation live on television now. To summarise, he said the army has taken over and asked people not to panic. He also said the military would ensure the safety of all foreigners.

The Nation reported that "The meeting mediated by Prayuth was attended by representatives of the red-shirt movement, the government, the Pheu Thai, the Democrat, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the Senate and the Election Commission.

Only representatives of the Senate and the EC were not taken away in the military truck."

This is the 12th coup d’etat since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Seven others have been attempted since then

Another Coup in Thailand

21 May 2014 - Wall Street Journal

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, chief of the Thai army, is at pains to explain he did not stage a coup at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. The imposition of martial law, he says, is merely an intervention to restore order and break the deadlock between the elected government and royalist protesters. Acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan remains officially in charge.

That's laughable, as Gen. Prayuth showed when reporters asked about the status of the government. "And where is this government?" he joked.

It's a telling quip. Mr. Niwatthamrong has not held true power since the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her ministers earlier this month. Now the army has given itself unlimited powers for an indefinite period. Sure sounds like a coup.

Moreover, there is no public safety justification for the generals' action. Thailand may be wracked by political conflict, but it remains largely peaceful. Even when protesters derailed a general election in February, the troops stayed in their barracks. If there is a political vacuum in Bangkok, the army and other elite-controlled institutions created it.

So why did Gen. Prayuth act now? One clue is the way Mr. Niwatthamrong has gone on calling for new elections later this year. The military and the aristocracy need to close off that possibility.

Once elections are on hold, Thai elites, represented by the anti-democratic Democrat Party, can engage the elected Puea Thai party in talks to force it to accept "reforms" that will further neuter the power of future governments. If that fails, they can appoint a caretaker government to write a new constitution, as they did after the last coup in 2006.

In other words, the protest movement led by former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban over the last six months has succeeded. It demanded that the elected government be removed from power and institutional changes be carried out before new elections were held.

The 2007 constitution was already bad enough. It created a partially appointed Senate and empowered nondemocratic institutions controlled by the aristocracy to threaten the elected government.

But after Ms. Yingluck was elected in 2011, she proved it was possible for a populist government to sidestep these controls, at least for several years. With time she might have succeeded in neutralizing them. A series of missteps last year created an opening for Mr. Suthep's street movement.

Thailand's elites realize their stranglehold on the country's resources is slipping away, so they want to impose more restrictions on an already rigged democracy. This will provoke a backlash from the government's "red shirt" supporters in the north, which would be disastrous for the country.

In 2010, supporters of Ms. Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, occupied the center of Bangkok for months. Army snipers killed almost 100 unarmed protesters. Some of the red shirts say this time they are prepared for civil war.

That danger scares everybody, but especially investors. First quarter GDP figures show the economy contracted by 0.6% year on year, largely because billions of dollars sit on the sidelines waiting to see if the impasse can be resolved.

The only way forward for Thailand is to go back to the voters for a new mandate. Sooner or later the army and aristocracy will have to accept that the populist forces unleashed by the Shinawatra family are here to stay. If they persist in rigging the political system, the anger may become uncontrollable. Extremists on both sides have gained momentum, and closing down their television stations won't stop them. Statesmen are needed to find a compromise and prevent Thailand from sinking into mob rule.

Introducing the non-coup

20 May 2014 Banyan in the Economist

At 3am Thailand’s army, the institution that determines the fate of the country’s civilian governments, declared martial law.

It invoked a draconian 100-year-old law that was most recently used by Sarit Thanarat, a military dictator, following his second coup in 1958. This time the army took up positions in key areas in the capital, Bangkok, but kept a light footprint. The more partisan TV stations were captured and ordered to stop broadcasting. For most Thais the imposition of martial law was of no consequence. Life in the capital and across the country was largely unaffected.

It may look like one, it may sound like one, but the army insists this is not a coup, and that the civilian government is still in place. It dissolved the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), the government agency tasked with overlooking security. A so-called “Peace-Keeping Command Centre” now enforces martial law.

The army will be keen to keep it regarded as a “non-coup” to prevent Thailand’s being cut off from international capital markets, and to prevent its officers’ prosecution at a later date. “What’s happened is that the army has given itself the legal means of achieving an army coup”, says Paul Chambers, an expert on the Thai army at Chiang Mai University’s Institute for South-East Asian Affairs.

An immediate consequence has been the silencing of all sides in the rancorous debate between civilians. The army ordered both anti-government and pro-government protesters not to move from their respective rally sites in Bangkok. Since the current round of anti-government protests erupted in November 2013, at least 28 people have been killed, and hundreds more injured.

At noon on May 19th, the day before martial law came down, the state planning agency had released figures showing that Thailand’s squabbling politicians had managed to tip the economy into recession. So far the army has not said which side it is on. This has allowed both parties to the grinding war of ideologies to claim that the intervention works in its own favour.

It is still too soon to determine the ultimate aim of this surprising intervention. Likewise with the end result: it could be a political framework that will allow the historical elites to continue to be in charge of the country (in which case the anti-government side would feel vindicated) or it could prove to be an intervention that paves the way for the people to use their sovereign power to put in place political leaders who will champion their causes (in which case the pro-government side would have won). Whichever way it goes, there is little doubt that the army chief acted on behalf of the palace and the powerful privy council.

So what are the more immediate possible outcomes? One idea is that martial law will create a face-saving exit for Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the anti-government protests. He has led the movement for six months now and so far failed to topple the elected government. His plan to have it replaced by an appointed government was going nowhere; there is no constitutional basis for toppling Thailand’s electoral democracy.

While Mr Suthep might welcome a break after six months of marching in the sun, this is surely not what motivated the imposition of martial law. The better bet is that martial law is something like a last ditch effort on the part of Mr Suthep’s sponsors. He had been playing the role of a front man for the old Thai establishment—representing the street-level id of the civil service, the army, the judiciary and the monarchy—and he has failed to deliver.

In this scenario, today’s move might then be a more forceful bid to dislodge the government and appoint a new one with the aim of rewriting rules of the game. The point would be to depose Thailand’s democracy and with it the chances of electing yet another government loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the one figure who has united democratic majorities in recent years.

Mr Thaksin, who is living in Dubai to avoid prosecution in Thailand, has advisers who alerted him about the imposition of martial law at 5.30am this morning. One of them, a member of the government’s national-security team, said that if the army has decided to prepare the ground for elections, then “there is no reason for us to go crazy”. But, he added, in fact “this is a coup under a different name. It is a new style of coup; they call it ‘martial law’—it is very clever, a new style of Thai coup.”

All will now depend on how the army chooses to use its new powers. Martial law gives it total control over the territory of Thailand, even without the king’s endorsing it. The law itself creates a framework for total impunity; the potential for militarist adventures against the monarchy; and, contrary to the army’s assurances today, it is anathema to democracy.

Thai coup updates

20 May 2014

10.30pm PDRC leader Suthep announces several evening rallies this week to force ouster of entire interim gov't.

8.00pm Military announcement: bureaucrats, academics, and justice professionals may not give any interviews to media that could escalate conflict - but how does one know if one's interview will provoke or escalate conflict or not? The only way to be sure is not to talk or question anything. Basically, Order #9 forbids all print and TV media from showing interviews and opinions that might create conflict/distortion/confusion.

8.00pm Voice TV (controlled by Thaksin's son, Panthongtae Shinawatra) is taken off the air. No prior notice. Media freedom continues to be main target of repression under Martial Law.

7.15pm Thai Army: In its latest announcement the Thai army said it will shut down and prosecute any social media sites that mislead the public, break the law or promote violence.

7.00pm @prachpan on twitter: "My journalist friends have informed me that heavy censorship is being enforced by troops stationed at various media outlets. TV stations that remain unshut are not allowed to air criticism of the martial law. My fellow Thai citizens watching the media, please be aware that what you are hearing from Thai media is not the whole truth (and hence not the truth at all)."

6.55pm Acting PM Niwatthamrong said Army Chief has sent letter of notice for him to report to the Army after declaring Martial Law

6.00pm Acting Thai PM said he’s already proposed a Royal Decree draft for Aug 3 Election.

5.30pm A number of embassies and foreign ministries issued updated advisories on travel in Thailand today. The general message was that it’s okay to travel but caution should be exercised.

5.30pm Human Rights Watch: Imposition of martial law nationwide in Thailand was not necessary to prevent further violence. Brad Adams at HRW wrote: Martial law in Thailand is a de facto coup. The US and others should demand power returned to civilian govt immediately.

3.34pm The Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Gen. Prayuth Chan Ocha spoke to the press in Bangkok after meeting government officials and heads of major government agencies. He called on both sides to come together to find a solution. He said the country needs to move on as quickly as possible so he needed everybody’s help. He said the shut down of television station was temporary, but added that censorship would be in place for “as long as necessary”.

A couple of key, telling moments from the press conference:

When asked about if his actions require the approval of the government and what its status is, his response was: “Where is the government?”
When asked if a curfew would be imposed, he “jokingly” threatened to impose a curfew on the media first: “How about a curfew for the press?!”

"Where's the Government Now?" Army Chief Asks Reporters

12.30pm 8th army TV announcement: Supreme Commander, Natl. Police Chief and c-n-c of navy and air force now ”advisers” overseeing martial law.

10.30am Martial law allows the military to:

- Take action against war or riots;
- Use arms to suppress unrest;
- Search, confiscate or occupy any premises or vehicles;
- Censor information;
- Block, search and control postal services;
- Activate the military court to judge on crimes within the area under martial law;
- Mobilise civilians to help the military;
- Procure resources such as vehicles or logistical materials to support military operations;
- Prohibit public gatherings, publications, broadcasting, transport, communication, travel, the movement of people or any action that the Defence Ministry deems necessary;
- Enforce curfews;
- Destroy, remove or adjust any premise or location for the purpose of military operations;
- Arrest and detain suspects for a maximum of seven days.
- People are not entitled to any compensation for damage incurred during such military operations;
- Martial law can only be ended with a Royal Decree.

10.15am 6th army TV announcement calls several TV satellite channels incl. political ones like DNN, ASTV and Blue Sky to STOP broadcasting. Each announcement is more and more restrictive. Clearly all planned in advance and implemented bit by bit.

A coup in all but name

20 May 2014

Martial Law was declared across Thailand at 3am this morning, ostensibly "to keep law and order."

The army chief insists it is not a coup & that soldiers are in place for public security

To do this General Prayuth and the army must have been given permission. But by whom? The government was not consulted before General Prayuth made his announcement. The Thai government was not consulted ahead of the imposition of martial law.

The elected, albeit "caretaker," government is silent this morning, which cannot be a good sign.

Apparently the army only deployed around the Red Shirts and not around the PDRC camp?

The PDRC have cancelled today’s march. However, they will not abandon their rally site. Protest leaders will meet at 10:30am.

Army announcement: Protest groups are ordered to remain peaceful and remain at their respective rally sites

There are armed soldiers at media outlets, who have been instructed to air army broadcasts.

Technically when the government asks the army to step in it is Martial Law. When the Army steps in without invitation then it's a coup.

Army Chief General Prayuth has rescheduled his meeting with the permanent secretaries of all ministries and department chiefs from 9 am to 2 pm.

This is the moment of truth for Thailand. Will the army set out plans for elections as soon as possible? Or will they appoint a government?

This is just the beginning.

Thailand Is A Powder Keg Of Instability

17 May 2014 Daniel Bodirsky, Global Risk Insights for Business Insider

With Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ousting at the hands of the Thai Supreme Court on May 7th, Thailand’s political paralysis is set to restart. The anti-government Yellow Shirts have welcomed the move, but Shinawatra’s zealous Red Shirt supporters have flocked to Bangkok. More ominously, the health of King Bhumibol (Rama IX) continues to decline, presenting a succession crisis before current political turmoil is resolved. The king’s death is sure to reopen a number of fault lines, creating a veritable perfect storm for Thais and international investors alike.

Thailand has been deeply split since the ouster and exile of billionaire PM Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006. Thaksin’s brand of populism earned him immense support in the country’s agrarian north, much to the ire of the Bangkok elite and middle-class, who decry the Shinawatras as crony capitalists and dictators. His sister Yingluck mobilized this support in the 2011 elections, becoming Thailand’s first female prime minister.

Yingluck’s attempt to pass an amnesty law for Thaksin in November 2013 sparked the current bout of instability, as the opposition contends that she is little more than her brother’s puppet. After months of demonstrations, Yingluck and nine of her cabinet members were dismissed by the Thai Supreme Court after being found guilty of abusing her office.

Largely absent from the political drama is King Bhumibol (Rama IX), who has served as Thailand’s deus ex machinain times of national duress. Veneration for the king runs deep in Thailand, both by the Thai public at large and as a semi-sacred figure in the country’s Buddhist hierarchy. Since ascending the throne in 1946, Bhumibol has waded into the kingdom’s toxic politics many times to pull the country back from the edge.

Now 86 and in poor health, the king has retreated from the public eye, leaving many to privately speculate on the inevitable succession crisis. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is a controversial figure, holding neither the stature nor the respect of his father. Many doubt his ability to hold the Kingdom together as his father has for 64 years.

Further complicating the succession issue is lese majestere, the law preventing any criticism of the royal family, which is invoked liberally to stamp out any public discussion of the royal family in general. At a time when Thai society needs to have an open discussion on the post-Bhumibol life, public discourse on the biggest wildcard of Thailand’s political fault-lines is muted and pushed out of mind.

The king’s death and subsequent succession crisis will reignite a host of other issues across the country. The Islamist insurgency in Southern Thailand – quiet in recent years – could be given new life as opportunistic militants would seek to exploit Bangkok’s preoccupation with the royal secession. The power vacuum would also create fertile grounds for Thailand’s coup-happy military, and could pave the way for a long-dreaded civil war.

The Thai economy is already feeling the heat: Thai stocks have tumbled, consumer confidence has dropped to a 13-year low, and analysts warn that GDP growth forecasts will be slashed. While day-to-day life in Thailand is typically unaffected by the chronic political instability, a full-fledged armed conflict would quickly put an end to this.

Thailand’s hugely lucrative rice export industry would be directly threatened. The Kingdom is the world’s top rice producer, and rice subsidies have been a hallmark of Yingluck Shinawatra’s tenure as Prime Minister. The country’s chief rice-producing regions in the centre and the north are Red Shirt strongholds, meaning strife is likely to occur there should the country fall into conflict. Global rice prices would spike, which, as events in 2007-08 showed, could trigger food riots in neighbouring countries where rice is also a staple. This could directly affect regime stability in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Thailand’s other cash cow – tourism – would also be affected, after slipping through so many past crises unscathed.

Thailand is sitting on a precipice. A host of unresolved issues – political gridlock, class divide, and the insurgency in the deep south – have created conditions that could lead the country into civil war. The king’s death could be the spark to set it alight.

Short-circuiting Thai democracy

17 May 2014 - The Japan Times editorial

With the removal of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand has honed its unique form of government — juristocracy — in which the judiciary repeatedly overthrows democratically elected governments on transparent pretexts.

Last week’s decision by the Constitutional Court was widely expected but that did not make it any easier to swallow. Antidemocratic elements — and there is no other word for them — in Thai society refuse to tolerate a government that they do not control, the sentiments of the majority of the Thai people be damned.

This is the third time that judges have removed a prime minister they did not like and this indifference to the popular will is hardening sentiment in Thailand and pushing the country closer to civil war.

The ruling that forced Yingluck from office was ostensibly based on her decision to replace the secretary general of the National Security Council in 2011. While most prime ministers have the right to select their own Cabinet and staff, Thailand’s top court instead decided in a unanimous ruling that it was an abuse of power for her to transfer a civil servant and ordered the prime minister to step down immediately, along with all the other members of her Cabinet who were in office at the time of the offense.

The court said in its ruling that the prime minister’s move had a “hidden agenda,” was intended to create a job for her relative and not done according to “moral principles.”

Sadly this judicial activism is not unprecedented. In an earlier case — cited by the court as precedent — a previous prime minister, also aligned with Yingluck, was forced from office because he appeared on a televised cooking show (supposedly because he accepted payment for the appearances).

The real issue is the ongoing battle between forces in Thai society that are vehemently opposed to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, forced from office in a coup in 2006, and forces that support him and his policies.

The anti-Thaksin group sees Yingluck as a proxy for her deposed brother — and dismisses any political group that espouses his platform as nothing more than a fig leaf for his return (Thaksin is currently in exile in Dubai).

The problem is that Thaksin is popular: Despite his removal from office in a military coup and a constitution written by a successor government that institutionalizes barriers to his return, his party keeps winning elections. That has not stopped the opposition from doing everything they can to keep his allies from running the government.

The result is coup after coup, followed by one loss after another at the ballot box, until pressure builds and another extraparliamentary change is engineered.

The most recent crisis was triggered by an attempt last year to rush through Parliament a bill that would give the deposed prime minister amnesty and allow him to come home. Yingluck dissolved Parliament as protests mounted and the capital of Bangkok descended into violence.

Knowing that they could not win, the opposition decided to block polling stations, preventing votes and preventing some candidates from registering.

As a result, the constitutional court nullified the ballot and Yingluck stayed in office as head of a caretaker government — until the court intervened again last week.

Now, anti-Thaksin forces have occupied the government compound where they hold press conferences and issue demands. Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of that group, is calling for the Senate to install a prime minister to implement political reforms ahead of elections scheduled for July.

While the constitution says the Lower House should appoint the prime minister, Suthep argues that duty now falls to the Senate since the Constitutional Court invalidated the February elections — conveniently neglecting to mention that his supporters boycotted and disrupted that vote.

The opposition argues that Thaksin’s populist policies are every bit as antidemocratic as their alleged behavior. They charge that he has been buying votes and politicians, and Exhibit A in the latest catalog of offenses is a government rice-buying scheme that created a huge hole in the budget.

There were hopes that Yingluck’s dismissal would reduce tensions, but it looks like the anti-Thaksin forces are merely riding the momentum to step up their demands.

The question is whether a compromise is possible or if both sides will hunker down and let violence prevail. Periodic outbreaks of unrest over the years have left dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Since November, more than 20 people have been killed in protests, but each time the country has pulled back from the brink.

Thailand’s opposition may be successful in its rear-guard battles against a democratically elected government, but these “victories” are Pyrrhic. Not only does the resulting instability and chaos do as much damage as Thaksin did to entrenched business and economic interests, but it erodes the foundation of the state’s very legitimacy.

Military intervention was once a norm in Thai politics, but that period has ended. Incredibly, the situation in Thailand today could portend an even worse development — drawn out violence and even civil war.

It’s a Thai thing: ditching the new for the old

16 May 2014 by Tom Plate for the Japan Times

More than almost any other political crisis on the face of the earth today — more than in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea; even more, in a way, than in dreadfully miserable Syria — it is the crisis in Thailand that seems so sad.

Because this tragedy need not have happened — not at all.

Very many people live in the shadow of unelected governments that they dislike, or even under elected governments for which they did not vote and perhaps even despise. But in this world (and quite possibly even in the next) rarely does one get everything he or she politically wants, certainly not all the time and maybe not even often.

But in Thailand some people — too many people — do want it all, and to achieve that aim they are prepared to deny everyone else almost everything.

And so one feels terribly sorry for all those many people in Thailand that voted for the government of Yingluck Shinawatra (who became the 28th prime minister — and first woman prime minister — in Thailand’s history from the 2011 general election) and who now find this nice and hardworking lady out of the job.

Why? Essentially because a smaller number of people don’t like the political taste of a larger number of people.

What is so loathsome is the selection of this fine lady as the punching bag of the Bangkok elite, which has just pulled off what many are terming a “judicial coup.” Unable to beat Yingluck’s coalition in an honest us-against-them election, the elite’s allies on the so-called Constitutional Court (packed with anti-government elitists) found cause the other day to disqualify the prime minister and much of her Cabinet.

The ruling — that a series of sudden appointment maneuvers by the government was legally invalid and required dismissal — required of the court a reasoning style from the legal school of Alice in Wonderland.

The ruling creates a bad precedent for governance; worse yet, it may pave the way toward a civil war of un-Thai-like violence. It is, after all, the view of no less than Ramkhamhaeng University political scientist Pandit Chanrojanakij that the justices exercised unwarranted political power in order to undermine political parties allied to Thaksin.

“The rulings of the Constitutional Court in recent months have decreased the credibility of the court itself,” said Pandit. “If the law cannot create principles equally used by everyone, violence in the future may be inevitable.”

Behind the anti-Yingluck coalition, of course, is a deep hatred of her brother, Thaksin, also expelled from the prime minister’s office — not by court coup in 2006 but by a less subtle military coup.

The hatred that gushes at Thaksin, in self-exile, seems unquenchable and, because it is so limitless, unreasonable.

Perhaps the closest hate analogue I can think of in our own politics here was the American left’s inconsolable loathing of President Richard Nixon, whom now, in fact, history seems to be treating with a little more respect (reflecting his brilliant opening to China, surprisingly expansive domestic programs, etc.).

Consider the arguable parallels. Thaksin’s 2001-2006 reign coincided with the greatest uptick ever in the Thai economy. His government was repeatedly reelected. There were many policy innovations in health and income redistribution. To many voters outside of Bangkok, he offered hope for escape from the cruel box of poverty.

Yet, he was brought down, they said, for his “corruption” — as if he were the first politician in the history of Thailand to (allegedly) take personal shortcuts while in office. Whatever.

The anti-Thaksin crowd’s dubious bile was then piled on his younger sister Yingluck, a lady of substantial charm and I-try-hard work habits. The Thai Constitutional Court that invalidated her as prime minister thus jumped in with a shortsighted movement that took a country suddenly doing so well and yet managed to begin to bring it down.

I find it all beyond sad. I suppose some people in Thailand find me biased because of my work as the author of “Conversations With Thaksin.” This was the 2011 book that tried to tell the former prime minister’s side of the story as much as possible using his own words.

In 2010, I spent a week and a half with him in Dubai where he has been in frustrated exile. Frankly I found him pleasant, smart and patriotic about Thailand. Did I find him self-serving? May I ask you this: Have you have ever heard of any politician who was not?

In fact, his enemies have lauded this book for how it presents Thaksin’s views with plain candor, almost as much as his supporters have embraced it for letting the controversial man have his say. But that is what true journalism does: It seeks to embrace unblemished reality.

I wish Thailand itself would do that. Instead, it is — at least to me — on a course of serious self-destruction that seems totally unreal.

Little in today’s political world makes me sadder. Almost nothing terrible going on now is less necessary than this nightmare in Thailand. This is a remarkable tragedy: the utter self-destructiveness of it all.

We can only hope that someone or something inside Thailand can bring it back from the brink.

American columnist and journalist Tom Plate is the Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University, and author of the “Giants of Asia” quartet of books on Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mohamad Mahathir of Malaysia, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea and Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand

Dysfunctional Thailand

12 May 2014

As Thailand progresses ever deeper into a black hole it is clear that reason, debate and common sense no longer apply. The country barely functions.

I have lost friends because I am not an ardent royalist; because I question the yellow shirt mantra; because I think Suthep is a dangerous fascist; because I believe that democracy matters as does the rule of sensible respected law.

The yellow shirted proposals of reform before election are nonsense if those reforms are merely to disenfranchise enough people to allow the bangkok establishment to govern under the guise of the otherwise unelectable Democrat party.

The 1997 constitution was a sensible and respected document. It was torn up after the 2006 coup and replaced by the army backed 2007 constitution which is still in place today. That constitution was thought sufficient enough to keep the Thaksin backed parties out of government. It failed. And the courts set up to defend this constitution have removed three prime ministers and assorted ministers and briefly put the Democrats back into government.

I am bored silly with head in the sand Thais telling me that foreigners should have no interest in Thailand and have no right to comment on Thai politics or its ruling powers.

Like it or not Thailand chose to be part of a global economy; it has encouraged massive foreign investment; it lives off the huge number of international tourists that visit each year and create wealth and work in the provinces and in Bangkok.

Anyone visiting or investing has the right to comment and take an interest in Thai affairs. And it is good that they do take an interest and gain an understanding of the country and its people.

The trouble for Thais is that people think independently. Visitors and investors are not brainwashed by the thai media, bluesky tv and The appalling Nation newspaper. We give credibilty to news organisations such as the Economist, the Financial Times and the BBC.

Of course these news organisations are not spewing royalist propaganda. They are not fond of coups.

And in Thailand if you do not agree with us you are clearly against us. So the argument runs that Thaksin has bought the foreign media.

Utter nonsense. But it is remarkable how many apparently sensibly educated Thais actually believe that and how vehemently they believe it.

The other recurring nonsense is to support the yellow shirt and Suthep's ranting nonsense because the red shirts allegedly don't like the King and want a republic. There is no evidence to support this. Indeed Thaksin himself sort royal support. The red shirts do see themselves aligned with the Crown Prince, who will in time succeed as Rama X.

In twenty years Thailand has barely progressed. It survives on a mixture of mass tourism, self-sufficiency and lower grade manufacturing jobs for foreign investors. Even these are under threat with talk this week of 30,000 redundancies at Japanese car plants in Thailand due to lack of demand.

The country survives; but does not build. A subway is built without building enough capacity for future growth. A new airport is built but was inadequate on the day that it opened. The rail network is pathetic. The road network little better. Investment in education at all levels is feeble. Corruption is a way of life from top to bottom. It is how anything gets done. Livable incomes are created not from salaries but from tea money.

Thailand is being left behind. Look anywhere else in Asia and people are building and planning for the future. The country needs to move from tradition, nepotism, the infantile attraction of bad soap operas to thoughtful debate about its long term future, followed by planning, investment and implementation. A move away from rule by an unelected elite minority to leadership based upon meritocracy.

Failure to change and adapt will leave Thailand as little more than a holiday camp. It deserves to be so much more than that.

Phuket Police v Reuters

13 May 2014

Phuket police say that Reuters reporters will be charged after their Pulitzer prize winning Rohingya investigations - do the local police really think that it is wise to prosecute an international news agency for an article that they won the Pulitzer Prize for.

Someone is going to look very foolish and I do not expect it to be Reuters.

The arrest summonses nominate a date and a time at which two Reuters journalists and a Reuters company representative will be required to present themselves to police, the investigating officer, Lieutenant Somkid On-Jan of Phuket's Vichit Police Station, said yesterday.

If there is no appropriate response, those named are liable to be arrested. Lt Somkid did not name the journalists facing summonses but the two authors of the Reuters article at the centre of the legal row are now living overseas so are unlikely to go on trial.

The case is being brought by the Royal Thai Navy which alleges criminal defamation and a breach of Thailand's Computer Crimes Act. Conviction carries a penalty of up to seven years' jail and a fine of 100,000 baht.

Two journalists from Phuketwan were similarly ordered to present themselves last December and have since been charged.

Both Navy actions concern a single paragraph from a Reuters special report on the Rohingya boatpeople.

The report was published by Reuters on July 17 last year. Phuketwan carried excerpts, including the 41-word paragraph, in a news report later the same day. Phuketwan is not a Reuters subscriber.

The Royal Thai Navy also lodged complaints about both news organisations with Phuket police on July 17.

Phuketwan staff Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison were ordered to appear at the Vichit Police Station. At the time, the Phuketwan journalists (Case No. 489) were told that Reuters (Case No. 490) would also be charged. However, the Reuters case was delayed for months because the police paperwork was initially sent to the Department of Justice in Bangkok.

The Reuters story won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, journalism's highest honor, for its coverage of the Rohingya.

The Pulitzer board commended journalists Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall last month for their '''courageous reports''' and noted that the Rohingya in fleeing Burma (Myanmar) ''often fall victim to predatory human trafficking networks''.

Jason Szep and Stuart Grudgings were bylined on the Reuters special report of July 17.

Mr Szep was the Bangkok bureau chief at the time the Rohingya series was written. He has since been transferred to Washington. Mr Grudgings was the Kuala Lumpur correspondent.

The Phuketwan reporters are due to reappear in court on May 26. They are currently free on bail of 100,000 baht each.

Reuters has been criticised for not speaking out in defence of the two Phuketwan journalists.

Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that "It is intolerable that journalists are being prosecuted for just doing their job by relaying information of general interest that had already been made public," Reporters Without Borders said. "Bringing charges under the controversial Computers Crimes Act in a defamation case is indicative of the critical state of freedom of information in Thailand and amounts to an attempt to gag the media. We support these journalists, who are facing a jail term, and we call for the immediate withdrawal of these proceedings."

Meanwhile the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that "'Rather than shooting the messenger, the Royal Thai Navy would be better suited launching an internal investigation into the serious allegations of abuse that have been raised,'' said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. ''This type of legal intimidation aims ultimately at discouraging media reporting on allegations of serious human rights abuses.''

Thailand ranked 130th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Shameful.

PDRC back on the streets

Suthep is back on the streets; he senses victory after this week's court removal of Prime Minister Yingluck. He led a march to Government House today. Other PDRC leaders were to lay siege of CAPO to all Thai TV stations to stop their broadcast of government information. TV3,5,7,9,11 were targeted. Thai PBS was not mentioned.

The protestors now include Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, two key figures from the 2008 People's Alliance for Democracy protests. Mr Sondhi also made a speech from the PDRC stage.

Neither Sondhi or Chamlong have ever been prosecuted for closing down Bangkok's international airports in 2008.

Anti-govt protestors surrounding local TV stations demanding no coverage of "Thaksin regime" with the PDRC ordering TV stations to show only soap operas, cartoons and entertainment programmes.

There was little if any rebuke of Suthep from the Thai media who continue unfazed by the PDRC's threats to media freedom.

The PDRC also set 3 days for Senate president, chief judges & chairs of "independent agencies" to topple PT government & nominate unelected PM; this was after anti-Thaksin senator Surachai Liangboonlertchai became Senate president today.

This is Jonathan Head's analysis for BBC News

"It was as though we had gone back five months. There was Suthep Thugsuban, marching with his entourage through central Bangkok, once again promising a "final push" - his ninth by my count - to oust the government. For the past three months his PDRC movement had dwindled to a core of mainly southern tough guys, camped out in a city park.

One of his principal targets, Yingluck Shinawatra, was finally forced from office this week, along with nine of her ministers, some of them top hate figures for the PDRC.

But the failure of the Constitutional Court to plunge the knife in the whole way, and take out the entire cabinet, has left PDRC followers dissatisfied. Their goal, an appointed government of "good men" to cleanse the political system in such a way as to cripple Ms Yingluck's election-winning party machine, remains unfulfilled. The resumption of their rallies is to remind Thailand that they have not gone away, that their job is not done.

That job, though, will have to be accomplished either through yet more legal cases against the remaining ministers, and perhaps against MPs and senators in the governing party as well, to weaken its electoral prospects, or military intervention. The armed forces have shown no appetite for a coup yet, conscious of the certain backlash from Ms Yingluck's supporters, but that could change if there are violent clashes or, eventually, if the crisis just cannot be resolved."

The elite cannot turn back the tide of Thai politics

9 May 2014 - The Financial Times

The divide between the urban middle class and rural voters is vast, writes Duncan McCargo

When Thailand’s counter-corruption agency called for the impeachment of Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday, the news had a surreal quality: the prime minister was already gone. The country’s conservative establishment, having dithered since November about how to respond to a wave of anti-government street protests, has finally turned on Ms Yingluck’s Puea Thai party.

This week the constitutional court removed Ms Yingluck and most of her key ministers from office; the acting administration is struggling for credibility as the remaining members try to cover multiple cabinet roles. In the absence of a foreign minister, no one is sure who will represent Thailand at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this weekend. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in more than 12 years, and foreign investors are eyeing the country with growing wariness.

For decades Thailand was managed by a “network monarchy” – an alliance of senior bureaucrats and other elders and betters, who worked closely with the palace. Elected governments came and went, growing in power from the 1970s onward, but subject to veto by the Bangkok elite.

All that changed with the arrival of Thaksin Shinawatra, a police officer turned telecommunications magnate – and Ms Yingluck’s older brother – who moved into Government House in 2001. Mr Thaksin was the first politician to understand the aspirations of the country’s millions of urbanised villagers – people who voted in the provinces but made a living in and around Bangkok. Dismissed by the middle classes as ignorant “buffaloes”, urbanised villagers have ensured that pro-Thaksin parties won every election since.

Mr Thaksin was ousted from power in a 2006 military coup but continues to exert considerable influence from his self-imposed exile in Dubai. Thais are divided into two camps: admirers of the former prime minister; and opponents who see him, with some justification, as a manipulative populist who is synonymous with corruption. Even the highest echelons of the Thai state are now split, including senior ranks of the military.

After months of street protests led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy premier from the opposition Democrat party, anti-Thaksin forces sense they have the upper hand. They are calling for a mass rally, symbolically set for 9.09am on Friday May 9. This is a coded reference to the long-reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama the Ninth, whose legacy the protesters claim to be defending. But this is the 11th time Mr Suthep has called for a “final battle” to oust the Shinawatra clan. He repeatedly urges “the people” (meaning his own groups of supporters) to seize “sovereign power”, as though hot air alone could topple the government.

The increasingly demagogic anti-Thaksin movement is now guilty of many of the same shortcomings it ascribes to Mr Thaksin: it is highly personalised, stubborn and self-interested. The movement – calling itself the People’s Democratic Reform Committee – disrupted a general election held on February 2, which was boycotted by the opposition and subsequently annulled by the courts.

Mr Suthep and the Democrat party have demanded “reform before elections”, pre-emptive and unconstitutional moves intended to curtail the power of ordinary voters and prevent another pro-Thaksin government from coming to power. Unable to triumph at the ballot box, Thailand’s oldest political party has turned against electoral politics. Whether the elections scheduled for July 20 will go ahead remains in doubt.

This latest iteration of Thailand’s nine-year political crisis has been the darkest and most difficult so far. Anti-Thaksin protests, elections, a military coup, a new constitution, judicial interventions, pro-Thaksin protests – all have been tried since 2005, some of them several times, and all have failed. At the root of the problem lies the disputed legitimacy of the Thai state. Is it a constitutional democracy? Or a traditional kingdom in which deference for the monarchy and attachment to notions of what it means to be Thai are more important than either laws or votes?

The latest constitutional court decision to remove Ms Yingluck from power had a tendentious basis in law but a rather more robust extra-legal rationale. The powers that be had finally decided the premier had to go.

For many Bangkokians, the decision of the constitutional court will come as a vindication of their hostility to the Puea Thai government. But there is a vast psychological divide between the metropolitan middle class and the masses registered to vote in the country’s most populous regions.

The conflict is pitting an entrenched elite that is destined to lose power against new political forces whose rise seems inexorable. Ousting Ms Yingluck on a technicality was an act of desperation, not a show of strength.

The writer is associate fellow in the Asia programme at Chatham House

Thailand’s crisis displays epic quality of social conflict

9 May 2014 The Financial Times

Suthep Thaugsuban swept through Bangkok’s business district protected by a phalanx of toughs while gathering fistfuls of banknotes thrust his way by supporters at the roadside.

He bowed his head and clasped his hands as he took 10,000 baht ($307 ) from Eumporn Wethyavivorn, a 60-year-old housewife, who had come to implore the fiery Thai opposition leader to finish off a government already decapitated by this week’s court-ordered ousting of Yingluck Shinawatra, its prime minister.

“We want to support Mr Suthep to finish his work,” said Ms Eumporn, who added that she had popped over from lunches at the nearby Holiday Inn many times during the past six months of street protests to give Mr Suthep a total of 200,000 baht. “We can’t live like this for the next generation.”

Her remarks convey the epic quality of a social conflict whose magnitude another royalist anti-government protester said was as dangerous as Oliver Cromwell’s 17th-century English revolution. As Mr Suthep’s supporters marched on television stations and parliament yesterday– and pro-government loyalists prepare for their own counter-rally today – it is clear that the opposition movement wants to dismantle a political system as comprehensively as it defenestrated a premier it loathed.

Thousands of protesters followed Mr Suthep’s call to descend on five television stations, the prime minister’s offices and parliament, in a fresh effort to topple the government and replace it with an unelected council. The opposition leader – a former deputy prime minister – told the targeted channels they had nothing to fear, urging them to stop broadcasting government statements and stand by to transmit his movement’s messages instead.

Mr Suthep’s latest self-declared “D-day” capped a week that showed both the strength and the weakness of the elite-backed opposition: while it can rely on favourable treatment from establishment institutions such as the courts, the evidence of elections, opinion polls and the numbers at its protests suggest it has never convinced a majority of Thais. Some analysts think this makes the latest phase of this eight-year crisis the most dangerous yet, as a still-powerful old elite and its allies use any means they deem necessary to battle a historical tide of poll defeats at the hands of populous rural north Thailand.

“They want to preserve the old order and they see change as a threat,” said Kaewmala, an online social commentator. “But the tsunami has already started and there’s no stopping it.”

Much of the heat of this periodically deadly struggle for a country has focused on the absent figure of Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck’s brother, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup and has driven his sister’s government from the Dubai self-exile he lives in to avoid a corruption conviction back home.

But the many legitimate concerns about cronyism, graft and authoritarianism during the Thaksin era have obscured the structural weaknesses that allowed them to flourish in a nominal constitutional democracy long plagued by coups and corruption.

In response to criticism that their agenda is fundamentally undemocratic, many protesters offer what they see as a comfortingly complete retort: all elections are bought by the Thaksinistas, so a free and fair poll is impossible until the former prime minister’s influence is eradicated and the voting system reformed.

The argument brushes over inconvenient truths such as the lack of evidence that fraud has significantly influenced voting and the main opposition Democrat party’s acceptance of its result.

More broadly, some opposition supporters still seem to find it hard to conceive there are people in this country of more than 65m who – whether they articulate it directly or not – are looking for some kind of variation to the culture of ultra-monarchism, militarism and deference at the heart of traditionalist thinking.

A Coup by Another Name in Thailand

9 May 2014 New York Times editorial

A decision by Thailand’s highest court to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office is almost sure to send the country deeper into crisis. Pro- and antigovernment groups are already massing for more protests that will further divide the polarized country and further disrupt an already weak economy.

In a decision that smacked of bias, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that Ms. Shinawatra and several other ministers could no longer serve in their positions because, it said, the prime minister had abused her power when she reassigned a government official in 2011 and gave his job to a relative. Ms. Shinawatra was replaced by an acting prime minister who is one of her former deputies. It was the third time the justices have removed the head of the government in recent years using dubious legal reasoning; in 2008, the court removed the prime minister, who also belonged to Ms. Shinawatra’s political movement, because he accepted payments to appear on a TV cooking show.

Opposition politicians, some of whom brought the court case that led to Ms. Shinawatra’s dismissal, have been campaigning for months to remove her government and replace it with a team of unelected officials who would then carry out reforms, so far unspecified. Separately, the National Anti-Corruption Commission began proceedings on Thursday to impeach Ms. Shinawatra in connection with a subsidy program for rice farmers. Those proceedings could eventually result in her being banned from Thai politics altogether.

Many of Ms. Shinawatra’s troubles are of her own making. Unrest and violence, which has claimed about 20 lives, began in November after she tried to push through an ill-conceived amnesty law that would have pardoned her controversial brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, and others involved in the country’s political conflicts of the last decade. The current crisis is also fueled by longstanding regional and class divisions that have been exploited by both the Shinawatras, who have cultivated the support of more rural and poorer Thais in the north and northeast, and by their opponents, who tend to be based in the south and in Bangkok.

The latest ruling will do little to calm the waters. A national election is tentatively scheduled for July 20, and as it comes closer, the antigovernment protesters who have been in the streets for months are likely to be joined by red-shirted supporters of the Shinawatra family. Thailand, which has managed to grow despite its chaotic politics and frequent coups, appears to be approaching a breaking point.

But more protests will not solve anything. What the country needs now is compromise and reconciliation. In the past, the country’s king, who is 86 and ailing, or its army often stepped in to resolve political conflicts. Now, neither appears able or willing to do that. That makes it all the more important for both sides to come to their senses.

Everything is broken

9 May 2014 The Economist (leading article)

Look on and despair. A decade ago Thailand was a shining example—rare proof that in South-East Asia a vibrant democracy could go hand-in-hand with a thriving economy. Contrast that with Thailand on May 7th, left in disarray after the Constitutional Court demanded that the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra (pictured), step down with nine members of her cabinet over her decision to remove the country’s head of national security in 2011, in favour of a relative.

For all the pretence of due legal process and distaste at Ms Yingluck’s nepotism, this was not an offence that merited the ousting of a prime minister. Instead, the ruling is a measure of quite how far Thailand has fallen, how deeply it is divided and how badly its institutions are broken (see article). Unless Thais step back from the brink, their country risks falling into chaos and anarchy, or outright violence.

In kicking out Ms Yingluck, the court accomplished what months of anti-government street protests in Bangkok, led by a firebrand populist, Suthep Thaugsuban, had failed to bring about. It is far from the first time the court has ruled against her. To break the impasse on Bangkok’s streets, she had called a February election, but the opposition Democrat Party boycotted it, and the court struck down the results. Ms Yingluck had been limping on as a caretaker. The message for many Thais is that the court is on the side of a royalist establishment bent on purging politics of Ms Yingluck, who came to office three years ago in a landslide election, and—especially—her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, himself ousted in a coup in 2006 and now in self-imposed exile.

The entire apparatus of government has been sucked into the conflict between two visions of Thailand. For Mr Thaksin’s supporters, his emergence in 2001 marked a welcome break from decades of rule by corrupt coalitions or military juntas. Helped by a new democratic constitution in 1997, he gave a voice to Thailand’s majority, many of them in his northern and north-eastern heartland. In their view, he transformed the lives of the poorest with health and education programmes, and he challenged Thailand’s privileged elites in the bureaucracy, the army, the judiciary and the palace corridors of an ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej. To the Thaksinites, both the recent street protests and the Constitutional Court’s activism are the work of an establishment that cannot accept the results of the ballot box: in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011 parties loyal to Mr Thaksin won elections fair and square, and Ms Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party would have done so, too, in February.

There is merit in this interpretation. But so is there in what the Shinawatras’ enemies have to say. In particular, they charge that Thaksinite governments have been run for the benefit of his rural supporters (a mad scheme to subsidise rice threatens to bust the budget) and of the billionaire himself. There is something creepy about the way that the exiled, unelected Mr Thaksin has been calling the shots from Dubai.

Now stalemate beckons. An election is supposed to happen. Ms Yingluck should have had the right to confront her undemocratic royalist foes at the ballot box. But an election is no solution because the opposition will boycott it. Mr Suthep has proposed a “people’s council” of the great and the good, but Thaksinites will rightly see it as a stitch-up designed to keep them out. The irreconcilable differences between the two sides have swallowed up Thailand’s courts, its army and even the monarchy—and left Thailand at the abyss. Investors, having borne years of simmering discontent, are taking fright. Blood has already been spilled this year. The prospects of wider violence are growing as Thaksinite supporters threaten conflict on the streets.

If Thailand is to avoid that catastrophe, both sides must now step back from the brink. The starting point is the devolution of Thailand’s highly centralised system of governance. At the moment only the capital has a democratically elected governor, yet all 76 provinces should also have one—this would not only help a rumbling Muslim insurgency in the south, it would also offer a prize to Mr Suthep, because the winner of the national election would no longer win all the power. In return for this reform, the Democrat Party must pledge to accept election results; and in return for that, the Pheu Thai should run without a Shinawatra at the helm.

Goodwill is in short supply in Thailand today. Yet by fighting on, the two sides risk bringing ruination to their country. Compromise would, by comparison, be a small price to pay.

A bad day for the Shinawatras

7 May 2014

Thailand has a new [acting caretaker?] Prime Minister, Niwatthamrung Boonsongpaisan, after the Constitutional Court as predicted found previous PM Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abuse of power.

Yingluck removed a civil servant from office who she not unreasonably did not trust given his loyal support of Abhisit and the previous unelected Democrat government.

But there were bizarre events at the court today as Jonathan Head for the BBC reported that fellow journalist Nick Nostitz was attacked by PDRC thugs at the court building. Police and soldiers were right next to Nostitz but were too scared to intervene.

Nick got out reported Mr Head who added that the "PDRC heavies were trying find him and detain him. And we all know what happens to people they detain."

So the PDRC were managing security at the highest court in Thailand which was in the process of making a major verdict. Head reported that the PDRC guards controlled access to the court and had cameras filming the crowd and the journalists. Nostitz was inside the Constitutional Court. Reporting. Wearing a journalist's armband. This should be unacceptable but as usual nothing will happen.

Ms. Yingluck was PM/Acting PM for 2 years, 9 months, 2 days. She led her party to two strong election wins.

The court also dismissed 9 other ministers, including foreign minister Surapong, finance minister Kittiratt, and labour minister Chalerm - Chalerm will not be missed.

While the court behaved utterly predictable the Pheu Thai party did the same thing and appointed another Shin/Thaksin insider as the new caretaker PM and party leader.

Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan served as the Chairman of the Executive Committee-Media and Advertising Business of Shin Corp. Public Co. Ltd. since 1995 and as Vice Chairman of Group Executive Committee since 2000. Mr. Boonsongpaisan served from 2001 to 2002 as Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of ITV PLC and from 1993 to 1995 as President of Shinawatra Computer and Communicaitons PLC.

Mr. Boonsongpaisan served as Director of ITV Plc since 2002. He served as a Director of Shin Corporation Public Company Limited from 2001 to March 16, 2006. He has been Chairman of the Executive Committee of ITV Plc since 2002. Mr. Boonsongpaisan holds Master’s Degree Course work in Computer Sciences from Chulalongkorn University and Bachelor ‘s Degree in Education from Srinakarintrawirot University.

So Yingluck lost her job not based upon an law - but as the Court kept emphasing it was a matter of morality. She lost her job based solely on suspicion of aiding a relative (who actually is not a relative).

To add insult to injury, the NACC may rule on Yingluck’s indictment tomorrow as well in the rice-pledging case - that could see her receive a 5 year ban from politics.

To finish off a bad day for Thaksin's Puea Thai Office of the Auditor-General demands 3.8 billion baht compensation from the Yingluck Shinawatra government for the failure of the February 2 election.

That last note is truly bizarre as it was the PDRC who blocked the polling booths and the Democrats who refused to take part.

Helplessly hoping

7 May 2014 Banyan for The Economist
A few months before Yingluck Shinawatra became prime minister, German spies in the state of Bavaria found themselves facing an exotic problem: her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was to be granted a royal audience. The crown prince of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, was already a familiar visitor to southern Germany’s Alpine foothills. But in deigning to greet Mr Thaksin on foreign soil, the prince was meeting not only a former prime minister but also a fugitive from Thai justice.

Little is known about what the two men discussed. The old Thai establishment represented by the civil service, the army, the judiciary and the monarchy despises them both. For Mr Thaksin and the heir-apparent personify the end of the old tutelary democracy and the beginning of Thailand’s political future: a European-style constitutional monarchy with the king as titular head of state. With it will come an end to the kingdom’s Byzantine court culture, which reveres rank and rewards status, and devalues electoral democracy.

The elites’ fear is well-grounded: In the words of a cable sent by America’s ambassador to Thailand in 2005, Mr Thaksin “long ago invested in crown-prince futures”. A Singaporean diplomat judged that the telecoms-tycoon-turned-populist-politician had been “pursuing a relationship with the Crown Prince by paying off the Crown Prince's gambling debts”. And the Germans knew of a gift that Thaksin gave the crown prince in early 2001: a Maybach, a €500,000 luxury car, which was subsequently integrated into the royal fleet.

Their next meeting on Thai soil is probably still one royal succession, a few elections, court rulings and perhaps a new constitution away. On May 7th Ms Yingluck is poised to become the third prime minister to be removed from office by court order since Thailand’s revolution of 1932 (another unlucky nine, including her brother, were simply kicked out by coup d’état). On May 6th she appeared before the constitutional court to defend herself against allegations that she abused the powers of her office in 2011 by transferring a national-security adviser. The speculation has it that, if she were removed by a court order, it could trigger a civil war—which would be the first ever in a modern, upper-middle-income country. (For anyone planning to keep score: in 2011 Thailand’s upper-middle benchmark of $4,400 gross national income per capita put it in a higher bracket than Ukraine, with $3,100; the World Bank regards that as the difference between upper-middle and lower-middle income brackets.)

So on May 2nd, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the establishment political party, the Democrats, made an offer. He wants for a general election that is scheduled for July 20th to be scrapped; for Ms Yingluck and her cabinet to step down; and for the senate to appoint an unelected prime minister and a “neutral” government who would oversee reforms to be drawn up by the foes of the Shinawatra clan. Some of those planners include people who have been trying to topple the government in six months of street protests. The whole affair could take two years. Economic advisers were not consulted, apparently—they would have pointed out that Thailand’s grinding war of ideologies has already tipped the economy into recession. Mr Abhisit said that if his plan were successful he would not run in the next poll (leaving it to his critics to point out that he is anyway already barred from standing in it).

The government rejected his proposal as unconstitutional. It must have been hard for them to see how Mr Abhisit’s bid to dictate democracy differed from the ideas of the coup-mongering Mr Suthep, an ex-Democrat MP who is leading the street protests. Mr Suthep’s movement has been boxed into a public park in Bangkok since March. On May 4th village headmen organised against Mr Suthep and descended on the capital, forcing him to call off his six-month long siege of the interior ministry. Nevertheless, he issued another call, his ninth, for a “final battle” to rid the kingdom of evils, i.e. to topple the Shinawatra-led government.

Meanwhile, the election commission looks ready to prepare a royal decree for elections on July 20th, to be presented to the king to for his endorsement. Ms Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party won a poll on February 2nd. But it wasn’t much of a fight; the opposition Democrats had boycotted it and the constitutional court subsequently annulled it. Under the constitution a party that boycotts two consecutive polls faces the prospect of being disbanded. Since the most recent poll was annulled however, the Democrats can have another go at boycotting. They may well wish to. Parties loyal to Mr Thaksin have won six consecutive elections (2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013).

The Democrat party, what the reds call “the king’s party”, says that this is not a battle over royal succession nor is it a case of the army, courts and bureaucracy defending the old order. Instead, on their view, it is about the “abuse of parliamentary power, majoritarianism and corruption”, in the words of a former finance minister and Democrat politician, Korn Chatikavanij.

They have a point. The government must confront corruption, stop treating the state as its cash till—and instead use its electoral mandate for the good of the country.

But the idea that majoritarianism lies at the heart of the mess in Thailand is silly. Majoritarianism typically involves an elected government that captures the courts, silences media critics and tinkers with the constitution to perpetuate its rule. In Thailand the opposite is true: the courts, the media, the bureaucracy, and the universities are extensions of the old Thai establishment, with the palace at its centre. The king’s advisers on the Privy Council are powerful. They oversee military appointments and then use their appointees to bless coups. After the coup in 2006 a military government abolished the (1997) constitution, which the advisers felt had made Mr Thaksin’s power unassailable. In its place they put a charter that gives the courts tremendous powers, making it possible for them to remove the head of an elected government on the slightest of technicalities.

Despite the expectation of Ms Yingluck’s imminent ousting, there is a whiff of futility about the larger effort to cement the old order in place. The Democrats, who were founded as a party on April 6th, 1946 (the coronation day of King Rama I, who established the Chakri dynasty in 1782) are looking oddly out of touch. Former military heavyweights have openly lobbied the Privy Council, the body Mr Thaksin refers to derisively as “the help”, to step in. Many of them were, like the men on the Privy Council, born in the days when Thailand’s army chose to support the losing side in the second world war. The consequence of that decision still looms large: unlike Japan or Germany, who were defeated by the Allies, for Thailand democracy is still a shaky concept.

So why now? Some supporters of the Shinawatras say this represents the old order’s last chance to secure its privileges and prevent royal wealth falling into public coffers. Many would have preferred the crown princess to her brother. But the palace recently made a decision that matters a great deal—and counts as a snub to the Privy Council. It named the crown prince as the new commander of the Royal Guards’ 1st Army Division and their 2nd Cavalry. These units, both headquartered in Bangkok, have determined the success of past coups and continue to be seen as indispensable for the pulling off of any future coup d’état. To give them to the crown prince is to pre-empt any fiddling with the royal succession. An adviser in Ms Yingluck’s government reckons this has made a coup in Thailand “less likely than at any time in history”.

The crown prince’s strengthened position, in effect an insurance policy against coups and meddling, was only made official in April. It had been initiated much earlier, before Mr Suthep began his “shutdown” of the capital. For as long as Mr Suthep’s sputtering revolution filled the streets of Bangkok, the military establishment held out hope that the government might be made to fall—while the possibilities for succession were vague. Now it is hard to see any way in which the crown prince’s path to the throne might be subverted. Which should make Mr Suthep’s antics that much less appealing.

Mr Thaksin, holding court in Singapore last month, summarised the state of play: “the help is trying to egg on the king, to take down this government”. Whatever happens next to Mr Thaksin’s sister, the Germans’ early hunch looks spot on. Thailand’s future seems to have begun in Bavaria.

Yingluck ousted by court

7 May 2014

Thailand's Constitutional Court on Wednesday ordered that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be removed from office immediately for abusing her power when she demoted the country's top security adviser.

The court said Ms. Yingluck violated the Thailand's constitution by improperly demoting the country's then-chief of national security, Tawin Pleansri, in 2011.

In almost a two-hour long verdict, judges said Ms. Yingluck's action was "dishonest" and a conflict of interest because Mr. Tawin's transfer was intended to pave the way for her brother-in-law to be named national police chief.

Except that he was no longer Yingluck's brother-in-law.

Ms. Yingluck "abused her premiership to benefit herself and people close to her…which violated the constitution and therefore resulted in the termination of her status," a judge said in a televised verdict.

In a stark symbol of the dysfunction of the Thai government, Mr. Thawil was reinstated, on court order, last week as secretary general of the National Security Council and told the Thai media that even while in office he will continue to support the movement to remove the government. Mr. Thawil, who before his reinstatement joined demonstrations calling for the overthrow of Ms. Yingluck, refused to attend his first meeting back at work, according to Thai media.

The court also removed nine cabinet members who were involved in Mr. Tawin's transfer from office, including Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong. Twenty-four other ministers and their deputies will remain in office until a new cabinet is in place, according to the court's order.

The court's ruling is final. 

The Constitutional Court has previously delivered unfavorable rulings against Mr. Thaksin and his allies, including the 2007 verdict that disbanded his Thai Rak Thai, or "Thai Love Thai", Party and the 2008 rulings that remove two prime ministers close to him.

In one of its most notorious decisions, the Constitutional Court in 2008 removed another prime minister, also from Mr. Thaksin’s political movement, because he had appeared on a televised cooking show. On Wednesday the court cited the cooking show case as precedent in its decision.

The verdict, which was read on national television, was unanimous among the court’s nine judges and reached with unusual speed. It was delivered just one day after Ms. Yingluck gave evidence at the court.

The constitutional court had also backed the PDRC anti-government protest movement, saying in previous rulings that protesters, who also led a campaign to block elections, had the “right to exercise their rights and liberty.” A lower court barred the government from dispersing protesters.

The decision to remove Ms. Yingluck is “total nonsense in a democratic society,” said Ekachai Chainuvati, the deputy dean of the law faculty at Siam University in Bangkok.

The court appeared to overturn its own precedent — a similar petition against Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister and the current opposition leader, was dismissed in 2011 because Mr. Abhisit had already called for elections. Ms. Yingluck called elections in December and heads a caretaker administration.

Constitutional Court to rule tomorrow and it does not look good for Yingluck

6 May 2014

It is likely that by this time tomorrow Yingluck Shinawatra will no longer be prime minister of Thailand;- ousted like other Thaksin Shinawatra backed leaders before her by the consitutional court set up to support the army backed constitution of 2007.

The complaint against Yingluck was filed to the court by a group of non-elected, no government, senators who said that the replacement of then-national security chief Thawil Pliensri after Yingluck was elected in 2011 was for the benefit of her party.

Since when has a government been unable to replace a civil servant who is not supportive of government policy?

Under the 2007 constitution this alleged offence could lead to her removal from office. Ms. Yingluck vigorously defended herself on Tuesday, saying, "I didn't do anything that is prohibited by the law, and I have carried out my duty in the administration with the country's benefit in mind."

But Mr. Tawin argued otherwise, telling the court Tuesday the transfer violated code of conduct and the country's Civil Service Act.

The court could also extend its verdict to key cabinet members who endorsed the decision to remove Thawil, potentially dislodging a layer of ruling party decision-makers with ties to Thaksin, who lives overseas to avoid jail for corruption convictions.

Six months of political street protests have so far failed to force Yingluck from office. But it is likely that this legal challenge will end her administration.

Yingluck has also been charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) with neglect of duty in connection with a costly and bungled rice subsidy scheme that critics say has caused rampant corruption.

If indicted by the NACC Yingluck would be suspended from office and face an impeachment vote in the upper house of parliament that could lead to a five-year ban from politics.

If the Constitutional Court does not rule against Yingluck, and it probably will, then the NACC would likely impeach her forcing her to step down while the Senate decides on convicting her.

Critics accuse the Constitutional Court of rushing through Yingluck's case and allege previous rulings show that it is politically biased against the Shinawatras. In 2008, the court forced two Thaksin-linked prime ministers from office.

The Constitutional Court in March nullified the February general election disrupted by protesters, leaving the kingdom in legislative limbo with only a caretaker government.

Election authorities and the ruling party have agreed on July 20 for new polls to find a way through the political paralysis, which has chiselled away at Thailand's once-dynamic growth. But it is likely that Yingluck will not be leading her party to the polls.

Abhisit's reforms - anything that gets the Dems elected

3 May 2014

So Abhisit having tried to sound like a potential voice of reason all week has announced his supposed reform plan - and guess what - there is no difference from the PDRC's proposals other than a toning down of the rhetoric.

The Democrat Party spokesman Chavanon Intharakomalsut said yesterday that the Democrats would once again boycott the July 20 general election again if party leader Abisit Vejjajiva’s reconciliation proposal is rejected.

So effectively an ultimatum. Agree our proposals of there will be no election. But Abisit had not even announced his proposals.

He did that today. And guess what; the Dems want the election postponed.

Abhisit proposes that the Peua Thai government (which has now been elected twice in the last three years) should resign to pave way for an establishment of an interim administration to carry out urgent reforms before holding a new election.

The post-election government would spend another year to carry out further reforms and then dissolve the House and hold another election.

The proposals are part of ten-point blueprint for bringing Thailand out of the political deadlock and were drafted by Abhisit after he held meetings with some political parties and some government agencies.

Abhisit raised the following proposals:

1) The enactment of election royal decree (for July 20th) must be postponed.

2) The Election Commission must issue regulations for improving the electoral system.

3) The National Reform Network and the People's Democratic Reform Committee must draft a master plan of reforms within 30 days.

The National Reform Network call themselves a “coalition of various professional sectors and organisations.” Basically the usual yellow-shirt, establishment apologists.

4) The reform master plan must be sent for a national referendum within 90 days.

5) The atmosphere of peaceful and orderly election should be created during the referendum time.

6) The prime minister must resign and the Senate speaker must nominate a nonpartisan prime minister for King's approval.

7) The interim nonpartisan government must focus on reforms and solve urgent problems.

8) After the reforms are done, a new election must be held in 45 to 60 days. The new government must carry out further reforms or else the coalition leader and partners must be dissolved and banned from election.

9) The new government must complete reforms in one year and dissolve the House and hold a new election under new election rules.

10) Reforms must be carried out on the remaining issues after the second election.

Oh dear. Message to Puea Thai, the government and the UDD. Please roll over and give Mr. Suthep exactly what he has been asking for and please do not contribute to or participate in the reform process. There is only one acceptable party of government in Thailand even though we have not won an election since most voters were born!

Simply - Abhisit is giving opponents of government carte blanche in drafting the reforms. Just bizarre that he might think that the government would accept this

In 2012, the Yingluck government tried to set up a reform committee whose proposals would be put to a referendum. Abhisit and the PAD opposed this.

We had street protests against the Yingluck government proposal. Then, Court warned the government about the constitutionality of their proposed reform method so the government dropped it.

Now, in 2014, AV’s proposal completely hands over power of reform to the government's opponents with Peau Thai and the red shirts having no direct power or influence over the reforms

It is like 2007 where pro-TS supporters were told to accept reforms & that the new army-backed Constitution could be changed later, but since 2007 the Court has blocked all attempts by pro-Thaksin side to amend the constitution.

Abhisit's "Reform under the Constitution" plan is "under the Constitution" in the same way the PDRC is "Democratic" i.e. not at all.

And reformed massage king Chuwit simply said that "If Abhisit & Suthep stop and do nothing today, the country will return to normal tomorrow" which is just about right!

The problem for Abhisit in a nutshell is that under the existing constitution a judicial coup just leads to an election which the Democrats once again cannot win. So here instead is a desperate attempt to rewrite the constitution which was already stacked in the Democrats favour in 2007.

AOB notes:

28 May 2014

Surprised at how many believe coup leaders have claimed their motive is to make Thailand peaceful when they were active players in creating a sense of turmoil.

Another disingenuous coup supporting argument is that the anti-democracy protesters were about to be attacked or massacred. Someone showed me an email with this nonsense earlier today. It was a remarkable collection of made up non-truths dressed up as facts.

It says a lot about Thailand that a man like Chaturon is in jail while Suthep and gang walk free. Chaturon was charged charged with inciting unrest and defying a military summons at a military tribunal by the Thai coup junta, he was not granted bail, and is now in Bangkok remand prison - reported by Jonathan Head for the BBC.

The NCPO has moved Thongthong Chandrangsu, permanent secretary to the PM's Office, to an inactive post at the office.

Of course moving civil servants is now accpetable under military rule.

For Bangkok based journalists: there will be a briefing by the Thai Foreign Ministry Thursday 29 May 1030 at MFA Sri Ayutthaya Road.

22 May 2014

One question not openly discussed in Thailand is who was involved in the coup plans? And who gave Gen Prayuth approval to proceed? It was clear that the troops were organised; had specific objectives and were executing a plan....this was not "Prayuth thinking I cant sleep, its 3am, lets have a coup." How divided in their loyalties are the army commanders?

21 May 2014

In Thailand a Committee has been set up to censor the internet under martial law. Content opposing the law shall be censored.

They have not got me yet!

Kinokuniya, one of the biggest bilingual bookstores in Thailand, decided to take a number of books on Thai politics off the shelves, citing the need to follow the army’s announcement. The Kinokuniya store representative told Prachatai that they chose to remove books that contain “political conflict” deemed causing “rifts” in society.

Store staff told me that they were given a list of books to remove by "upper management."

The Rector of Naresuan University in Phitsanulok Province prohibited its staff and students from taking part in political activities or giving interviews to the radio or television.

The NYT reports that "the military imposed martial law on Tuesday using an obscure, century-old law that is so archaic it allows the army to inspect telegraph messages and requisition “beasts of burden.”"

Thai television is reporting that Prawit Wongsuwan could be proposed as the next Prime Minister. He’s a retired army officer who was formerly commander-in-chief of the Thai army and later minister of defence.

Not of course that anyone voted for him. And that he is firmly part of the "yellow-shirt" establishment and has been a constant support of rabble-rouser Suthep.

This would be a major step backwards for Thailand.

Coup or no coup, it's definitely a military take-over. The caretaker government is almost powerless. The generals are running clearly running Thailand now.

Brad Adams at Human Rights Watch: "Military in Thailand pulls 100 year old law off the shelf effectively rendering the executive, legislative and judicial branches powerless."

20 May 2014

ZenJournalist.com is blocked in Thailand - "The page you are trying to visit has been blocked by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology."

The Army reasoned that they need to shut the TV channels down “in order that people have correct information without bias which may cause misunderstandings, which may amplify the conflict, and affected the peacekeeping duty of the officials.”

"Without bias": too funny: just say the army are doing a great job.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, says, “I think you can call this a coup … because this is about taking away power from the people, taking control of the political situation and human rights.”

19 May 2014

The winner of Miss Universe Thailand has offended a number of people by referring to the pro-government red shirts as ‘’dirty’’ and writing ‘’they should all be executed’’ on her Facebook page.

Weluree “Fai” Ditsayabut, 22, was crowned Miss Universe Thailand on Saturday night in a popular beauty pageant broadcast live on the state-owned Channel 3 and pro-government followers quickly found the offensive comments on her wall.

In one comment from November, Ms Weluree accused red shirts of being “anti-monarchy” dissidents, and suggested that Thailand will be cleaner once the “dirty” red shirts leave the country.

“I am not neutral. I am on the side of His Majesty the King,” Ms Weluree wrote. “I’m so angry at these evil activists. They should all be executed.”

Another brain-washed child preaching hatred rather than tolerance and acceptance. Just what Thailand needs.

Thai Coup - Reading material (leading up to the May 2014 coup)

Thailand’s coup: brokered by the army and PDRC
Watching Thailand’s coup from Myanmar -Trading places
The coup makers and the use of lèse majesté law to purge anti-coup activists in Thailand

Who’s who in the Thai coup?

There is no “crisis of succession” in Thailand
In junta-ruled Thailand, reading is now resistance
Thailand’s Army Tears Up the Script
Thailand's 1950s coup
Game over for democracy in Thailand

92-Cent Doctor Visit Shows Power of Thaksin Base Thai Army Faces
Men With Guns Shoot Thailand in Foot
Thailand is now ruled by a military junta. Here are 4 things to expect.
To the world: Please don't become part of Thailand's internal affairs problem
Coups, Rebellions and Uprisings in Thailand Since 1902
Thailand: waiting for democracy

German photojournalist just one victim of Thai conflict
Understanding Thailand’s Persistent Crisis
Why Thailand’s latest coup is different this time
Thai coup leader tightens grip
A Cold War Coup
Thai army detains ex-PM Yingluck
Taking refuge in 5-star Hampshire hotel: Thailand's Crown Prince and his retinue of 30

Coup offers no solution - Bangkok Post
Insider's report on coup decision
Thailand coup could lead to civil war

Questions remain about Thai army's sudden takeover
The path to the throne

Thailand coup: A brief history of past military coups
Thai Military Tries to Break Political Deadlock as Foes Meet
Thailand’s democracy is being dismembered, limb by limb
Thailand: If It Looks Like a Coup, and Smells Like a Coup, It Is a Coup
Thailand's Army Chief Declares Martial Law Nationwide
Thailand's Miss Universe beauty queen in political row

Thaksin's real war
Thailand’s juristocracy
There’s no cure-all for political quagmire
Thailand’s political crisis exacerbates: Welcome to Quagmire Country
How Thailand is contributing to the misery of Burma’s persecuted Rohingya
‘Don’t Touch the Cone:’ Frustrated Thais Mock Bangkok’s Protests
Nitirat academic: what most people understand about the charter court's ruling on Yingluck dismissal is likely to be incorrect
Buddha Issara Defends Brutality of PCAD Guards
The Travails of Thailand
Thailand’s Prime Minister Toppled by ‘The Iron Triangle’
Thai leader Yingluck Shinawatra was more than just her brother’s clone
Thailand's Aristocratic Dead-Enders

Thai Prime Minister Ordered Removed From Office
Ten Things to Remember When Thinking About Thai Politics
Meet the world’s richest royal families