As Thailand's military dictator, Prime Minister and former General Prayut Chan-o-cha visited Europe last week in a desperate attempt to woo more foreign investment, Thai democracy rights protesters rallied in Paris, London and Bonn, calling for his arrest for crimes against his own people. They also called upon European governments to put human rights before profits.
The pictures of thousands of Thais crying and wearing black after the death of King Pumipon might lead a sane person to conclude that most Thais were political half-wits with a slave-like mentality. That would be a wrong conclusion.
We have to factor in the royalist military repression. Anyone criticising the king can be jailed under the draconian lese-majeste (insulting the monarch) law. Added to this is the green light given by the junta for mobs of fanatical royalists to “deal” with dissidents.
Thailand’s King Pumipon Adulyadej died on October 13 aged 88, after more than 70 years on the throne. Thai socialist Giles Ji Ungpakorn has been in exile since he was charged with lese majeste (insulting the monarch) over a 2006 book criticising the king’s support for a military coup. Below he assesses the monarch’s role as a block to democracy and social justice.
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King Pumipon was a weak and characterless monarch who spent his useless and privileged life in a bubble, surrounded by fawning, grovelling toadies who claimed that he was a “god”.
Protest against coup regime. October 31, 2015.
It can be said that any “international bad press” about Thailand’s military junta generated by the comments from Western governments is welcome — especially when they demand the release of political prisoners. But none of these governments can be relied upon or trusted to maintain a principled stand against the military dictatorship.
When an all-female army of journalists, dressed as schoolgirls, burst into laughter at a “lunch party” with the Thailand's military junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House on January 8, it became the talk of the town.
Commentators took to social media to lament the wretched state of Thai media. A senior Thai journalist, Pravit Rojanapuruk, labelled the journalists as “lapdogs” in a column in the progressive daily Khaosod English.
No one with an ounce of intelligence would have expected Thailand's junta, and its herd of “academics for hire”, to come up with a democratic constitution - or anything other than a host of counter-reforms to set the authoritarian political agenda for years to come.
Overall, the current draft differs little in its tone from the previous draft, although there is a shocking additional article towards the end. The general tone is patronising and banal, with constant references to the monarchy.
The toll of Australia's bipartisan anti-refugee policies in death and suffering is rising. In the past fortnight more than 3000 Rohingya refugees from Arakan state in Burma (Myanmar) have turned up on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, having either swum ashore or been rescued by local fishing boat crews. An estimated 7000 more are trapped on boats that have been described as “floating coffins”.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced on May 16 that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will provide assistance to the thousands of Asian immigrants stranded off the coast of Thailand.
“This world is crazy, it shows a total disregard for human life to have people stranded on a boat, dying of starvation without being allowed to get off the boat,” Correa stated during his weekly presidential address.
Thailand's military junta’s new draft constitution is a pathetic, backward, anti-democratic and infantile document.
Just like the rantings of generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha, the regime's prime minister, it is full of tub-thumping and shouting about the “duties” and “responsibilities” of Thai people to grovel to “Nation, Religion and King”.
It is infantile because it is written by conservatives who think that by bullying the population into conforming to elite beliefs, they can actually change peoples’ attitudes.
Thai dictator Prayuth Chan-ocha has told reporters not to “speculate” when elections would be held again in Thailand. Many analysts are predicting that elections will not take place until at least 2016 ― rubbishing the initial promises of the military junta that seized power in May to hold elections next year.
Meanwhile a panel of anti-reformist junta lackeys were pontificating about the legacy of the October 14, 1973 uprising against the military and how this would “influence” the present anti-reform process.