Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Debunking the Flawed Thai Succession Crisis Thesis: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 11 April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

หลักฐานโผล่: กลุ่มเผด็จการฟาสซิสต์กปปส.กำลังคุกคามมหาวิทยาลัยไทย

โดยกลุ่มกปปส.ซึ่งมีความเชื่อมโยงกับพรรค “ประชาธิปัตย์” ได้ส่งจดหมายเรียกร้องให้มหาวิทยาลัยติดตั้งป้ายสนับสนุนกปปส. และเข้าร่วมกิจกรรมที่สนับสนุนกปปส.เท่านั้น

ผมได้รับจดหมายที่เขียนถึงรองคณบดีคณะวิศวกรรมศาสตร์ จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย ซึ่งเป็นมหาวิทยาลัยที่มีชื่อเสียงในกรุงเทพฯ

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

และชัดเจนว่าในขณะนี้กลุ่มกปปส.มีความตั้งใจที่จะให้ร้ายป้ายสีกลุ่มเคลื่อนไหวเรียกร้องประชาธิปไตยโดยการอ้างว่าแกนนำนปช.มีความคิด “ต่อต้านสถาบันกษัตริย์” ซึ่งเป็นข้ออ้างเดียวกับที่กลุ่มเผด็จการฟาสซิสต์ไทยมักใช้เพื่อสังหารหมู่ผู้เรียกร้องประชาธิปไตยอย่างโหดเหี้ยม

ในขณะนี้ดูเหมือนว่ากลุ่มกปปส. จะตั้งใจกดดัน และอาจใช้วิธีการข่มขู่หากจำเป็น เพื่อให้มหาวิทยาลัยไทยดำเนินการตามแนวทางต่อต้านประชาธิปไตยอย่างดุเดือด


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

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

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

Thai fascist leader Abhisit Vejjajiva rating at a Bangkok rally

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

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

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

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

To Deputy Dean of Engineering Faculty 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Debunking the Flawed Thai Succession Crisis Thesis: Part 1

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

Today the BBC's Bangkok correspondent, Jonathan Head, raised the issue of the Succession that will follow the death of Thailand's elderly king as being the determining factor in the present political crisis that is gripping the country. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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