Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Protesters put royal picture in wrong spot

*Image captured from Thai PBS showing PAD thugs firing a handgun while one hoists a picture of the King. Vibhavadi Road November 25, 2008. The video can be seen here. *

From the Bangkok Post:

The United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has been condemned for placing a picture of Their Majesties the King and the Queen alongside an offensive slogan.

Its leaders could be charged with lese majeste.

The picture was placed next to a slogan reading "Privileged People ... Thief" in the background on the UDD's rally stage outside parliament yesterday.However, it was later removed from the stage.

Suriyasai Katasila, a coordinator of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), deplored their action as disturbingly inappropriate.

I guess the above picture of a PAD thug shooting at people on the streets of Bangkok while a picture of the king is held behind him is not disturbingly inappropriate?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Get the temple back?!

Bangkok Post Cartoon, July 31, 2008.

From the Bangkok Post: Noppadon to Abhisit: Get temple back

Former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama has urged Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to keep his promise to get the ancient Hindu ruins of Preah Vihear back from Cambodia.

He said when he was foreign minister he made it clear that the Preah Vihear case was closed.

But Mr Abhisit, who was then opposition leader, insisted he would reserve the right to press for the return of the border temple to Thailand.

So how do you take back disputed territory with another country? By launching an military offensive of course. And it seems more than a little stupid of Noppadon and Abhisit to be debating the point of 'taking back' the temple (that was never Thailand's to take back) when they are really talking about instigating armed conflict with a neighbor.

Now PAD and the Thaksin faction are both employing ultranationalist brinkmanship for national political gain at a staggering cost of potential war with Cambodia.

And lets not forget that inside Abhisit's government is the PAD Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya:

Mr Noppadon said he was unhappy about Mr Kasit's remarks about Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He claimed Mr Kasit made offensive remarks against Mr Hun Sen that could affect relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

This all bodes ill for the long term stability of the government and has dangerous implications for relations with Cambodia.

Why did Surayud's Policy Fail in the South?

*All Photos Copyright*
Former Prime Minister and Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont, looking slightly annoyed at me for taking his picture, at a Peace Fair organized by SBPAC in Yala August 1st 2008.

From the Bangkok Post titled: Number of attacks drop, but not the threat

Assistant national police chief Pol Lt-Gen Adul Saengsingkaew attributed the decrease to the rebels making "adjustments to their plotting of violence'.'

Although there were fewer attacks in recent months, the degree of violence was increasing, said Pol Lt-Gen Adul, who is commander of the Police Operation Centre's Forward Command in charge of the four restive provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Yala. The office is based in Yala.

"The situation seems to be better on the surface, the insurgents still keep building confidence among themselves in the three provinces to show their power," he said.

He said one reason for the violence increasing last year was because the government of then-prime minister Surayud Chulanont launched its reconciliation policy in the far South.

Really? Policies of reconciliation caused more violence? I guess that implies that policies of securitization and war will result in Peace?

Although Prime Minister Abhisit's policy towards the South is still not clear, it is unfortunate to hear the same old tired security perspective about enforcing a negative peace.

Negative peace is simply the absence or limitation of violence because the peace is being enforced through the threat of violence.

Obviously, the southern citizen's long standing grievances have not been address but a heavy security arrangement prevents violence.

Which then raises the question; why did Surayud's policy of reconciliation fail? Two simple reasons.

At the time of the coup and the removal of Thaksin, southern insurgents had a point to make. Their fight was not simply with Thaksin but with years of physical and cultural violence committed by the Thai nation-state which enforces a strict ethno-Thai and religious-Buddhist nationalism which alienates the ethnic Malay Muslims in the south. To think they would stop fighting just because Thaksin was removed is naive because Thaksin was only a hawkish instigator, the fight is with the Thai state.

The second reason was because Surayud's 'reconciliation' was nothing more than a hollow apology. The only change offered were the kind words of Surayud which proved to be insincere as Bangkok had no intention of changing its policies on the south.

And now with Pol Lt-Gen Adul Saengsingkaew beating the war drum, it seems to be that further securitization of the southern border provinces is in order.

And, we all know that the last four years of hawkish security policies have failed to achieve nothing but a high body count.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

More lese majeste charges

* all photos copyright*

Royal propaganda posted by the PAD mob during their siege of Government House November 23rd, 2008.

More lese majeste charges are being launched against the foreign media.

Such archaic laws keep Thailand proudly in league with beacons of freedom like Egypt, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, and Belarus.

From the CPJ:

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ongoing legal harassment of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head. Police Lt. Col. Wattanasak Mungkandee filed a third criminal complaint this year against Head on December 23, alleging he had insulted the Thai monarchy in his reporting.

And an email from the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand:

Suspension of DVD sales of Dec 9 event

The FCCT regrets to announce that since the Dec 9, 2008 event ''The State of Politics and the Way Forward for Thailand '' is apparently the subject of a police inquiry, the Executive Committee deems it appropriate to suspend the further distribution of the DVD recording of the event with immediate effect.

We would like to take this opportunity to inform members that DVD recordings of Club events have been misused by certain individuals with their own agendas, in a way that compromises the free speech values the media community and the FCCT
stand for. Members are advised to be cautious in and if possible refrain from, sharing or lending DVDs of Club events.

And an example of a BBC article that inspired lese majeste:

"The PAD has justified its actions as being in defence of the monarchy, and the king's portrait has been displayed prominently during all its protests.

Senior figures close to the palace have openly supported the movement.

When the queen offered to preside over the funeral last month of a PAD protestor killed during clashes with the police, it appeared to be a tacit blessing for the movement.

Some in the government even believe the revered king may be backing the movement, although at the age of almost 81 this seems unlikely.

Hard evidence is difficult to come by. But people's actions in Thailand are now being driven as much by what they believe as what they know to be true.

The government and its rural followers believe there is a palace-army-elite conspiracy to rob them of their electoral mandate."

And some comments from the Bangkok Pundit on these recent charges:

"The thing with lese majeste complaints is that someone makes a complaint against you, no matter how flimsly the charges, any prudent person has to hire a lawyer (when the offence carries a jail sentence of 3-15 years do you really want to dismiss it?). You'll have to go to the police station, be interviewed etc. If you are unlucky enough you might not even get bail pending trial. These are all risks. What about the complaint? It costs them nothing. They are free to go on their merry way to think up more ways to lay charges.

Curiously, the BBC doesnt report this story. Do their editors think that one of their correspondents being charged with a law that contradicts freedom of speech is not a story?

Nice Mr. Abhisit

Abhisit Vejjajiva during and interview I had with him (edited myself out of course) at Parliament in August 27th 2008.

I personally have more hope in Abhisit's ability to navigate the rats-nest of Thai politics but there are some serious questions over the Democrat's cozy relationship with PAD and General Anupong.

When I ask Abhisit about PAD and the Democrats I got a standard, well rehearsed, and essentially useless answer. (In my defense, my focus had been about the southern conflict and I just added the question on a whim.)

C: That is all the questions I had regarding the south (southern border provinces) but I would like to ask a couple questions about the current situation with the People’s Alliance for Democracy. What is the Democrat Party’s stance on the current conflict?


Abhisit: At the moment we are very concerned with the confrontation that is taking place and we urge restraint on all sides. Particularly, we do not want to see an outbreak of violence and eventually this issue has to be resolved through legal and democratic means.


But more critical and deserving questions could have been formed such as these over at Thai Politico:

"Take the violent and fascist fanatics of the PAD - while they were illegally occupying Government House and Bangkok's airports; while they were shooting at people on the streets of the Thai capital; while they were attacking the police; while they were kidnapping and beating people; while they were dumping bodies in back alleys; while they were running roughshod over every single law they could get away with, Abhisit said nothing. Such is Abhisit's highly educated 'belief' in 'democracy' and 'clean' politics he failed to open his mouth once and condemn the acts of the PAD. In fact, he allowed Democrat MPs to openly attend, speak at and support the PAD's completely illegal acts, something which he still hasn't censured. The upshot is, like a Mafia Don, Abhisit was happy for a gang of heavies to do his dirty work while he hid in his mansion drinking tea in the effete manner he learnt in the hallowed halls of the Britain's most elite private school.
....

"Anupong has gone on record as stating he 'advised' Abhisit's coalition partners what to do. In any functioning democracy such intervention by the head of the army would demolish, in one single moment, the claims of the existing government's legitimacy."

The effete swipe is funny, but as a character trait, effete certainly is preferable to blustering and pugnacious.

Yet PAD's and Anupong's relationship with the Democrats is much more serious and casts very real doubt over this current government and Abhisit's fluff answer of resolving the political crisis through 'legal and democratic means'.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

PAD's Foreign Minister Update

Bangkok Post Cartoon, July 31, 2008.

More non-sense from the PAD Foreign Minister.

From the Bangkok Post:


"Prime Minister Abhsit Vejjajiva said he will not remove Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya from post, after foreign media quoted him saying the closure of Bangkok's two airports by anti-government protesters was fun.
...
Mr Kasit, meanwhile, insisted it was impossible for him to give out comments that may damage the country.
...
He said he believed the foreign press could misinterpret his statements, adding that they may have ill intentions against him.
"

Nice touch, the Foreign Minister caught with his foot in his mouth and he blames the foreigners.

Maybe next he will blame the 11th century Khmer's for having ill intentions to Thailand for building Preah Vihear in 'Thai territory'.

Monday, December 22, 2008

PAD's Foreign Minister

Bangkok Post Cartoon, July 31, 2008.

Isn't one of PAD's ultranationalist goals to reclaim the Preah Vihear temple?!

From the Bangkok Post titled: "Kasit defends his support for PAD protests"

Kasit Piromya, former Thai ambassador to Washington DC who is poised to be foreign minister in the Democrat-led government, yesterday defended his participation in People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) street protests, saying his actions were based on his democratic convictions.
...

Mr Kasit said joining the PAD protests was a democratic expression of opinion as provided in the constitution and that the PAD was not a criminal organisation.

"Joining PAD was not a sin because millions of people had also joined it to help uproot corruption," Mr Kasit said. "When I retired, I still fought in order to help society to have good governance. That's just it."

...

He said his first job as foreign minister, after being endorsed by His Majesty the King, would be to restore Thailand's image. He said he was confident that other countries had faith in the new government's capability to run the country.

...

He said he would visit Cambodia soon to build more trust in order to resolve major problems including the borderline conflict, drugs, illegal goods and human trafficking."

This is utter non-sense. Its not just that PAD committed countless crimes - including acts of terrorism and murder - while running amok in Bangkok but its simply non-sense that a PAD member could be foreign minister.

PAD is an ultra nationalist organization that has been saber rattling over Preah Vihear and has pushed Thailand and Cambodia to the brink of war.

Mr Kasit might claim to be working to improve Thailand's reputation and ease relations with its neighbors but this is hard to believe.

Thailand's international reputation was dragged through the mud because of PAD's violent and anit-democratic antics and now the new foreign minister is a PAD member? How could any foreign government trust someone who's organization seized international airports and promotes military action against Cambodia?

Even more worrying are the rumors that Pasit's primary goal is actually to pursue PAD's goal of reclaiming Preah Vihear rather that ease strained relationships and Thailand's international image.

From PAD's recent demands and 13 point warning to the new government:

7. Announce the cancellation of the Joint Communique between Thai and Cambodia which give away the Prea Vihear temple and the surrounding lands to Cambodia.

Although the above statement is much more moderate than PAD's acerbic propaganda on ASTV, the Manager newspaper, and on the their protest stages it should be a serious concern that PAD, through Kasit, will be in a position to further push Thailand towards conflict with Cambodia.

I am still a little optimistic PM Abhisit but, with PAD influencing foreign affairs, such optimism will not last long.

The Cockroaches take over

Over at New Mandala the ever controversial Giles Ji Ungpakorn comments on the Democrat Party:

"The Democrat Party is known among the cyber community as the “Cockroach Party”. This is because cockroaches live in filthy places and can survive even nuclear holocausts. The party has survived for many years, forming governments after various crises. These so-called Democrats have systematically backed anti-democratic measures. They supported the 2006 coup, the military constitution and the PAD. One Democrat Party MP was the leader of the mob that took over the international airport. Over the last 30 years, the Democrat party has never won an overall majority in parliament. It does not represent the people. During the Thaksin years it spent the whole time criticising the universal health care scheme and other pro-poor policies. After the 1997 economic crisis it used state money to prop up the banks and guarantee the savings of the rich, while telling the poor to fend for themselves and depend on their families."

And the role of the monarchy:

"The Thai King has always been weak. His status has been systematically promoted by military juntas and the elite in general. We are all socialised to think that the King is an “ancient Absolute Monarchy”, while at the same time being within the Constitution. This picture of power creates a shell to protect the entire ruling class and the status quo under a climate of fear. The army especially needs such a legitimising shell because it is no longer OK for the military to hold political power, unless it can claim to protect the Monarchy.

In previous political crises, such as in 1973 and 1992, the King only intervened late in the day after it was clear who had won. In the present crisis the King has remained silent and has not made any attempts to resolve the crisis. He missed his annual birthday speech on 4th December this year, claiming a sore throat.

The Royal dimension to this crisis is that it is a struggle between two elite groups. One side have been much more successful in claiming Royal legitimacy. But ironically this claim by the anti-Thaksin lot is causing a crisis for the Monarchy because it associates PAD violence and law-breaking with the Monarchy and the actions by the military have created an image that the Monarchy is against the majority of the population. The support shown by the Queen for the PAD has also angered or disappointed many Thais."

Professor Giles' political leanings are, of course, well known and somewhat predictable yet the bold citicisms of those in power, in the military, and the usually unmentionable monarchy are certainly welcome in Thailand's curtailed political space.

The complete article can be found here: Thailand: The Cockroaches take over

Friday, December 19, 2008

PAD Payback: Making Yellow Bleed Red

* all photos copyright*

PAD 'handclapper' at Government House November 23rd, 2008.

Although the foreign media has taken up the task of asking where the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) money comes from, there has been very limited coverage of PAD's questionable financial sources.

But, there is this curious local site - PAD Payback: Making Yellow Bleed Red

As the site author notes about the name: The tagline of this web site, “Making Yellow Bleed Red” refers only to the common English idiom “to bleed red ink”; that is, to suffer financial losses. We do not encourage or condone physical violence of any sort against any person or property.

Unfortunately it does not seem to get update often, but it is a good example of naming and shaming that should have been done along time ago with the financial backers who supported PAD's crazed seizing of Government House and the airports.

From the site:

The purposes of this web site are very simple:

  • To expose the known business interests of the senior leadership of the PAD
  • To consolidate this information in a concise and easily read format
  • To call for a general boycott of all businesses and endeavours in which PAD leaders are involved
  • To bring to light the names of business associates of the PAD leadership and through these same mechanisms encourage them to disavow and sever their relationships with the PAD leaders.

Boycott List 001 (CURRENT)

December 5, 2008

Altra Travel Co., Ltd.
(อัลตร้า แทรเวิล)
99/18-19 Langsuan Rd.
Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330

Asia Broadcasting & Communication Network Co., Ltd.
(เอเชีย บรอดคาสติ้ง แอนด์ คอมมูนิเคชั่นส์ เน็ทเวิร์ค)
1193 Boonphong Building, Phahonyothin Rd.
Sam Sen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400

The M. Group Public Company Limited
(เดอะ เอ็ม. กรุ๊ป)
1041, 1043 & 1045 Phahonyothin Rd.
Sam Sen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400

Manager Monthly Magazine Co., Ltd.
(ผู้จัดการ)
98/3-10 Phra Athit Rd.
Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200

Muse Cable TV Co., Ltd.
(มิวส์ เคเบิลทีว)
1045 Phahonyothin Rd.
Sam Sen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400

S. Property Co., Ltd.
(เอส.พรอพเพอร์ตี้)
1041 Phahonyothin Rd.
Sam Sen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400

Technology Application (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
เทคโนโลยี แอพพลิเคชั่นส์ (ประเทศไทย)
19/1 Lat Phrao Rd.
Wang Thonglang, Wang Thonglang, Bangkok 10310

Dear Prime Minister

* all photos copyright*
Sam Rainsy on the campaign trail in Phnom Phen, Cambodia - I think it was about 2004.

The following warm welcome sure would be nice if Sam Rainsy was Prime Minister of Cambodia.

The raging nationalisms that have been fixated upon Preah Vihear might have a chance to be mitigated by rationality rather than by stupid animalistic politicians and foaming-at-the-mouth angry mobs.

But, of course, strong man Hen Sen is not going anywhere and despite my own hopes, Abhisit likely is going to have a limited honeymoon as PM and then be making way for the 28th PM.

From Rainsy:

Dear Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva,

I wish to join all members of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats in expressing my most sincere congratulations to all Thai Members of Parliament in choosing you as Thailand’s 27th Prime Minister. I have full trust and confidence in you in securing national harmony and in finding the right solutions for your people at a time when Thailand’s economy is experiencing a climate of uncertainty.

There are many hurdles that lay ahead but with your commitment to fight corruption and to uphold democratic principles these hurdles will be overcome. Your strong stance for a clean government and for the respect of freedoms and liberties will lead to actions that will benefit all Thais. It is also my strong belief and hope that your vision for regional harmony will see peaceful solutions and the strengthening of economic and cultural ties that will bring mutual progress and prosperity to our peoples.

Sincerely,

Sam Rainsy, MP

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mob rule tramples democracy in Thailand

* all photos copyright*
Smiling protesters hide a grim reality of propaganda and murderous violence

Special to Times Colonist

Published: Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last week, Thailand's worsening political crisis seemed to ease due to two key issues being resolved.

The Constitutional Court dissolved the controversial, yet democratically elected, Somchai Wongsawat government. This, in turn, caused protesters to end their weeklong siege of Bangkok's international airport. After months of growing violence, calm has returned to Bangkok.

Yet calm is likely to be fleeting at best. This is because the protesters, rallying under the People's Alliance for Democracy flag, have proved not only to be a challenge to the government but have threatened the country's democratic institutions.

The complete article can be found here.

Politics or Cults are Addictive?

* photo copyright*
People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) sling shot maker at Government House October 26 2008.

From the pro-PAD Nation newspaper:

Political protest is addictive, say the PAD supporters suffering cold turkey for Christmas

"I miss my friends from the Bangkok protests so much," says Nam (not her real name), a 56-year-old government official from Nakhon Ratchasima province and veteran of the PAD demonstrations. "At the moment I'm monitoring the political situation round the clock via the anti-government ASTV."

Nam is just one of many PAD supporters who miss the camaraderie of protests that lasted a record-breaking 193 days, from the second-largest PAD rally on May 25 to the end of the Suvarnabhumi Airport siege on December 3.

"I'm probably addicted to the mob," she says, adding that she follows ASTV news on the Internet when she works, on the car radio while driving, on TV at home and even via mobile-phone alerts when she's in a meeting.

Another veteran of the protests, 55-year-old businesswoman "Koi", says she also tunes in regularly to get her "fix" from ASTV.

"I used to leave my office every evening and go straight to the demonstration at Government House," she says. "Now I have no idea where to go in the evenings after work."

All three would like to see PAD leaders organise a big get-together for protest regulars. It would help fill the hole in their lives, they say, as well as keeping up morale for future action if the next government tries to amend the 2007 Constitution.

I guess it would be a stretch for such indoctrinated sheep to investigate their news from multiple sources?

But ultimately what this means is that PAD's flock of blind sheep and their violent henchmen are already teething at the bit and will be ready to unleash their lawless fury on the streets of Bangkok very soon.

For the complete article, click here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Australian author denied bail for the fourth time

* photo copyright*

Royal Guard on parade. November 23rd, 2008.


I see red when Thailand's draconian lese majeste laws are used.

The monarchy is going to be a key point in the looming political crisis and shameless lese majesty laws will likely flourish.

And as a demonstration of how scared the Thai press is, both the Nation and the Bangkok Post have failed to take up the story on Harry Nicolaides.

While Thailand's international reputation has been dragged through the gutter by the violent antics of PAD and a questionable legal system, holding a prisoner over a freedom of speech issue is further suggestion that although Thailand is not a failed state, it is a state that is failing.

From Freedom Against Censorship Thailand:

FACT comments: We think it important to point out that Harry was held without charge for 82 days. He was denied bail three times on no charges! The Thai reasons for not granting Harry bail is precisely because other foreigners have fled, though none on criminal charges of lese majeste come to mind. Were Harry to flee, it would present a dangerous precedent for other foreigners to follow.

And from Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders repeated its call for the release of Australian author Harry Nicolaides, facing a charge of the crime of lese-majesty, after he was yesterday refused bail by the Bangkok criminal court for the fourth time.

Nicolaides, aged 41, who was formally charged on 21 November 2008, has been held at the capital’s remand prison since 31 August. The charge relates to his book, Verisimilitude, which came out in 2005 in which he referred to the way an unamed Crown Prince treated one of his mistresses. Only 50 copies were ever printed. “We urge the Australian authorities to do everything within their power to secure the repatriation of Harry Nicolaides as quickly as possible”, the worldwide press freedom organization said.

“He is being held in very harsh conditions and his morale is at a very low ebb.” His lawyer made a previous request for bail on medical grounds on 22 November. It was rejected on the basis that there was a risk that Nicolaides could flee if he was set free. His brother, Forde Nicolaides, described the outcome as “regrettable”. “Harry is suffering from the difficult conditions at the prison and the terrible effects this is having on his welfare. [...] Ensuring his ability to cope and remain strong is now critical.”

Visit Reporters Without Borders here.

Henry Kissinger with Thai Foreign Minister Chatchai - 1975

This conversation is funny in its deadpan tone, astounding in its cavalier scope, and shocking in the themes that were being repeated then just as they are now. Simply, a brilliant read!

The Actors:
"The secretary" - US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
"Foreign Minister" - Thai Foreign Minister Chatchai Chunhawan
"Mr Habib" - Philip Habib, Assistant Secretary East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

Date:
December 15 1975

Context: Thailand had just pased the October 14 uprising against the military junta of Thanom Kittikachorn and at the cusp of the brutal right-wing paramilitary attack on students at Thammasat University and the return of the military on October 6, 1976. In addition, the US troops were being withdrawn from military bases in Thailand shortly after their defeat in Vietnam.

Scene opens: The Secretary then arrived. He told Chatchai of the forthcoming Presidential trip to China and asked the Minister about his most recent trip to Peking. Chatchai said he had gone to Kunming, the Thai capital 2,000 years ago.

The Secretary: What is the Cambodian attitude?

Foreign Minister:
The Cambodians want salt and fish. They wanted to barter for these items.

The Secretary: Did Ieng Sary impress you?

Foreign Minister: He is a nice, quiet man.

The Secretary: How many people did he kill? Tens of thousands?

M r . Habib: N i c e and quietly!!

Foreign Minister: Not more than 10,000. That's why they need food. If they had killed everyone, they would not need salt and fish. All the bridges in Cambodia were destroyed. There was no transportation, no gas. Thats why they had to chase the people away from the capital.

The Secretary: But why with only two hours' notice?

Foreign Minister: (Shrugs)

The Secretary: What do the Cambodians think of the United States? You should tell them that we bear no hostility towards them. We would like them to be independent as a counterweight to North Vietnam.
...

The Secretary: We would prefer t o have Laos and- Cambodia aligned with China rather than with North Vietnam. W e would try t o encourage this if that is what you want.

Foreign Minister: Yes, we would like you t o do that.

The Secretary: And then after we do it you can kick us around. You can c a l l ambassador Anan (Anand Panyarachun) home and thereby keep the students happy.

Foreign Minister: The right wing is what we really have t o worry about, not the left. The Chinese are 100 percent: in support of Cambodia's being friends with Thailand.
...
Foreign Minister: The South Vietnamese are not at a ll happy with the Northerners.

The Secretary: The North Vietnamese have t o be the meanest people in the world. The North Koreans and Albanians are pretty difficult, but the North Vietnamese are by far the worst. They can lie to you effortlessly.

Foreign Minister: W e talked with Phan Bien and he asked about you.

The Secretary: Who?

M r . Habib: Do you remember Phan Hien? He is the vice Foreign Minister now; he was Chief of their American Division I earlier. He was on the North Vietnamese
delegation to Paris. He was the one with the smooth dark hair.

The Secretary: Oh, that's really helpful. You mean there are some Vietnamese with curly hair?

Mr. Habib: No. He was the one with the really smooth hair. He had it slicked back like Rudolph Valentino.

The Secretary: Are there any blond Vietnamese? Anyway, the Vietnamese in Paris used to make the same speech every morning. They used to say that if we would make a major effort, they would make a major effort. One morning the leader of the Vietnamese delegation said that: if we would make a major effort, they would
make an effort. At the end of the speech, I asked whether I had understood or whether he had in fact dropped an adjective. Be explained that yesterday they had made a major effort, but we had only made a minor effort. So, today we would have to make a major effort and they, in turn, would only make and effort.

Ambassador Anan: That's very interesting.

The Secretary: (To Mr. Habib) At any rate, give the man with the straight hair my affectionate regards.
...
The Secretary: I like the residence in Bangkok very much. It is a very nice house.

Foreign Minister: The Thai government owns it.

M r . Habib: And we get it for a very low rent.

The Secretary: If you ever want a really tough negotiation with the United States, just mess around with our housing. You can form an alliance with the Soviets, link up with the Vietnamese, or come under Chinese influence and you'll only get a very mild protest. But if you interfere with our housing, then you will really have a problem on your hands.

Foreign Minister: We only. charge you $200 a month for the residence in Bangkok.

The Secretary: I'll go to Bangkok and move in.

Foreign Minister: But we already have enough refugees.
....

The Secretary: But I can't have it, Perhaps I could go to Thailand when I leave this job and become a cabinet member. I could learn to speak Thai with an accent. After all , I speak English with an accent. What are the problems between the United States and Thailand?

Foreign Minister: There are none. I came just t o reaffirm having friendly negotiations about your withdrawal. There is only one problem. Our armed forces equipment is very old. We have no ammunition plants. We have to reshape and reorganize our armed forces.We want to re-equip 16 battalions. We have no F-5s too oppose the 250 former US aircraft left in Vietnam.
...
The Secretary: It i s important that we still have a presence in Southeast Asia. We appreciate what you did in Vietmam. I am, personally, embarrassed by the Vietnam
War. I believe that if you go t o war, you go to win and not to lose with moderation.
...
Foreign Minister: I asked the Chinese to take over in Laos. They mentioned that they had a road building team in northern Laos.

The Secretary: We would support this. You should also tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won't let that stand in
our way. We are prepared to improve relations with them. Tell them the latter part, but don't tell them what I said before.
...
The Secretary: Have you an extradition treaty with us? As I told the people in Detroit yesterday, I am going to China because they have no extradition treaty with us, and if Congress does not give us what we need, I won't come home and no one will be able to make me come home. If there is no extradition treaty with Thailand, I may go to Thailand. We will make an effort to help you with your problems. The Bureau of East Asian Affairs will support a modernization program. We want Thailand to be strong. Have you received any arms from China?
...
Foreign Minister: Communist China is very poor, especially in the South. The people are barefoot and dirty.

The Secretary: That is very unusual.

Foreign Minister: When I asked to go to Kunming, they asked why I wanted to go here. I said it was the former Thai capital and I wanted to liberate it. It was very poor; the food there was the same as in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The people speak a Thai dialect. When I got there and they raised the Thai flag over the place where we were staying, our escort said "See, you have already liberated Kunming"
...
Foreign Minister: On our side; it is all O.K. There is no problem. It is only on your side--with your press--that there seems to be any problem.

The Secretary : The press, is impossible.

Foreign Minister: Ours is also troublesome. The problem is now that we have too much democracy. I would like to thank you again for having us at lunch today.

The Secretary: We will do our best within our constraints to help you.

For the completely frank and utterly commical reading, click here.

Also thanks to Michael Montesano who forwarded this on the TLC mailing list.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

End of the royal taboo?

* photo copyright*

I aint afraid of a pink hat...but I am afraid of Thailand's draconian lese majesty laws. Royal Guard on parade November 23rd, 2008.


Over at the New Mandala, they ask the tantalizing question whether or not we can start talking about the Thailand's unmentionable institution.

This post is, of course, a little dated but this topic is of paramount interest and importance.

For something newer and more lese majestelicious: That is why the taboo must be broken

People who leave cults are often subjected to beatings and attacks...

* photo copyright*
The bizarre rice farm planted on the grounds of Government House.

From the prolific Bangkok Pundit:

People who leave cults are often subjected to beatings and attacks...

Remember the Insurgency?

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Soldier guarding a rural school in Yala province August 2008.

With the dissolution of the government, the anti-democratic People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) releasing the airport, and the fugitive Pojaman returning to Thailand it is easy to forget the southern insurgency.

This is, of course, a disaster for the country. With a body count over 3500 people it is simply shocking that a country struggling with one of Asia's most violent conflicts can simply forget.

More interesting though is that the nine killed today were killed on the King's Birthday and that The Nation and the Bangkok Post reported these serious incidents of violence as minor news.

It is understandable that since Bangkok has been held hostage by PAD's fascist and militant actions that the focus has shifted, but it is simply shameful that newspapers will avoid reporting the news for fear of reporting something bad on the King's birthday.

It is tempting to comment on why self-censorship is important to narrow-minded nationalists and staunch monarchists because it is a challenge to the Chakri Dynasty but, honestly, I am as scared as everyone else in Thailand about archaic and draconian lese majesty laws.

So lets just say, this post is a reminder that Thailand still must come to grips with its southern insurgency.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Politics of Boots and Fists

Photo from Matichon Online with the caption roughly translated as: 'People's Alliance for Democracy capturing a suspicious person'. The full set of images can be found here.

Here is a definition of fascism:

Fascism: A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

And characteristic of fascists, their politics are often articulated by manipulative charismatic leaders while their henchmen exercise their politics with boots and fists.

Thailand is now dangerously close to being ruled by a fascist mob called PAD.

Human Shields

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Kids are really cute, even this cute little human shield.

I guess my own disgust over the PAD's shameless violence and its mob rule over Thailand has become a focus of posts lately.

I keep thinking that each post will be the last on this topic but, each day, PAD's mob violence grows more brazen and more irrational.

It is usually the violence committed by the PAD militia but the real blame rests with the leaders of PAD.

Fascists like Sondhi Limthongkul and Major General Chamlong Srimuang should not only be held accountable for the crime and violence that they have encouraged and nurtured through their endless vitriolic and brainwashing propaganda, but they should be held accountable for using women and children as human shields.

Although the police have demonstrated patience and seem to be trying to avoid further bloodshed, PAD's leaders have been calling for all out war.

And in the same breath that PAD leaders call for war, they encourage women and children to fill in the ranks of their increasingly dangerous brinkmanship with the government.

PAD: A Serious Threat to the Media

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A snarling People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) thug at Government House proudly displaying seized police equipment.

It should not be a surprise that when an armed militia - illegally occupying government facilities, attacking and murders citizens, brazenly walking around Bangkok in military clothing, bullet proof vests, and armed with an assortment of weapons from rusty pipes to pistols - will start to clash with the press.

A few months ago, before the armed PAD thugs attacked the NBT television station, the relationship with the press was a little rocky but reporters were largely free to go about their business.

Yet the relationship between the press and PAD thugs has seriously degenerated.

My last time I was at the PAD encampment at Government House and the airport, on Friday November 28th, I was told repeatedly to stop photographing. One guard demanded I delete the photos I took of their sandbagged check point while another photographed me. I have also been filmed by PAD guards and followed while walking around Government House.

Yet, as a foreigner, it is easy to pretend NOT to speak Thai and then to NOT understand their broken English. I even said a few things in French to further obfuscate our conversations. I have been able to smile, fain ignorance, and walk away.

As the following report show, it is much harder and much more dangerous for Thai reporters.

From the Nation:

"A mobile TV technician and his driver almost got killed when they lost their way at an anti-government protest site yesterday...When the truck passed a second checkpoint, Phanumart and his driver heard many more shots so they speeded up. They found many bullet holes on the sides, tailgate and roof.

PAD supporters at rallying sites are keeping a close eye on reporters. They take photos of them and signal they should report only the good side of the PAD. Demonstration leaders designate specific areas for the media while reporters have to stay in groups for their own protection.

Ban Muang newspaper reporter Natthawut Karanyasophon said he was stunned when two PAD followers at Suvarnabhumi Airport told him to take off his white T-shirt marked with "Stop Violence". They told him the T-shirt missed the point as only the PAD was treated unfairly."


From the Bangkok Post:

"A photographer from the Thai-language newspaper Thai Rath says he was attacked by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) guards after he snapped them beating a man at Don Mueang on Friday night.

The photographer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was struck to the ground from behind by a PAD guard after he photographed another guard hitting the man about 9pm.

He was then surrounded by eight or nine guards who snatched his camera and accused him of being an imposter. He pleaded with them, to no avail.

More guards showed up and assaulted him further until reporters came to his aid, confirming that he was a real photographer.

"I've stayed with the PAD protesters and photographed them for six months. But now they are most hostile, a serious threat to media," he said."

Thanks to the ever vigilant Bangkok Pundit for pointing out these stories.

Part-time Research Assistants Needed

Must be very knowledge of Thai politics, conflict in the deep south, and have solid research skills. Candidates need to have completed their undergraduate degree and preference will be given to those who either have their MA or are in the process of completing their MA. Political science majors or related field preferable but a background in journalism will be considered. The work requires analysis and summaries of Thai language academic and media articles, translation, and interviewing academics and politicians. Healthy English language skills are needed and having established contacts in the academic, political, and journalism spheres very beneficial.

Candidates should be able to work independently and with flexible hours. This position does not offer office space so, unless there is a meeting or an interview, candidates will need to have their own workspace and computer access.

Research will consist of two stages. The first begins immediately and requires 2-3 days of week of work over the next 3 months. The second stage begins in March 2009, and will require 2-3 days a week over the next six months.

One or two trips to the deep south will likely be required.

Interested candidates please send brief cover letter and resume to: chandlerv@gmail.com

Only short listed candidates will be contacted.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fascists

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People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) thug at the seized Suvarnabhumi airport.

As the Asian Human Rights Commission argues, it is really about time the international community wakes up the the serious consequences of mob rule in Thailand.

PAD has pushed Thailand to the precipice of fascism
from which it will take decades and, presumably, countless lives to return from.

From the Asian Human Rights Commission:


"They have also illegally obtained and openly carried an array of manufactured and homemade weapons, including guns from caches that had reportedly been kept in the government premises. They have illegally detained other citizens. They have vandalised, destroyed and stolen public and private property. In the last day or two it has been reported that in addition to occupying the Suvarnabumi airport they have seized busses, and have refused to allow police into the airport to investigate explosions there during the night.

The alliance has exhibited a number of features that from past lessons of Thailand and other countries around the world pose grave dangers to the future of the country's imperilled democracy. Of these, the following can be said.

1. They spring from a far-right ideology that has for decades driven successive military-bureaucratic administrations in Thailand, which dramatic changes to political and social life of the last two decades have increasingly threatened.

2. Their coordinated attacks and actions on the pretext of self-defence and national interest are designed to cause a widespread feeling of insecurity and uncertainty and allow reactionary elite forces to push Thailand back to a 1980s model of "half-sail" semi-elected government.

3. The alliance leaders have occupied the public space and forced people throughout Thailand to either take sides for or against them, or to opt out completely, thus alienating millions of people and denying them the opportunity to have a say on the key political and social questions of their time.


Some commentators and opponents of the alliance have described its agenda as fascist. This is not an exaggeration. Experience shows that the types of systemic changes and regimes that follow such movements, although they may not describe themselves as fascist, have fascist qualities. Indeed, successive dictatorships in Thailand's modern history appreciated, expressed and used many fascist symbols and policies, and the residue of these can be found in the language and behaviour of the alliance leaders today.

To read more:
THAILAND: Watershed moment for democracy and rule of law

Paid Ruffians

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People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) thug stands proudly in front of canceled departures at the seized
Suvarnabhumi airport.

From the editorial desk at the Straights Times:


"The sight of paid ruffians occupying Bangkok's main airports for three days now (even the sensitive control tower was taken over) has been vividly damaging to the country."

"For Thailand's sake and the continuance of fragile democratic institutions, no elected government should be run out of office by persons and special interests acting unconstitutionally. The PAD can register itself as a party and try to win office legally, but it must abandon its laughable proposition that only one-third of parliament shall be elected and two-thirds appointed. Class-based representation is the road to perdition.
"


Read more:
Proud Thailand as caricature


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Forgotten War? Yes. Policy Change? No.

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The view above Yala province courtesy of a helicopter flight with the 4th Army August 2008.

Most of what is in the International Crisis Group's (ICG) latest article about the insurgency in the southern border provinces is not really news.

ICG claims:

"Thais, numbed by the repeated atrocities and in any case unsympathetic towards the grievances of Malay Muslims in the south of Thailand, have lost interest."

And, in light if the chaos in Bangkok, it is obvious that Thais have lost interest.

What is more interesting is the idea of what they call a 'policy vacuum' in the South.

"It may seem unrealistic to argue that the Thai government should undertake a serious policy initiative on the south at a time when it is locked in deep political conflict in Bangkok. But unfortunately, waiting for an end to Bangkok's political crisis may mean waiting a very long time. The south cannot afford to wait."

This is utter nonsense. And uncharacteristic for an organization which I hold in high regard.

Since the 2006 coup d'etet, there has been very little in the way of concerted policy originating from Bangkok.

Surayud's government apologized, but failed to address long stranding grievances in the South.

Samak's government, besides being antagonistic and inept, did not have the time or inclination to do more than try to secure their own administration in the face of the growing challenge from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

And, honestly, Samak was such a belligerent animal so far removed from concepts of peace and reconciliation that it should not simply be a surprise that policy did not change but is a thankful surprise that he did not declare all out war against the country's minority Malay Muslims.

And now Somchai's wounded and dying government has been 100% consumed with maintaining power and utterly unconcerned with policy, let alone the South.

Really, how can anyone really think that policy can emerge from a country that is now stumbling along without a functioning government?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Suvarnabhumi PADness





Anti-democratic People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) madness at Suvarnabhumi airport. All photos taken Friday November 28th and copyright.

“Final battle” can only end in Phyrric victory

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PAD thug at Government House. November 2008.

An insightful look at how much damage the political conflict spearheaded by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has caused to Thailand's institutions from the Rule of Lords.

Key quote:

"Whereas the former government played with institutions to obtain its objectives, this group is hell bent upon laying waste to them. Whereas the Thaksin regime had some image of the future, the alliance leaders conceive of their country only with reference to an imagined past."

To read more, click here: “Final battle” can only end in Phyrric victory

Elite Settlement between Liberals and Conservatives

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Photo from Government House at about 10:30 PM on Thursday November 27. Despite serious city-wide panic over coup rumors, it was business as usual at the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) encampment at Government House.

Academic Micheal Connors over at Sovereign Myth puts worth an interesting and alternative take on the class struggle framework which many have utilized to understand the conflict between PAD and the People's Power Party or former Thai Rak Thai.

Key quote:

"In place of the idea that this is a conflict between poor and rich, city and province, consider that the Thaksin regime progressively threatened an elite settlement between liberals and conservatives (in form since the 1980s) that envisaged a generational programme of regime change in a liberal political direction; a settlement that protected both the military and the palace. Class and geographical politics were certainly part of the equation in the 2006 conflict that led to the coup, but it is the subsequent conflict that has brought them to the fore."

To read the full article, click here: The Politics of Coups in Thailand 2008.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Third Hand Seen Shaking Invisible Hand


The People's Aliance for Democracy (PAD) hand clappers are cheekily declared 'The Third Hand' on a shirt for sale near the PAD encampment at Government House.

Oh, my! Over at Not the Nation, there a must read article about the powerful and mysterious forces manipulating Thai politics.

"BANGKOK – Newspapers in Thailand are reporting that a third hand was spotted firmly shaking the invisible hand last night"


And for further background on the third hand, Not the Nation also offers: Anonymous Man Flexes Political Muscle

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PAD Runs Amok


*Image captured from Thai PBS showing PAD thugs threatening to kill a motorbike taxi driver on Vibhavadi road today: November 25, 2008.*

From earlier in the week I commented on how apt Professor Thongchai Winichakul's description of the thoroughly anti-democratic People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) was:

" the PAD is now like a cult, with hard-core followers who think and speak alike close-mindedly, and becomes increasingly militant. As they claim political righteousness, they defied laws, dehumanized critics and opponents and intimidated them too, and [they are] armed."


Now that they have been filmed, among their other violence, hunting down taxi drivers and other motorists and shooting four on a busy Bangkok road, it is time, again, to call them what they are.

They are an ugly mob of thugs who are running amok. A mob is a mob, nothing more and everything less than democracy.

And as Thailand is without a functional government, that has serious implications.

Particularly if one understands that the quintessential social-contract type element of an organized state being that the state alone commands and exercises its sole legitimate use of martial force.

If the police cant control them through legitimate martial force, PAD has enough power to take down the state.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's in store for politically riven Thailand?

SCENARIOS-What's in store for politically riven Thailand?

http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssFinancialServicesAndRealEstateNews/idUSBKK39809620081121?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

By Ed Cropley

BANGKOK, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Political tension has returned to Thailand after a brief lull for a royal cremation, with a grenade killing one anti-government protester on Thursday and wounding 23, teeing up another confrontation with police this weekend.

Sunday's planned march on parliament by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is likely to be a flashpoint, especially if protesters blockade the building to prevent an important session on Monday.

An identical blockade on Oct. 7 led to running street battles between police and protesters in which two people were killed, and hundreds, including scores of police, were injured.

Whatever happens, Thailand is likely to remain divided between the rural and urban poor who support Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as leader in a 2006 coup, and the Bangkok middle and upper classes, loosely represented by the PAD, who despise him.

The elected administration, which is accused of being a Thaksin puppet, has been working out of temporary offices in an old airport since the PAD overran Government House in August.

It has all but given up on policy-making, intensifying investors' concerns about the export-dependent economy's ability to cope with global recession.

The following scenarios examine what might happen next:

MESSY SUNDAY

- Unless one side backs down -- and there are few signs they will -- Sunday/Monday is likely to be messy. The PAD's stated intention is to trigger a coup and anarchy is its main weapon.

Police will be mindful of last month's high number of casualties, especially the protesters who lost limbs from exploding tear gas grenades, and are likely to be more cautious.

However, hardline PAD elements are armed, and shot at police lines last month. If any officers are shot dead, it is not hard to see their colleagues responding in kind.

All bets are off if a full-scale shooting match breaks out.

RECRIMINATIONS FLY, CRISIS RUMBLES ON

- Whatever happens on Sunday/Monday, accusations will fly from both sides, ensuring the crisis rumbles on amid a poisonous political atmosphere.

There is bound to be a small lull around the king's birthday on Dec. 5, but tensions will rise ahead of Dec. 13 when the exiled Thaksin holds a "phone-in" to a sports stadium rally.

A similar gathering of 40,000 people on Nov. 1 ended without incident but the venue then was on the outskirts of the city. The Dec. 13 rally is going to be just 1.5 km (1 mile) from the PAD protest site, increasing the chances of confrontation.

COURTS DISBAND RULING PARTY

- The Election Commission has already found the ruling People Power Party (PPP) guilty of vote buying and the Supreme Court is expected to endorse the decision in December or January, leading to the party's immediate dissolution.

Top figures such as Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, will be barred from politics but most MPs will simply switch to a "shell" party already lined up, and as long as the ruling coalition holds together, it will stay in power.

Even if there was an election, the ex-PPP would be likely to win due to solid rural support for Thaksin.

Emotions will run high as the court ruling nears.

PAD CAMPAIGN FIZZLES OUT

Before this week's grenade, polls showed waning support for the PAD, which has been snarling up Bangkok traffic for six months, and its numbers at Government House have dwindled.

However, it is inconceivable it will simply wither and die, especially as it has the explicit backing of the highly influential Queen Sirikit. Protesters also made clear on Thursday they were undeterred by the threat of more grenades.

MILITARY COUP

It is never wise to rule out a coup in a country that has had, on average, one successful or attempted putsch every four years since the overthrow of absolute monarchy 76 years ago.

Army chief Anupong Paochinda has put public pressure on Somchai to quit, but has also said the army will not seize control as it is powerless to heal the basic political rift.

KING INTERVENES

- Regarded as semi-divine by many, King Bhumibol Adulyadej carries huge informal political clout and in six decades on the throne has intervened in several disputes, favouring at various times both elected and military administrations.

However, the 80-year-old has stepped in previously only after major bloodshed, and his advancing years and deteriorating health raise doubts about his ability to calm any new outburst. (Editing by Darren Schuettler and Valerie Lee)

Ministery of Defence an Attack Site?


Over at the Bangkok Pundit, there was some question over Thai ISPs censoring Google searches.

Another curiosity of note is the Thai Ministry of Defense web site which apparently tries to install malicious software on your computer.

Even more interesting is what Google claims is happening. According to Google:

What is the current listing status for mod.go.th?

Site is listed as suspicious - visiting this web site may harm your computer.

Part of this site was listed for suspicious activity 16 time(s) over the past 90 days.

What happened when Google visited this site?

Of the 178 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 20 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2008-11-20, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2008-11-19.

Malicious software includes 21 trojan(s), 11 exploit(s), 6 scripting exploit(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 6 new processes on the target machine.

Has this site acted as an intermediary resulting in further distribution of malware?

Over the past 90 days, mod.go.th appeared to function as an intermediary for the infection of 1 site(s) including sanook.com.

To read more about this site click here.

Or try your luck and click on this link for the Thai Ministry of Defense.

Royal Guard Blocks PAD?

* all photos copyright*

From The Nation:

"Tension was high throughout Bangkok on Sunday as anti-government protesters massed for a march to seize the Royal Plaza area near parliament - and red-shirted opponents met to oppose them.


The march by the People's Alliance for Democracy was due to start on Sunday
..."

But, as the above photo shows, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) were checked by the Royal Guard who decided to go on parade on the very route between parliament and where the PAD mob is massed.

Was this army Commander in Chief Anupong Pochinda's idea of preventing confrontation? Or, was this a display of the army's 'above politics' legitimacy when they are caught between PAD's insistence that they launch a coup de'etat and the government supporters who insist that they do NOT lauch a coup de'etat?