Thursday, December 10, 2009

Photo of the Day: Constitution Day with the Reds

The Reds rallying at Democracy Monument on Constitution Day.

The Bangkok Post estimated a suspiciously low number of 5000 protesters while Red leaders were claiming 20,000.

If I had to guess, I would say at least 15,000 if not the full 20,000.

What is, unfortunately, not surprising is that the English language Thai media completely neglected to report on what was the rational for the protest.

While it is easier to draw the palace and pretend it is an affront to the King's over-compensating birthday celebrations that is not the case.

It is Constitution Day, and considering paramount issue of the military tearing up the 1997 constitution, there is a serious reason to protest on this day.

But, as the largely partisan Thai press is prone to do, they neglect reporting on the issue at hand and churn out either useless or biased stories that fail to inform readers what the issues at hand are and what BOTH sides are saying. God forbid they let the reader decide who is right are wrong.

Chai Yo!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Simple lies by Anupong

View of Narathiwat from a Black Hawk helicopter. November 12, 2009.

(This post was originally called 'fisking Anupong' until it was brought to my attention that there is another definition for fisking...who knew?!)

I personally don’t like unpacking questionable statements and articles in the news because it is time consuming.

Yet sometimes, an article is so littered with politician’s blatant lies and journalistic incompetence that it simply begs to be deconstructed.

The Bangkok Post’s recent article Army takes a hard line with rebels is a case in point:

PATTANI : The army has shot down a call to negotiate with insurgents to end conflicts in the restive South.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda said no talks would be held with separatist groups during his tenure, which ends in September next year. "We won't negotiate with them. But we will take legal action against them," he told the Bangkok Post.

NS: Anupong is simply lying, negotiations have been an ongoing, but largely a secretive process, since Surayud was installed as Prime Minister.

"They have to be brought to trial for having murdered innocent people," said Gen Anupong, who accompanied Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on a trip to inspect government development projects in Pattani and Narathiwat last week.

NS: In this context, the Royal Thai Army also needs to be “brought to trial for having murdered innocent people” considering the long list of victims in the Tak Bai incident or prominent cases like Iman Yapa.

Gen Anupong was reacting to calls by Puea Thai chairman Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to negotiate with separatist groups to end the violence.

Gen Chavalit has also proposed an amnesty for militants in the three Muslim-dominated provinces.

Since violence resurfaced in the region six years ago, it has claimed almost 4,000 lives.

The Internal Security Operations Command believes 8,000-10,000 insurgents are active in the deep South. The insurgents took shelter in more than 200 villages in the so-called red zone and used pondok schools as a base to carry out attacks against civilians and state officials, it said.

"The insurgents want to separate our land and set up an autonomous area," the army chief said.

NS: This is a serious problem on two levels. If it is a translation problem then it is simply shoddy reporting by the Bangkok Post. But if it is what Anupong said, it is still shoddy reporting because he is clearly obfuscating issues and a professional journalist should have questioned this or at least qualified it by stating in the next sentence that Anupong was either confused or being purposely deceptive.

As for Anupong, and taking that he actually meant what he said, he is simply being a shifty liar. Separatism and autonomy are very different issues. Separatism would result in an independent state while an autonomous area would not violent the ‘one and unitary’ condition of the constitution, would not divide the nation (แบ่งชาติ), and would simply devolve local governance powers and decision making to the border provinces….much like Bangkok enjoys.

They carried out attacks to draw international attention to their "plight".

But the army leader said that the southern violence was a domestic issue that could be solved by the government alone.

NS: International attention is not exactly a major factor in southern militants’ tactics, but it is a major fear of Thai elites who are ever fearful that their prolonged incompetence in addressing the southern conflict will ultimately draw in the international community. But, this quote does allow Anupong to repeat the standard line that ‘conflict is a domestic issue’ and everyone should simply forget about it.

No other countries, including fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, had offered themselves as brokers in talks between the government and the separatist groups.

NS: It is common knowledge that Malaysia (while not an honest broker as they are a stakeholder in the conflict) and Indonesia have offered to broker talks.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia plans to tour the three southernmost provinces with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva early next month. The trip is intended as a show of Malaysian support for Thailand's efforts to tackle the violence.

NS: WTF?! Is this article an opinion piece from the self-deluded Nation or Manager? Malaysia might support the military’s declarations that they will not violent human rights but the Malaysian PM is certainly accountable to his own constituents who are critical of the Thai military’s heavy handed tactics. In addition, Razak floated the idea of autonomy which flip-flopper Abhisit initially supported but has since backtracked on. But really, the key point of the trip by Razak will be to show his constituents that he is pressuring Thailand to treat the Malay-Muslim minority in the Deep South with some dignity and respect for their rights and CERTAINLY NOT as a show of support.

Gen Anupong said no Asean members would interfere in the southern issue. NS: Yes, we got the message already, an internal issue. The army had no plan to withdraw troops from the area. There are 20,000 soldiers, 18,000 police and 40,000 defence volunteers providing security for two million people in the deep South.

NS: This is more complicated given the number of irregular troops.

As i understand it, it is higher and goes like this:

In addition to the 20,000 soldiers and 18,000 police there are 50, 000 village defence volunteers (ชรบ), 10,000 rangers (ทหานพราน), 20,000 defense corps (อรบ) and 6,000 Or Sor (อส which are well armed troops who are full time paid soldiers under command of the Ministry of Interior and the only ‘volunteer’ part of their work is that they are not conscripted). This total of armed state-sanctioned forces is at about 124,000 depending on a couple of variations. This rough works out to 1 state-armed person per 20 residents in the Deep South.

"We will not abandon people to live alone. Without us, how could they survive?" Gen Anupong said.

NS: Who is he abandoning and who would not survive? Clearly it is not the 80% Malay-Muslim population that he is talking about but the 20% Thai-Buddhist population and these kind of black and white comments are simply pandering to the nation by employing empty but emotional nationalist rhetoric.

He had told border officials to keep a close watch on people with dual Thai-Malaysian nationality as he believed many were involved in attacks in the deep South.

Security experts believe militants with dual nationality carry out attacks there, then flee to neighbouring Malaysia to avoid being caught.

NS: Case in point of the nonsense about Malaysian PM going to show ‘support for Thailand's efforts’. If Razak was supportive of Thai efforts then he would cooperate at the border on security issues and take action against suspected militants retreating into Malaysia.

The question of how to tackle assailants with dual Thai-Malaysian nationality will be tabled for talks between the two leaders when Mr Najib is visiting here, officials say.

Gen Anupong also criticised "the Pattani model" pushed by Gen Chavalit as a solution to the violence.

Gen Chavalit has proposed a form of elected self-government for the region, similar to the way Bangkok is run.

He says the government is deliberately misinterpreting his call as advocacy for an independent Pattani state, which he opposes.

NS: Yes, certainly. As Anupong did above and I mentioned here, it will be easy for the opposition to misrepresent what autonomy is.

He was not proposing separatism, just self-government. Gen Anupong, however, said the details were still unclear and had led to misunderstanding among southern residents.

" I don't understand exactly what Gen Chavalit is advocating. Further discussions are needed. I believe he has a hidden agenda," he said.

NS: More obfuscating the issues and simple lies by Anupong. ‘A hidden agenda’? Obviously it is a clear agenda to flummox Abhisit’s embattled and ineffective government. But what might be ‘hidden’ is potential long term solution to the intractable southern insurgency.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What do Malay-Muslims really want?

* All images copyright *

Ramadan and the Central Mosque in Pattani City. August 26, 2009

The question of what Malay-Muslims really want is a serious blind spot in the southern insurgency.

Obviously, it would seem a critical issue to understand not only the grievances fueling the insurgency but to understand the political desires of the nearly two million Malay-Muslim citizens in the southern border provinces.

Yet no one can say, with any authority, what the residents there want.

This is in part because the Thai state fails to differentiate between the legitimate political expressions of grievance and separatism. For Thai authorities, Malay-Muslims expressing dissatisfaction with the government is the same as expressing support for separatism.

Because we dont really know that Malay-Muslims want, journalists, academics, and myself, tend to simplify this blind spot and cluster all Malay-Muslims into a homogeneous group.

This is obviously not accurate but serves as journalistic shorthand for a complex issue without easy answers.

"led to widespread misconceptions about the spiraling conflict, including that nearly all of the minority group harbor Patani Malay Muslim nationalist sentiment and resentment towards the Thai state".

In fact, Jason's article makes a number of interesting comments and particularly:

"As de facto spokespeople for the Patani Malay Muslim nation [Malay Muslim intellectuals], they tend to overstate the nationalist cares and concerns of ordinary Malay Muslims, frequently speaking about group pride in the ancient Kingdom of Patani, the Malay Muslims unique way of life, and the need for the Thai government to give greater recognition to this identity by, for instance, allowing some form of autonomy."

With the debate over autonomy brewing, it would be nice to know if a possible autonomy agreement would be serving the political aspirations of a majority of residents or whether it will be an elite driven process granted by Bangkok and solely serving the needs of a few Malay-Muslim elites and by separatists who would be major beneficiaries of increased political power.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ultranationalist PAD

* All images copyright *
PAD supporters in Sanam Luang on Sunday November 15, 2009.

I have been going to the street protests in Bangkok for about four years now and think I am used to the acerbic nationalism used to stoke the crowds.

Both Yellow (PAD) and Red (UDD) are guilty of this.

Yet PAD's rally on Sunday in Sanam Luang ratcheted up the nationalist nonsense into nothing short of a rallying cry for war.

War with both Cambodia and a civil war within Thailand.

Over at Prachatai they have a summery of the some of the comments on stage:

"Prasert Lertyaso called for the beheading of Hun Sen, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and Thaksin Shinawatra, alluding to an old Thai saying of shedding blood to wash royal feet. He banished Thaksin’s supporters to Phnom Penh and Dubai."

"Saken Sutthiwong said that Cambodia was afraid that [Thai] F16 fighter jets would miss their targets and bomb Angkor Wat and Prear Vihear instead, because they earn their living from those ‘old stones’."
"Then some students came up to condemn Hun Sen and Thaksin, the traitor. They vowed to fight to the death to protect the Nation, Religion and King. "

"...Gen Preecha Iamsuphan, who had led yellow shirts in raucous protests near the Prear Vihear site in September, spoke to the crowd that it was time to get rid of traitors, as they all had appeared before their eyes. ‘We have to quickly finish them off for the sake of our beloved King and ancestors, so that Thais stop quarrelling with one another because of these scoundrels.’"

"Sondhi Limthongkul said the nation was important because it was composed of religion and the King. When people have faith in religion, religion is strengthened and so is the monarchy. Religion and the King will never be separable."

While such rhetoric sounds bad, some of the songs they sang might have been worse:
"Two royally-penned songs, ‘The Highest Dream’ and ‘Scum of the Earth’, were played"

Hobby, commenting at Prachatai, notes that New Mandala has an interesting write up on the song 'Scum of the Earth'.

From Ben Anderson writing about the slaughter of students at Thammasat University in 1976:

"Radio stations controlled by rightists, and especially the extremist Armored Division Radio, commissioned and played incessantly violent songs such as “Nak Phaendin” (Heavy on the Earth) and “Rok Phaendin” (Scum of the Earth)."

And Thongchai Winichakul writing about the same tragic events:

"Meanwhile military propaganda had dehumanized the radical students, labeling them ‘scum of the earth’ (nak phaendin), the enemy of the “Nation, Religion and the Monarchy”"

This ultra-nationalist vitriol is dangerous on its own but it comes just before the Red Shirt announcement that they will "will make the war against the government" and plan to bring up to a million supporters on the streets during Nov 29 to Dec 3.

While it is doubtful that they will actually get a million supporters (although Nick N did give a rather high estimate of 50,000 to 60,000 at their Saturday Khao Yai gathering which he also blogged about here) it is still a highly combustible scenario.

With PAD calling for blood and the Reds about to pour into Bangkok, Thailand's national political conflict is likely to grow more and more violent over the next few weeks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Photo of the Day: General Pichet Wisaijorn

* All images copyright *

In a Blackhawk helicopter with LT General Pichet Wisaijorn, ISOC Area 4 Commander, over Narathiwat province. November 12, 2009.

Also, the following FCCT announcement is particularly relevant:

Strategies for Combating the Southern Insurgency
An Evening with Lt Gen Pichet Wisaijorn, 4th Army Regional Commander
8pm Weds, November 18th, 2009
(Please see pricing and reservation procedure below)
The seemingly intractable insurgency in the Thailand's southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat is in its sixth year with a death toll of more than 3,500. Separatist violence against civilians, security forces and government officials continues to make the news on a daily basis.

As chief of the Royal Thai Army in the deep South for the past one year, Lt Gen Pichet Wisaijorn commands respect for his dedication to stop the violence once and for all. He focuses not only on military methods but also on development issues, including agricultural and environmental strategies, to improve for Southern residents who are among the country's poorest.

Lt Gen Pichet started his military career in Isaan and maintains a special position in the Queen's Guards [Special Force Military for Queen Sirikit]. He also commanded Thai troops in East Timor in 2000.

Please join us for what will no be fascinating insights into the country's counter insurgency tactics and a discussion of the challenges ahead for Thai government in the restive South.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Singing on the beach in Pattani province. August 2009.

There has been a growing interest in granting some form of autonomy to the Deep South as a means of mitigating unrest in the region.

Since the rise of violence in 2003, the Thai state under has failed, often miserably, in its counterinsurgency efforts.

Normally, heavy handed tactics by security forces backed up by inappropriate and even warmongering rhetoric by successive Prime Ministers has done nothing but add fuel to the southern fire.

Yet there has been growing discourse in Thai academic and political circles that has admitted the state's persistent failures and has understood that greater political participation through the devolution of state powers is needed to quell the violence.

While Thai discourse has favored terms like decentralization or administrative reform what is really being talked about is a form of autonomy.

This is, of course, not separatism but a means of granting locals in the Deep South more political participation so that they have basic decision making control over affairs such as education, religious practice, and development.

A brief summary of the rise of Thai political discourse on autonomy might have started as early as 2005 when the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) was formulating their recommendations for fostering peace in the Deep South. Insiders speculate that autonomy was the core recommendation that former Prime Minister and NRC Chairman Anand Panyarachun was planning to suggest. But, a 'powerful stakeholder' commanded that autonomy not be recommended and it was dropped.

In February 2008 Chalerm Yubamrung, then serving as Interior Minister, launched a trial balloon suggesting that public hearings on the issue of Southern autonomy be conducted. While immediately slapped down by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, Chalerm claimed to have support from the governors of the southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Satun, Yala, and Songkhla in addition to the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) director Pranai Suwannarat

By June 2009, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, while speaking on his weekly television program, had already floated the idea of turning Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala into a “special administrative zone” while still being in line with the one and unitary state precondition established in the constitution.

And now, in response to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's suggestion that Thailand grant some form of autonomy to the Deep South, the Straits Times and Channel News Asia are reporting that Abhisit has considerably raised the bar:

"Thailand is supporting this approach but it's not an independent region. It does not contradict the constitution, but instead allows more public participation in the form of a local assembly," he told reporters."

Finally, and just after I called Abhisit's performance a failure, I must give him some praise.

This is just a small step in a long and evolving process of course, but it is an important and significant step towards a long term resolution to the conflict.

What will happen next will likely be a spirited attack by right wing nationalists.

If conservatives like Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda could not tolerate the idea of Pattani-Malayu (the dialect spoke by about two million Thai citizens in the Deep South) being a working language in the Deep South then he, and his intolerant brethren, will likely mount a fierce rebuke to autonomy.

The Royal Thai Army, which runs the Deep South like a fiefdom and basks in extraordinary state spending, will likely also strike back at Abhisit. This is serious. Abhisit's government is beholden to the military and, should they withdraw their backing, the government is on shaky ground.

And the ultra-nationalist lunatics that comprise the anti-democratic People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) will be furious. Their violent antics at Phrea Vihear could be replayed over any notion of special autonomy being granted in the Deep South.

Such a backlash could cause the government to considerably water down the details of autonomy.

And this is the real danger.

Autonomy as a means of mitigating conflict has the potential to address the core grievances in the Deep South that fuel unrest.

But a watered down autonomy agreement void of any meaningful devolution of powers reaffirms the fears and mistrust that many residents of the Deep South have in the Thai state.

It would also bolster the hawkish nationalists who would accuse the Deep South of not being cooperative and would lead to further calls for a military solution to the crisis.

And, as Abhisit and Panitan Wattanayakorn have been mulling over a Sri Lankan-type solution, it is not unfathomable to envision a different and very dangerous direction that the conflict could go if autonomy is not managed properly.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Abhisit's failing state

Village defense volunteers (Chor Ro Bo) demonstrating their skills at a Buddhist temple in Maigaan (ไม้แก่น) district of Pattani province. August 2009.

In June 2009, at a seminar hosted by the King Prajadhipok’s Institute called “Politics Outweighs the Military: A Solution to Sustainable Peace in Southern Thailand”, Prime Minister Abhisit talked about bringing justice to the Deep South.

He said that the perpetrators of the June 2009 mosque shooting in Narathiwat, “no matter who they are”, would be brought to justice and that this issue is a key point from which to judge the performance of his government.

I would like to now pass judgment on the performance of his government: failed.

Failed misserably might be more accurate.

In regards to the mosque shooting, a warrant was issued a few months ago for a Thai-Buddhist township defense volunteer (Or Ror Bor) named Suthirak Khongsuwan, yet the whole case seems, like every other legal case in the Deep South, to have disappeared without resolution and certainly without justice.

Obviously, Abhisit's bold rhetoric is fundamentally disconnected with the fact that his weak government is beholden to the military.

Worse, the fact that Thai-Buddhist militias, such as the one Suthirak Khongsuwan belonged to, are armed under patronage of the Kingdom's highest institution which ensures that Abhisit's rhetoric is simply rhetoric.

The Nation is reporting today that the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO) is not happy about the failure to see justice in the Deep South:

"Four Prime ministers passed by in just two years and all have failed to deliver justice
and really sustainable development as hoped by the Malay Muslims, who are naturally anxious to manage their own affairs," it said.

Implicit in the PULO statement is that the Thai state's failure to deliver justice is a rational for autonomy or separatism.

They may have a point.

Not a single official has been prosecuted for any human-rights violations or killings since the surge of fighting began in 2004. Even the Tak Bai case in which state security forces killed 86 protesters – 76 from mistreatment after being taken into custody – were ‘acting in accordance’ of the law as judged by a Songkhla provincial court.

More worrisome, is that Abhisit's failure is part of a habitual failing of the Thai state that is akin to the symptoms of a failed state.

What exactly is a failed state?

From the Failed States Index: A state that is failing has several attributes. One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes of state failure include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. The 12 indicators cover a wide range of state failure risk elements such as extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalized persecution or discrimination...
From the perspective of the Deep South, the Thai state is clearly bordering on failed state territory.

When a failed state can not provide justice, politically motivated armed groups (separatists) will try to take over the functions of a state as a means of garnering legitimacy in the eyes of locals.

This is already happening.

As reported in Matichon today (sorry, cant find the story on their website but saw a copy of it early), separatists have released their own 'wanted' poster complete with photos and names of the five Thai-Buddhist suspects from the mosque shooting incident. While it does look like a wanted poster for criminals, theirs is titled 'จับตาย' which translates as 'wanted dead'.

Such vigilante actions are a symptom of the Thai state's inability to provide justice.

While I do still appreciate Abhisit's flowery promises of justice, his government has clearly failed to deliver.

Yet the real problem is not simply the current government's failure to provide justice, its the fact that its the sixth year in which the Thai state has failed to provide justice for citizens of the Deep South.

From a southern perspective, the perpetual lack of justice suggests that the Thai state is a failed state in the Deep South.

And that, of course, supports PULO's argument for autonomy or even independence.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rumors, rumors, rumors


Well-wishers at Siriraj Hospital. September 25, 2009.

While local Thai papers are towing the official line that all is well with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, there have been serious rumors since he was admitted to hospital on September 19th.

Some rumors told directly to me have suggesting it is time to stock up on black clothing, others are more opaque.

From the Nation:
"There was a panic in early trading due to rumours, but the market rebounded," said Therdsak Taweethiratham of AsiaPlus Securities. "In recent weeks the stock market has been rising. Now investors are profit-taking."

The Bangkok Post:
"Rumours circulated throughout Wednesday that his condition [King Bhumibol] had deteriorated, prompting a 2.04 percent drop in the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

The blogs are a little more creative.

New Mandala's cleaver use of a single quote:
"Less than forty-eight hours before he died the First Queen had reported that “His Majesty has improved in all respects.” - Extracted from Vella and Vella 1978. Chaiyo! King Vajiravudh and the development of Thai Nationalism, p1.

Thailand Crisis with a distinctive tone which always makes for good reading:
"There is sense of deja vu : Sovietology… When during the Cold War people were spending huge amount of energy and time to try to decipher what was going on at the Kremlin…"


"It’s a shame to serve such bullshit to the public. Shame on those people. Shame on Nation to write such non sense. The thai people have the right to know the truth."

Political Prisoners Thailand, while verging into conspiracy territory, comes up with something much more worrisome about the number of troops scheduled to descend upon the streets. (Also, they are the right on track to critically question the 2,000 "civilian volunteers" which are part of the security force):

"That’s a total of 36,000 security personnel mobilized. Even leaving aside the questions of human rights and intimidation, this is clearly way, way more than would be reasonable for controlling a rally that the government estimates will be “about 10,000 people.”"

"Suthep stated that “Attention will be given specially to Government House, parliament and Chitrlada Palace.”"

"PPT has no answers that we haven’t given before.However, this kind of mobilization is suspiciously large. If we were being really cynical and conspiratorial, we’d be tempted to link to an earlier post."

And finally, Bloomberg has a good story which captures how the King's health is making the market jittery:
"Speculation that the King’s health had deteriorated helped spark the biggest drop in the benchmark stock index in two months yesterday and the biggest decline since June in the baht."

A theme that emerges in this is that the Palace is seriously mismanaging their communication with the people leaving unanswered questions and fears to morph into dark rumors.

But an even bigger theme is that the whole succession, the embargo on honest reporting on the monarchy, fears of lese majeste, the unpopularity of the crown prince, republican sentiments, and all the other Yellow Elephant in the Room issues which the country is forced to try to ignore have left the nation unprepared for the inevitable outcome of all this.

The market is jittery because the nation is jittery.

Simply put, Thailand is not prepared for what will be the most profound cultural and political upheaval this country has seen in decades, some suggest the biggest upheaval ever, and all because we simply can not openly talk about the monarchy.

Long live lese majeste.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moments of nationalist stupidity

* All images copyright *
Red shirts at Government House February 24th 2009.

From the Bangkok Post titled Govt launches Thai Unity project:

"The government has organised activities to promote unity and patriotism among Thai people, and one of them is to sing the national anthem together," Mr Abhisit said.

I was going to write a post questioning what depths of nationalist stupidity that would envision that the promotion of an increasingly Orwellian nationalism would actually solve Thailand's political turmoil.

"PPT doesn’t think that Abhisit is as naive and as stupid as this all sounds. Rather, we feel that the emphasis on right-wing, conservative and nationalist strategies of the dark past is a reflection of the views of his strongest backers. His position as prime minister, and within the Democrat Party, is insecure. Hence, Abhisit has fallen back on the support of important and highly conservative and royalist backers within the party and at higher levels and they urge these measures that they believe have been successful in the past."

It is hard to fathom how the use of nationalism or even ISOC's bizarrely dumb "moso" campaign or the comically futile peace activist campaign to 'Stop Hurting the Country' are all raised as solutions to the country's political impasse.

When something is broken, it is better to address the problem rather than to preach about 'loving the nation', practicing moderation, or the waste-of-a-white-shirt campaign to 'stop hurting the country".

While 'moso' and the peace activists are simply wasting their own time and performing something akin to victimless crime, howling for increased nationalism is certainly more worrying.

PAD's violent antics at Preah Vihear are a prime example of the danger of nationalism.

Nationalism simply sharpens distinctions between opposing groups into a justification for violence.

As the government and its right-wing conservative backers sharpen their version of nationalism to exclude those who oppose them, the justification for violence moves ever closer.

So, at 8am and 6pm, the following blood thirsty lyrics in the national anthem will by passionately sung:

Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body,
The whole country belongs to the Thai people,
Maintaining thus far for the Thai,
All Thais intend to unite together,
Thais love peace, but do not fear to fight,
They will never let anyone threaten their independence,
They will sacrifice every drop of their blood to contribute to the nation
Will serve their country with pride and prestige-full of victory.
Chai Yo (Cheers)

The reds in Royal Plaza

The reds in Royal Plaza. September 19th.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thai Public Split Over Charter Amendment

Media Advisory
For 16 September 2009


, Thailand
– Do Thai voters believe a charter amendment would lead to national reconciliation? How much say should the public have over the amendment process? To ensure that opinions from Thai citizens are represented during this time of political turmoil, The Asia Foundation will release the results of its nationwide survey conducted in 26 provinces that gauge the national mood toward amending the constitution, election reform, interest in politics, and more.

The Asia Foundation’s latest survey, Constitutional Reform and Democracy in Thailand: A National Survey of the Thai Electorate, reveals Thai public opinions on issues relevant to the current debate on constitutional reform. Conducted through face-to-face interviews with 1,500 respondents nationwide, the timely survey allows lawmakers, politicians, academics and the media to assess the process of democratization and measure Thai voters’ knowledge of and attitudes toward democracy and the nation’s key institutions.

The survey results will also shed light on key trends and changing attitudes of Thai voters, providing compelling insights into controversial issues such as Article 237 of the 2007 Constitution, electoral reforms, as well as political amnesty and impunity.

Survey results will be unveiled at a press conference. The discussion will be conducted in Thai and English. Cameras are welcome. The discussion will be on the record.

WHEN: 9.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WHO: Presentation of key findings of survey by Mr. Tim Meisburger,
Director of Elections and Political Processes Program, The Asia Foundatio

Guest Speakers: Associate Professor Surichai Wun’Gaeo
Director of Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University

Dr. Thawilwadee Bureekul
Director of Research & Development Office, King Prajadhipok’s Institute

WHERE: Saladang Room (2nd Floor)Dusit Thani Hotel Bangkok
946 Rama IV Road, Bangkok 10500

About The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation has maintained a resident office in Thailand since 1954. For more information, please visit