Tag: Thai democracy

The Future of Thai Politics at the FCCT

The Future of Thai Politics talk at the FCCT on March 11th with

• Alongkorn Polabutr, senior member of the National Reform Council & former deputy leader, Democratic Party
• Chaturon Chaiseng, former Education Minister, Pheu Thai Party
• Kasit Piromya, former Foreign Minister, Democratic Party
• Phongthep Thepkanjana, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Pheu Thai Party

A great evening and great responses from various stakeholders in Thai politics. The FCCT did a great job with this one. A few tweets below and the full discussion in three videos at the bottom.


Thailand Anti-Government Protests Interviews December 2013

Thailand Anti-Government Protests Interviews December 2013 from Mark Moran on Vimeo.

Buffaloes, Crabs, Lizards: Thai protests October-November 2013



Thailand is a land in perpetual protest about, well, just about everything.  Thai protests bring new meaning to the expression “24/7” as their stages don’t stop at all during these protests.  It’s all day and all night talking, speaking, cajoling, screaming, singing.  Thailand also brings an entirely new meaning to the Occupy Movement where one doesn’t merely occupy a street or an area around a symbol of corruption—one actually occupies the symbol.  And of course a Thai occupation must be in style with proper protest food, music, and branding of all sorts: clappers, t-shirts, whistles, wristbands and the sort.  Profanity and politeness exist together closely at these protests with nasty graffiti about Yingluck and her brother, insults at police officers, the next minute it’s prayers and flowers for everyone.  Monitor lizards and buffaloes are seen all throughout the artwork.

Below are propaganda images from the anti-Thaksin protests:

At issue is a majority in parliament pursuing its interests over the will of the minority, corruption, and vote buying.  The commentariat has provided an array of perspectives from both sides.  Thai mainstream commentators from the English language press have offered much of the same in their treatment of Thaksin as an evil octopus with his tentacles reaching every part of the realm poisoning everything he touches.   The Nation’s Pornpimol Kanchanalak, editorialist and fugitive from American justice, weighed in.  In an editorial she lectured the Western media about the assumptions that cloud their understanding of Thai politics.  Ms. Kanchanalak discusses Thaksin Shinawatra’s role in Thai politics, conceding that Thaksin had his strengths:

“His adviser, Pansak Vinyarat, genuinely cared about the rural poor, and together they executed numerous populist policies and hand-outs, including the Bt1-million village fund, one village-one bicycle scheme, one village-one scholarship, one village-one buffalo, one village-one product, welfare housing, welfare taxis, and so on. Thaksin’s first year in office was his finest as a public servant. The rural poor looked to him as their saviour, someone who really cared. They knew they were only getting the “crumbs” of Thailand’s wealth, but at least they were getting something for a change.”

She then goes on to discuss where Thaksin went wrong when the lure of power and money blinded him.  She makes many allegations, but offers no evidence, save for this bit about specific jobs for Thaksin’s cronies:

“Please also look into those who occupy the boards of state enterprises. You will find plenty of red-shirt leaders, their families and cronies among them. And please take the time to read the well-researched accounts of just where the rivers of money have flowed from all the government subsidy programmes.”

Much is said about “corruption” but we see little evidence in the form of statistics, state jobs and political affiliation, or charts and graphs of where “populist” monies go.  Kanchanalak’s argument is thus dissipated.  Thailand could use some quality investigative journalism in this area.

AF9A0399 300x89 - Buffaloes, Crabs, Lizards: Thai protests October-November 2013

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a professor at Kyoto University, offers a different point of view of the recent political turmoil:

“The Thai crisis has partly echoed the anxiety of the Bangkok elite as Thais are approaching the sunset of the Bhumibol reign. This shift of political landscape will cause an impact on their wealth and social status. The anxiety has served as a driving force behind the hatred campaign against Thaksin, seen as an adversary of the monarchy.”

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a moderate observer of Thai politics offers a middle path:

“In the future, the forces of elected power will have to show more integrity and policymaking skill. They will need to bolster the trust of voters and avoid abuses of power. The forces of appointed and unelected authority will have to come up with electoral legitimacy and policy delivery to cater to the vast majority of the electorate. They need to at least have a chance at triumphing at the polls.”

Lizzie Presser  offers a great view of a woman from Isan who has been helped by Thaksin’s programs.

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Yes, those are chopped off heads!

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1. Thai people pay tax so prostitute can have a holiday (criticizing her taking so many trips)

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Pravit Rojanaphruk’s editorial on Yingluck’s new bill against manipulating “intangible cultural heritage” to “offend the monarchy, religion, national security, as well as public order and morality,” whatever this means.  In this vein we shall proceed.

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As the World Film Festival Bangkok is coming to town in November, I am taking note of certain films  that stand out.  Unfortunately the film Paradoxocracy,  by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, will not be shown.  I will hunt this film down to see it.  From what I’ve read about it, it sounds like a film many people would relish with its unvarnished look at Thai democracy.  Ratanaruang barely squeaked by the censors with a few modifications (like deleting subtitles and sound) when speakers spoke too candidly.

What a shame.  Wise Kwai has more here and here.

If anyone, Pen-rek, (are you out there?) has any idea how I can see this film please email me at markemoran@hotmail.com.


Protest culture: June ’12 – July ’13

More protest culture examined (thank you Gigi for your translation!) at this recent protest at Sanam Luang (สนามหลวง) with its melange of anti-government groups lingering on this royal cremation ground where kings and queens and other highly born have been burned since the time of King Rama I.  Where else but at a protest in Thailand would we see such a syncretic display of resentment against the powers that be.  From free haircuts to a Siamese King’s interpretation of an English poet’s war poem to the basest of insults, to masked allusions to a 17th century English rebel.

Yingluck’s speech in Mongolia  back in April at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies enraged many ultra royalists.  Her money quote:

“This is because there are people in this world who do not believe in democracy. They are ready to grab power and wealth through  suppression of freedom.  This means that they are willing to take advantage of other people without respecting human rights and liberties.  They use force to gain submission and abuse the power.”

Thanong Khanthong is the oracle of the mystical Siam and offers a poetic way out of the troubles in Thailand.


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“Donation point: central cooking.”

If there is a protest in Thailand there is going to be protest cuisine to be sure. Both Napolean’s army and Thai protesters march on their stomachs.

“Your brother’s fault—you see a mountain
your fault—it’s the hair on your arm
your brother farts—sewage
you fart—a flower
virtue is not for sale— it comes from within.”

Citizen poetry loosely translated.

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“What do you think?  How do we solve the nation’s problem together?”

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“The Cremation Area Salon: Free Barber Gentlemen & Ladies”

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“Travel from afar to save the Kingdom.

At this moment only our power can save our land.”

A poem is also shown:

“Come and protest with us and if you die you are a soldier.

You will have paid back something to the country.”

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A translation of excerpts from William Wordworth’s “The Character of the Happy Warrior” (1806) commemorating the famous British naval commander Horatio Nelson’s death in the Battle of Trafalgar.  King Bhumipol’s translates the English into a Thai poetic version.  A translation below:

“Who is the happy Warrior…

That every man in arms would wish to be?

—It is the generous spirit…

Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,

And Fear, and Bloodshed…

Turns his necessity to glorious gain…

And in himself possess his own desire…

And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait

For wealth, or honors, or for worldly state…

And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law

In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.”

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A group from southern Isan pleading for people to come and “volunteer to protect Thailand.”

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Gotmai (means law, but with the final consonant absent means dog law, an insult.)

“We don’t use yaw yak (Thai consonant) because the government uses the dog law to rule the country.  Dumb people are dogs who take money.”

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Donation boxes: donate and  get dvd’s of political propaganda.

“Sign to show you don’t support decision of world court.” (Regarding World Court’s decision about Preah Vihear.)

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“His ancestors were water monitor lizards.”

This piece of post modern art is referring to none other than Plodprasop Suraswadi, a Deputy Prime Minister, known for his nuanced bedside manner in dealing with opponents, various environmental groups, who he described as ai hia, water monitor lizards.  He later apologized.

I don’t know why this monitor lizard is the Thai patron saint of assholes, but I will certainly try to get to the bottom of this.

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“Our country is not a toy, Mr Taksin, it’s not something you can play with…”

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“The government fund is to steal (gin: eat)

The country is for sale

The law is for breaking

Our votes are bought

Media is for propaganda

Democracy is a facade.”


More images below from the anti-government rally back in November:




Below editorial cartoons from the Thai newspaper Manager last November translated by 2Bangkok.com:

Stuff in 300x168 - Protest culture: June '12 - July '13

“Thaksin Shinawatra says to his sister: Stuff in as much as you can, Nong Daw. Don’t worry about those who are making noise outside. So long as we have these 15 million buffaloes to prevent them, we can keep stuffing ourselves… ”


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On shirts of the men: Taxpayers
Man on the left: Let’s go to the King Rama V ground tomorrow.
Man on the right: I surely am going!!!
Caption: After 1 year of suppression… they start to find a way out.
[Red buffaloes refer to Red Shirt group’s supporters who have benefited from the government’s populist policies. This cartoon encourages people to join the November 24 protest to stand up against government policies to benefit the Red Shirts.]


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In the U.S. President Barack Obama’s hand reads: Thaa
President Obama: I don’t want it… But she forced it [into my hand].
Caption: A souvenir from Yingluck
[At Obama’s side is the U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. On the rear building’s ladder are Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichakchaikul. The point being made is that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ‘gave thaa’ or ‘hai thaa’ to President Obama. ‘Hai thaa’ in Thai is saying means ‘flirting’ or ‘seductive.’ Like other women who dare to present themselves in a prominent way in the Thai world, Yingluck is criticized for being flirtatious.]


Below a montage of the red shirt protest in June 2012.  Notice their own use of the monitor lizard and water buffalo.  A few royalist counter protestors thrown in for good measure:

Sound and fury

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signifying very different ideas of where Thailand should be heading.  Nitirat (“law for the people”), a group of seven Thammasat University law lecturers, last October offered a few proposals to reform Holy Writ in Thailand including throwing out many of the judicial decisions put in place after the 2006 coup.  They also propose to amend the lese majeste law.

Under the current Thai constitution three sections are noteworthy:

Section 3. The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people.
Section 8. The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.
Section 30. All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.

Section 30 is under the heading: Rights and Liberties of Thai People.  This point alone speaks volumes about the Thai concept of equality.  Like many things in Thailand that I simply can’t figure out, like how these three sections are reconciled in terms of power, I seek refuge in Dirty Deeds watching to the point of exhaustion, start to dream of my former life as a prince, and nod off into a very dark place. Thailand remains a mystery.

In light of traditional Thai perspectives of governance, Nitirat’s proposals are plain heresy with recommendations that the military be subordinated to civilians and that the power of the people reigns supreme.  A few of the more striking ideas:

•  The monarch has the duty to protect the Constitution.
•  A new head of state must swear an oath to abide by and to protect the Constitution.

The idea that a Thai monarch would be required to swear an oath to a constitution is an extremely radical idea in Thailand and deserves a wide discussion.  This idea caught me off guard I must say.  I don’t know who these professors are, but they are certainly bold.  Nitirat also recommended big changes to Thailand’s lese majeste law.

Needless to say, Nitirat’s proposals were met with a firestorm of abuse as the comment stream from ผู้จัดการ/Manager reveals where members of Nitirat were called “dogs,” “aliens,” and “not human” and demands that they be “thrown off helicopters,” “necklaced and burned alive,” “beheaded,” and “have their heads put on stakes outside Thammasat” were made.  There were calls for Ajarn Worachet to be executed.  General Prayuth publicly requested that members of Nitirat leave the country.

Such is the political discourse here.

Nitirat has received international support.

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On the other side of the political spectrum a recent film, Shakespeare Must Die, was banned by the Thai Film Board as being too divisive.  This film is an adaptation of Macbeth and an allegory of  Thaksin’s pursuit of power and ultimate destruction of Thailand. The makers of this film argue in their comments that Thailand is living in “Shakespearean times” and that “there is a hunger for full-blooded, ferocious art that does not shy away from meaty issues of spiritual corruption, of right and wrong” yet could these artists stomach another Shakespearean adaptation from the opposite perspective?

Ing K, the director spoke to the Film Board speaking passionately about the role of art in a nation’s soul.  She has great insight in speaking about Western culture: “Why do we welcome only their junk culture and keep out their best?”  She continues, “Our country must survive and endure, and truly, it can only endure through virtue.”

Well put.

Thai filmmakers of a different political persuasion need to make a movie to counter this one and they both need to be shown to the public.  This would be a huge step forward for Thailand.





Democracy, October 6th, Nazis, and Turbo

Former Thai prime minister Anand Panyarachun on lack of understanding of democracy and tyranny:

“Thais do not possess a public mind; they only get together as a group to oppose something and not to proactively call for something.”

Anand Panyarachun makes good points in his discussion, but I’d be eager to know what he thinks the role of education plays in the development of democracy.  He criticizes absolute control, but can there be a check on absolute control in the mechanisms of government if  everyone is not absolutely under the law?

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Student group from Thammasat University, Prakai Fire, are staging three plays commemorating the October 6th, 1976 massacre at Thammasat University.  The students have been threatened and several media outlets have banned coverage.

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Students at a school in Chiang Mai dressed up as Nazis for their “Sport” Day creating quite a stir internationally.  Coverage here, here, and here.

Worship ceremony to the River Goddess to protect Bangkok from flooding will be sponsored by the BMA.

The latest singing sensation with over 16 million hits.  Beware, this clip is not Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.  Interesting discussion in the blogosphere:


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There’s something terribly disarming about this woman becoming the next prime minister of Thailand with her looking so dignified and sexy at the same time.  I first learned of this Yingluck Shinawat, Thaksin’s younger sister, as I rode my bike down Petchburi Road her image lined the entire road one poster after another and I simply enjoyed looking at it.  Who wouldn’t want a prime minister like this?  I wonder what the Bangkok middle thinks of her as my impression of her is that she is hardly the frightening Red Shirt protester from the rice fields who arrived like locusts to burn down Central World last year:

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Her ties to her square-headed tyrant brother notwithstanding, she appears to be a very ordinary middle class Thai woman.  And this is a good thing.  The Democrats have a very big problem in their arrogance.  I have spoken to countless students and others who simply look at people from the north as simply idiots, “another species” as one student told me.  The Democrats need to be about building the middle class in the rest of Thailand, not simply about respecting “tradition” and looking at the vast majority of their countrymen with contempt.

Vote buying is still rampant and Thai democracy has a long, long way to go, but it is nice to see more political power diffused in a system where power has been concentrated in the hands of a few poo yai for too long.

We are all waiting to see what Yingluck is going to do about her brother coming back to Thailand.  One thing is for sure:  whatever Thaksin’s misgivings, he can rap:

The Aftermath

DSCN5929 300x225 - The AftermathAll of Ratchadamnoen Blvd. has been turned into a shrine to Democracy.  Really something to see.  Above is a woman mourning the loss of one of the protesters who died.  Perhaps she’s a relative.  In the gallery you can see many pictures of the artwork and installations put up.

The army has gone home and today everyone is enjoying themselves throwing water on each other.  Yesterday the Reds paraded the coffins throughout the city.

Below is a clip of the violence.  The guy reminds me of Martin Short.  He also needs his head checked for being there.