Abolish 112

WANTED: For crimes against Thailand’s revered monarchy

Anybody who feared that the new Thai government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would fail in its duty to crack down on those who commit lèse majesté against the revered royal family can be greatly reassured by the recent words and deeds of the incoming administration.

Chalerm Yubamrung, the widely respected Deputy Prime Minister, has announced that hunting violators of Article 112 of the country’s Criminal Code is one of his top priorities (presumably along with grooming his popular sons to follow in his esteemed footsteps). As the Bangkok Post reported last week:

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has promised to crack down on websites with lese majeste content and to look into alleged intimidation of the press by red shirts.

Mr Chalerm, who oversees the Royal Thai Police Office, said taking action against websites containing content that insults the monarchy would be one of his top priorities…

Mr Chalerm said he would tell the police force to set up a war room to deal with websites with lese majeste content straight away.  “Such websites will not be tolerated by this government. I will take action as quickly as possible,” Mr Chalerm said.

Sensibly, the authorities have decided to focus on Facebook, which has become the main forum for Thais who oppose Article 112 to discuss their heretical views. On Thursday, police arrested a 40-year-old man for Facebook postings which allegedly defamed the monarchy. He has mercifully been denied bail, and so can no longer pose an immediate threat to Thai national security. It is believed to be the first lèse majesté arrest under the new government, although since the authorities often keep such arrests secret, presumably to prevent dangerous panic, this cannot be confirmed. The Associated Press has the story:

BANGKOK (AP) — Police have arrested a Thai computer programmer on charges of insulting the nation’s revered king on a Facebook page, his lawyer said Monday.

The charges carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Surapak Puchaisaeng, a 40-year-old Bangkok resident, was also accused of violating the Computer Crime Act for the alleged defamatory comments, his lawyer Lomrak Meemuean said.

Surapak denied insulting 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Police confiscated his desktop and laptop computers, his lawyer said. Cases involving insults to the monarchy, known as lese majeste, have skyrocketed in recent years, but Friday’s arrest of Surapak is the first since a new government took power in August, according to the activist network Freedom Against Censorship Thailand…

The lese majeste law covers anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent.” The 2007 Computer Crime Act, which prohibits circulation of material that jeopardizes national security or causes panic, carries a maximum jail term of five years and a fine of 100,000 baht ($3,300). Critics say the lese majeste law is frequently used as a weapon against political opponents. Almost any critical comment touching on the monarchy can be construed as disloyalty to the institution.

As is by now widely known, for several months I have been working on an extensive analysis of Thailand’s political crisis based on a detailed reading of more than 3,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables which were obtained by WikiLeaks. In the course of my work on “Thailand’s Moment of Truth” – also known by its Twitter hashtag #thaistory – it has alarmingly come to my attention that several other Thais who are still at large have committed egregious violations of Article 112. As a public service to Thailand, and to assist Prime Minister Yingluck and Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm in hunting down these reprobates and bringing them to justice, I would like to publicly name and shame the worst offenders in this article. Let us hope the menace of lèse majesté is soon eradicated once and for all.


Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister is widely suspected of harbouring unacceptable views about the monarchy, and the leaked U.S. cables are littered with blatant proof of this. Perhaps the most shocking comments of all can be found in cable 06BANGKOK2990 from May 2006. It appears that Thaksin wilfully chose to ignore the fact that the Thai monarchy is above politics and does not take sides or support extra-constitutional interventions against democratically elected governments, and made a number of outlandish claims to Karen Brooks, a fellow of the Council for Foreign Relations and a former director for Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council:

Thaksin accepted no responsibility for the current political crisis, blaming everything on the jealousy of a “provincial” royal family who feared that Thaksin would supplant them in the hearts of the peasantry, and on the machinations of “courtiers” who manipulated the King…

In a lengthy discussion with former NSC official Karen Brooks, Thaksin portrayed himself the victim of a “palace coup.”  He dropped several bombshells which, if true, recast the history of the past six weeks. Thaksin’s story now is that the King explicitly told him to step aside during the fateful audience on April 4  He told Brooks that he had planned to step aside after the election, but he wanted to stay on through the King’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and then resign. At the audience with the King, however, his hand was forced. After the audience, he gave his emotional speech announcing that he would not be PM in the next Parliament…

Thaksin claims that even this was not enough for the Palace.  A few hours after the speech, he said, the King’s principal private secretary, Asa Sarasin, called him and said that he needed to “go completely.”  Thaksin agreed to do so in three stages:  he would leave as PM, then leave as MP, and finally leave as party leader.  This was the reason he suddenly took “vacation” immediately after his announcement that he would step down.

Thaksin spun an elaborate tale of palace intrigue, accusing privy councilors Prem and Surayud of conspiring against him, including blaming Surayud for bringing Gen. Chamlong out of retirement to head the opposition “People’s Alliance for Democracy.” He claimed that courtiers in the palace are manipulating the infirm and isolated King…  He unironically compared himself to Aung San Suu Kyy – the winner of a democratic election who is not allowed to take office. He dismissed the courts’ annulment of the elections as a sham. He claimed that, if it were not for his financial power and grassroots support, he’d be chased into exile.

It is shocking enough that Thaksin should spread the scurrilous claim that Prem and Surayud were working with the palace to undermine him, and that they would attempt to chase him into exile. But then he made even more unacceptable comments:

Thaksin repeated his theory that the King sees Thaksin as rival for the loyalty of the people in the countryside. Thaksin denied trying to rival the King, saying that he was a just a “simple peasant” who wanted to be among the people and eat in noodle shops. He described the King, with barely-concealed disdain, as “provincial,” unaware of the changes that had taken place in the world (“never been on a Boeing 747”), and accused him of “thinking he owns the country.” Thaksin advisor Pansak Vinyaratn said that recent events were a return to “absolute monarchy.” Thaksin told Brooks that he “cannot come back as prime minister as long as this King is alive.”

While it may be true that King Bhumibol has never been on a 747, it is widely known that other members of the royal family have a great affinity for flying, and Thaksin’s comments represent a reprehensible slur on the revered monarchy.

To add insult to injury, Ralph “Skip” Boyce, who was U.S. ambassador at the time and in whose name the cable was sent, appears to partially agree with Thaksin’s disgraceful claims:

While Thaksin’s self-serving analysis is suspect on several counts, we believe that there is an underlying truth to it.  The Palace has aligned itself against Thaksin, and the momentum now is all on the side of those forces trying to push Thaksin as far out of politics as possible, and keep him out for as long as possible.  Thaksin is on the defensive, fighting for his political life.

Boyce should be put on a Thai immigration blacklist immediately, and arrested and put on trial if he ever sets foot in the Land of Smiles again.

In July 2007, Thaksin made a highly incendiary claim that an unnamed “person with charisma” acting outside the bounds of the constitution was trying to overthrow his government. It was widely understood that he was referring to retired General Prem Tinsulanonda, who was prime minister of Thailand from 1980 to 1988 before becoming head of Bhumibol’s Privy Council, a body of respected elder statesmen who provide advice to the king. Thaksin himself later confirmed this to Boyce over lunch in a Bangkok restaurant (they had steak):

I started out raising Thaksin’s inflammatory comments to civil servants last week, in which he described a “charismatic person” trying to overthrow the government. Although government and party spokesmen have tried to deny it, Thaksin freely admitted to me that he was referring to Privy Council President Prem. He said that he “wanted to flip on the lights and flush out the ghosts.” It was wrong, and undemocratic, for Prem to work against the PM behind the scenes. Thaksin alleged that Prem was trying to influence various judges involved in the key cases pending, including by “dangling the prospect” of a privy council position before one of them.

Instead of storming out of the restaurant in horror, Boyce continued to listen to Thaksin’s disgraceful criticisms of the monarchy:

He extolled his Thai Rak Thai as a model of democracy and said that his economic policies had made the rural population “richer and smarter” and therefore less beholden to the King.  This was the root of the King’s antipathy to him…

Thaksin launched into an attack on the King and his vaunted “sufficiency economy” model.  Thaksin said that he was proud of his origins as “a peasant;” he had gotten ahead by managing debt and risk, and this was what the rural population needed to do. (Comment: Thaksin neglects to mention that it helps to have prominent relatives, marry well, and get advantageous government concessions from your friends. End comment.) Thaksin claimed that the policies advocated by the King kept the people poor, while TRT’s policies had changed the countryside, making the people “smarter and richer” and less dependent on the King. This was part of the reason for the King’s opposition to Thaksin. [06BANGKOK4041]

It is widely known that King Bhumibol’s “sufficiency economy” model should be the backbone of Thailand’s rural economy, and Thaksin’s astonishing attack on the theory represents another blatant breach of Article 112.


See above. And as if that were not bad enough, Thaksin’s leading policy adviser made other unconscionable claims to U.S. diplomats. In April 2006, Pansak alleged that despite the king’s well known-wisdom, Bhumibol was being duped and manipulated by a shadowy clique of palace insiders:

The King wanted to avoid involvement, however, a shadowy group close to him was backing the opposition.  According to Pansak, Thaksin was well aware that “The palace does not like him.” [06BANGKOK2646]

In March the same year, Pansak made the seditious claim that powerful people within the palace were working with other wealthy elites to try to undermine democracy:

The current political crisis is the “last hurrah of the old wealthy class,” according to Pansak.  This cabal of political and economic elite who have dominated modern Thai society are “absolutely, deeply resentful” of Thaksin, who Pansak suggests is a new type of businessman and politician. Pansak said he told Thaksin, “all of these people who have lost their role in society, who have lost their shirts because of arrogance, want to come back (and defeat Thaksin.) ” This “unholy alliance” of big business, the Democrat Party and “some people close to the palace” remain feckless.  They have no specific programs or platforms and lack even the leadership to defeat Thaksin, according to Pansak.  They had to get media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul “out of the grave” to lead their cause.  They “keep losing at the polls because they never follow through on their promises.” After decades of dominance under both military and civilian rule they have been pushed aside by Thaksin, “someone who actually does what he says he’ll do.”

According to Pansak, these elite “dream that pre-97 (the era predating the current constitution, which was marked by unstable political coalitions prone to party switching) can come back…they are dreaming.”  Shifts in the regional economy were also contributing to the waning influence of the traditional elite. [06BANGKOK1472]

Pansak even told Boyce and Eric G. John, who was to take over as the next U.S. ambassador, that the monarchy should stay out of politics, before adding some cryptic -and highly disrespectful – comments:

Absent from Pansak’s “big-think” analysis was any explicit mention of a role for the monarchy in a new Thai democracy.  However, Pansak did diverge from a discussion about the political opposition with a cryptic sentence or two that seemed to suggest a preference for a respected but politically uninvolved monarch.  “To revere the King in the correct manner is to allow him to be in the palace with happiness and his eunuchs only come out of the palace to go to the supermarket.  So always fund beautiful roads for eunuchs to go back to the palace…the situation now is, build beautiful roads for eunuchs to go back to the palace.” [06BANGKOK1472]

In September 2006, Pansak repeated the claim that Prem and others close to King Rama IX were actively trying to overthrow Thaksin, and implicated a relative of Queen Sirikit in the criminal sale of Shin Corp to the Singaporeans:

Machinations from the Palace stung all the more, Pansak claimed, because Thaksin had consistently shown respect for the royal court and had defended the King’s interests.  Thaksin had sought to protect the King’s reputation when an American author recently published a tell-all book about the royal family.  More importantly, Thaksin had taken steps to promote and protect the assets of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB).  Thaksin had substantial assets of his own with Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), in which the CPB was a major stakeholder — and an SCB figure who was also a relative of the Queen (NFI) had even represented Thaksin in negotiating the highly controversial sale of Shin Corp to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.

The royalists, however, feared that Thaksin’s policies, which benefited and empowered the rural majority, would erode their own standing. The royalists were against democracy, he noted, dismissing the critique that Thaksin had consolidated power to an extreme degree…

Whatever Thaksin did or did not do, his enemies would continue coming after him; unconstrained by legal or rational justifications, these opponents would find ways to attack.  Tragically, while the royalists and oligarchs were undermining Thaksin, the political landscape was bereft of credible alternative leaders.  Given the King’s age, it was imperative for the Thai population to begin preparing psychologically for the King’s passing and for a transition to a system increasingly reliant on democratic structures rather than royal authority.  The current crisis forestalled such preparation, however. “It’s all about Prem becoming Regent,” Pansak warned. [06BANGKOK5466]

Oddly, Prem’s official website information describes him as a “soldier, statesman and Regent of Thailand“. This must be some mistake, understandable given the general’s advanced age and unfamiliarity with the internet.

As King Bhumibol told America’s Look magazine in June 1967, he is a fundamentally democratic monarch:

I really am an elected king. If the people do not want me, they can throw me out, eh? Then I will be out of a job.

Pansak should have been well aware of this, instead of trying to claim that Bhumibol was in any way undermining Thai democracy with the help of his old ally Prem.


General Prem was rightly horrified by insinuations that he was trying to undermine Thaksin’s elected government. Boyce appears to have been shocked too, as he makes clear in his account of a meeting with the privy council head in July 2006:

I called on Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda on July 5.  General Prem, one of the most highly respected leaders in Thailand, was the target of a lightly-veiled attack by Prime Minister Thaksin last week.  Thaksin referred to an “individual with charisma,” who was “outside the Constitution,” trying to bring down the government and become Prime Minister himself.  Thaksin’s comments were construed by many as an open declaration of war against Prem, all the more surprising (or foolhardy) given Prem’s stature and close relationship with the King. Meeting Prem at his home, I joked that he seemed to be exuding charisma.  Prem immediately launched into a 50 minute discourse on “what makes Thaksin tick?”…

Prem said that, over Thaksin’s first five years as prime minister, he had not met much with Prem; Thaksin thought he knew everything already.  For the past few months, however, Thaksin had sought out Prem more often.  Prem said, “He sat right where you are,” made polite small talk and sought counsel on the political situation.  Prem was therefore shocked to hear the accounts of Thaksin’s speech last week.  At first, he couldn’t believe the reports, especially when he realized that Thaksin had not been speaking off the cuff, but from a prepared speech. Prem’s first thought was, “What does he think he’s doing?” (Comment: our question as well. End comment.) …

Prem observed that Thaksin was clearly gripped by delusions of grandeur and a belief that he somehow had the right to run the country:

Prem bemoaned the fact that Thaksin had stirred everything up again, after a period of calm around the King’s anniversary celebration.  I noted that Thaksin didn’t seem to be able to keep himself from making these provocative statements. Prem remarked that from the outset of his time as Prime Minister, Thaksin had been personally unprepared for the fawning reception he gets, especially when he travels around the country.  It had gone to his head, Prem said, and made him believe that “he’s number one.”  But Thailand was not like America, Prem added.  “We already have a number one.”  Thaksin needed to learn that he was the manager of the shop, not the owner.  The people upcountry liked Thaksin and voted for him, but they didn’t revere him.  After seeing the adoring crowds on June 9, a million people in their yellow shirts who waited for hours in the heat just to catch a glimpse of their King, Thaksin should understand that he cannot rival the King for the people’s affection, Prem concluded.

Boyce noted approvingly that despite the general’s understandable outrage, Prem was wisely restraining himself from retaliating:

Comment: General Prem showed more disappointment than anger over Thaksin’s attack on him.  He gave no sign of plotting a counter-attack, but his supporters (and many Thais, it seems) continue to be both puzzled and outraged; the belated statement by the government spokesman ostensibly clearing Prem of the charge has come too late to undo the damage from the PM’s remarks.  End Comment. [06BANGKOK3997]

Later that month, Prem dressed up in his full cavalry officer’s uniform and used equine imagery to illustrate to cadets at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy that their loyalty should be to King Bhumibol, not elected politicans:

Privy Council chairman Gen Prem Tinsulanonda yesterday likened the government to a jockey and soldiers to horses, saying the jockeys come and go, but the owner of the horses stays the same. In a special lecture to around 950 cadets at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in Khao Cha-ngoke, Nakhon Nayok, Gen Prem said the soldiers belonged to His Majesty the King, not a government.

He returned to the same theme later in July in a speech filled with wisdom to naval cadets, as reported by Wassana Nanuam of the Bankok Post in an article reproduced on the general’s website, headlined “Prem slams ‘unethical leaders'”:

Unethical leaders should have no place in Thailand, Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda said yesterday.

During a special lecture given to 350 naval cadets and some high-ranking navy officers at the Naval Academy in Samut Prakan yesterday, Gen Prem said it is important for national leaders to have ethics and morals.

“Only good people have ethics and morals. Bad people don’t. People who work in public office or those who are commanders and leaders, in particular, must embrace ethics and morality otherwise things will collapse. There will be corruption, favouritism, nepotism and greed if leaders lack ethics and morals.

“Individuals who have no ethics and morals are bad people who are full of greed. They may want to live comfortably with a lot of money. But if they have acquired wealth through illegal or unethical means, they no longer deserve to be in this country,” said Gen Prem, a former prime minister.  He also reminded the navy officers that they “belong to” His Majesty the King and the country, and not to the government. Their foremost loyalty should always lie with the country and the King.  “In my lecture to army cadets two weeks ago, I told them about who owns the soldiers. This time, I have to make it clear again that we soldiers belong to the country and to the King. A government supervises soldiers in compliance with the policy declared to parliament only,” said Gen Prem, adding that he was referring to a government in general…

“Some social values are wrong. For example, people respect those who have money without caring whether they have acquired it through ethical means or not. We should not wai individuals who make money illegally. Samlor (tricycle) and taxi drivers are more respectable than those individuals,” he said.

Gen Prem urged the navy officers to follow the good examples of Adm Chumphon, Adm Prasert and Adm Prajet – professional soldiers who kept their distance from politics.

He also quoted US Gen Douglas MacArthur’s famous line, “Old soldiers never die,” to remind the officers that they should strive to be professional soldiers.

On September 19, 2006, a group of generals rolled their tanks into Bangkok and deposed Thaksin in a bloodless coup. The leaders of the putsch swiftly sought an audience with King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, and by coincidence Prem happened to be at the palace when they arrived. As Boyce noted:

It remains unclear whether Thailand’s King encouraged or provided approval in advance for the September 19 coup d’etat by the Council for Democratic Reform Under the Monarchy (CDRM).  However, the CDRM is publicly linked to the monarchy to a greater extent than previous coup plotters, and the CDRM’s September 19 royal audience sent a clear public signal of Palace endorsement…

On the night of September 19, soon after the CDRM seized control of the media, word spread that CDRM leaders would have an audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  The audience took place at Chittralada Villa from 12:19 a.m. until 1:24 a.m. the same night, according to an Embassy contact at the Palace.  The willingness of the King to receive the CDRM representatives so quickly sent a clear public signal of royal endorsement of the coup. [06BANGKOK5836]

Following the coup, Thaksin accused Prem several times of having been a key player in the plot to depose him. Prem assured U.S. diplomats that this was nonsense. In April 2009, with Thailand facing violent protests, he repeated this assurance in a meeting with Ambassador Eric G. John:

The Ambassador on April 2 called on Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda at Prem’s residence. Discussing  the ongoing anti-government “redshirt” demonstrations at  Government House, Prem remarked that former Prime Minister  Thaksin Shinawatra, who was appearing each evening to address  supporters via video link, was lying to the Thai public about  the 2006 coup. Prem admitted to the Ambassador that he had  met with Army Commander Sonthi Boonyaratglin prior to the  coup, but Prem denied that he had backed the seizure of  power, as Thaksin alleged. Prem asserted that he did  not feel sympathetic toward either the redshirts or the PAD,  which had used demonstrations to undermine Thaksin prior to  the coup and then again after a pro-Thaksin government took  power in early 2008. [09BANGKOK865]

Given Prem’s many years of apparently loyal service to King Bhumibol, and his deeply honourable refusal to have anything to do with the coup plot against Thaksin, it comes as a grave disappointment to find evidence in the cables that he has a criminal lack of respect for some members of the royal family, in particular Bhumibol’s admired son and heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. This was particularly painfully apparent in a January 2010 conversation with Eric John:

Regarding King Bhumibol’s health, Prem indicated that the King was exercising 30 minutes a day on a stationary bicycle at Siriraj Hospital and passing a medicine ball with a physical therapist to build up strength and regain weight. Prem acknowledged that he had not seen the King since the hospitalization, but that the Queen and Princess Sirindhorn saw the King daily. When Ambassador asked about the Crown Prince’s involvement, Prem repeated: the Queen and Sirindhorn visit him daily.

Prem acknowledged Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn probably maintained some sort of relationship with fugitive former PM Thaksin, “seeing him from time to time.” Prem, clearly no fan of either man, cautioned that Thaksin ran the risk of self-delusion if he thought that the Crown Prince would act as his friend/supporter in the future merely because of Thaksin’s monetary support; “he does not enjoy that sort of relationship.” When Ambassador asked where the Crown Prince was currently, in Thailand or Europe, Prem replied dismissively: “You know his social life, how he is.” (Note: a presumed reference to Vajiralongkorn’s preference to spend time based out of Munich with his main mistress, rather than in Thailand with his wife and son). [10BANGKOK192]

Article 112 of the Thai criminal code clearly states that the lèse majesté law covers the king, queen and the heir to the throne. Prem’s comments to a foreign ambassador constitute a serious crime.


The same cable from Eric John reveals anti-monarchy sentiments from two other Thai elder statesmen who had been previously believed to be loyal royalists – former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun and privy councillor Siddhi Savetsila. Both men, like Prem, appear to harbour contemptuous views about the heir to the throne.

Siddhi, a retired Air Chief Marshal, even voiced treasonous hopes that the crown prince might die, thus allowing the succession to pass to his sister, Crown Princess Sirindhorn:

ACM Siddhi… noted that the Crown Prince frequently slipped away from Thailand, and that information about his air hostess mistresses was widely available on websites; he lamented how his former aide, now Thai Ambassador to Germany, was forced to leave Berlin for Munich often to receive Vajiralongkorn. Siddhi raised Thaksin’s controversial November Times On-line interview, which Siddhi claimed cast the King in a bad light and attempted to praise the Crown Prince as broad-minded and educated abroad, hinting that Vajiralongkorn would be ready to welcome Thaksin back to Thailand once he became King.

Ambassador mentioned to Siddhi the Crown Prince’s more engaging approach in the early December King’s Birthday reception with Ambassadors, shaking each envoy’s hand and appearing more at ease than in the 2008 reception. Siddhi stated that succession would be a difficult transition time for Thailand. According to Palace Law, the Crown Prince would succeed his father, but added after a pause, almost hopefully: “if the Crown Prince were to die, anything could happen, and maybe Prathep (Sirindhorn) could succeed.”

Not content with smearing Vajiralongkorn, Siddhi went on to criticise Thailand’s minor royals as well, complaining that he had recently been inconvenienced by a revered royal motorcade:

ACM Siddhi expressed his personal concern about the declining image of the royal family in Thailand, noting that something as simple as excessive motorcade-related traffic jams caused by minor royals was an unnecessary but enduring irritant. Personal Private Secretary Arsa Sarasin had raised this with the King about eight years ago, according to Siddhi, and the King had agreed, authorizing Arsa to talk to royal family members and to set up new rules limiting entourages and occasions when traffic would be stopped. Nothing had changed; Siddhi noted that he had been caught up in traffic for 45 minutes the previous week returning for a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador, due to a royal motorcade. Stories that the Crown Prince now ordered second story windows closed as his motorcade passed achieved nothing but additional popular resentment, Siddhi added sorrowfully. [10BANGKOK192]

Anand’s comments were similarly seditious:

While asserting that the Crown Prince will become King, both Siddhi and Anand implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made. Siddhi expressed preference for Princess Sirindhorn; Anand suggested only the King would be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood of that happening. [10BANGKOK192]


Surayud, a protégé of Prem’s who was also a general before joining the privy council advising King Bhumibol, was appointed prime minister by the junta that seized power in the 2006 coup. Like Prem, Surayud was totally oblivious about the coup until after it had happened, as he told Boyce in late September 2006:

I called on retired General and Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont at the Privy Council Chambers on September 28.  Surayud began by apologizing for telling me on the night of the coup that he did not know of anything going on that night.  He maintains that when we spoke, he was on his way home from a palace religious ceremony – attended by Privy Council head Prem – for the Queen’s late mother. After returning home, he had turned on the TV and saw Thaksin’s attempt to declare emergency rule and fire Army Chief Sonthi.  At that point, Prem called and instructed him to “come to the palace.”

Turning to the current state of affairs, Surayud explained that on the evening of September 27, General Sonthi Boonyaratklin had come to his residence and asked him to be the interim Prime Minister.  Surayud responded that he didn’t really want the post, but if the King approved it, he obviously would take the position.

Boyce appeared to believe that Surayud was an ideal choice to run the government:

Surayud is a well-respected, non-partisan figure with a sterling track record as a professional military officer. After PM Chuan Leekpai selected him to lead the Army in 1998, Surayud undertook a meaningful series of military reforms that served to professionalize and de-politicize the uniformed ranks. During his tenure as Army Chief, Surayud also managed to push back against Burmese incursions into Thai territory, while ending Thai efforts to push Karen refugees over the border.  The CDRM has obviously reached out to Surayud because he is one of the few individuals with the credentials and prestige to unite the country in this troubled period.  Under the current circumstances, Surayud is arguably the best person to head the interim civilian government. He is trusted by the palace and the military, and enjoys widespread respect across a broad spectrum of Thai citizens because of his integrity and previous service. His appointment would be a very positive development for Thailand internally, as well as for Thai-U.S. relations, and we should welcome it if and when it is announced. [06BANGKOK5973]

Perhaps it had slipped Boyce’s mind that Surayud had a history of making disparaging remarks about both Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Queen Sirikit in private. In 2005 he gave a very pessimistic assessment of the prince’s abilities in a conversation with the U.S. ambassador:

I asked Surayud about the heir to King Bhumhibol, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Surayud replied that he had tutored the Crown Prince some 20 years ago and surmised that “He’ll never measure up to the present monarch, but somehow the Thai people will make do.” [05BANGKOK1233]

In November 2004, Sirikit gave a stirring speech about violence by Muslim separatist insurgents in the south of Thailand, in which she vowed to learn to shoot to help defend her fellow Buddhists. The speech was widely praised in Thailand’s media. But unaccountably, Surayud later told Boyce that her comments had been unhelpful, and even went as far as suggesting a rift between Sirikit and Bhumibol over the issue:

Commenting on HM Queen Sirikit’s speech in November 2004 where she spoke about the plight of Buddhist villagers in the South, Surayud said that he had suggested to the Queen before the speech not to go into too much detail about the South. I told Surayud that the Queen’s remarks seemed to reflect general views of most Thai people about Thai Muslims in the South. Surayud agreed, adding that her comments had not been helpful.  Furthermore, Surayud surmised that the King’s silence on matters in the South in his December 5 birthday speech was one result of the Queen’s remarks. The King had different views on the South than did the Queen, but was not about to make that publicly evident. [05BANGKOK1233]

In another conversation the same year, Surayud was equally condescending about Sirikit’s grasp of what was going on in southern Thailand:

On November 10, Privy Counselor Surayud… briefed the Ambassador and DAS John on the situation in the South. Surayad had returned the day before from six weeks with Queen Sirikit in Narathiwat. He suggested that, although some progress was being made in reaching out to Muslim clerics and elders in the troubled region, Muslim youths continued to be disaffected and posed ripe targets for agitators. Surayud admitted that the Queen had shown a lack of understanding about the South in the past. Now, however, after spending more time interacting with residents in the region, he believes she now understands that the violence is being pushed by only a fringe of Muslim society. Surayud said that the Queen was in the south to promote agricultural and local handicraft projects and that, during the course of these promotions, she had many opportunities to meet with local residents, especially housewives, to hear their concerns. In conversations with southern leaders and ordinary citizens, the Queen and Surayud urged prominent clerics and political figures to lead by example, to speak out against violence,  and to organize local self-defense groups in cooperation with the security forces. [05BANGKOK7091]

Queen Sirikit has long taken a special interest in southern Thailand and has spent long periods based there in her Narathiwat palace. It is unthinkable that she would lack a deep understanding of the situation in the area, and Surayud’s critical comments are a clear case of lèse majesté.


In December 2008, following months of violent protests by Yellow Shirt mobs that culminated in a damaging siege of Bangkok’s airports, and a judicial intervention dissolving the ruling pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party, the Democrat Party led by Abhisit Vejjajiva took power at the helm of a coalition government. Thaksin’s supporters claimed that what had happened was deeply undemocratic, perhaps not understanding that Abhisit’s government had secured power through entirely legitimate means in Thailand’s parliamentary system.

The Democrats have a long tradition of loyalty to the palace and their government had the support of Thailand’s royalists. Unknown to the monarchists, however, Democrat Party Secretary General Suthep Thaugsuban clearly lacked loyalty to the throne.

In a meeting with U.S. diplomats in April 2007, Suthep made the treasonous claim that Bhumibol and Sirikit had disagreed over the 2006 coup:

Suthep… said King Bhumibol had not favored the 2006 coup.  Suthep claimed that, on the night of the coup, the King had resisted meeting with the Generals who overthrew Thaksin.  In the end, the King gave in to the entreaties of Queen Sirikit, but he publicly signaled her role in the coup by approving the release of a photograph of that audience which showed the King, casually dressed, in profile, while the Queen faced the camera. [07BANGKOK2304]

Worse – far worse – was to come. In 2009, Suthep made the astonishing claim that King Bhumibol was mentally ill, reinforcing his point with a shockingly disrespectful gesture:

DPM Suthep confirmed to then-Charge on October 1 … that King Bhumibol exhibits classic symptoms of depression. Tapping his forehead, Suthep claimed that the King’s physical health was okay, but that the really worry was his state of mind, depressed at the state of affairs in his Kingdom at the end of his life. [09BANGKOK2606]

Any further comment would be superfluous.


Suthep’s colleague Kasit Piromya, foreign minister in Abhisit’s administration, is another Democrat whose claims to be a loyal royalist are belied by comments he has made. In April 2o10, in a speech at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Kasit made the seditious suggestion that Thais should openly discuss reform of the monarchy:

We should be brave enough to go through all of this and even talk about the taboo subject of monarchy… I think we have to talk about the institution of the monarchy, how would it have to reform itself to the modern globalized world.

As the New York Times reported, the government scrambled to distance itself from Kasit’s remarks.

In 2009, Kasit gave the impression in remarks to Ambassador Eric G. John that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn was not yet fulfilling his royal duties as well as could be expected:

Kasit … suggested that the Crown Prince is far shrewder than most people believed. The Crown Prince clearly understood the difficulties his personal habits (love of flying and women) presented, and that he would need to change prior to assuming the throne. While the Crown Prince had promised several years ago to stop flying, he had not yet done so. Kasit remained confident, however, that the Crown Prince could successfully transition from one role to another… [09BANGKOK888]

Suggesting that the prince is not perfect, and has some troublesome personal habits, is another egregious breach of Thailand’s lèse majesté legislation.


Amid Thailand’s political upheavals, one group at least has proven reliably royalist – the right-wing nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy – also known as the Yellow Shirts for their fondness for wearing the king’s colour – and the related New Politics Party. Or so it had seemed. Yet the cables contain disturbing comments by a key Yellow Shirt leader, Suriyasai Katasila.

Suriyasai was praised in 2006 by the staunchly royalist Nation newspaper as a “man of the future“:

A spokesman of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Suriyasai has been standing in the front line, challenging and fighting the Thaksin regime in the name of people power.

Only in his early 30s and with enormous energy and an endless fighting spirit, he is sharp and knows how to think strategically to achieve political objectives…

Keep an eye on the future of this young man, who will be a force in Thai politics for decades to come.

This makes it particularly heinous to discover Suriyasai making criminal comments about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn in 2009:

For a party that was publicly built at least in part on a foundation of loyalty to the institution of the monarchy, the NPP privately is surprisingly schizophrenic on the succession question.  Suriyasai revealed to us that the PAD/NPP was split between those who unreservedly supported the institution, and those who merely supported the King personally.  He counted himself in the latter group, indicating a lack of support for the presumed heir to the throne: Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.  This begs the obvious question of what would happen to the party if – as expected – the Crown Prince inherited the keys to the Kingdom? Suriyasai told us that he personally believed the monarchy needed to be reformed, and even went so far as to characterize some elements of the royalist movement as “dangerous,” perhaps even more so than the red-shirt movement backing Thaksin. [09BANGKOK2855]

– – – – –

The above names, sadly, are only the tip of the iceberg. The leaked U.S. cables contain evidence of several other Thai officials showing less than total respect for the royal family.

However, to avoid overwhelming the Thai police and Chalerm’s war room, it would seem sensible to focus first on the nine criminals named above in this article. Once they have been brought to justice, I would be delighted to share details of other miscreants I have identified from the cables.

Prime Minister Yingluck and Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm: Over to you. Go get ’em.


  1. Peter Gibbs says:

    No comments here about the monarchy, but what about free speech in this so called democracy?

  2. Tharit Pendit says:

    Dear Acharn Andrew,

    Thank you for bringing this evidence to our attention. It gives us great joy to learn that even a foreigner can revere and protect the King as fiercely as us Thais.

    Due to our limited budget, we’ll focus our efforts on suspects 1. and 2.

    Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

    Yours truly,

    The Department of Special Investigation

  3. The Breakfast says:

    Am curious what strategy you would have for getting rid of lese majeste? While I wholeheartedly agree it should be absolutely abolished the Yingluck government are clearly caught between a rock and a hard place. If they attempt to get rid of the law without first cementing their own power they will immediately be called disloyal and risk a coup. All the signs are that Pheu Thai don’t like the law but to just stop its enforcement without amending it via parliament is just not feasible particularly when you consider that LM charges can be filed by anyone. It therefore makes it almost impossible for PT to then contain it unless they engage in the potentially game-ending process of reform.
    Secondly, you seem to solely point the finger at PT here – which is very odd given that certain hate campaign groups like Social Sanctions (be interested to hear what you think should happen to such hate campaigns in a post-LM Thailand) are far more active than PT in pursuing and attacking people for LM.
    Thirdly, the other possible strategy to get rid of LM would be launch a proper campaign of disobedience. From what can be made out no-one (you, Pravit or anyone) is really prepared to put their money where their mouth is and go to jail as a part of such an organised campaign. If you came back to Thailand, went to jail as part of a pre-prepared campaign and received global attention you’d do far more to hasten the end of LM than a 1000 articles like this. And it has to be said, that, at the moment, those who are in prison (Somyot, Da Torpedo etc) are not attacking PT in the way you are. Maybe they are able to see the far more complicated picture than you are?

  4. Andrew M.Marshall says:

    @The Breakfast: The problem of course goes far beyond PT. But many of those who fought to get PT elected are deeply unhappy about some of their recent actions. If PT wants to go down the path of doing the wrong thing for tactical reasons, they may as well join with the Democrats.

    I am aware of Social Sanction and other groups and I despise them. So should PT.

    Fair point on disobedience and going to jail. Let’s just say I have not yet ruled that out.

  5. The Breakfast says:

    “But many of those who fought to get PT elected are deeply unhappy about some of their recent actions.”

    Really? Who? Specifically? You? Who else?

    From what I know many supporters of PT realise how complicated this is and how dysfunctional Thai politics are. As Bangkok Pundit pointed out today PT’s position is also complex.

    As I asked you before what would be your strategy, long-term, to secure democracy and better human rights situation in Thailand? Surely the first step should be to shore up the democratically elected government against threats from the military? Why aren’t you using your profile to attack the threatening noises made by the amaat against the democratically elected government?

    Or do you see your role purely to stand on the sidelines barking at passing cars?

  6. Andrew M.Marshall says:

    @The Breakfast:

    Most of those I talk to who voted for PT come from one strand of the movement, admittedly: progressive, left-leaning, unimpressed by Thaksin. They are overwhelmingly against Chalerm’s comments, and indeed overwhelmingly against people like Chalerm having any place in Thai politics in the 21st century. This is a man whose son killed a policeman in cold blood in a crowded nightclub, and who is now in charge of the national police office.

    I don’t see the role of journalists as “barking at passing cars”. I think our job is to hold those in power to account, to provoke debate, and promote transparency. I think that is a valuable role.

    It’s interesting to hear you talk about “how complicated this is and how dysfunctional Thai politics are” because that is exactly the same refrain we heard from Abhisit and his friends, justifying their collaboration with the military and Newin Chidchob, their restrictions on free speech and their blatant double standards. It would be sad if PT prove to be no different.

    I don’t think it is acceptable to ever wilfully trample on human rights and free speech for tactical reasons to shore up one’s position before embarking on promised reform. It wasn’t acceptable from the Democrats and it’s not acceptable from PT. Period.

    A long-term strategy to secure democracy and better human rights in Thailand has to start from the principle that everybody has the right to basic freedoms, and to demand these freedoms, and we should encourage all Thais to stand up for their rights. That is the purpose of my journalism on Thailand. Thais have been told for too long that basic rights are a luxury that can be dropped when required for political expediency. They need to learn that does not have to be the case.

    Every person who encourages Thais – or anyone – to think of human rights as an optional extra is helping perpetuate systems where rights are denied: such systems survive and prosper due to the acquiescence of those who are told there is no alternative.

    There is an alternative. Instead of supporting the government we consider to be least unpalatable, we can help inform and educate people so they demand a government that truly recognises and respects their rights. If that is barking, then sure, I’ll keep barking at cars.

  7. The Breakfast says:

    There is not one person I know who has been supportive of the Red Shirts or PT who is particularly happy with Chalerm’s comments.

    However, many of those same “progressive left-leaning” people would also see that attacking PT right now over this is an amaat trap. That’s why they are pretty quiet, or, attacking both PT and the amaat. The left-leaning progressives you refer to, including those in prison, such as Somyot, Surachai are not attacking PT publicly. As they are actually in prison and having to deal directly with the consequences of LM I prefer to take my lead from them rather than a journalist sitting in Singapore.

    Why do you assume that because I criticise your position and work that then means I support Chalerm? Is that how you defend your own arguments by attempting to denigrate those who politely disagree with you? I’m also a bit bemused why you described my comments as being similar to Abhisit. Is this just your way or shutting down any argument or debate by attempting to equate anyone who disagrees with you as being an amaat?

    Also where do human rights begin and end for you? Just with the right for journalists to write what they want? Freedom of speech? Redistribution of wealth? Access to health care? The very basic fundamental right that the enfranchisement of the Thai electorate is enshrined? You say you loathe Social Sanctions why don’t you write a piece exposing who they are, what they do, their links to the Dems, military etc? They are far bigger supporters of LM than PT, after all. Why don’t you write about the Bangkok Post’s links to the Democrat Party and that paper’s complete hypocrisy when it shouts about “censorship” the moment PT take office but was almost mute when it’s best pal, Abhisit, was in power?

    LM is an abomination and must be entirely removed. My strategy would be to attack the main supporters of that law – the military, amaat, palace, Democrats, PAD and elements in PT – along with a campaign of civil disobedience. Your strategy is to “educate”. How? Specifically? Via which route? Your blog? Isn’t that hopelessly naive? Do you really think ordinary Thais care at all about what you write or even know who you are? It’s a very wooly proposition that has no real foundation in anything achievable. I would add that many Thais – Red Shirts and those who live in the north and north east – are far far ahead of you on this issue. They don’t need patronising comments from distant journalists about “education” when they were dying on the street last year. Many of them know full well the real conditions of Thailand and if you actually visited those areas you’d be surprised how sophisticated and switched on people actually are. Also, as Pundit acknowledged earlier plenty in PT don’t like LM – why don’t you support that element while attacking the pro-LM element? No political party anywhere, and particularly in more developed democracies, is homogenus – there is always a broad church of opinions. Political parties are public spaces and issues need to be debated and significant change needs to be strategised.

    I agree entirely that principles shouldn’t be compromised but your analysis, as it was of the cables. is both weak and naive.

    I think I will wait for those with more credibility than yourself – Somsak Jeam, Somyot, Jittra, Streckfuss, Thongchai, Thitinan, Giles, Sombat etc – to comment on this.

    Good day to you.

  8. Andrew M.Marshall says:

    @The Breakfast

    1. I never suggested you support Chalerm or his comments. It is clear that you don’t. It is also clear that you think we should all just hold our noses and put up with them. I think that view is very naive and counterproductive.

    2. I described your comments as being similar to Abhisit because they were. It has long been a key argument of the Democrats and the more enlightened Yellows that in a perfect world, they would be able to put the military back in the barracks, end Newin’s blatant plundering of the nation, lift restrictions on free speech, reform the police, and so on. But the time was never quite right yet, the situation was difficult, so we had to give them a break. That was their only real argument, in fact – “We are doing the best that we can, and the other guys are worse.” You seem to be making a similar argument for PT. I think Thailand deserves better than that.

    3. Another reason your comments are strikingly similar to the Yellows is that you seem to believe that one side or other should be shielded from critical journalistic scrutiny, and that publicly disagreeing with the government’s actions is somehow undesirable or unacceptable. Similarly, your list of things I should be reporting on reminds me of the many complaints I have had from the other side, who told me I should be reporting on Cambodia’s “theft” of Thai territory or Thaksin’s “crimes”, and so on. Likewise, your assertion that Thais all understand things much better than me and as a foreign journalist I should shut up and keep out of it gives me a mysterious feeling of deja vu. With respect, I think independent critical scrutiny of all sides is valuable, and debate is valuable. It is up to me what I write about, and it is up to others to agree or disagree with me, or ignore me, or share their own views and arguments. The reason that I am focusing my writing on the government is that – obviously – they are the government, and like all governments they should be held to account. I think the possibility that PT will betray the aspirations of many of its supporters is a bigger threat right now than the rantings of Social Sanction or the shortcomings of the Bangkok Post, neither of which are exactly news. Many people disagree, I am sure, and if they think my arguments are nonsense, or don’t even know who I am, then fair enough: I don’t claim any special right to be heard, or respected, but I at least have the right to say what I think, and people are free to decide whether to listen. Judging from the number of hits I get on my blog, my impression is that some people in Thailand want to read what I write. But I don’t claim to have any special authority, beyond being a writer involved in the ongoing debate about Thailand’s future. I think debate should be encouraged and that a variety of opinions should be heard. That’s why I welcome your comments and I would welcome your detailed comments on #thaistory and the cables – if you think my interpretation was wrong, great, let’s hear yours. Debate is a positive thing, surely?

    4. On “falling into an amaat trap”. My view is that looking at Thailand’s situation as a struggle between two camps – amaat versus prai, or Red versus Yellow, or whatever, and insisting that everybody picks one side or the other, is restrictive and damaging. The suggestion that Thais have to choose between the rightist royalists or Thaksin and his cronies, and that those are the only two options on offer, is very misleading. The tragic irony of the crisis is that so few Thais seem to have realized that both visions are fundamentally flawed. The country is being torn apart by a destructive struggle between two inadequate and undemocratic ideologies. I don’t agree that Thais have to choose the one they find least distasteful, and to do otherwise is some kind of “trap”. I think it is a trap to claim that Thais don’t deserve something better than both.

    5. You say “I entirely agree that principles shouldn’t be compromised” but your whole argument is that principles have to be compromised temporarily, right? Or did I misunderstand it? Of course, the government cannot repeal 112 right away. It will take time. But that does not mean that they should be actively enforcing it. We should not be seeing ordinary Thais hunted down and arrested in 2011 under a PT government over this archaic and unjust law. Your argument appears to be that before the law is repealed, it has to first be enthusiastically enforced for a while. The Yellows argue that to protect democracy, it has to be suspended for a while. I disagree with both arguments.

    6. Some of those with more credibility than me have already commented on this issue. If you can read Thai, or can have it translated for you, take a look at Ajarn Somsak’s Facebook comments.

    7. “Plenty in PT don’t like LM – why don’t you support that element while attacking the pro-LM element? No political party anywhere, and particularly in more developed democracies, is homogenous – there is always a broad church of opinions. Political parties are public spaces and issues need to be debated and significant change needs to be strategised.” I agree with all of that. The initial blog post was intended to demonstrate the hypocrisy of those who support LM, particularly those in PT who support LM. I don’t see how it can be construed as an attack on the whole Red movement. It was a contribution to an important debate. I can understand why you might disagree with my views, but you seem to be suggesting I shouldn’t be making a contribution to the debate at all, and that only people who share your view should be heard.

    8. All these comments are intended respectfully, as part of an informed debate. I certainly did not intend to denigrate or insult you. I realise you regard any comparison of you with the Yellow camp as grossly insulting, so just to be clear, of course I am not suggesting that you share their ideology in any way. But I do see clear parallels between your defense of PT and attitude towards critical scrutiny of the side you support, and the arguments of the Democrats and Yellows when I criticise them, which I have done consistently for several years. As I said above, I think robust and respectful debate is a positive thing and all my comments were intended to be in that spirit. If I crossed the line into unacceptable attacks on you then that is not cool, but frankly I don’t think that I did. Again, happy to hear a counter-argument on this.

    Best wishes

  9. Andrew M.Marshall says:

    One final point: You may find this open letter, and the signatories, of interest:

    H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra Prime Minister Government House Pitsanulok Road, Dusit Bangkok 10300 Thailand
    August 31, 2011 Dear Prime Minister

    112 Scholars call for action on Article 112 and 2007 Computer Crimes Act

    Following the 19 September 2006 coup, we the undersigned 112 international scholars have been concerned by the diminution of the space for the free exchange of ideas in Thailand. We note with concern several pressing human rights issues, including political prisoners and unresolved questions of accountability for violence.

    Since April-May 2010, we watched essential freedoms constricted, with a number of new arrests and charges brought under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

    We welcome your acknowledgment of the seriousness of abuses connected to Article 112. However, we note with concern that while cases of prominent figures may be covered by the media, there are many cases where government and media have been silent. Many individuals appear to be in pre-charge detention and others have been charged and refused bail while awaiting trial. In addition, we are concerned to note that charges under these laws have continued to be filed in the past few weeks.

    Statistics from the Office of the Attorney General last year show the number of new lese majeste cases received by prosecutors have doubled since 2005; statistics from the Office of the Judiciary show a much more dramatic increase.

    We are very concerned that explicitly political cases are continuing to be processed. For example, Mr. Somyos Preuksakasemsuk was detained for 84 days before formal charges were recently filed. In this case, much like in the case against Prachatai webmaster Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Mr. Somyos is being prosecuted not for anything he said or did himself, but on the basis of someone else’s writing in a publication he edited. In the case of U.S. citizen Joe Gordon, he too was held for 84 days before the recent filing of formal charges. The Criminal Court has repeatedly denied bail requests for Mr. Somyos and Mr. Gordon.

    Recent statements and petitions by academics and writers in Thailand and the U.S. Embassy statement on Mr. Gordon’s case reflect mounting domestic and international concern regarding these kinds of cases.
    Detention and intimidation of other citizens, is symptomatic of a broader set of practices which threaten human rights and the future of democracy in Thailand. We take this opportunity to respectfully request that you:

    1) undertake a thorough review of all arrests and prosecutions of Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, and related provisions;
    2) initiate procedures that would grant bail to those currently incarcerated under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act so that they are able to adequately prepare legal defenses; and
    3) review Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, and related provisions, and establish mechanisms that eliminate the political abuse of these laws.

    Respectfully yours,

    Adadol Ingawanij, Senior Research Fellow, University of Westminster, United Kingdom Dennis Altman, Professor, LaTrobe University, Australia
    Dennis Arnold, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A. Aileen S.P.Baviera, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
    Peter F. Bell, Emeritus Professor, State University of New York, U.S.A. Katherine Bowie, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A. Shaun Breslin, Professor, University of Warwick, United Kingdom Andrew Brown, Lecturer, University of New England, Australia
    Joseph A. Camilleri, Professor, La Trobe University, Australia
    Toby Carroll, Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore, Singapore William Case, Professor, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Dae-oup Chang, Senior Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom Noam Chomsky, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.
    John Clark, Professor, University of Sydney, Australia
    Peter A. Coclanis, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
    Michael Connors, Associate Professor, LaTrobe University, Australia
    Vicki Crinis, Research Fellow, University of Wollongong, Australia
    Thomas Davis, Lecturer, University of Melbourne, Australia
    Heather D’Cruz, Adjunct Research Associate, Curtin University, Australia
    Richard F. Doner, Professor, Emory University, U.S.A.
    Jamie Doucette, Lecturer, University of British Columbia, Canada
    Bjoern Dressel, Research Fellow, Griffith University, Australia
    Mark Driscoll, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A. John S. Dryzek, Professor, Australian National University, Australia
    Nancy Eberhardt, Professor, Knox College, U.S.A.
    Grant Evans, Fellow, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Nicholas Farrelly, Research Fellow, Australian National University, Australia
    Federico Ferrara, Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Robert Fisher, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney, Australia
    David Fullbrook, Graduate student, National University of Singapore, Singapore
    Arnika Fuhrmann, Research Scholar, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Paul Gellert, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, U.S.A.
    Kristi Giselsson, Research Associate, University of Tasmania, Australia
    Jim Glassman, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada
    Mikael Gravers, Associate Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark
    Geoffrey C. Gunn, Professor, Nagasaki University, Japan
    Tyrell Haberkorn, Research Fellow, Australian National University, Australia
    Vedi Hadiz, Professor, Murdoch University, Australia
    Shahar Hameiri, Postdoctoral Fellow, Murdoch University, Australia
    Annette Hamilton, Professor, University of New South Wales, Australia
    Adam Hanieh, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
    Eva Hansson, Senior Lecturer, Stockholm University, Sweden
    Rachel Harrison, Reader, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
    Paul Healy, Senior Lecturer, University of New England, Australia
    Steve Heder, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
    Michael Herzfeld, Professor, Harvard University, U.S.A.
    Kevin Hewison, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
    Allen Hicken, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, U.S.A.
    C.J. Hinke, Independent scholar, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand, Thailand
    Philip Hirsch, Professor, University of Sydney, Australia
    Thomas Hoy, Lecturer, Thammasat University, Thailand
    Caroline Hughes, Associate Professor, Murdoch University, Australia
    Paul D. Hutchcroft, Professor, Australian National University, Australia
    Feyzi Ismail, Doctoral candidate, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom Søren Ivarsson, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
    Kanishka Jayasuriya, Professor, University of Adelaide, Australia
    Lee Jones, Lecturer, Queen Mary College, United Kingdom
    Patrick Jory, Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland, Australia
    Arne L. Kalleberg, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
    Charles Keyes, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, U.S.A.
    Damien Kingsbury, Professor, Deakin University, Australia
    H. Ruediger Korff, Professor, University of Passau, Germany
    John Langer, Honorary Fellow, Victoria University, Australia
    Tomas Larsson, Lecturer, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Laurids Sandager Lauridsen, Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark
    Peter Leyland, Professor, London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
    Samson Lim, Doctoral candidate, Cornell University, U.S.A.
    Peter Limqueco, Co-editor, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Philippines
    Robert Manne, Professor, La Trobe University, Australia
    Thomas Marois, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
    Mary Beth Mills, Professor, Colby College, U.S.A.
    Daniel Bertrand Monk, Professor, Colgate University, U.S.A.
    Michael Montesano, Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore Paolo Novak, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
    Chris Nyland, Professor, Monash University, Australia
    Rene Ofreneo, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
    Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
    John Pickles, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
    Piya Pangsapa, Senior Lecturer, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad & Tobago Pongphisoot Busbarat, Research Associate, Australian National University, Australia
    Poowin Bunyavejchewin, Graduate student, University of Hull, United Kingdom Prajak Kongkirati, Doctoral candidate, Australian National University, Australia Preedee Hongsaton, Doctoral candidate, Australian National University, Australia Rajah Rasiah, Professor, University of Malaya, Malaysia
    Craig J. Reynolds, Professor, Australian National University, Australia David Rezvani, Visiting Assistant Professor, Trinity College, U.S.A. Garry Rodan, Professor, Murdoch University, Australia
    Eric Sheppard, Professor, University of Minnesota, U.S.A.
    elin o’Hara slavick, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A. Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt, Associate Professor, Aalborg University, Denmark Gavin Shatkin, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, U.S.A.
    Mark Smith, Senior Lecturer, The Open University, United Kingdom
    Claudio Sopranzetti, Doctoral candidate, Harvard University, U.S.A.
    Andrew Spooner, Doctoral candidate, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom
    Irene Stengs, Senior Researcher, Meertens Institute, The Netherlands
    Geoffrey Stokes, Professor, Deakin University, Australia
    David Streckfuss, Independent scholar, Thailand
    Janet Sturgeon, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University, Canada
    Donald K. Swearer, Emeritus Professor, Swarthmore College, U.S.A.
    Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines Michelle Tan, Independent Scholar, U.S.A.
    Nicholas Tapp, Professor Emeritus, Australian National University, Australia
    Thongchai Winichakul, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.
    Robert Tierney, Lecturer, Charles Sturt University, Australia
    Serhat Uenaldi, Doctoral candidate, Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany
    Andrew Vandenberg, Senior Lecturer, Deakin University, Australia
    Joel Wainwright, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, U.S.A.
    Andrew Walker, Senior Fellow, Australian National University, Australia
    Meredith Weiss, Associate Professor, University at Albany, SUNY, U.S.A.
    Marion Werner, Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo, U.S.A.
    Ingrid Wijeyewardene, Lecturer, University of New England, Australia

  10. The Breakfast says:

    Thais have made their choice very clearly in the last election. For a PT government. In their millions. A few thousand hits (as nearly all your work is in English and is likely blocked in most of Thailand claims as to its impact have to be questioned) on your blog, mostly, I would guess from a foreign audience is barely a credible comparison. And do Thais deserve better? Do people everywhere deserve better in the current world climate? I think so.

    During the 2008 US election Chomsky said, when urging people to vote for Obama, that choosing the lesser of two evils is the only rational choice because you then get less evil. This doesn’t then mean you then naively accept everything the Obama regime does but it does mean you engage with the process of how power is achieved and enacted.

    You claim you want a “better Thailand’ – via which means? Revolution? Democracy and the parliamentary process? Or are we back to wooly notions of “education” without specifics. Or do you think the Thais need some form of charitable acts handed down by Westerners from privileged backgrounds living outside the country?

    I am still waiting for you to turn your fire on the real backers of LM – Social Sanctions etc. Yet you claim their actions are of no real consequence or that it is not “newsy” enough for you? Does your analysis only stretch to what is newsy? You have given them a complete pass. Maybe because they are not in the “cables” and as they seems to be your only source (apart from cutting and pasting from elsewhere) you’d struggle to put together something?

    You claim to want a proper debate – so why did you say “Your argument appears to be that before the law is repealed, it has to first be enthusiastically enforced for a while. ”

    Point me to the exact phrase in my argument which leads you to conclude that? I can’t find it and believe you invented that line just to denigrate my argument. Once again, it seems that because I disagreed with you that then means I am pro-PAD, pro-LM etc etc. How utterly ridiculous. It is obvious that your tone is absolutely about shutting down debate. Very poor form indeed.

    I have no problem with foreign journalists commenting on Thailand – but your patronising “they need education” line is also straight out of the PAD handbook. It infers that only those educated enough understand democracy and freedom of speech. As I said, the 2006 coup, the PAD and Ratchaprasong were probably the best forms of education for the Red Shirts and the Thai masses.

    I follow Somsak J’s FB closely. His reading of the situation (as were his analysis of the cables) is far more nuanced and credible than yours.

    I also find your reductive tone about two undemocratic ideologies to be a bit absurd. Once again you put words into others mouths. This spinning of others’ comments is an obvious and tedious device in any debate but it leads nowhere.

    I personally don’t see this as just about Thaksin and the amaat. Though it is very obvious that the amaat have been attacking democracy for decades – long, long before Thaksin was on the scene. This leads me to the conclusion, based on the evidence, that the biggest obstacle to the establishment of democracy in Thailand is the nexus of military, palace and other elites. Unless Thaksin, from his evildoers lair in Dubai, invented some form of time travel not known to anyone else

    In truth Thaksin’s power has derived mainly from creating a more populist market-centred and meritocratic laissez faire form of capitalism with some tones of authoritarianism. He also introduced plenty of genuinely decent policies – cheap health care, micro credit schemes that alleviated poverty – that made him massively popular. At least Thais thought so.

    And, so far, Thaksin has been the only real, viable threat to the amaat’s continued, feudalistic grip on power. That is why, from day one, so many on the left have been in an uneasy alliance with TRT and Thaksin. Because they know breaking the amaat’s power is the first step to establishing a workable form of democracy in Thailand.

    Remember that in 2006 the amaat could have chosen to let the democratic process work its way out and remove Thaksin that way. At the time of the 2006 coup there was an election about to happen – Thaksin had already fought three elections and won them all. He had nothing to fear from democracy and still doesn’t.

    I would personally love to see Thaksin’s brand of politics outflanked from the left by a genuinely democratic progressive position.

    Yes, you should be critical of PT on the LM issue but your analysis lacks the kind of nuance necessary to fully understand how power and politics really work in the context of Thailand.

    Finally, where, once again did I suggest that you “shouldn’t be making a contribution to the debate at all”?

    Your continually use of “it seems” etc followed by a completely made-up allegation about what you believe I think is just a bit pathetic. I think your line on this is wrong and I came to comment on it. I have not once, anywhere, said you shouldn’t make your argument. Why do you keep making stuff up about those who argue against you? Why not just stick to what I wrote and argue against that?

    (Also not sure what that scholarly, balanced letter has to do with your sarcastic, one-eyed attack – you seem overly desperate to prove your anti-Thaksin credentials to me).

  11. I agree with what is termed your ‘sarcastic, one-eyed attack’. It seems that ‘ad hominen attack’ is desert at The Breakfast. Certainly the amaat is the enemy of democracy, but so is Thaksin. He has mastered elections 101 as the proverbial lessor of two evils, but much of what he does is still evil. And much of the lessening of his evil is perceptual rather than real. Thaksin is out for Number One and anyone goes under the bus if it advances the interests of Number One.

    Backing Puea Thai when up against the Democrat/Royal Thai Army alternative seemed the right thing to do, but calling out every wrong move by Puea Thai is now essential. In addition to Puea Thai’s embrace of LM and the Royal Thai Army command, the Royal Thai Police’ s war on no- and slow-payers in their drug protection racket has resumed. Chalerm is waffling on Tharit at DSI. There is no talk of prosecution of any of the extra-legal murders of this century, be they those under Democrat/Royal Thai Army or those under Thaksin. What’s happened to decentralization? Certainly the new Bangkok Rice Cartel is as centralized as they come. The only ‘redshirts’ in the government… Chalerm’s cop-killing son was listed as one by the Bangkok Post… are Puea Thai thugs, not redshirts…

    The people need to start building their own party, bottom-up. They have no representation in Thailand. And, in fact, that goes for many so-called democracies, the US chief among them.

  12. Jim Taylor says:

    Andrew has shown his blatant bias in the use of language against Thaksin/LM 112 (“willful”, “scurrilous”, “reprehensible”, etc.) and it is not clear why he wants to protect the falange/palace, despite the fact that the claims made about the complicity of palace interests are actually quite true and accurate- if one is objective and “open eyes”. Get closer to the ground Andrew: Become “taa sawaang”.

  13. Baobo says:

    From your last article: “Palace insiders sometimes concede that there is indeed more to the story, but then demur to say that only real insiders, only Thais within the inner royal circle, can comprehend the mysteries of the king’s reign.”

    Recent Wikileaks cables revealed that the king of Saudi Arabia is not age 88, but in fact 92 and a heavy smoker. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are also seemingly immortal. It’s becoming a joke… these men are going to be 115 and the public still won’t “get it” – ie. that several monarchs and dictators (including those I mentioned) were CIA inventions from their very inception. A most notable example is Muammar Gaddafi, who took power in 1969. It’s no secret that such leaders use disguises and body doubles as a security precaution. The big secret is that “they” are actually entire teams of intelligence agents loyal to Western democracies. When the people living in such nations are finally willing to revolt, NATO then stages a fake war of sorts and actively helps rebel leaders take power against the phony regimes.

    I am all but certain this model was used in Iran beginning in 1979, and possibly in Egypt last summer. Meaning that both countries are or were CIA territory.

    Your superb coverage on Thailand leads me to suspect its Monarchy is also under Western control. Perhaps the king has died or retired several times during his long reign, each time replaced with a new agent, waiting and hoping that the Thai people will catch on and overthrow him.

    I would also speculate that the goal of the new Prime Minister in enforcing lèse majesté is mainly to antagonize and make light of the injustice, thus generating all the more pretense for change.