May 26th, 2017

Can we get rid of the U.S. ambassador?

From Manager, May 4, 2017
PM Prayuth: I’m pleased to accept your invitation to visit the US… if you help take this guy out of my country….
On paper held by U.S. Ambassador Glyn T. Davies: When will you have an election?
Caption: [He] Should make this deal

[Refers to an invitation from U.S. President Donald Trump to ASEAN leaders to visit the White House. U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies has been criticized in the Thai world for trying to intervene in the country’s internal political situation because of his calls for quick elections.
Thai critics and supporters of Thaksin alike tend to interpret this as the U.S. having a desire for Thaksin to once again control the country since “quick elections” would return his party to power.]

Earlier: 2016: The U.S. ambassador is a meddler
2014: Remembering U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney
2014: U.S. diplomatic drift and Thailand

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager | Leave a comment

Fresh blood at Chula: Weekly News Magazines, May, 2017

From Nation Weekend, May 12, 2017
Main cover reads: Perspectives on the life of the younger generation ‘This world is yours.’
[Refers to student political activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal elected president of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Council. The junta has harshly criticized him and his views, however the article points out that his election shows how the young generation are controlling how they want to their university to be.]

Left: ‘Phraprommahabandit’ talks about the behind-the-scenes making a Tripitaka of [combining] three religious denominations
[An interview with the Dean of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University Phraprommahabandit who recently launched the first English-language Tripitaka, a Buddhist scripture, which combines three religious denomination’s perspectives called “Common Buddhist Text: Guidance and Insight from the Buddha.”]

From Matichon Weekly, May 12-18, 2017
Main cover reads: Ana Is this boy is…’Netiwit’
[Refers to student political activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal elected to be the president of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Council. His election is believed to signal that normally conservative Chalalongkorn University is embracing societal reform. PM Prayuth was quick to condemn the election.]

Top left: 51th year anniversary of Chit Phumisak. Going back to read a magazine ‘Tatsana’ Poetics in the earlier period of ‘optimism’
On the magazine: Tatsana’
Man on the magazine’s cover: Chit Phumisak
[Refers to Thailand’s political activist, author, philologist, historian and poet Chit Phumisak. He has been known as the ‘Che [Guevara] of Thailand.’ Although he was passed away, his work still has an influence on the younger generation of political activists. The magazine was one of channels for Chit to express his political views to the public. The magazine was named ‘Tatsana’ meaning as “perspective” or “viewpoint” in English.]

From Manager Weekly, May 13-19, 2017
Main cover reads: Korea King power
[This cover plays with the words of two controversial cases: Korea King and King power. First, the advertisements for the ‘Korea King’ flying pan were banned after a finding that the ads overstated the quality of the pans.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the National Reform Steering Assembly committee proposed to end the contract with the country’s largest duty-free operator–King Power Group. The Airport of Thailand dismissed the news and insisted it will not scrap its existing contract with King Power.
What is the implication here? Since mega-money companies are always associated with political parties and blocks, the loss of the duty-free contract would be a way to strike at King Power tycoon Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who is rumored to be working as a middleman to repair the relationship between Thaksin and Newin.]

Top: Indonesia sues [orange] ‘PTTEP’ for 70 billion [black] “Good governance” and making a good image can’t help at all.
[Refers to Thailand’s oil company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) is being sued by Indonesia to 70 billion baht (around USD 2 billion) for the 2009 Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea.]

Bottom left: “Violence in the south” under the hands of “big military” Trying to solve causing much worse. “Brother Pom” is free. “Dream team” has their own conflict.
Pictures, top left to right: Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, Defense Minister Gen. Udomdej Sitabutr
Bottom left to right: Chief of the 4th army Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanich, Gen. Aksara Kerdphol
[Refers to the junta’s attempt led by Deputy PM Prawit whose nickname is “Pom,” to solve the unrest in the southernmost provinces. After the latest bomb at the Big C supermarket in Pattani province which caused a number of injures, the junta’s team has come under criticism for its ineffective performance. There are also rumord about an internal conflict among related military agencies involved in solving the problem.]

Bottom right: “Srivara” builds a canal violating the law?? The truth must be ‘investigated’
[Refers to Deputy National Policy Chief Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul who recently sued anti-corruption activist Veera Somkwamkid for accusing him of illegally building a road across a public canal in Nakhon Ratchasima province.]

From Lokwannee, May 19-25, 2017
Main cover reads: 3 years of the NCPO; People with fresh faces
[Refers to the three year anniversary of the coup. The three fingers refers to the Hunger Games anti-junta salute. The fingers have the “hear no evil, etc.” faces on them to symbolize the junta’s repression. “People with fresh faces” comes from the mysterious new plaque which replaced the 1932 Siamese Revolution plaque.]

Posted in Thai Newspapers and Magazines | Leave a comment

Two cartoons with the same idea: Media submerged

From Thairath, May 2, 2017
Title: Law submerged
On the submarine: Bill on controlling the media
Phi Nooring: Taking it to the deepest of the sea
A month: Don’t force!

[This cartoon above combines two issues–the military’s purchase of a submarine with the bill meant to control the media.
These cartoons (above and below) with the same idea come from radically opposite sides of Thai politics.
Thairath’s Sia is an inveterate Thaksin and Red Shirt supporter. Naewa (below) has the harshest anti-Thaksin and often pro-junta cartoons.
However, in this case they are both combining the submarine and media control issue to attack the junta.]

From Naewna, May 2, 2017
Title: Toothpick can’t resist the battleship!!!
On the torpedo: Bill on controlling the media
Above the missile: The NRSA [National Reform Steering Assembly] approved it…

[This cartoon uses the Thai idiom “from a toothpick to the battleship” meaning “everything but the kitchen sink.”
In the cartoon, the saying is used to show that the media–with its pen to write–is not match for the junta which is able to make huge purchases at will for its own benefit.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons, Editorial Cartoons - Thairath - Sia | Leave a comment

28 years ago: An article in the NYT about Rama IX

From May 21, 1989: King Bhumibol’s Reign
…In an age when monarchs elsewhere serve a ceremonial rather than a political function, King Bhumibol is a crucial stabilizing and unifying force. He has helped his 55 million people weather decades of crises, including a Communist insurgency, the rapid industrialization of recent years and a series of military coups engineered by a powerful army that has dominated if not run every Government in Thailand for more than 50 years…

Posted in Today in History | Leave a comment

4 years ago: Critic of Prime Minister has Facebook page suspended

Critic of Prime Minister has Facebook page suspended; ‘ignores’ summonses for PM’s lawsuit

Posted in Today in History | Leave a comment

More reaction to the bombings

Time: Was the Bangkok Hospital Bombing a Rare Glimpse of Turmoil Within Thailand’s Military Regime?
Sort of implies military turmoil without really having any content in the article. Even the title of the article is a hedging question.

The interesting and engaging Khoasod website sticks to its pro-Red Shirt and anti-junta slant in Reaching for Blame, Police Connect Bombings a Decade Apart.
The article conflates bombings falsely pinned on Red Shirts in recent years with the 2007 bombings (thought to be the work of a certain general). It is implied that all should be considered as examples of unfairness to Thaksin.
However, they are correct in the assertion that the April 2015 and 2015 Erawan bombings were not connected to Red Shirt politics–conclusions that were apparent right from the start despite attempts to create fake news from the events.
Despite the drumbeat of anti-junta articles from iconoclastic reporters like Pravit, its not really clear if Khaosod is pro-Red Shirt or if it just tends to a more Western editorial bent that often ignores what is really underpinning events in Thai culture.
This is an American viewpoint that considers free speech and elections good and anything else worthy of contempt. Accompanying this is an excitement for irony and outrage over governments actions.
(The Khaosod site also has excellent world news and pop culture coverage that is light years ahead of the Nation and Post’s coverage in terms of reader appeal.)

The Nation, never quite aware of its own Thainess and how to explain this to the rest of the world, has an editorial that unintentionally shows how, in the Thai world, moderate-scale bombings and unrest reflects on the government in power–not on those who committed the act.
In this conception, peaceful protest or violent bombs are simply the result of pressure that impinges on peace and unity.
This is the idea that those impacted by the junta have been pushed too far and, in Thai style, feel compelled to act. And thus the junta only has itself to blame.
The Nation: Hospital blast exposes junta’s frailty

The junta’s response has been a typical mishmash of denials and attempts to downplay it all–along with the perennial assertion that tourism has not been impacted.

And here is our own analysis: What do these bombs mean?

Posted in Analysis, Terrorism | Leave a comment

We need to be more like Singapore

From Manager, May 1, 2017
At left is Singapore’s leader Lee Hsien Loong.
Man: We must make a mirror like Singapore. Their mirror reflects the cleaner politicians…
Caption: So… the mirror has the problem?

[This cartoon compares Singaporean politicians and Thai politicians. Singapore is lauded as the least corrupt country in Asia–a reality which Thais see as the opposite of their own country. Thais have constantly referred to Singapore as a model and goal of Thai politics and business. The mirror symbolizes the media which reflects the state of the nation and its politics.

The junta’s solution is to fix the mirror (i.e. the media) because of how it exposes the real nature of Thailand. The junta blames the media for creating division in the country and creating a negative view of the government. The cartoonist contends that Singaporean politics is actually clean and Thai politics is actually dirty. The mirror is not at fault.

More about the Thai fascination with Singapore: Do all Thai roads lead to Singapore?]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager, Singapore | Leave a comment

What do these bombs mean?

Hospital bomb tied to other blasts – The Nation, May 23, 2017

Bombings tied to “politics.” What does that mean?

The Nation article slyly contains the name of the general who is alleged to be behind this spate of bombings. This is the same general who was accused of conducting the 2007 New Year’s Eve bombings in Bangkok (1). This is a potent political accusation if true, and this analysis explains what these events likely mean.

The present bombings indicate the state of background negotiations that will determine the form of the next government along with the junta’s goal. This goal is not unity, but the creation of a coalition or block that freezes out the politics of Thaksin and his electoral majority in the next government.

In reporting Thai politics, the English language media focuses on easy, low-hanging fruit–anniversaries of past political ruptures, censorship and the antics of the prime minister–a person who is not even the most powerful person in the government.

The real consequential stories are the negotiations and the epic struggles to create the political blocks that must be formed before the junta dares to call new elections. This is the real story now and the real story that will shape the future of the nation.

As we have noted here almost weekly, Thai news magazines are full of stories speculating about these negotiations. They tie together a range of political figures from Newin Chidchob and his dormant coalition to big business networks centered around sources of campaign money such as the “Buriram Cluster” and the border casinos.

Prominent in the speculations are middlemen such as Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnviraku who has ties with both the ruling junta and Thaksin. King Power tycoon Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is rumored to be acting as a middleman to rebuild the relationship between Thaksin and Newin who was forced from politics by the strong arm tactics of the Red Shirts after he betrayed Thaksin to join a Democrat Party coalition. All of this led to speculation earlier this year that the junta was trying to negotiate some arrangement that pacifies Thaksin, but keeps him removed from politics.

These rumored talks raised fears that the junta might be thinking itself more clever than Thaksin at forming and holding together political blocks. However, no one has been more successful or tenacious than Thaksin in maintaining blocks of loyal MPs. Every previous attempt to beat him at his own game has failed.

The most powerful person in the junta–Deputy PM Prawit–is behind these negotiations. It should be noted that both the English-language Thai press as well as foreign sources have such a shallow grass of the political situation that they continue to focus on Prime Minister Prayuth and the peculiarities of his personal rule.

However, Prawit is thought to wield more influence and this has long been acknowledged in the Thai language media. Even with the opacity of the Thai world, it is surprising that such simple realities who actually runs the Thai government have been lost in the English language.

It should not be surprising then that the most recent bomb was placed in the Prawit memorial room of the hospital to drive home the apparent disenchantment with the present political currents.

The bombs are meant to discredit the junta–showing they are unable to maintain security and that there is dissension within their ranks. However, the present military clique (the Eastern Tigers) have shown they will go to any lengths to prevent Thaksin from once again directing a government from overseas.

These attacks appear to indicate the texture of what is happening in these negotiations. That the bombs are being left in sensitive and symbolic areas and at sensitive times likely indicates that there is a belief–in at least some political circles–that a viable coalition composed of Thaksin enemies and former friends is in danger of being formed–or that certain blocks will be frozen out of the next government despite election results. Thus, the bombings symbolize that the junta should understand that there is real opposition that can be raised to its machinations–real internal nefarious opposition beyond Red Shirt mobs. (And the location of a hospital is not unusual for Thai protest. It even symbolizes the “pushed too far” mindset that is expected to accompany the Thai conception of protest.)

However, it is very unlikely at this late date–over 10 years since the first anti-Thaksin coup–that there is any real deep military schisms that can be exploited.

Prayuth seems secure in his PM post and it is widely believed that he desires to remain prime minister after the next elections. This has caused a feeding frenzy from ambitious political party leaders who see their own chance to step in as a compromise PM candidate after the next elections–particularly those who can embody a non-military and non-Thaksin image that might be acceptable to the widest coalition of political blocks.

The Thai system still focuses on the politicians over the grassroots. Tough talk by the military and the anti-Thaksin establishment has always been focused, not on the populace at large, but on those political and business forces under Thaksin influence. It is meant to show them that there is the will, no matter what the consequences, to stall and wait out Thaksin and that those who do his bidding should abandon him.

While it is easy to see Thaksin still commanding political loyalty, it seems almost impossible that he could accomplish those things he has shown himself dedicated to doing–rewriting the constitution and/or producing an amnesty for himself so he can return to rule in person.

Thaksin will still be a force politically for the years going forward, but as we have written previously, the narrative is already shifting back to the traditional Thai political struggle–the proper place of the military in controlling Thai politics.

Ultimately these bombs are part of the Thai-style negotiations that will dictate what the next government will look like before even a single vote is cast.

Footnote
(1) Note that foreign embassies at the time of the 2007 bombings were falsely told that the bombings were the work of Southern separatists and to this day many still believe this (despite subsequent legal moves implicating a murky network of officials).
The then-ruling junta wanted to obfuscate the real motivation for the bombings as it did not wish to discredit its own narrative that things were under control–especially after a spate of disastrous and foolish actions taken in the month leading up to the bombings.
The present junta likewise would be loathe to stage such provocative bombings to further discredit its own assertions that it is working fully within the law and with the support of the people for unity.

Posted in Analysis, Terrorism | Leave a comment

Nothing is Permanent

From Arun, April 19, 2017
Title: Words – Dhammaveenai from Buddha’s mouth [Refers to the Buddhist’s teachings directly from the Buddha. The Buddha’s teachings have been revised for many times. However, these phrases are believed to be directly original from the Buddha. “Dhammaveenai” means “Buddhist principles.”]
Man at top left: To have a fortune, to lose a fortune.
[The cartoon shows one of the Buddha’ teachings–that there is nothing permanent. Therefore, people should not adhere to things. Everything can be change. Recently, many high ranking police have been stripped their titles or faced jail as they were found out to be doing bad things.]
Center top: To have status, to lose status
Right: To backbite, to praise
[The cartoon trying to imply that there is nothing permanent. Whatever people wear, finally they all have to die and cannot take anything with them. Each picture, therefore, shows a step of life which shows we finally becomes a corpse in the end.]
Man at bottom left: Happiness, sadness.
[The cartoon seems to imply again that no state of mind is permanent.]
Caption: These eight things are inaccurate in the human being. It is impermanence and fluctuation which is normal. The intelligent person who is conscious knows this and looks attentively at this fluctuation which is normal in this world.

Posted in Buddhism, Editorial Cartoons – Arun | 1 Comment

Coups and More Coups

3 Years Ago Today: The 2014 coup

11 Years Ago: The 2006 Coup

26 Years Ago: The 1991 Coup

Posted in Today in History | Leave a comment

What to do with the media?

From Manager, April 30, 2017
Left: Let a bird be free… In the next life… it will be happy [for me] and not be sad like in this life. [meaning by letting the bird go it will gain positive karma for the man]
Caption: Make merit with an expectation of good things
Right: Catch a bird and put in a cage… Returning to be the PM in the next term… will be happy and not be sad like this term.
On the cage: Bill on controlling the media
Caption: Make merit with an expectation of good things

[This cartoon uses beliefs about Buddhist karma along with a white pigeon that is the symbol of the media in the Thai world.
At left a man frees the bird (or the media) from its cage so he he may gain karma and be happy in a future life.
At right PM Prayuth uses the media bill to capture and cage the media bird. He does this to create his own version of karma that includes continuing to be prime minister after the next elections. For him this is like a future incarnation in which he will be happy–not sad like in the present when is is beset on all sides by criticism.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager | Leave a comment

Which debt is worse–Pheu Thai’s or the army’s?

From Thairath, April 29, 2017
Title: The question with no answer
Military man at left: Rice pledging scheme… causes a massive loss and I have to pay it off in an installment debt [referring to the previous government’s rice pledging scheme]
On paper held by the man: Increase salaries, give rewards and compensation to their groups [meaning that the military has doled out lots of money to military and government officials]
Former PM Yingluck: Then, what’s about those weapons? Who gave to you for free?
On the rice sack: Rice pledging scheme improves farmers’ quality of life.
Phi Nooring: Will be an installment-debt power
Mouse: From people’s taxes

[This cartoon contrasts the military’s spending with that of the former government they overthrew.
While the Pheu Thai government’s spending on the rice pledging scheme was derided as an attempt to raid state coffers to ensure support for the then-ruling party, the case can also be made that the subsidies benefited a part of the populace that sees little direct relief from the government.
On the other hand, the military’s lavish purchases of military equipment does not seem to benefit the people at large, but still creates large debts for the country.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Thairath - Sia | Leave a comment

Locking the Media: Weekly News Magazines, May, 2017

From Nation Weekend, May 5, 2017
Main cover reads: A judgement

[Refers to the case of elderly mushroom pickers Udom Sirisorn and his wife Daeng. Recently, the Supreme Court reduced their prison sentences from 15 to 5 years for forest encroachment. This case has received attention from the public due to the perception that poor farmers can expect the full weight of the law to fall on them while the rich are unscathed.]

Top right: To step back is offensive. [yellow] ‘Shinawatra’ [white] set the strategy to overtake power.

[Refers to former PM Thaksin Shinawatra who is preparing to once again return to power after the next elections. It is expected that he and his party would win after the next elections since he still controls a broad number of important politicians while parties that oppose him are still weak.]

From Matichon Weekly, May 3-11, 2017
Main cover reads: Ana-‘lock’ the neck of media
On a poster at the right corner: Stop! controlling the media and dominating people

[This plays with word ‘analog’ and its sound of ‘log’ being similar to ‘lock.’ This refers to junta’s motto of making Thailand become “Thailand 4.0”–transforming the country to a value-based economy.
However, the ongoing push to control the media is like the old style of Thai governance–or an ‘analog’ system.]

Top left: After a stage of clarification on the submarine, expecting a new navy chief to show up. Big ‘Luechai’ is in the spotlight.

[Refers to Admiral Luechai Ruddit, a chairman of the navy’s submarine procurement plan who is expected to become the new navy chief.]

From Manager Weekly, May 6-12, 2017
Main cover reads: Pom fish [“Pom” is the nickname of Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan; this phrase appears to refer to his involvement in explaining the submarine deal to the public]
On small submarines: Navy chief is gone; Bill on controlling the media; Accuse anti-submarine politicians [this means junta leaders publicly point out politicians who question their submarine purchase and accuse them of being anti-junta]; Misuse of the King’s words [referring to the junta using a famous quote from Rama IX to justify its submarine purchase]; The OAG makes it clean.
Right: Refer Trump calling for a talk on the submarines.

[Refers to the controversial deal on purchasing submarines from China by the navy under the junta. Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan whose nickname is Pom is in charge on this deal used many reasons including both domestic and international situations to show the public on their legitimacy to this deal. This deal also shows the conflict inside the navy.]

Top: “Woodyworld’ is disbanded. “Woody” left “Som” at the middle of the road

[Refers to Woody Milintachinda who left the company ‘Woodyworld’ co-founded with his friend Natthaporn ‘Som’ Saibua. Recently, this company was restructured due to financial problems.]

Bottom left: New political equation. Poop mixes with rice model. Desolate Thailand.
Photos top left to right: Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, People’s Democratic Reform Foundation Suthep Thaugsuban
Bottom left to right: Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Chanrnvirakul, Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva

[This refers to the reputations of politicians and the military. Despite the criticism the junta has received, the military has successfully fostered the notion that politicians are corrupt and greedy while the military is the only force that is able to enforce laws and cleanup the mess created by politics.
The military constantly stokes this idea through its prompt demotion and transfer of suspect officials and its law and order raids, the context of which is almost never reported in the English-language press.
For instance, raids of casinos or attacks on long-simmering provincial scandals (like the child sex ring in Mae Hong Song) could never happen in Thailand during times when a true political party in power. This is because provincial governors and the police are part of the political system and are vested interests that political parties rely on for their support and to get things done. Courts have practically no influence in rural areas. (It is easy to see how under these conditions Thais view extra-judicial murder as a common sense solution to many problems.)
When the English-language press simply notes a “joint police-military” raid they never explain the context that is instantly understood (and often discussed at length) in the Thai-language press. This context is that the police would never conduct these raids, as they receive bribes or are even conducting the illegal businesses themselves with protection from political figures.
It is only the surprise appearance of the military at a police station, blocking phone calls and jamming radio communications in the area so the police cannot tip off their criminal partners, that signals to the police that a raid will be undertaken.
This is just one example of the larger message that society is receiving now. It feeds into traditional Thai skepticism about politicians and elections.
The article title uses white rice to indicate the good and pure–meaning the military actions for law and order. “Poop” or “shit” is used to symbolize the much of politics and politicians.
The headline means that the good will be mixed with the bad after the next elections as deals have to be made for the military to retain power thus necessitating alliances with dirty politicians.
This leads to the realization of “desolate Thailand” where real reform can never last.]

Bottom-right: End of “BB-CU Football Club” The death point of maladjustment.
[Refers to the BB-CU Football Club announcing to the end of the team from the Thai football league.]

From Lokwannee, May 12-18, 2017
Main cover reads: Kindness of pink brotherhood (Chula has freedom everywhere)

[Refers to student political activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal elected president of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Council. As a reform-minded iconoclast who wishes to end prostration for students before the Chula statue, his surprise election at the very conservative university is surprising. PM Prayuth specifically denounced him.
The cover shows him as a mischievous kid flying a kite and annoying the adults. The kite refers to Chulalongkorn as its name is “Chula kit” and pink is the university’s color. “Kindness of pink brotherhood” is a part of the Maha Chulalongkorn song by composed by King Rama IX.]

Posted in Thai Newspapers and Magazines | 1 Comment

A cobra in the boot with a pigeon

From Arun, May 4, 2017
Title: A cobra in the boot with a pigeon

[Refers to the latest draft law on the regulation of the media. The cobra in the boot refers to the junta’s action on betraying and attacking the media. The white pigeon is the symbol of the Thai Journalists’ Association. We are not sure what saying or idiom the cobra refers to. Thai folklore has many negative allusions to cobras including one about a kind farmer who helps a cobra, but later the cobra returns his kindness by killing the farmer.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons – Arun | Leave a comment

25 Years Ago: Black May

Above: Censorship explanation from the Bangkok Post, May 18, 1992 – The Nation and other Thai newspapers ignored the government censorship and printed as usual.

A new story from the Bangkok Post: The night a Bangkok protest turned deadly – Bangkok Post, May 15, 2017
…The image was one of awesome firepower: M16 rifles, belt-firing M60s, M89 grenade launchers, jeeps mounted with heavy machine guns, armoured personnel carriers with rapid-fire cannons. At one point I even saw a soldier with a clumsy-looking bazooka strapped to his back. Neither truncheons nor riot shields could be seen. These troops brought to the streets of Bangkok were a fully armed division headed into combat…

Eyewitness Accounts

2Bangkok editor Ron Morris’ account

Part IBackground & A night on the bridge

Part IICrossing the lines

Part IIIA hot afternoon

Part IVThe shooting starts

Part VIan Neumegen, a foreigner killed in the disturbances

Part VI – Soldiers advance through Banglampoo

Part VIIAftermath

Comments on the Black May 1992 story

Tomas’ Black May Story

AP photos from Black May

From 2005: Thaksin’s Revolution – Coming full circle from Black May

From 2005: The context of Black May and what it led to in Thailand

Newspaper Accounts

Front page: Huge protest in City Bangkok Post, April 21, 1992

Front page: ‘Drastic’ action to quell riot Bangkok Post, May 18, 1992

Censorship issue, p.2-3Bangkok Post, May 18, 1992

Enough: End this terrible tragedyBangkok Post, May 19, 1992

Young doctor tells of battles to save lifeBangkok Post, May 19, 1992

Front page – Bloody battles rage in CityBangkok Post, May 19, 1992

Disastrous End – Burning – Chaos in the cityThai Rath, May 20, 1992

Where peace took its last turnThe Nation, May 20, 1992

City braces for more riotsThe Nation, May 20, 1992

No elegance on blood-soaked, battle-scared Rajadamnoern RoadThe Nation, May 20, 1992

Chronology of eventsThe Nation, May 20, 1992

Shootings were in self-defence, says spokesmanThe Nation, May 20, 1992

Cartoon: Joys were goneThai Rath, May 20, 1992

Posted in Black May 1992, Old newspapers | 2 Comments

Masterpieces of Corruption

From Daily News, April 28, 2017
Left: A masterpiece of that period [then PM Thaksin and the Suvarnabhumi Airport is pictured]

Right: A masterpiece of this period [PM Prayuth and the new Thai submarine fleet is pictured]

[This points out one of the most well-known corruption scandals from Thaksin’s time as PM–the construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport. This is compared to PM Prayuth’s approval of the purchase of a Chinese submarine. It is assumed that, just like in Thaksin’s time, the colossal and secretive deal must be riddled with graft.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons | Leave a comment

16 years ago: Thaksin’s strange start as prime minister – Finding a gold hoard

Thaksin’s strange start as prime minister – Mania over the discovery of a gold hoard

Posted in Today in History | Leave a comment

All About Royal Ploughing Day

Today is Ploughing Day. This ancient Brahmin rite has been celebrated in many ways in Thailand over the years with Buddhist elements added in the Rama IV era.

After being abandoned for many years, the modern one-day version of the ceremony (and reintroduction of the ploughing itself) dates from the 1960s.

The actions of the oxen pulling the plough are said to foretell a good or bad growing season. In recent times large crowds gather at Sanam Luang to witness the event and collect the seeds used in the ceremony for good luck.

Above: We believe this is a report of the first Thai ploughing ceremony since the practice was abandoned in the 1920s. Reporting on the May 2, 1960, event, the Bangkok Post, May 3, 1960 wrote:
Omens Determined From Ceremonies
Not So Much Water; Farang Contacts Grow
Officials Draw Plough After 3 of 4 Bulls Run Away
“…More and more contacts will be made with foreigners. This will help improve the economy of the nation.”

Also note the news item: Kra Canal Digging In Next 3-4 Years

Above: "A PLOUGHING FESTIVAL IN SIAM" BY HARRY HILLMAN, Published London, 1898.
"…illustrated account of this Siamese ceremony, which took place at the residence of Phya Surisak, the High Priest of Agriculture, when no farming will commence until the year is foretold by astrology and the results of the ceremonial ploughing."

Above and below: More photos from the ploughing ceremony in the late-nineteenth century


(Source: Undated postcard)

Above and below: Postcards showing the ceremony in the past – The location of the scene below is "Dusit Park"


(Source: Undated postcard)


(Source: Undated postcard)

Posted in Thai Holidays and Festivals | 8 Comments

No way to grow money these days

From Manager, April 25, 2017
Banker: How dare you… You wouldn’t accept my low interest rate of 0.5%… then you were cheated by a Ponzi scheme… Now, you’re coming back to me!!!
Old man: Yes… yes… I’m so sorry…
On the bag: Savings
Title: Then the interest rates may be cut again!!

[Refers to the recent spate of Ponzi schemes that have ensnared thousands–especially the retired who have turned to such plans in an attempt to grow their money. Current low interest rates at banks do not even keep up with inflation even before bank service fees are added in.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager | 1 Comment

The Secret Submarine: News Magazines, April-May, 2017

From Matichon Weekly, April 27-May 2, 2017
Main cover reads: Top Secret [red] ‘Red corner’
On the document: Top secret
A sign held by the boy at the right corner: You have so many ‘Secrets’

[Refers to the junta’s submarine procurement. The junta has been criticized and questioned by the public about the lack of transparency of this deal. However, the junta explained that this deal was a secret of the government and a government-to-government deal as it is related to national security. Thus, there is no need to inform the public of the details.
The Thai government uses the system of colored corners to designate secret–blue meaning confidential, but can be disclosed to come agencies, yellow meaning confidential, and red meaning top secret.]

Top right: Various ponzi schemes cheating from the top of the ivory tower [academia] to ‘pretty-grassroots’ [referring to young, beautiful women, most often poor, who promote their image to get ahead]

[Refers to the many ponzi schemes Thais have turned to to grow their savings due to low interest rates at banks. People running the schemes are not all “common folk,” but even, allegedly, a former Chulalongkorn lecturer.]

From Nation Weekend, April 28, 2017
Main cover reads: Train-Bus-Likay-Soldier

[Refers to Thai proverb “Train-bus-likey-police” which is used to refer to untrustworthy things and people [as one reader clarified, particularly relating to these people being untrustworthy because they are never faithful to woman and like to have many affairs]. “Likey” is a traditional Thai dance performance style. Trains and bus schedules cannot be trusted either as they are always late. Likey performers and police are thought to be without morals and corrupt.
On this cover, the saying is changed from “police” to “soldier.” “Soldier” is meant to refer to the junta’s attempt to push forward a strict media control law despite earlier promises they would not restrict the press.
It also refers to Likay performer Chaiya Mitchai. It was recently alleged that Chaiya has a secret family.]

Left side: Insider of the group [yellow] ‘Uncle Pom’ [white] First generation. It is hard to separate from [yellow] ‘Uncle Tu.’

[Refers to a rumor of a conflict between Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan (whose nickname is “Pom”) and PM Prayuth (whose nickname is “Tu”). Deputy PM Prawit and PM Prayuth are known for both being part of the influential military group the Eastern Tigers. Other sources contend that, although there are some issues between them, their relationship is still strong.]

From Manager Weekly, April 25-May 5, 2017
Main cover reads: The sky can’t hinder [yellow] our relationship.

[The men are, left to right: PM Prayuth Chan-ocha, Deputy PM Wonsuwan, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda. This refers to a strong relationship between these mean, all of whom are part of the powerful military group ‘Eastern Tiger’ and the most powerful persons in the junta.]

Top left: Guys in the whole country are broken hearted. ‘Noey Neko Jump’ has received a marriage proposal. True love won mother’s dislike!??

[Refers to sexy singer Warattha “Noy” Imraporn from the group Neko Jump. She announced her upcoming marriage to celebrity Rit Karchai. This was after rumors spread that Rit’s mother did not like her.]

Top right: The most of [blue] ‘Plew Seengern’ [black] Turn the king’s words and swallow his words to support [red] “submarine”

[Refers to famous columnist Plew Seengern. This article criticizes him for using the words of King Rama IX to support the junta’s submarine procurement. This contrasts with his previous article condemning this procurement.]

Bottom left: “Rajevac” (white) New manager. The new dimension of “War elephants.” Can fight in the World Cup.

[Refers to Milovan Rajevac, new coach of Thailand’s national football team. He announced he would help the national football team (known as “war elephants”) to go to the World Cup. He replaces Kiatisuk Senamuang, former football player known as Zico.]

Bottom right: Stop smoking. Life changes. Stop smoking today, your life will be better!!

From Lokwannee, May 6-11, 2017
Main cover reads: #deserve to be an undeveloped country
Small boat on the left: Does Chinese uncle’s boat hit an iceberg?
Small boat on the right: Hit the submarine.

[This ridicules the junta’s purchase of Chinese submarines using a popular hashtag in Thai–#deserve to be an undeveloped country. The purchase has been criticized for its secrecy. The hashtag appears to be used as a way to get around any harsh response from the junta against those who criticize it.
“Chinese uncle’s boat” means someone who controls everything. So if a person gets in their Chinese uncle’s boat, they cannot control where the boat will go, but the proud Chinese uncle will control everything. Similarly, the junta moved forward to purchase the submarine without listening to the concerns from the public.]

Posted in Thai Newspapers and Magazines | 1 Comment

6 Years Ago: Thaksin to return by year’s end to resume the war on drugs

Thaksin say he will return at the end of the year: “Just when my plane touches down at Suvarnabhumi Airport, drug traders will stop trading”

Posted in Today in History | Leave a comment

Vital supplies for the military

From Manager, April 25, 2017
Black box at the top: Economy… funny economy by Ngao [name of the cartoon column and the cartoonist]
Top left: Last April 18, people who left the city for Songkran have returned to Bangkok with sacks of rice as usual.
Sign in the background: Bangkok
Man: Look at what that man is carrying… it looks weird. [This references the legions of people from rural areas who work in Bangkok and return to their home provinces on holidays. Upon returning from their holidays they typically bring along staples such as rice to defray their cost of living in Bangkok.]
Top right, man with cap: What’s weird. Everyone who returns from Songkran will carry a couple of rice sacks.
Other man: But his item is not a rice sack… It looks like something I’ve seen before…

[The final panel shows Deputy PM Prawit carrying a submarine. This refers to the military’s controversial purchase of a submarine from China. The military has lobbied for a submarine fleet for years and the current military junta has finally delivered with a secretive purchase that has drawn much criticism from the public.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager | 1 Comment

Foreigners are taking the land!

From Manager, April 23, 2017
Left, a soldier representing a patriotic Siamese soldier of the past: Stop!! Why will you start a bloody war to take the land…
Right: Now Thailand opens a lease for 99 years!
Other soldier: That’s right!… You only have to have money.

[Refers to the cabinet resolution to allow foreign investors to lease government land in the eastern special economic development zone for up to 99 years. This is raising the anger of nationalists across the political specturm who are wary of “giving away” Thai land to non-Thais.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager | Leave a comment

Thai submarines can find lots of money

From Manager, April 27, 2017
Caption: Thailand’s coast has underground resources that are worth so much… that we need the submarine to save these resources.
On the boxes: Commission; weapons [this refers to the universally followed Thai policy of getting kickbacks for big projects]

[This is another slam at the army’s purchase of a submarine from China–approved by a military government composed of top army officers.
As it is understood that any big purchase involves kickbacks, the public would see this initially secret purchase as reducing the military government to the level of existing political parties.
This contrasts with the military’s incessant claims that it is above politics and acting for the good of the nation–as opposed to politicians who are thought to act only for their vested interests.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Manager | Leave a comment

Love in the military

From Naewna, April 26, 2017
On the gift box: Silent approval of buying the submarine.
Caption: The officials in love that can be known by no one.

[The man on the left is Prayuth. The man on the right is possibly Deputy PM Prawit or possibly army chief Chalermchai. The joke is that there must be some secret romantic relationship among the top officers that caused the massive purchase of a submarine from China (details of which were kept secret) to take place.
As noted previously, Naewna, the source of this cartoon, is normally pro-military, but the murky submarine has even caused it to rebuke the military.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons | Leave a comment

Submarines signal graft

From Naewna, April 28, 2017
Around submarines, left to right:
On first submarine: Soldiers
On submarine camera: Receive bribe
On second submarine: Polices
On submarine camera: Secret budget
On third submarine: Politicians
On submarine camera: Commission
On fourth submarine: Government officers
On submarine camera: Downstream money
Above the submarines: bung-bung [the sound of water]; hush-hush
Caption: Here are some of the submarines in Thailand from the past, but no one can be told!

[This refers to the controversial purchase of a submarine, long a desire of the Thai military. The junta, perhaps feeling overconfident, conducted the purchase in secret and told the public not to be concerned about the details. This led to suspicions that corruption is part of the deal.
The military has countered that Thailand had submarines in the past so the secretive US$393 million purchase should not be a surprise.
Naewna newspaper has a rabidly pro-junta and anti-Thaksin viewpoint. However, even they cannot resist ridiculing the military’s submarine purchase.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons, Thai Military | Leave a comment

Weekly News Magazines, April 22-May 5, 2017

From Lokwannee, April 29-May 5, 2017
Main cover reads, left: Bae bae bae bea [the sound a dumb person makes; this is next to the whistle representing the anti-Thaksin People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by Suthep Thaugsuban]
Right: Boom boom Boom Boom Boom [sound a submarine makes under the sea]
[Refers to the junta’s purchase of Chinese submarines. This purchase has been criticized over the transparency of the deal as well as the necessity of Thailand having submarines.
The cover shows the double-standard of the anti-Thaksin PDRC–while they protested Yingluck’s government for corruption, they have been totally silent over the military’s outrageous purchases of a Chinese submarine.]

From Nation Weekend, April 14, 2017
Main cover showing the 1932 Siamese Revolution plaque: A plaque in the legend

[Refers the missing 1932 Siamese Revolution plaque. This plaque was one of the few remaining symbols of the country’s transformation from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.]

Top right: Son of [yellow] ‘Gen. Yos’ takes control [yellow] ‘horse racecourse’ a legacy of the warriors.
[Refers to the rumor that Deputy PM Prawit’s group appointed Gen. Vitch Devahasdin to control the Royal Turf Club of Thailand. Gen. Vitch is the son of influential military Gen. Yos Devahasdin. The racecourse is a rich source of graft and the new general running it would signal a significant shift of power to the ruling junta from other military groups that used to control it.]

From Matichon Weekly, April 21-27, 2017
Main cover reads: [yellow] Want to ‘forget’ [Red] Still ‘remember’

[Refers to the new plaque (at bottom) which replaced the original 1932 Siamese Revolution plaque.
The cover implies that the anti-Thaksin, pro-Thaksin yellow groups support the junta and have no nostalgia for the revolution of the past. The red shirts, however, have used the plaque as a cherished symbol of democracy in the country.]

Top right : From the mother of all bombs to the nukes of Mr. ‘Kim.’ A formula for World War 3

[Refers to the concerns about WWIII erupting amid tensions with North Korea and the US dropping the giant MOAB bomb in Syria.]

From Manager Weekly, April 22-28, 2017
Main cover reads: Please pay attention to this plaque.

On the plaque inside the heart: NCPO with a fresh face
Inner cycle: Siam loses land at the Sai Taku border forever. This life time, ask the elder brother to buy tanks-submarine.
Outside cycle: Reform the police-bureaucratic system waiting for next life, non-stop increasing of salary-rewards, providing energy [Thailand’s natural resources] to business groups, allowing foreigners to lease land for 99 years

[The Manager/ASTV Group, while despising Thaksin, also consistently attacks any government in power whether it be military- or Democrat Party-led.
Here, they use a fake version of the missing revolutionary plaque to ridicule the junta’s “accomplishments.”
This shows a laundry list of issues that includes:
* a border dispute with Cambodia,
* the secret purchase of big ticket items for the military (this goes back years),
* the mysterious decision to halt the reorganization of the police force to prevent them from acting on Thaksin’s behalf (and this delightful one: The Police Should Blow Their Brains Out),
* the large raises for government employees,
* the continued trend of privatization of natural resources such as oil,
* and plans to allow 99 leases on land for foreigners (which pro-Thaksin media also seems to oppose).]

Top: Allow to lease 99 years attract ‘foreign investment’ (blue) Disclose that the Democrat Party come up with this idea (red) ‘Maew’ seizes it, (black) the NCPO must be careful unless they will fail on the whole.

[Refers to the decision of the junta to allow foreign investors to lease government land in the eastern special economic development zone for up to 99 years.
It is thought that both the Democrat Party and Thaksin (whose nickname is “Maew”) would both support the change. The writer warns that, if the junta proceeds with their land giveaway to foreigners, people will not accept it.]

Bottom left: From a fat girl to the famous model ‘Mia Kang’ Leave her bikini to go boxing

[Refers to famous American-Korean model Mia Kang who loves Thai boxing. She has recently decided to go for her first professional boxing competition in Thailand in May.]

Bottom right: “Woody” born to be rich. Don’t care about the breaking window glasses. Get a huge profit from S2O.

[Refers to the compliant about the Songkran event named ‘S2O’ organized by well-known TV host Vuthihorn “Woody” Milintachinda. Loud sounds from the event broken windows of nearby buildings.]

Posted in Thai Newspapers and Magazines | Leave a comment

No 99-year leases to foreigners!

From Thairath, April 25, 2017
Title: Not being treason… just rent out the land… for a long time…
Sign on fence in front of government economic advisor Somkid Chatusiphithak: This special economic zone for rents for 99 years. For foreign investors only.
Note the man with “China” on his briefcase. On the other side of the fence are men dressed in grab associated with poor Thai farmers.
Sign at top left: Our land would be owned by them for more than 2 generations.
Sign at bottom left: Thai people have no place to make a living.
Mouse man: Die and have a new birth [life] to get the land back.
Mouse: Left the sin to offspring.

[In recent years, Thailand has been under pressure to reform its land-use rules in response to Vietnam’s liberalization of ownership rules for foreigners. This cartoon protests the government proposal to grant 99-year leases on Thai land to foreign investors.
Normally this cartoonist supports the more internationalist planks of Thaksin’s policies–such as border agreements with neighboring countries, legalizing casinos, and a liberalized business climate that might includes extended land leases.
Strident opinions against border agreements with Cambodia or giving away land to foreigners is usually a Yellow Shirt issue reflected in Manager/ASTV Group cartoons. One of the most persistent rumors of Thaksin’s time as prime minister was that Thai farmland was being slowly absorbed by Chinese investors who controlled it through shell companies, leaving Thai farmers as serfs.
This attention-grabbing land issue is a potent one is likely being used in this cartoon as another factor to remind rural farmers and other who might support The Pheu Thai that the junta and their political allies do not have the interests of the Thai people in mind.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Thairath - Sia | 1 Comment

The junta’s influence will be permanent

From Naewna, April 18, 2017
Caption: Pin that many people want to change.
Nail on the left side: People’s party pin.
Big screw, above: Cabinet; Below: Economy
Prayuth on right: Do not ever think of touching this pin.

[This points out that the military junta is making sure it its policies and influence over the country will be made permanent.]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons | Leave a comment

Media licensed like massage parlors

From Thairath, April 28, 2017
Title: Same as… massage with news.
Below title: The media needs to have a professional license… the same way we need [to do it] from Thai traditional massage.
On the chair: NRSA [National Reform Steering Assembly]
On the books the man holds: Controlling media ACT; NCPO order; Secret
On the microphone: News
Mouse man: Stop saying that the media overshadows people. [meaning something like the junta is claiming that the media misleads and influences people in the wrong way]
Mouse: Think the same way as elections. [meaning something like the government to should reply on elections and elected officials to decide things]

[All of this refers to government efforts to enact a licensing rule for anyone considered providing news. In response to criticism, officials countered that even Thai massage parlors must have licenses and so the media, with its ability to influence, should be required to have a government license as well. The junta has since stated that they are dropping the licensing requirement after much public alarm.

Interestingly, the government the junta overthrew attempted the same thing. The Pheu Thai government used the flooding in Bangkok in 2011 to sneak through a late-night cabinet resolution allowing the police chief to shut any media over vague charges such as “national security and public order.” It also included the same sort of government licensing the junta is attempting now.
The proposed Pheu Thai law came after a Thaksin relative had been appointed head of the police force after a controversial and unprecedented reshuffle of officials.
The resulting publicity caused the Pheu Thai to withdraw the bill. The reshuffle was later deemed illegal by the courts and resulted in Thaksin’s sister Yingluck stepping down as prime minister.

Also: Prayuth and Thaksin feel the same way about the media!]

Posted in Editorial Cartoons - Thairath - Sia | Leave a comment