Jun 2nd, 2017

Have an open mind. Don’t be biased and think negatively.

From Thairath, May 10, 2017
Netiwit: Have wit, kindness, love and give me a chance
On the box: Democracy in a university; President of Student Council; Netiwit
Phi Nooring: Have an open mind. Don’t be biased and think negatively.
Mouse: Chula’s generation
Caption: Teaching the adults

[Refers to student political activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal who was recently elected president of Chulalongkorn University’s Student Council.
Netiwit espouses progressive views, particularly in ending the practice of prostration before the royal statue on campus.
This election shocked the government as Chulalongkorn University is known as a conservative university and it is thought that the election might indicate student unease with the constricted nature of government controlled by military men with absolute power.
PM Prayuth strongly condemned the election and urged students to maintain traditional practices at the university.]

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PM Prayuth should wake up!

From Naewna, May 17, 2017
Thaksin shows up in Laos and said he want to return home.
On the pot: Very corrupt
Caption: Now he’s coming, master…

[This refers to a recent social media rumor that Thaksin secretly visited a temple in Laos.
In the cartoon, Thaksin, wearing a convict’s striped suit, is holding a stick to symbolize the threats of violence or revolution that his movement represents to the country.
PM Prayuth is shown as a “ghost shaman,” a meditating mystic who has removed himself from the world.
The cartoonist ridicules PM Prayuth for being blind to Thaksin and tells him to wake up to capture and arrest the fugitive former PM.]

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Social media will catch “Boss” when the police won’t

From Manager, May 7, 2017
Red Bull heir Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya: I bought off the police to stop coming after me!… Then why won’t you guys stop!?
Caption: Only these groups seriously are trying to catch him.

[Refers to Red Bull heir Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya allegedly killed a police officer in his car. The police seemed unwilling to even question him and charges against him were delayed almost five years.
Recently, social media users put pressure on the police after exposing that Boss was living a luxurious life with no legal repercussions for his actions.
His case is a held up as a symbol of the unfairness of justice that is meted out to the rich and poor in Thailand.]

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Is the junta preparing for Thaksin?

From Manager, May 5, 2017
Thaksin: It’s good… let Tu deal with those two.. Once we become the government again, there will be no one obstructing us.
On the man’s shirt at left: Mob [meaning “protest”]
On man being restrained: Media
Title: Are you preparing for him?

[This cartoon is raises the question as to whether the junta’s lawmaking, meant to tame protests and the media, will eventually be used by Thaksin to prevent opposition to his governments once elections are held and he returns to the forefront of politics.]

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Three Years of the Junta: Weekly News Magazines, May-June, 2017

From Nation Weekend, May 19, 2017

Main cover reads: Moment of Mark
[Refers to former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva who attending his daughter Prang Vejjajiva’s graduated ceremony in the US. Abhisit the leader of the Democrat Party. He is one of the main anti-Thaksin political leaders who will no doubt form a key role in a future government that is designed to shut out Thakisn and his family members from power.]

Top: Military takes control [yellow] ‘FRD’ [white] to solve the farmer’s debts with the aims to build [yellow] farmer’s support
[Refers to the junta taking control of the Farmer’s Reconstruction and Development (FRD) Fund after PM Prayuth ordered the removal of all members of the FRD board due to a lack of transparency in their management.]

From Matichon Weekly, May 19-25, 2017
Main cover reads: 3 years. Visual world?

[Refers to the performance of ruling the junta led by PM Prayuth on the 3-year anniversary of the military seizing power. Although the junta claims many achievements, there is disappointments over many issues still waiting to be solved and people’s freedoms and rights have been increasingly restricted.]

Top: #scathing; Soldiers can’t flirt with nurses because they aren’t recruiting more permanent civil servant positions.
[Refers to a posting on social media by a nurse after the junta refused to create more permanent civil servant positions for professional nurses. The nurse who posted this criticism had to resign from her position. All of this was after several potentially large protests by nurses were quashed by a military keen to show that there is no protest or unrest under its rule.]

From Manager Weekly, May 20-26, 2017
Main cover reads: #Big power with huge profits
Top left: 4 years getting richer 260 billion
Top right: Very transparent. Oil spilling. Sued by Indonesia
Bottom left: Corrupted on gas pipes. All governments protected.
Bottom right: Oil spilling in Koh Samet. Paid compensation, but it was very little.

[Refers to Thailand’s oil company PTT which recently reported their increasing profits for the first quarter of this year thanks to higher global oil and petrochemical prices. This cover ridicules PTT as they have good ties to government so it helps them to do business. The cover also references damages caused to local people, such as oil spills in Koh Samet and Indonesia.]

Top: 3 years of the junta [small] Big brother and his group [big] what did they get?
[Refers to the 3-year performance of the military and Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, the respected elder member of the military’s influential group the “Eastern Tigers” and thought to be the most powerful person in the junta.]

Bottom left: “Andrew Gregson” Artist-mood actor who never failed from the top.
[Refers to famous actor Andrew Gregson. Although his personality seems to be like a moody artist, his great performances keeps his his popularity high.]

Bottom right: Doesn’t care whether her eggs will be expired. “Jakjaan” waiting for the right man at the right time.
[Refers to well-known actress Akhamsiri “Jakjaan” Suwanasuk’s love affairs. She used to have a bad experience with love as her engagement to a famous actor was cancelled. Since then, she has been single and is waiting for the right man.]

From Lokwannee, May 26-June 2, 2017
Main cover reads: Don’t touch me.
[Refers to something said by the chief executive of Baimai’s Sub Administrative Organization to the police during an investigation led by Deputy National Policy Chief Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul in the case of human trafficking in Mae Hong Son province.
This is thought to be a display of the immunity of many officials to laws and the snake skin seems to point out the evil and treacherous nature of these officials.]

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The bomb blew the Eastern Tiger’s stripes off!

Form Manager, May, 2017
Caption: The power of bombs.

[This shows an Eastern Tiger (representing the junta) stepping on a pipe bomb and losing its fearsome stripes–apparently stripping it of the illusion that it is powerful.
This shows the Thai idea that small- and moderate-impact bombings tend to bring criticism on the authorities for not being able to prevent them. Thai-language editorials after the recent hospital bombing, almost universally focused on this very Thai understanding of the bombings. This is the idea that, if the junta cannot maintain law and order, even with its complete power, even in areas adjacent to the King’s funeral and a military hospital, it must be very useless indeed.
It is easy to see how this attitude makes small-scale bombings very tempting for those seeking to destabilize a government.]

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A New Fort Mahakarn for the People

Above: Closeup of the sign

The sign reads: Thank for returning the area of [yellow] ‘Mahakarn Fort’ [orange] A historic site with value for all people
Bottom right: City of happiness

[This sign put by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (its logo is at the top left of the sign) to thank the local community for giving up their homes so the area can be turned in a public park to attract tourists. This plan has been resisted by local people for years.]

More: Removing the Mahakan Fort Community (2003-2008)
2016: Junta succeeds where Thaksin failed: Mahakan Fort community facing final days

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Army can check politicians, politicians cannot check the army

From Thairath, May 4, 2017
Title: Can I check, please!
On the naked man’s body: Politician
On the men with magnifying glasses: NACC [National Anti-Corruption Commission]
On money bag: Asset which can’t be checked.
Phi Nooring: Must disclose asset accounts
Mouse: Not a politician

[The cartoon refers to the double standard of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) that closely scrutinizes the finances of politicians while allegedly not checking military or junta-related figures.]

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Police for police reform

From Manager, May 21, 2017
Police officers: Why didn’t you tell us before… The police department reform has a pay raise… oh [not knowing this] cons us to resist this reform for so long.
Caption: If we knew about this [pay raise] the reform would have succeeded long ago.

[Refers to the long delayed reform of the Thai police, ostensibly to improve performance. Actually, police reform is intended to break Thaksin control of the force, which has often appeared to be acting on Thaksin’s behalf in the past–particularly in its conduct during the Red Shirt sieges of Bangkok in 2009 and 2010.]

From 2015: Junta reverses course: No reform of the Royal Thai Police

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Two Years Ago: Junta decides it can’t reform the Royal Thai Police

May 26, 2015: Junta puts police reform on ‘too hard’ list
…Of course, the police have always been the “good boys” – good at following orders without question, like the men in green.
Hence, police reform is no longer a priority issue, or even an issue of interest, for the government and the NCPO. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said tersely last week that police reform would be left to the next government. No explanation was given why the back-pedalling now…

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Amnesty International doesn’t understand

From Naewna, May 11, 2017
Candle (representing Amnesty International): Don’t use a death penalty on the insurgents although they caused violence without caring about other people’s lives.
On the candle: Amnesty [Amnesty International]
Above the bomb: Bomb Big C Pattani
Caption: Optimistic organization

[Refers to the violence in the southernmost provinces of Thailand.
In an unusual escalation of the violence, a pair of bombs at Big C Supercenter in Pattani caused 56 people to be injured. This cartoon takes issue with organizations like Amnesty International insisting the government not employ the death penalty for those who carry out such acts.]

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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

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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.]

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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.]

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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…

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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?

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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?]

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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. This analysis explains what these events likely mean if true.

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.

(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.

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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

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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.]

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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

"…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