BANG SARAY, 25 July 2014: From August, a select group of lucky thrill-seekers, will experience Cartoon Network’s first waterpark that is due to open at site just south of Pattaya. Initially, in a pre-opening period, these invited guests and annual pass holders will be the only members of the public to sample the world’s first [...] Read more...
Kem Issara
The fate of lèse majesté detainees under the junta is perhaps not much different than under past democratic governments -- unwarranted lengthy detention without bail remains the order of the day.
 
Akradet E., a third-year engineering student at Mahanakorn University of Technology, was denied bail for the fourth time on Tuesday. 
 
Akradet’s father, Surapol, made a plea to the court with a 150,000 baht surety that the university required registration on 5-9 August so that he could be enrolled for the fourth year when classes reopen.
 
The Criminal Court said there was no justification to change the refusal of bail since the defendant was an educated adult who knew of his acts and detention would prevent possible flight.
 
“I’m quite upset about the bail denials and worried about his educational future,” said Surapol after learning of the fourth rejection since his 24-year-old son was arrested on 18 June at an apartment in Bangkok’s Nong Chok district.
 
He was alleged to have posted remarks on Facebook against the monarchy and a complaint was made against him in March this year.
 
Chaleaw J., 55, a tailor born in the North Eastern province of Chaiyaphum, said he has already requested bail twice, but hoped his wife would file for bail again soon. He planned to confess once the trial began and hoped to seek royal pardon as soon as possible. 
 
Chaleaw, a Bangkok resident, was a self-taught computer geek who listened to all radio stations including online red-shirt radio programmes. He attended rallies only a few times as he was busy with his military/police uniform tailoring work which also involved his two younger sisters.
 
The soft-spoken tailor said he had stored hundreds of voice clips, mostly songs, on 4shared.com, a free file sharing and storage website, as he did not have time to listen to all the downloaded items, and saved them for later.  
 
There were a few speeches by a red-shirt radio programme host named Banphot that he also stored there, hoping to get the gist later without intending to share them with anyone else.
 
“In fact, I mostly forgot what I had stored there,” said Chaleo who was detained for seven days after reporting to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on 3 June. 
 
He got special treatment -- while most people got 1-2 rounds of interrogation, he got more. The first round took about one hour, and the second and third rounds took 4-5 hours each. The poorly-educated Chaleo was also twice tested by a lie-detector before being brought to the Technology Crime Suppression Division on 9 June to hear lèse majesté charges and offences under the Computer Crime Act.
 
He was able to return home for just one night after he requested bail with an 800,000 baht surety, but the next morning the request was denied by the court. He has since been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison.
 
Rung Sira is the penname of a well-known 51-year-old poet and pioneer cyber activist. He said he was caught while on his way to a neighbouring country to wait for his application for Person of Concern status to be processed by the UN refugee agency.
 
“On 24 June, some 40 fully-equipped officers raided and arrested my daughter and my niece and nephew in Songkhla trying to nail me with something. I knew that I could not stay idle so I tried to contact the UNHCR to seek asylum status but then I was intercepted in Kalasin,” said Rung.
 
He said he was not assaulted or tortured but was searched for drugs and weapons, but the police found nothing.
 
Rung’s poems and his online articles and comments were passionate and critical of the elite establishment. He said the people’s movement under the banner of the United Democratic Front Against Dictatorship, the main faction of the red shirts, was finished and the future of the country lay in the hands of individuals.
 

 

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Economists have expressed positive sentiments towards economic growth in Thailand after the military intervention. They lauded the military’s swift clamp down on corruption and recalibrated focus on the economy. The military’s actions have facilitated a better environment for growth and bolstered investors’ confidence. 
 
On Wednesday, the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University, organized a public forum titled “The Macroeconomic Impact of Thailand’s Military Intervention”. Discussants representing both foreign and Thai organizations were unanimous in their views that the recent military coup has brought about economic stability and projected economic growth for 2015. 
 
Panelists invited were Narongchai Akrasanee, Chairman of MFC Asset Management Plc,, Hiroshi Yakame, Regional head of Greater Mekong Sub-Region, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Leigh Scott-Kemmis, President of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Thailand, and Supavud Saicheua, Managing Director of Phatra Securities Public Company Limited. The keynote address was delivered by Tetsuya Iguchi Editor-in-Chief, Nikkei Inc and the discussion was moderated by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of ISIS Thailand. 
 
It is noted that the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has indicated a need for self-censorship and imposed heavy restrictions on the media and academics since it took the power on 22 May.
 
The discussants: (Left to Right) Hiroshi Yakame, Narongchai Akrasanee, Thitinan Pongsudhirak (Moderator),  Supavud Saicheua, and Leigh Scott-Kemmis. 
 
According to Narongchai, economic conditions improved when the military intervened. He said that it is proven through historical events that economic growth followed military intervention. A contraction in GDP was initially expected, but now we are looking towards a trajectory.
 
The Japanese have similarly welcomed the junta’s quick measures and attention towards the economy. Yakame acknowledged that the notion of ‘martial law’ and ‘coup’ sounded intimidating at first but “concerns have decreased” as the military ensured public services like transportation continued functioning. 
 
Nine coups have taken place since the establishment of Japanese Chamber of Commerce but the Japanese have remained unwavering in their support of Thailand, he said. 
 
While the Japanese have demonstrated their support towards Thailand, the same cannot be said for Australians. Scott-Kemmis stated that Thai trade and investment in Australia has surpassed Australian trade and investment in Thailand. This can be attributed to the Thai state’s poor productivity growth and lack of flexibility.
 
“Deteriorating enforcement of law has affected everything else,” he said and that it is necessary to “get back to an effective Rule of Law”. Additionally, Thailand’s “fragmented bureaucracy makes it difficult to effect change”, and as a result, the “banking and securities sectors are 50 years behind”. Therefore, the military has to step up on reforms and enforcement of the Rule of Law. 
 
That being said, Scott-Kemmis has acknowledged that since the coup, more Thai associations have been coming forward with recommendations to enhance the business environment, he reckons that things are getting better in the post coup era.  
 
Narongchai lets on that major tax and state enterprise reforms are on the agenda. There is a need to address enterprises that have a “propensity for losing money”. He proposes “less government and more governance” as Thailand requires a sustainable economy under good governance, whatever the mode of government. 
 
 
Attendees of the public forum organized by ISIS on Wednesday 
 
“The NCPO has tried to distinguish itself from corrupted civilian governments by coming down hard on corruption” said Supavund. 
Narongchai said the 2014 coup is very different from the coup in 2006. “The 2006 military government was purely after Thaksin, akin to a Tom and Jerry race. Unlike the previous coup, the 2014 junta hardly mentioned Thaksin, and are more concerned with developing and improving Thailand”. 
 
Despite all the positive vibes, the military continues to have its limitations. According to Thitinan, “the NCPO is trying to play God, but doing so is difficult”, the challenge now is for the military to clamp down on illegal activity evenly and ensure lasting results. Presently, the military has been taking swift action against mafia activity (Motorcycle taxis, airport taxis, lottery tickets) however, the difficult part will be to clamp down on “big fishes like the airport duty free monopoly”. 
 
 
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BANGKOK (AP) — A new temporary constitution gives Thailand’s military government sweeping powers in the run-up to a planned 2015 election, and a senior army official says the junta leader could serve as interim premier. Thailand adopted the charter following the May 22 coup to allow an interim legislature and Cabinet to begin governing the Read more...
Last night, the 2014 interim constitution was gazetted (the original in Thai is available from here).* The interim constitution comprises 48 clauses that will be in use until the new constitution is drafted. See Saksith’s post here for his take on the interim constitution. If anyone spots any mistakes, please e-mail bangkokpundit@gmail.com or point out on Read more...


It has been almost a month since over a thousand villagers in a forested area of northeastern Buriram Province were evicted from Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, where hundreds of families have been settled since the cold war era, making a basic living from agriculture. 
 
In the 1960s, the military let some locals settle in the forest area to deny space to the Communists, whose stronghold was the northeastern region. Ironically, the villagers are now facing violent eviction by the military with no financial assistance or compensation in sight. Many houses have already been demolished while around 50 families still refuse to leave their homes and face daily intimidation by the authorities. 
 
“I know society always condemns us as people who destroy the forest,” said one villager in Khao Bat village of Non Din Daeng District who asked not to be named. “But we do take care of the forest. We also grow trees, but the plants we grow also have to be edible.”
 
The eviction came after the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order No. 64/2557 on June 14 to suppress deforestation and forest encroachment nationwide. Two days later it issued a subsequent Order No. 66/2557 saying the operation must not affect the poor, the landless or those who were living on the land before the order was implemented.  
 
Occupying about 600 Rai of the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, Khao Bat village comprises about 174 households
where they live without electricity. They rely on the rains and get water from the community’s well. 
 
While declared a conservation forest in 1996, Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary was given as a concession by the local Tambon Administrative Organization in 2009 to private companies to grow eucalyptus, which is used to make products such as paper. 
 
The villagers, who have been legally allocated land to live on by the government since 1979, filed complaints to the government led by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, saying that their community rights were violated.  
 
The Abhisit government set up a committee on the issue and concluded that the villagers could stay in the disputed area until a solution was found.
 
The situation deteriorated after the coup took place in May 22 and the junta soon issued its order to end forest encroachment. According to the villagers, soldiers visited the villagers more often and informed the village headmen that from now on the army would be in charge of the disputed area. 
 
After that, the police and military forces, together with officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation came and gave warnings to the villagers, while spraying marks on the houses as urgent signs that they must leave. 
 

Local activists led by the Assembly of the Poor came to Bangkok on June 15 to request the NCPO 
that the eviction in Noan Din Daeng must stop.  
 
 
Most of the villagers from other villages in the forest have already moved out since July 7, the deadline imposed by the military, but some Khao Bat villagers still refuse to leave. When local activists came to Bangkok last week to plead with the NCPO to stop the evictions, the military detained them for up to seven days without giving any reason. 
 
Their efforts were in vain as the military continued to use force to evict the villagers, claiming that they need to save the forest.  
 
Those evicted from their homes were staying at the community temple as a temporary shelter while it remained unclear where they would be relocated. After a few weeks, the district authorities refused to let them to stay at the temple, so the villagers had to move into a small weaving shed which belongs to some village headmen. 
 
The military said they would provide relocation sites but according to Human Rights Watch, they “are wholly inadequate for human habitation because they lack adequate temporary shelters and have no access to water.” 
 
The villagers said most of the men in the villages have left for fear of a possible clash between the villagers and the security forces. Staying at the temporary shelters were about 50 women and children who could not go to school for fear that they would not be allowed back if they leave the area. 
 

Dozens of women from the village stay temporarily at the community temple after being evicted
 
The soldiers are still forcing villagers to sign agreements and leave their homes, while informing them that they would close the entrances to the forest to prevent people from coming in, and would start a reforestation process.  
 
“I only have my bare hands. If they do it, I just have to accept it because I don’t know what to do,” said an 18-year-old girl who wished to remain anonymous. “I don’t know where to go. If they relocate us into the city, I do not know what to do because I’ve grown cassava and rice all my life.” 
 
Another villager said she couldn’t help but doubt whether the NCPO order was being implemented properly, as Order No. 66 specified that they should be exempted from being evicted. 
 
“After the coup, the NCPO said they would return happiness to the Thai people, especially the poor,” said one woman who asked not to be identified. 
 
“What we are asking is if this is how they return happiness to us. By eliminating our homes from the land? By not negotiating on an equal basis as we’ve done with governments in the past? There is only suffering left and no happiness at all.”
 
 
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As e-commerce on social network in Thailand is now growing rapidly, Thailand Post, the state mail carrier, has been the main delivery service for the small Thai merchants because it offers reliable service with reasonable price. However, for merchants who sell living creatures, some of them seem to have not yet found a solution to the delivery service. 
 
Recently A squirrel was found dead in a parcel after the seller and buyer agreed to use the EMS service of the Thailand Post to deliver the small creature.
 
 
In early July, Thailand Post shared photos of two living tortoise which had cut free of their bubble wrap-bondage, duct tape and the parcel. 
 
On Tuesday, a story of the squirrel was shared on EDT travel web forum and other social network platforms. 
 
According to the screenshot of the chat between the seller and the buyer, the buyer agreed to buy the squirrel for 350 baht. Although the buyer strongly doubted that the creature would not survive, she agreed to buy it and have it sent via the state mail carrier service. 
 
“Every time I sent them, they didn’t die,” the seller told the doubtful buyer.
 
The buyer said he would cut small holes and put some food for the squirrel in the parcel to ensure that the animal would not suffocate nor starve. 
 
It turned out that the squirrel was packed in a toothpaste box and the toothpaste box was put inside a parcel. The hole for oxygen was cut at the toothpaste box, but not the parcel. The seller said the Post does not allow the parcel to be cut. The buyer later received the refund from the seller.
 
Also on Tuesday, the Thailand National News Bureau reported that the Thailand Post has warned that sending living things, illicit drugs, and cash is illegal under the Postal Act 1934. 
 
 
 
 
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Frank G Anderson

In 2012 I wrote the first two of a series of Thainess articles (1- National Identity Crisis and Thainess-I) (2-National Identity Crisis and Thainess - II) in a still-developing series about this thing called Thainess, viewed in different quarters as a concept, a firm quality, a pipedream and an unparalleled ego trip. Prior to embarking on another quickly-written personal perspective based on what I think is an approximate but relatively accurate of what Thainess is, the old accusation “A farang cannot know what Thainess is,” kept ringing its bothersome echo. It is still an unsettling reminder that despite reality being made clear and undeniable, understanding can still be denied – and is, with mucho gusto, often denied to the point of violence. In May 2014 this truism became real once again with yet another coup. But this one was much different, far more penetrating, and far more important than coups in the past. Because as Thainess goes, this year Thais were told precisely what Thainess is, were told they will be conditioned. All Thais found that their return to Thainess AKA sakdina (commander-ruled lives) is what is now an inescapable future for all. Brought to you by a sad combination of military determination and social apathy. By Thainess. It was a development that even such newspaper luminaries as [1]Pravit Rojanaphruk earlier may have overlooked in the hope that reason in Thailand would prevail. He and so many others were sorely disappointed in May 2014.       

 
The firm conviction by fundamentalist Thainess wannabees that farangs cannot know Thainess[2] is the result of an indoctrination regimen engineered by ‘noble’ ideas and professed ‘men of honor’ – proving that the road to Hell IS paved with good (often not) intentions. Planners and those who guide society - determining the way things shall be - are first and foremost mortals. None has a divine nature or a singular road to divine wisdom. As a result, what these mortals do is sometimes in error, sometimes done to err, too often done to remain dominant in a climate of dangerous self-delusion. In the process of doing, many “isms” have come and gone, taking the lives of millions with them under administrative systems like communism, extremist, and atheism. In their undulating journeys through history and windings throughout one society after another, besides the misery, pain and suffering, needless guilt and fear from inquiry that they perpetuate and propagate, they also inculcate a false sense on the part of advocates (AKA believers or loyalists) that they are unique; that those who fail to recognize and accept (in terms of agreement) this are unable to understand, or worse, unwilling to understand and must be forced to understand to understand. This is one of the fundamental symptoms of Thainess in the kingdom deriving from the consent-indeed insistence-of those who govern and those who guide those who govern; but such a social malady does not come from any truly informed and self-empowered governed.
 
Prior to further delving into the roots of Thainess, one thing should be mentioned - as it opens more appreciation of the difficulty in getting Thainess advocates to understand reality. Thainess-advocating Thais generally hold that understanding equates to acceptance and agreement – that is, you have been made aware of the situation and appreciate it the same way as the Thai does. If you do not agree nor accept its principles and concepts, this means you do not understand Thainess. So it follows that you are either unwilling (consequently biased, just dumb or bearing ill will) or incapable of knowing what Thainess is. It becomes a simple matter to say, “Farangs cannot know Thainess,” and self-delude oneself that saying so reiterates reality (that is but a product of an inventive mind.) Because farangs are different, think differently and don’t know as much about Thais as Thais do (Hah!), ergo they are unable to know Thainess - therefore cannot even begin to know what Thainess encompasses. They are totally unable to know why ‘Thais’ believe in and insist on (sometimes to the point of death (usually someone else’s) loyalist, sakdina beliefs.
 
In this third article on National Identity Crisis and Thainess I hold that farangs, and indeed, many other culture’s representatives can know Thainess – know it for what it is - the good, the bad and the ugly, the latter two which “real” Thais can’t/won’t admit to. It thus falls to disloyal Thais, fake Thais, foreigners who “just don’t know” or who “are trying to ruin Thailand’s image” to set the story straight. The current (pre-May 2014) “fake” Thais are the Red Shirts, the Enlightened Jurists, the pro-Thaksin factions, the half-Thai/half-foreigner thousands being born in the kingdom whose parents want them to have a life and a home that not only they can be proud of and honored by living in, but who also want them to enjoy and be protected by basic fundamental human rights that all people are entitled to on this world, Thai – real or fake, foreigners and all…ALL…others. No exceptions. No excuses. No dictators.
 
In refutation, therefore, that “farangs cannot know Thainess,” the following attempts to set the record straight about what Thainess really is and why the idea that no one except a real Thai can understand it got started and what destructive purpose it currently serves in society. This section is followed by representative examples of how Thais violate, profusely and often, principles of Thainess they claim to believe in and claim to practice but do not.
 
1.      “Farangs cannot understand Thainess.” This position runs totally counter to the non-Thainess mentality that understanding is not a causative result of acceptance and agreement, but that the latter two are instead a result of understanding. In this context, it follows that if one adheres to the dictate that understanding is based on a sympathetic view and acceptance, then the person (the Thainess advocate or ‘real’ Thai) is precluded from realizing that his or her approach is improperly biased, and that it curtails any possibility of mutual appreciation and observances of the principles of true tolerance put into play in an atmosphere of personal regard and open discussion between advocates of different philosophies.
2.      “Farangs cannot understand Thainess.” Before trying to define that word ‘Thainess,’ it helps to comment on who is using the term and for what purposes. To be honest, lots of people use it and most of them, including the Thainess freaks, don’t understand what it means. So in a sense, one can say, “Thais do not understand Thainess.” Those who most lack the capacity to understand it, in fact, are those who insist on your and my unabashed willingness (and others who don’t agree with them) to do so. Two types of Thainess advocates can be identified: 1, those who really don’t understand the term but who are convinced that it fits them or their cause; 2, those who understand the term and appreciate the powerful uses it can be put to. There may be a third type, those who fit into category two and who as a result of understanding and being aware of the powerful uses that Thainess can be put to rebel against it and begin to advocate for change. This third group is, in fact, anathema to the cultural fundamentalist (some say ‘fascist’) who views Thainess as some kind of sacrosanct and unique quality only ‘real (loyal) Thais’ can possess. Some short but partial definitions of Thainess…
 
1.      Thainess is…a belief that supposed Thai ancestry (race) warrants a unique set of admirable values that only those of the same race can understand and which other non-Thais can benefit by but never understand. This is a racist concept.
2.      Thainess is…a set of values, some of which are measurable and some not, that those who are real Thai will hold near and dear and propagate as in any other doctrine.
3.      Thainess is…a set of beliefs taught and inculcated from childhood through to adulthood that prescribes what a good Thai is from what is not.
4.      Thainess is…defined as loyal ethnic Thai who holds the nation’s three pillars – the nation, Buddhism and the monarchy – sacred eternal components of Thai society.
5.      Thainess is…the collective values of a national society so respecting the three pillars and taking whatever steps are needed to uphold them over and above contemporary thought or democratic pressures. This translates into forced beliefs.
6.      Thainess is…collective shunning of individuals or groups that are seen as advocating a different path in life.
7.      Thainess is a direct result of the patron sakdina system. As outlined earlier in this series on National Identity Crisis and Thainess, sakdina (Thai ศักดินา) is an offshoot of the ancient Siamese feudal system whereby all members of the Siamese nation, all subjects under an absolute monarchy, were afforded a certain value, worth, duty and place in society – with the expectations and indoctrination, coupled with enforcement of various kinds that each member would confirm with the ranking. One of the particular aspects of this feudal system that has carried over to modern times is the low bowing and prostrating in front of persons or noble rank or of the monarchy. Such practices would not have been possible in contemporary society unless decades of enforced indoctrination were engineered, and this is what has occurred in Thailand – with the express intent of preserving elitist control of the state and society. 
 
In a twisted sense, when General Prayuth Chan-ocha took over Thailand in May 2014 he probably did academics a huge favor in subsequent prescription of Thainess under two sets of military-style standards – one a series of nine strategies that he would use to restore happiness to Thailand, and the second a set of twelve characteristics that according to him comprise the core values of all Thais…core values that have not been followed and which need to be reinstated with vigor. The Thai language version of pro-democracy Prachatai website published the general’s references[3] to these Thainess standards.
 
Rabop (system) Sakdina (feudal), or the Siam-Thai feudal system, conflicts directly with elemental non-Feudal principles of self-empowerment and actualization, upward free-choice mobility and other called western constructs – which are not western at all other than where they first rose in western awareness – such as freedom of speech, democracy and human rights. It is noteworthy in Thailand’s case, for example, that the Privy Council members, who are His Majesty’s personal advisers, are all prohibited by the Constitution to be members of any national human rights commission. While the reasons for this are understandable, one can also say they are lamentable. Human rights, it can be argued, should be at the forefront of all state and government rule of law over citizens and subjects of any nation. The problem is that nations, including the United States, who allegedly champion human rights but then systematically abuse or violate them themselves lose sympathy for advocacy of human rights.
 
It’s difficult to escape criticism from modern day Thais who are ardent adherents to sakdina because they do not even understand that it’s time to move beyond. The problem with sakdina supporters is that modifying contemporary feudalism and eventually phasing it out means loss of power and influence for select persons and groups – particularly the elite, who traditionally control, and insist on continuing the control, of purse strings and power in the country. It also imposes an unavoidable eventual curtailment of many cultural practices that Thai society has identified itself with.
 
The sakdina system, in Thai more formally known as ระบบเจ้าขุนมูลนาย – system of cao khun mun nai – or as defined by the Royal Institute as ผู้บังคับบัญชา, เจ้านาย – phuu banchakarn, cao nai – is also defined as a civil servant or state enterprise official who has authority over those under his jurisdiction; that is, commander or governor. Back in those ancient days of course, persons of high rank were rarely held accountable for actions and almost never had to respond to injustices in areas under their absolute sakdina rule.
 
Things changed a bit when a landmark review of Siamese laws was conducted by King Rama I (1707-1839)[4], a review inspired by a divorce case at the time. A woman had filed for divorce from her husband after having cheated on him. The way the laws were written at the time the decision would have been in the woman’s favor and she would have been granted a divorce. Seeing that single “statute” as unjust, Rama I then ordered a review and this resulted in the Law of the Three Seals (Thai wiki)[5], mentioned in earlier writings.
 
We jump to 2014, present day post-coup Thailand.
 
Old laws need reinstatement. Non-Thai attitudes need to be adjusted. Guidance from above is vital. The nation’s security is at risk. All antics as these are historically familiar, centuries apart, nations apart, but the same. The all-powerful state itself historically made the changes – today, in Thailand, it is an arm of the state, the military, doing so. Today, all Thai subjects have been relegated to robotic slaves subject to the will of the military. The precise and far-reaching nature of the renewed indoctrination shakes freedom of choice in Thailand to its very core.
 
The full story of Thailand, what it is, and what it isn’t, is told in my book, National Identity Crisis and Thainess, available in future on Amazon Kindle.
 
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About the Author: Frank G Anderson is currently completing a short contract as outreach advisor for a Khon Kaen based civil society support center. With an MBA in information management, he founded NE Thailand’s first regional English language newspaper, the Korat Post. He can be reach on Facebook.
 
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