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June 4, 2014

Letter opposing the coup from academics outside of Thailand



23 May 2014

General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Commander-in-Chief, Royal Thai Army

Dear General Prayuth:

As scholars of Thailand based outside the country, we are writing to express our grave concern at the coup launched on 22 May 2014 by the National Order Maintenance Council. This is the twelfth coup successfully carried out in Thailand since the end of the absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932. In every instance, it failed to achieve its objectives while it has damaged the development of the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.  Citizens, particularly those with dissident views, have been placed in danger and political freedom has been curtailed.  

In the National Order Maintenance Council’s first statement, you requested that citizens “carry out their lives and occupation as usual,” but nothing could be normal about the political and social conditions put in place by the coup. The coup cannot be a measure for peace because the coup itself is the use of violence. During the two days from 20 to 22 May 2014 in which martial law was in force, there was curtailment of human rights, particularly with respect to freedom of expression and political freedom. The situation has been worse since the coup, with extensive fear and unknown safety of many leaders and supporters of all political camps. The rapid speed and severity with which these restrictions were put in place makes Thailand notorious worldwide for the unjust actions by the coup group. The international community cannot tolerate such actions. 

We urge the National Order Maintenance Council to immediately return to constitutional rule by a civilian government.  In the absence of such an action, we call on the Council to provide a concrete timeline for return to constitutional rule, which should be done as rapidly as possible. We further call on the National Order Maintenance Council to assure that no further violence or suppression in any form will be used against the people. Constitutional rule by a civilian government, including both elections and the full participation of all citizens in rule, is the only path forward for the continued development of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Thailand.

Sincerely,

1.      Dr. Andrew Brown, Lecturer, University of New England
2.      Dr. Pongphisoot Busbarat, Research Affiliate, University of Sydney
3.      Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Associate Professor, Kyoto University
4.      Dr. Nick Cheesman, Lecturer, Australian National University
5.      Dr. Michael Connors, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham, Malaysia campus
6.      Dr. Eli Elinoff, Postdoctoral Fellow, National University of Singapore
7.      Dr. Jane M, Ferguson, Research Fellow, University of Sydney
8.      Dr. Jim Glassman, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
9.      Dr. Tyrell Haberkorn, Fellow, Australian National University
10.  Dr. Kevin Hewison, Sir Walter Murdoch Professor, Murdoch University
11.  Dr. Philip Hirsch, Professor, University of Sydney
12.  Dr. Adadol Ingawanij, Senior Research Fellow, University of Westminster
13.  Dr. Soren Ivarsson, Assistant Professor, University of Copenhagen
14.  Dr. Peter Jackson, Professor, Australian National University
15.  Dr. Andrew Johnson, Assistant Professor, Yale-NUS College
16.  Dr. Samson Lim, Singapore University of Technology and Design
17.  Dr. Tamara Loos, Associate Professor, Cornell University
18.  Dr. Mary Beth Mills, Professor, Colby College
19.  Dr. Michael Montesano, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
20.  Dr. Claudio Sopranzetti, Postdoctoral Fellow, Oxford University
21.  Dr. Ben Tausig, Associate Professor, Stony Brook University
22.  Dr. James L. Taylor, Adjunct Associate Professor, The University of Adelaide,
23.  Dr. Tubtim Tubtim, University of Sydney
24.  Dr. Peter Vandergeest, Associate Professor, York University
25.  Dr. Andrew Walker, Professor and Deputy Dean, Australian National University
26.  Dr. Thongchai Winichakul, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

June 2, 2014

Coup comments

Some comments (unused)  to the media last week reproduced below.


May 27th to media


On use of court martial:
similar announcements on trials in military courts  were made in Thailand's most repressive coups d'etat, 1958 and 1976, and these were times of massive repression. There is no doubt that this coup is going for absolute victory. But this is not just about eradicating red shirts and the Thaksin network, it is also about the breakdown of political order on both sides and the unprecedented mobilization of street protests as mechanisms of political change. In response  the military's sense of itself as guardian of national security, the monarchy and social order is now on full display. It has declared itself sovereign, and it has the repressive apparatus to back up that claim, hence we see people with little choice but to report to the military when summoned despite the fact that a coup d'etat is by definition unconstitutional.

May 23rd to media
On business and the economy:

Business associations welcomed martial law. They now have to take sides since it is clear that martial law was no longer about brokering talks but about preparing the conditions for a decisive coup against potential opposition. Business has traditionally been subservient in these circumstances and apart from those highly integral to new capitalist class around Thaksin, most will wear the condition if it promises stability in the near future.

Options for the coup group:

They have two options. They can try and force a compromise among the rival elites and demobilise the mass movements of both sides,  which is the least bloody scenario. Or,  more likely,  they can decide not to repeat the "soft coup" of 2006 and they put in place the most draconian coup apparatus since 1976 and accept that there will be unprecedented repression and violence to subdue the opposition. The 1976 coup fueled a mass exodus into the ranks of communist insurgent zones by liberal and left-wing students. Today, repression will vindicate the hardline of the red-shirt movement who have argued for stronger forms of civil disobedience, and also perhaps  add weight to the armed elements that were present in 2010

June 1, 2014

I am law - Thailand's repetitive decisionist moment




I am law - Thailand's repetitive decisionist moment







In early May Thais  witnessed  a prime minister felled for a single transfer of office (rightly in normal circumstances), and then two weeks later a coup-group, acting as  self-anointed national saviors in the decisionist fashion of all coups de'etat, declared themselves as law itself and then proceeded to  remake the state by a series of non-constitutional decrees, some of which forcibly detain for the purposes of "adjustment" those who would question on what law stands the coup.




The  Thai coup makers' dispiriting humvee -and-trample  use of martial law and the  2014 May coup are a product of a gritted-tooth spit in the face of  history-as-freedom;  brazen and contrarian, the coup leadership must  convince now themselves of  their own legitimacy by double speak - hence their sensitivity about protestors reading Orwell's 1984.






Thailand's return to its  repetitive decisionism (how many coups d'eat now?) , which is to say  this latest  assumption of sovereignty by the law of might not right, has its origins not in some original sin of the military will to power,  but in the failure of the political leaderships to settle the terms of their elite contest amidst emergent mass movements.


When given a constitutional terrain on which to contest their respective ideologies they each, at different times,  failed to submit to a higher law. In this round the weight of  failure obviously goes to the PDRC and the Democrat Party. As egregious as the Pheu Thai party may have been to its opponents, it was still a possibility that smart oppositional politics and strategy could have whittled away its electoral power.




Now, with Democrat Party complicity and an establishment fearful of the emergence of new politics across the political divide -  of mass mobilization and a democracy of doing - the military has truncated the crisis (that might have been an episode of democratization)  not so much with a full stop as with an exclamation mark screaming unity and Thainess! Its partisan round-ups, censorship and exhortations builds a fortress of hyperbole backed by guns.


May 23, 2014

Comments to media on 20th May on the declaration of martial law

Impact of martial law?

It dampens expectations of an impending breakdown into chaotic violence but it will heighten tensions the moment the military is seen to take sides.  It has stopped the People's Democratic Reform Committee from its wandering street protests and occupations and the impending strike action by supportive state enterprise unions,  but it has also disbanded the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order which  was starting to look like the care-taker government command centre. In essence it has bled the rival sides of key resources and strategies to push competing claims of legitimacy and what was looking like the possible emergence of two entities claiming government status. So tensions are down, only because repressed.

Resolution?

A lot depends on whether the Senate proceeds with discussions on appointing  interim PM and government, and if this is supported by the military.  Acting Senate  President Surachai has confirmed the Senate will still seek a way out, despite caretaker PM Niwatthamrong not quitting yesterday.

Possibility of an appointed government?

If an appointed government emerges from whatever process, and it  incorporates people from the care-taker cabinet and oppositional elements, this may enable a compromise to emerge.  Such a move would recognise the care-taker government's historic mandate and also fit some calls for a government of national unity. If  an anti-Thaksin interim government is installed I expect the redshirt movement will  and try and deliver on its promised response of mass resistance.

May 21, 2014

Chinese language Translation of Bangkok Post article "Real Democratic Voices Need to be Heard"

 Many thanks to Mr Ng for translating this Bangkok Post article which first appeared 14th of May.


泰国需要听到真正的民主声音

不出所料,反政府运动背后的知识份子,人民民主改革委员会宣布,尼瓦探隆不能成

为看守首相,而只能是副首相代理看守首相一职。这个有争议性的论点意思是要表

明存在一个政治真空,允许建立一个过度时期的政府,也就是所谓的人民议会。这

很可能是反达信阵营又一次唱女皇合唱团的歌词:〝嘿,我也会抓到你。又一个被干

掉。〞

泰国宪法法庭撒除英叻首相职位,被政府的支持者视为是一个阴谋。其实不然。她明

知或罔顾调走国家安全理事会的首长,让政府能够将时任的警察总长调任这个职位,

然后允许达信的前任小舅子担任这个空置的国家警察总长的职位。星期二国家反贪污

委员会就失败的稻米津贴计划而对英叻的失职的弹劾也不能说是一个阴谋,因为关於

这个计划早已有很多警告的迹象。彈劾可能被证明是错误的,但它不是一个阴谋。

在这些判决上没有阴谋;它们完全遵循2007年宪法,目的在於牽制达信集团。它也是

因应后2006年复兴的军人官僚机构与混合自由保守民主党的政治阶级之间的结盟以反

对达信而建立的。它并没有成功。在2007年宪法下,达信支持的政党赢了两次大选

〔2007年及2011年〕,然后在2014年2月又被宪法法庭宣判大选无效。这个判决是有道

理的,因为这次的选举受到人民民主改革委员会的破坏与阻挠。

这其中没有阴谋,因为国家的独立机构,包括宪法法庭和选举局及其他,完全根据

2007年宪法计划而运作。这包括加强独立机构与参议院在司法与官僚制度上的运作,

并安排反达信力量的人士在这些机构里。希望这些手段能够控制那些倾向达信的政治

阶级及其选举的基层。没必要给予没有阴谋这个词一个真正的含意,因为这些机构都

是照章行事的。

这并不是说这些判决一定是合法的。2007年宪法赢得的准合法性,是在军人政府有限

制的条件之下举行的全民公投中以勉强的多数票通过的。它真正产生的原因是基於

2006年的非法政变:一个刑事法上被禁止的行为,但这个行为却被军人政府利用临时

宪法,以由来已久的姿态概括承受了。基於他们这种动辄对政变的依靠,法律话语的

规则在泰国,被反政府的精英当作反看守政府的一个主要的动力,这是有一点虚伪的

味道。

它也是一种绝望的氛围。在1990年代时期,当一个自由保守的集团组成与制定了

1997年宪法,民主党与公民社团大体上都没尽力去赢得新政治秩序与规范之下的国家

治理权,这些新政治秩序与规范原本将可保护他们,以对抗2000年代前半期达信的威

权选举体制。达信以政党的机器和有效的政策与行动,以及一些金钱上的滑润剂,赢

得了选举。但由於走专制捷径与那些反对他的人的操纵,他现在在很多人的眼里,如

果不是一个民主人物,至少是一个选举达人。

有人希望通过适当的基层工作,达信可能从流亡返国。因此,当英叻政府在去年年底

尝试宪法改革之际,非常刻意地在改革的更高目标上,配搭了一个大赦,让达信可以

返国。这带出了捣蛋的精灵 - 让她在位前两年政治上的相安无事分崩离析。

民主党前任秘书长素贴,与其他高调的民主党人士,辞去党要职位,走上街头斗争,

接着在去年十二月,民主党的议员集体退出国会。木已成舟。泰国最老的政党,在

某个时候,有着反独裁的光荣历史,鼓吹民主自由的形式,现在却一变而成为街头

斗爭的形象,剥夺了国家政治妥协的机会,因为它选择不当一个强大的反对党。因此

2007年这个透明的政治改革计划〔不是一个阴谋〕还在持续中。

如果没有阴谋,那么在执行各各法庭的案件以及它们达致的判决,肯定会有〝双重标

准〞。但对於这些〝双重标准〞的控诉,横跨政治分歧的两个阵营之间,因为它们都

有这种倾向,这由它们各自控制的机构采取的手段可见一斑。

双重标准无论谁执政都在玩。这反映出一个明显的棘手问题的两个层面:第一个,在

想要政权的敌对双方的精英之间;第二个,在他们吸引广大群众所奉行的政治愿景之

上。这个棘手问题,本身已是一件坏事,却因环绕在王室继承问题上的担忧而更纠结

不清。

这个周末,双方的大批人马将走上街头。人民民主改革委员会寻求政府官员的倒戈,

并成立一个过度时期的政府。他们占领电视台就是要向群众广播他们的这个意图。反

独裁民主联盟将推动七月的大选,与继续留任看守政府。

前者完全没有希望,后者可能有一些希望。

反独裁民主联盟会说宪法法庭本身是不合宪法的。他们辩说它的功能没有组织法。

2007年宪法必须在一年之内颁布一个组织法。没有组织法的存在,宪法法庭的合法性

是基於2006政变而制定的一个临时条款上。反独裁民主联盟的一个问题是,宪法法庭

的判決是最后的判决,不得上诉。因此,它现在只好走上街头保卫政府。

自从2006年政变,泰国就缺乏一个可行的政治解决办法,双方都在爭取对自己有利

的,因此暴力与仇恨加剧。内战之说以往常被当作无稽之谈,现在却是大有可能。双

方的武装冲突迫在眉头,很可能孤注一掷,邀来军队的干预。

但是,双方的建议并没有针对冲突的棘手性质。选举的权力现在看来,似乎只会导致

灾难。选举并不是解决双方对权力基本矛盾的一个办法。为泰党的看守政府寻求另一

次的民主委任权是没有意义的。真的,在泰国,每赢得一次选举,就好像经济学上说

的〝报酬递减〞。

较好的意见是开始一个全民政治改革的程序。但这只能基於尊重现行看守政府在几次

的选举中赢得的历史性民主意愿。无视这点也将导致灾难。改革的程序不能夺去大多

数人的意愿。但这也不是照比例原则的。

泰国需要的是以非政党、民主的决心,组成一个真正的制定或修改宪法的国民代表大

会。这就必须摈弃人民民主改革委员会中的极端份子,和死抓政权不放的旧体制力

量,以便让路给制定1997年宪法所包涵的意愿。但支持达信的阵营也必须作出一个真

正的选择 - 通过一个拥抱民主改革的步骤,厘清它真正的利害关系,并承诺遵守大家

必须服从的新的政治模式与问责制。它不能一方面把自己打扮成民主的力量,而另一

方面又不承认军人政变前达信政权往独裁漂移的现象。

原文刊载於14.05.2014的《曼谷邮报》

作者:麦可康纳斯〔Michael Connors〕任教於诺丁汉大学马来西亚学府,著有《泰国

的民主与国家认同》〔Democracy and National Identity in Thailand〕。

译者:苏杭