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.


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.