Comments

  1. David Camroux says:

    Sorry Nick, its Cheesman and your post is dated 1st May.

  2. David Camroux says:

    This is one of the most even-handed pieces on the debates on Rohingya nomenclature I have read, and on the uses and abuses of history, and the limits to invoking historical references. The report by the Rakhine Commission appointed by ASSK and led by Koffi Annan deliberately avoided using the term Rohingya, referring to Bengali Muslims. Despite this “neutrality” of vocabulary, by suggesting amongst its 88 recommendations that this ethnic group should be provided with a means of obtaining citizenship, the report seems to have provoked the wrath of the Tatmadaw. The day after its publication (25th August) in response to an ostensible terrorist attack the Army launched its most vicious wave of oppression yet, continuing the failed ‘four cuts’ policy of dealing with minority insurgencies it has practiced since Myanmar’s Independence. However this time a new nomenclature has been invoked, that of ‘terrorist’: suppressing terrorists of course is something the international community approves of.
    As Nick Cheeseman wrote in an earlier post the central problem is not only that of defining citizenship through ethnic indigeneity, but the absence of of citizenship through the Military orchestrated invoking of national races… and races excluded from the nation.

  3. Nina Forest says:

    The son of the former King was a student at Baylor in the English Department, and mentored by a professor. She asked to bring a group of students to Thailand, and go the “royal treatment.” Then Baylor was very involved on an international levelin the transition of Hong Kong into being its own country. The King invited her to set up this English program, or she asked and he okayed or something. She is dead now, and the program was passed on to another Baylor professor, and continues.

  4. BurmeseDaze says:

    Blame the military, and not Suu Kyi. The world needs to be reminded that the once-tarnished Tatmadaw (armed forces) retain great power in Burma, and Suu Kyi does not exercise effective control over them.

    It’s pointless and unproductive to blame Suu Kyi for not speaking out against the atrocities committed by the military. She is powerless to stop it; and she is a politician. *I’m not Mother Teresa*, Suu Kyi once said.

    It’s political suicide for her to speak out on the atrocities against the minorities, including Rohingya, Karen (her mother’s people), Shan Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Mon and Rakhine. No ethnic group is spared. Even the majority Burmans were shown no mercy by the peasant-army soldiers. Thousands were killed during the nation-wide uprising in 1988.

    International pressure should be brought to bear on the undisciplined and corrupt military. Impose sanctions on the brass, including ex-generals. Freeze their ill-gotten gains in foreign banks. Hit them where it hurts most.

    Meanwhile, let’s not forget the huge oil and gas reserves off shore from where the Rohingya dwell in norther Rakhine.

  5. Chris Beale says:

    Exactly Ivor Edwards. I’ve been wondering whether Prayut and henchmen have “disappeared” Yingluck. The route, and means of her “escape” looks improbable. It’s suspiciously like Lao-based regional republican Ko Tee, disappeared a few weeks prior. And like so many have disappeared, as Dr. JimTaylor has listed. Here’s a link to what a threat Yingluck was posing, to Prayut: https://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20170810/Politics-Economy/In-final-court-appearance-Yingluck-appeals-to-Thai-farmers

  6. OB DMI says:

    I find the argument problematic: most importantly, it does not consider what actually goes on inside the places of worship and how people worship. It may be true that the number of Islamic places of worship has reached a saturation point thanks to the various exogenous factors discussed by the author, such as the availability of government funding. The problem is this tells us nothing about how people actually use these places of worship.

    Furthermore, the idea of house of worship should be unpacked: Islamic places of worship have different role/function from churches, and Islamic worship also has different spatial requirements and preferences, some of which may explain why mosque construction has stagnated, if such a claim can be supported with reliable data.

    Has there been a surge in mosque attendance? Are mosques playing a bigger role in the community? Are people using places that are not mosques/mushollas for worship or to conduct religious activities?

    Lastly, I think the empirical claim is also problematic. As the author pointed out, it’s very difficult to access reliable data on the number of houses of worship in Indonesia. How significant a -1.5% annualised rate is when the data set relies on self-report? Not to mention that many believe that most Islamic houses of worship do not possess IMB [Izin Mendirikan Bangunan/construction permit—Ed]. It is conceivable that while the growth of government-approved mosques has been on a decline, the same cannot be said about places of worship which do not have IMB.

  7. Martin Thorpe says:

    I’m teaching a student this afternoon, whose best friend was Madame’s boyfriend at university, where they were all fellow students. His assessment of her, “lovely looking, but not very clever”. This from a man with no obvious axe to grind.

    Staring at the tea leaves, especially those pertaining to the Sino-Thai business elite, is I fear – even for the well-connected commentators above, a pretty fruitless exercise. Thai society is transactional in the extreme, the extreme being that it exists in the now. So, unlike say Italian politics, an arena just as mercenary, there is next to no long term planning or strategizing, just simple, immediate, opportunistic gratification. There-in lies the central problem when it comes to academic analysis of the type undertaken in organs like this. The reality I would contend is that there’s precious little to analyze, simply because the actors are are neither inclined that way, or even if individuals are prepared to play the long game, their contemporaries aren’t or won’t.

    The abject failure of the Thai governmental elite to instigate a program of meaningful land reform, let alone a commensurate industrial policy, should be evidence enough of it’s institutional limitations.

    The curse of the humanities academic is reading too much into too little, of conjecture over substance. The longer I live in Thailand, the more I am persuaded of the influence and importance of random chance, chaos and cock-up.

  8. John Lowrie says:

    I add one observation to endorse the basic premise that the ruling party regards its interests and that of the state to be inseparable. Many years ago we — foreign NGOs and donors — assisted Cambodia to “decentralize” to establish new commune councils as a new form of local government. In fact the legislation specifies these Councils as autonomous legal entities, to be corporately-run by all the elected Councillors of all political parties.

    The years have passed since. Much more money, more “capacity-building” has kept coming in despite two things missing. First, none — not one — of the ministries delegated any of their powers to the commune councils. Secondly, no-one told the officials that apart from “development plans” that this reform was supposed to be a different way of administering. Talk to any official, from Village Chief up to District Officials and on to Provincial Directors and Governors. Village chiefs just do not distinguish between their duties as the lowest level of public servant and their role as village CPP party organisers.

    District and provincial officers regard commune councils as a lower level of central government, not independent bodies directly accountable to their electors. They often refer to “my commune chiefs” in the winner-takes-all pattern of fiefdoms that carves up governmental organisations and providing of course wealth-creating opportunities.

    So it is little wonder that not only does CPP think that it has a divine right to rule but that it is “traitorous” for CNRP to question it. Only that outside of CPP loyalties and especially among Cambodia’s social media-savvy youth, there is the unmistakable and probably unstoppable realization that things do not have to be like this. Optimists like me think that they will find out, sooner or later.

  9. Andrew Drummond says:

    Wow. Is this what happens when academics fight? I noticed this when I first went to Thailand 30 years. All the ‘experts’ on Thailand and Cambodia appeared to be at loggerheads and discrediting each other all the time. So today the experts are fighting over Thai monarchy issues. In Andrew McGregor Marshall’s favour I have to agree with this point of principle and the fact that he has brought Monarchy issue to a much wider audience. He has a bias against the Monarchy for good reason.

  10. Nick Nostitz says:

    “One wonders, if it hadn’t been a rice mortgaging scheme or a proposed change to the law, then it would simply have been some other faux pas, just waiting to incite street protests by the opposing force”

    Exactly that is a point I have argued many times
    I do believe—no, I am convinced—that the takeover of power by the military/traditional elites/corporate collusion would have taken place regardless, and was decided and planned long before the 2011 elections as a consequence of what was seen by these powers as a failed 2006 coup, and the failure of their initial strategy to operate through a government beholden to them.
    All my information, research, and off the record conversations with many actors over the years point to that fact. Amnesty bill, rice scheme, etc was just pretense.

  11. […] this year. Meanwhile, even President Joko Widodo is being accused of amassing undemocratic powers. New Mandala notes that, with his controversial new law that could allow his government to ban vast numbers of NGOs […]

  12. Ivor Edwards says:

    Setting aside all of the irrelevance, there seems to be a growing perception in Thailand (and among the Red-Shirts in particular that the government has disappeared Yingluck and then engaged in a disinformation campaign. In Thailand this normally takes the form of contradictory statements, and general confusion.

    Thus (for example) the failure of the police to identify an escape vehicle has been countered today by the army chief Chalermchai, who now says ‘several vehicles were involved’, while the Bangkok Post and other ‘news’ organisations have quietly stopped any comment on Yingluck but started a propaganda campaign to vilify the Shinawatra clan in general. There are those who think they’d be better off investigating the ubiquitous corruption in Thailand, but since the BPP, Nation and others are in receipt of government grace and favour, perhaps they won’t..

    These tactics always worked before; the government seems convinced that most Thais are too dim to see what they’re doing.

  13. Joyce DeGering Raeth says:

    Danny was a friend to everyone. He will be truly missed, especially by the class of 73 from ISB (International School Bangkok). Hope to see you again my friend, in the eternities beyond this life on earth.

  14. Chris Beale says:

    Interesting what you say Nick about Kasit Primoya – since he is one of the few elitists, along with Anand Panyarachun and surprisingly the Democrat’s own Korn Chatikavanij – who has proposed some de-centralisation. But all three are rabidly anti-Shinawatra.

  15. James Brecht says:

    Thank you again for this very helpful addition to the piece, which itself adds some quite astonishing narrative to the main article and paints an interesting picture of the Democrat counterpart.

    Do Thai people deserve to know about such things that you mention, such as the drunken behaviour at what I presume was the FCC, by someone whom members of the public would otherwise hold in high regard, or how members of the media such as yourself, have been treated? I think they do, otherwise how can they make informed personal choices if everything is concealed?

    Certainly it would appear that the political right was incensed following the international media’s reporting of the 2010 events, evidenced for example by the famous writing of a letter to CNN by a member of the privileged class – in effect complaining that the media had not reported the event internationally in the way that suited the beneficial interests of the right – then further gaining the support of Queen Sirikit, which of course said it all.

    Given that the Thai political class was only ever happy with the international media when it was reporting what suited its interests, rather than the truth, it is perhaps not difficult to see why Thailand now finds itself at this juncture of authoritarianism and suppression of freedoms, especially given the fragile foundation of the government which was subsequently elected and the ease with which it was toppled. One wonders, if it hadn’t been a rice mortgaging scheme or a proposed change to the law, then it would simply have been some other faux pas, just waiting to incite street protests by the opposing force.

  16. […] I wrote in February, the most pragmatic course of action for resolving the dispute would be for Australia and Timor-Leste… based on median line […]

  17. Ryan K says:

    Thanks for your timely and reflective article on Khun Pu (Yingluck Shinawatra).
    I am not a fan of the Shinawatra family and yet, I am adamant that true justice would not have been served on August 25, in present day “junta land” especially with regards to Yingluck or anyone associated with Pheu Thai, as is already well documented and the facts have shown.

    The 42 year sentence that Boonsong, the former commerce minister got, just goes to show how rigged the Thai justice system esp. the courts have become. It’s a kangaroo court and terribly biased in favor of the ruling junta. The “yellow shirt” PAD leaders have gotten away scot-free while the show goes on to uproot any and all “red shirts” from the scene, as several of their leaders languish in jail, serving long prison sentences.

    No one from the corrupt military in Thai history has ever gotten that type of a jail sentence, despite causing so much harm and destruction to the Thai nation, illegitimately seizing power, destroying the people’s constitution time and time again, lining their pockets with bogus and useless weapon’s purchases, not to mention all that is hidden from the public eye is well known fact. The first thing they do is to give themselves “blanket amnesty” so they and their cronies are never prosecuted, which they make sure to enshrine by law.

    One must put oneself in her shoes and have an adequate understanding of the facts, what this illegitimate military junta has already shown and one will definitely sympathize with her. I would have done the same. I do not believe it was her true intention to lie or deceive her supporters. She was sincere and determined to prove her innocence and did so for the past three years since the politically motivated and political vendetta roadshow against her started to roll.
    And her decision to listen to her brother’s prodding to get out while she still had a narrow window of opportunity to do so, was not done lightly. It is just a matter of time before we come to know her side of the whole truth and it will become evident for all to see.

    I have no doubt that she and her close confidants, as well as her brother Thaksin, got word that she would be found guilty for sure. Thereby she would have to serve the 10 years of horrible suffering in a Thai prison, which we well know is not an experience anyone would ever want to experience.

    I do not doubt the fact that she was not a corrupt or arrogant politician unlike her brother. Despite not wanting any fame or fortune for herself, (she was already wealthy to begin with), was persuaded by her brother to stand in his place and take charge of Pheu Thai Party. And once she was convinced and accepted that challenge put forth, she never looked back and went all out to contest the elections and convincingly won at the ballot box fair and square. And became the first woman PM of Thailand. It’s time we had more women in the upper echelons of power in Thailand.

    Yes, in hindsight, mistakes were made. The rice scheme did benefit the rice farmers but it did have its flaws and shortcomings and one can debate all night, the pros and cons of her official govt. policy. She could have done more to prevent any corruption by the cabinet member and govt. to govt. fake sales. Not to mention the blanket amnesty that her govt. proposed which ignited a firestorm and gave the green light for one of the most corrupt Southern politician Suthep Thaugsuwan and his gang to create the environment and provide the excuse and a cover for Prayuth and his gang to take over. Which is how it turned out. The rest is what we all know took place.

  18. Nick Nostitz says:

    I believe it was a mixture of that arrogance and sheer incompetence, a refusal to have a modern election campaign and an inability to communicate on every level.
    But as always, things are more complex. For many decades Democrats and figures from the traditional elites were the go to guys for most western journalists and diplomats. They were the ones who explained Thailand to the outside world, western educated and fluent in English these people knew what we wanted to hear. And if we did not rock the boat, they were very easy to get access to.
    However, things began to change, when reality seen on the streets did not match what they said. For a long time there was even no real opposition existing, and therefore nobody really who could present a counterpoint, until TRT came and suddenly won elections. While initially, during Thaksin’s government, and in the early stages of the Red/Yellow conflict these Reds still had difficulties with communication, they soon overcame that problem (and at the start they may not have had that much to communicate as for many of them the events became a steep learning curve about their own society as well).
    2010 was a watershed. During and after the killings the relationship between the media, and the Democrats soured, and they began disliking us when increasing amounts of both journalists and diplomats turned very critical. While initially after the 2006 coup it was seen and judged as somewhat necessary, 2010 was not condoned anymore. Two key events during that period was the press conference of Abhisit immediately after the killings, in which they presented us with a flyier trying to tell us how we should report – which, needlessly to point out, did not go down that well with us. Another even was shortly afterwards, when some elite figures came to the club, trying to explain us stupid farang how we should understand 2010. What did not exactly help their cause, was that architect Sumet Jumsai was drunk on the stage, and insulted the Swedish Ambassador, and several others (including me).

    They then turned outright nasty, culminating in their attacks in 2013/2014. One highlight was the assault(s) against me, and where Abhisit refused to intervene on my behalf (twice), when asked to, and all other Democrats either played along, or kept silent (many of whom i have known and talked with often) – until today (with the exception of Kasit Piromya – who however is a bit of an outsider in the party).
    Also Jonathan Head, once very well connected to many people in that party and in the elites, has been dealing with much hatred from them, as he refused to play along, and instead insisted in doing his job.

  19. Shane Tarr says:

    Whatever the warts of the CPP -and I know this sounds like an apology for Hun Sen and the CPP – it is drawing a very long bow to argue Cambodia would be a better place to live in today if the CPP had willingly stepped aside after the UNTAC choreographed election in 1993. Rightly or wrongly the CPP or at least the likes of Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin (or the ultimately exorcised Pen Sovann) sided with Vietnam to overthrow Pol Pot. It took a long time, not least of all because of who de facto initially supported the Khmer Rouge, but in the end some two decades after Pol Pot came to power the Khmer Rouge were a spent force. However, the opposition to Hun Sen and the CPP constantly go on about how Hun Sen and Hanoi are in bed with one another: that may well be correct but without Vietnam supporting the CPP it is highly doubtful that Hun Sen’s opponents would be in a position to challenge Hun Sen that they are today. I assume the writer of this interesting article is well aware of the issues but the smart money one way or the other is that the CPP will still come out on top as a result of the 2018 elections. Of course it may well be in the not too distant future this will not be so. Still such articles are interesting.

  20. James Brecht says:

    Thank you for submitting an article which conveys a very warm and human side, irrespective of the politics in the background, and as we know, a very dirty business.

    It is interesting that you mention the contrasting difficulties you experienced in procuring similar contact with the opposing party during political canvassing, its members’ apparent disinclination, or perhaps even revulsion, towards engaging with foreign journalists. Is this perhaps similar to the arrogance that which we now see increasingly within the apparent rise of Thai nationalism and the defiance of anything external to the Thai State — that it is simply the face of the far-right, to rebuff anything that is not Thai?

    An interesting article was published in Prachatai last month, which to my mind observes this clearly. It presented a discussion between the Project for Social Democracy, The Commoners’ Party of Isan and the Neo Isan Movement. Those participating in the event had noted that the objectives of their group were more internationalist and open towards engaging with those outside Thailand, that this was a feature of the Left, and that it contrasted with “…ultra-nationalism, such as the rise in global authoritarianism and the ‘pen khon Thai reu plao’ approach which was isolationist”. The link and the particular paragraph in question is below.

    https://prachatai.com/english/node/7328 “… Drawing on the originally ‘social-ist’ inheritance of the Left, Social Democracy was internationalist, thus a Thai SDP would work with NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Greenpeace, to improve standards in the country. Social Democracy was ultimately internationalist and stressed human solidarity in the face of shared challenges. It was the opposite of ultra-nationalism, such as the rise in global authoritarianism and the ‘pen khon Thai reu plao’ approach, which was isolationist and discouraged working with foreigners.”