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  • Popular singer confesses to the burning of royal portrait in front of Khlong Prem

    Singer and pro-democracy activist, Ammy the Bottom Blues, posted a message on Wednesday confessing to the burning of a portrait of the King in front of Khlong Prem Central Prison on February 28. “The burning down the King’s portrait was my doing and I want to solely take responsibility for it alone and it has […]

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    Singer and pro-democracy activist, Ammy the Bottom Blues, posted a message on Wednesday confessing to the burning of a portrait of the King in front of Khlong Prem Central Prison on February 28.

    “The burning down the King’s portrait was my doing and I want to solely take responsibility for it alone and it has nothing to do with any movement or any demand,” Ammy, whose real name is Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, said.

    More than 100,000 tweets using #StandWithAmmy has been used on social media to discuss the case and the charges of lese-majeste which have accompanied the incident.

    Most of the messages were of solidarity with the singer.

    Ammy said that the reason for the incident was his frustration at the detention of other demonstrators.

    “My reason is simple…my brothers have been incarcerated for more than 20 days and I cannot do anything to help them. I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself,” he said.

    Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat “Morlum Bank” Saraiyeam, have been held for weeks in a Bangkok prison – also on charges of lese majeste.

    The police said on Wednesday they are now charging Ammy with arson, lese-majeste and the violation of the Computer Crime Act.

    The singer is now in police custody. His bail request has been denied.

    The singer is one of 61 pro-democracy protestors who have been charged with lese-majeste.

    The post Popular singer confesses to the burning of royal portrait in front of Khlong Prem appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24896
  • Thai businesses call for vaccine passports, more foreign suppliers, to safeguard economic recovery

    Thailand’s economic recovery will depend on how the government handles the question of vaccinations this year, the country’s top business association said Wednesday, calling for vaccine-passport programmes to boost tourism, and a wider supply of imported vaccines for Thai citizens. The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) maintained its growth projection of […]

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    Thailand’s economic recovery will depend on how the government handles the question of vaccinations this year, the country’s top business association said Wednesday, calling for vaccine-passport programmes to boost tourism, and a wider supply of imported vaccines for Thai citizens.

    The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) maintained its growth projection of 1.5-3.5 per cent, citing economic recovery and vaccine distribution worldwide.

    The JSCCIB said the economy was likely to improve gradually as restrictions are eased, infection rates drop, and vaccinations start, said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, one of the three leading trade associations that make up the Committee.

    “An improved domestic situation regarding the Covid-19 outbreak including government measures that could directly mitigate the impact of businesses and affected groups will help build confidence to the public,” said Suphan.

    However, the Committee pointed out that Thailand’s economic growth would depend on the effectiveness of its measures against future outbreaks, the speed of vaccine distribution, and economic stimulus plans to boost spending in the country.

    “[We] still have to track the situation of the mutant variant of Covid-19 which could affect the number of people infected,” added the chairman.

    The JSCCIB urged the Thai government to open its borders to low- and medium-risk countries in accordance with the vaccine passport programme, to stimulate the tourism sector.

    The Committee called on the government to allow the private sector to purchase their own vaccines to help speed up vaccination in order to recover the country’s economy. They also suggested the government look for various sources of vaccine globally to cover all Thais, migrant workers, and foreign businessmen.

    In January the JSCCIB revised its projection for the growth of gross domestic product in 2021 to 1.5-3.5 per cent, down from a December forecast of 2-4 per cent, following the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.

    The post Thai businesses call for vaccine passports, more foreign suppliers, to safeguard economic recovery appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Main
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24894
  • Opposition accuses government of stalling tactics over charter bill

    Invoking the Constitutional Court is part of a government effort to stall the writing of a new charter and to prolong the ruling junta’s power, opposition figures and critics said, as the court is due to rule on part of the process this week. “There is no suitable reason to stop the effort to rewrite […]

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    Invoking the Constitutional Court is part of a government effort to stall the writing of a new charter and to prolong the ruling junta’s power, opposition figures and critics said, as the court is due to rule on part of the process this week.

    “There is no suitable reason to stop the effort to rewrite the constitution unless the reason is to protect the authoritative system that resulted from a coup, and the succession of the junta’s power,” Pokin Palakul, co-founder of the newly formed Srang Thai opposition group, said on Tuesday.

    The house and the senate voted on February 6 to seek the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the charter amendment process. This consists of two major amendments. The first is to change Section 256 of the constitution to set up a charter-drafting assembly. The second is the creation of a new constitution.

    The Court is due to publish its ruling on the legality of the second part on Thursday. If it finds it illegal to write a new constitution, it might still be possible for parliament to discuss a new drafting assembly, but that assembly would effectively be prohibited from doing anything.

    Pokin said it is very unusual for the majority of the parliament to support involving the Constitutional Court in such matters. Such a move might indicate a collective effort to block the new charter, he said.

    “The charter amendment bill already passed the first and second readings which means that the parliament was already confident that they have the power to write a new constitution,” he said.

    The charter-rewriting bill, in both its parts, passed its second reading on February 25, with the third reading due no sooner than 15 days later.

    Pokin said all 200 members of the new assembly would be elected by the people, and the new text would be subject to approval by referendum, so there is no good reason for anyone to block the process.

    Pichai Narithapan, Pheu Thai Deputy Leader, told Thai Enquirer on Wednesday that a group of people are using various delaying tactics to prevent the rewriting of the charter and keep Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha in power.

    “There is no charter in this world that cannot be amended,” he said. “The only way to stop a charter being amended is if there are people in power who are working against that,” he said.

    Critics of the junta-drafted charter said the clause that allows junta-appointed senators to vote for premier is deeply undemocratic.

    All of the 250 appointed senators voted for Prayut after the most recent general election in 2019.

    “This charter was drafted to prolong the power of the junta and it became problematic in itself as the government now has to amend it in order for it to meet international standards,” he added. 

    Sereepisut Temiyavet, leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party, said if the Constitutional Court or the 250 appointed senators block the parliament’s efforts to rewrite the junta-drafted charter, there will be a mass protest by the people.

    “If you stab the people in the back, the people will break yours in future,” he said.

    Ramate Rattanachaweng, secretary to the president of the National Assembly, pointed out on Wednesday that, even if the Court rules against the rest of the process, the parliament would still be able to pass the parts of the bill relating to Section 256 and the drafting assembly.

    The petition to invoke the Constitutional Court was made by Paiboon Nititawan, a deputy leader of the coalition-leading Palang Pracharath Party, and senator Somchai Sawaengkarn.

    The post Opposition accuses government of stalling tactics over charter bill appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24887
  • Pathumthani cluster hits 676 cases

    The cluster that started in Pathumthani’s Pornpat Market has spread to more than 670 confirmed coronavirus cases in less than one month, the government said on Wednesday. The outbreak, which started when a vendor tested positive on February 6, had led to 676 cases as of March 2, said Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the spokesman for […]

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    The cluster that started in Pathumthani’s Pornpat Market has spread to more than 670 confirmed coronavirus cases in less than one month, the government said on Wednesday.

    The outbreak, which started when a vendor tested positive on February 6, had led to 676 cases as of March 2, said Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Of those, 581 were found in the province and the rest across 12 others.

    Most of the infected patients are Thais and Burmese people working at the Pornpat Market, where 500 of the cases have been found.

    Most remaining cases were found at nearby markets, such as Suchart Market where 39 cases were found, followed by 17 in Tai Market, 11 in Si Mum Muang Market and 5 in Rangsit Market.

    Cases were also found in the province’s Thammasat University Hospital (9), Future Park (4) and the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority’s Rangsit terminal (3).

    More than 34,000 proactive tests were conducted in high-risk communities in Pathumthani between December 23 and February 25.

    The Pornpat Market cluster is now contained but active case finding is still ongoing and the CCSA is still waiting for the results from nearly 400 other samples, Taweesin said.

    He also urged vendors at markets throughout the country to stay vigilant in terms of keeping their store clean and adhere to other Covid-prevention measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

    Daily numbers

    The CCSA found 35 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

    Of those, 25 were local infections and 10 were found in quarantine facilities.

    The last time the country reported more than 100 cases per day was on February 18.

    Of the 25 local infections, 17 were found via tests at medical facilities and eight via proactive tests at high-risk communities, mostly in Samut Sakhon and Pathumthani.

    This brings the total number of infections since the pandemic began last year to 26,108 cases. While 25,483 people have recovered from the disease, 541 patients are still being treated.

    There was no new fatality, leaving the death toll at 84 people.

    The second wave of the outbreak has led to 21,871 confirmed cases and 24 deaths since December 15. Of the total confirmed cases during the second wave, 78 per cent were found in Samut Sakhon alone.

    Clusters and provinces

    The second wave of the outbreak has reached 63 out of the 77 provinces in Thailand so far. Of the 63, there are now 40 provinces that have not reported any new case in the past 28 days.

    The hardest-hit province continues to be Samut Sakhon, where the second wave began, which reported 16,253 confirmed cases since 15 December.

    This was followed by Bangkok (975), Chonburi (655), Pathumthani (648), Rayong (584), Samut Prakan (366), Chanthaburi (221), Nonthaburi (180), Tak (165), Ang Thong (123) and Nakhon Pathom (120), respectively.

    Of the 25 local infections reported on Wednesday, 12 were found in Samut Sakhon followed by eight in Pathumthani, three in Bangkok and one each in Ayutthaya and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

    The post Pathumthani cluster hits 676 cases appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Covid-19
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24875
  • IT retailer COM7 hits all-time high on work-from-home trend and sector growth

    Share price of COM7, a Thailand-based IT products retailer, surged 7.80 per cent on Wednesday to a new high of 58.75 baht by the end of morning trading, with a transaction value of 1.47 billion baht, based on the promising IT demand uptrend. The IT retailer has been boosted by the work-from-home demand during the […]

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    Share price of COM7, a Thailand-based IT products retailer, surged 7.80 per cent on Wednesday to a new high of 58.75 baht by the end of morning trading, with a transaction value of 1.47 billion baht, based on the promising IT demand uptrend.

    The IT retailer has been boosted by the work-from-home demand during the Covid-19 pandemic that started in March last year. At the end of 2020, share price had risen to 39 baht.

    KTBST Securities said it expects COM7 to “exceed the 10 per cent growth target this year” on the back of an increase of branches, a reduction of Covid-19 restrictions, improving online sales, and efficient cost management.

    The company group had 911 branches as of the end of 2020 under the retail brands BaNANA, Studio7, and KingKong Phone. Of those, 124 were new branches opened last year amid the outbreak. COM7 aims to increase the number of stores to reach 1,000 this year.

    COM7 posted net profit for 2020 at 1.49 billion baht, up 22.6 per cent. The KTBST analyst raised the net profit forecast of COM7 to 1.79 billion baht, up 24 per cent year-on-year, for 2021 and 2.17 billion baht, up 21 per cent year-on-year, for 2022.

    The revision was based on expectation of stronger revenue from both on-and offline channels and reduced expenses given a cut in employees per store and lower rents, particularly from standalone stores, the analyst said. The average number of employees reduced to 4.3 per store in 2020 from 5.2 in 2019.

    “We reiterate a buy rating on COM7 but raise our target price to 60.00 baht from 48.00 baht following our 2021 earnings forecast upgrade”

    Meanwhile, another IT products distributor Synnex Thailand (SYNEX) also rose 13.66 per cent to 20.80 baht per share mid-day, accounting for 648 million baht of transaction value, after the company said it was expecting earnings growth of 10 -15 per cent this year. Synnex’s 2020 net profit was 642 million baht, up 22.53 per cent.

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    The post IT retailer COM7 hits all-time high on work-from-home trend and sector growth appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Main
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24881
  • Ammy the Bottom Blues arrested over arson and possible 112 offences

    The singer and pro-democracy activist known as Ammy the Bottom Blues was arrested on suspicion of arson and potentially lese-majeste, police said Wednesday. The celebrity, real name Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, was suspected of being one of three individuals who set fire to some property in front of Khlong Prem Central Prison at around 3 am on […]

    The post Ammy the Bottom Blues arrested over arson and possible 112 offences appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    The singer and pro-democracy activist known as Ammy the Bottom Blues was arrested on suspicion of arson and potentially lese-majeste, police said Wednesday.

    The celebrity, real name Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, was suspected of being one of three individuals who set fire to some property in front of Khlong Prem Central Prison at around 3 am on Sunday, said Police Lieutenant General Phukphong Phongpetra, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

    Earlier news reports said the torched items included a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn. Police did not give details of the objects, but said Ammy could possibly face charges under Article 112, which prohibits lese-majeste.

    Ammy was arrested in Ayutthaya in the early hours of Wednesday. He was taken to the Police General Hospital on account of swelling to his left shoulder and torso, Phukphong said, adding that the injuries were not a result of his arrest.

    The evidence against Ammy and the other suspects included witnesses and scientific evidence as well as security camera footage, he said. No other arrests have been made.

    Phukphong declined to give further details, saying that they were still in the early stages of the investigation. Ammy will initially be charged with committing arson and possibly offences under Article 112, he said.

    The post Ammy the Bottom Blues arrested over arson and possible 112 offences appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24874
  • Thaksin shows enduring popularity with second clubhouse appearance

    Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra showed his continuing popularity on Tuesday night with an appearance on the social media application Clubhouse. Using the handle Tony Woodsome, Thaksin made an appearance with the Care Group to talk about the challenges facing the SME sector in Thailand. Over 30,000 people listened to the talk with multiple […]

    The post Thaksin shows enduring popularity with second clubhouse appearance appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra showed his continuing popularity on Tuesday night with an appearance on the social media application Clubhouse.

    Using the handle Tony Woodsome, Thaksin made an appearance with the Care Group to talk about the challenges facing the SME sector in Thailand.

    Over 30,000 people listened to the talk with multiple channels mirroring the main stream due to an 8,000 person limit on Clubhouse.

    In contrast, a talk held by Minister of Public Health Autin Charnvirakul the day prior drew only a few thousand at its peak.

    The talk on Tuesday was more tightly controlled than Thaksin’s first appearance on Clubhouse where the prime minister stumbled and refused to answer questions on Thailand lese-majeste laws and appeared to have problems remembering the Tak Bai incident.

    By contrast, Tuesday’s talk focused on Thaksin’s start in businesses and the problems he faced getting his business empire of the ground in the 1980s and 1990s.

    The moderated panel also focused on inadequate response by the current administration to foster a nurturing environment for start-ups and businesses – especially during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

    Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and has spent the majority of the last two decades in self-imposed exile. His sister’s Yingluck’s government was similarly deposed in a 2014 military coup – with the generals from that coup continuing to govern the country.

    The post Thaksin shows enduring popularity with second clubhouse appearance appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24862
  • Opinion: Thailand’s silence is a national embarrassment as ASEAN leaders pressure Myanmar’s junta

    Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the Myanmar’s military use of force against civilians was “disastrous.” Lee added, in an interview with the BBC that “to use lethal force against civilians and unarmed demonstrators, I think it is just not acceptable.” The Singaporean prime minister added that the junta should release Aung San […]

    The post Opinion: Thailand’s silence is a national embarrassment as ASEAN leaders pressure Myanmar’s junta appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the Myanmar’s military use of force against civilians was “disastrous.”

    Lee added, in an interview with the BBC that “to use lethal force against civilians and unarmed demonstrators, I think it is just not acceptable.”

    The Singaporean prime minister added that the junta should release Aung San Suu Kyi and negotiate with her National League for Democracy Party.

    It was a statement echoed by the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia.

    Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters after an ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting on Tuesday that, “Malaysia calls for the prompt and unconditional release of detained political leaders in Myanmar, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Win Myint and their associates.”

    “It is crucial for Myanmar to strive for a solution to the political crisis in a way that upholds the will and aspiration of the people of Myanmar,” he said.

    Retno Marsudi, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, added to the sentiment and called for the release of all political detainees and the end of violence.

    Philippines Foreign Minister Teddy Locsin Jr also called for the release of Suu Kyi.

    Of course, the official Thai

    International Embarrassment

    So what did the Thai side say? Well the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the following statement:

    “We hope all sides in Myanmar will exercise utmost restraint and engage in dialogue in order to achieve peaceful resolution of the situation and the return to normalcy for the interests of the Myanmar people.”

    The statement was hidden by a long preamble about ASEAN cooperation on Covid-19 and was almost an afterthought in the press release.

    It is hardly surprising given that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said that the coup was on internal matter the day following the putsch.

    Perhaps, the two former coup-leaders were being cautious. After all, they’re well versed in taking power away from democratically elected governments.

    Should we also be surprised that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been so timid in its condemnation of the massacres in our largest neighbour? Read the MFA statement again. “ALL SIDES….will exercise utmost restraint.”

    As if all sides are engaging in widespread violence using live ammunitions and weapons of war. I believe only ONE SIDE is doing that.

    But then again, the MFA under Don Pramudwinai is lukewarm and milquetoast. The wizened diplomat and deputy prime minister has become nothing more than a coup-cheerleader and he has taken along the entire foreign service with him.

    As our neighbors continue to suffer in their fight for democracy, we can do nothing but stand in solidarity because clearly our government is unable to distinguish right from wrong. Even after violent crackdowns have sparked a surprising response from usually reticent ASEAN members, Thailand has chosen to stay silent.

    It is deafening and embarrassing.

    The post Opinion: Thailand’s silence is a national embarrassment as ASEAN leaders pressure Myanmar’s junta appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    3 March 2021
    Current Affairs
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24857
  • Opinion: Free Youth has given ammunition to the government and the royalist

    What Free Youth accomplished on Sunday was to provide more ammunition for the government’s propaganda machines. On Monday, #ม็อบสวะ or “garbage mob” was trending on Twitter. Both sides of the political spectrum were using it to showcase violent protestors and police brutality. The most unacceptable footage for me were of a group of fully-geared police […]

    The post Opinion: Free Youth has given ammunition to the government and the royalist appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    What Free Youth accomplished on Sunday was to provide more ammunition for the government’s propaganda machines.

    On Monday, #ม็อบสวะ or “garbage mob” was trending on Twitter. Both sides of the political spectrum were using it to showcase violent protestors and police brutality.

    The most unacceptable footage for me were of a group of fully-geared police officers beating up an unarmed protestor and a video of a protestor literally pissing down on a group of police officers from a container.

    Warong Dechgitvigrom, the leader of Thai Pakdee, then wrote on his social media page on Tuesday that the police should be attacking the pro-democracy protestors more than constantly defending.

    What the extreme royalist politician did not care to mentioned as that there were numerous times in the past when the police were cracking down on the protestors even though they were peaceful.

    But still, the reason why Warong was able to say this on Tuesday is because of the violence that took place on Sunday, thanks to the small group of protestors who refused to stand down for absolutely no good reason at all.

    Blocking the toll-way, throwing rocks and firecrackers at the police and burning down a police vehicle did not accomplish anything that was positive for the pro-democracy movement at all.

    What is worst is Free Youth’s excuse. Saying “everyone is a leader” and that the protest was called off since 7 pm, the group attempted to absolve itself of any responsibility.

    Warong can now claim that the police were being too lenient with violent protestors and call for harsher crackdown measures.

    “The people are not only weary of this gangster mob but they are also beginning to be frustrated with the government,” he said. “Please hurry up and proceed with the change to an attacking plan already,” he added.

    The incident also allowed Prayut Chan-ocha to justify his government’s use of force and draconian laws to silence the protesters.

    “If you are not doing anything wrong then you do not have to be afraid of any law,” he said out of the blue after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

    Another thing that the Free Youth’s leaders have accomplished was to provide the courts with more excuses to keep detained protest-leaders in jail.

    But Free Youth have hardly learned their lesson.

    They are now planning for another leaderless protest this coming Saturday while people in their Telegram group were talking about using Molotov Cocktails at the next protest site.

    Luckily, not all of them agree.

    “I wish for my brothers and sisters to keep on fighting. My freedom is a small thing when compared to the fight of the pro-democracy movement. I am happy and proud to have fought with the people. Stick to our ideology, peaceful means and continue to be fearless,” Anon Numpha wrote this on October 15 in Chiang Mai.

    If only Free Youth will listen.

    The post Opinion: Free Youth has given ammunition to the government and the royalist appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    2 March 2021
    Current Affairs Main
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24851
  • Bang Kloi and the Myth of the Homogenized Nation-State

    “At a time when the state seems pervasive and inescapable,” writes James Scott in The Art of Not Being Governed, “it is easy to forget that for much of history, living within or outside the state – or in an intermediate zone – was a choice.” Our world is one of nation-states. Cleanly drawn, easily mapped […]

    The post Bang Kloi and the Myth of the Homogenized Nation-State appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    “At a time when the state seems pervasive and inescapable,” writes James Scott in The Art of Not Being Governed, “it is easy to forget that for much of history, living within or outside the state – or in an intermediate zone – was a choice.”

    Our world is one of nation-states. Cleanly drawn, easily mapped out lines of sovereignty give rise to notions of undisturbed unity, a singular linguistic, cultural, and ethnic community populating one geographic region. 

    But that’s almost never the case. 

    The situation surrounding Bang Kloi and the displacement of Karen villagers is emblematic of how communities that are peripheral to the state are viewed as a threat – a “shatter zone” – to be homogenized and incorporated into the imposed cultural mainstream.

    In this instance, they are also to be silenced.

    Indigenous Karen communities have been displaced from their ancestral homeland in the Kaeng Krachan forest complex in Thailand since 1996. By declaring their sustainable cultivation of the forest and its natural resources as encroachment, the Thai government defends its displacement of the villagers from their home in Bang Kloi Bon with justifications of conserving the forest. 

    Self-governance of the Karen is perceived by the state as a disturbance to the national imagination, to what “Thainess” should look like. This prescriptivism has violent repercussions, demonstrated by the crackdown of 2011, where forest officials burned homes to drive out Karen who refused to leave the area, and the forced disappearance of Karen activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen in 2014, amongst many others. 

    The state monopoly on violence, to borrow from Max Weber, legitimates oppressive actions against minorities.

    Eviction, imprisonment, and dehumanization is justified on the grounds that this is the state’s territory, and those who refuse to subject are forced under control or driven out. 

    What the Karen have suffered, and what they continue to fight against, derive from the historical lineage of states absorbing ungoverned, autonomous peoples as part of the cultural standardization and homogenization required by the nation-building project.

    Even now, promises of peaceful dialogue ring hollow, a flimsy façade against the looming threat of another violent crackdown. Reports of armed helicopters approaching the Kaeng Krachan forest area conflict with the assured openness to negotiate land rights.

    When will this violence end? Will it ever? If the goal is, as Scott puts it, for “the complete elimination of nonstate spaces,” the Karen may never be able to return home. The government most likely will not stop until the villagers have lost all everything, including the ability to speak out and protest.

    Years of campaigning have resulted in marginal gains: the 2019 Community Forestry Act may have been passed, but it only allows habitation in forests outside conservation areas, which does nothing for communities like Karen who do live in conservation areas. 

    The 1998 cabinet resolution, which specifies that land will only be returned to forest communities on the basis it is continuously used, contradicts the Karen’s practice of rotating land for agriculture, cultivating one area and moving onto the next to give the soil time to replenish. It has yet to be overturned. 

    The 2018 ruling by the Supreme Administrative court upheld eviction policies, only ordering the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Conservation (DNP) to pay 10,000-baht compensation for the homes burned in the 2011 crackdown. 

    By continuing to claim that the violence against Karen villagers is a necessary measure for conserving the forest, the Thai government continues to perpetuate inaccuracies about the Karen people and their relationship to the forest. UNESCO’s decision to postpone the consideration of the Kaeng Krachan forest as a natural world heritage site in 2019 because of the unresolved conflict with the Karen population shows that the government’s human rights violations are not lost on the larger international community. 

    The attempt to obscure these violations through the heritage site nomination, though, is worth noting. Violently displacing the Karen population and then turning around to cast yourself as a protector and conservationist of the forest complex is the state propagating what Scott calls the “self-inflating” narrative of “confounding the status of state-subject with civilization and that of self-governing peoples with primitivism.” 

    In essence, indigenous non-state people in the region, like the Karen community, are stigmatized as “backward” and “barbarian,” naturalizing the presence of the nation-state for “progress” and “development.”

    The situation in Bang Kloi, as previously mentioned, is a modern rendering of a longstanding historical issue. There exists “a distinction, hence a dialectic, between a settled, state-governed population and a frontier penumbra of less governed or virtually autonomous peoples” which has manifested across space and time. 

    Scott points to numerous instances in the late 17th century, such as the “outlaw corridor” of the Roma and Sinti people in Brandenburg-Prussia and the maroon community of slaves in Palmares, Brazil. These communities “are not simply a space of political resistance but also a zone of cultural refusal” that offer a place of refuge for those to flee from the state as well as a home for those who have never been state subjects to begin with. 

    The tension inherent in the dialectical relationship between two peoples can undoubtedly give rise to violence, as seen in the archetypal example of Bang Kloi, where the state actively works to deny the rights of minorities. But there are instances where the dynamic is reversed: the Mongols, in 12th century, were a “militarized pastoral people” that overran a state and ruled in its place. 

    Resistance to state structures is possible.

    Scott’s claim that “living in the absence of state structures has been the standard human condition” speaks to the relatively recent – but rapid – onset of modern states and the national hegemonies that come with it. The ethos of self-governance relies upon constant fluidity, a continuous shift in the social and cultural organization of the people that resist the dynastic or modern state. 

    For the Karen people of Kaeng Krachan forest, overruling the entirety of Thailand may not be on the table. But there is hope that as these confrontations with state authorities increase, efforts to protest and pressure the government by activists, netizens, and the villagers themselves will come to fruition, and allow Karen communities to return to their ancestral home.

    The post Bang Kloi and the Myth of the Homogenized Nation-State appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

    2 March 2021
    Commentary
    https://www.thaienquirer.com/?p=24854