Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vasit Dejkunjorn: The Man And The Cartoon

When those right wing Thai royalists believe the palace is under attack, they wheel out one of their faithful tools, Vasit Dejkunjorn, a retired police general who has served as head of Palace Security in 1973 and a royal aide to the King for many years. He wrote the syrupy propaganda book; “In His Majesty’s Footsteps” and has worked with two different military-appointed governments (2007 and in 2011 under Abhisit).

With Vasit, it is the same old extremist anti-foreign and racist ideas that are his stock and trade.  No matter what the crisis, his broken record-like response is to lash out at foreigners and explain to Thais, that foreigners just can’t possibly understand and are malicious and/or stupid (and yes, Vasit says, some are even paid by Thaksin).

During the out-pouring of articles critical to the palace over 3 years ago, Vasit wrote an article in Matichon in December 2008 entitled “Lese Majeste”.  In that article, he argues that foreigners, no matter how long they study Thailand, can never understand the country because they lack the essential element of “Thainess.” This quality comes from being born, raised and educated in Thailand. In Vasit’s scheme of things, “Thainess” appears to mean support for the monarchy. Those Thais who read the work of feeble-minded foreignersand believe them are actually, he asserts, “mentally deranged and should seek immediate medical assessment.”

Fast forward 3 years to December 2011 when comments by the US Ambassador and the United Nations Office of Human Rights challenged Thailand’s lèse majesté law. Vasit wrote another article in Matichon saying he was not really surprised to hear that Kristie Kenney, the US Ambassador to Thailand, and Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had "come out to make comments critical of the Thai court in the case of Amphon Tangnoppakul who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for lèse majesté."

He was not surprised, in the case of Kenney, because he is aware that a number of Americans know and understand other peoples and countries only superficially, no matter how highly educated they are or how many degrees they have got from universities.

Citing Kenney’s degrees from various universities, Vasit said that he doubted whether those universities’ curricula had provided her with enough understanding about foreign countries including, in particular, Southeast Asian countries, and made her sufficiently aware that "the Thais’ feelings toward their King are completely different from those of Americans toward the President of the United States of America."

Considering her record of having served only in European and Latin American countries and the Philippines, he assumed that the Ambassador would never have had time to really study and get to know Thailand and the Thai people.

As for Ravina Shamdasani, he said that he could not find her record, except that she is a human rights advocate, “seeming quite young and looking Indonesian or Malay.”  "However, both Kenney and Shamdasani may not know that the Thai King has been enthroned by succession in the dynasty and not by election for a four-year term like the American president," he said.

He also believed that Kenney and Shamdasani did not know much about Thailand’s criminal law, otherwise they would have known that lèse majesté offences were not like offences against ordinary people, but were against national security.

Now, a month later, Vasit is attacking another threat for the palace with the same old tactic. A group of legal scholars from Thammasat University, under the name Nitirat (นิติราษฎร์), are proposing some innovative solutions to some of Thailand’s political difficulties.  Most controversial is the proposal that the legal consequences of the 2006 coup be nullified and that there should be amendments to Article 112 of the Criminal Code, Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law.

This spirit of the law has its origin in Thai history,” writes Vasit in a more recent Matichon article. “I have no idea how much basic knowledge they [the Nitirat group] had of Thai history before they received degrees from abroad.  But even elementary school children know that our Thailand has been ruled by kings since ancient times, at least since Sukhothai, until today for over 700 years.  The current Chakri dynasty, in particular, has lasted over 200 years.  Of course, kings and dynasties have been changed all along, but what has remained and been respected since our grandparents is His Majesty the King,” Vasit said.

Unfortunately, this old “cold” warrior thinks his country is still fighting for its survival against communists from Issan and Vietnam. His vision of things lost reality and relevance forty years ago yet he continues the same old rhetoric.  He’s just an angry old codger now.

I have a theory on why he is so angry at foreigners. Perhaps it’s because he thinks we make fun of him. For instance, he may have the belief that the character known as Hans Moleman on the animated American television series “The Simpsons” is based upon him.

In the television show, he normally appears in a running gag, where he usually suffers unfortunate, sometimes fatal events. Some of Vasit’s funnier moments in animation have been compiled in this video. 

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