- Communist Party of Thailand
The Communist Party of Thailand - CPT (Thai: พรรคคอมมิวนิสต์แห่งประเทศไทย, abbreviated พคท.) was a Marxist-Leninist, Communist political party in Thailand, active from 1942 until the 1990s. Initially known as Communist Party of Siam the party was founded officially on the 1st of December 1942, although communist activism in the country began as early as 1927. In the 1960s the CPT grew in membership and support and by the early 1970s was the second largest communist movement in mainland South-East Asia (after Vietnam). Even though the CPT suffered internal divisions, at its political peak the party effectively acted as a state within the state. Its rural support is estimated to have been at least four million people; its military support consisted of 10-14,000 armed fighters. Its influence was concentrated to the North-Eastern, Northern and Southern regions of Thailand.
However, following a series of internal party disputes, changes in international communist alliances, successful counter-insurgency policies of the Thai government and, ultimately, the end of the Cold War, the party disappeared from the political scene in the early 1990s.
1930s – 1940s background
In 1927, Thai students abroad meeting in Paris to plot the Coup d'état of 1932 formed a political party and named it Khana Ratsadon (คณะราษฎร,) translated in English as the People's Party. Within days of the success of the coup, Khana Ratsadon had turned Siam into a one-party state with communistic sounding institutions such as the "People's Assembly" and the position of "President of the People's Committee". In 1933, Pridi, one of the Party's founders, went briefly into voluntary exile when his radical economic plans calling for nationalisation of all land and labour, were violently rejected by many as extreme and allegedly communist. Though Pridi was advocating socialism, Party co-founder Pibun supported fascism and nationalism, with the consequence that subsequent nationalist regimes labeled many would-be reformers "Communist!" During World War II, Pridi used his figurehead role of Regent for the young Rama X then in neutral Switzerland as cover for his leadership of the Free Thai Movement in Thailand in cooperation with the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The United States had never officially been at war with Thailand, and supported her admission to the United Nations The Soviet Union, however, insisted on the repeal of anticommunist legislation. 
1940s - 1950s: Founding of the Party
During its initial phase of existence, the Communist Party of Siam remained a small party. It was mainly based amongst intellectuals in Bangkok and the services. By early 1948, British intelligence sources deemed reports that the party would have had 3000 members nationwide as 'exaggerated'. The party enjoyed a brief period of legality from 1946 to 1948. The secret party headquarters were located in a wooden building at Si Phraya Road, Bangkok.
CPT held its second party congress in 1952.
1960s: The People's War
In 1960, the party attended the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties held in Moscow.
CPT held its third party congress in September 1961. In the Sino-Soviet split, CPT would side with the Communist Party of China. In October 1964, its position as was declared in a congruatulatory message on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Ideologically, the party aligned with Maoism. In 1961 it formulated a policy of armed struggle along the lines of the Chinese experience, which was brought public in 1964. The party condemned the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as revisionist and social imperialist. As of 1966, relations with the Communist Party of Vietnam began to deteriorate, as CPT criticized CPV for failing to taking a clear pro-China stance.
The party launched the Thai Patriotic Front on January 1, 1965. The TPF had a six-point programme for peace and neutrality. The Front called for the formation of a patriotic and democratic government, and opposed the Thai government and US troop presence in Thailand. TPF was posed to fill the role of the united front in the triangular setting of the people's war strategy (party-army-front).
Low intensity armed struggle began in August 1965, the party declared through its VOPT transmission that 'an era of armed struggle had begun'. At the same time the party intensified began armed actions in the Na Kae District, Nakhon Phanom Province. At the time it was estimated that the party had around 1200 armed fighters under its command.
Opposition to US military presence in Thailand was of high importance to the political discourse of the CPT during the Vietnam War. The CPT alleged that Thailand was a neocolonial country under the direct control of the United States. Emphasis was thus given to the struggle for national independence. As of 1968, the theory of neocolonialism was refuted by large sections of the party, who inspired by the Maoist positions argued that Thailand was a semi-colonial country.
In 1969, the Supreme Command of the People's Liberation Army of Thailand was formed, marking a new phase in the build-up of guerrilla forces. The armed struggle had spread to various districts in the North. The armed forces of the party had also established a presence along the border with Malaysia, in the areas were the armed forces of the Communist Party of Malaya was based.
From 1970 onwards PLAT received significant logistical support from China and Vietnam. PLAT forces intensified their operations, including attacks on US Air Force bomber bases in the country.
When Thailand and the People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations in 1975, an announcement on VOPT hailed this development.
In the aftermath of the October 6 massacre at Thammasat University and in the climate of increasing repression after the military take-over of the country, the CPT was able to expand its membership base. Many of the new recruits were students, workers, intellectuals, farmers or cadres of the Socialist Party of Thailand. More than 1000 students joined the party, including most elected campus representative throughout the country. A large section of the newly recruited members received political and military training in PLAT camps in Laos. Instructors were Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese.
In many cases, however, students used to urban life had difficulties adopting to the harsh realities of guerrilla struggle, and thus the party decided to place many of them in villages rather in the deep jungles. The new student recruits were divided in groups of five to ten, which were distributed along the approximately 250 'liberated villages' of the country.
By 1977, its estimated that the party had around 6-8000 armed fighters, and about a million sympathizers. Half of the provinces of the country were declared 'communist infiltrated' by official Thai sources at the time.
The entry of leftist intellectuals to the party strengthened its capability to pursue united front policies. Following the expansion of its membership, CPT began to stretch out a hand to wider sections of Thai society for forming a broad democratic front. On May 7, 1977 the Socialist Party of Thailand declared that it would cooperate in armed struggle with the CPT. On July 2 the two parties declared the formation of a united front.
On October 4 VOPT declared the formation of the Committee for Coordination of Patriotic and Democratic Forces on September 28. The nine-member coordination committee consisted of
- Chairman: Udom Srisuwan (CPT Central Committee Member)
- Vice Chairman: Boonyen Wothong (SPT)
- Committee Member: Monkon Na Nakhon (CPT)
- Committee Member: Therdphum Chaidee
- Committee Member: Sithon Yotkantha (farmers movement)
- Committee Member: Samak Chalikun (Socialist United Front Party)
- Committee Member: Chamni Sakdiset
- Spokesman and Committee Member: Sri Inthapathi (formerly working for the Public Relations Department of the government)
- Secretary: Thirayut Boonmi (students movement and editor of Samakhi Surop (United to Fight), a magazine being circulated among students and intellectuals both in Thailand and abroad.)
Aligned with the CPT at the time were also the Thai Moslem People's Liberation Armed Forces and the National Student Center of Thailand.
The military and political growth would however be hampered by developments in the diplomatic area. The party depended on support from states and communist parties in the neighbouring countries, and as international alliances shifted the CPT found itself in a cornered position.
In late 1978 Sino-Soviet split developed into armed hostilities in South-East Asia as war broke out between Vietnam and Kampuchea, two countries that supported CPT. Laos, a country which hosted many PLAT bases, sided with Vietnam in the dispute. And in January 1979 CPT and PLAT were expelled from Laos by the Laotian government, resulting in a military backlash for the party. Bunyen Worthong and a small section of other ex-student leaders/intellectuals broke with the party leadership and on October 22, 1979 they formed the Thai Isan Liberation Party (generally called Pak Mai, the 'New Party') in Vientiane. Pak Mai was a communist party that supported Vietnamese-Laotian positions. Pak Mai was based in Laos.
Initially, CPT adopted a neutral stance in the emerging conflict between Vietnam and Kampuchea, causing relations to deteriorate with both the Chinese and the Vietnamese parties. However, as Vietnam intervened militarily in Kampuchea, CPT condemned the Vietnamese action in a statement issued on June 7, 1979.
As diplomatic and trade relations between Thailand and China improved, and Thai and Chinese governments found a common enemy in pro-Soviet Vietnam, the moral and logistical support for the CPT on behalf of the Chinese declined sharply. The Communist Party of China began advising the CPT to tone down their revolutionary discourse against the Thai government in their radio broadcasts, with the backdrop of the necessity to support the Democratic Kampuchea forces against the Vietnamese. On July 10, 1979 VOPT declared that it would cease to its broadcasting service. On July 11 the last VOPT broadcast was transmitted. Renmin Ribao carried a congratulatory message from CPT on the 30th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on September 30, which called for militant unity between Thai and Chinese communists, but thereafter news about the CPT in Chinese media became scarse.
In 1980 the Thai government adopted a government order, "66/2523", encouraging CPT cadres to defect. Former cadres were eventually granted amnesty.
In March 1981 the Socialist Party of Thailand broke its relation with the CPT, claiming that CPT was controlled by foreign influences.
In April 1981 the CPT leadership proposed the Thai government to initiate peace talks. The Thai government responded that the CPT fighters had to demobilize before any talks could be initiated. In a declaration on October 25, 1981 Major General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the director of the Thai Army Operations Department, said that the war against CPT armed forces was approaching its end as all major bases of the PLAT in the North and North-East had been destroyed.
In 1982-1983 CPT experienced mass defections of its cadres, and its military potential was severely reduced. Many of those that defected in the early 1980s were the students and intellectuals that joined CPT after the 1976 massacre. The defectors generally rejected the Maoist ideological positions of the CPT, arguing that Thailand was emerging as an industrial nation and the peasant war strategy had to be abandoned.
At the time, the arrests of two high-profile CPT leaders occurred. Damri Ruangsutham, influential politburo member, and Surachai Sae Dan, a leading figure of the party in southern Thailand, were captured by state forces.
There have been no reports of CPT activity since the beginning of the 1990s. However, the exact fate of the party is not known, and it remains banned to this day.
As of the 1970s, the party was led by a 7-member politburo, elected by a 25-member Central Committee. Under the Central Committee there were various provincial (changwat) committees and under them district (amphoe) committees. In the local level there were tambol and muban party structures.
Information on the leadership of CPT is scarse. The CPT itself was always secretive of revealing the identity of its leaders. According to a 1977 Kampuchean document, it was claimed that the General Secretary of the CPT was 'Khamtan' (nom de guerre of Phayom Chulanont). Other sources mention 'Comrade Samanan' (Jaroen Wanngam) as the party leader during the same period.
Prior to the formation of the Communist Party of Siam, the Communist Party of China had an active exile branch working amongst the ethnically Chinese in the country. The party obtained legal status in 1946, and had a major influence in trade unions and amongst Chinese students. The party had around 2000 active members and another 3000 sympathizers in Siam. However, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 most of the Chinese communists in the country joined the CPT. Thus from this period until 1976, the party membership was largely ethnically Chinese. However, following the rapid expansion of the party following the 1976 massacre the profile of the party changed and ethnic Thais came to constitute the dominant group amongst the party ranks.
There was also a strong presence of other ethnic minorities amongst the party ranks. Notably, whilst many Hmongs in neighbouring Laos tended to side with anti-communist forces, the CPT was able to build a strong base amongst Hmong people in Thailand.
- ^ Battersby, Paul. Border Politics and the Broader Politics of Thailand's International Relations in the 1990s: From Communism to Capitalism in Pacific Affairs, Vol. 71, No. 4. (Winter, 1998-1999), pp. 473-488.
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- ^ a b Marks, Thomas A. Thailand: Anatomy of a Counterinsurgency Victory Military Review, January-February 2007
- ^ a b Punyaratabandhu-Bhakdi, Suchitra. Thailand in 1983: Democracy, Thai Style in Asian Survey, Vol. 24, No. 2, A Survey of Asia in 1983: Part II. (Feb., 1984), pp. 187-194.
- ^ “It Was Like Suddenly My Son No Longer Existed” Human Rights Watch, Volume 19, No. 5(C), March 2007
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- ^ Frings, K. Viviane, Rewriting Cambodian History to 'Adapt' It to a New Political Context: The Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party's Historiography (1979-1991) in Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 4. (Oct., 1997), pp. 807-846.
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- List of incidents attributed to the Communist Party of Thailand on the START database
- The Road to victory : documents from the Communist Party of Thailand Chicago : Liberator Press, 1978
Political parties in Thailand In Coalition Government In Opposition Extra-parliamentary Defunct parties Dissolved parties
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