Panic, coups and courts

9 05 2013

It is difficult to miss the increase in political panic attacks on the two main sides of the political contest in Thailand.

As PPT has already posted, the yellow-hued opponents of the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra have had multiple panic attacks that have caused them to shout their real political views out very loud. When Yingluck speaks to a meeting on democracy, the royalists and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra coalition has its leading figures shout about treason, selling out the country and greater “crimes.” The main “crime” seems to be Yingluck’s failure to again kowtow to the old men who think they run Thailand and continue to concoct a royalist version of the country’s recent political history. A few statements by a younger woman about political reality suggest to the geriatric royalists that their presumed control of her has weakened and that she does not “know her place.”

The tried and royalist trusted method for attacking elected governments, apart from the military coup, is judicial harassment and intervention. And so it is that as the political temperature rises ever more panicked and preposterous royalists charge off to their buddies at the Constitutional Court seeking judicial interference.

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that the latest move is appointed senator  – that is, unelected senator – Paiboon Nititawan who “represents” something called “other sectors,” which really just means he’s an unelected spawn of the military junta, has begged the kangaroo court to consider Thaksin Shinawatra’s alleged “order for Pheu Thai to amend the constitution,” which the senator claims “violates Section 68 of the charter, pertaining to acts that could undermine the constitutional monarchy or grab power through unconstitutional means.”

The Post states that some yellow-shirted intellectuals think the “Constitution Court is likely to take up a complaint…”. At the same time, “Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a political science lecturer at Sripatum University, said the allegation that Thaksin’s Skype call breached Section 68 is far-fetched.” That won’t bother the court or the royalists.

Somchai reckons that a more likely constitutional court intervention is over the “MPs and senators [who] have declared they will not accept the authority of the charter court…”. He says: “Such an announcement is bound to be a violation of the law…. Many MPs and senators may realise their action carries a risk.”

Panic has also set in on the government and red shirt side. PPT has already posted on the political foot-in-mouth calisthenics by Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap. Equally panicky seems to be red shirt supporters claiming that a coup is in the offing. The clearest English-language statement of this was at New Mandala where Jim Taylor makes this claim:

The army, if a little confused about royal futures, are talking about a coup (yes, yet again) among themselves and many senior army officers (including Prayuth Chan-ocha) dropping strong hints in the media…

Several readers have emailed PPT with similar claims. We don’t doubt that the military brass around boss Prayuth Chan-ocha were shocked by Yingluck’s Mongolia speech, but we have yet to see any strong evidence of the tanks warming up. We would expect to see and hear a lot more from the top brass if they were at any serious level of plotting. That said, Yingluck’s speech and the failure of the king and queen to appear as scheduled probably mean that the military men have the coup jitters.Red shirt protest

Meanwhile, while red shirt anger over the Constitutional Court shenanigans saw a mobile protest. Reports from the protest site are mixed, with some saying the protesters preparing to leave and others reporting an expansion of the protest (both in the same newspaper on the same day….). The very same newspaper is back to its old tricks of producing material filched from yellow-shirt sites and dressing it up as an op-ed rather than concocted propaganda.

The latter report also refers to:

hundreds of yellow-shirt Thai Compatriots and Territory Protection Front members, gathering since Tuesday at Sanam Luang, are refusing to clear the site.

They say they will stay until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is ousted and that their presence won’t interfere with Royal Ploughing Ceremony on the grounds next Monday…. They are also demonstrating to offer moral support to the Constitutional Court judges and oppose the Preah Vihear court case.

The Bangkok Post, which says the rally is called off, has a spurious headline at its website, seems to say that the red shirt protest at the Constitutional Court was all Thaksin’s doing, when the story itself implies something else again, even suggesting that the Puea Thai bosses and Thaksin were out of sync with the protesters. Apparently the protest was called off:

after losing the backing of Pheu Thai, other red-shirt groups and, more importantly, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, sources say.Thaksin did it

Some ruling party MPs initially sponsored the protest by the Radio Broadcasters for Democracy movement formed by some red shirts, the Pheu Thai sources said.

Apparently, the MPs got cold feet when the rallies turned to those close to the palace:

The MPs had also joined the protest in front of the Constitution Court on Chaeng Watthana Road in Bangkok.

But they later withdrew their support after demonstration leaders ignored their warnings and attacked Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, threatened Constitution Court judges and used obscene words.

The MPS and Thaksin apparently worried that the rally could destabilize the government. If Thaksin is the ring master in all of this, he seems to have been unable to control the situation or to fathom the impacts of his sister’s speech or the red shirt rally against the hopeless bunch at the Court. Always murky, the arm wrestle continues.





Updated: The tug-of-war continues

2 05 2013

A spate of news reports attest to the continuing political struggle in Thailand as disgruntled royalists seek to undermine the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. These battles focus on Thaksin Shinawatra, the events of 2010 and the military junta’s 2007 constitution. In this post, in no particular order of significance, we summarize some of these struggles and reports.

A critical royalist ally is the judiciary, which continues to punish red shirts and to “teach lessons” in power to those who oppose royalist political domination. This is made especially clear in a report at the Bangkok Post that has the Appeals Court upholding a “Criminal Court’s ruling, denying Pheu Thai Party MP Korkaew Pikulthong bail and sending him back to Laksi temporary prison.” Korkaew is one of the red shirt leaders who was bailed on terrorism charges from 2010 – lower level red shirts remain in jail on related charges or have already been convicted. His bail was withdrawn by the Criminal Court for allegedly “threatening the judges of the Constitution Court.” His appeal was denied because “Korkaew showed no regret…. There was no assurance that he would not break the conditions again if he was granted bail…”. This is punishment for challenging the judiciary and is meant to send a message of the inviolability of that royalist bastion.

On the other side, flip-flopper-in-chief at the Department of Special Investigation Tharit Pengdit has announced that former premier and current Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban will be summoned to acknowledge additional charges of authorizing killings during the 2010 red shirt rallies. These charges relate to events including the “the murder of Kunakorn Srisuvan and the attempted murder of Samorn Maithong, a van driver who was seriously injured in the same incident in which taxi driver Pan Kamkong was shot dead.” Tharit reaffirmed that “military officers ordered to crack down on red shirt protesters in 2010 could not be held responsible for the deaths of civilians killed as a result.” PPT wonders when other members of the coterie of officials, military brass, Democrat Party politicians and Tharit himself, as part of the infamous Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) that was responsible for implementing the various actions against red shirt protesters. That aside, building pressure on Abhisit and his lot is causing increased hatred of Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies on the royalist side as those who have murdered citizens in political acts in the past have generally done so with impunity.

A focus of the political rivalry is constitutional change. The royalists and others who supported the military junta’s drafting of the 2007 constitution repeatedly claimed that if the opposition to the military and its coup didn’t like the basic law, they could easily change it if their party won an election. Of course, the military-royalist coalition assumed that they could engineer a Democrat Party election victory and protect the constitution. But the Democrat Party has lost every election to Thaksin-backed parties and so the promises were quickly buried and there has been rabid opposition to any constitutional change.

One of the demon seed elements of the constitution is appointed, unelected senators. Interestingly, as part of the push for constitutional change, Puea Thai MP Sunai Jullapongsathorn has proposed that “the terms of all appointed senators be ended once the charter revisions take effect. Elected senators would be allowed to carry out their duties till their terms have ended.” At present, it seems that the unelected lot are in place for several more years while the terms of elected senators end next March. This proposal is an attack on one of the significant elements of the constitution that maintains royalist-military political domination even when elected governments are in place. Hence, the anti-democrats support the military junta’s spawn. For example, Democrat Party MP Thana Cheeravinit babbled that “appointed senators had taken up their posts legally in accordance with the Constitution. He said appointed senators have contributed to the country and should not be deprived of their constitutional rights.” Their contribution to the “country” is actually to support the anti-democratic minority and the royalist elite.

The current struggle’s epicenter is the Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly demonstrated political bias and remarkable corruption. A relatively small group of red shirts has been protesting at the Court. Now some of them are calling “on fellow red shirts nationwide to join a rally in front of the court next week in order to step up pressure against the nine members of the bench,” and hope for tens of thousands to rally in support. The royalist judges continue with their consideration of petitions by fellow royalists that seek to declare more than 300 MPs and senators to be, in effect, treasonous in their intent to make constitutional changes. The Bangkok Post reports that the Court’s legally bizarre bid to force these representatives to “explain their stance” has been extended by 15 days. The extension is because every single representative has so far refused to comply with this kangaroo court’s preposterous interference with the legislature. Of course, the biased judges “decided to postpone consideration of a petition by Pheu Thai MPs seeking its ruling on the parliamentary status of opposition leader Abhisit…” related to his loss of military rank and the related question of his status as an MP.

Finally, and perhaps the most sordid of the battles, is the anti-democrat’s response to Yingluck’s speech in Mongolia. That speech, which was a spirited defense of electoral democracy and a statement of the events of recent years has caused considerable royalist and anti-democratic hatred to be expressed. The yellow social media and media are alive with claims that a speech on democracy and its challenges in Thailand amounted to spin and deceit or even “treason,” and there have been related and very nasty and deeply sexist remarks that she is a whore for finally standing up and speaking some truths about the anti-democrats. One of those truths is that the royalists and their political allies are democracy haters.

Update: And, of course, we should have mentioned the battle over Thaksin and amnesty, which has also re-heated. The Bangkok Post reports that the deposed prime minister backs Chalerm Yubamrung’s proposed amnesty bill and says: “I want to come home. Tell the Democrat Party not to worry. If I come back, I don’t want anything…”. That last claim might be hard to believe, but whenever Thaksin talks of return, the coup supporters quickly reassemble for another bout of anti-Thaksinism. There will again be plenty of heat around Thaksin.





No shame

30 12 2012

The Nation has a short story that quotes two senators. Senator Prasarn Marukaphitak is reported to have criticized Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for a range of things but most especially for being for her lack of independence, being under the influence of her brother, Thaksin. Senate vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai criticized her for serving “politicians” rather than the country, essentially making the criticism of the royalist Democrat Party.

PPT would have thought that the these two senators would have had at least a little self-reflection before making such statements that suggest they have no shame and very, very thick faces. Let’s begin with the fact that these are two unelected senators criticizing the elected prime minister. These two men are appointed to their positions without ever having to face the scrutiny of the electorate. Prasarn is a businessman appointed from the “professional sector.”  Surachai is a lawyer appointed from the “private sector.” Both owe their position to the military junta and its undemocratic constitution and are the least likely to be “independent” in political position and serve the interests of the royalist elite. Prasarn is an outspoken member of the so-called group of 40 ultra-royalists senators.

The only possible way for these unelected flunkies to show political independence would be for them to resign their unelected, undemocratic positions. That will never happen for they serve their masters and have no shame and operate with their usual set of double standards.

 

 





ICC in Bangkok III

3 11 2012

At the Bangkok Post web site, this is the headline: “legal advice is pretty well unanimous” (see right) in rejecting the idea of allowing the International Criminal Court to examine the events of April and May 2010.

Yet when the reader clicks through to the story, it turns out that the headline is a fabrication of what the story actually does. In fact, the story cites just two lawyers, one of whom is anonymous. Of the two, one is opposed and another raises several points that could be problems. As we said, the headline at the web site is a concoction.

The opposing lawyer is Thammasat University’s Pokpong Srisanit, a former member of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission, who argues for ratification of the ICC treaty but then argues “against accepting the court’s jurisdiction in cases which the Thai justice system is able to handle by itself,” which seems to completely contradict the idea of ratifying the treaty. Yet, as we have pointed out, logic is often lost in this debate. Perhaps the logic is that Pokpong knows that “ratifying the treaty … would require parliamentary approval necessary for legally binding matters involving national sovereignty under Section 190 of the constitution.” He probably knows that this would be unlikely as it would be opposed by the opposition and conservative appointed senators.

The anonymous “legal expert” says the “government must be careful in deciding whether to request that the ICC looks into the 2010 clashes.”

In other words, there is no “unanimity” even amongst the two legal professionals interviewed by the Post.

The other opponent of the ICC route cited is the conservative Deputy Senate Speaker, an appointed senator, Surachai Liangboonlertchai. No surprise there!

Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation appear to be ready to move into high campaign against the government, as they have consistently done since 2005, whenever the military or yellow shirts provided the opportunity. We guess the editors are pleased that Pitak Siam is providing that opportunity.





Controlling the undemocratic senate

31 07 2012

Readers will not be surprised to learn at The Nation a few days ago that the military-royalist appointees are trying to get control of the Senate Speaker’s position. The undemocratic constitution, put in place in 2007 by the military junta’s flunkies, changed the Senate from an elected body to one that is essentially half appointed by a coterie of royalist judges and notables. This arrangement was meant to be the royalist elite’s fix to ensure that the parliament didn’t engage in any further dangerous democratization.

On 6 August, the Senate is due to select a new Speaker. The report says the politicking for the position is “an intense affair, with appointed senators and their elected counterparts wrestling for control…”. The unelected lot are desperate to retain control of this position. Their job is to control the Senate and, hence, the parliament on any “big deal” legislation. As The Nation’s informant says: “Control of the Senate is essential because it is a key influence in deciding how two contentious issues, reconciliation and charter change, will unfold…”.

The unelected royalist and military flunkies say the “next speaker should be a politically neutral figure.” But this is aberrant political drivel. The appointed senators are the tools of the military and establishment and we can think of none who could be described as “neutral.”

The Nation report says that there are “three main cliques in the Senate”: (1) the so-called Group of 40; (2) the opposition to that group; and (3) the 50 to 60 senators who remain unaligned.

This is misleading. The group of 40 are diehard ultra-royalists, and a few of these are elected. They are always going to oppose the current government. Almost the entire bunch of appointed senators will usually coalesce against the current government. This means that maintaining an “anti-Thaksin” and pro-establishment Senate demands control of the speaker’s position.





Updated: Junta member gives evidence to the junta’s court

6 07 2012

The Bangkok Post reports that:

Senator Somjate Boonthanom, one of the 16 witnesses for the petitioners against the controversial charter amendment bill, said he was confident he had provided crystal clear testimony backing up his cause during the court’s hearing of petitions against the government-sponsored bid on Thursday.

The Post tells us that:

Gen Somjate was speaking after being called to testify as a witness before the Constitution Court as it holds a two-day inquiry … into the legality of the charter change bid.

And then it explains that:

Gen Somjate, who was also one of the five people who petitioned the court, said he was not worried about the court hearing because he could respond to all of the questions asked by the bill’s proposers.

In all of this, the reporters at the Bangkok Post forget to tell their readers who this military general actually is, at least in this important story.

For one thing, Somjet is the former chief of the secretariat of the Council for National Security that toppled the government of Thaksin Shinawatra in the 19 September 2006 coup.

That is, Somjet was a member of the junta that first illegally conspired and then acted to overthrow and elected government and the 1997 constitution. This act was illegal. In other words, Somjet is alleging that others, using parliament and quite legal measures to find a broad method for altering the junta’s constitution, are doing something illegal. In fact, they aren’t, and Somjet is one of those who should be in jail for an illegal act that overthrew the government and constitution in 2006. Of course he and his junta buddies passed a law that made their action “legal.”

The Post might also add that an appointed senator and a leader of the Siam Samakkhi group. That means he is a senator appointed to the senate by his buddies in the military junta, under rules they invented and that he is the leader of a bunch of ultra-royalist fascists.

As a footnote, it is worth recalling that, back in 2009, the Bangkok Post (6 April 2009) reported that “military officers and businessmen who backed the 2006 coup that unseated Thaksin Shinawatra have offered a bounty of one million baht (about $28,348) for his arrest and return to Thailand.”

Somjet reckons that it is “Thaksin is the root cause of the [country's political] problem[s].” Somjet has repeatedly used lese majeste accusations against Thaksin and red shirts.

That Somjet is a witness on the alleged illegality of a constitutional act is highly dubious. We can hardly think of a more disingenuous political act in recent times. We imagine that Somjet looks in the mirror each morning and tells himself he is not a lying, scheming fool. We guess he believes that voice in his head. But then he is giving junta evidence to a court that owes its existence to the military junta. It is a magic circle club.

Update: The Nation has another report that cites the disreputable General Somjet. It says the General “the constitutional amendment bill to a coup d’etat that abolishes the charter.” He is reported to have said: “The only difference is that in a coup, guns are used…”. What more needs to be said? The dopey General can’t tell the difference between a process sanctioned by elections and parliamentary processes and a military coup that destroys that process.

The same report piles on the illogical nonsense that this biased court has agreed to hear, quoting an “academic” and “lawyer” stating that, well, yes, the constitution does allow amendment, but… hold on, let me make something up…

Although the amendment is in line with Article 291, it is meant to destroy the current Constitution and this goes against the principles of democracy. The representatives [MPs and parliamentarians] are attempting to overrule a decision made by the owners of sovereignty [the general public]….

And, oh yes, the “general public” is not the same as “voters.” It seems that when you become a royalist you are required to suspend logic and law. Pity his students. Pity Thailand.

 





Yingluck wins support from ultra-royalists

12 06 2012

To say that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had a political win today is to give her far too much credit. Yingluck has barely been seen in recent days except in ridiculous photo ops. She seems detached from the world of politics and just not up to it. Neither do her advisers or party managers seem to possess a single grain of political courage.But they “won” in parliament today, and they are probably congratulating themselves.

Why? Simply because the Puea Thai Party has caved in. That may sound odd, but to “win” today involved one of the most spectacular political capitulations seen for many years in order achieve a Pyrrhic victory.

At least for the moment, Yingluck and her flunkies have given the opposition and ultra-royalists every single thing that they demanded. They have caved in on: constitutional amendment, reconciliation bills, the intimidation of parliament by PADocrats, the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the judiciary, and the street politics of the ultra-royalists. For Yingluck that failure of political courage amounts to a win! It hardly seems necessary to add earlier capitulations on lese majeste and red shirt political prisoners.

Above all, Yingluck and her coterie of spineless functionaries have simply forgotten who elected them and why. In their current situation, Yingluck shows as much respect for an election result as the PADocrats.

In this context of considerable anger and disappointment, PPT is interested to read the comments of Puea Thai Party list MP and red shirt leader Korkaew Pikulthong at the Bangkok Post. He says that

red-shirt MPs in the party were disappointed with Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont for announcing the postponement of the third reading of the charter amendment bill until the next parliamentary session.

Korkaew added that Speaker Somsak’s announcement of the postponing of the third reading of the constitutional amendment bill was “tantamount to an admission of the defeat of the legislative branch by the judiciary…”.

His response to this defeat was to say:

Personally I want the red-shirts to stay calm. We (the red-shirts in Pheu Thai) understand the decision and are willing to swallow the blood once again and remain patient.

Perhaps Korkaew can tell us what he “understands,” why the decision was made and what the continued patience will provide? At least he added a bit of a warning: “we want to let it be known that our patience also has a limit…”.

He then said something that must make sense to some: “It would be pointless for us to bring down our own government and allow the opposition to step in and take its place…”. But what is the point of having your own government when it does what the opposition demands?

What was that about it’s better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees?

We are sure that the word from the “the opposition Democrat Party, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest group, and a section of the royal palace…” made all the difference.

The extent of the capitulation by the Yingluck administration is most evident in another report at the Post. It is revealing that there were 318 MPs who wanted a lot more from their leaders and effectively revolted against Yingluck and other party bosses. These 318 MPs voted against the intervention by the Constitutional Court.

However, this vote was called when the parliament was in joint session, and 322 votes were needed. But because the Democrat Party, a handful of government members, and the appointed senators walked away from a vote that might have saved a little credibility for the Puea Thai Party, 318 votes fell four short. In other words, Yingluck’s party staged a small revolt, and Yingluck only got what she wanted because of the support of the Democrat Party and the appointed and yellow shirted senators.

Again, red shirts should ask: What is the point of having your own government when it does what the opposition demands? What is the point of a government that must rely on the ultra-royalists to defeat its own MPs.








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