Waiting for a bus that doesn’t arrive

6 02 2016

Bloomberg has a pretty neat first paragraph in a recent story on Thailand:

Thailand is waiting for a new constitution, waiting for the restoration of democracy, waiting for the succession in its monarchy, waiting for an economic recovery and waiting for rain.

The wait could be very long indeed. Rain will fall before the junta moves on, the generals ever decide to give up their power.


Some other bits of the story will have the military bosses grinding their teeth even more. Here’s some selections:

… [O]verseas investors have voted with their feet. Applications for foreign direct investment slumped 78 percent in the first 11 months of 2015. Exports have fallen for three straight years.

“It’s partly self-deceiving to legitimize their existence, and partly their loss of touch with reality,” said Puangthong Pawakapan, an associate professor of international relations at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “The junta leaders do not see how people now are worried so much and struggling with economic hardship.”

“The main achievement of the military was achieved within 24 hours,” said Korn Chatikavanij, a former finance minister and a member of the Democrat Party, whose supporters largely cheered the coup. “Subsequent to that they haven’t achieved much. But then I never expected much.”

What can we say? Korn is right, but when he says he didn’t expect much, he is disingenuous. He wanted the military as much as all his anti-democrat and elite chums.

“I don’t believe Thailand will have an election until the succession is completed and the throne is stable,” said Puangthong at Chulalongkorn University. “This is the main objective of the 2006 and 2014 coups. If the king passes away — the mourning period will be at least one year. The junta will use it to condemn any politicians demanding an election.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Than [Rittiphan, 23, a student of international relations at Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok and a member of the New Democracy Movement]…. “This country is not a toilet that you can put up a sign saying ‘under construction.’ You cannot wait for democracy.”

The junta and foreign media

6 02 2016

The Bangkok Post reports that Thailand’s military junta is “[c]oncerned over its international image…”.

We find this curious. Either the junta is so lacking in international perspective and knowledge that it fails to understand that the media and its interests or it misunderstands its own profile and performance. It may well be both of these.

Clearly, if the junta thinks that “tighten[ing] its rules on foreign media working in Thailand, prompting the denial of work permits for some foreign journalists” is going to produce a better image among those journalists and the international media, then it has lost its collective marbles.Marbles

The report cites Jonathan Head, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) and BBC correspondent. He says that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes the interview it conducts with those seeking a press card more difficult than it has been in the past. The report states that “many journalists who underwent an interview to obtain their work permit for the first time have described the process as often ‘unpleasant’ and ‘hostile’.”

The officials make it clear they want compliance, “asking the applicants for their opinions on the junta and the monarchy…”.

Media activist Subhatra Bhumiprabhas is also quoted, and compares “Thailand’s current press freedom situation to Myanmar’s at the height of its dictatorship.”

As we have said several times previously, Thailand is run by a bunch of knuckle draggers who have heads firmly lodged in a past era and are incapable of understanding the modern world. Their limited understanding of Thailand is shaped by their experience as loyalist slitherers who have spent more time on their bellies before bosses than developing knowledge and capacities that would allow them to run a modern country.

When they don’t get “loyalty” from Thais or foreigners, they become confused and disoriented. Their reaction is thus to repress or extinguish this “threat.” The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, displays this trait in all his dealings with the media.

Do not speak ill of the dead II

5 02 2016

The Dictator may have heartburn over the draft charter’s poor reception, but there are efforts to ensure that the draft has a chance at becoming law.

In a story at Prachatai, the military junta “has ordered academics to cancel a seminar about the draft constitution.” A bunch of yellow-shirted academics were coming together at the National Institute of Development Administration to discuss the latest charter draft. They included Komsarn Pokong, Banjerd Singkaneti, Phichai Rattanadilok Na Phuket and Suriyasai Katasila. Doing this to those who cheered the military’s coup is revealing of fraying.

In another report, it is revealed that the Election Commission “has proposed imposing penalties against people who inappropriately criticize the draft of the new constitution…”. It says that “[d]istorting details about the draft, using rude language to criticise it, or inciting people to go against it are among the activities that might face punishment…”.

A third Prachatai report has Army boss General Theerachai Nakawanich announcing that “military students [ROTC cadets] will be sent to stand at referendum polling stations to inform people about the draft constitution.” By “inform” we assume he means “propagandize for.” These students are to be trained how to propagandize for the charter, joining with the decrepit EC! At the same time, the gorilla general said that “military officers from many divisions will also be sent to communities throughout the country to foster an understanding about positive aspects of the draft constitution, especially its content dealing with anti-corruption mechanisms.” Having the thugs campaigning for the charter is the equivalent of mobsters running the mixer for cement shoes. The Bangkok Post has further details.

These are more examples of how little the military mind in Thailand understands politics, people and polls. The general is guaranteeing that no one will see the referendum as anything other than military manure.

The Dictator’s law

5 02 2016

Article 44 has been extensively used by the military dictatorship since the end of the martial law on 1 April 2015. It was immediately criticized by a range of commentators, law lecturers, activist groups and even the National Human Right Commission for allocating General Prayuth Chan-ocha absolute power.

Reuters reports that critics complain that The Dictator “is relying increasingly on a security measure [Article 44] dubbed ‘the dictator’s law’ to push through unpopular policies and kickstart stalled reforms…”.

Prayuth has used Article 44 for all manner of things: to remove seven officials from a government health promotion foundation, fast-tracking projects ranging from power stations to special economic zones, for detaining scores of opponents, breaking up meetings and seminars, “reforming” air transport and the fishing industry and more.

According to iLaw, Prayuth has used Article 44 more than 50 times since the 2014 military coup, “and increasingly so since the middle of last year…”.

Reuters says that Colonel Winthai Suvaree, the junta’s loudmouth, says The Dictator is “using Article 44 more often to get things done more quickly, before an election promised for 2017, to the advantage of all.” The cagey colonel declares: “There is limited time left to govern and reform the country…. All orders have benefited the people.”

A Western diplomat observes that: “The junta feels that it came in on a platform of reform and very little has been reformed…. So they have used Article 44 to…show they are reformers.”

In fact, it shows they are military men with few clues about public administration and the use of Article 44 proves their power and their incompetence.

Naturally, the reprehensible and failed academic Panitan Wattanayagorn, again “a senior government adviser,” seeks to deny that “reforms had stalled and said Prayuth and his team had laid ‘complicated’ groundwork for lasting change.” As you’d expect from a rightist anti-democrat in the pay of the military, Panitan declares that: “They [the junta] see a real opportunity to move the country forward…”.

Remarkably, Reuters quotes Panitan, then ignores him and his statements, declaring that “reforms appear stalled, [and] the economy is a major worry.” Perhaps they should stop asking for this lugnut‘s paid opinion.

Whatever way it is looked at, the use of Article 44 is a statement of political failure. The military junta stays in power because it has guns and can threaten with impunity. It is incapable of administering anything that requires actions more complex than torture, commission payments and murder.

Human and legal rights trashed

4 02 2016

It has been a busy news period of late, with The Dictator’s erratic behavior and tantrums, several abduction-detentions, efforts at heightened internet censorship and the stillbirth of the draft constitution. This means we have neglected several other important stories and this post is a kind of catch-up.

Khaosod updates the case of Narong Roonthanawong, a former city council member, arrested and facing up to five years in prison for resharing a music video that allegedly mocked Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. It says that a human rights lawyer has claimed the video “doesn’t appear to contain any obviously defamatory content.” The video merely links news footage of Prayuth but this has led to a charge under the Computer Crimes Act. It seems to PPT that Prayuth mocks himself. His skin has grown thinner than ever and he is behaving like someone who has usurped the kingship.

While on the Computer Crimes Act, it is noticeable that the new monarch’s court – the Army – is increasingly using the Act and defamation charges to silence critics and cover-up alleged crimes. Prachatai reports a case of an officer making a complaint against “a Lahu ethnic minority activist for posting a facebook video clip, saying that the clip defamed him and injured the honor of Thai military.” Of course, we are stunned that military officers consider that the military has any honor to protect but understand that much of the “training” of officers is about creating the fiction that the Army is a “protector” of the nation rather than a gang of murderous thugs. The video int his case apparently is a “record of a heated exchange between military officers and Lahu villagers of Kong Pak Ping Village … who on 1 January 2015 went to a local military post to ask the officers to identify soldiers who reportedly abused them physically.” In other words, the material is factual.

The harassment of political opponents continues unabated and extends to their lawyers. Prachatai reports the case of a Thai Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri. Sirikan is a lawyer for Neo-Democracy Movement anti-junta activists. She is accused “under Articles 172 and 368 of the Criminal Code of propagating false accusations against investigating officers and disobeying police orders.” Police filed the charges against Sirikan after she filed a “complaint against the police under Article 157 of the Thai Criminal Code, malfeasance in office, pointing out that officers unlawfully confiscated her car for the search.for objecting to a search of her car by officers on the night of 27 June 2015 in front of the Military Court of Bangkok after the 14 activists were arrested and taken to the court.” You get the picture, and it is a sad but consistent one of repression by law.

Torture remains a standard operating procedure for state authorities. In a Prachatai report it is stated that torture and ill-treatment allegations in the South have doubled since the military junta came to power. Sadly, that is no surprise. In these allegations, detainees report being “beaten or hit with hard objects, … put in a room kept at a low temperature, … suffocated, and … electrocuted.” Others say they were “pierced with needles, tortured with pliers, forced to drink their own urine, stripped naked, injected with unspecified chemicals, tortured in the genitals, and threatened with execution.” The military and other state thugs operate with impunity and torture is regularly used across the country.


Prayuth’s tantrums getting worse

4 02 2016

Everyone knows that The Dictator is sexist, erratic and short-tempered but he’s actually getting worse.

Coconuts Bangkok reports on yet another meltdown, this one throughout a day. They have two videos which are well worth watching, even if one does not understand Thai.YosemitePrime Minister, General and self-proclaimed savior of the country, Prayuth Chan-ocha banged on tables, threw things about and generally behaved like a child having a tantrum – or like a Thai despot who feels he is crossed by the minions.

The report states that Prayuth “clearly reached the end of his tether yesterday after being bombarded all day with questions from the press on the election, causing him to lose it in spectacular fashion during the afternoon press conference.”

It began in the morning when instead of asking about the exhibit he was opening, reporters insisted on asking about the draft charter that everyone seems to despise. That set him off:

“You ask me every day like… will the election be in 2017? That’s all you do! Just go have an election tomorrow. Go vote for someone! And what if you get a crappy one. What are you gonna do?”

He continued: “If the country goes down, don’t blame me. Everything I say makes sense because I read. Do you ever read? Have you read anything about how this government does good for the country? Answer me!”

And on he went berating journalists.

In the afternoon, his fuse was reignited:

… Prayuth held a press conference and continued ranting, saying that no one defended him when he was criticized.

“Has your right as media increased?” the PM asked as he pointed to a reporter in the crowd.

“If you wanna write something badly about me, go ahead. The foreign media say ‘Thailand censors media’. How have I censored media? Which publication have I censored?” [PPT: we don’t think he meant this for his censorship has been well-documented.]

“They criticize me and no one helps me. I have democratic rights too. You don’t defend me, but you defend those bastards?”

“You don’t want the constitution to pass, do you? It’s my business. I’ll do it myself.”

“That’s why I’m here for you! You want me back again?” He slammed on the podium as glasses flew off. “If you don’t want the Constitution Court of Thailand….Who do you want then?…

PPT can’t think of a more unstable leader in modern Thailand.

Do not speak ill of the dead I

3 02 2016

Dead on arrival was how PPT described the draft constitution a couple of days ago. Yet the military junta seems to think the dead may rise and walk among us. And they seem to think that the way to do that is to prevent too much criticism.

Defense Minister and  powerbroker General Prawit Wongsuwan, reported at the Bangkok Post has “urged charter critics to stop using provocative words to stir conflicts over the draft constitution, as it is not finalised.” He said the junta “did not ban criticism of the draft constitution, but critics should be aware of their words instead of branding a form of dictatorship…”. The idea seems to be to call a spade an implement for preparing the ground for beautiful flowers rather than a spade.

The same point is made is a report at Khaosod. Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree said discussion of the draft charter must be “respectful.”

Bursting into lies, he stated that the junta “never prohibits criticism or expression of opinion,” while warning that “expression of opinion by certain groups and individuals contains unnaturally strong language and manner, which does not appear to be constructive.” Colonel Winthai claimed that some critics “seem to be intent on inciting hatred or conflict, which will damage the ongoing decent atmosphere…”.

We think the military dictatorship is still undecided on how to deal with the stillborn charter. But we don’t doubt they are scheming away.


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