Prawit sticks

23 03 2018

Interestingly, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has responded to a critic.

Thicha Nanakorn recently called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission to get its “investigation” into the luxury watch scandal involving the Deputy Dictator. She also called on him to step down.

Perhaps because Thicha is a former supporter of the junta, Prawit has responded. That response, as expected, was a rejection as he:

brushed aside former National Reform Council (NRC) member and human rights activist Thicha Nanakorn’s call for his resignation over his luxury watch scandal.

Gen Prawit, also defence minister, insisted he would not step down from his post until the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s (NACC) probe found he was guilty.

“I have not been found guilty yet. Just wait for the NACC to say there are grounds,” he said Thursday.

As ever, the ball is in the puppet NACC’c court. When will it complete its “investigation” and will anything from it ever be made public?

Democrat Party and Cambridge Analytica

22 03 2018

PPT has done a bit of a search related to Cambridge Analytica, the parent company SCL Group and Thailand. The most detailed account we can find is at Investvine. We are unable to verify the claims made, but thought readers may be interested.

The story begins with a claim that is at the SCL and CA sites. This is the boast that the firm “influenced a past election campaign in Thailand for an unnamed client.”

SCL claims it “built and managed the world’s largest campaign center” for an election campaign in Thailand. It further claimed to have used it:

“cutting-edge Behavioural Dynamics Institute methodology” enabling it to correctly determine Thai voter behaviour down to the constituency level, which resulted in considerable campaign savings for the client and permitted a more targeted use of resources – all centrally controlled from the operations center.”

Investvine’s Arno Maierbrugger says that this intervention:

seems to be related to Thailand’s 1996 election when SCI (Cambridge Analytica was only founded in 2013) seems to have used behavourial analytics to support the campaign of Democrat candidate Chuan Leekpai who eventually became prime minister after a substantial tug-of-war with competing populist New Aspiration Party. The company illustrates its case study with the display of a Time magazine cover from March 30, 1998, with the title “Thailand’s comeback kid” with Leekpai being portrayed as the election winner.

Investvine’s comments on Thailand’s politics are limited. It is true that Chuan’s party did substantially better in the 1996 election than it had in 1995. Even so, the Democrat Party went into opposition. It was later hoisted to power in murky circumstances and sans election in late 1997.

Watching the horologist

22 03 2018

A small group of activists is keeping pressure on the Deputy Dictator. The Bangkok Post reports that “activist Thicha Nanakorn has led a fresh call for the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to lift the lid on its long-delayed investigation into the luxury watch scandal involving first Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.”

She went further, calling on “Gen Prawit to resign as he had pledged to do earlier.”

Thicha has petitioned the NACC demanding that it speed up its glacially slow “probe” into Prawit’s possession of millions of baht worth of luxury watches.

She pointed out that the perpetual “delays” are an injustice and pointed to the double standards involved in this NACC “investigation.”

Interestingly, Thicha is a “former member of the National Reform Council,” meaning she had previously thrown her support in with the junta.

Money and power

21 03 2018

The military dictatorship’s “election” campaigning is intensifying. It is a campaign to strengthen the regime, whether it goes to an “election” or just remains in power through “election delays.” The intensity of the campaign and related action suggests a regime feeling stressed and worried about its capacity to retain power.

As we have noted several times, the military regime has been pouring money into the electorate. Its latest effort involves a plan to “inject 30 billion baht into more than 82,000 villages nationwide…”. This effort reeks of the so-called populism that the regime once criticized but has readily embraced as a means to retain power.

In fact, the regime has a “supplementary budget of 150 billion baht approved in January by the cabinet to spur the grassroots economy.” In other words, the 30 billion is just a part of the regime’s new “election” fund. Its going to rain money, especially in rural electorates.

The National Legislative Assembly will shortly endorse the supplementary budget with the regime urging NLA deliberation now, declaring “it is essential to disburse funds that can spur investment and the economy in general under the government’s Pracharath people-state partnership scheme.” That’s just one of the junta’s electoral campaigning fund.

Meanwhile, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha continues his personal campaign for nomination at prime minister following the junta’s “election,” should it decide to allow one. He’s visiting the northeast.

While campaigning, The Dictator still had time to use Article 44 to sack anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. Somchai is a bright yellow election commissioner who has come to clash with the junta because he wants to keep his job but the regime is dismissing all commissioners. Presumably the junta finds the current commissioners, already under-strength, a little too unpredictable when it comes to its delayed “election.”

Somchai paints himself as a martyr, declaring: “It’s been an honour to reveal the face of the NCPO.” In fact, Somchai had a large role in preparing the political ground for the 2014 military coup, and feels the regime should be rewarding him, not appointing a new EC. He should be apologizing for his role in bringing the military dictatorship to power.

Then there’s the military arm of the junta. Army boss and junta member Gen Chalermchai Sitthisart has gone a bit crazy after Nitirat member Worachet Pakeerut raised the specter of a 1992-like uprising if The Dictator becomes an outsider premier following an “election.” Gen Chalermchai demands that no one speak of The Dictator’s political desire.

An injustice regime

21 03 2018

Justice is not a particular forte of military dictatorships. For Thailand’s variety, the emphasis is on law applied in a politicized manner and double standards, topped off with notions that the powerful should expect impunity.

A particularly egregious case, extended now over a year of mostly silence and some lies, is the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers. PPT has regularly posted on the “investigations,” which amount to almost nothing more than cover up and lies. Such a non-response/cover-up by the authorities can be considered an admission of guilt without saying those words.

We were heartened to see both an op-ed and an editorial in the Bangkok Post recently, both drawing attention to this most obvious example of the regime’s misuse of deadly force and the military’s ingrained expectation of impunity.

As the op-ed by Paritta Wangkiat states:

We know that a bullet fired at his chest killed him. But the rest of the story has been mixed with conflicting accounts. The mystery behind his death stands as a stark reminder of how hard it is for minority and ethnic groups to obtain justice in the Land of Smiles.

Of course, it is far more than this. Any one outside the economic and political elite cannot be assured of anything approaching justice in Thailand.

In this case, there was some hope that CCTV footage would reveal the truth. Sadly and defining of impunity, we learn:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year. The next is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. It’s likely that the case will draw to a conclusion very soon.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

This screams cover up.

The editorial notes that “Chaiyaphum’s family … have complained of state intimidation during the investigation into the activist’s death.” It is the police, military and other authorities who intimidate.

The editorial is right to say: “The military is obliged to handle the case fairly and refrain — or abandon — any attempts at a cover-up, as this would taint the nation’s image. The slain activist and his family deserve justice, which is long overdue.”

Right, but all too weak. We can’t think of many cases involving the military and its use of murderous force that have ever been handled “fairly.”

Distinctive haircuts, odd plainclothes, usual repression

20 03 2018

A couple of days ago, Prachatai reported on some dopey dicks sent to surveil a university workshop, then to intimidate and threaten organizers and participants.

Clipped from Prachatai

Given that the thugs are easily identifiable as police and military, it makes almost no sense when they show up as undercover officers and banal “cover” stories. Yet we somehow guess that this foolishness is also a means of intimidation.

The event reported was police and soldiers at at Silpakorn University’s Nakhon Pathom campus where Achara Rakyutitham, an Art lecturer, held a classroom seminar on the pro-democracy movements entitled “A talk with suspects: ordinary people who want an election.”

Achara stated:

… she had invited over 10 guest speakers who were prosecuted for joining the pro-election protests at MBK shopping centre and Democracy Monument. The activity was held mainly for students who enrolled in Achara’s classes, but she also allows non-students who registered online to attend.

Two hours before the event started, two rather poorly dressed plainclothes officers, neither of whom had registered, claimed they were “students from a university in Bangkok and wanted to video-record the seminar for their thesis.” This obviously bogus claim was made all the more unlikely “because of their style of haircut,” which seems to follow king’s guidelines on neatness and is called the 904 haircut.

Achara was also suspicious about these bogus students arriving two hours early and wanting to “know … the organisers of the seminar.

When the seminar began, more “undercover” officers arrived and “asked to join the seminar without prior registration.” This lot said they wanted to “make sure everything in order.” Some time later, during the seminar, “a police officer from the Special Branch Bureau told Achara that a guest speaker had said something that was inappropriate and might constitute a violation of the National Council for Peace (NCPO) and Order Head order 3/2015.”

That officer then threatened Achara, saying she might be “on the watch list” because of the seminar.

Naturally enough, Achara and her students “felt intimidated and disturbed by the authorities.” That, of course, is the point of such visits. Such intimidation is a hallmark of dictatorships.

Achara actually thanked the officer-thugs “for ‘demonstrating’ state intimidation of ordinary people for her students.”

No CPT allowed

19 03 2018

No, it isn’t the 1970s, but the thought of a new Communist Party of Thailand is scary for the “authorities.”

Election Commission deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmeehas “rejected new party pre-registration for the Communist Party of Thailand, citing that it was unconstitutional and undemocratic…”.

Obviously, in the late 2010s, this rationalization for 1970s-like fear and loathing, is simply nonsense.

The notion that it is “undemocratic” for the CPT to “pre-register” as a party to compete in the junta’s “election” is simply a reinforcement that it is a junta-organized and managed “election” that is undemocratic.