Recalling the 2006 military coup

20 09 2019

The army’s task: coups and repression

19 September was the anniversary of the 2006 military coup. This was the coup that set the path for Thailand’s decline into military-dominated authoritarianism based in ultra-royalist ideology.

Over the past couple of days we didn’t notice a lot of memorializing of the event that illegally removed then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party, with tanks on the streets and soldiers decked out in royal yellow.

The military soon hoisted Privy Councilor Gen Surayud Chulanont into the prime ministership.

Anointing the 2006 coup

As we know, the coup did not succeed in its self-assigned task of rooting out the “Thaksin regime,” with Thaksin’s parties having been the most successful over the years that have followed and when the military permitted elections. This is why the 2014 coup was aimed at “putting things right,” through a more thorough political repression and a rigging of the political system for the ruling class. It also unleashed a rabid use of lese majeste to destroy that class’s political opponents.

One effort to recall the 2006 coup was by Ji Ungpakorn. He observes the:

forces behind the 19th September coup were anti-democratic groups in the military and civilian elite, disgruntled business leaders and neo-liberal intellectuals and politicians. The coup was also supported by the monarchy….

2006 coup

And adds:

Most NGOs and large sections of the middle classes also supported the coup. What all these groups had in common was contempt or hatred for the poor. For them, “too much democracy” gave “too much” power to the poor electorate and encouraged governments to “over-spend” on welfare. For them, Thailand is still divided between the “enlightened middle-classes who understand democracy” and the “ignorant rural and urban poor”. In fact, the reverse is the case. It is the poor who understand and are committed to democracy while the so-called middle classes are determined to hang on to their privileges by any means possible.

For a flavor of the times, see reports of the coup by the BBC and The Guardian. For early efforts to understand the 2006 coup, consider Ji’s A Coup for the Rich, Thailand Since the Coup, and Thailand and the “good coup.”

It’s been downhill since 2006: repression, military political domination and ultra-royalism, leading to a form of neo-feudalism in contemporary Thailand.





Updated: Royalist plotting

19 09 2019

Among others, Khaosod noted the “report” that was “seen on PM [Gen] Prayuth Chan-ocha’s desk during a parliament session on Wednesday” when he did not respond to his unconstitutional oath.

That official document is apparently titled “Network Plotting to Destroy the Nation…”. Initially, “Government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat said the report was compiled by officials who work on ‘national security issues,’ but declined to elaborate, saying the content is ‘classified’.”

Khaosod observed that the “report’s cover photo appears to show the aftermath of a recent bomb attack in Bangkok.”

The Bangkok Post has more detail, translating the report’s title as “network of elements sabotaging the nation…”. Its anonymous “source within the government” disclosed that the report was “prepared for a briefing by intelligence and security agencies,” with “the elements” claimed to be “sabotaging the nation” are “political figures whose acts are deemed to offend the high institution of the monarchy.”

In other words, as has been since the period leading up to the 2006 military coup, the royalist military and its supporters are concocting yet another “plot” against the monarchy. This follows concoctions like the Finland Plot and the infamous anti-monarchy “plot” and “diagram” under the royalist military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has confirmed that it “has information about a network…”.

As the Post observes, no names have been mentioned, but Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong “had previously mentioned some groups which he believed intended to harm the country…” and referred to “a movement which was trying to provoke a civil war between ‘pro-democracy’ and ‘pro-junta’ factions.” He was essentially attacking the Future Forward Party.

And it was only a few days ago that the Criminal Court ruled that ultra-royalist prince Chulcherm Yugala, who declared the Future Forward Party dangerous republicans “seeking to overthrow the monarchy,” had not libeled that party.

Quite obviously, the military, its ISOC – an “intelligence” agency – and the regime is going to use the monarchy against democratic and parliamentary opposition.

Such plotting by the regime may be dismissed as the musings of old generals who crave power and serve the ruling class.

However, such maniacal plotting in the military and probably in the palace has real and terrible consequences such as military coups, lese majeste, jailings, bashing of opponents, enforced disappearance and torture and murder.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

Even in recent days, the family of victims of such accusations have been harassed by the regime thought police. Kanya Theerawut, the mother of missing political refugee Siam Theerawut, disclosed “that the Rights and Liberties Protection Department [a useless part of the Ministry of Justice] … told her not to take her son’s case to the UN, as it could ruin the country’s image.” We think the regime has done plenty to ruin Thailand’s image. She was also “visited and questioned by Special Branch officers…”, which is a standard regime means of intimidation.

It is the royalist plotting that is most intense and most deranged. It is also hugely expensive. This regime plotting is far more dangerous than anti-monarchists.

Update: A reader points out that the report on the political harassment of Kanya came just a couple of days after Shawn Crispin at Asia Times erroneously claimed: “Political scores are being aired and contested in the open, not through late-night police state knocks on the door…”. Like the reader, we are confused as to why a journalist would want to whitewash the current regime’s political repression.





Royal teflon

19 09 2019

The Chakkri dynasty’s tenth reign is currently the most obviously interventionist since 1932. This is not just seen in King Vajiralongkorn’s interventions on the constitution and election, but in the manner in which the military-backed, post-junta regime is, for the moment, being given a political polytetrafluoroethylene coat that is, in PPT’s view, unconstitutional.

One of the reasons that the regime is teflon coated is that the “independent agencies” have been anything but independent. Most egregiously, the Constitutional Court has made itself a power that ferociously defends the interests of the royalist ruling class. Remarkably, it now ignores the constitution when this suits those ruling interests. At least two recent decisions are sad examples of royal and royalist injustice that confounds law and constitution: the decision on Ubolratana’s foiled candidature in the March election and the recent decision to ignore the junta’s own constitutional requirements and effectively place the king above the constitution.

In the past couple of days there’s been more judicial decisions that undermine law and that raise the monarchy out of its constitutional status.

Buffalo manure

First, the Criminal Court ruled that the ultra-royalist prince Chulcherm Yugala, who declared the Future Forward Party dangerous republicans “seeking to overthrow the monarchy,” had not libeled that party.

In royalist Thailand, it now seems that royals can do and say anything they want. Remarkably, the Court ruled his outlandish fabrications were “positive criticism” and “intended to warn the plaintiff against royal defamation.” Buffalo manure, but that’s what the courts deal in.

Second, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a serving general when he led the 2014 coup, then self-appointed prime minister for more than 5 years, “was not a state official when he ruled as head of the junta…”.

How did the Constitutional Court conjure this stunning piece of nonsensical “logic”? It made up a story that “Gen Prayut was not a state official when he was the National Council of Peace and Order chairman as it was an interim position which was not under any state agencies.” Continuing a long “tradition” of upholding the “legality” of the military coup, it ruled that the “NCPO chairman was a product of the administrative power seizure…”.

Third, it seems the king helped out with the incomplete and unconstitutional oath debate in parliament by yesterday. After all of the scheduling and disputes about the debate, suddenly it was announced that the “debate” had to finish several hours earlier to let every single minister in the country could “attend a ceremony for the late King at Dusit Palace.”

Yet this royal sleight of political hand was little more than just another anointing of the regime by the king as Gen Prayuth refused to say much at all about the unconstitutional oath. For The Dictator, parliament is now little more than an annoying itch to be scratch every now and again.

Thailand now has a political system where the king gets anything he wants and is above the constitution, where the law is a mish-mash of double standards the support the royalist ruling class, parliament is an annoyance and where the constitution is ignored. Nothing will stick for the royalist ruling class.

Of course, if one is on the wrong side of the regime, the law, constitution and courts are used to repress.





Updated: No crying for the northeast

17 09 2019

The huge floods in the provinces “began last month, [with] 32 provinces — mostly in the North and Northeast — hav[ing] been hit by the flooding, affecting more than 418,000 families and killing 32 people. The impact in the northeast has been devastating. Khon Kaen was heavily flooded and Ubol looks like a lake. Some people have had to scramble onto their house roofs to avoid the surging waters.

Ubol. From the Straits Times

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan visited Khon Kaen on other business on 3 September and “inspect[ed] the flood situation…”.

Gen Prayuth has preferred cooking and visiting with political allies like Suthep Thaugsuban in the south. While he made a very brief visit to Ubol, he has seemed largely unconcerned. Back when he could make political capital from floods in 2011, he did so enthusiastically. Not now.

Almost a week ago, Ubol was under water, with Khaosod reporting that “[n]etizens are pouring their support to a northeastern province, more than half of whose area is under floodwaters.” It reports discontent:

“The flood is affecting us badly, but why the doesn’t the government help? Many houses are now submerged and Warin [Chamrap] District has been cut off from the city,” @kpkimmm tweeted on Thursday. “They sent everything they had to rescue the 13 Wild Boar, but no one cares about the whole of Ubon being immersed in water.”

Ubol governor Sarit Withoon “declared 17 districts as disaster zones and allocated 200,000 baht to each district for immediate disaster recovery operations…”. Seriously? 200,00 per district! Really?

The Bangkok Post reports that Gen Prayuth is “[s]tung by heavy criticism of its slow response to severe flooding in Ubon Ratchathani and other Northeast provinces…”. The response? The “government is stepping up efforts to help several thousand victims with a televised charity programme.”

It almost seems that the regime is punishing the northeast and its voters. The military-backed regime’s political constituency is centered on Bangkok.

Update: A Bangkok Post editorial criticizes Gen Prayuth:

As people in Ubon Ratchathani and other flood-ravaged provinces in the Northeast suffer and grieve, the least they can expect from the prime minister is sensitivity to their plight. They should also be able to anticipate adequate emergency relief measures from his administration.

But Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has failed them in both of those respects. Instead, the premier has been busy in the past few days defending himself and rebuking those who have criticised his government’s slow response.

Such knee-jerk leadership is a dismal response at a time when the government is facing credible accusations that its failure to remain vigilant and offer timely public warnings exacerbated the flood crisis….

Since Monday, the premier’s chief response appears to have taken the form of anger at his critics….

The core lesson of this calamity … is that people in the flood-ravaged areas need an efficient leader, not an angry, defensive old man.





With three updates: Thammanat and Wissanu go deep in the swamp

14 09 2019

How low can Thailand’s current political crop go? Just how far are they prepared to sink into the squalid depths of lies, deceit and the ludicrous? It seems, like phraratchathanwearing hard-hat divers, they will go to the bottom, and perhaps even excavate a bit deeper than the muddy bottom of the political swamp.

The Bangkok Post reports Deputy Minister Thammanat Prompao, “known as the coordinator of the coalition government, has vowed to file around 100 lawsuits against those who he believes have lied about his past.” He’s no coordinator. He’s an enforcer and bagman for the “post”-junta regime and its Palang Pracharath Party. And we are sure that he does not “believe” that others have lied about his past. He is the one doing the lying about his past.

But, never mind, the junta’s political swamp is opaque, filthy and deep, and Thammanat is at the bottom already, so more lies won’t make much of a difference to the depth of his political chicanery.

Where he might usually send out thugs to intimidate critics – and that’s still on the cards in this marked deck – he’s taking a leaf out of the junta’s handbook of political deception and using the (in)justice system. And why not? It worked for them and it worked from him in the past on murder charges no less. It was only Last year that Thammanat was helping alleged fraudsters – where did all that Bitcoin loot go? And it was only a couple of years ago when Thammanat appeared on a junta “blacklist” of “influential criminal figures” drawn up for Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. Now he’s a minister in a government that Prawit helped engineer. Prawit now defends him!

Well maybe he’ll take the legal route. Much like Gen Prawit’s massive luxury watch collection “borrowed” from a (dead) friend, Thammanat might just be hoping that the whole heroin trafficking/fake PhD stuff might just go away. We seriously doubt that even this loud-mouth will take on 100 people in the courts.

On the PhD issue, Thammanat has again been supported by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is getting deeper into the corruption slime by the day. Wissanu declared that “even if his degree was fake, Capt Thammanat could still be a minister because the constitution requires an MP to have only a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, which he already obtained from the army school.” Wissanu must know that Thammanat’s slime sticks and stinks. He seems prepared to accept anything: deception, lies, heroin trafficking, murder charges (okay, Thammanat got off that one, but an aide didn’t), fake credentials and probably a lot more.

Update 1: Thammanat seems to have finally decided on a political line that he will take in “fighting back” against those revealing his dark past. His line now is “that the series of accusations levelled against him by the opposition and on Thai social media were aimed at toppling the government.” He babbled:

“I’m not the target. As I have told reporters many times before, I am a key player in the formation of the present government because I was the one who handled the gathering of the required votes to back General Prayut Chan-o-cha to be the prime minister.”

He said those who were behind this multiple-pronged attack on him know that these controversies would shake the government and it would lose stability. “Their ultimate goal is to overthrow the government, General Prayut and General Prawit Wongsuwan.”

Like everything else Thammanat has done, he’s being deceitful. He is the target. But what he’s trying to shift the politics to a pro-/anti-junta debate. He wants all the yellow mob to rally to him and the government he claims credit for. He’s saying that drug trafficking, murder charges, lottery mafia accusations, fake qualifications and strange Bitcoin fraud connections are all best forgotten in “saving” the regime. Can this work? Probably. Many on the yellow side of politics has been captured by conspiracy theories.

Update 2: Like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wissanu has struggled to the surface, covered in slime, to mumble about Thammanat. He said something hypothetical about the convicted drug smuggler “could be removed from the cabinet if it is found that he has an ‘ethics’ problem…”.

Wissanu is speaking of a person who still claims to have never confessed, convicted or to have been jailed for several years. Given the court documents produced, Thammanat is showing himself as unable or incapable of recognizing or telling the truth.

Remember when both Gen Prayuth and Wissanu claimed that all cabinet members had been scrutinized? Now Wissanu has “admitted that Capt Thamanat’s educational background had not been examined prior to his appointment as a cabinet minister, noting the process could have delayed the formation of the government.”

We guess that his criminal past wasn’t examined either because it was exactly that background that the nascent regime needed in order to form its government.

Thammanat himself has gone in for more “explanation.” He says all of his “wrongdoings had already been exonerated by the 2007 [some reports have it as 2005] Impunity Act, making him eligible to be a cabinet minister.” Not bad. It is a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card issued to mafia figures.

Update 3: The story just gets better and better. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The embattled Thai cabinet minister who lied about serving four years in a Sydney jail on a drugs charge has changed his story again, admitting for the first time that he was sentenced in Australia.

After spending the weekend in a “war room” to combat a growing series of scandals, the legal team of Thai government enforcer Thammanat Prompao issued a statement insisting he was fully qualified to be an MP and cabinet minister….

Thammanat’s statement cited two Thai royal pardons among other evidence that his legal team claimed meant there was no impediment to serving as either an MP or cabinet minister.

Getting his name – he’s apparently had at least four – is tough, but getting a crooked story straight is even more challenging. So much so that Thammanat is now holed up in a hospital.





Updated: Constitutional Court ignores constitution II

12 09 2019

The Constitutional Court’s most recent decision places the king above the constitution. This is yet another move that moves the the monarchy away from its status as constitutional; with the monarchy now deemed to be above the constitution, it is, by definition and in law, no longer a constitutional monarchy. In Wikipedia’s basic definition:

A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy (in which a monarch holds absolute power) in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework.

The Constitutional Court affirms that the king is not constrained by the constitution – even when he demanded and received changes to that constitution under the military junta – when it determined that: “… it lacked jurisdiction because the oath was a matter between the executive branch and the king.”

Of course, it isn’t. The constitution is clear that ministers must make a particular oath, with the words set out in the constitution. This is not a matter between the executive and king except if, like the Court, the monarch is considered above the constitution and not under it.

That King Vajiralongkorn and his palace determined the unconstitutional oath is confirmed by earlier reports. For example, the Bangkok Post recently reported that the military-backed government had warned politicians not to discuss the monarchy’s role. It determined that:

MPs will not be protected by customary parliamentary immunity during the general debate on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s incomplete oath recital, chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate said yesterday.

Since all parties concerned want the session to be held openly [sic.] instead of behind closed doors, lawmakers should be warned they are not immune to being sued over remarks deemed to offend the monarchy, he said.

You get the picture. The king is not to be mentioned, even if he is the culprit in encouraging anti-constitutional actions.

Update: StrategyPage is not a site we know well. However, it has a story on the monarchy that has some interesting claims. It begins:

The animosity between monarchists and democrats is growing more intense. The new king, the former unpopular playboy crown prince, is turning into an unpopular king who is seeking more control over the military and more money for his increasingly (compared to his popular father) lavish lifestyle.

It goes on to claim (under an interesting heading):

Bad Royals

The military and the new king are making it more likely that the democratic opposition will eventually call for the elimination of the monarchy. This was not really possible until the current king took power and made it clear he was different. Unlike his predecessor, the new king already had an unsavory reputation as a playboy crown prince. To make matters worse the new king made a deal with the military government that would, in theory, benefit both of them in the long run. First, the former crown prince assured everyone that he would behave, after a fashion. In return, the military government freed the monarchy from constitutional and parliamentary restrictions that were part of the 1930s deal that turned the absolute monarchy into a constitutional one.





With two updates: Open-mouthed disbelief VI

12 09 2019

It just gets worse and worse. Thammanat Prompao’s lies and deceit multiply by the day. Now, some readers might think he’s just a dope rather than a convicted dope trafficker.  But this would be to misunderstand how the rich and powerful “think” in Thailand. The right to impunity is simply taken for granted that they seldom ever have to “think.” When they do, this is often because they have ticked someone even more powerful, and Thammanat still seems to have the highest backing.

By the way, police and military being involved in crime is common, as a case against a senior cop, reported today, confirms.

But back to things getting worse with the loose-with-the-truth Thammanat. The Bangkok Post reports on a parliamentary speech by Thammanat, where he’s gone the route of doubling down on his lies.

He now “insists he was not jailed in Australia in a drug smuggling case, nor did he confess to any drugs charge as claimed in an Australian newspaper report.”

Invited to speak by The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thammanat went full on bonkers. The Post has an excellent graphic, which we reproduce here, but treating his “version” as in any way believable stretches credibility.

A Bangkok Post graphic

The report states that “Thamanat said he had spoken to the media several times about the 1993 drug case in Australia, and that he was treated as a witness in connection with a suspect who was later acquitted.” He unbelievably adds: “The Australian court suggested that as a witness he stay in Australia until the case was concluded, which took four years…”.

And he then played the injured party, saying that this had “happened more than two decades ago” and it had been “dogging him…”. He added that he “would take legal action against whoever was trying to defame him.” Really? Well, perhaps, anything is possible in Thailand’s (in)justice system.

Being “injured” is more often associated with Thammanat’s victims, in lottery politics and murder investigations.

We can’t help wondering if this case is somehow linked to a set of lese majeste accusations (clicking downloads a PDF) in late 1993 involving the then crown prince. Recall that in early 1993 the Vajiralongkorn was again publicly denying that he was connected with illegal activities (Far Eastern Economic Review, 14 January 1993), but that might be just a coincidence.

And, as an aside, the site associated with the Gen Prawit Wongsuwan watch scandal that was laundered, CSI LA, has revealed that Thammanat’s public CV includes a PhD from a sham university. Presumably Thammanat has a mai lorder, sham PhD.

Update 1: While the military-backed regime “seems pretty cool with convicted heroin smuggler in cabinet,” the Australian newspapers involved have responded to Thammanat’s bogus claims by publichsing extracts from his court cases in Australia and by creating a short video that lays out the “discrepancies” between what the minister claims and what the court records show.

Responding to “government enforcer” Thammanat’s incredible claim that “he spent eight months in lock-up but the rest of the four years in ‘state-sponsored accommodation’ as a witness,” the newspapers make it clear that he was jailed for heroin trafficking and being involved in the racket in Thailand and in Australia. As noted above, Thammanat again engaged in fictitious spinning when he “again denied pleading guilty then said he entered a plea-bargaining arrangement.”

The documents show this is utter nonsense and that Thammanat pleaded guilty and gained a sentence reduction by providing useful information to the police and prosecutors:

Court documents show the young soldier Manat and his co-accused half-brother Sorasat Tiemtad were arrested in Bondi on April 15, 1993, and charged with conspiring to import $4.1 million of heroin. When told by a judge in November 1993 he faced up to nine years’ jail, Manat began co-operating in return for a lesser sentence. He pleaded guilty on November 15, 1993, and was sentenced in the NSW District Court on March 31, 1994, to six years’ jail with four years’ minimum and a two-year non-parole period.

Interestingly, the newspapers add some information about the case in its most recent incarnation:

The Herald and The Age can also reveal that Thai opposition politicians sought information from the Australian embassy in Bangkok about Thammanat’s past legal problems, but did not receive assistance.

The Thai government has confirmed it sought information from Australia about Thammanat before his appointment in July, but did not say whether it was informed of his crimes.

The Australian Federal Police did not deny that it shared information with Thai counterparts about Thammanat’s conviction under the usual police information sharing arrangements between the nations.

Thammanat and his half-brother were “released from Parklea prison on April 14, 1997, and deported.”

The report notes that Thammanat would not be allowed to enter Australia: “The Home Affairs website warns: ‘You will not pass the character test if you hold a substantial criminal record. If you don’t pass the character test, you will not get a visa to enter Australia’.”

Update 2: Above we mentioned Thammanat’s fake PhD degree. Demonstrating that he knows nothing about his degree or where he purchased it, Thammanat proudly displayed his “degree certificate.” In showing off an “accreditation” certificate from a dodgy accreditation business that “accredited” a dodgy “degree” from a dodgy “university.

Thammanat stated: “I received the degree from US-based California University Los Angeles, not from the Philippines [as some claimed]…”. But he gets the name wrong. Apparently, his House website had to be quickly changed. It “showed he holds a  doctor of philosophy degree in public administration from Calamus International University’.” This was changed ” to show he obtained the same degree from California University FCE…”.

But this is not a university but a semi-commercial operation that “accredits” degrees for use in legal transactions such as immigration. Thammanat displayed a certificate issued by CUFCE. Thammanat paid a fee for or someone paid for him. No one studies for a doctorate at CUFCE.

That Thammanat doesn’t even know the details of his “degree” shows that his lies simply overwhelm him.