Darunee, Pornthip and Thitinant released

27 08 2016

Some good news. As several sites and sources, including the Bangkok Post, it has been reported that Daranee Charnchoensilpakul (Da Torpedo), Pornthip Munkong (Golf) and Thitinant Kaewchantranont have been released from prison. Each was imprisoned for lese majeste.

Darunee was initially convicted and jailed for 18 years on lese majeste. Her appeal was upheld, but she was held in jail until a new trial was held. That trial again found her guilty and sentenced to 15 years. She was arrested on 22 July 2008 after delivering an exceptionally strong 30-minute speech denouncing the 2006 coup and the monarchy. She served more than eight years.

Pornthip was a 24 year-old activist when arrested on 15 August 2014 and charged with lese majeste. She was convicted on 23 February 2015. Pornthip, along with a separately arrested and detained activist, Patiwat Saraiyaem, for their involvement in a political play, The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า), about a fictional monarch and kingdom. She was denied bail several times. She eventually entered guilty please on lese majeste charges and was sentenced to 5 years, reduced by half for the guilty plea. She served just over two years.

Thitinant was arrested on 17 July 2012, accused of lese majeste. The details of her case and how and where she was held in not clear. Dating back to 2003, the New Zealand resident had been found to suffer mental illness. This was confirmed by court doctors. She was initially found guilty on 21 May 2014, and sentenced her to two years in jail. The prison term was commuted to one year for her confession. The jail term could be suspended for three years. This suspension was overturned by the Appeals Court sentenced Thitinant to jail for a year. It is not clear how long she was detained in prisons and hospitals.

It is good that these women have been released. None of them should have been in jail.





Promotions in the royal house

27 08 2016

Prachatai reports that สุทิดา วชิราลงกรณ์ ณ อยุธยา or Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya has been promoted by her spouse, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, to Lieutenant General in the royal guards.

Essentially, this is the second highest rank in the military. Royals all get such ranks as kinds of honorifics and to wed the military and monarchy.

The promotion of his newest spouse moves Suthida further into the royal family.





A royalist’s royalist

26 08 2016

If you are a royalist, after the near-dead king, your favorite figure must be General Prem Tinsulanonda. The aged general and president of the Privy Council has turned 96 and, according to a remarkably syrupy article in the Bangkok Post, remains remarkably important for the current military junta.

Some commentators argue that the grand old man has been pushed aside by the regime, yet it is clear that the regime continues to provide the prim and interfering “boss” with the attention and supplication that Prem craves.

For over 30 years, Prem has been at the center of Thailand’s politics, and this has reflected his long alliance with the palace. Prem returned palace support by doing more for the political and economic domination of the monarchy than any premier since General Sarit Thanarat.

Since his appointment by the king as a privy councilor, Prem has also been at the center of palace politics. Palace politics under him became intimately aligned and interconnected with national politics.

The Post states that “[n]early three decades after he left office, the country’s 16th prime minister remains as powerful and commands a great deal of clout among the ruling generals and other military top brass.”

The brass, as almost all of them have done for decades, showed up to provide birthday wishes to Prem “at his leafy Si Sao Thewes residence.” (As we have said several times in the past, “his residence” actually belongs to the state and Prem “resides” at the taxpayers expense, despite the fact that he has become quite wealthy.)

Prem held the premiership for almost 8.5 years. These were not years of political stability. He retained power through frequent cabinet reshuffles, with the support of military-appointed senates, neglecting parliament and politicians and, most significantly, the palace’s backing.

The Post suggests that Prem “stepped down as prime minister” but this neglects the bitter struggle that took place, with Prem refusing to budge and with opponents threatening to reveal his “private life.” Eventually, the campaign for an elected premier won out. Prem has been bitter about this ever since; he detests elected politicians.

His bitterness was somewhat reduced by the fact that “[d]ays after his political retirement, he was appointed by … the King as a member of the Privy Council.”

According to the Post, Prem is “recognised as working closely with the monarchy and following an important mission to protect the revered [sic.] institution.”

Prem is known for his capacity for “eliminating disloyal subordinates and disrespectful foes.” Respect is something that makes Prem feel special. He feels he deserves to be considered special and important.

The Post suggests that those who put him offside include General Suchinda Kraprayoon and his group of Class 5 graduates from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. They apparently sidelined Prem. Class 5 lost.

The other big loser is Thaksin Shinawatra. Prem came to hate Thaksin who he felt paid him insufficient respect and “crossed” him and the palace. Thaksin lost.

 

The military regime troops to Prem’s taxpayer-funded home three times a year and “offer[s] … good wishes and receive Gen Prem’s blessings.” As the Post also adds, the “Burapha Payak (Tigers of the East) and Queen’s Guard military units, which are known to play an influential role in the armed forces, also have to beat a path to the Si Sao Thewes residence, which has become a symbol of power.”

As expected, Prem has consistently provided the public support the regime requires from the palace. As the Post observes, “[t]his is a crucial time when the Burapha Payak and the Si Sao Thewes residence must stand united to weather possible political turbulence.” The alliance seems set to have a general become unlelected premier when an election is held, and Prem appears to support this.

Prem made it clear that he fully backs Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s leadership. He stated:

I trust the prime minister and that all of you can work for the country, with royalty [the monarchy] and make sacrifices….

No matter how big or small the difficulties are, I ask the prime minister to feel at ease that the armed forces and people will give encouragement to the prime minister.

He said he has always told others about how important it was that Gen Prayut and his comrades had to step in during this turbulent time.

I told “Tu” [Gen Prayut’s nickname] that old soldiers like us will do all we can to help Tu achieve the great mission for the country….

Sounds like Prem’s “vote” is in.

Royalists will listen.





Still an unelected PM

25 08 2016

There was some social media attention to what was seen by some as a backward step by the junta on having The Dictator become premier after an “election.”

There had been reporting that the “extra question” in the “referendum” was being interpreted as a way of having a military-appointed senate nominate the prime minister.

According to some, this has now been “clarified.”

Khaosod reports that there has the “Senate under the new constitution will have the authority to nominate its own candidates for prime minister only if the upper and lower houses fail to choose one…”.

To us, the difference between the two positions makes little practical difference. The military junta can still effectively control who becomes premier:

According to … Jate Sirataranont, who sits on the [NLA] assembly commission for interpreting the new charter, the next upper and lower houses will jointly vote for a new prime minister, which requires two-thirds of votes to pass.

Only elected MPs have the right to nominate candidates, but the senate votes with the house, meaning a veto by the senate will be possible. Then the senate can nominate its own candidate for PM and control the joint voting.

Khaosod observes that:

In Thailand’s previous charter, which was dissolved when the junta seized power in May 2014, only Members of Parliament voted for a Prime Minister, and the Senate was not involved. The previous charter also required the Prime Minister to be a Member of the Parliament, while the new charter does not.

A military-selected and approved premier remains the likely outcome.





Trump and Thailand

24 08 2016

PPT pays only limited attention to US domestic politics. However, when there are links to Thailand’s politics we get interested.

Over the past couple of weeks, US presidential candidate Donald Trump has been getting some attention for his links to Alex Jones. As one of the many Jones-linked websites has it, the “mainstream media is in a state of panic with the fact that Alex Jones and Infowars are influencing mainstream politics and aligning with presidential candidate Donald Trump.”

Trump’s interview with Jones is available.

Jones pedals extreme rightist conspiracy theory. But a vociferous group of Trump supporters, mostly white, gun-toting, racists, buys into it. More significantly, according one report,

Donald Trump’s top donors are now backing an InfoWars-approved challenger to Sen. John McCain— a Tea Partier [Kelli Ward] who blames the former prisoner of war for the rise of ISIS and who once held a town hall on chemtrails [the conspiracy theory that says government airplanes are spraying, through visible contrails that streak the skies, dangerous chemicals to change the weather or for darker motives].

Robert and Rebekah Mercer—the father-daughter duo spending millions to boost right-wing candidates—have substantial clout in the Trump campaign. While most Republican mega-donors have stayed away from Trump, Mercer and co. are all in for him.

What does this have to do with Thailand? Back in 2013, we had a post about Jones-acolyte “Tony Cartalucci,” who writes material that has been popular among far right yellow shirts and other royalists, including some in the current junta.

As we said back then (and we haven’t updated the links and Land Destroyer has changed its pages since we first posted):

His [“Cartalucci’s”] blog has been Land Destroyer, which provides no information on funding, but as a reader at Prachatai pointed out at the time, it:

[l]inks to Infowars.com which is Alex Jones. Infowars.com accepts advertising from Midas Resources (http://www.midasresources.com/store/store.php?ref=62&promo=specialOffer) which is “One of the world’s premiere precious metals firms, parent company of The Genesis Communications Network, proud sponsor of the Campaign For Liberty and creator of the Ron Paul Air Corps.”

The Ron Paul initiated Campaign for Liberty (http://www.campaignforliberty.com/about.php) draws inspiration from a range of conservatives and libertarians and localists. According to University of Georgia political scientist Keith Poole, Paul had the most conservative voting record of any member of Congress from 1937 to 2002 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Paul).

Midas Resources was founded by Ted Anderson. Ted Anderson and Alex Jones are collaborators, with Jones appearing on the Genesis Communications Network, where Anderson is the CEO (http://www.gcnlive.com/contact.php). It was established to promote the sale of precious metals (http://www.gcnlive.com/faq.php). Its front page advertisers include Christian holster sellers and a range of survival products (for surviving the coming global food crisis) along with Ron Paul sites and Russia Television/Russia Today. GCN has interviewed right-wing, anti-Semite Lyndon LaRouche (http://www.larouchepub.com/lar/2008/interviews/080401jack_blood_genesis.html), seen as a political extremist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_LaRouche). LaRouche also has a fan in another link at Land Destroyer in F.W. Engdahl, yet another conspiracy theorist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._William_Engdahl), who believes in global cooling (not warming).

Jones and Anderson have promoted conspiracy rants by people associated with the extremist John Birch Society (http://mediamatters.org/blog/201101290003).

Companies linked in these groups, such as Free Speech Systems (http://freespeechsystems.com/) provide no links or information; certainly not practicing what they preach.

Land Destroyer links to a range of other conspiracy theory websites that never provide any details about funding. One of these is to the site of long-time conspiracy theorist Webster Tarpley who has a remarkable Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webster_Tarpley). Another is to anti-fluoride, anti-vaccination, Bin Laden is alive (Alex Jones too), and conspiracy theorist Jim Corr who is also on about the threat or One World Government (http://www.jimcorr.com/).

In the LaRouche Wikipedia page, in the section on “Selected Works,” it might be noted that LaRouche wrote a book with Uwe Von Parpart in 1970. Several sites note that he later worked at Asia Times and The Manager magazine owned by Sondhi Limthongkul. Interesting connections.

Conspiracy theories seem to be experiencing quite a comeback under rightist movements, not just in the US, but in Thailand too.





Out on bail

23 08 2016

Fifteen, mostly elderly, allegedly “communist”/”secret society” members and allegedly “conspirators” against the military dictatorship have been released on bail.

Their lawyer stated that “the Bangkok Military Curt had granted bail for his clients with a surety of 100,000 baht each.”

It seems that these “dangerous” conspirators, originally accused by the regime of having been responsible for bombings, were now far less dangerous political detainees. (The bombings are now, finally, said to be the work or southern separatists.)

 

No longer detained, the military court still seeks to silence these people who may be no more than critics of the regime. The military court “prohibited them from travelling overseas, engaging in any political activity and expressing their political views…”.

These bailed political detainees “have been charged with running an illegal secret organisation under Section 209 of the Criminal Code and violating the NCPO [the junta] ban on political gatherings.”





Making a military premier

22 08 2016

As has been clear for a couple of years, the military junta wants to retain political control well after any “election” that it decides to hold under its rules and when it decides an “election” can deliver a pro-royal and pro-military government.

In part, the charter and the “referendum” were about getting the right “rules” in place. But even those rules are malleable in the hands of the military junta and its agents.

As The Nation reports, the “extra question” passed in the “referendum” is now being interpreted to more easily allow The Dictator. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, to become prime minister after an “election.”Prayuth

National Legislative Assembly (NLA) vice president Peerasak Porjit has been reported as insisting “that allowing the Senate to nominate prime minister candidates is in accordance with the intention of the additional referendum question.”

That’s an interpretation for a military PM. Peerasak reckons that “political parties would nominate PM candidates and the Senate had the right to vote to select the PM but if this process failed to achieve that, it could pave the way for a second process in which the Senate nominated PM candidates.”

This gives the junta two shots at assuring that it gets its man in place. The senate will be dominated by junta supporters.

In a manner familiar to anyone who watches the junta, this supplicant then denied that this was a measure to benefit The Dictator and junta. Of course, it is exactly that.








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