Election ≠ democracy

17 12 2017

Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey thinks the military junta is likely to allow its “election” to take place in November 2018.

Certainly, the junta and The Dictator are campaigning hard. Umesh also sees the EU capitulation to the military dictatorship as evidence that an “election” just might be held.

But issues remain. For one thing, as Umesh notes, the junta has not yet allowed political parties to complete the necessary legal requirements to allow them to campaign and then stand candidates for election. That could be a delaying tactic or it may be just an attempt to cause disarray and disorganization among political parties and preferencing the junta.

Another issue is that the formation of the Election Commission is stuck. Seven commissioners have been nominated, at least one with links to the anti-democrat stage, but the two selected by the Supreme Court seem not to have followed legal procedures. Of course, the Supreme Court has broken and bent rules in the past but the National Legislative Assembly is questioning the court.

There’s also an issue with the political parties act and the potential for changes and delays. The junta can still play around with this law using Article 44 but there may also be considerable debate at the NLA.

The bigger problem with Umesh’s view, however, is his odd view of “democracy.”

Identifying himself as a “democracy lover,” Umesh states:

Given the fact that elections are usually held on Sundays and assuming that the government plans to hold on to power until the last day it can, the last day to hold elections would be Nov 25, which would mean that the country would be back to a democratic system 343 days from today.

Of course, when the anti-democrats campaigned against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government, they repeatedly complained that elections did not make democracy. Their argument was that election by a majority of the population ignored the minority.

In the case of the junta, however, “elections” do not make democracy because the military dictatorship has developed all the rules for the “election.” These rules have been developed by the puppet appointees of what is an illegal regime (which legalized itself). Many of those rules have been developed to produce a junta-friendly post-election regime.

The junta’s constitution was “approved” in a referendum that was unfree and unfair. And then it has been substantially changed, some of that done in secret.

The result is likely to be that, as in the period when General Prem Tinsulanonda was unelected premier, “elections” may not matter much and political parties are likely to have relatively limited power.

The junta’s reign has also seen courts and so-called independent agencies made the bastard children of the junta. In addition to the EC, a recent example is the National Human Rights Commission, completely de-fanged after years of increasing impotence and partisanship.

This fixing of the legal and electoral system has been so thorough that no election under the junta’s rule can be democratic if that word has something to do with free and fair elections.





The PDRC and Suthep

16 12 2017

Two recent news reports mention Suthep Thaugsuban and his People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

The report that got most attention was about Suthep and his anti-democrat colleague Paiboon Nititawan seeking changes to the organic law governing political parties, arguing for “fairness” for all parties. As all commentators have noted, this is an attempt to delay the “elections.”

Suthep and friends

Suthep has repeatedly called for the military dictatorship to remain in power, so this call is aimed at that end. The puppet National Legislative Assembly says it will hear from Suthep and Paiboon.

The second report, in the context of judicial double standards, is a tiny piece of what appears to be brighter news. At the end of a report on Jatuporn Promphan, it is briefly noted that the Phatthalung Provincial Court sentenced a former senator and PDRC key figure Thawi Phumsingharach and 10 supporters “for disrupting an advance vote and election officials in the province back in 2013.”

Thawil was slapped with a five-year prison term, and the others received from one to five years “for their role in obstructing the Muang district poll on Dec 28-31 and preventing the provincial election commission from performing its duty.”

We assume they are appealing.





More judicial harassment

15 12 2017

The military dictatorship has repeatedly used the judiciary to harass its political opponents. It has also repeatedly used this harassment against individuals. It is at it again.

One such case is Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who is also anti-junta and a member of Resistant Citizen. He is associated with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and has defended numerous individuals accused of lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act since 2010. His high profile cases have included Ampol Tangnopakul, the aged lese majeste victim who died in prison in 2012 and the case of a man accused of lese majeste for mocking the then king’s dog.

Arnon has faced several situations identified as judicial harassment. In 2015, the military accused him of “importing into a computer false information which may damage national security” under the Computer Crimes Act for five Facebook posts that criticized the military regime’s administration of “justice” under martial law. Then he faced up to 25 years in jail and a fine. In 2016, he was charged with “standing still.” This was a public protest against the junta’s detention of anti-coup activists. The public prosecutor filed charges under Public Assembly Act.

The junta is again using the judiciary to harass Arnon. Is the EU following this case?

According to Prachatai, police have summoned Arnon “over his 2 Nov 2017 Facebook post, accusing him of contempt of the court and importing false information into a computer system under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act.”

His “crime” was to question the Khon Kaen court’s 2 November verdict “which found seven anti-junta activists guilty of contempt of the court for their activities in front of Khon Kaen Court on 10 Jan 2017.” This case had accused a “peaceful symbolic activity was organised to give moral courage to Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, alias Pai Dao Din, a pro-democracy activist who has been sentenced to 2 years and six months in jail for lèse majesté.”

Arnon copied a news story and wrote a comment, questioning if it is fair or even possible for a court to prohibit those convicted “from associating with each other.”

For this he gets slapped with a charge that could result in many years in jail.

The harassment of political opponents continues. The junta brooks no opposition.





De facto lese majeste

15 12 2017

We were interested to read a Bangkok Post report that the “Supreme Court has halved two prison terms given to red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan for accusing former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of ordering soldiers to kill protesters” in 2009.

The bit of the report that interested us was the reason the court provided for refusing to suspend the sentences:

The Supreme Court rejected Jatuporn’s request for suspended sentences, saying his speeches had affected the royal institution.

We had not previously understood that Jatuporn’s jail sentence was a de facto lese majeste case.





Corruption and campaigning

14 12 2017

As more pressure comes on the Deputy Dictator and Minister for Bling, General Prawit Wongsuwan, The Dictator continues his campaigning for the unannounced election and his continuing premiership.

While free and fair elections are impossible under the junta’s rules (take note at the EU Council), General Prayuth Chan-ocha continues to campaign for “election.”

Dancing at a royal Disneyland, he “gave away dozens of cows, buffaloes and agricultural tools to farmers before observing an irrigation development project in the afternoon.” He also pork-barrelled, telling “locals how his government had allocated Bt305 million for irrigation development and Bt1.4 billion for three road construction projects.”

From The Nation

Protected by dozens of security guards, this campaign visit was better managed than the awful failure in the south.

As the Bangkok Post reports, Prayuth’s campaign “visits to the provinces with multi-billion-baht budgets to spend” come as he is “refusing party requests to lift the political activity ban…”. For the moment, only the junta is permitted to campaign for the “elections.”

In Kalasin The Dictator told residents not to vote for parties that make promises about raising “farm product prices by intervening in the market,” meaning the Puea Thai Party, but talking of policies his own government has implemented.

He was keen that villagers select him:

For the first time in more than three years, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday positively responded to a request for him to extend his stay in office during his visit to the northeastern province of Kalasin.

“We would like to see the premier in office for another 10 years,” said one unidentified villager, while Prayut told them that if they wanted him to stay, he would consider it.

In our view, there was never any doubt.





The “justice” system

14 12 2017

We at PPT have long posted on the injustices, illegal actions and double standards of the justice system. Usually our posts on this topic have to do with the manipulation of the lese majeste law for political ends. Sometimes we have posted on the other “legal” means that the junta has used to jail and silence those it considers political opponents,  or “dangerous” for the “reputation” of the military.

In this post, however, we look at the unexplained treatment of a suspect charged with “participation in premeditated murder, attempted murder and fatal bombing” that resulted in the death of 20 and injuries for 120 at the Erawan Shrine in 2015.

These charges did not prevent the “Bangkok Military Court on Wednesday released Wanna Suasan, the Thai suspect in the 2015 Erawan Shrine bombing, on bail of 1 million baht on the condition she remains in the country” and doesn’t tamper with evidence or witnesses.

This is is stark contrast to lese majeste cases where almost no one gets bail from the courts. Clearly, in the justice system, being accused of insulting a royal, a dead king, a dead king’s dog or a historical royal figure counts for far more than premeditated murder and terrorism. The justice system operates as a feudal institution.

As an important aside, recall that one of the reasons for the EU capitulation on Thailand was this:

The Council notes the decision of the Thai military leadership to phase out the practice of prosecuting civilians before military courts for a number of offences since 12 September 2016, including for offences against internal security and lèse majesté offences. The Council urges the Thai authorities not to prosecute civilians before military courts including for lèse majesté offences committed before 12 September 2016.

Naturally enough, the junta can simply ignore human rights issues and continues to use military courts. The “out” for the EU seems to be the date it notes.





Royal secrecy deepens

13 12 2017

King Vajiralongkorn’s reign has been characterized by fear and secrecy.

The fear has spread throughout society. Fear of getting on the wrong side of a powerful man said to be vicious and cruel. Fear of his enforcers, including the junta. Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of the royalists patrolling royal boundaries. Fear of not knowing what those boundaries are and how they move.

Secrecy has surrounded all official dealings, from the raft of laws (including the constitution) that have been changed to suit the king and give him vastly increased power to the cremation of the dead king.

Put all of this fear and secrecy together and it means that officials are petrified.

Prachatai reports on how this petrified state has played out in yet another bizarre lese majeste case.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Office of the Council of State (OCS) has denied lawyers access to a document required to defend a client charged with lese majeste for allegedly defaming Princess Sirindhorn.

Sensible readings of Article 112 are clear that she is not covered by the law. Yet that has not stopped courts from ruling on lese majeste cases about her.

The document is requested because “Sirindhorn’s official title in Thai before King Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne included ‘Crown Princess’.” This leads to “dispute as to whether she was considered an heir apparent of the Thai monarch,” and thus covered by the law.

We think this is buffalo manure because, from 1972, there was only one heir apparent. But as the courts apply the law willy-nilly and in cases involving dogs and long dead kings, we see why the lawyer seeks it.

The report states:

The lawyer first requested access to the document in June 2017 but the OCS declined the request citing the Rule on Maintenance of Official Secrets 2001 and Article 14 of the Public Information Act 1997.

The OCS claims the document “is classified because information in the document could damage the monarchy if it is published.” The TLHR counters that “the document was accessible on the OCS website until at least June 2017.”

In August 2017, the court trying the lese majeste case to allow access, but this was rejected, with the court “stating that it can rule on the case regardless of the OCS document.” It also ruled that the “OCS does not have authority over the document.”

All things royal are becoming even more opaque than they were in the past. Neo-feudal Thailand is a dark, dangerous, unpredictable and daft administrative space.