Snouts in search of the senate trough

26 09 2016

In our last post, PPT indicated how observers think the future of “big” parties is limited. Indeed, we happen to think that the future of all political parties – except, perhaps, a military party – is limited. This is because the military junta has “arranged” a political and electoral systems in a manner that diminishes the role of political parties by reducing popular sovereignty.

The main “electoral” game will revolve around the unelected senate, to be appointed by the junta. The Bangkok Post reports on this. It states:

The 250 seats to be offered in the Senate under the new constitution have sparked a frenzy of lobbying as hopefuls jockey for position long before any of the posts are ready to be decided. The organic law that is needed to complete the promulgation of the Senate laws is also far from complete.Snouts

The 250 members of the Upper House, appointed by the junta, will play a key role along with the House of Representatives in the selection of a prime minister during the country’s post-election five-year transition to democracy.

In effect, elections are now replaced by intra-elite lobbying.

The military junta will appoint 194 senate members and select 50 more from another pool of candidates who will represent 20 professional groups. Another six seats are “reserved for the chiefs of the three armed forces and the Supreme Command, the defence permanent secretary and the police chief.”

The Post reports that “there are several thousand hopefuls eyeing the Senate seats and they are gearing up to lobby the military regime for a favourable nod.” This includes those who have already served the military dictatorship as selected members of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly and the National Reform Steering Assembly. They want another five years of unelected power and influence.

Nepotism and favoritism are likely to be important, along with a need for unquestioned loyalty to The Dictator, the monarchy and the military junta.

Updated: Strangling the Puea Thai Party

25 09 2016

A series of reports at the Bangkok Post show that the military junta’s plans – implemented from before the 2014 coup – to destroy the Puea Thai Party are proceeding apace.

One Bangkok Post story states that a “government committee has concluded that Yingluck Shinawatra must pay 35.7 billion baht in compensation for losses from her rice-pledging programme from 2012-14.” That’s more than a billion dollars.

That may not be enough as the “military regime pursues several other cases against the former premier, including compensation for losses from the ‘poorly planned’ responses to the severe flooding in 2011.” After all, her brother is listed as being worth $1.7 billion, and the regime probably wants all of that or wants Yingluck in prison.

As the Puea Thai Party has pointed out, Yingluck is “still being tried in the Supreme Court in connection with the rice scheme,” making it “inappropriate to use administrative orders to demand compensation unless culpability is legally established first.”

If this manipulation of power to crush Yingluck is not sufficient, the regime has let it be known that she will likely “be prosecuted for failing to deal effectively with the 2011 floods…”. Such a case would not only be unprecedented but would require a remarkable investigative effort (except that finding truth and facts are not in the TOR for most of these witch hunts).

Another Bangkok Post has the Puea Thai Party pointing out that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has used Article 44 to authorize the “seizure, confiscation and auction of properties of those accused of being responsible for the [rice] scheme’s losses” while also “granting protection to officials involved in filing civil liability lawsuits against the accused.”

The Party states that the junta’s intentions are clear: “to implicate former prime minister Yingluck … in the huge losses the rice scheme incurred without following legal procedures.”

It seems the political writing is on the wall. The “big” parties – the (anti)Democrats and Puea Thai – are both doomed to be smaller and probably much smaller. The new “election” system means “the bigger the party, the more prone it will be to shrinking.”

The system will be rigged to produce weak coalition government that will allow the military junta to continue to be politically powerful and will probably allow a military premier.

The complex election system, combined with the cases designed to financially cripple the Shinawatra clan, ban several of them and their senior politicians and (perhaps) to imprison some of them, is a strangling of the party.

As with the “referendum,” the “election” will deliver what the junta wants.

Update: Readers will be interested to know that Thailand’s military dictator has declared that the 15 individual cases against Yingluck do not amount to a witch hunt. He is quoted as saying: “the statute of limitation in the compensation case expires in February next year, and said he gave no instruction to any agency to rush the order.” That’s not what the reporting of this case has shown.

The way of the military

24 09 2016

Prachatai reports that on 22 September 2016, Naritsarawan Keawnopparat was indicted under the Computer Crimes Act “for disseminating information deemed defamatory to the Royal Thai Army…”.

Her alleged crime is making information available on her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, then aged 26, who was a conscript “tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011.”

Naritsarawan “is accused of defaming the Thai military and violating the Computer Crime Act by posting information in February 2016 about the torture of her late uncle.

While Wichian’s family sued “the Ministry of Defense, the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister’s Office for malfeasance,” and received “7 million baht in compensation for their loss,” none of the 10 soldiers involved has been prosecuted.

As previous PPT posts and media reports have made clear, the torture of recruits to ensure their blind obedience and acceptance of social and military hierarchy is essentially normalized in the Army.

The Army has acknowledged this and defended it. Naritsarawan’s “crime” is in challenging this murderous and hierarchical organization.

The details of Wichian’s torture are horrific:

An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training. The Army report said that on 1 June 2011, a number of soldiers, on the orders of Sub Lt Om Malaihom, stripped Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.

The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the wounds of the torture victim to increase the pain and wrapped his entire body in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and reading the funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.

Rather than abide by the law and reform, the corrupt Army chooses to protect criminals and maintain its traditional feudal practices and attack a whistle blower.

“Corruption” lese majeste cases mount

23 09 2016

About 10 days ago, PPT posted on yet another case of using the monarchy/royal family name for defrauding others or for enhancing personal wealth and power. Police had arrested Patthapol Uttarat, alleged to have claimed he was a lieutenant-colonel attached to the Directorate of Joint Intelligence of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Command and had links to “someone” much “higher.”

His lese majeste case is one of many such cases over the past year or so that have seen people accused of real or concocted links to Prince Vajiralongkorn or Princess Sirindhorn.

Khaosod reports on two more cases.It is unclear if these cases are related to that of Patthapol, although the modus operandi seems similar. They were in different provinces and arrests were made by different sets of authorities.

Kraisri Chantarapanya, 47, and Pitsanu Amwongsa, 65, were arrested on 18 September 2016 and accused of “scamming recruits into a fake royal guard were being held on an army base Tuesday in Nakhon Si Thammarat province…”.

An army report stated that “Kraisri claimed to be of royal bloodline, while Pitsanu recruited men to serve as ‘royal bodyguards’.”

They were said to take 2,500 baht per applicant for the allegedly bogus royal guard positions.

Khaosod states that their searches online for Kraisri’s name “turned up many news articles over a period of several years detailing his visits to mosques and local government offices in the south.”

It states that “[i]n those stories, he was identified as a royal secretary for a distant relative of His Majesty the King, a woman holding the title mom chao named Praphaphan Kornkosiyakart.”

They are likely to be charged with lese majeste, although we may never hear any more about their cases.

Further updated: King dead report

22 09 2016

euronews reports that the king has died. Unable to confirm this elsewhere at this point.

Update 1: euronews has now removed the report, although it still exists in French. We assume a reporting error or a practice run posted in error.

Update 2: For details about euronews, go here. This is the story that has been withdrawn. (We have been unable to locate any explanation from euronews for the publication and then its withdrawal.)

Revered in Thailand as a semi-divine, stabilising influence, King Bhumibol, known as Rama IX, has seen his country go through numerous military coups and 19 constitutional changes, during his long reign.

King Bhumibol acceded to the throne in 1946 after his brother, 20-year-old King Ananda, was found shot dead in his bed in mysterious circumstances.

King Bhumibol worked hard to restore the Thai monarchy to its former cherished status, which had been damaged by the abdication of his uncle in 1932.

In his early years Rama IX had been dominated by a powerful military hierarchy, but backed by his allies he reestablished the monarchy touring Thailand’s far flung provinces and focusing his efforts on agricultural development.

In 2006 his work was recognised by the UN and he was presented with the first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award.

Political turmoil has been a part of the kings reign.

His first major intervention happened in 1973 when democracy demonstrators were fired on by the military the king allowed them to shelter in the royal palace.

During the chaos of the past decade supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accused senior royal advisors of plotting against the businessman politician. The stand off led to Bhumibol being accused of endorsing military takeovers and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.

The king refused to get involved directly, but his influence was a factor when Thaksin’s election victory was annulled by the courts.

The king has suffered ill health for a number of years and has spent a good deal of time in hospital.

In his younger days he was an active individual enjoying photography, song writing and painting.

His health suffered its first set back in 1948 when his car collided with a truck between Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland and he lost the sight in one eye and seriously injured his back.

The future of the Thai monarchy now lies in the hands of the Maha Vajiralongkorn the Crown Prince of Thailand.

A man described by the Economist as “unpredictable to the point of eccentricity.”

What drives the junta?

22 09 2016

We know that the military junta is driven by 19th century notions of monarchism, Thainess and hierarchy. Those beliefs have led to several murderous attacks on civilians and years of degenerate military rule.

At the same time, recent reports point to some of other notions that drive the junta.

Several reports in recent days remind us that the military and the current junta are driven by nepotism and corruption. Military dictators have always managed to become “unusually wealthy,” enriching their families and followers along the way. The junta defends its own in such matters and, as was the case under past military regimes, allegations of nepotism and corruption are seldom allowed to stick.

The military junta is also driven by revenge, often steamrolling law and procedure in the process. A recent report demonstrates this in the case of the desperation to punish Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother. Among others, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is “investigating” former prime minister Yingluck in 15 cases.

Supa Piyajitti is chair of 6 of the sub-committees investigating allegations against Yingluck. In another, Vicha Mahakhun, a former NACC member is chair of a sub-committee. Both Supa and Vicha “testified for the prosecution in the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in the rice-pledging case.”

The military regime’s desire for revenge leads them to appoint compromised investigators.

More recent reports demonstrate that the military regime is also driven by fear. They fear (and loathe) political opposition.

Nuamthong, taxi and tankPrachatai tells us that the regime prohibited the commemoration of Nuamthong Praiwan’s suicide. He was the taxi driver who opposed the 2006 military coup, making his own death a protest against military intervention.

Also at Prachatai, we learn that the fearful regime’s “[l]ocal officials in the restive Deep South … have barred civil society groups from hosting an event celebrating World Peace Day, despite having previously granted permission to the event.”

Monarchism, Thainess, hierarchy nepotism, corruption, revenge and fear. Quite a list, and we reckon readers could add to the list.



The return of Corruption Park

21 09 2016

As much as the Army and the military dictatorship wants the story to go away, Corruption Park continues to haunt it (as other corruption issues also come to the fore).

Khaosod reports that journalism investigative non-profit ThaiPublica is “is still waiting for responses from the military and national graft agency after it sued for details about the cost of royal monuments built by the army last year.”

Months of “investigations have all predictably concluded that there was no corruption at Rajabhakti Park, which is “believed to have cost 1 billion baht…”.

ThaiPublica wants “the army to disclose more information about its spending process,” using the 1997 Official Information Act to pry information from the tight-lipped and evasive Army, taking it to the Administrative Court.

The non-profit wants “the original cost estimates before the project to erect seven king statues went to bid.”

These estimates have been used in some of the “investigations,” yet “the army flatly refused to provide the information six months later [after first requested].” ThaiPublica appealed and a “government body responsible for public information requests ruled last month the army must reveal the information to the public.”

As its to be expected from this corrupt military populated by inveterate liars, it now says the estimates “didn’t exist.” This despite the fact that the National Anti-Corruption Commission stated that it had “received many of the same documents from the army.”

ThaiPublica’s purpose, its says, is simple: “We just want the truth to come out…”.