We knew that

24 09 2018

The Bangkok Post reports that The Dictator has finally, publicly, stated what everyone knew: “he is interested in entering the political fray…”. By this the Post means that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha wants to continue as top dog (-1) after the junta’s rigged election.

He’s been vitally interested in politics and the political fray for a decade and more. He is a politician.

He is reported as saying:

I am interested in politics because I love my country, as other Thais do. But that’s all I can tell you for today. I’ll let you know later how I will decide and who I will support.

The Dictator is not saying this as clearly as he might because he feels this protects him. Once he fully declares his position and intention, he becomes much more of a target for criticism, which he feels he can bat away at the moment.

But, really, everyone knows full well that The Dictator anticipates that he will be the prime minister into the future. That’s what he has long craved.





Corruption under the junta

23 09 2018

We don’t always agree with academic Sungsidh Piriyarangsan’s politics, but his research on corruption is usually pretty good. We found these bits of a report in The Nation worth quoting for readers:

Sungsidh Piriyarangsan said his “cautious estimate” put the damages at between Bt50 billion and Bt100 billion for 2018 alone. He based his estimate on the findings of 14 studies on corruption funded by the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)….

“Corruption has increased rapidly because Thai politics is a closed system,” the academic said. “A big weakness is that we have no agency that truly scrutinises. Parliament and independent agencies exist but they can’t scrutinise politicians.

“The country’s history and culture enshrine the existing patronage system, in which people with connections thrive. Also, law enforcement is not effective enough although this government has issued a lot of good anti-corruption laws,” he added.

We are still waiting to hear more about Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s watches, all those “investigations” into Rolls Royce engines at Thai Airways and PTT’s commissions, the Kyodo News Agency report in the Bangkok Post about Japanese executives being charged over bribes to a Thai official of the Ministry of Transport, former police chief General Somyos Pumpanmuang’s “borrowed” money, Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda’s alleged approval of the purchase of hundreds of road speed guns for six times the normal price, Rajabhakdi Park and many more.





Updated: Lese majeste on the way out?

22 09 2018

Readers will have seen the several stories about and appeals court dropping lese majeste charges against six persons who allegedly burned public portraits of the previous king and the current one. They might also recall that PPT pointed to a change in the lese majeste wind:

There has been some social media discussion of the meaning of this dismissal [of Tom Dundee] – despite the guilty plea extracted – and the recent unexplained dropping of a lese majeste case against lawyer Prawet Praphanukul. Does this indicate that the regime and/or palace changed the absolute draconian approach to lese majeste?

The South China Morning Post reports:

The six, aged between 18 and 20, were arrested last year for setting fire to portraits of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at several spots around the northeastern province of Khon Kaen. A court found them guilty of lèse-majesté, arson, damaging public property and organised crime.

One of the six was jailed for 11-and-a-half years, three received terms of seven years and eight months, while two got three years and four months.

The appeals court has dropped the lese majeste charges against them “but they will still have to serve lengthy jail terms for damaging public property.”

In the report a human rights lawyer has said this “appears to be a new policy direction.”

But they still have hefty jail terms: “nine years instead of 11 and a half; six years instead of seven years and eight months; and three years instead of three years and four months.”

According to Pawinee Chumsri, a lawyer of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “[o]nly 10 lèse-majesté cases remained before the courts.” Pawinee adds: “Since the beginning of this year, the court has dropped Article 112 prosecutions and pursued other charges instead…”.

Channel NewsAsia also quotes Pawineewho says: “It’s somewhat good progress to see 112 cases are not easily prosecuted…”. Yingcheep Atchanont, of iLaw, says “there have been four acquittals this year and no new cases.”

The junta says it is being “careful” with 112 charges as it shines its international credentials and looks to a post-“election” future as a “legitimate” regime. At the same time, the huge increase in cases in 2014-16 has had its political impact, shutting up critics of monarchy and regime as red shirts and republicans who have not fled Thailand have been silenced.

That said, we suspect the King recognizes that 112 does him no good either, although he’s used the law himself to sort out his own issues.

Sedition and computer crimes charges are now likely to be favored, reducing the criticism the regime and monarchy face in future.

Update: The Bangkok Post editorial on lese majeste is worth reading.





Business and The Dictator

22 09 2018

PPT has said some things about academics, who should know better, having international conferences in Thailand.

Business, of course, is different. For all the talk of stuff like “sustainability,” “corporate social responsibility” and “human rights,” most business people really couldn’t give a fig and just look to the bottom line.

Dealing with dictators is not difficult for them, so long as a profit can be turned. Naturally enough, in Thailand, domestic business has been supportive of individual generals, coups and military juntas over the decades, and support for the current regime has been enthusiastic, not least from those who funded the PAD and then the PDRC.

Even so, The Dictator must be ecstatic to see the Forbes announcement that, and we use its words: “His Excellency General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, and some 40 prominent global business leaders and entrepreneurs are confirmed to speak at the 18th annual Forbes Global CEO Conference, which will take place in Bangkok from October 30-31, 2018.”

The general “deliver a keynote address in front of an audience of global business luminaries and thought leaders” about:

the theme of ‘The World Reboots’, this year’s conference will focus on how CEOs, companies and countries are confronting challenges and seizing opportunities arising from accelerating disruption. Some liken this era to the fourth global revolution, after mechanization, mass production and digitalization. The world in 4.0 mode will affect how companies are built and led, where money is made or lost, the role of governments, and how all of us live, work and play.

That a dullard like Prayuth even consider such a topic is testing the limits of credulity, but we guess someone else will write the stuff he says.

But then again, the list of “luminaries” is hardly stellar. It includes many of the junta-loving Thai elite:

Today, Forbes announced new speakers including, Chartsiri Sophonpanich, President of Bangkok Bank; Suthiphand Chirathivat, Executive Director, ASEAN Studies Center, Chulalongkorn University and Executive Director, Central Group; William E. Heinecke, Chairman and Group CEO of Minor International; Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings; Peter Moore, Chief Executive Officer of Liverpool FC; JP Gan, Managing Partner at Qiming Venture Partners; Harald Link, Chairman of B. Grimm; Goh Choon Phong, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Airlines; Carrie Jones-Barber, Chief Executive Officer of Dawn Foods; Tan Min-Liang, Chairman and CEO of Razer; Peter Sands, Executive Director at The Global Fund; Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd; Gary White, Chief Executive Officer of Water.org and WaterEquity; Jim Walker, Chief Economist at Asianomics Group and Parag Khanna, Managing Partner at FutureMap.

So perhaps the idea is that the Chirathivats, Heineckes, Links, Sophanpanichs are just getting their business buddies along and are paying for The Dictator’s propaganda and helping him with his election campaigning:





King changes graduation ceremonies

21 09 2018

Graduation ceremonies in Thailand are important for more than those who celebrate their years of studying. For one thing, since the 1960s, the palace propagandists has recognized that having a royal hand out the certificates is a great way of having the then increasingly Sino-Thai middle-class graduates tied to the monarchy in a ceremony that was a kind of graduation into Thai-ness. As the higher education sector opened up, and graduation ceremonies got ever larger, the task of royal bonding was doled out to more royals. A financial benefit also accrues to the royal as each graduate is expected to pay amounts from 400 to 600 baht each which goes into the royal spare change purse.

When he was Crown Prince, Vajiralongkorn usually presided at Thammasat University and the Rajabhats.

A couple of days ago, The Nation reported, in an account reflecting the fear of king and monarchy, that:

King Maha Vajiralongkorn has accepted an invitation to bestow degrees on the newest batch of graduates at Thammasat University (TU) next April, the TU Graduate Committee’s social media page (facebook.com/TUgraduate60/) announced on Tuesday…. The dates for the Graduation Ceremony for the 2017-18 academic year were selected by … the King for April 7-8, 2019. The ceremony will be held at the Grand Auditorium, Thammasat University, Tha Phrachan Campus…. The announcement post received more than 12,000 ‘likes’ and was shared by 26,000 Facebook users.”

This is odd in the sense that graduation ceremonies have for years been at a particular time for each institution – indeed, there has been a graduation season – and most haven’t changed much over the years. Why the change? Why is the king deciding? And why to a hot period?

A day later, Khaosod reported that Thammasat and 39 Rajabhats all announced that “their year-end graduation ceremonies … have been postponed to April.” The changes were said to have been made to “accommodate a new schedule set by the palace.”

Thammasat vice rector Chalie Charoenlarpnopparut is reported: “The Royal Household Bureau stated that His Majesty the King has set the date to hand out diplomas for April 7-8, so we will hold the ceremonies on those days…” rather than November-December.

Some of the dates for the Rajabhats “have yet to be set by the palace.” It is reported that the “palace postponed the ceremonies … [but] no reason was given.”

There is much social media speculation: astrology and auspicious dates, the king will be skiing in Europe in winter, his coronation is to be announced for November/December.

Whatever the reason, one things is clear: this king does what he wants when he wants. It is all rather feudal.





Seethe against the military junta

21 09 2018

Punk fans and anti-Fascists rejoice! Tonight is the time for “BNK44: Four Years Later and All We Eat is Fortune Cookies,” will start at 8pm on the rooftop of The Overstay, an underground venue in the Pinklao area that hosts punk and reggae shows. Entry is free.

Recall that several punk bands involved in this gig are returning after the “Almost Four Years, You Motherfucker” concert that was shut down by the junta’s thugs. This time they want “to seethe against military rule, four months after their last show was raided by police” because they were considered anti-junta.

The bands are “lampooning the junta’s recruiting of a girl idol group for publicity, according to an the event organizer who asked not to be named ‘because our concept is anonymity and anarchism’.”





Judiciary, military, impunity

20 09 2018

Under the military dictatorship the judiciary has been less interventionist that it was when it opposed elected governments. The royalist elite charged the judiciary with drawing lines in the political sand and protecting it against uppity elected governments.

But the loyal servants of monarchy and military on the bench can still be quite royally repugnant when they are told to enforce the military’s will or charge themselves as enforcers.

Sawai Thongom was shot in a 2009 protest against the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. That left him disabled. Later, a “court ruled the armed forces must pay him 1.2 million baht…”.

Not long after that an appeals court “overturned the judgment on appeal, ruling that the bullet wounds sustained by Sawai and another injured plaintiff were caused by a type of gun not issued to soldiers.” [As far as PPT can recall, this is not the case, and the Army does have the weapon in question.]

The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided that not only was Sawai up for “over 300,000 baht in fees and damages for harming the military’s reputation.”

Yes, we know, the military’s reputation is as murderous thugs, but one of the judiciary’s tasks is to save the face of big bosses in state positions maintain the impunity of the military.

The latest twist is that not only has impunity and face been maintained, but the junta has decided to further punish the disabled Sawai; they have seized his land and his money.

In June, “all the money in his bank account, just over 5,000 baht” was grabbed by the military’s thugs. More recently, Sawai received a letter “telling him he must surrender the deed to his 8 rai (1.3 hectare) of land in … Surin province.”

The letter said his land was valued “at 460,980 baht, the letter said it would be auctioned off to compensate the military.”

Interestingly, Sawai is fighting back and is now supported by “[v]eteran political activist and former lese majeste prisoner Somyot Prueksakasemsuk [who] is helping him raise funds and file petitions.”

Somyos said:

Will citizens dare to sue the state in the future if there’s such a crackdown?… You get shot and become physically handicapped. Then you go to the court and end up having to pay the army.

Sawai is unwilling to hand over his land title. He also realizes the government can sell it regardless. He knows that he’s merely buying time for what he fears is the inevitable outcome.

The Army has been prancing about in red shirt-dominated electorates intervening in “loan sharking” and returning land to farmers. But when it comes to the “dignity” of the murderous thugs of the Royal Thai Army, there is no sympathy. Rather there is just punishment.

Justice in Thailand excludes the poor as it protects the rich, the monarchy and the military.

Sawai has another mark against him. He holds political views that irk the royalist elite. On joining the rallies in 2009, he says of the Abhisit regime: “I did not join the protest due to hatred. I just oppose a party with minority seats forming a government on a military base…”. He continued: “I am just a normal person who, unarmed and wearing a Redshirt, exercised my rights to sue the armed forces…”.

It seems that no such right exists. Impunity remain intact.