Catching up on some of the stories that warrant attention but where we don’t have time for detailed commentary. These stories all reflect on the nature of military dictatorship in royalist Thailand:
Hierarchy matters: The military demands loyalty and hierarchy from all its minions. The case of a policeman in charge of investigating human smuggling fleeing and seeking asylum in Australia has caused much angst in the police leadership and for the junta. The initial response of the “leadership” was to consider defamation charges against the cop who fled in fear of his life from the military, police and crime figures involved in human trafficking. The Nation reports that national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijindasays while he is ready to talk with former human trafficking investigator Pol Maj-General Paween Pongsirin, he has yet to decide whether Paween has been “libelous” of the cops in Thailand. Emphasizing that Paween is “ungrateful” for Chakthip’s “help” in having him the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre, where Paween felt he was in life-threatening danger, the boss declares, mafia-style: “I’m ready to forgive him…”. Being “grateful” is part of the hierarchy in the police, military and other mafia.
Worried by Yingluck: The junta’s Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office-Holders “has rejected former premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s request to take her son on a study trip to Japan…”. The politicized court ruled that the request for the 10-day trip “lacked sufficient grounds and rejected it…”. This is the second recent denial. The first related to an invitation from the European Parliament. Yingluck is on bail of 30 million baht, awaiting her “trial” in the rice-pledging case. Yingluck’s case is politically sensitive for the junta wants to demolish her political appeal, but that appeal makes its blunt use of the judiciary a little risky.
An outsider as PM: While most observers have been critical of the Constitution Drafting Commission’s recommendation that all parties submit a list of five potential premiers to voters, the main point to note is that this proposal would allow for someone outside the parties to become prime minister. This seems a common theme in the military junta’s commands on constitution drafting.
Election Commission wrangling: As many readers will know, the EC is run by a bunch of anti-democrat commissioners. These commissioners recently sacked EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong. A bit like the policeman heading to Australia, Puchong made some claims that anger the commissioners. He claims irregularities in purchasing, contracts and overseas trips, among other things. The reposnse of the commissioners – a so-called independent organization – is not to investigate, but to act like the police chief and file a defamation suit against him. Under the military dictatorship, defamation laws allow the crooks to cover up.
US again angers the junta: The sticking point between the military junta and the US administration is about procedures like elections and a civilian regime. The US is happy enough to deal with repressive civilian regimes where elections are held, fair or otherwise, but seems unable to abide the world’s only ruling military junta. US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel calls this a “successful return of democracy.” He says: “We [the US] wish to restore full engagement with Thailand when the country restores a civilian-led and democratic government…”. That’s a problem for the junta as it plans to stay on as long as possible.