With 3 updates: The junta, The Dictator and campaign cheating

5 03 2019

The Bangkok Post made interesting reading today, with a string of stories about the junta, The Dictator and campaign cheating.

First we had the godfather of Palang Pracharat, Somkid Jatusripitak campaigning for General Prayuth Chan-ocha. As a minister and state official, we think this is against the law. We don’t expect the tame and junta-appointed Election Commission to lift a finger to put Somkid in his place.

Campaigning, Somkid declared, as he has previously, that “I am very confident Gen Prayut will [return to power] to continue the mission, and you [investors] will be able to participate in shaping Thailand’s future…”. He went on to describe the government’s performance as “outstanding.” That’s the government he serves. Perhaps he doesn’t mean the two stalled rail projects (here and here).

Going full campaign mode, Somkid attacked other parties: “Amid all the daydreams [of other parties’ political campaigns], the government’s achievements are real and concrete…”, and called for votes for the junta’s party: “Thai people are not stupid. They saw what happened over time so I’m confident Gen Prayut will certainly make a comeback.”

He campaigned at a state-funded event organized by the Board of Investment.

While Somkid crashed through the rules and laws his own junta established, another Deputy PM, Wissanu Krea-ngam babbled that The Dictator-PM “will have to be neutral” when he campaigns for Palang Pracharath and himself. This is utterly nonsensical because it is an impossibility, as demonstrated already by the junta’s pouring of funds into campaigning.

It was Wissanu who, not that many days ago, declared Gen Prayuth ready to run, stating that the PM-junta head “is not considered a state official…”. He said that because the junta’s own charter “bars state officials from running in the election.” As a Post journalists observes, “[r]ight after the comment by Mr Wissanu, the PM’s Facebook page changed his profession from ‘state official’ to ‘public figure’.” We recall that the junta’s EC was “investigating” this, but we don’t expect to hear any more as its master has spoken.

Then we found two articles about further moves to neuter the Future Forward Party. It seems that the junta and associated royalists have become very worried that the party may do much better than they had anticipated in the upcoming junta election. Indeed, the junta seems petrified.

So it is that the performing seal called the EC has heard royalist activist Srisuwan Janya’s petition that Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Unlike cases against Palang Pracharath, “Manoon Wichiannit, the director of EC’s investigation office, issued an urgent letter to Mr Srisuwan inviting him to testify in the case at the EC headquarters…”.

At the same time, Immigration Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn also known as Big Joke, and a confidante of Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, “in his capacity as deputy director of Thailand’s Action Task Force for Information Technology Crime Suppression (Tactics),” summoned Future Forward’s deputy leader Lt Gen Phongsakon Rotchomphu “to meet police investigators over his role in sharing fake news about Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Facebook.” It was the junta that filed the police complaint.

Clearly, the junta and The Dictator are not going to allow Future Forward to do well at the polls. Harrasment of this nature is pretty much standard procedure for the junta.

It is for the military as well. Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong is on the hunt for anti-military and anti-junta words from election campaigners. He is sending out hundreds of soldiers to intimidate and spy on anti-junta parties. That command was issued by the junta.

Remember when he said he was going to be neutral? That lasted about 3 seconds. We don’t expect the EC will do a thing to insist that state officials remain neutral.

The spying on parties quickly came to a head when former national police chief Seripisut Temiyavet “produced a photo of a soldier he said was stalking him on the campaign trail.” He lambasted the Army boss, saying “it is not the job of soldiers to follow politicians or other citizens.”

“This has nothing to do with national defence,” he said adding that military “commanders should be acting to protect the country, not concerning themselves with the people.”

Gen Apirat, as is his penchant, went ballistic. As secretary-general of the junta, he ordered “staff to file [several] … complaint[s] against Pol Gen Seripisuth, leader of the Seri Ruam Thai Party.” One for insulting the “military decorations on Gen Apirat’s uniform during a recent exclusive interview with a newspaper…”. Apirat then, like other royalist scoundrels, upped the ante on this by saying that some of the decorations were “royally-bestowed.”

Apirat also order the junta “legal team to file a complaint against Pol Gen Sereepisuth for alleged violation of the computer crime law by posting the remarks made during the interview on his Facebook page.” And just to round things out, Gen Apirat ordered the “legal team … to file a third complaint, this time for allegedly defaming a soldier assigned to ‘observe and ensure his safety’ [that is, spy] while Pol Gen Sereepisuth was campaigning … on March 4.”

It is clear that Gen Apirat is waging a political campaign that is going beyond anything seen from the military for several decades.

In a related report, linked above, the police in Khon Kaen have said that they are “working closely together with the provincial office of the Election Commission (EC) to ensure security in all 2,637 polling stations in the province during the run-up to, and casting of ballots in, the election.” So far, so good, but then the cat was expelled from the police kit bag:

the local police and the local EC office are jointly conducting a surveillance programme to watch out for any violations of the election laws…. We are also keeping an eye on certain groups who may be plotting to stir up unrest during the election period.

No prizes for guessing which parties and people are being watched and spied on.

Quite a series of reports. Free and fair elections. Ha!

Update 1: The Dictator and his devil party have had second thoughts about Gen Prayuth appearing in Korat. A Palang Pracharath source said: “After we discussed the pros and cons, we came to the conclusion that it might not be worth it. So we [the party leadership] will stick to presenting our policies to voters…”. Gen Prayuth said he feared “being targeted by his opponents.” They would have sought to disqualify him for exploiting his position for his devil party. Indeed, they already are. Prayuth doesn’t want to allow them to force the EC’s hand.

Update 2: Future Forward has responded to recent attacks, including some not mentioned above. Pretty well everyone knows that several groups, including the junta itself, are seeking to reduce the party’s appeal and set it up for dissolution.

Update 3: Further to state agencies and officials engaging in politics, Chiang Mai provincial police have been found “conduct[ing] politically related surveys…”. We can be pretty sure that officials, getting people’s names and other identifying information under the guise of “surveying” are doing this to intimidate.



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