From military junta to military-backed government

20 07 2019

Recently, King Vajiralongkorn returned to Thailand to swear-in the “new” cabinet. Beside his new wife, the king resembled his father in mumbling “that it was normal that, in the process of doing a job, there will be problems, and that it was normal that they must be solved at the core so the administration of the country can proceed smoothly.” Exactly like his father, the king urged the ministers “to perform their duties for the happiness of the people and the security of the country, as they had pledged to do during the swearing-in ceremony.”

Interestingly, Thai PBS chose to interpret this oft-repeated soliloquy as the king having “offered moral support to Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet ministers…”.

With a fractious and grasping coalition Gen Prayuth is going to have to have plenty in his sack of slush funds for keeping his men and women together in government.

What kind of government is this “new” administration? Opponents like Pithaya Pookaman say it is just no longer a junta but a military-backed regime. Others see it as a facade and “a purportedly civilian government…”. One of the most obvious signs of the junta wolf having donned sheep’s clothing is the fact that junta figures continue to dominate cabinet and all the key ministries. The other ministries are the trough that the coalition parties will slosh around in.

Even so, Prayuth has plenty of challenges, including having mafia-like figures in his cabinet.

Likely to be one of the easiest to see off is likely to be the Constitutional Court’s consideration of “the Opposition’s petition, claiming that General Prayut is unqualified to be prime minister in accordance with Section 170 (paragraph 3) and Section 82 of the Constitution.” Based on its previous politicized decisions, we don’t expect the Court to move against Gen Prayuth.

The other case the Constitutional Court has taken on can potentially strengthen Gen Prayuth and his government. It decided “to accept for consideration a petition accusing the Future Forward party, its leader, secretary-general and the executive committee of engaging in activities deemed a threat to the country’s constitutional monarchy.”

Interestingly, the Court was split 5-4 on accepting the case. But, if proven for the Court, Future Forward could be dissolved. Worse charges of lese majeste and sedition could easily follow, seeing politicians being locked up.

Clipped from Khaosod

Getting rid of yet another political party defined as opponents of the ruling class and the military-monarchy twinning may result in instability, but it seems pretty clear that Gen Prayuth can rely on the support of those with war weapons. Indeed, in recent days, the military and police have announced full support for the “new” government. Expect political repression to continue.

If all else fails – the deals, the loot and the repression – expect a military coup. If Gen Prayuth retains support among the ruling class and in the palace, a coup would support him. If he loses their confidence that he can protect and promote the interests of ruling class and palace, then a coup against him might see Gen Apirat Kongsompong put in the premier’s chair.





Updated: On elections

18 07 2019

Readers might be interested in a report by Focus on the Global South:

In the first half of 2019, a great deal of global attention focused on national elections in three countries where authoritarian regimes or personalities were in command of the state: Thailand, the Philippines, and India. The big question was: would voters buck the authoritarian trend or affirm it? When the dust settled, the electorates in the three countries had delivered striking, if somewhat divergent results, between Thailand on the one hand and the Philippines and India on the other.This study seeks to shed some light on the electoral outcomes in the three countries by examining the national situation leading up to the elections, understanding the results of the elections by situating them within the dynamics of the broader political process in each country, and engaging in a comparative analysis of the electoral and broader political processes in the three countries, drawing out similarities and differences.

On Thailand it concludes: “In Thailand, the overriding task is how to change an electoral system that hems in and constrains democratic choice with institutions and procedures that are implicitly backed by the firepower of the army.”

Update: Readers might also be interested in two report – a shorter one in English and a longer Thai-language report on the 2019 “election” from P-Net. One of its comments is on the decrepit performance of the puppet Election Commission:

P-NET’s observers are very much unhappy with the ECT’s administration especially the inactive performance of 7 commissioners and their lack of courage (fear) on issuing the yellow and orange tickets to certain candidates in several constituencies in regions before the polling day. ECT could not control the partiality of the government officials to stay neutral, not to support the ruling party and the incumbent PM in their campaigns.





Updated: Tom Dundee released

17 07 2019

It is good that lese majeste prisoner Tom Dundee has finally been released from prison. He was one of those scooped up following the 2014 military coup and jailed. He served more than five years.

Update: In another report, Tom states: “I am just a grain of sand on the beach of democracy…. I have chosen to do what is right, even if it might bring me harm or even death.”





Still using monarchy

16 07 2019

As is to be expected, anti-democrats and ultra-royalists continue to make use of monarchy for their own political purposes and benefit.

Conservatives have for some time been warned off using lese majeste, the current king apparently believing that it does him damage and that it has not been effective in silencing all critics – murders and enforced disappearances have worked a treat.

But the conservatives have found other means of using the monarchy against political opponents. Khaosod reports that serial complainer Srisuwan Janya, “filed the royal defamation complaint against Future Forward Party’s Pannika Wanich in June,” but that is not all it seems. In fact, the complaint is not lese majeste but a complaint to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. He wants “Pannika removed from office, on allegations that Pannika mocked the late King Bhumibol in a 2010 graduation photo.”

The newspaper reports that the NACC, which seldom seriously investigated complaints against the military junta, seems to be actively pursuing the case.

Monarchy remains a useful tool for anti-democrats and ultra-royalists in defeating political opponent.





Taking a break

16 07 2019

After more than a decade of uninterrupted daily posting, we are to be less consistent in posting over the next six months or so. There may be periods of inactivity. We apologize.





Rich royals seldom in Thailand

16 07 2019

We suppose that if one has all the loot in the world – well, perhaps just a paltry $50-60 billion – one can choose to live wherever one wants and maybe in more than one place.

It is known that King Vajiralongkorn has resided in Europe for quite a few years, with a preference for the area around Munich and with a recent penchant for Switzerland. He appears to enjoy biking, strawberry picking, buying antiques, hiking, skiing, mountains, fast and expensive cars and so on. Very European. Very expensive.

It seems the king’s second daughter shares her father’s love of Europe and for spending money. Society magazine Thailand Tatler devotes lots of space to Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana with its latest story on her most recent residence in Paris. It breathlessly writes of her “elegant surroundings of her Bougival residence, the accomplished designer, sportswoman and patron of the arts tells Thailand Tatler about her passions for fashion, horses and high culture.”

Clipped from Thailand Tatler

All very expensive.

The Tatler describes her as an “archetypal young person with ambition, drive, a zest for life and the determination to do something positive with it.” Positive seems to mean living in a mansion in Paris and living like, well, a princess of yore. Despite living the life of a wealthy royal she is said to “work hard.” Unfortunately, the article neglects to say what work she actually does apart from a bit of “fashion design” or bobbling along on expensive horses, which sounds rather unlike real work. The story is of a princess spending a fortune doing what she thinks is fun. The “training” in horsey stuff must cost a princess’s ransom.

What the story does do is recycle all the guff that has previously appeared in making her “princess narrative” that dedicated royalists soak up.

The article concludes that “[r]oyal duties and work notwithstanding, she is also a globetrotter. ‘Greece and the South of France are at the top of my favourite destinations list,’ she smiles. And I love Paris, so I visit all three quite often’.” It must be great to have all that loot and to spend it with gay abandon in places other than Thailand. What fun. What are the plebs doing?





Updated: Junta’s government goes, repression retained

16 07 2019

According to the Bangkok Post, the “outgoing junta government held its last meeting on Monday…”. We are not sure whether that means the junta has held its last meeting but guess this means the depleted cabinet met one last time. Anti-democrats will be in tears.

But this means little in terms of political repression. That continues, mostly run by the military and the Internal Security Operations Command.

As reported by Khaosod, junta legal fixer for the junta and who will be the fixer for the junta’s “new” government, Wissanu Krea-ngam “told reporters the power to detain people without warrants will rest with the counter-insurgency agency operating under the Prime Minister’s Office [ISOC]…”.

While he says that this power “won’t be invoked,” when political push comes to shove, watch this change. Wissanu added that “those who pose threats to national security or the monarchy will merely be questioned and warned.” In other words, they will “have [their attitude] adjusted.” He said they would not be detained.

Wissanu defended retaining these repressive powers: “It’s okay to retain such power, however, because it’s a power to oversee peace and order.”

Look forward to more of the same from the “new” government.

Update: The Bangkok Post quotes ISOC spokesman Maj Gen Thanathip Sawangsaeng who seems to contradict Wissanu. He stated: “I insist that the Internal Security Act does not authorise any detention or order for anyone to undergo an attitude change…”. The detention bit seems to match Wissanu’s claim, but not the attitude change bit. What’s going on there?