Further updated: Cat among the pigeons

22 03 2019

Matichon Sutsapda has an “interesting” story on a wedding in Hong Kong.

It is likely to set the cat among the political pigeons just a couple of days prior to the junta’s election.

Clipped from Matichon

Update 1: While social media has this story everywhere, the mainstream news outlets have been just a little more self-censorial. Even so, the Bangkok Post reports that “Princess Ubolratana on Friday presided over the wedding reception of Thaksin Shinawatra’s youngest daughter in Hong Kong.” Yingluck Shinawatra was there as well.

The story adds: “Other Thai guests were former members of the disbanded Thai Raksa Chart Party — former leader Lt Preechapol Pongpanich, co-leader Sunee Luangvichit, and MP candidate Khattiya Sawatdiphol. The Thaksin-affiliated party was disbanded by an order of the Constitutional Court for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate…. Tida Tavornseth, a red-shirt leader, was also present at the Hong Kong reception.”

There’s none of the obvious questions: What does the king think of this? Is Ubolratana in open revolt against her brother and/or family? Is this her payback for the previous month’s embarrassment? What next?

Update 2: More photos are emerging in the mainstream media and on social media that suggest further questions awaiting answers. At the risk of appearing Hello-like, here are some of them, in this instance, both clipped from Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page:

 





Predictions and oddities

22 03 2019

There are a ton of articles about making predictions about the outcome of the election and there will probably be a lot more over the next 24 hours. Some are pretty awful, some are better and some are oddities.

One real oddity is a report about the police’s “X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” round-up – seriously, that’s the name – which has been going for a while now. It began as a blatantly racist “Operation Black Eagle,” targeting “negroes.” Immigration police deputy chief Maj Gen Itthipol Itthisaronnachai said the 490 foreigners had been rounded up to “protect” the election. He declared: “As you know, this is the period right before the elections.” Maybe he’d been drinking.

Most pundits reckon that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha will be returned as premier following the election. What is less clear is how many seats his Palang Pracharath Party will win.

Even with enormous rigging and cheating, it is looking like the junta’s own party may not do very well at all, with some predicting as few as 50 seats. That would, for the junta, amount to a defeat. It would mean that the junta and Prayuth would have to rely on other devil parties such as Bhum Jai Thai and Action Coalition for Thailand. But even that may be insufficient and will mean that the Democrat Party, never a poll winner, might hold the balance of seats.

It may be that the lower house is dominated by pro-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-military parties that can snipe at the cobbled together pro-junta government. It would be messy and open the way for Puea Thai to claim that the electorate has been robbed.

Will Gen Prayuth covet the premiership enough to deal with all these parties and his electoral “defeat”? Is he prepared for the loss of face and the bickering and bartering? Is he prepared to show up in parliament to be harangued by opponents?

If he isn’t up for it, then pundits say another election will follow. We doubt that, simply because the military brass are unlikely to see that as changing anything much at all. We’d predict another coup, and pretty soon after the vote.





The thick-faced, the thin-skinned and other crooks

21 03 2019

Here’s a round-up of a few stories that show the very worst of junta and its “election.”

Campaigning with the monarchy: Thaksin Shinawatra tried to have a princess on his side and failed. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had a birthday and got flowers from the king and some other royals. He made a big deal out of it and used it in his election campaigning.

Vote buying: The Bangkok Post reports that the Anti-Money Laundering Office “has set up an operations centre to monitor vote-buying and investigate poll-related money-laundering activities…”. Too late. If the money has changed hands, the deals will have been done already.

Army intimidation: Khaosod reports that “Party officials and candidates from the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties told the media that soldiers raided their residences on the pretext of looking for drugs or other contraband, though the politicians are convinced the army is seeking to intimidate them in the final days of campaigning.”

The fully-armed soldiers operated on junta orders: “soldiers did not have any court warrant, but forced their way in by invoking Section 44 of the 2014 charter, which grants soldiers acting under junta orders to search or detain anyone without a warrant.”

Buffalo manure award: The prize for the most egregious falsehood goes to Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Democrat Party. Just a few days ago, Abhisit loudly declared that he would not support The Dictator as PM after the election. Now he says “his party has yet to endorse his announcement that he will not support the junta leader for another term in office.” He fibbed and the strong group of anti-democrats in the party have put him in his place and announced support for Gen Prayuth.

Self-declared winners: Even before the big vote on Sunday it seems Prayuth’s devil party, Palang Pracharath, reckons it has already won and will immediately form government even before the vote count is finished. Breathtakingly arrogant and confident in the junta’s rigging and cheating.

Complete dicks: The lying, news fabricating dipsticks at Nation TV, caught out concocting a story meant to defame Future Forward Party, are unrepentant and unapologetic. Indeed, they are announcing that it is their right as journalists to fabricate and lie.

All this is how election cheats manage their manipulation and cynical fraud. It will only get worse.





Updated: EC votes for Prayuth

21 03 2019

EC performing seals

The Nation reports that the Election Commission has “voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint against the junta chief’s prime ministerial nomination, saying the process had been lawful.”

This refers to a complaint made by “lawyer Winyat Chatmontree last month to disqualify Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha from the contest. Prayut was a state servant [official] and should not be qualified for the nomination…”.

The EC decided, unanimously, that The Dictator-prime minister-junta boss’s “nomination was in line with the law, without giving an explanation.”

This follows the Office of the Ombudsman issuing a “ruling” that the prime minister, paid by the taxpayer, issuing orders, making laws, jailing and repressing in the name of the junta was not an official.

Bizarre decisions indeed. The performing seals at the EC didn’t even bother to “explain” their nonsensical “ruling.” But, that’s in line with so much that has been warped and abused in this junta “election.”

Update: As reported at Prachatai, the iconoclastic Sombat Boonngamanong has had something interesting to say about the unofficial prime minister and junta boss. He has pointed out that in a ruling on his case with the junta, the “Supreme Court … considered [[Gen Prayuth] a government official.” Sombat went to the EC before its most recent unanimous decision “to submit a letter saying that he was willing to be a witness in the case of Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha.

He insisted that NCPO [junta] had sued him on the grounds that Gen Prayut is a government official and the Supreme Court has already ruled in favour of the NCPO.” Sombat insisted that “Prayut[h] is not a government official…”. If that is the case, then “Sombat’s sentence for failing to report to the NCPO under NCPO Order 3/2014, should be cancelled.” The logic here is that if “the Head of the NCPO is not an official, as the Ombudsman found, Sombat did not have to follow the NCPO Order. However, the Court of First Instance, the Appeal Court, and the Supreme Court all ruled that Gen Prayut, as the head of the NCPO, has legal authority and is therefore an official.”

Now that the EC has followed the Ombudsman, what does that mean for the courts rulings in every case the junta has brought? Given that this is the junta’s Thailand, probably nothing, but Sombat is showing how crazy the system has become.





With a major update: Junta cheating deepens

20 03 2019

As the “election” approaches a frustrated and desperate junta is engaging in pretty much open cheating. It is being aided by its allies including the military.

The military is threatening and repressing political campaigners. Rightist television presenters are showing concocted “recordings” to sabotage anti-junta parties. Palang Pracharath is photoshopping images to make it appear they are holding huge rallies. The military is ordering units out to support Palang Pracharath.

All of this is illegal. Where’s the police, the Election Commission and the courts? In the junta’s pocket.

Clearly, election rigging has become outright cheating for the junta and for The Dictator.

It is a disaster for the Thai people.

Update: Given the blatant electoral cheating by Gen Prayuth and his allies, it seems appropriate to go back to a leader in The Economist from about five days ago and reproduce parts of it here, as a record of the rigging and cheating undertaken over the five years of the junta’s (mis)rule:

… On March 24th Thai voters will elect a new parliament, putting an end to five years of direct military rule…. But the MPs they pick will have nowhere to meet. King Vajiralongkorn has appropriated the old parliament building, which stands on royal property, for some unspecified purpose that, under the country’s harsh lèse-majesté laws, no one dares question. The military junta has yet to finish building a new parliament house.

That the newly chosen representatives of the Thai people will be homeless stands as a symbol for how hollow the election will be, and how contemptuous the generals are of democracy, even as they claim to be restoring it. They have spent the past five years methodically rigging the system to ensure that the will of voters is thwarted, or at least fiercely circumscribed. In particular, they want to foil Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister, now in exile, whose supporters have won every election since 2001. The result will be a travesty of democracy in a country that was once an inspiration for South-East Asia. It is bad news not only for the 69m Thais but also for the entire region.

Since ousting a government loyal to Mr Thaksin in a coup in 2014, the generals have imposed an interim constitution that grants them broad powers to quash “any act which undermines public peace and order or national security, the monarchy, national economics or administration of state affairs”. They have carted off critical journalists and awkward politicians to re-education camps. Simply sharing or “liking” commentary that the regime deems subversive has landed hapless netizens in prison. Even the most veiled criticism of the monarchy—posting a BBC profile of the king, say, or making a snide remark about a mythical medieval princess—is considered a crime. And until December, all political gatherings involving more than five people were banned.

The junta’s main weapon, however, is the new constitution, which it pushed through in a referendum in 2016 after banning critics from campaigning against it. Even so, the generals could persuade only a third of eligible voters to endorse the document (barely half of them turned out to cast their ballot). The constitution gives the junta the power to appoint all 250 members of the upper house. And it strengthens the proportional element of the voting system for the lower house, at the expense of Mr Thaksin’s main political vehicle, the Pheu Thai party. It also says the prime minister does not have to be an MP, paving the way for Prayuth Chan-ocha, the junta leader who does not belong to any party, to remain in power. And it allows the general to impose a “20-year plan” to which all future governments will have to stick.

The manipulation has continued throughout the campaign. Politicians and parties at odds with the junta have found themselves in trouble with the courts or the Election Commission. Another party loyal to Mr Thaksin, Thai Raksa Chart, was banned outright. The army chief has issued a writ for libel against the head of another party who, after being followed by soldiers wherever he went, complained of the shameful waste of taxpayers’ money. Campaigning on social media is restricted to anodyne posts about the parties’ policies and candidates’ biographies. Politicians fear that minor infringements of such rules will be used as an excuse for further disqualifications.

But all these strictures do not seem to bind Mr Prayuth and his allies. Before political gatherings were allowed again, he paraded around the country addressing huge crowds in sports stadiums. (These were not political gatherings—perish the thought—but “mobile cabinet meetings”.) The Election Commission has ruled that he can campaign for a pro-military party, which has named him as its candidate for prime minister, even though government officials like him are supposed to be neutral in the election.

All this is intended to ensure that Mr Prayuth remains prime minister, despite his inertia and ineptitude. Under him, economic growth has slowed. Household debt has risen. According to Credit Suisse, a bank, Thailand has become the world’s most unequal country. The richest 1% of its people own more than two-thirds of the country’s wealth. Corruption thrives. The deputy prime minister explained away a big collection of luxury watches last year, saying they were on loan from a conveniently deceased friend.

Worse is to come….

Thailand’s civilian politicians have lots of ideas about how to tackle these problems…. It is Mr Prayuth who, despite wielding almost unfettered power, seems lost for inspiration. The junta has promised to revive the economy by improving infrastructure, but few of its plans have come to fruition. The only thing the generals have to show for five years in office is a heavy-handed scheme to retain power….

… Thais deserve much better—starting with a genuine election.





Post-“election” disruption II

20 03 2019

We just posted on pro-junta disruption following the “election.” It seems we were rather too sanguine. The great fear that the junta may not fiddle its way to extending its regime has caused former People’s Democratic Reform Committee whistler Benya Nandakwang, a candidate for tiny Action Coalition of Thailand Party, founded and led by anti-democrat Suthep Thaugsuban, to use the coup word.

She “slammed anti-junta factions’ dream of winning at the polls as wishful thinking, since the government already has the stage set to its advantage.” She scribbled on:  “Do you really think you can just ‘pick up a pen and kill the dictatorship?’ [referring to a slogan of the pro-democracy camp] … Dream on. Do you know how to play chess? Look at the game. They already have their pieces set on the board.”

Then she got into the anti-democrat uniform of 2013-14, declaring that Thaksin Shinawatra’s money is “hell money” and warning that if the “democracy faction wins the election, eventually there will be another coup.”

There has been a social media storm about her comments. Yet she’s only saying what many of her ilk are thinking. And they have all put their money on Gen Apirat Kongsompong, yet another Army commander who has refused to rule out a coup and stated that he will not provide his or the military’s loyalty to a government he considers “disloyal.” The latter being his code for anti-junta.

Of course, a coup will be the ultimate disruption for the junta’s “election.”





Post-“election” disruption I

20 03 2019

Pithayain Assavanig, the executive director and chief financial officer of Asia Plus Securities, thinks that foreigners don’t care who the next premier is or who forms the government after the election and that the fact of an election will cause investment to return to Thailand.

He could not be more wrong. The chances are that the the post-election period will be a mess, with lots of legal action, coalition horsetrading and howls about cheating.

The hapless Election Commission is likely to have even more work following the election than it has now.

On the one hand it will have to sort out the problems the EC itself will have created for all of its failures on overseas voting, advance voting and its failure to adequately investigate complaints.

On the other hand, it seems that the desperate and frustrated junta devil party, Palang Pracharath, is planning to lodge a myriad of complaints about other parties.

While the EC has been slow and slapdash in investigating complaints against Palang Pracharath, it will likely work fast on that party’s complaints, even if they are nonsensical.

It seems the party is complaining about “smear campaigns against it and its leaders as well as its prime ministerial candidate Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.” It seems the “smears” have to do with statements that the party is the junta’s party. That’s actually a statement of fact.

Palang Pracharath is also preparing to repel post-election efforts to rescind or change the junta’s constitution.

In fact, this is standard practice for the anti-democrats since the military’s earlier 2007 constitution. Previously, it was often stated that the constitution could be changed, but each time it was attempted, governments were disrupted and then brought down.

Looks like they might do that again if the party can’t get its own government in place.

The post-election period is likely to be more interesting than the pre-election period.