Thawil’s lies continue

29 04 2015

Some may have been surprised to read at Khaosod a couple of days ago that Thawil Pliensri, “who served as director of the National Security Council under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva,” has declared before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) that the “military operation that dispersed Redshirt protesters in 2010 and left more than 90 people dead was not a ‘crackdown’…”. But don’t be. Thawil has a long history of such claims. He has never produced any evidence for his position on the events of 2010.

It is more striking that the newspaper describes Thawil as a “key witness in an ongoing legal case over the incident,” because he was deeply involved in the team that planned and ordered the crackdown that left dead and injured strewn across Bangkok’s streets, many killed by the military (as several court inquests have independently determined).

Thawil repeated his claims in testimony to the NACC to defend the regime he gladly served and his former boss Abhisit Vejjajiva. The NACC is “seeking to retroactively impeach Abhisit and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, for authorizing the military operation on Redshirt protesters in April – May 2010.” They are “charged … with abuse of power for excessive use of force against civilians in the operation.” They should be charged with murder.

Thawil’s testimony is the same story as that provided by Abhisit, Suthep and the military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha. All claim that “security officers were forced to respond to the protests because armed militants had infiltrated the demonstrators and launched attacks on troops, police, and important buildings.”

Thawil went a little further when he “also contested the use of the word ‘crackdown’…”. He concocts a position that there “was no use of force or crackdown on the protests…”.

No, none. All of those pictures and videos and all the court inquests area all somehow wrong or misused and that all of the use of snipers, live fire zones, armored personnel carriers, hundreds of thousands of live rounds and so on were simply actions against the mysterious men in black. His blatant lies include his “admission” that “live ammunition was used in the military operation, [but] he insisted that security officers resorted to using firearms only after they were attacked by Redshirt-allied militants on the night of 10 April 2010…”. The evidence of that night is clear that Thawil is concocting this.

As we noted above, none of this is new. Back in 2012, PPT posted this:

Who could possibly be surprised when Thawil Pliensri defends the Army’s murderous assault on red shirt protesters in 2010. After all, Thawil was secretary-general of the National Security Council at the time of the sniper orders and secretary of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations set up by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to crush the protests by the red shirts. He says that “the operation to retake areas in Bangkok occupied by the protesters was a legitimate one.” Of course he does. He claims that “[s]ome information has been distorted and tampered with,” but seems to provide no evidence. Ultra-royalists will believe him. He, like the Army boss, declares: “state officials who risked their lives to disperse unlawful protesters deserved praise and should not be accused of killing people.”

Thawil was also one of those behind the fabricated anti-monarchy plot diagram that the Abhisit regime used to threaten and repress opponents.

Of course, it was Thawil’s transfer by the Yingluck Shinawatra government that eventually led to the Constitutional Court’s ousting of Yingluck in a move that set the groundwork for the May 2014 military coup. Read more on that successful judicial plot here.

A “moral” constitution

29 04 2015

While this report came out a week ago, PPT felt that readers might find the comments by an economic consulting firm of some interest. We consider it reasonably accurate but deeply depressing. There’s been rather too little discussion of the appointed bodies that can bypass the lower house.

A moral Constitution
GEM Economics
23 April 2015
Supavud Saicheua, Emerging Asia Economist, Phatra Securities

Debate has begun; passage of Constitution expected

As the week-long debate on the first draft of the new constitution in the National Reform Committee (NRC) comes to an end, many controversial issues have
emerged, some of which we highlight below. This confirms our thought that the Constitution will take center stage in the months ahead because it is a document that allocates political power and this will weigh down on investment decisions, encouraging a “wait-and-see” attitude. We expect the constitution to be passed by the NRC on 6 August, after which several months will be needed to obtain formal approval and to enact implementing legislation. We do not expect the PM to permit a national referendum given the political fall-out should the public reject the constitution. In our view, the public debate for or against the constitution that must be permitted before a referendum would be seen by the military as politically divisive and destabilizing.

A constitution designed to instill morality into politics

The first draft of Thailand’s 20th constitution is the longest and makes a far-reaching effort to instill morality into Thai politics. Section 74, for example, requires politicians to adhere to a Code of Ethics approved by the National Moral Assembly, failing which the politician could be removed from office. Under Section 71, every province will also establish a (50-person) Public Scrutiny Council to ensure among other things the “trustworthiness and fairness of elections” and prevent “conflicts of interest and ethics violations” of local politicians and state officials. Section 207 establishes a Government Official Appointment Committee, mainly comprised of former senior civil servants, which will have the final say in appointing top civil servants rather than the minister or the prime minister. Section 279 establishes the National Reform Assembly of 120 persons, 60 from the NRC and 30 from the current appointed National Legislation Assembly, to “propel reforms”. Controversially, this appointed body will have the authority to pass laws via Senate approval (alongside an elected parliament).

Elected vs appointed representation

In our view, this constitution will downsize representative democracy in favor of appointed representation, although the drafters of the constitution argue that they are not trying to create a “bureaucratic polity” or produce weak coalition governments in the future. The possibility of an unelected person becoming prime minister remains controversial. In the 1997 constitution, there were 400 local MPs. The current draft brings the number down to 250. The “party list” MP is expanded from 100 to 200-220 via a complex mixed member proportional ballot system. In 1997, all 150 senators were elected. This time 123 will be picked from former military officers, civil servants, and 58 qualified persons “with morals” [Section 121 (4)] in various fields as well as one elected from each of Thailand’s 77 provinces but 10 candidates per province will be picked by a committee.

No comment permitted, no debate allowed

28 04 2015

There has been some debate regarding a referendum for the draft constitution – not something PPT makes much of – and there is now debate amongst the puppets and the drafters appointed by the military dictatorship.

For a way of really developing some participation and meaningful debate would have been to look to the processes that led to the 1997 constitution, but the anti-democrats and the junta are not interested in real participation or debate. Despite some nonsensical claims about “the people,” they are paternalists, as they have always been.

The Bangkok Post explains some of the nonsense in a report that has the draft constitution being sent to political parties for “review.” The catch is that these parties “are forbidden from meeting to debate the proposed charter.”

The National Reform Council completed a week-long debate on the draft Sunday, before writers sent the text to the cabinet, the Naitonal Council for Peace and Order, and political parties for their feedback.

The narrow Constitution Drafting Committee appointed by the junta and the junta itself want to limit debate to puppet assemblies.

General Lertrat Rattanvanich, a spokesman for the puppet CDC, “said there was no need for parties to meet as they had been airing their opinions on the constitution in the media.” Of course, this is nonsense too, but the dictatorship trades on nonsense.

Who are his people?

27 04 2015

At The Nation a report indicates that Thailand’s military dictator has become a man of the people, if not a populist!

Self-appointed Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared that civilian politicians have no right to say that an election be postponed in order to get a suitable constitution out of the draft produced by the bunch of puppets who have devised it.

Prayuth breathed fire as he slammed the politicians:

What right do the politicians have to say that I can stay on or not. What does the charter say?… This depends on the people, who are the country’s owners.

Well, yes, the country does belong to the people, but not under the military dictatorship, which, by definition means the military brass has stolen sovereignty from the people.

But what is this call to the people? Prayuth seems to be thinking of the future, when he state that “if the people wanted him to continue in his post, they must find a legitimate way for him to do so.” Which people would these be?

Our guess is that he means his people. The military brass and the puppet assemblies and so on.

Prayuth was then quoted as claiming to know something about “democracy.” Now, we are skeptical. After all, the General has shown no inclination for democracy, ever.

On the U.S., Prayuth said he “opposed a proposal to copy the United State’s version of democracy that stressed the decentralisation of power, citing the differences in the size of the two countries and their education models.” He reckons that “Thailand was not ready to follow the US’ democratic lead because it may lead to conflict.”

He added: “We have so many problems already with our decentralisation. Let the people decide if they want it.”

Again, he wants “the people” to decide? But which people. Those repressed by the military junta? Those who have their television stations closed? Those jailed for speaking of the monarchy? Those who are enslaved? Those who are and those who will be disenfranchised? Perhaps Prayuth meant the media, sending messages to the (future) electorate?

Nope, none of them.

On the media, he warned reporters:

Do not criticise my government like other governments. I am trying to solve the country’s problems…. What’s wrong with you in the media? Or am I being too nice?

He must mean “the people” who support him, don’t criticize him, love the monarchy and support royalist repression.

The police force’s “top priority”

27 04 2015

A short report by Prachatai on a press conference by the Royal Thai Police at their headquarters on Friday is astounding for several reasons.

One item in the report that we simply don’t get is why the “press conference” was “attended by about 100 civil servants, entrepreneurs, and medical volunteers…”. Perhaps these are some of the online vigilantes used by the police.

A second, almost unbelievable, claim is that in amongst murders, organized crime, slavery, trafficking of all kinds, huge road trauma, and more, “protecting the monarchy is the police’s top priority…”.

Third, the police claim to have “closed 25,069 websites disseminating lese majeste content.” We at PPT are not exactly sure what this means, but we guess that this refers to websites based in Thailand. If true, that is a heck of a lot of opposition to the monarchy.Pyramid

Fourth, the police claim to have “closed 239 of 443 lese majeste cases in the past six months.” PPT follows these things pretty closely, and we have information on only a small proportion of these cases. The police add that there are “76 more cases under the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Attorney General. 128 cases are now under investigation.”

Not surprising at all is the statement that the “police have continued to monitor online media for lese majeste content.”

In addition, perhaps reflecting an awareness that the monarchy is not “revered,” the police state that the force is working “hard to help rais[e]… [the] awareness of the Thai people to be loyal to the monarchy.” It also “support[s] several royal projects.”

As indicated by the police report, it is truly remarkable how quickly the royalist propaganda has been undone in a few short years of still constrained questioning.

As the center of a dominant ideology for several decades, the monarchy’s decline is reflected in the desperation of agencies of the state and the frantic work of the royalist-military dictatorship in establishing political rules that maintain the social, political and economic order.

The challenge to this order is not defeated, as the military junta well knows. The challenge faced by the monarchy is reflective of this broader challenge.

King and constitution

26 04 2015

Back in 1947, royalists attempted to use a military coup and the subsequent constitutional drafting process, monopolized by military and royalists, to turn back electoral democracy. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary, emphasizing the role of the military, Democrat Party and palace:

The military overthrew the elected government of Admiral Thamrong Navasavat in 8 November 1947, amid the political chaos that followed the official finding that the mysterious death of King Ananda Mahidol was not due to suicide. The coup restored power to Marshal Plaek [Phibun], and was supported by Phin Choonhavan, Seni Pramoj, and the palace. The coup leaders alleged that government corruption had demeaned the sacredness of King Ananda’s 1946 Constitution….

The Regent, Prince Rangsit officially accepted the coup within 24 hours and immediately promul[g]ated the new charter the coup leaders had drafted. The King, who at the time was studying in Lausanne, endorsed the coup and the Charter on 25 November, noting “Those who were involved in this operation do not desire power for their own good, but aim only to strengthen the new government which will administer for the prosperity of the nation and for the elimination of all the ills suffered presently.”

The new charter gave the palace a persistent demand: a permanent Supreme State Council (later to be transformed into the Privy Council) to advise the monarch and handle his personal affairs. The Council would be composed of 5 members, appointed by the monarch and acting as a regency council in his absence. The Supreme State Council had been banned after the 1932 revolution. The palace was also given increased control over its own operations, including the Royal Household, the Privy Purse, and the Royal Guards. The King was given several emergency prerogatives, such as the ability to declare war and martial law.

A monarch-appointed Senate was established, and, with 100 members, equal in size to the House of Representatives. Like previous Constitutions, the monarch still did not have an absolute veto. However, the monarch-appointed Senate could, through a simple majority over the combined houses of Parliament, sustain a royal veto. The chairman of the Supreme State Council had to countersign any royal orders in order to make them official (when the constitution was announced, Bhumibol Adulyadej was still a minor and the Privy Council performed the king’s regnal duties on his behalf; thus in practice, the Supreme Council of State itself selected and appointed senators and had the power of veto). … A multi-member constituency system replaced the single member constituency system which had been in effect since 1932. …

Surprisingly, the Palace/Privy Council rejected the slate of Senate appointees proposed by the military. It instead filled the Senate with princes, nobles, and palace-friendly businessmen, leaving only 8 appointees from the military’s slate. With control over palace operations, the palace purged nearly 60 officials, clearing out earlier appointees from previous governments.

[The Democrat Party’s] Khuang Aphaiwong was appointed Prime Minister, and it was agreed that a new constitution would be drafted following House elections, which occurred on 29 January 1948. The Seni Pramoj and Khuang Aphaiwong-led Democrats won a majority and appointed a Cabinet packed with palace allies….

There are many parallels with the recent situation. The palace and royalists never cease in their efforts to expunge 1932, with the military now firmly royalist.

We should not be surprised when royalists again raise issues about the monarchy and the constitution. In considering the 1997 constitution, details about the sections on the monarchy were discussed in a secret session.

This time, looking at the draft 2015 constitution, the anti-democrat “monk” Buddha Issara proves he is no historian but a devout royalist by raising the role of the king, his “royal power” and the possibility that nasty constitution drafters are seeking to “diminish” those powers.

The “royalist monk … expressed alarm over a clause in the charter draft that permits Parliament to pass legislation without the King’s signature.” The report states:

According to Section 157 of the current draft, the Parliament must submit legislation to His Majesty the King for a royal signature. However, if 90 days pass without a signature, Parliament can re-submit the bill to the king with support from two-thirds of the chamber. In the event that the King does not sign the bill in the next 30 days, the Prime Minister will be authorized to enact the bill as a law.

The monarchist monk managed to consider this a clause to “allow politicians to limit the [k]ing’s power…”. He demanded that the clause be removed.

Royalist and miltiary puppet constitution drafting chairman Bowornsak Uwanno “explained that Section 157 has been included in Thai constitutions since 1949, including the recent 2007 constitution that was dissolved by the military junta who seized power last May.”

The 1949 constitution is explained at Wikipedia as yet another royalist intervention:

The Constitution of 1949 was promulgated on 23 January 1949, a permanent instrument to replace the temporary 1948 Charter. The drafting committee was headed by Seni Pramoj and dominated by royalists under the direction of Prince Rangsit and Prince Dhani.

The 1949 Constitution elevated the throne to its most powerful position since the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy. The Supreme Council of State was transformed into a 9-person Privy Council. For the first time, members this council would be selected by the King alone. A 100-member Senate would also be selected by the King alone. The President of the Privy Council, rather than the Prime Minister, would countersign all laws. The King’s veto was strengthened, with a 2/3’s vote of Parliament required to overrule it.

The King could issue his own decrees with equal authority to the government. The King also gained the power to call for a plebiscite – the ability to amend the constitution via public referendum, bypassing Parliament and the Government. At succession, the Privy Council would name an heir – not the Parliament.

Referring back to that royal constitution means that Bowornsak is right when he states that “it is extremely difficult for politicians to decrease the [k]ing’s power.” He is also absolutely right when he states that the draft constitution “gives more power to the King than the British [constitutional monarchy] system.”

Royal power is one of the principal limits on Thailand’s democratization, and has been so for more than 83 years.

This is why Khaosod is wrong to state that “[f]ollowing a revolution that overthrew absolute monarchy in Thailand in 1932, the Thai king has been granted largely ceremonial powers through the constitution.” As even Wikipedia shows, the constitution has long been a site of conflict over political power, and the royalists have largely won out since 1946.

Listen to the people

25 04 2015

Military dictatorships are not known for having an ear for the people’s voice. That said, Thailand’s military dictatorship does appear to crave some measure of “popular” support.

Several readers were amused by the junta’s move to call in persons on the “other side,” some of them from the official red shirts and some of those untrustworthy civilian politicians from the (anti)Democrat Party, and a group of academics and activists. Not all showed up, and not all appreciated uniformed goons showing up with the “invitation.” The notion that they were “released” following the meeting was somewhat amusing or threatening, depending where one stood politically.

Some of the official red shirts talked on and on about delaying elections to get the military junta’s constitution right. Yes, we wondered about this nonsensical political position too.

Making far more sense was activist Phayao Akkahad, who was at the meeting, and who correctly observed that these politicians were “making the move [on delaying elections] to appease the military junta without considering the views of the people.”

She went further, saying that “politicians should ask themselves whether they have a mandate from the people to make such proposal.” She obviously disagreed with their bleating, declaring “I don’t agree with [the proposal] allowing the military junta who seized power to stay longer…”.

She makes good sense.


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