Liars and scoundrels II

11 07 2018

As well as lying to the public, military dictators can lie to themselves.

The Dictator and self-appointed Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has made a series of statements to actors and singers who called on him at Government House that are lies to himself, to the visitors and to the public.

First, he “denied he was trying to retain power…”. That lie can’t hold up. Even The Dictator could “not reject speculation over his perceived political ambition to return as government head after the next general election…”. Everyone in the country knows that any claim he is trying to retain power is a lie. He’s been campaigning. His adjutants say they intend for Prayuth to stay on, the military knows its job is to ensure The Dictator stays on, and political parties have been formed to ensure Gen Prayuth continues in the top job (-1) following the junta’s election, whenever it decides to hold them. His minions have been hoovering up candidates for the junta’s party. The Election Commission looks the other way so that the junta’s supporters can bend and break electoral rules.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Second, when he says “I have never benefited from being prime minister. I am not a business owner, so I have no need to seek benefits. I am satisfied with what I already have…”, he’s obfuscating. Even he went on to claim that “he was being investigated in 400 cases.” That number seems one just plucked out of the air, but we know that no case against those in power is properly investigated. No one has ever investigated why so many military and police officers are so absurdly rich. The whiff of military corruption is involved in every deal that it does.

Third, The Dictator “boasted about the performance of his government…”. He rhetorically asked: “Of all the post-coup administrations in the past, did they work like mine? My government keeps developing. Foreign countries praise us. No other developing countries have been able to achieve what we have done. This is what I want, for you to share this pride with me…”. He claimed “that his had been the most hard-working post-coup government in Thai history, and one that had achieved a lot for the country.”

Lying to oneself in front of others is pathological.

Liars and scoundrels I

10 07 2018

About a week ago, PPT pointed to the outrageous lying accompanying the military junta’s election campaigning and its hoovering up of candidates and election fixers, including some previously considered enemies of the military and monarchy. A few days later, in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Wasant Techawongtham seemed to have noticed the same lies. He was scathing in his comments. Here are some of them:

Some people just have no shame. They tell lies with a straight face. Perhaps they even believe those lies they tell.

Thai politics is … like a whirlpool spiralling ever deeper in the dark cesspool, reaching a greater depth than we ever reached before.

… obfuscation and downright lies.

We are dealing with charlatans who will lie and do anything to hang on to power.

Large numbers of people are now willing to take their lies as truths, treat their misbehaviours as appropriate or at least pardonable, and believe that “peace and stability” trumps freedom and democracy.

… their [the junta] gross craving for power and riches has led them to lose all shame and not mind being labelled hypocrites.

… they unashamedly turn to a group of discredited politicians — whom they earlier condemned as the cause of all political ills — to help them maintain their seats of power in any way possible.

There’s a lot there that is so obviously correct that we need not comment.

And so it is that the very same newspaper reports on the latest bucket of lies, dumped from on high. How high? Its from Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Dictator, the organizer of repression, the election fixer, the holder of luxury watches for a dead friend, a man so high up that he can spit on everyone else, lie with a straight face and keep his position.

In his latest blatant crock of smelly stuff, delivered with straight face, Gen Prawit at first “denied any knowledge of a senior military officer based in the Northeast helping to poach former MPs for the Phalang Pracharat Party.” Then when asked if “the officer in question was one of the top chiefs in the 2nd Army Region,” the dumpy general then admitted that he knew about this and threw out a stream of lies.

Gen Prawit said the “senior officer may have talked to politicians because they were acquainted but there was nothing more to it.” You see, he knows and then he lies. He then went deeper into the cesspool: “They may have had a conversation but it has nothing to do with me…”. He means it has everything to do with him. He’s the boss. He’s lying again.

And just for good measure – three lies are better than one or two – Gen Prawit “dismissed a rumour politicians paid a courtesy call on him at his residence at the 1st Infantry Regiment, King’s Guard, in Bangkok late last week.” Of course, he’s been meeting with them on a regular basis, organizing the junta’s rigged election. Gen Prawit couldn’t lie straight in bed.

Traitors and others

9 07 2018

The Puea Thai Party has asked its supporters and members to tone down the criticism being made of defectors and the “three friends” who are using state and other resources to lure them to the pro-military party.

The party’s acting secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said that “criticism against defectors should be avoided, and it would be best for all sides to try and maintain their friendships with colleagues to chose to step across the floor.” He added: “It’s essential that we respect the politicians’ decisions…”.

Huh? Really? Reading that we thought that this was a declaration of support for the military junta by the acting secretary-general. However, reading further, we might revise that judgement but still refer to the defectors and the “three friends” as traitors.

He says the defectors will have to face the electors and he seems to think that the electorate will spurn the defectors and traitors.

More positively, Phumtham believes that those leaving leave space for “Pheu Thai to empower a younger generation of issue-led rather than career-driven politicians for whom integrity rather than personal reward is the priority.” Okay, he has the benefit of doubt and of saying something useful.

Meanwhile, another Puea Thai politician alleged that the the junta is using not just carrots but also sticks to lure Puea Thai politicians to the junta’s camp. Worawat Ua-apinyakul “alleged some politicians facing criminal investigations were being ‘pushed’ to quit their parties due to threats to expedite proceedings against them.”

While Puea Thai worries and mulls the impacts, the “three friends” group plans to “make its [public] debut with a bang…”. That’s according to one of the traitors, now the “group’s secretary Pirom Polwiset, the former Pheu Thai MP for Nakhon Ratchasima.” Pirom declared that his new group of friends “has not decided when it will make a formal bow on the political scene although he insisted it will be soon.”

Where’s the Election Commission? Not only is the group poaching MPs and offering illegal incentives while acting for “outsiders,” including ministers, The Dictator and the Deputy Dictator, but it has a secretary-general and plans a public political bash.

Under the military dictatorship, there can never be a “level playing field” and notions of free and fair elections are long ago burned and buried.

AI on academic harassment

9 07 2018

Readers might have imagined that the profoundly ludicrous charges against academics and students from Chiang Mai University may have slipped away into nothingness. However, the military junta seems intent on harassing these persons with a view to silencing other academics and deadening academic discussion within Thailand. So the ridiculousness continues.

The last we remember of this case was that in August 2017, when the Army brought charges against Prof Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University, Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai and Thiramon Bua-ngam. They met Chang Phuak police and were fingerprinted.

These persons attended and organized the International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University in July 2017. They all denied charges brought against them, which seemed to be something to do with breaching the junta’s ban on political assembly. Human Rights Watch referred to the charges as bogus.

Of course, the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies was not a political meeting but an academic meeting. It was the military junta that politicized it by provocatively sending uniformed and plainclothes police and military officers to snoop and spy on the event, apparently looking for any topic or even a few words that might offend military and monarchy.

It was this snooping, spying and efforts to censor that saw those charged and others protest the heavy-handed surveillance of the 13th International Thai Studies Conference.

According to Amnesty International, two academics, two students and a writer were charged last week. The charge is “holding an unlawful political gathering…”.

AI states:

These absurd charges would be laughable were it not for the potentially grave consequences for those involved, and what they say about the parlous state of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Thailand…. All these students and academics did was make a peaceful, satirical comment about the heavy military presence at a university conference. For this, they could face up to six months in jail under a repressive decree introduced by the military government. Pushing this case through the judicial system highlights the crippling measures authorities are instituting to silence academics and gag any form of dissent.

Further, AI calls on the military junta to “drop these ridiculous charges and repeal the military decree that outlaws peaceful public assemblies of five or more persons. They must also put an end to the prosecutions, harassment and surveillance of academics, activists and intellectuals that has blighted the country since the coup.”

As far as we can tell, in strict terms of the junta’s decree banning public assembly, these five cannot even be considered to have come together as five and to have engaged in a political assembly. But legal facts have never prevented the junta from using “law” for harassment and repression.

At the  at Chiang Mai University in July 2017, members of the group held up a banner stating in Thai that “An academic seminar is not a military base,” alluding to the  by security forces in uniform and plainclothes.

King, sangha and returning royal power

8 07 2018

Some time ago, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reported on Wat Dhammakaya that skillfully weaved a story that ended with this:

Thailand is in the midst of a complex and potentially dangerous, triple transition; a delicate royal succession, a battle over the future of Buddhism and a still uncertain political transition to a military-guided democracy.

More than a year later, the dictatorship and the king have again come together in defining the future of the Buddhist sangha.

In 2016, the puppet National Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to the 1962 Sangha Act. The amendment was designed to delay the appointment of Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, known as Somdet Chuang, after he was nominated by the Sangha Supreme Council to be Supreme Patriarch. He was considered by the military junta and palace to be too close to Wat Dhammakaya.

The amendment gave great power to the king as it was he who “selects and appoints a supreme patriarch while the prime minister countersigns the appointment.”

Apparently, though, this was not sufficient. It is now reported that the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly on Thursday “endorsed the Monk Act, which will enable the [k]ing to appoint or remove senior monks and members of the supreme council of monks.”

“Voting” in the puppet NLA

Speaking to the puppet Assembly, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that the king “is recognized in the constitution as the patron of Buddhism and other religions. He said it would be fitting for the [k]ing to appoint or strip senior monks and members of the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand of their titles, as stipulated in Article 3 of the act.”

Wissanu essentially explained this as a throwback act: “… such royal prerogative was practiced between the reign of King Rama V to King Rama VIII. King Rama VIII’s reign ended in 1939.”

This might be poor reporting as Rama VIII’s reign ended in 1946 when he was found dead by gunshot. What was meant, we think, was that the Act was amended in 1941. We are not sure why 1939 is stated, but perhaps there are readers who know more on this.

The linked article cites Buddhist scholar Surapot Thaweesak on the most recent junta-sponsored amendment.

He stated that the amendment “is tantamount to returning royal power relations between the King and the Sangha to those of King Rama V’s time…”.

Surapot added that “this is a return of royal power.” He concluded: “Thinking from the standpoint of the … state, there will be greater control of the Sangha… But from a democratic standpoint, [Thailand] should be a secular state…”. Surapot correctly claimed that “the act in general will make Buddhism and the Sangha a mechanism to support conservative ideology.”

Pious king

King Vajiralongkorn has a particular interest in Buddhism and has engaged politically on the sangha several times as crown prince and now as king.

Making royal propaganda from the cave I

7 07 2018

A couple of days ago PPT commented on the making of royal propaganda and the king interfering in events and institutions that are not his preserve. In it, we observed how the palace propaganda machine in the previous reign regularly claimed a royal interest in events that elicited public sympathy. We don’t doubt the interest but the point was about how that interest became grist to the royal propaganda mill.

The ongoing efforts by rescuers to bring the soccer team out of the cave has continued to provide that propaganda opportunity.

In another message from the king’s palace he issued a statement “of appreciation, commendation and encouragement to the Thai and foreign teams who have located 12 young footballers and their coach…”.

The message allows the king to rehearse a message that was his father’s mantra: “there was unity of effort exerted by all in a disciplined manner, supported by great knowledge, dedication and sacrifice…”.

With the death of a former Navy seal, while tragic, provided another opportunity.

The king intervened, giving “instructions that Petty Officer 1st Class Saman be given dignified funeral rites.” The king “also gave instructions to that the dead diver’s children be well taken care of.”

In another effort at bolstering the “caring-ness” of the palace, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti Has “handwritten card … [that] urged 12 young footballers and their coach trapped inside a northern cave to stay strong, and thanked everyone involved in the attempt to rescue them.” He wrote it in German.

The 13 year-old son of the king is generally considered most likely to become crown prince in a few years. He is at school in Germany.

Such efforts will occur at every available opportunity, as they did in the past reign.

The heiress, a scam and the public purse

7 07 2018

In an earlier post, PPT commented on Singha beer heiress Chitpas Kridakorn aka Boonrawd seeking assistance from a taxpayer-funded Justice Ministry fund for defendants to meet court bail and costs as a low-income earner. Despite the fact that she’s heir to a fortune that currently stacks up to some $2.4 billion, she cried poor to apparently pay a bail surety in cases arising from her high-profile activities with the anti-democratic People’s  Democratic Reform Committee in the street protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

In a report at The Nation, it now appears that this application may have been little more than a smart-assed legal ploy to delay the case: “It has been speculated that she had applied for financial assistance to stall for time in the criminal cases against her.” This is because she “had postponed a meeting with public prosecutors, citing the pending application to the Justice Fund.”

It is now reported that the Justice Ministry “has set aside a request for financial assistance from … Chitpas … to contest a treason charge after she failed to verify her suitability within the given time.” The Ministry stated that the Fund “had requested that she submit her tax documents to prove she should be a priority,” but that the letter sent had not been accepted or signed for and it had been returned to the Fund.

While this might seem to confirm a legal scam, the “fund managers chose not to scrap her request, and “Chitpas was eligible to re-apply anytime…”. That might be a legal position for the Ministry but sounds suspiciously like collusion in a legal scam.