Money for nothing I

16 02 2017

Many readers will have already seen Prachatai’s report on the iLaw study of the apparently unconstitutionality of some members of the military junta’s puppet National Legislative Assembly. We say “apparently” because the details of “leaves” taken are considered “secret.”

The point made by iLaw – Prachatai’s report doesn’t seem to get it quite right – is that the stipulated requirements of the Assembly are that in order to receive the substantial salaries they receive, the puppets are mandated to attend one-third of voting sessions in the Assembly. The requirement to attend a stipulated number of voting sessions is mandated by the military’s interim constitution at Article 9(5).

Clipped from iLaw

Clipped from iLaw

The big noise in all of this is that, yet again, The Dictator’s brother, General Preecha Chan-ocha, features. Preecha appears to play by his own “rules,” engaging in all kinds of nepotism, while pocketing the loot of his relationships and his military position, with impunity. Preecha is included in the graphic above, with 4 + 1 attendances.

We can also extrapolate a little on these findings. By not attending for the stipulated proportion of voting meetings, prima facie, membership of the Assembly is ended. Thus, by continuing to receive a salary for doing nothing or very little, such members are potentially engaging in an act of corruption. It can also be suggested that any Assembly actions they take are also unconstitutional. In essence, decisions the Assembly has taken, that these members have been involved in – when they managed to attend – may also be deemed unconstitutional.

We can surmise that, because “leaves” are secret, because The Dictator’s brother is involved, and because the junta’s work is at stake, that an announcement will be made that the non-attendees were “on leave.”





Rule of law and the princess

16 02 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that PPT posted on the “appointment” of Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol as something called a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

As we noted then, it seemed very odd to appoint a Thai princess to deal with anything related to the rule of law. After all, Thai royals are protected by a feudal law and hold artificially elevated positions in a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law.

Remarkably, it seems to us that the palace and UNODC have responded.

The Nation reports that the royal daughter’s “invaluable experience” and her “long-held interest in the judicial system” are cited as reasons for her appointment. UNODC “told the press yesterday that the [p]rincess had been chosen … due to her enduring passion for the judicial system and also because she has been a professional practitioner in the field for a long time.”

They didn’t say that her “long time” goes back to September 2006 when she was appointed Attorney in the Office of the Attorney General. Yes, “long time” is a mammoth 10 years during which time she’s also had a hectic social and palace life and went off to be Thailand’s ambassador in Vienna for a couple of years.

UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov reckoned this 7 or 8 years of experience “is invaluable” and “enables her to speak with authority on the need for effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.” He’s shoveling buffalo manure. Inclusive institutions? Like monarchy, puppet assemblies and military dictatorships? Other UNODC officials also shoveled the manure making ludicrous claims about the princess’s “experience” and “skills.”

The princess seems to have responded too. She has “pledged to move forward with the principle of rule of law in the region in line with the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.” She declared “the appointment offered her the opportunity to champion the UN’s position on the rule of law and fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Great! Fairness and the rule of law are more of less absent in Thailand, so we expect she will try to do something positive about lese majeste and illegal military regimes in her country. Is she going to speak out against them? Is she going to support lese majeste prisoners and ensure they are entitled to bail and other constitutional and legal rights?

There’s the test. Our assumption is that she’ll fail it because the position of the monarchy and its associated hangers-on depends on this feudal law and its cruel political use and implementation.





Democracy after death

16 02 2017

This documentary is worth watching. The version here has English sub-titles.

There’s also a story and interview about the film at Prachatai:





Secret constitution amendments

15 02 2017

Readers will recall that the military junta’s “constitution” was sent to a process it described as a “referendum.”

Despite that exercise in (false) legitimacy, the junta then had to withdraw the draft constitution to make changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn, said to increase his powers.

During the amendment process, the exact changes were kept secret.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has declared that the secret “[a]mendments to the constitution … have been completed…”.

The “handwritten copy of the constitution, in the form of an accordion-style scroll by the Bureau of Royal Scribes and Royal Decorations of the Secretariat of the Cabinet, was also scheduled to be completed today.” Then it is sent to the king for another look at it.

The Dictator has not requested an audience with the king, so we can guess that the changes have been made to the “constitution” in a way that will please the king.

We think it is remarkable that the secret amendments will be announced by the palace rather than the junta. Wissanu stated: “The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary would disclose the content of the amendments to the public…”.

That seem to us to be something quite novel, even for royalist Thailand.





The interventionist king

15 02 2017

Some time ago, PPT posted on the trove of documents released online by the CIA that can be searched and downloaded online.

In that post we also mentioned one document about General Sarit Thanarat’s 1957 military coup and the king’s alleged involvement, at least as far as the Americans were concerned.

A reader has now sent us another document, from the same source, saying more about this. Here’s the document in full, as a PDF. And we have a couple of clips below. The first from earlier in the document:

king-and-coupAnd then this, reflecting on the palace’s involvement:

king-and-coup1





Reorienting the palace-military partnership

15 02 2017

If the palace propaganda machine has had to re-vamp itself to deal with the new king, spare a thought for the pundits. For those guessing what’s going on inside the palace or even in the king’s head, the current situation must seem quite at odds with some of the predictions made.

Reuters reports on the new reign. Its point is that the new king “is putting an assertive stamp on his rule.” They mean “reign,” but some might think there’s a move to make a reign a “rule.”

The report says that “King Vajiralongkorn has made it clear to the generals running the country that he will not just sit in the background as a constitutional figurehead…”.

Given Vajiralongkorn’s past actions, reorganizing the palace, being open in promoting favorites and his propensity for headstrong actions, as well as the long period of the old king’s ill-health, we doubt the generals have been surprised. If they were, this indicates their political incapacity.

The king’s father was in incessant political player, so the mold was set for another interventionist monarch. In addition, the deals the junta has done with King Vajiralongkorn show that this king will have more legal powers to intervene.

That matters in Thailand, where relationships between monarchy, army and politicians have long determined the stability of Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and America’s oldest regional ally.

Academic Paul Chambers reckons the king “has proven himself to be very adept at managing the junta and the military…”. Another academic, Eugenie Mérieau states that the relationship between the king and junta “is at least one of obedience…”.

We kind of get what that means. In fact, we guess that, as was the case with his father, Vajiralongkorn is in a partnership that involves mutual back-scratching that maintains society’s hierarchical social order that pours wealth into the purses of the loyalist and royalist elite.

That does not mean there won’t be tensions. For example, the king’s call for changes to the draft constitution may have been something of a surprise for the junta. Yet the process has publicly demonstrated a new king’s real political power and an important piece of political theater as the junta showed obedience. That’s good  for both sides of the partnership, especially as the junta looks to its political longevity.

It’s also risky for the palace if the political winds shift.

At the moment, though, with former junta members on the Privy Council, the links with the junta and the tools for the “management” of the relationship are in place.

That’s why the Reuters report can state:

None of more than two dozen serving or former officials, military officers, parliamentarians, diplomats or analysts that Reuters spoke to for this story saw any immediate threat to that balance of power.

The report notes that King Vajiralongkorn “started from a very different place to his father.” Mentioning his erratic and turbulent “private” life, it is noted that Vajiralongkorn has a strong military background, having had military training and involvement since he was 18 years old. Some of his military “service” was with the King’s Guard, which now has considerable clout in government and in the palace.

All of this should mean he feels very comfortable with the military running the country’s politics. But the king is erratic, headstrong and conspiratorial, so nothing is permanent for him. And, his reputation for strong-arm tactics means it is walking on eggshells for those close to him.

As the report observes, the king has been quick to rearrange the palace:

Over 20 appointments and promotions have been made by the new king and published in the Royal Gazette.

This includes reshuffling senior members of the household, many of whom had held posts for decades under King Bhumibol, and promoting military officials with ties to the new king.

Among other notable military promotions was Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya within the King’s Own Bodyguard. Often seen at the king’s side, though not publicly designated as his consort, she became a general on the day he took the throne.

All of this means that the pundits have a new lease on life as palace tasseographers.

Already some of them read royalty into too much. The example in the report is of former reporter turned reconciliation guru Michael Vatikiotis of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Some of his history of consulting on “reconciliation” is here and here.

He reckons that he sees “sense of urgency with regard to reconciliation that some politicians say stems from the new king’s call for peace and unity…”. He states: “The military government is under some pressure to deliver on the king’s request, which may even speed up the transition back to civilian government.” That sounds so last reign….

Monarchies have several weaknesses. One is that they are surrounded by hangers-on who are afraid to comment on the king’s lack of clothing. Another is the hangers-on to the hangers-on who try to manufacture outcomes by using “signs” from the palace. And another is the personality of the monarch which means that for good or ill, all reigns are highly personalized.

All of these challenge the Thai king and his relationship with the generals.





Release Pai IX

14 02 2017

Prachatai reports that the “Student Councils Assembly of Thailand has demanded that Thai authorities release ‘Pai Dao Din’ [Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa], an anti-junta activist accused of defaming King Vajiralongkorn” by reposting a BBC Thai report on succession.

On 13 February 2017, the Assembly states:

“As an organisation founded to protect the rights and liberties of students in accordance with democratic principles, [SCAT] is concerned about the case’s judicial process since the court has refused to release Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa. This is against the suspect’s human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights…”.

The Assembly calls for Jatuphat’s release.