Capturing the constitution

1 11 2014

PPT has periods where we get a bit behind and have a backlog of stories we think worthy of posting. We will try to work through that today.

A couple of days ago, the Bangkok Post had a revealing story. Long-time Thaksin Shinawatra opponent Paiboon Nititawan, a former unelected senator, has been selected by the military dictatorship as a charter writer appointed by the junta’s puppet National Reform Council. He got this gig as a reward for his long support for royalist anti-Thaksinism, support for the People’s Alliance for Democracy and every other anti-democratic and ultra-nationalist movement over the past decade.

It should not be a shock, then, to learn that this anti-democrat says that neither the 1997 nor the military’s 2007 “charters will not be used as models in the drafting of the next constitution…”.

He reckons the new rules for politics  will be written “from scratch” to “reflect the reforms under way, except for chapters on the constitutional monarchy.” Of course, king-fearing yellow shirts can’t be seen to be changing anything to do with the monarchy, although we do expect some changes to be made.

The changes he expects to be “drastic” will be to the things Paiboon abhors: “the election systems involving MPs and senators and the formation of a cabinet…”. Reflecting his anti-democratism, Paiboon “said the powers of political parties should be reduced while the public should be allowed to take a more active role in politics…”. He wants “the party-list system be abolished to reduce parties’ powers.” To be elected in provincial constituencies, Paiboon expects an MP to garner at least 80% of the vote.

There’s no secret in his demands and plans. The reason for crushing political parties and changing elections is because “political parties are to blame for the conflicts that have troubled the nation for years.” He’s wrong for his lot have been making plenty of “trouble” too, but the point is, he hates popular political parties that propose change.

Keeping on this anti-democrat line, Paiboon barks that “the prime minister and cabinet ministers should not be MPs while the prime minister should be nominated and endorsed by parliament.” We imagine that Prem Tinsulanonda might like one last shot at the top job. If not him, then some other “good” royalist. Perhaps one of those uniformed “public servants” who have demonstrated remarkable entrepreneurial skills by becoming millionaires on low salaries?

Paiboon reckons that the “prime minister should not have the power to dissolve the House of Representatives, and parliament should not have the power to remove the premier from office.” Only one of the royalist allied courts could remove a prime minister.

If Paiboon has his way, Thailand may be less than the semi-democracy most anti-democrats think will solve the “problem” of people voting for parties they like.





Doing very well

31 10 2014

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has listed the assets of the junta’s handpicked cabinet members. This comes on the heels of the release of the assets registered by the its puppet National Legislative Assembly. There, it was shown that the air force’s top brass accumulated an average declared assets of about 57 million baht. A general in the army had average assets of about 78 million baht. Admirals had average assets of about 109 million baht. Top brass in the police on average declared a whopping 258 million baht.

AP reports that the asset “disclosures by members of Thailand’s military-dominated post-coup Cabinet reveal they are quite well-off, a trait shared with the civilian politicians they accused of corruption.”

The last phrase is unnecessary. Yes, civilian politicians are wealthy, but the vast majority have not spent their careers in government service, on relatively poor salaries like the massively corrupt police generals, admirals, air marshals and generals.

Of the 33 Cabinet ministers, AP reports that “25 of whom are millionaires in dollar terms.”

AP correctly notes that:

Allegations of corruption and inappropriately gained wealth have played a major role in the country’s fractious politics in the last decade. The current [military junta appointed and led] government has made fighting corruption a priority….

The junta leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha led the May coup. Then, his annual salary as army commander was  1.4 million baht ($43,000). His wife retired as a lecturer at a royalist university, where she also received a relatively small salary.

According to the assets list, Prayuth’s assets are:

… listed 128.6 million baht ($3.9 million) in assets and 654,745 baht ($20,000) in liabilities. Under the disclosure laws, assets belonging to spouses and children under 21 must be included. He also reported the transfer of 466.5 million baht ($14.3 million) to other family members.

… His assets include a Mercedes Benz S600L car, a BMW 740Li Series sedan, luxury watches, rings and several pistols.

Quite a stash for a military official.

The listing for all cabinet members is at the Bangkok Post:

Assets





Protecting police business

31 10 2014

Recalling police boss Somyos Pumpanmuang’s links to the Tungkum Company and his massive wealth, we felt this press relase deserved attention:

PRESS RELEASE

Criminal Defamation Case against Loei Human Rights Defenders

BANGKOK (31 October 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) is seriously concerned that criminal defamation is being used in Thailand as a means to pressure human rights defenders. In the latest example on 29 October, the Phuket Provincial Court decided to proceed with a criminal defamation suit against Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat from Loei province in north-eastern Thailand. The suit has been brought by Tungkum Company Limited, a mining company. It has also brought a number of other civil and criminal cases against members of the Khon Rak Ban Koed Group (KRBK), including Ms. Porntip Hongchai, who is due to appear at the same court on 3 November on criminal defamation charges. The criminal defamation cases followed the 15 May incident in which a group of armed men attacked and injured more than 20 villagers, including members of the KRBK, who were blockading the transportation of minerals.

OHCHR is concerned by the continuation of the lawsuit as it appears that it is being used to silence those who raise legitimate issues publicly and echoes a trend of the use of defamation suits against human rights defenders. OHCHR is aware of at least five other human rights defenders facing criminal defamation cases for raising issues such as trafficking, labour rights and torture.

The criminalisation of defamation has a chilling effect and can unduly restrict freedom of expression. Human rights defenders need the full protection of the state to carry out their work without fear of criminal prosecution. We urge the Government of Thailand to carefully review such cases and ensure the full compliance with international human rights standards.

ENDS

The Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts.

OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org
OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org/

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for South-East Asia
ESCAP, UN Secretariat Building
6th Floor, Block A
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200
Tel. (662) 288 1235, Fax. (662) 288 1039
Website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org
Email: ohchr.bangkok@un.org

As posted previously, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang has amassed declared assets of almost 375 million baht. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers now being taken to court. Maybe that’s how he acquired so much land.





Judicial secrecy

31 10 2014

At The Nation there’s an attempt to shine a light on the military dictatorship’s desire to hold “closed-door trials in military court for civilian defendants and forbidding observers from taking notes in other cases undermines the due process of law…”.

Military regimes in Thailand use the law but are not governed by it.

Special concern is expressed by “both local and foreign observers” in for political prisoners, especially those held or charged with lese majeste.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch states: “This [secrecy] is a cause for serious concern and goes against the National Council for Peace and Order’s assurance that the military court would follow due process [of law]…”.

Yingcheep Atchanont, from iLaw, stated that the sentencing of the two anti-coup protesters saw observers “instructed not to take any notes.” Yingcheep went on to speculate “that the judges might have banned observers from taking notes because they know this is not something the international community would appreciate,…” and stated: “My guess is that the court is also afraid, as they’re being watched by the media and the international community. The military court is aware that these are political trials, and that it would not look good in the eyes of the international community…”.

The right to fair trial is compromised “by the very fact that note-taking is forbidden and that the four lese majeste cases are being heard behind closed doors, without any observers or media.”





Succession law review

30 10 2014

Here’s a story that should get quite a bit of attention and speculation:

Minister of Finance Sommai Phasi will submit the law of succession to the Cabinet early next month before it is reviewed by the National Legislative Assembly.The minister on Wednesday said the ministry was now discussing the succession legislation draft with the Council of the State and Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Khruea-ngam. After they finished reviewing the draft, it would be proposed to the Cabinet for consideration, said Mr. Sommai.

It might take 3-4 months for the NLA to review the draft. The law would not take immediate effect after it was published in the Royal Gazette since the law executors needed around three months to prepare, said the minister….

 The current law has been in place since 1924. Why change it now?




More on the regular use of torture

30 10 2014

PPT has posted regularly on the use of torture by Thailand’s police and military.

These authorities use torture against locals and foreigners.

A report in The Cambodia Daily indicates the use of torture against three poor villagers from Cambodia “arrested in Thailand last week [who] were returned to Preah Vihear province on Monday…”. They claimed they were “tortured by the Thai military before being released…”.

The men were arrested in Thai territory “while searching for wild vegetables.” Perhaps they were seeking valuable timber.

A Cambodian military officer stated “the men told him that Thai soldiers persuaded one of the men to admit he was a Cambodian soldier in order to expedite his transfer back home.”

That confession led to them being tortured by “Thai soldiers … to get information about the location of Cambodian military troops and supplies.” Shockingly, “The Thai soldiers used pliers to pull out both of his big toenails in order to extract a confession…”. The man was also beaten with a belt and stomped on.

Video evidence shows that his toenails are missing.

Some Cambodian authorities dispute the claims. Whatever the truth of this particular claim, the torture sounds familiar to those who follow, for example, the torture used in the south of Thailand by soldiers there.

In this case, the Thai military are seeking to protect its monopoly control of the smuggling of forest products in the border area. Torturing and mistreating Cambodian villagers and other interests serves as a warning to others who may trespass on the illicit profits gained by the corrupt Thai military.





Fixing the rules

29 10 2014

The Nation reports on the response to the selection by the puppet National Reform Council’s selection of 20 of its own to be members of the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee that will fix the rules of politics for Thailand. By “fix,” we mean in the sense of the sporting use of the term, where a game or match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result.

One comment is from retired “academic” and yellow shirt activist Surichai Wankaew, said the 20 NRC members chosen “would help improve the political situation as they had been selected for their neutral stance towards the ongoing political conflict.”

Compare that bit of propaganda with Sirote Klampaiboon, who has previously been identified as “independent” or “red shirt,” who says that the newly chosen members of the CDC “can be categorised in four groups: former military generals, former members of the Group of 40 [the mainly unelected former senators], academics from King Prajadhipok’s Institute and NGOs who have close ties with the 2006 coup-makers.”

Given that preponderance of yellow-shirted, royalist puppets, Sirote is correct to question the “credibility of the newly selected CDC members…”.








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