The “election” strategy

29 04 2018

Bangkok Post Editor Umesh Pandey argues that The Dictator’s collection of various dark influences and other various political operatives to a party that remains unidentified but which will be a military party, to link with other devil parties, is using Puea Thai Party techniques against it.

While we get his point we are not sure it clarifies much about the current political shopping trips by The Dictator and his allied devil party promoters.

Sure, Thaksin Shinawatra was able to suck up a bunch of minor parties and build a powerful party – Thai Rak Thai. He was also able to offer places for various dark influences in TRT.

But – and it does matter – Thaksin was operating under the 1997 constitution and the logic of party organization and the party consolidation it required. Thaksin and his minions did not write that charter.

Likewise, in hoovering up various provincial notables, at least in 2000, Thaksin was able to operate from a position of strength. Many of the provincial chao phor had come through the economic crisis in very poor shape, and they were on their knees when dealing with Thaksin.

What’s different now is that The Dictator has written the rules. His junta’s charter doesn’t demand big parties but has fragmented parties. So the hoovering is to get as many minor parties as possible in the “election” and then get them to congeal around the “outsider” premier.

When dealing with local notables, these men and women are now in a political position of relative strength they haven’t known since the 1980s and 1990s. Thus The Dictator’s shopping bill is large, in terms of promises, handouts and positions.

Minor points? Not really. The political/electoral system matter in how any future government can operate, and the generals are just beginning to realize how expensive elections were in the earlier era of unstable coalitions.

So The Dictator is right when he says that “that the ‘Sucking’ of former MPs into a political party has been in practice long before the establishment of the National Council for Peace and Order [the military junta] and it is a part and parcel of ‘Thai Democracy’.” The point is that the junta has reintroduced this system of (probably, potentially) weak coalition governments.

As with so much, the junta looks to the neanderthal past of semi-democracy for a political “future.”





Worried by the new

8 03 2018

We at PPT might be revealing our collective greying but we haven’t paid too much attention to the young phenoms threatening to enter politics and to shake up the system.

We were watching the reporting about the party-to-be (maybe) associated with businessman Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and law professor Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and thinking about the new parties associated with political newcomers.

We thought of the enthusiasm for business people considering political campaigns following the military-perpetrated massacre of May 1992. They looked at existing parties and the Palang Dharma Party was often mentioned as attractive for “new-style” politicians. Interestingly, Thaksin Shinawatra was mentioned in the Bangkok Post (1 July 1992) as “reportedly preparing to run in the election for the Democrat Party.” We also thought of Thai Rak Thai in 2001. Then it was the new party, with new ideas. It also had enormous backing from business and operated under new rules set by the 1997 constitution. And we thought of the short-lived Mahachon Party led by Anek Laothamatas, said to draw on civil society and new ideas.

So new parties come and go.

But the thing that has caught our attention with Thanathorn’s recent efforts is the way his PR has quickly gotten under the skin of The Dictator and his military regime.

The Bangkok Post reports that Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has revealed that the military junta he obediently serves is warning and watching “new-generation politicians.”The junta is keen to limit their operations, threatening them with charges if they engage in “political activities and election campaigns.”

The military bootlicker was specifically threatening Thanathorn who “gave an interview aired on The101.world’s Facebook Live account on Monday.”

Because the junta is full of political troglodytes who fetishize hierarchy, it naturally feels challenged by young upstarts. It also has a knee-jerk reaction against Thanathorn that constructs him pro-Thaksin. This is because he is a nephew of former transport minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit, a former member of the defunct Thai Rak Thai Party…”.

But most worrying for the junta is that “Thanathorn’s interview drew more than 100,000 views and was shared more than 3,000 times, with viewers making comments and asking him questions.” Questions! Wow, that’s challenging for the trogs. When he says that an “election can no longer be delayed and the Pheu Thai Party would likely win…” the regime must be getting angry and vindictive.

That Thanathorn seems to be thinking of an alternative to Puea Thai is ignored because the junta’s own strategy is to set up and/or support a swathe of pro-junta proxy parties because it knows that its own new political rules mean that a coalition is the mostly likely outcome of the junta’s “election.”

When Thanathorn says “the military should now stop meddling with politics” and that “[c]oups did not benefit the country’s future…” he’s marked as a junta opponent.

The junta will work assiduously to undermine any group or party it views as oppositional. We might expect a roll out of treason, sedition and even lese majeste accusations.





Self congratulations

25 04 2017

There’s very little scope for humility among the members of the junta and its minions which together constitute the military dictatorship.

The latest example of arrogance is in an “interview” with charter junkie and career anti-democrat Meechai Ruchupan by The Nation’s Suthichai Yoon.

A couple of decades ago, Suthichai portrayed himself as a journalist opposed to military dictatorship. Now he is an ardent supporter and his “interviews” and columns are propaganda pieces for anti-democrats.

Breathlessly, Suthichai asks how many times Meechai has been involved with writing constitutions. Of course, Meechai has been the rightists most important assets in opposing democratization, and this is why he claims roles in writing five charters, all military-backed constitutions. He also claims he “had parts in writing of the 1997 and 2007 charters.” He adds: “I did not help write them but I was in the Parliament and I helped checking and correcting. I also countersigned them after the royal endorsement.”

That’s quite a record of getting things wrong. Meechai’s task has been to ensure that royalist ideology is maintained and that popular sovereignty has been limited.

The aged Meechai complains that writing the military’s latest charter was exhausting for him: “It takes a lot of effort. Every day after work I always have to lay down very still. This is because it is not only the Constitution but also other legislation that is my job. This takes a lot of brainpower.”

We doubt the latter. Meechai essentially followed orders (orders he would have mostly agreed with). In fact, it was the military junta that dictated the terms of the charter, and with a puppet Constitution Drafting Committee and a puppet National Legislative Assembly, getting the required document approved was a doddle.

Suthichai then asks a seemingly rhetorical question that is is for the yellow audience. He asks if the new charter will keep those nasty “politicians” in line.

Yes, says Meechai.

He then asks if the military charter is durable. Meechai’s response is revealing:

Some said that when His Majesty the King presided over the ceremony to promulgate the Constitution it was the first time in 48 years. I thought to myself that this charter could be around for at least 48 years, too. I take it as a lucky number and think it is how long the charter will last.

He says this because the military makes it almost impossible to change the charter. Only a truly democratic revolution will change it, and the junta reckons they have seen this off.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to highlight his own greatness by asking how influential Meechai was in the process:

… I admit the wordings are mine because I was the one typing it for everyone to see in the screens. And we debated until we reached agreement. Also, we had to think about people outside the room, too. We tried to compromise.

Compromise and debate were actually missing from the process, along with any notion of public consultation. Debate was in a narrow circle of military and royalists.

Suthichai then allows Meechai to lie a bit when he asks, “Are you worried about criticism that you did this for the junta? Meechai’s response is a fairy tale:

No. We have treated the NCPO as everyone else. We sent letters to gather opinions from them. The Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) members had never seen PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. And the PM also left us alone.

We might believe that The Dictator stayed away, but only because he had a puppet drafter and puppet assemblies. But everyone knows that The Dictator is a meddler and there can be no doubt that he directed and coached, and the public record shows it. In fact, when Meechai states, “… there were no orders from the NCPO, I insist,” he is lying. He then adds:

… in the meeting we have Maj Gen Veera Rojanavas who is close to the PM. He only took notes and reported to the PM. I also told him to report to the PM too, assuring that the charter would be done in time.

Meechai then engages in considerable propaganda for the junta: no, the military won’t form a political party; the junta does not have a political base; the “election” will be held as soon as possible; The Dictator works hard and he does not want to stay on.

We can’t wait to see what further role the aged Meechai gets in a military-dominated future government.





The many failures of the NACC

12 02 2017

PPT has posted a lot on corruption of late. At the same time, so little gets done about it. For example, the big corruption story from a week ago on Rolls Royce “commissions” seems to have gone quiet as the police have grandstanded on a drugs bust that has the military eerily silent.

A reader pointed us to a story at Khaosod that we missed, and it seems worth quoting some bits from it.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission was born as an independent Commission in 1999, created under the 1997 constitution. Khaosod says:

Since its inception in 1999, the NACC has accepted 3,383 cases for investigation. Of those, it said investigators found evidence of corruption or malfeasance in about a third – 1,191 cases.

Fewer than one-in-10 of those secured a conviction in a court of law that was not overturned on appeal. And those convictions have not been for the marquee cases involving rich and powerful defendants: All but one involve infractions by mid- and low-level administrators such as mayors, school directors, policemen, clerks and registrars.

Further, Khaosod’s investigation found:

out of thousands of cases processed by the committee, only 105 led to convictions. As for why it has little to show for the investment – the commission’s 2016 budget was 1.8 billion baht – corruption crusaders and legal experts said the agency is bogged down by its bureaucracy and biased in its judgment.

Khaosod warns that even the database of cases appeared incomplete….

Some of those accused do not even find out about their cases until years afterwards. Khaosod has an example of a teacher, accused in 1998, who was formally told of the case last week.

But never fear, the junta is here! An NACC official stated that:

the agency has operated more smoothly under the junta.

“We found that we have more power to enforce the law. We can work with more efficiency and convenience and have more thorough investigations…. For example, we can use Article 44 to tell the accused to prove their innocence later. It’s handy and works well.”

Nothing like anti-corruption agency being able to bend the rules under the junta. Yet, cases continue to drag, unless the junta has political scheming to do.

Khaosod quotes Srisuwan Janya, a well-known anti-corruption campaigner who specializes in “politicans.” He says:

the nine current NACC commissioners have conflicts of interest with the ruling junta.

“Many of the commissioners in this set are questionable. For example, the president used to be a police officer and served administrators in the current government directly,” Srisuwan said. “Therefore, whenever there’s cries about corruption relating to powerful people in the government, there’s a direct conflict of interest.”

He said the NACC is reluctant to use its power to investigate members of the junta and its allies, decreasing its credibility as a watchdog.

It also quotes law lecturer Somchai Preechasilpakul on political bias:

the NACC shows selective enthusiasm by moving forward cases against the political opposition while ignoring those brought against the powers that be.

“Usually, the high-profile cases involving those against state power, especially involving elected officials from the Pheu Thai Party, go extremely fast, as we can factually see from the past 10 years,” Somchai said. “Yingluck and Abhisit both have NACC cases, but Yingluck’s proceeded much faster, while stalled cases are never given a substantial explanation for being stopped.”

A politically-motivated shambles is one description that comes to mind. Yet the NACC is worse than that.

Remember when Thaksin Shinawatra was rightly accused of attempting to reduce the independence of “independent agencies”? The yellow shirts in particular were loudly critical. Where are they now? What “independent agency” is now not a tool of the military dictatorship? Where are the complaints now? Just more double standards from anti-democrats.





The patronage system

24 12 2016

The puppet National Legislative Assembly’s (NLA) has been allocated a series of tasks by the junta, all meant to uproot the so-called Thaksin regime, meaning all remnants of the electoralism of the period 2001 to 2006.

Anti-democrats and the military dictators believe that Thaksin Shinawatra established an extensive patronage network in business, politics and the civil and military bureaucracy that needs to be abolished if the royalist elite and “network monarchy” is to maintain its ascendancy. They often linked patronage and vote-buying.

We at PPT had not previously heard of what The Nation calls an NLA “ad-hoc committee on how to fight the deeply-entrenched patronage system,” led, of course, by one of the top brass, Admiral Saksit Cherdboonmuang.The committee was the Admiral’s idea and was established in February.

Apparently, it has been at work developing a “367-page report with detailed proposals on how to end the domination of the patronage system in Thailand’s bureaucracy.” PPT hasn’t seen the report, but the Admiral says the ” patronage system causes damage in various dimensions. For example, it discourages many talented people from working in the government sector…”. Patronage, he says, leads to corruption.

Saksit reckons “that when it came to the delivery of government services, people … will think they just can’t go through normal channels of service delivery. They will think they need to find personal connections to get good services…”.

Anyone who has dealt with the bureaucracy will recognize this. That said, quite a few departments were much better following changes that began with the 1997 constitution. For example, getting a passport became a standardized procedure without the need to pay extras or to know someone.

The Admiral also “lamented that patronage had long been a part of the bureaucracy, pushing civil servants to prioritise personal relationships over a merit-based system.” He added:

It encourages junior officials to kow-tow to senior officials, who in turn bow to political-office holders so as to maintain beneficial relationships. In this cycle, businesspeople have also lobbied government officials and political-office holders.

Again, everyone will recognize this pattern. Having many minions makes life comfortable and is a display of power. It is also well-known that senior bureaucrats, police and military become very wealthy by their positions and their control of bureaucratic knowledge, rules and hierarchy.

None of this is new, being described long into the past by historians who describe favoritism, nepotism and corruption.

It starts when they are young

It starts when they are young

Saksit said his committee had compiled guidelines on how to stop the patronage culture from damaging the bureaucracy. These include a “ban free gifts, feasts, and bribes.” Government officials will also be “advised to avoid playing golf with people who may pose a conflict of interest.”  Reportedly, the recommendations include advice that “senior officials should reduce the number of assistants, because close work relations can also foster patronage feelings.”

Like many things in Thailand today, under the military dictatorship, this is doublespeak. There’s good patronage and bad patronage. Bad patronage is associated with nasty elected politicians. Good patronage is unmentioned, because it is a system that is based in hierarchy, military and monarchism.

It continues for university students and military recruits

It continues for university students and military recruits

As one commentator observed:

The patronage system is deeply ingrained…. The government is the parent. The people are the children…. The parent naturally has a fascist tendency to demand that the child not do this, not to do that.

This brief description fits the military dictatorship like a glove.

The last person who criticized this system of “good” or royalist patronage in any detail was probably Jakrapob Penkair.

Jakrapob, a former spokesman for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin, made a speech at Bangkok’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) on 29 August 2007. Royalists declared the speech anti-monarchy and he had to resign as a minister in May 2008. Under pressure from the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, on 22 March 2010 the case was sent forward for consideration for prosecution. Jakrapob had fled Thailand a year earlier. While the lese majeste case was reportedly dropped, Jakrapob remains in exile.

And continues to the top

And continues to the top

In that speech [opens a PDF that may be considered lese majeste in Thailand], Jakrapob stated that the then (2007) political crisis represented a “clash between Democracy and Patronage system directly.” He added: “It’s a head on clash.” He traces the history of patronage in Thai history:

One of the noted examples was that Great Father Ramkamheang … proposed to have a bell hung in front of his palace and anybody with specific problems could come and ring that bell and he or his people would come out and handle the problems. That was one of the first lessons the Thai students learnt about Thai political regime that you have someone to depend upon.

When you have a problem turn to someone who can help you, so before we know it, we are led into the Patronage system because we asked about dependency before our own capability to do things.

The lesson for today is that loyalty is paramount: “If you have loyalty to the King, unquestionable loyalty to the King, you would be protected, in order to show this protection more clearly, people who do otherwise must be punished.” Hence, under the military dictatorship of royalist generals, lese majeste is considered a more dire crime than premeditated murder.

Jakrapob talks of the modern era where the “[p]atronage system is problematic because it encourages unequality [inequality] among individuals. And that’s a direct conflict to Democracy. It encourages one person into thinking of depending on the other or others. It breeds endless number of slaves with a very limited number of masters. It prevents Thailand from coming out of age.”

That’s why Thailand has so many coups; the idea is to prevent the royalist patronage system being changed or overthrown.

We don’t think the Admiral is talking about this patronage system. After all, he and all his junta buddies and every single member of the military’s officer corps benefit greatly from royalist-preferred patronage.





Ditching parties

10 12 2016

The anti-democrats working for the military dictatorship to come up with its constitution are chosen because they hate electoral politics and can’t abide elected politicians. This is because such institutions and individuals provide the citizenry with an alternative notion of sovereignty that challenge the hierarchical regime of the “good” and the “great” who claim Thailand for themselves.

A series of articles have appeared in the Bangkok Post discussing the implications of the changes proposed by the anti-democrats working for the military junta.

The first is in the Saturday feature, About Politics. Usually critical, the column this week is pretty much uncritical. We wonder if it is by different journalist or if the regular journalist is self-censoring or under threat or warning.

The report says that the Constitution Drafting Committee’s (CDC) draft organic law on political parties “is wrapped up and almost ready for submission to the palace, with many fearing the contents will build an iron-clad cage around parties big and small.”

Reflecting the ideological beliefs of anti-democrats, one section seeks to rid parties of “puppet masters” claimed to be “lurking behind the scenes and pulling the strings.” This is how you say Thaksin Shinawatra without actually using his name. The idea that a “law” is designed to prevent one person from being politically influential is remarkable. Other individuals in the military and among the great and the “good” are permitted, of course.

The draft “law” allocates tremendous power to the politicized Constitutional Court, which will be able to dissolve parties more or less at any time the powers that be decide the court should do so. Again, Thaksin’s name is not mentioned but they mean him when parties are forbidden to allow “a non-member or a ‘prohibited person’ from directing its administration, however discreetly…”,

Of course, “good” people will be outside this “law.”

The “final version of the draft organic law demands greater accountability from political parties for their actions and their role in forging national reconciliation by tolerating and accepting different political opinions and helping to resolve political conflicts through peaceful means…”.

That means following the junta’s orders and those set out in the so-called 20-year road map. Failure means dissolution.

The law also prevents some persons – such as those convicted by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions – from involvement with a party. Of course, this is another anti-Thaksin “law” and is aimed at the Puea Thai Party. Essentially, this “law” will be used to dissolve the party if it does well in any election the junta decides might be held. Thaksin has been made illegal.

Once the draft organic law comes into force, anything amounting to a “Thaksin factor” in a party’s affairs will be illegal, and the price for breaching the law will see the party cease to exist.

An earlier Bangkok Post report says that the “newly drafted bill on political parties may see the number slashed to 10 from the present 72 based on their records of financial support…”. That’s the word from anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn.

The plan is to ditch parties 3-4 years because each party must “recruit 20,000 members and collect annual supporting fees of at least 2 million baht.” Somchai giggled that only 10 parties can do that.

Silly Somchai stated that the “draft organic law on political parties … was intended to encourage strong parties with the potential to produce quality work and become institutions.” Perhaps he forgets that this was the plan under the 1997 constitution, and that it was rather good at creating “strong parties.” Of course, one of those strong parties has been dissolved following the 2006 coup – Thai Rak Thai.

The requirement for all party members to contribute funds to the party every year will mean that the less well off members of the population will be excluded.

Yet another Bangkok Post report indicates many of the complaints of political parties, including the anti-democrat Democrat Party. That party babbled about vote-buying. That’s another anti-Thaksin line for the anti-democrats all believe – wrongly – that TRT and Thaksin bought all their votes.

The party might be better looking at why it never gets elected and why it is so keen to get in bed with the military and rabid rightists.

The “law” is meant to recreate political parties that are weak and dependent, as they were under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s military-backed “semi-democracy.”





Controlling the local

8 05 2016

The junta has been showing its blunt determination to ensure its preferred result in the charter referendum. It has been arresting, intimidating and repressing.

It has also been campaigning for a Yes vote in rural areas, sending out the military and local authorities. But, for the junta, the local is not trustworthy, so it wants total control.

When it seized power almost two years ago, local elections were scrapped. Elections were replaced by provincial panels, headed by the governor of each province, that selected councilors. This is insufficient for the dictatorship. The Bangkok Post reports that not even governors can be trusted: “the [junta’s new] order was made to prevent any conflicts of interest among provincial governors…”.

In fact, the junta’s puppet permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior has confirmed that the junta will now control the selection and appointment of members of local bodies.

The permanent secretary will appoint a committee “to pick the councillors of the local bodies…”. All appointments will be made by this Bangkok-based committee of senior bureaucrats. The rollback to a regime that existed long before the 1997 Constitution.

The military’s selected bureaucracy is back in charge because, as puppets, they can be expected to do their masters’ bidding.

While the puppet permanent secretary claims the junta “wants to make changes that comply with good governance practices.” Most observers recognize that the members of the junta could not spell “good governance,” and that they certainly favor nepotism and political subservience over anything that might reek of principles.

The permanent secretary’s disclaimer can be read as an admission: “This also has nothing to do with the preparations for the referendum…”. Of course, it has everything to do with the referendum and what follows that event.