Updated: Lawfare and constitution

26 06 2021

The regime is now a lawfare regime. This means that it misuses the legal system against an “enemy,” seeking to delegitimize them, wasting their time and money, and repeatedly harassing them. Like other repressive regimes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government seeks to prevent and discourage civil society and individuals from claiming their legal rights, even when these are supposedly granted by the junta’s 2017 constitution.

Such lawfare is “especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It is rule by law rather than anything remotely close to rule of law.

King PenguinAs democracy activists seek to reactivate a movement that was attacked by a myriad of legal cases and detentions, their rallies are now met with multiple legal cases: the pure definition of lawfare.

Like other despotic regimes, the protesters face, according to Deputy Royal Thai Police Spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a “health safety announcement issued by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.” We guess that the leaders of one of the rallies, who are on bail, will find themselves targeted for more jail time. It is the way authoritarians use the law.

It is worth recalling that the protesters chose to rally on what used to officially be National Day. As the king has demanded, 1932 is a memory that only the public can keep alive, with the regime simply ignoring the date after years of removing its symbols.

1932 began an era of constitutional innovation and ended absolute monarchy, with small steps taken to establish the rule of law.

As the relatively small rallies went on, in parliament, a farce played out. The regime has, from time to time, indicated that it wants some constitutional change, mainly to further its already mammoth electoral rigging. But, as anyone who has followed politics since 2007 knows, the royalists, rightists and military allow no changes that might level the playing field. The lies on constitutional change began with the 2007 constitutional referendum and the brickwall to change has been strengthened by a biased Constitutional Court.

Pretending to promote constitutional change, 13 constitutional change bills were introduced. All but one was rejected by a joint sitting of the elected lower house and the junta-appointed senate. The legislation this hybrid “parliament” approved “would raise the number of constituency MPs from 350 to 400 and restore the old selection formula for 100 list MPs.” All this does is make regime thugs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Thammanat Prompao more powerful as they redevelop money politics.It also opens the opportunity for MP and party purchasing on a grand scale.

Those who link this change back to earlier times, miss the changes that have taken place under military regimes and ignore the way that state resources and the misuse of law have made the the regime all but impregnable in the next election.

These commentators should also consider that the appointed senate makes a mockery of parliament. The senators, who all owe their positions to the military junta and the thugs running the current regime, essentially voted as a bloc.

Bencha Saengchan of the Move Forward Party correctly states: “Last night’s vote shows that parliament is a drama theater that lacks sincerity towards the people…”. But that’s way too mild. This regime will have to be forced out, laws changed, constitutions rewritten, monarchy tamed or deleted, and the thugs imprisoned. It is the only way to roll back 15 years of rigging and corruption.

Update: For an example of horrendous “journalism,” see the Bangkok Post’s About Politics column. It is usually rightist tripe, but this week’s column is a doozy. Somehow it manages to ignore all of the regime’s efforts to rig constitution and elections and to blame the opposition for failed constitutional reform. Quite an act of political contortion.





Constitutional conservatives

20 06 2021

Since World War 2, Thailand’s royalist, conservatives and rightists have long tried to use constitutions to prevent change and to maintain their political dominance. That’s why recent and current battles over the constitution are important.

Since the military re-established itself as chief constitution drafter with the 2006 coup, the two resulting constitutions have been written to ensure that military-backed regimes of royalists control things. The 2007 constitution wasn’t enough for that, so the 2014 coup and the resulting 2017 constitution were an effort to enforce the ruling elite’s preferred arrangements. This includes the 20 year “reform” period that seeks to fully embed military-backed authoritarianism.

The last time the opposition tried to amend the constitution was swiftly swatted away – as were efforts to amend the 2007 constitution. To do this, the Constitutional Court was required to rule that amendment should be made all but impossible. Where amendment was possible, it could essentially be by the regime, making things more comfortable for itself and its progeny.

The current attempts to amend the constitution are moving in the direction of giving the regime and its parties even more electoral advantage while rejecting the opposition’s efforts to  make the military junta’s constitution look a little fairer.

Emblematic of the resistance to change is the role of the junta’s appointed senate that made Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha premier. For some background on this, see Bunkueanun Paothong’s op-ed at Khaosod.

For more detail on the current efforts to amend the constitution, look at Prachatai’s Explainer. There’s also an effort at explaining at Thai PBS.

On the rejection of opposition suggestions, see here and here.

For the regime’s continued constitutional rigging , see here.





Never-ending judicial politicization

8 02 2020

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Bangkok Post has a very useful article on yet another Constitutional Court political fudge.

While the vote on the Court was a close 5-4, it ruled that, despite regime MPs breaching the law and the constitution, the 2020 budget bill was “partially constitutional.”

Just those words show how manipulative the Constitutional Court is in seeking to bolster the regime of “good people.”

The Court “ordered MPs to vote again on the second and third readings during which illegal proxy voting was found.”

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai has duly “called for a special session of the House of Representatives next Thursday to repeat the two readings to comply with the court ruling. Officials hope the process can be completed within one day.” That will be it, done and dusted and hang the law….

The Constitutional Court issued a statement “explaining” its decision:

The court said in a statement issued after the ruling that proxy voting violates the one MP-one-vote principle in the charter and House regulations, and actions must be taken against the wrongdoers according to related laws.

The court said its focus on the case was the process. It found the first reading went smoothly and was therefore constitutional. However, proxy voting took place in the second and third readings during Jan 10-11, making this part of the process unconstitutional.

Besides, the court wrote, there is an urgent need for budget disbursement and the new Constitutional Court law allows it to prescribe actions to be taken.

The court therefore decided the House vote again on the second and third readings. After that, the Senate will be asked to vote again on the bill. The House must report back to the court within 30 days from Friday.

“Explaining” yet another double standards contortion, the court said the circumstances were different from its ruling in 2014 against the then Yingluck Shinawatra government’s infrastructure bill.

While it did rule that “[d]uring the vote on the … bill for infrastructure projects … a Pheu Thai MP was found using more than one voting card,” the Court added this in on a ruling on a petition by an agitated Democrat Party that the infrastructure bill contravened sections 122 and 126 of the 2007 constitution.

It so ruled, although reading those sections of the constitution and the reporting of its 2014 ruling, it seems the Court knew that such a ruling was flimsy at best, so backed it up by ruling “that proxy voting breached the one-MP-one-vote principle in the 2007 constitution.” But, it now explains, the infrastructure borrowing bill had “essential clauses that [we]re unconstitutional”; the 2020 budget bill does not. It did not further elaborate.

But that seems a remarkable stretch. If a constitutional provision is broken, then it is broken, whether it is one article or three.

But there’s more constitutional trouble ahead, with iLaw observing that “Section 143 of the charter prescribes that the House must finish deliberating a budget bill within 105 days from the date it reaches the House. The deadline in this case was the end of January.”

We imagine that the devious Constitutional Court will need to sort that glitch out as well, again in favor of the generals and their regime.





Updated: Disdain for parliament

4 06 2019

An Army engineer

Following five years of rolling back electoral politics and election rigging, not everything went the way the Army’s political engineers imagined. Yes, they came up with a less democratic constitution in 2017. Less democratic than the previous not so democratic one engineered after the 2006 military coup. Yes, they came up with a bunch of laws that connected to the undemocratic constitution that made it virtually impossible to prevent military political interference or even dominance for years to come.

Where this came unstuck was on 24 March when constituency voters chose parties that were anti-junta. It was only the puppet Election Commission, supported by the biased Constitutional Court that the junta even gained a hope of bargaining its way to a lower house majority by cobbling together up to 20 parties into a Palang Pracharath-led coalition. But not even that is in place, less than 24 hours before parliament selects a “new” prime minister.

The bloody hands of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha are set to grab premiership (again), thanks to the junta’s Army engineering that allows for a junta-picked and appointed Senate being likely to vote as a block for The Dictator, along with his Palang Pracharath Party. This despite various pleading for the Senate to not act as the junta’s puppets.

The Democrat Party and Bhum Jai Thai Party may come on board with the junta – as they are desperate to do – but only after all of the bargaining for cabinet posts has been completed. It is looking likely that the selection of the PM will go ahead with a government having been concocted by the junta and its puppet party.

This means that six weeks after the election, Thailand continues to be administered by the junta. It hardly has a “government” in place as so many of its ministers scurried off to Palang Pracharath and the Senate. For The Dictator, his face will be saved, but only momentarily.

Remarkably, but defining of the whole process of coup to election charade, this political theater of a joint parliamentary sitting choosing a PM will likely take place without Gen Prayuth even showing up, let alone saying something to parliament.

According to Khaosod, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam has stated that “there’s no need for junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to show up tomorrow when parliament convenes to elect a new prime minister.”

We suspect that the prickly, arrogant premier-in-waiting is doing a Prem (again). He hardly ever showed up for parliament, treating it like a junior school where politicians squabbled and fought and he floated above it, buoyed by royal barami. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth exhibits nothing but disdain for parliamentary politics.

With “lower house speaker Chuan Leekpai [having] promised on Monday to allow MPs ample time to debate the qualifications of PM candidates before going to the vote,” we are sure that Gen Prayuth sees this as several levels below his exalted status. He had hoped that parliament would be a bunch of yes-men and -woman and that he would be able to ignore them for a few years, leaving them to squabble and fight over the leftovers from the junta’s plate.

But the voters have thrown that plan into disarray, and Gen Prayuth, if he gets up tomorrow as expected, he can expect criticism. And that’s something that he has never learned to deal with.

And just in case you were wondering, “Deputy PM Wissanu also specified to the media Tuesday that Prayuth and the rest of the junta will remain in their positions until a new cabinet formally reports to its first day of work.”

So whatever happens tomorrow, it is Prayuth in the premier’s seat for the near term. If he gets his way tomorrow, we don’t expect that he will enjoy the medium term. Bookmakers are taking bets on the date of the next coup. He’ll hate the idea of parliament even more than he does now.

Update: According to a report in Post Today, about half of the Democrat Party’s more extreme MPs have decided to screw their party and bed down with the junta’s party. This is either a threat to the rest of the MPs to come on board with the junta and The Dictator or its another large nail in the coffin of this hopeless party.





Manipulating the basic law

31 03 2019

Article 158 of the junta’s 2017 constitution states:

The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term. However, it shall not include the period during which the Prime Minister carries out duties after vacating office.

Article 171 of the 2007 constitution stated:

Flagrant, blatant, barefaced, overt, brazen, brash, audacious, outrageous, undisguised, unconcealed, unabashed, unashamed, unrepentant manipulation

The Prime Minister shall not serve in office more than eight years.

We know that General Prayuth Chan-ocha had himself appointed prime minister on 24 August 2014 and that he made himself acting prime minister from 22 May to 24 August 2014 when the “acting” bit disappeared. That’s 4 years, 10 months, and 10 days. If he’s hoisted into the prime minister’s seat again, we can say that he will have forcibly occupied it for 5 years.

According to the constitution, then, most sensible people would conclude that Gen Prayuth could only serve another 3 years. But those sensible people would all be wrong.

At least that’s according to the junta’s chief “legal” interpreter, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam. We might recall that Prime MInister Gen Prayuth was also recently declared, by other regime flunkies, to be eligible to be prime minister because he was not a state official. Given that Gen Prayuth had declared himself a state official, this bit of manipulation was blatant.

Wissanu’s shameless manipulation is in declaring that “Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha will not have to leave office early if re-elected [sic.] as prime minister…” because

… the prime ministerial candidate of the pro-government Palang Pracharath Party [Gen Prayuth] has served less than two years as head of government under the current charter, thus is eligible for a full term if reelected to office.

Such flagrant, blatant, barefaced, overt, brazen, brash, audacious, outrageous, undisguised, unconcealed, unabashed, unashamed, and unrepentant manipulation seems par for the course for this regime. They just keep concocting stuff to suit themselves even if that means ditching their own laws, including the constitution. We are sure that the compliant Constitutional Court would probably do the same.





Post-“election” disruption I

20 03 2019

Pithayain Assavanig, the executive director and chief financial officer of Asia Plus Securities, thinks that foreigners don’t care who the next premier is or who forms the government after the election and that the fact of an election will cause investment to return to Thailand.

He could not be more wrong. The chances are that the the post-election period will be a mess, with lots of legal action, coalition horsetrading and howls about cheating.

The hapless Election Commission is likely to have even more work following the election than it has now.

On the one hand it will have to sort out the problems the EC itself will have created for all of its failures on overseas voting, advance voting and its failure to adequately investigate complaints.

On the other hand, it seems that the desperate and frustrated junta devil party, Palang Pracharath, is planning to lodge a myriad of complaints about other parties.

While the EC has been slow and slapdash in investigating complaints against Palang Pracharath, it will likely work fast on that party’s complaints, even if they are nonsensical.

It seems the party is complaining about “smear campaigns against it and its leaders as well as its prime ministerial candidate Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.” It seems the “smears” have to do with statements that the party is the junta’s party. That’s actually a statement of fact.

Palang Pracharath is also preparing to repel post-election efforts to rescind or change the junta’s constitution.

In fact, this is standard practice for the anti-democrats since the military’s earlier 2007 constitution. Previously, it was often stated that the constitution could be changed, but each time it was attempted, governments were disrupted and then brought down.

Looks like they might do that again if the party can’t get its own government in place.

The post-election period is likely to be more interesting than the pre-election period.





Updated: Devils and angels

29 05 2018

Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has faced intense criticism from the military junta and The Dictators for his statement that the junta’s charter needs to be ditched.

He’s right. PPT has said this for a very long time. But we are not campaigning for a possible election, rumored to be held sometime in early 2019, maybe.

Thanathorn  is reported to have stated that the “2017 constitution can’t be amended so it will have to be torn [up]…”. He’s partly right. The junta’s charter includes provisions for change but the rules and appointments of senators, judges and others in various “independent” agencies means that amending the junta’s constitution will be impossible for any party that isn’t entirely aligned with the junta and its supporters.

Yingluck Shinawatra learned that the hard way when her elected government was unable to use the then charter’s articles on amending the constitution.

His other promise was “an amnesty for all political prisoners charged by the National Council for Peace and Order [the junta]…”. Again, that seems reasonable, but the junta and anti-democrats are up in arms.

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning hard for the position of unelected, outsider premier after the still vague;y promised election, declared “it was inappropriate to criticise the charter and blamed it for political woes.”

It is “inappropriate” to criticize his charter, that was written by his carefully chosen puppets, passed by his puppet legislature, put to a unfree and unfair sham referendum where no one could campaign against it, and then was amended as an unelected king felt he wanted it.

That charter also has rules that embed the military’s domination of politics for years to come in a kind of guided democracy, which will be no democracy at all, not least because it overturns notions of representation.

For all those reasons, the junta’s charter should be dumped.

The Dictator then made threats about his thugs watching and waiting for political parties to break the law so they can be dissolved and leaders arrested. He didn’t use those words, but that’s the threat.

The Dictator’s client deputy, Wissanu Krea-ngam, also warned Thanathorn with vaguely semi-legal language that mounted to The Dictator’s threat repeated.

Then the hopelessly anti-democratic Democrat Party babbled about the constitution like junta lapdogs. Most egregiously, it was the Party’s deputy spokeswoman Mallika Boonmeetrakul, who views “democracy” as some kind of royalist absolutism, who “warned that the amnesty and charter-scrapping ideas could bring back the political rifts experienced earlier.” In other words, threatening another People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

More interestingly, it was Wirat Kanlayasiri, a Democrat Party legal advisor, who noticed that Thanathorn’s statements were, in his words, “empty promise to lure voters.” In other words, voters are likely to find these ideas reasonable and attractive.

Any election that is held some time in the future is now going to be a military vs. anti-military campaign or devil parties vs. angel parties in a proxy election.

Update: Khaosod reports that Election Commission head Pol Col. Charungwit Phumma has stated that there “is nothing wrong with campaigning on a pledge to rewrite the constitution…”.





The Dictator’s double standards

4 04 2018

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has complained about the recent appearance of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra in Japan and other places.

He slammed them: “I don’t have any feeling about them. They should have been ashamed. They broke the law and they still dare to go out…”.

Double standards? You bet. After all, if the military junta hadn’t exonerated itself with retrospective “law,” The Dictator himself would be in trouble. When it comes to breaking the law, overthrowing a legal government is seditious, treason and mutiny. Grinding a constitution under his boot is also illegal.

And then there’s the murder of dozens of civilians in 2010 by troops commanded by Gen Prayuth.

He should be ashamed and imprisoned.





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.





Nothing changed III

8 04 2017

The Nation looks at the widespread bombing campaign in the south and states that the “super sleuths” in the military and police are probing a “link between multiple bombings and promulgation of the new constitution…”.

The Bangkok Post reports on how extensive the bombings were, targeting power poles and bridges.

These geniuses have detected that “people in the predominantly Muslim region rejected the charter during the referendum last year” and consider that makes them all suspects.

One of the junta’s men, Deputy National Police Commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, reckoned there was no link. This was just separatists going about their work: “In my opinion, the attacks were not related to national politics. With simultaneous attacks, it is quiet clear that the attackers must have been from a big gang…”. Brilliant!

And these separatists don’t think about symbolism and national events that the junta manufactures for its own political purposes. They could not possibly have thought about the junta’s decision to link the promulgation of its constitution and Chakri Day.

Meanwhile, the junta’s post-“election” regime is being negotiated. There’s no surprise that the party closest to the junta: Bhum Jai Thai Party.

If Wikileaks of several years ago is to be believed,and some of the relationships it meantions have dissolved, Bhum Jai Thai Party may also be the choice of the king.

Bhum Jai Thai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul said he was confident Thailand would now return to democratic rule with the King as head of state.

His party now has 12 to 18 months to prepare for the upcoming polls in line with the regulations laid out under the new charter, he said.

Mr Anutin said his party will work on fine-tuning the details of four key policies that will be of the most benefit to the general public in the lead-up to the poll.

It is necessary for Bhumjaithai to field its candidates in all constituencies because all votes carry weight under the new charter, he added.

Referring to his relationship with the other political parties, he said Bhumjaithai is not in conflict with any of them.

The election results will dictate whether or not the party decides to join a coalition government, he added.

“We are ready to serve in any role,” Mr Anutin said.

Royalist “liberals” are already supporting the junta’s “road map,” suggesting its better to have a junta constitution and civilianized and military-dominated “elected” regime than a military dictatorship. But even they note that the “ceremony” for the constitution, arranged by palace and junta, means that this constitution will be difficult to change:

… as the royal ceremony surrounding the promulgation was timed to usher in a new reign in an auspicious manner, this means it may be hard to come up with a completely new and more balanced charter. This charter, in other words, now has some staying power, although all of its 19 precursors were eventually upended.

Whatever changes that are needed to rebalance the lopsided appointments system and popular representation may have to be done through amendments because this charter now carries more weight. Democratic aspirations in the charter will have to be expressed by way of amendments rather than a complete rewrite for the foreseeable future.

In fact, changing the 2007 constitution was relatively easy in principle but impossible in practice. The military junta has sought to symbolically add to that impossibility. This military constitution is only likely to be changed by the military or if the military is deposed from its powerful pedestal.








%d bloggers like this: