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.

A servant of dictators

13 09 2014

Our header is based on one used in a sycophantic About Politics story in the Bangkok Post regarding the recently selected deputy prime minister and legal prostitute servicing the military, Wissanu Krea-ngam. As we point out, we use “prostitute” as a description of Wissanu’s work behavior rather than as a criticism of far more honest sex workers.

Wissanu (L): Serving the military junta

The lickspittle article refers to Wissanu as “[a] servant of the law.” As we suggest, he is a servant of dictators. His interpretations and twisting of the law for authoritarian regimes is in a long tradition of lawyers who have willingly sold themselves to fascists. Wissanu has served several governments, including Thaksin Shinawatra, and has been known as a neti borikon or “lawyer-in-service to power.”

In fact, the Post does get one thing right, saying that Wissanu’s “services are proving to be very welcome among the coup generals.” He’s important to them because he can manipulate law for them in ways that make the illegal legal and allow for impunity and repression. He’s a thug armed with law books.

Academic Craig Reynolds has a very bland review of one of Wissanu’s self-justifying memoirs, politely criticized by David Streckfuss who points to Wissanu’s “service”:

From the review, it appears that the book’s foremost quality is that its author is honest and straight forward, and the author is one to know, given his position. That alone makes it Oscar worthy…. Wisanu was at the heart of things as a very different constitution comes into being, the rise of the Assembly of the Poor (and NGOs), the rise of Thaksin, the War on Drugs, Tak Bai, not to mention the passing of controversial laws such as the Emergency law. And of course, the initial rise in lese majeste cases. Perhaps I’m asking too much of a reviewer to go into more detail of the book …, but I would have liked to hear more about why he doesn’t like military governments or his explanation of just how he (or Dr. Borwornsak?) were not involved with providing the legal paperwork to legalize the coup. Or maybe the book lacked this sort of breadth that places the work within the period? Briefly said, am I going to find any of these goodies in this book?

Streckfuss is right; Wissanu has a pretty solid reputation for manipulating the law in some pretty nasty situations. Our guess is that he has also been critical in organizing university councils for the royalists.

Today, Wissanu is one of the deputy prime ministers serving The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Wissanu is considered a bureaucratic and legal helmsman by Prayuth, tasked with “helping the military administration to navigate through the labyrinth of affairs of state and with tackling legal complexities which could hinder that administration.”

Wissanu links with other royalist legal ideologues like Meechai Ruchupan and Bowornsak Uwanno. The latter also sells himself and has headed the royalist King Prajadhipok Institute, which is a royalist propaganda organization for Thai-style democracy. These three were responsible for the military-directed 2007 constitution and will likely be the key drafters of the next military-directed basic law. They will be charges with correcting the errors they made last time that allowed pro-Thaksin parties to win elections; that cannot be permitted in the future.

Democracy and gloom II

16 05 2014

The future for democracy looks brighter when the Bangkok Post reports that activists observe that “[a]n election held as soon as possible is the only feasible way of reaching a peaceful solution to the current political crisis…”. The report is worth quoting almost in full:

The “Let the People Decide” network also demanded that the Senate talk to civic groups and let them air their views like it did with the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) on Monday….

Jessada Denduangboripant, a Third Pillar Against Violence core member, said the PDRC’s call for an non-elected premier to take the helm of an interim government would only deepen the divide in Thai society.

Mr Jessada, also an assistant science professor at Chulalongkorn University, said various civic groups have called for a democratic solution to the protracted crisis over the past six months, but have now united to send a strong message to the public that voters were the only neutral party who should decide who would lead the country.

Ake Atthakorn, a member of the Respect My Vote group, said the Senate should stop trying to derail the democratic process by pretending to act as a peacemaker.

“Stop pretending to listen to the people. Those pressing parliament are not the majority in this country. We know what you are plotting,” Mr Ake said.

“Certain senators are violating the law. If they dare install a non-elected prime minister, they will face overwhelming opposition,” he warned.

Chanya Chamnankul, of the My Freedom group, said her group has been studying the impact of PDRC-led protests in Pattaya, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.

“People want to see the country progress. They believe the best way is to elect their own representatives. If they turn out no good, people can boot them out. They don’t need others to come out onto the streets to overthrow them,” Ms Chanya said.

She said her group would like to see a successful election install a government.

“It’s ridiculous that certain agencies are pursuing the ousted PM while those who blocked the Feb 2 election are still walking around free,” Ms Chanya said.

She questioned the legal status of Surachai Liangboonlertchai as Senate Speaker, saying he might have violated parliamentary regulations by placing the Senate speaker election on the Upper House’s special session agenda.

Kittichai Ngamchaipisit, of the Enough is Enough group, said the PDRC call for reform before an election was just a ruse to confuse the people.

“Anyone wanting reform should contest an election to get the people’s endorsement,” he said.

“We must proceed democratically, with an election, which is the best way to solve differences of opinion in Thai society,” Mr Kittichai added.

barking_mad - CopyBut then PPT is brought back to the gloomy reality of the anti-progressive, anti-democratic, unlawful and barking mad in another Bangkok Post report, where a bunch of unelected, unrepresentative and elite-selected trogladytes are claimed to have decided and “agreed a fully authoritative government is needed to see in political reforms…”.

“Appointed Senator Wanchai Sornsiri” meaning an unelected senator from the so-called private sector and a card-carrying yellow shirt “said after the meeting that most participants wanted to see such a government as soon as possible.” Sounding like anti-democrat boss Suthep Thaugsuban or even the irrelevant Abhisit Vejjajiva, this unelected and unrepresentative anti-democrat stated that such an unelected and unconstitutional government “should be in place for six to 12 months in order to see through election reforms and ensure peace before elections take place.” In other words, only have elections after the anti-democrats fix the system so only their people can get elected to government, turning back the popular tide that has rejected the royalist political parties time and time again.

Who were the seven public organizations that met “acting Senate Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertchai”? It will be no surprise to learn that they are the very organizations created by the military junta-backed government in its 2007 constitution to undermine any elected government. In other words, the very same organizations in charge of the creeping judicial coup: “the Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, the Election Commission (EC), the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, and the National Economic and Social Advisory Council.”

The only two that didn’t show up were the Constitutional Court and the Office of the Attorney-General, but it is known that they are fully on board with the judicial coup.

Each of these organizations is deeply politicized and fully committed to undermining electoral democracy in Thailand.

Based on the meeting, deeply yellow unelected “Senator Khamnoon Sitthisamarn said the EC was unlikely to proceed with the planned July 20 election if it was unsure about the status and authority of acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisarn.” Hell, they haven’t wanted to run an election since former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament. Thailand’s Election Commission is the Commission for Preventing Elections.

Bending, breaking, trampling and sullying the law seems to be the stock in trade of this lounge of anti-democrats.


Calling for an absolute monarchy

4 05 2014

In responding to Abhisit Vejjajiva’s most recent narcissistic efforts at playing leader and offering a “reform plan,” anti-democrat monk Buddha Issara reportedly said: “Abhisit had offered nothing new in his proposal and that the only way out would be returning the power to His Majesty.”

The pot calling the kettle black it seems, for calling on the king to get rid of elected governments is as old as the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

As reported in Khaosod, the monk’s call is for anti-democrats to join him in a demonstration in Hua Hin which would call on the king “to directly intervene in Thailand’s ongoing political crisis.” He plans to do this on 16 May “to ‘return the royal power’ to the king.”

The monk believes and hopes “that the 2007 Constitution permits His Majesty the King to replace Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with a new leader of his own royal discretion.” This would be done, he babbles, using Article 3 of the basic law:

The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. The King as Head of State shall exercise such power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Courts in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

Buddha Issara is wrong, but legalities don’t worry the anti-democrats, and this has been a mantra of the anti-democrats for some time. The “innovation” this time round is that the current anti-democrats refer to Article 3 whereas PAD wanted Article 7 used.

Why is the monk trundling off to Hua Hin now? He seems to be frustrated:

“If Suthep and other PCAD leaders cannot close the game [against Ms. Yingluck],” Buddha Issara said, referring to PCAD sec-gen Suthep Thaugsuban, “They should turn to Article 3 and join the demonstration with us.”

“I believe this method will not embarrass the leaders or the demonstrators,” the monk said.

As red shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn points out, “Buddha Issara’s demands are essentially equivalent to an attempt to restore the system of Absolute Monarchy, in which the king can exercise executive power and appoint Prime Ministers at his own discretion.”


Updated: Constitutional Court firmly in the hands of royalists

25 04 2014

The Constitutional Court really does go out of its way to demonstrate that it is in the hands of royalists.

The supposedly independent court demonstrated, for the umpteenth time, its complete and tonal bias in support of royalists, anti-democrats and the Democrat Party by inviting former Democrat Party prime minister and party stalwart Chuan Leekpai to speak at the Court’s 16th anniversary on the theme of “Political reform under the rule of law.” In the spirit of bias and double standards, Chuna said “the problems plaguing the country now had to do with the government’s mishandling of policies and using unlawful approaches in administration.” Chuan, with tongue firmly planted in cheek or perhaps not even recognizing his lack of connection to reality stated:

“The rule of law is a part of good governance. Adhering to the law to administer the country will bring peace to the country. However, there will be new problems if the government resorts to unlawful approaches (in dealing with national administration),” he said, alleging that on many occasions, the rule of law has been violated.

The anti-democrats he supports have never acknowledged the law.

Adding to the royalist feast of tripe and nonsense, Bowonsak Uwanno was wheeled out at the same event. He is reported to have stressed that “upholding the rule of law was imperative in allowing the country to progress and anyone who undermines the rule of law also destroys democracy.” His view was that “the Constitutional Court should have the authority to decide on its own what section of the charter to alter, if such content warrants amending.” In effect, Bowonsak is making a case for undermining the rule of law – the constitution is the basic law – and advocating another of the hundred cuts that is the royalist destruction of democracy.

Perhaps he is just a dope or is too blinded by royalist nonsense to see that the constitutional path to changing the constitution – and yes, it is the junta’s constitution that he himself spent a lot of time concocting – is clearly stated in section 291 of the constitution. It allows no role for amendment by the unelected court.

Perhaps he needs a Ferrari.

Update: A reader suggests that we needed to link this post to a Khaosod story on the Constitutional Court.



On the judicial coup’s progress

1 04 2014

Thomas Fuller at the New York Times provides an account of the judicial coup in progress. His story coincides with Yingluck Shinawatra’s brief appearance at the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Fuller observes:

Although nominally independent, a number of the judges and top officials in the agencies handling cases against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government have had longstanding antagonistic relationships with Ms. Yingluck and her party.

Fuller cites Verapat Pariyawong, a lawyer and commentator:

It no longer makes sense to attempt to explain the current political situation in Thailand by relying on legal principles…. The current situation is more or less a phenomenon of raw politics whereby the rule of law is conveniently stretched and stripped to fit a political goal.

Wicha Mahakhun, a member of the NACC and former constitution drafter for the military junta in 2007, is quoted from back then: “We all know elections are evil…”. He added: “People, especially academics who want to see the Constitution lead to genuine democracy, are naïve…”.

Readers can catch his anti-democratic bias immediately. Fuller adds that: “Three current judges of the Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly ruled against the government in recent months, were also members of the post-coup commission to rewrite the Constitution.”

PPT has always referred to the appointed senators as the demon seed of the military junta and it is clear that we should be applying this terminology to the judges as well.

Like PPT, Likhit Dhiravegin, said to be “a prominent academic and frequent commentator on television,” has said that “an ‘orchestrated’ judicial coup was already underway.” He added: “everybody knows about it, inside and outside the country.”

It is all politics

26 03 2014

David Streckfuss has an op-ed in the Bangkok Post that raises some important points. He begins:

The political situation in Thailand is slowly but surely ratcheting up to something akin to a civil war. Civil wars are by nature bloody affairs that bring out the worst in everyone, let loose the extremists on all sides, and have no real heroes.

StreckfussHe suggests ways to avoid a bloodbath. The first is “to proceed as constitutionally as possible.” Maybe not, given that the current constitution is a military junta artefact and the courts interpret it in weird ways. The second “is to throw the entire framework of government back to the people,” but that seems inherently flawed to PPT. After all, the junta sent its draft constitution to a referendum and required just a yes/no answer on a huge document that was flawed in many places. He concludes that the “third possibility is to let things continue as they are,” which hardly seems likely to end confrontation.

PPT thinks there is a fourth possibility: the royalist elite needs to compromise and accept parliamentary elections and get of their fat butts and get serious about getting elected and ditch its coup-cum-massacre and born-to-rule mentality. Other sets of plutocrats and powerful oligarchs managed to do this in other places.

In all of this, we did like one point Streckfuss emphasized:

By acknowledging that Thailand is split politically, the country could free itself of the façade of neutral brokers. It recognises that “politics” is not what politicians do but rather the exercise and constraints of public power by any party. Under this definition, many groups are involved in the political project: civil society groups, social movements, elected officials, bureaucrats, and even the Crown Property Bureau and the monarchy. “Politics” is no longer a dirty word; it’s just the dynamic underlying any political society.

That would be a useful acknowledgement.




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