Devils circle

17 03 2019

The junta’s devil party is Palang Pracharath. It was formed by the junta as a vehicle for The Dictator and the junta to continue in power beyond their rigged election.

With voting now on – overseas and advance domestic – other opportunistic rightist parties are lining up to ally with Palang Pracharath and its junta bosses.

Anutin Charnvirakul at the head of the Bhum Jai Thai Party has announced that his party is:

ready to work with parties that are loyal to … the monarchy, can make the country thrive and do not lead the country into conflict. If a party meets our conditions, we will support it and its prime ministerial candidate….

That should be no surprise. After all, the party was essentially created to represent the military’s electoral interests back at the time of the 2007 election. The party splashed loot about and did badly back then and was punished by pro-Thaksin voters for fielding turncoat candidates. It did poorly again in 2011 and now is only relevant as a mini-devil party supporting the junta.

More interesting is the Democrat Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva. He’s writhing and slithering like a wounded snake.

The headline for his interview with the Bangkok Post is as damning as it gets: “Abhisit OK working with military.” Of course, despite his denials, Abhisit has been with the military for years and supported both the 2006 and 2014 military interventions. For reminders, look here and here.

He groveled further to the junta, saying that he would only “join a no-confidence motion against a future [unelected] Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha if there were ‘good reasons’…”. So while saying he’d rather he was premier and would not support Gen Prayuth, Abhisit does not reject him as premier.

Abhisit also says that he “categorically rules out supporting any future coups,” which would be a huge change from his previous support for them as a means to remove elected governments.

And, he reaffirms that the Democrat Party is willing to join the devil parties: “he’s open to working with pro-military Palang Pracharath Party…”.

As for the anti-democratic, military-backed, appointed, senate, Abhisit can only waffle about maybe doing something or other about its undemocratic nature.

At this point, we at PPT would be willing to bet that the main devil parties will be Palang Pracharath, Bhum Jai Thai and the Democrat Party, and that this alliance, together with the senate, is very likely to deliver The Dictator as premier. Only a massive reaction against devil parties at the polls has a chance to prevent that.





2006 as royalist coup

19 09 2018

2006 coup

It is 12 years since the military, wearing yellow tags, rolled its tanks into Bangkok to oust Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai Party government and to wind back the Thaksin revolution.

Thaksin had a lot of faults and made many mistakes. His War on Drugs was a murderous unleashing of the thugs in the police and military that should not be forgiven.

But his big mistake was being “too popular” among the “wrong people.” TRT’s huge election victory in February 2005 was an existential threat to the powers that be. Their final response, after destabilizing the elected government, was to arrange for the military to throw out the most popular post-war prime minister Thailand had known. And, the palace joined the coup party.

2006 coup

But getting rid of the so-called Thaksin regime and his popularity was too much for the somewhat dull guys at the top of the military and the palace’s man as prime minister was typically aloof and hopeless. He appointed a cabinet full of aged and lazy royalists who misjudged the extent of Thaksin’s popularity. The 2007 election proved how wrong the royalists were about the Thaksin regime being based on vote-buying and “policy corruption.”

So they ditched out another prime minister and then another elected government, this time relying on the judiciary. Then they killed red shirts.

But still Thaksin held electoral sway, this time via his sister Yingluck. And she had to go too, replaced by the knuckle-draggers of the current military dictatorship.

Meeting the junta

12 years on, PPT felt that our best way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab is to re-link to the Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables. As a collection, they provide a useful insight as to how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the embassy to know.





A sham democracy

4 09 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that the anti-democrats were loud in their criticism of electoral democracy as no democracy at all.

Those rants neglected the fact that the rules for elections in 2007 and 2011 that brought pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties to power via the ballot box were conducted under rules set by military-backed governments packed by royalists.

Now it is PPT’s turn to complain about empty elections. There’s a ridiculous trend in some media suggesting that any election the military junta decides to allow will herald a return to “democracy” for Thailand.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to a report at the Bangkok Post, the latest to fall into this trap is Yves Leterme, the secretary-general of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).

IDEA’s aims include this:

We develop, share and enable the use of comparative knowledge in our key areas of expertise: electoral processes, constitution-building, political participation and representation, and democracy and development.

So you’d think that its secretary-general would be able to distinguish real electoral democracy and sham democracy. But, no.

He says that “[a]s Thailand transitions towards a democracy, it is critical to keep in mind that not only the elections but the government itself must meet citizens’ expectations for leadership, security and socioeconomic development…”.

Leterme appears to praise Thailand, saying “that demonstrating a clear intention to reinstall democracy through electoral processes is a positive step for the country.”

How could a “democracy engineer” get it so wrong? After all, the military dictatorship has fixed any upcoming election to ensure that only its approved “politicians” can gain seats in government. It also seems highly likely that a general will be prime minister and may not even be an elected member of parliament.

Perhaps the reason for Leterme’s democracy clanger has to do with his Board of Advisers, where the chair is none other than the (anti)Democrat Party’s Surin Pitsuwan, who joined campaigns to bring down elected governments.

Make no mistake, no “election” under the junta’s 2017 constitution and the junta’s electoral rules can be free or fair.





New year barbs III

4 01 2015

As well as barbs to the military dictatorship in the media (here and here), red shirts have also sent some new year jabs Thaksin Shinawatra’s way.

A report at the Bangkok Post begins with an observation that “[o]pposition to the military-led government could gain momentum this year…”. We think that’s true, and it doesn’t simply depend on “economic stability, actions by Thaksin Shinawatra and the fate of Yingluck Shinawatra…”.

As PPT noted yesterday, we think that there is a potentially broader anti-coup/anti-military opposition that will emerge. We agree with Verapat Pariyawong, “an independent law expert and a red-shirt supporter who has remained outside Thailand since he was summoned by the coup-makers,” who states that “the junta’s strategy of suppressing dissent against students, activists, reformists and academics would only trigger more critics and sympathy from around the world,” and, we think, in Thailand; and that is most significant.

The Post’s report contains several points worthy of consideration including the view that “former prime minister Thaksin will have to weigh his steps carefully…”. Double-dealing with the military and palace is unlikely to resolve his political problems. As one red shirt leader opines, “If he lets time pass and does not make any big moves, his fate would be like that of Pridi Banomyong…”. Pridi failed to build a people-based opposition to military domination and spent 34 years in exile, dying in Paris.

The leader pointed out the obvious, declaring that “many red shirts are disappointed that Thaksin and Pheu Thai Party leaders have gone quiet, instead of fighting for peoples’ civil liberties.” The leader adds, “If Thaksin compromises with military leaders for his own benefit, he will lose the people’s support and will not be able to mobilise people power again…”.

Some have argued that Thaksin and Puea Thai are waiting for more widespread opposition to the military dictatorship to emerge or that they await an election and an electoral comeback. The former might be reasonable but the latter is a pipe dream, for the military won’t allow it to be a replay of 2007.

Jaran Ditapichai, described as “a leading red-shirt intellectual,” acknowledges the power of the military dictatorship by observing that “the power of those in exile against the government is limited.” He notes that “[m]ost of the exiles remain scattered … [and that] he future for those facing lese majeste charges is even more cloudy.”

Another exile is Watt Wallayangkoon, an intellectual and writer is clear and defiant: “A coup is coup. You can’t wait for nice things to happen. And as an intellectual, you can’t produce your work in a dictatorial environment…”. He added that the “mentality of many in the middle class and elite who support the coups, calling them ‘blinkered apologists’.”

Will Thaksin make yet another political comeback in 2015? Does it matter? In 2007, the initial anti-coup activism was muted. But that limited response grew as opposition became more widespread and various groups – including many who were no supporters of Thaksin – came together to oppose the military’s political tutelage. The military junta doesn’t want that to happen this time and so they have been harsher and harder. In our view, that is likely to make the eventual response stronger and more determined. Thaksin might have to hitch a ride.





Wikileaks: more on HRW and the coup IV

6 02 2012

This  is the fifth of our posts on Human Rights Watch and the events that unfolded following the 2006 coup. Wikileaks has 58 cables mentioning HRW in Thailand, the majority related to events in the South. Yes, we know the number is IV, but the first one had a different title, so it is five. In this post, as in the previous instances, we look at cables about political struggles.

Our earlier posts may be found here, here, here and here.

In this post we look at a cable from 29 August 2007. This cable is a discussion and reporting of growing dissension over the military junta’s 2007 Constitution and forthcoming elections. The cable is signed by U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce, reporting on a visit by senior State Department visitor Scot Marciel.

The cable summary is telling:

Two contacts warned that the biggest threat to the coming vote would likely be vote-buying by former PM Thaksin supporters. Both a leading economist and human rights officials said that the ousted-PM’s allies could very well win and form the next government. This same human rights official and a [Democrat Party] politician denied that the new constitution hands greater power to the military and expressed frustration with “inaccurate western” media reporting on this topic.

Democrat Party Deputy Leader and former banker Korn Chatikavanij is cited first. Readers interested in HRW will need to read through Korn’s account in order to contextualize HRW’s position.

Korn is reported to have “pushed back strongly on western media criticism of the new charter.” He is quoted:  “I find it amusing when I hear foreign journalists say this one is less democratic.” This is because Korn reckons that in “some ways” the military-backed constitution is “much more democratic.”

Korn is reported to be adamant: “This is not a pro-military constitution.” He gets even more excited and inaccurate when he states, according to the cable: “The military got almost nothing that it wanted from the constitution.” In fact, as we will note below, it is Korn who is misrepresenting the constitution.

While excited in denying the obvious, Korn’s lack of enthusiasm for the election is then revealed, together with the legendary laziness and arrogance of the aristocrats in the Democrat Party:

Korn lamented the raft of inaccurate media characterizations of the Thai political situation. Asked if he and other Democrat Party politicians have tried to correct these reports, Korn said, “it’s too hard to explain the complexity of the situation here. We figure, let’s just have the election, which is what the world wants. The world doesn’t care about the details.”

Given that there had been widespread and accurate reports of the military intervening repeatedly in the referendum in order to ensure it passed, Korn is justifiably asked if he thinks the military will be even more determined in the election. He is reported to have responded by getting a little excited again, saying:

you’re concerned about the military, but I’m concerned about Thaksin [Shinawatra]’s money. Washington should be equally concerned about Thaksin’s money. Thaksin has never played fair; there needs to be a counter-balance of power.

Korn wouldn’t be concerned about the military because it worked in the interests of the Democrat Party. In fact, it was the military that wasn’t playing fair, changing the rules and cashing up for the election. Korn is repeatedly disingenuous in his responses, but is also indicating his firm support for the military.

Interestingly, Korn seems to already know the winner of the election:

Korn said that Thaksin will attempt to destabilize the next government, cause chaos, and create a void that only the ousted PM can fill.

Of course, Korn and the military were stymied by the result and Plan B was put into action, with the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the Democrat Party, judiciary and the military destabilizing the elected government, causing chaos, and creating a void that the military and palace would only allow the Democrat Party to fill.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk also met Marciel. Interestingly, Sunai begins by discounting the “details of the constitution, because it can only be changed by the next government.” Of course, the elite, PAD and military have not permitted this and use it as a reason for overthrowing elected governments.

It is revealing, though, that Sunai, like Korn, should be “critical of western media reporting that the new charter handed the military more power.” He is reported to have stated:

This is incorrect.” Sunai … explained that the new charter shifts some power from the old, ostensibly non-partisan Senate, to the courts and bureaucracy, not the military. The new government will be weaker than those under the 1997 constitution and subject to more scrutiny by politicians and the people, “which is not a bad thing.”

Of course, this is disingenuously playing with semantics. The military moved power away from elected politicians and to appointees controlled by the military and the royalist elite. In addition, the constitution made the military and its huge and vastly increased budget less subject to scrutiny.

It is remarkable that the HRW person on the ground is unable to admit that the constitution was enacted in the interests of the military and the royalist elite.

At least Sunai acknowledges that “Human Rights Watch is concerned about inappropriate influence by both the military and Thaksin in the next election.” At the same time, it is astonishing that Thaksin and the military are equated as equal powers.

Sunai went on to (again) show his pro-military bias when he is reported to have pointed out that the military and its government did poorly on the constitutional referendum only because of their “ineffectiveness” in “pushing for public support of the charter in areas dominated by Thaksin supporters, even in areas under martial law.” It seems Sunai thinks the military-backed government should have used its huge advantages to push and win.

Sunai then goes on to expound his view that the former TRT engages in “vote-buying and other fraud.” He then describes Thaksin as “the mother of allvote-buyers.”

Several academic articles and innumerable media reports at the time pointed out that Thaksin-backed parties actually spent rather limited amounts. In fact, by 2011, relatively little spending was required of the Puea Thai Party. But Sunai’s claim was and is a lodestone of PAD and Democrat Party claims against pro-Thaksin parties. Such claims continue to be made today, even when the evidence is scant. The evidence that exists shows the Democrat Party, military and the pro-militiary Bhum Jai Thai Party being big spenders.

Sunai is then reported to have lamented that a pro-Thaksin party could win the upcoming election. He states:

If the RTG was capable and serious in its intention to rid the country of Thaksin, this would not even be possible, let alone likely.

Lamenting a claimed incapacity to fix an election result seems an odd and deeply yellow-shirted claim from someone in his position with HRW.





The surreal world of the Democrat Party

5 07 2011

PPT hasn’t looked at the Thai-language media yet this morning, but it not a surprise that the Bangkok Post and The Nation have barely paused for a moment before attacking the still-unformed Puea Thai Party coalition government, mostly on its campaign promises regarding amnesty.

It is as if they confirm a point made at Bloomberg by Thailand scholar Kevin Hewison on the residual abhorrence for and fear of Thaksin Shinawatra and the anathema felt for any amnesty: “These people continue to hate Thaksin and they don’t want him back…. If there is any move that looks like he’s closer to coming back or if there’s anything they interpret as a whitewash, they will be up for the fight.”

Both Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban have shown that there is neither grace nor any reconsideration based on the voice of the people.

Suthep has been on television this morning (Tuesday) attacking Thaksin as if there had not been an election where his party virtually made anti-Thaksinism its only call to the electorate and was firmly rejected. He also attacked and “blamed” red shirts for his party’s loss. His comments appear in the next linked story, although the press account misses the deep hatred displayed in his television interview.

Characteristically, Abhisit first big-noted himself by stating: “I think that a good leader of an organisation must take responsibility…”. It is still about Teflon Mark and me, me, me. At present it seems that Abhisit’s resignation is nominal, and he seems to feel that he is set to be re-elected leader. Abhisit stated that “he would fight tooth and nail against any attempts to dismantle the rule of law and national principles.”

That may sound okay as a statement if it wasn’t Abhisitspeak for rejecting the electorate’s voice. Rule of law meant repression under his government and denoted opposition to red shirts and Thaksin. Rule of law is now the discourse for opposing a Puea Thai government. Presumably when that opposition descends into lawlessness, it can be justified, as it was in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

The points made by Suthep and Abhisit are repeated by Pichai Chuensuksawadi, Editor-in-Chief of Post Publishing, a media outlet that did much to support the Democrat Party. As one of the elite’s media, it inflated public support, boosted its campaign, gave extra space to Abhisit and wrote op-eds that were blatantly anti-Puea Thai. In the face of a crushing electoral defeat, Pichai tries to sound just a tad reasonable in searching for meaning and messages in the emphatic rejection of the royalist Democrat Party.

One message is that the “overwhelming support for Pheu Thai indicates that rural Thailand wants former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra himself back home. Indeed there is no doubt that many do. How else can you explain the repeated electoral success of Thai Rak Thai and its various reincarnations?”

While we agree in general terms, the emphasis on “rural Thailand” is a yellowish political tone. PPT would note that it is not just “rural Thailand” that voted for Puea Thai. And, we’d add that amnesty was indeed near the top of the party’s platform that they took to the electorate (as was constitutional amendment when People’s Power Party won a less emphatic victory in 2007).

Pichai then adds the good point that “Thais who supported Pheu Thai, Khun Yingluck or Thaksin did so because they believe they would be better cared for. They feel empowered, that their vote and voice can, and do, make a difference. They feel they can have a better life and that it will be easier for them to make a living. They want a fairer system, opportunity and access to better education, health and justice. They are calling for and demanding these changes.”

He is right to note that this vote was also one that said: “we don’t want a military coup d’etat to change our choice of leaders.”

For the “established elite” he says that they should “accept and adjust to these changes. Embrace it and help guide the changes, making it a constructive force for the future.” This sounds like a plea for the historical compromise that the Thai ruling class has been unwilling to make. PPT doesn’t see it coming.

Pichai, like many others in the anti-Puea Thai camp also have a message for any new administration that is not theirs: “Despite its overwhelming numbers…. There are a significant number of Thais who want a sincere effort at reconciliation but not at the expense of discarding the rule of law for the benefit of the one or the few.”

That’s Abhisit’s message and it is to be the lead battle cry going forward. Don’t do what you promised; forget the campaign platform and ignore your supporters. If you don’t, this will “lead to further political turmoil.” Puea Thai is warned, again and again.

Pichai refers to the “fact that the Democrats still retained a significant hold in Bangkok – despite the exit polls – is a clear message that the red shirt leaders were responsible for the intimidating tactics of mass protests which not only infringed on the rights of others but led to violence. These Thais voted for the Democrats in Bangkok because they do not want to see a repetition of the rioting of April 2009 and Ratchaprasong last year.”

Pichai ignores the fact that the Democrat Party lost seats in Bangkok, and that’s why he refers to exit polls rather than the 2007 result. The result in Bangkok showed that the Puea Thai message was strong and so they gained support in Bangkok.

Pichai points to the second battle cry for those opposed to the election result: “Pheu Thai cannot say that it has nothing to do with the red shirts. In the eyes of many they were – and now officially are, with the inclusion of key leaders on the Pheu Thai party list – one and the same.” In other words, opposition to the red shirts will continue. If this is sounding like the failed Democrat Party election strategy that’s because it is. Rejection by the electorate counts for nothing.

He blames the People’s Alliance for Democracy No vote campaign for “diluting support for the Democrats,” neglecting the fact that this vote was well down on 2007.

Like many in his circle, Pichai still adores Abhisit: “The decision by Khun Abhisit to step down as party leader and assume responsibility for the election result is the kind of gumption we expect of our political leaders, even though it is a pity to see such a political resource limited to the back benches.” Damned voters….

But, reluctantly, “The people have made a choice and that choice must be respected.” But that “respect” is tempered by the notion that the fight continues. The third battle cry is that the ballot is just one element of the ongoing fight. It is a setback, but, eventually, can be ignored as the fight by the high and mighty for control of “their Thailand” continues.





Using lese majeste to repress opposition

15 04 2011

Most reasonable observers – and here we must obviously exclude the U.S.’s State Department – would consider that the current political regime nominally led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the royalist Democrat Party has “achieved” more than any previous government in its use of lese majeste as a tool for political repression.

After all, this government has used lese majeste charges against more political opponents than any previous administration. It even eclipses the former rightist and royalist regime led by Privy Councilor Thanin Kraivixien.

But apparently this dubious record as one of the most politically repressive civilian regimes ever in Thailand is insufficient. The Bangkok Post reports that the regime has decided to use lese majeste even more vigorously.

As PPT has noted previously, this has a lot to do with the regime’s huge effort to prevent voters re-electing the party they hate, the Puea Thai Party. Part of this corrupt process must necessarily involve efforts to censor opposition media.

As a result, the “Internal Security Operations Command is taking a closer look at community radio stations and websites broadcasting and publishing content which could be deemed offensive to the monarchy.”

PPT expects nothing less from this royalist regime as it is desperate to stay in power.

The Post report states that “Isoc’s 6th Operation Centre, which has responsibility for promoting royal projects, has been instructed to strengthen monitoring work.” It is expected to coordinate with police.

And who is behind this? None other that Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also heads ISOC. Prayuth is clearly worried that the red shirt/Puea Thai Party opposition has a real chance of victory. And following the Army’s failure to adequately rig the election in 2007, Prayuth is taking no chances this time.

It is stated that: “Legal action has been taken against lese majeste offenders in several forms but Isoc can’t reveal the details…”. PPT understands that this includes processing older cases and seeking the arrest of those charged as long ago as 2008.

Responding to Thaksin Shinawatra’s call to stop using the monarchy for political purposes, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has upped the stakes, (again) accusing Thaksin of challenging the monarchy. He also attacked red shirt leaders.

Suthep “insisted yesterday that Jatuporn Prompan, a Puea Thai MP and red shirt leader, had made inappropriate remarks about the monarchy at a recent red shirt rally.”

The message is clear. The regime is using every weapon it has in its formidable arsenal. While lese majeste may seem a bit “mad dog” and potentially highly divisive, it is also a “last gasp” win-at-any-cost strategy, a bit like closing down the airports in 2008.

We believe that the royalists will not tolerate any election loss this time. If they believe they will lose, they may even stymie an election.





With a major update: Abhisit and election wrangling

6 03 2011

At MCOT News Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is reported as claiming that “certain ill-intentioned elements do not want a general election to be held in the country, which he wants organised later this year.” PPT wonders who he means? The army? Powerful sections of the elite who seem intent on maintaining PAD’s current mobilization?

Abhisit says that “certain groups … had tried to create chaos so that an election cannot be held, but he believed that the country must move forward and the election must be organised in order to let the people to decide the fate of the country.” Ah, yes, he must mean the military which went to war with Cambodia and PAD camped out near Government House.

From the Bangkok Post: A woman identified as workers’ activist Jittra Khotchadej, right, and another woman bear signs saying ‘‘Good only at talking’’ as PM Abhisit addresses Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

The report implies that his comments came after a single, lone, unidentified woman “displayed three placards condemning him” while he delivered a speech at Thammasat University.

Abhisit said he “understood that many people have tried to ‘write new history by twisting facts’ and it is his duty to clarify it in the parliament as his government had performed several projects which were obstructed by these ill-intentioned people and this was probably due to the upcoming general election.” Oh, got it. He means his coalition partners. But are they trying to rewrite history? The royalist elite are usually the ones doing that. And Abhisit’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the military and the Department of Special Investigation.

Best buddies?

Abhisit said “he would attempt to meet with Election Commission officials this week and ask them whether the agency is ready to organise an election after a constitutional amendment on the electoral system was made and whether the election could be held within the first half of this year.” A redundancy as the EC has already stated that they are ready. And the constitutional amendment already has royal approval (of course it does!).

We guess Abhisit really means red shirts, but there is no evidence they want to delay and election. In fact, there are many in the royalist elite, most notably in the military, who fear that an election may be botched yet again and the Puea Thai Party might again be the largest party in parliament, yet again defeating the royalist elite’s Democrat Party.

The military and other state forces were ruthlessly used to get the “right” outcome in 2007, but failed. They don’t want that to happen again. They have killed, repressed, jailed, poured money into the electorate, changed rules and so on, but they still fear the electoral power of Puea Thai and the red shirts.

Update: The Bangkok Post has more on this story, including the picture above. It claims that Abhisit’s growing desire for an election has to do with mounting pressure “against the government, particularly regarding the rising cost of living, falling rice prices and a hike in fuel prices.”

The premier wants to get “the opposition’s censure debate out of the way while trying to modify the outcome by “vetting” the opposition’s evidence in advance! Just one more example of fixing outcomes by this regime.

Related, Abhisit is about to pour more taxpayer funds into what the media is now comfortable labeling “populist measures.” How much more can they dole out? Plenty it seems

Abhisit will “chair a meeting of the National Rice Policy Committee to consider increasing the guaranteed rice price…”. He will meet the “Energy Policy Committee and other relevant agencies to discuss adjusting the amount of diesel price intervention required to ensure the State Oil Fund would have enough capital to cap the price of diesel below 30 baht a litre until the end of April, as promised by the government.” This is because the fund is about to run dry.Abhisit revealed that the

subsidy is costing the State Oil Fund 302 million baht a day and drained it of 9.02 billion since it began on Dec17. At this rate, the fund will have no money left for the subsidy in 23 days….

Abhisit may also be forced to “step up efforts to address the rising price of commodities…”.

Someone needs to do the additions to see how much and election victory is likely to cost the taxpayer in maintaining the rule of the royalist elite.

 





Trying to fix an election, part III

18 02 2011

Simon Roughneen in the Sydney Morning Herald joins those who think that there will be an election “before the end of June.” Both Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have spoken of such a possibility, with no commitment to a date.

Chris Baker

The article notes that this latest bit of election speculation came after “MPs voted to amend the electoral format, expanding the party list representation in parliament and moving the remaining constituency seats from a multi-seat to a single-seat format.” Roughneen cites well-known pundit Chris Baker who says that “the amended system could boost Mr Abhisit’s Democrats [he means the Democrat Party, for they are not democrats], the lead party in the governing coalition, but which has been comfortably beaten by pro-Thaksin [Shinawatra] parties in recent elections.” Baker adds that the premier’s party ”did much better last time on the party list than the territorial constituencies. Shifting seats from territorial to party list should favour them.”

PPT said similar things more than a month ago. We remain on the fence about an election date although we think the probability of an election increases as the Democrat Party and their backers get all of their pieces in order.

We have previously posted on how jailing opponents, engaging in massive censorship, killing protesters, being backed by the military, judiciary and palace, banning hundreds of politicians who would oppose the royalist regime or pose an electoral threat, and getting an already rigged constitution fixed (again) seems not enough for the Abhisit government that has now thrown billions of baht at voters.

With all of this in mind, readers should also look at the post at Bangkok Pundit regarding what PPT considers amounts to Thai-style gerrymandering.

PPT also wants to emphasize the article that BP cites, from The Nation. The panel selected and appointed by Abhisit and chaired by yellow-shirted academic and virulent Thaksin critic Sombat Thamrongthanyawong is said to be “poised to recommend the formation of a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) tasked with a major overhaul of the electoral system, transforming the way governments are formed.” And just guess which party is going to benefit enormously from the proposals so far leaked. Of course, it is the Democrat Party.

Sombat says that the military junta-backed 2007 constitution simply doesn’t cut the mustard and needs a “major rewrite … to improve on Thailand’s political institutions…”. We’re pretty sure this doesn’t involve the institution.

Getting the junta's constitution in place

It may seem strange that the military junta’s basic law doesn’t work for the Democrat Party as the party of the amart. The military worked exceptionally hard, in alliance with all kinds of yellow-shirted intellectuals and junta flunkies to get the constitution passed by a referendum, so it should be in the interests of the amart. It surely is, but the simple point is that this constitution, while rigged for the anti-Thaksin parties still saw them elected in 2007! Therefore it must be changed to prevent such an “anomaly” again.

Basically, the rules have to be changed to ensure a system that is heavily biased against pro-Thaksin, red shirt or populist parties.

So here are some of the draft recommendations from Abhisit’s panel led by Sombat:

The party with highest proportionate ballots, known as the party-list vote, should have first the chance to form a coalition government. As PPT has pointed out already, this is meant to reflect the fact that the Democrat Party did much better on the party list in 2007 than in the constituency seats. In other words, the proposal does away the notion of the party with the most seats getting first opportunity to form a government. By implication, this approach, in good yellow shirt fashion, effectively devalues votes in rural areas where pro-Thaksin parties have their strongholds, especially in the North, Northeast and Central regions.

The House should not have the mandate to censure the prime minister. PPT reckons this comes direct from Privy Council President and former unelected prime minister General Prem Tinsulanonda. We have no evidence for this claim, but recall that Prem refused through his many years to appear before parliament for a grilling. This would remove the capacity for proper scrutiny of government and for one of the more interesting interludes in parliament.

MPs should not be required to have party membership. This would take Thailand back to a period when horse-trading was the main means of building coalition governments and when buying and selling politicians was the norm. The idea of this proposal, again harking back to the Prem model of the 1980s, is to weaken political parties. By demanding coalition governments the outcome is weak government, strengthening the bureaucracy, military and the intrusive extra-parliamentary institutions of business, palace and judiciary.

PPT wonders just how many more fixes the Democrat Party requires before it could win an election?





Further updated: War? Coup?

10 02 2011

The Phnom Penh Post has a perspective on the “border clashes” that is a little different from that in the mainstream Bangkok media.

It seems that Hun Sen has “accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of war crimes, saying Cambodia has to prepare a ‘long-term’ strategy in its ‘struggle’ with Thailand. Speaking at Chaktomuk Theatre today, Hun Sen described the recent clashes as a ‘war’ necessitating the involvement of the United Nations Security Council.” He said: “This is a real war. It is not a clash…”.

Hun Sen declared: “Thailand is making this war, not Cambodia, and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must take responsibility for these war crimes…. The shelling at the temple and pagoda are one among the war crimes.” He added: “To struggle with Thailand is not one day, one year, [but] many years.”

Hun Sen reaffirmed earlier Cambodian government claims that Thailand deployed cluster bombs during the skirmishes: “They launched a cluster bomb. Is that a clash? This is the real war, it exchanged many heavy artillery…”. Related, the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Centre “released photos today of cluster munitions allegedly discovered in Kantuot commune, in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district.”

The report states that the Thai military has denied the use of cluster bombs in this conflict and cites an authority as having “cautioned against taking reports from the Cambodian government on the issue at face value.”

The report adds that “Thailand is known to hold stockpiles of cluster munitions, according to the advocacy group Cluster Munitions Coalition, which said last year that Bangkok had pledged that it would not use the weapons but had declined to sign the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions outlawing their use.” Cambodia isn’t a signatory either and it is unclear if it has a stockpile of such weapons.

Thai army denials on the cluster bomb allegations are here, where Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd says it was the Cambodians who used cluster bombs. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban says the events are not war but border clashes between militaries. He also reiterated that the Thai government views any attempt at international mediation as “a Cambodian diplomatic strategy.” Eventually, it will be asked why Thailand is so resistant to any international mediation.

Update 1: The LA Times has a useful account of events at Preah Vihear.

Update 2: Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times Online states:

Despite the international dimension, the conflict is being driven largely by Thai domestic politics. Because Abhisit did not give the order to open fire, some see the armed exchanges and immediate breakdown of a ceasefire declared on Saturday as yet another indication that he lacks command control over the military. The hostilities and protests come at a time some believe Thailand’s top military brass seek a national security-related pretense to stall Abhisit’s early election plan….

Under those pressures, the once coherent storylines that have defined Thailand’s six-year-old political conflict are fast fragmenting as establishment forces once united against Thaksin [Shinawatra] now compete to steer the country’s future political direction….

[S]ome have speculated that the military has swung back towards the PAD with the transition from outgoing army commander General Anupong [Paojinda] to new chief Prayuth [Chan-ocha] as a way to pressure Abhisit out of his early election plan. With the reappearance of the PAD on Bangkok’s streets, this time as ultra-nationalists in defense of Thai territory, local newspapers have been awash in unexplained coup rumors. (T-shirts for sale at the PAD’s protest advertise for a “civil-military coup”.)

Abhisit has already backed away from the April “promise.” Crispin continues:

An election win would lessen Abhisit’s reliance on the military, which many believe cobbled together his coalitions, and quiet opposition charges that his administration lacks democratic legitimacy because his party placed second, not first, at the 2007 polls. Until then, however, expect more bombshells on the border and rally cries from the streets.