Updated: The local elections ploy

13 11 2017

The six questions ploy was used a couple of days ago. Described in the Bangkok Post as one question from General Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Is everybody all right with my staying around as leader indefinitely to keep politicians in their proper place, by which I mean under our boots?”, the questions caused angst among those who want elections.

To assuage that angst, junta member and anti-democrat legal sage to the military junta Wissanu Krea-ngam suddenly said that there might be local elections and that this might see the ban on political party activities lifted.

The junta got rid of local elections when it had its coup in 2014. Occasionally it has raised hopes that these might return, saying local elections should be held before a national “election.” Nothing came of this because, at base, the junta wants no elections it can’t be sure of controlling. Despite the militarization of local government, the junta still can’t be certain that it can ensure its people win local elections. So it hasn’t done anything about them.

So Wissanu’s sudden claim lasted less than 48 hours. Even he was only talking about elections in some places where the junta reckoned it has a constituency, like Bangkok.

Then Puppet National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chair Phirasak Phochit threw his spanner in the works and explained that local elections required that “investigations” into “local officials who have been suspended over allegations of graft before planned local elections are held.”

The involves “a large number of officials” who, since the coup, officials, “working for provincial administration organisations (PAOs) and tambon administration organisations (TAOs), have been suspended or transferred to inactive posts after the government launched a serious crackdown on corruption in state agencies.”

They haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, but The Dictator used Article 44 to purge these administrations. Most of those purged were considered supportive of political opponents of the junta, red shirts or Thaksin Shinawatra fans.

Further scuttling the elections notion, puppet Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman Chartchai Na Chiang Mai had a spanner to throw too, and said a swathe of laws “relating to regional governing bodies need to be amended before local elections can take place…”.

He implied that “if early local polls are to be held, it is essential to amend the five laws to ensure compliance with the new constitution’s provisions covering local administration organisations,” which probably means that the laws for the national “election” would then be delayed (again), despite assurances to the contrary.

After the local election laws were amended, they would then go to the tiresomely slow NLA. Chartchai said the NLA “must race against time if the government wants to pave the way for local elections…”. The NLA members do not race on anything except to collect salaries and allowances.

Another glitch, not yet mentioned is the lack of an Election Commission.

We are not holding our breath on any “election” soon, at any level.

Update: The almost non-existent (anti) Election Commission has decided that it must “ask the Constitutional Court to rule if it is responsible for organising local elections.” What a sham this ridiculous institution is, even in “caretaker” mode. The EC doen’t know what is does. The “laws” under the junta have apparently confused it:

EC [caretaker] chairman Supachai Somcharoen said while the charter requires the EC to hold local elections, the organic law governing the agency says its role is to oversee and ensure the local polls are clean and fair.

It seems the EC hadn’t even thought of local elections until the junta murmured something about them.





Assessing the king after the funeral

11 11 2017

In an article we should have commented on earlier, authors at Foreign Policy look at the monarchy’s future.

Like many of the accounts following the dead king’s funeral, there’s a ridiculous glorification of the deceased king in order to show the new king in a poor light. This devise is unnecessary and devoid of any serious analysis of the past reign.

Yet this report does gently point at some of the “missing” details in the official discourse of the “good” and “great” king:

The king’s good deeds abounded: talking to the poor, directing countryside renewals, instructing students. Not pictured were his political interventions, occasionally on behalf of the military, sometimes keeping a fragile democracy afloat. By the time of the 2014 seizure of power by the current ruling junta, he had been far too frail to act.

While this position on the king’s interventions is common, it is not necessarily true. The two events usually said to reflect “keeping a fragile democracy afloat” are October 1973 and May 1992. Neither fits the bill.

In 1973, there was no democracy to keep afloat and with the military splitting and with murderous attacks on students, the king moved to restore “stability.” His support for the new democracy drained away quickly when he couldn’t get his way. The October 1976 massacre followed, perpetrated by enraged royalists and the military, a part of a coup.

In 1992, there was no democracy to protect or sustain. That’s why there was an uprising. People rose against the military junta’s efforts to maintain their power following the 1991 coup and appointing the junta leader premier. Is The Dictator listening? The king’s intervention was late, after it was clear the military could not restore “stability” and had murdered scores of protesters.

It is interesting to read this:

Along the urn’s procession route, a row of truncheon-wielding police blocked the way to the 1932 Democracy Monument. Their presence was noticeably heavier than at any point along the route, perhaps cautious of the possibility for protest gestures at a site that had been a locus for political uprisings since the 1970s.

That area was central to both the events of 1973 and 1992 and the military knows that history of anti-military dictatorship and seeks to suppress those memories.

Interesting too is the response of devout royalists to questions:

But when we asked about what, exactly, the king had done for them, there was a moment of puzzlement, and then the same answers every time: “Well, there were the visits to the countryside and the ‘sufficiency economy.’”

The authors are right to note that:

The king’s countryside trips were part of a 1960s and 1970s anti-communist campaign, dating from well before these kids were born, the concept of the “sufficiency economy” another 1970s buzzword dragged back up in 1997 to remind Thais to be happy with their lot, even amid the financial crisis.

The sufficiency stuff was recycled from E.F. Schumacher and stripped of any progressive content.

Yet, as the authors note, these events and notions have been made royal lore and have been so nauseatingly repeated that they become “truisms.”

The report is also commended for noting that there were many Thais who tried to ignore the funeral, its militarization and all of its repetitions of propaganda.

Turning to Vajiralongkorn, the story notes that on the evening of the cremation:

… the mood soured. Following the symbolic cremation at 6 p.m., the real event was supposed to take place at 10 p.m. — broadcast live as everything else had been. Just beforehand, though, the feed was suddenly cut, and journalists were ushered out of the press center. The crowd was disappointed and unhappy; rumors spread that the decision had been made by the current king, the 65-year-old Maha Vajiralongkorn, who had attended the cremation accompanied by both his ex-wife and his mistress. The cremation remained unbroadcast, with the palace putting out the story that it had been decided it was a “private event.”

Privately, however, some saw it as an act of spite by the new king against his father….

The story then runs through the usual bad and odd deed associated with Vajiralongkorn, well known to all readers of PPT, and his protection under the lese majeste law.

In concluding, the article muses on the future:

The role of the new king is still uncertain. His coronation has been delayed until an unspecified future date, although he has already taken on monarchical duties.

The king is indeed still defining his role, scheming, sacking, disgracing and having the junta do his bidding. In fact, though, delaying coronation is not at all unusual, in Thailand or elsewhere. The article continues:

Although he backed the authoritarian new constitution imposed by the generals, his relationship with the military reportedly is not that close. With most of his time in recent decades spent out of the country, he hasn’t built up the close rapport with particular units that older royals did, despite his own air force training. Practical power will remain in the junta — and the symbolic power of the monarchy may have drained away with the old king.

While we agree with the view that “practical power” will remain with the military, we are not convinced by the idea that the king and military are not close, whatever that might mean. The claim that he has not built a “rapport” might be true, but he has built a relationship and he has allies. After all, as prince, he was associated with, first, the Army, and then with the Air Force. That relationship has been consistent over five decades.

The story then wonders about image:

Looking at the image of Vajiralongkorn, with his mouth seemingly always open in a mildly idiotic gawp, it seems hard to imagine a new [public] faith taking hold.

We are not so sure that the image will matter all that much. Coming to the throne when there’s a military dictatorship means the new king has the kind of “stability” his father always promoted. He seems content not to fill his father’s shoes and seems to favor repression and fear as much as he craves power and wealth.





Waking up to military dictatorship

10 11 2017

Thailand has been a military dictatorship since May 2014. If The Dictator has his way, the military and the current junta will be in power, directly or through proxies and clones, for another 16 years.

It needs to be recalled that this has happened before. Following the massacre of students at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976, promoted and conducted by military and monarchists, a military junta agreed to appoint palace favorite Thanin Kraivixien as prime minister. That rightist premier, selected and promoted by the king, declared that “reform” would require 12 years.

Thanin wasn’t around for long, being thrown out by military boss General Kriangsak Chomanan, who himself was pushed aside by another general and palace favorite, Prem Tinsulanonda. He remained unelected premier until 1988. That’s 12 years.

So we should believe that the current arrogant leaders and their allies think 20 years is possible.

It seems that there is a gradual awakening to these plans, even though they have, in our view, been obvious for years.

For example, a Bangkok Post editorial gets testy with The Dictator:

Praising oneself while discrediting others is a classic campaign tactic employed by most politicians ahead of general elections. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha seemed to be doing just that, behaving like a career politician, when he posed six much-criticised questions to the Thai public on Wednesday.

PPT has noted The Dictator’s campaigning throughout 2017.

The Post recognizes that The Dictator’s six “questions are also seen as an attempt to test the waters before deciding or revealing whether he will enter politics.”

In fact, he’s already entered politics, and well before the 2014 military coup. We well recall that he campaigned against Yingluck Shinawatra and the Peua Thai Party during the 2011 election. He began contemplating a coup against her elected government from even before that election victory.

The Post also recognizes that the junta “has set new rules on politics and has kept a firm grip on all state power…”.And it will do so for years after any “election” conducted under the junta’s rules, set by the illegitimate 2017 constitution. As the Post states:

In fact, the regime’s desire to cling on to the power it seized from the last elected government is demonstrated by certain rules specified in the constitution it sponsored.

The Post editorial continues: “Whatever plan he may be secretly hatching, it is illegitimate as long as he continues to be the rule-maker.”

This is correct, but the power-hungry generals aren’t about to do that. They have repeatedly stated that the time is not right, citing “fears” of political chaos.

The Post further observes:

The prospect of Gen Prayut as premier running the administrative branch for another four-year term while having the Senate, as a supposed checks-and-balance mechanism, on his side, is not a good thing for a democratic country.

But that’s exactly what Prem did. And, we think, that’s been the plan from the beginning.





The Dictator and his political plans

8 11 2017

As we have long been saying, The Dictator has ambitious plans to remain in power for a very long time. Running a coup was one blunt strategy. Delaying the junta’s “elections” has been another.

In recent days, we have heard about the possibility of a military political party and there’s been a lot of discussion of a cabinet reshuffle that might see some “civilianization” of the cabinet (but not the junta, which, by definition, is a military junta).

We are not sure that a reshuffle matters for political power as cabinet is a processing terminal for junta decisions. Perhaps there could be some push back to junta if there were more civilians in cabinet, but we doubt that the junta’s will would be overturned.

In any case, The Dictator makes it clear why he’s considering a reshuffle:

Prayut said the reshuffle will match the government’s ongoing work on its 20-year national strategy and national reform, which are expected to be turned into action after the next election [whenever that is].

When asked more about the reshuffle, the ever peevish General Prayuth Chan-ocha yabbered:

“I don’t understand why some people dislike soldiers,” he said, asking reporters who, if not the military, had salvaged Thailand from its political stalemate resulting from a conflict between anti-government and the previous Yingluck Shinawatra administration.

This is Prayuth apparently believing his own propaganda. At the time of the coup, the only ones calling for the military’s intervention were rabid royalists and the anti-democrats who were protesting. Instead of trashing the constitution and throwing out the elected government and banning elections, a constitutional military would have done its duty, not mutinied. But that is the history of Thailand’s military: it is a murderous, lawless force that crave political power.

That last sentence kind of responds to The Dictator’s first lack of understanding.





A lawless and lying junta

11 10 2017

PPT has been busy posting about other things – the absurdity of lese majeste, junta political gymnastics – and so we neglected to mention an important op-ed by Umesh Pandey is Editor of the Bangkok Post. Earlier we posted on another commentary by Umesh on the basis of the junta’s rule in illegality and lies.

This op-ed may be seen as somewhat dated, given recent “changes” (see below), but we think his comments deserve consideration for the broader points made about what defines the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Umesh’s latest commentary begins thus: “Bending the law and going back on words seems to have become the norm ever since the coup that ousted the elected government in 2014.”

In other words, the regime is built on lies and the manipulation of law.

The Post’s editor is particularly upset that The Dictator told US President Trump that there would be “free and fair elections in 2018,” only to renege. (We actually think that General Prayuth and his team of flunkies simply didn’t comprehend the statement they signed. They are not all that intelligent.)

Umesh also worries that the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee, led by serial constitution buster and military minion Meechai Ruchupan, “is defending delays in polls is something that should go down in history books as being one of its kind in the world.” He comments that the CDC “is a body that supposedly comprises some of the smartest people, who are supposed to look at the country’s future and its long-term well-being, and they are protecting the never-ending delays that this military regime is trying to undertake.”

Smartest? Really? As far as we can tell from their record, the CDC is composed of puppets with no more intelligence than their wooden counterparts.

And, this is certainly not the first time that the CDC has supported the junta’s delays. In fact, we have lost count. But this is nothing other than a collection of puppets with the junta pulling all the strings.

Umesh observes that:

The regime’s initial promise to hold elections was within a year of the coup, so 2015, then it turned out to be 2016, then 2017 and finally Gen Prayut announced at the United Nations that it would be 2018.

Then it was 2019, although in recent days The Dictator has changed this back to 2018 (maybe). We still don’t know why Prayuth back-flipped.

Umesh continues:

While democracy is being kicked around a football, the players are gradually being red-carded one after another. The latest headlines in yesterday’s papers suggest that there is an all-out effort to go for the final kill.

After having prosecuted the Pheu Thai and its predecessor parties for the past decade, efforts are being made to charge its backer, Thaksin [Shinawatra], with the feared Section 112. Newly appointed Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwongs said 112 can be applied for video footage in which Thaksin reportedly blamed members of the Privy Council for the May 22, 2014 coup that ousted Pheu Thai government.

Of course, no election held under the junta’s rules will be “free” or “fair” or “democratic.”

Bravely, Umesh ponders the lese majeste law: “As far as most of the population of this country is aware, the lese majeste law clearly states that it applies to only members of the royal family.”

Well, sort of, apart from the cases related to Princess Sirindhorn, royal pets, dead kings, historical figures and mythical queens. But we get the point.

He asks:

So, what is the section of the 112 law that the attorney-general is going to use to prosecute Thaksin? Or is it the case that this law was changed over the course of time and people are not aware of it?

In fact, lese majeste is used however the junta (and palace) wants it to be used. There’s no rule of law in Thailand, just rule by junta.





Thaksin denies lese majeste

10 10 2017

Lese majeste has become the military dictatorship’s weapon of political choice in attacking opponents. Because it has to do with monarchy, yellow shirts immediately jump on board and support the junta, no matter how absurd the allegations and charges (historical myths and events, the dead king’s dead dog, use against a juvenile, etc.). When this political charge is used against Thaksin Shinawatra, the gleefulness of junta and royalist supporters is palpable.

So when the military dictatorship reactivated a lese majeste accusation against Thaksin (one of many such charges and allegations), the yellow-hued royalists again clapped and cheered the military regime.

In this instance, Thaksin has responded.

Thaksin denied “that he has ever defamed the royal family and threatened to sue anyone who accuses him of the crime.” He took to Twitter to state that he was “emotionally troubled” by reports that “the new attorney general had vowed to prosecute him for the crime.”

He condemned the use of lese majeste against him and declared that he “will take all legal action against those who continue implicate him, regardless of whether he knew the person. He did not name names.”

The newly appointed attorney general Khemchai Chutiwong wants to prosecute Thaksin for a “crime” of stating, quite reasonably, of the 2014 military coup, that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Of course, as in many cases of lese majeste, this statement cannot possibly be lese majeste if any sane person reads Article 112. But like many of his ilk, Khemchai is insane when it comes to Thaksin and sees no problem in contorting an already absurd law to the political purpose of the anti-Thaksin coteries of royalists, coup-makers and anti-democrats.





Anti-Thaksinism, extradition and lese majeste

8 10 2017

The military junta continues to give the impression that it is really, really serious about “capturing” Yingluck Shinawatra. We don’t quite know why they do this. On the one hand, if Yingluck did simply stroll out of Thailand and into exile, the junta’s security operations are shown to be utterly hopeless. On the other hand, if the junta was part of a “deal” with Yingluck, then the junta has to show the yellowed anti-democrats that it really was incompetent – or at least those nasty and reddish police were conniving with her and duped the bosses in the junta.

The junta gives the impression that it is struggling to maintain its anti-democratic alliances and there are rumors of internal dissension, although such claims have been constant since the 2014 coup.

Whatever the cause of its actions, the military junta now claims to want to extradite Yingluck “regardless of whether she seeks or is granted asylum in the UK as some media have reported…”. They say that when the find her, they will spring into action. The current line is that she can’t get asylum anywhere because the junta didn’t take her to court on any political charge, so she’s not a political exile. When it comes to shoveling excrement, those associated with the justice system seem especially skilled.

Much of this is in line with The Dictator’s political campaigning, where he believes and hopes that all those who voted for “that woman” will see the light and realize that he’s good while all those Shinawatra and associated politicians and evil fugitives and criminals.

Beyond Yingluck, the junta and its justice system lackeys have, according to a Bangkok Post report, “public prosecutors have decided to indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on a lese majeste charge and vowed to revive pending criminal cases against him under a new organic law that allows for the trials of fugitive politicians to be held in absentia.”

Brand new Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwong is taking the running on these actions. Khemchai is a loyal anti-democrat and a puppet-servant of the military dictatorship, having been rewarded with positions on the National Reform Council and state enterprise boards. He is one of those who thinks apply laws retrospectively is fine and dandy when going after political opponents.

The move against Thaksin years after the case was first made in May 2015, following an interview in South Korea on which PPT has a full report. Thaksin commented on the links between military and privy council in orchestrating the 2014 military coup. He stated that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Khemchai declared that on the various cases against Thaksin, “the next step would be for state prosecutors to request the TCSC issue a warrant for Thaksin’s arrest. Extradition proceedings will be launched if his whereabouts can be confirmed…”.