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.





An illegitimate constitution

8 11 2017

In a nasty reminder that the 2017 constitution was born of the military junta and is its construction of the political and legal rules, Wichan Phuwihan was sentenced by the Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Court to six months in prison and a 30,000 baht fine for having “attempted to dissuade people from voting in the referendum on the junta-sponsored constitution.”

Because Wichan cooperated with court, police and prosecutors was during the trial, his sentence was reduced by one third and his jail term suspended for two years.

Wichan “was charged with violating the controversial Article 61 of the Referendum Act for shouting to passers-by at a market on 26 July 2016, telling them not to turn up for the public referendum on the 2017 Constitution.”

The Article essentially prevented anyone from campaigning against the junta’s draft constitution in the referendum. The junta and military controlled the referendum process in order to get a Yes vote, and thus claim legitimacy for its political rules.

Of course, the whole process was a farce and the constitution is illegitimate.





1932 plaque back in the news

11 10 2017

Prachatai reports that the Puea Thai Party’s Watana Muangsook has been “accused of sedition for posting on Facebook about the missing 1932 Revolution Plaque…”.

That plaque “mysteriously” disappeared around the time that the military dictatorship’s “constitution” was promulgated by the king.

That was no coincidence. No one ever investigated the disappearance, suggesting that the authorities were the vandals and thieves or that they knew who was responsible for an act meant to further erase 1932 from Thailand’s collective memory.

Watana has said he will fight the sedition charge. On Monday he appeared for a deposition hearing that also includes a charge under the Computer Crimes Act.

The report states that the “Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) accused him of posting false information on the internet in claiming that the 1932 Revolution plaque is a ‘national asset’ in order to call for people to demand its return, adding that the post might also incite chaos.”

This is a very large pile of buffalo manure, but the regime’s exaggerated response suggests that it is protecting a very powerful thief.





Prayuth’s plans

26 09 2017

The Dictator has been on the political campaign trail. He’s been populist, localist, globalist and talkative. It is clear that he’s planning for a long-term political career and plenty of flunkies are polishing his political posterior.

Most of the military regime has been reluctant to fly General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s political flag, worrying about negative reactions to the junta that may open a door for those evil (formerly elected) politicians to rattle the junta’s cage. Every now and again The Dictator denies ambitions and says his junta is “temporary.”

That reluctance seems to be wearing off as the political campaigning has deepened and as The Dictator comes to the view that he might just be able to pull off the transition from military commander to junta leader, to dictator and PM, and finally to constitutional premier (of course, the constitution has been doctored by The Dictator and his hirelings).

Most recently, Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan has been quoted as declaring that: “If he [Prayuth] wants to remain in politics, he must apply to stand in the election…”.

This is interesting for admitting that The Dictator might stay on but is wrong on other counts. First, if Prawit means the next election – whenever the junta decides to allow it, under its rules and influence – we understand that the 2017 constitution requires resignation from the junta within three months of the promulgation of the constitution, and that time limit has long passed (sections 263 and 264). Second, to overcome this, Prayuth can be selected as premier under the terms of the constitution. That seems to be his preferred path and it remans to be seen if he will establish a party to promote his “special” candidature.

We can imagine a pro-military party campaigning, declaring a vote for it is a vote for The Dictator to continue as premier.

 

 





Ousting Yingluck and Prayuth’s campaigning

21 09 2017

At the Asia Times Online, Shawn Crispin says that Yingluck Shinawatra’s flight – yes, we know, it still isn’t confirmed – has been good for The Dictator and his regime. Crispin says:

[General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s proponents view Yingluck’s impromptu departure as a third big recent win for the authoritarian leader, following last August’s resounding passage by referendum of a military-drafted constitution that solidified a future political role for the armed forces and his perceived as smooth management of the royal succession after … King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death last October.

He adds:

Whether Yingluck’s flight has put the country more firmly on a path to new elections, long promised by Prayuth’s junta, is less certain. While junta representatives tell foreign envoys and business representatives the country is on a track back to democracy [he means a junta-controlled election], Prayuth continues to question the wisdom of holding polls that return to power the same corrupt elected politicians he overthrew in a coup.

On Yingluck’s case and “justice,” Crispin states:

An eventual guilty verdict against Yingluck is a foregone conclusion. According to one well-placed diplomat with access to the Shinawatra family, senior junta members were in contact with Thaksin as early as May advising that the court would rule against Yingluck – a verdict that carries a possible ten-year prison sentence – and that his clan should begin to make arrangements for her departure into exile.

He seems to be suggesting that the junta may have forced her to leave for exile. And, he adds: “Some analysts and diplomats believe the royal palace may have signaled for the junta to allow for Yingluck’s unmolested passage into exile to avoid instability…”.

The broader claim is that the military junta has essentially won. There’s no hint of royal discontent with the junta or of factionalism within the military and/or junta. Yet some social media commentary sees General Anupong Paojinda under unusual pressure – we mentioned this a couple of days ago.

Certainly, Prayuth campaigning is going at full tilt. Whether this is a sign of weakness (ie., the junta is split or splitting) or a sign that the splits are a myth and the junta is forging ahead, the calls from anti-democrats like Anek Laothamatas for a “national government” suggest that there is still concern that all the “work” done does not guarantee a Thaksin-free “election” outcome.

A “national government” would have General Prayuth as premier well into the future. This prospect has seen jellyfish politicians lining up to support continuing military Guided Democracy/Thai-style democracy.

A national government under The Dictator

The Nation reports that The Dictator, Thaksinizing his campaigning in rural areas of Suphanburi and Ayutthaya, has been promising all kinds of benefits and handouts to farmers if they support him and his dictatorship.

The two-day trip by Prayuth and his junta and a couple of civilian toadies was a massive PR exercise promoting military government.

Prayuth again warned potential voters to only “elect” those he considered the right people.

More significantly, The Dictator met with the owners of parasite political parties. In this case it was the Chart Thai Pattana Party, owned by the Silpa-archa family. They have created a franchise of gravel haulers and dumpers that can only politically prosper when attached to a dictator or a larger party or coalition of parties.

Prapat Pothasuthon polished Prayuth’s already shiny posterior: “I would only ask the government to distribute some of the budget from high-speed railway projects to help farmers. As long as people’s wellbeing is sustained, you can stay for another eight or 10 years and I won’t blame you for anything.”

Warawut Silpa-archa lapped at Prayuth’s boots: “The election will be decided by you. We’ll just wait to play by rules.”

This concocted meeting with politicians has been used to further Prayuth’s ambitions for ongoing political control. The Bangkok Post reports: that The Dictator is picking off the little parties, presumably to create a military party/national government.

Prayuth explained “democracy”:

We are making Thailand a democratic country, and special means are needed to achieve that goal. If we use normal means, is it really possible? I am well aware that the method to reach the goal is not democratic, but the problem needs to be fixed in this way….

Keeping the pressure on the Shinawatras and their supporters, The Dictator “warned Ayutthaya residents not to become pawns of some political groups encouraging them to gather in the capital.” He seems worried that they may disrupt the dead king’s funeral:

You can go to Bangkok to pay respect to the late King, but if you are going for other purposes or if anybody tries to persuade you to go, don’t go. Please stop it, in every province….

His persistent talk of threats permits deepening militarization and suppression, which makes the “election” a foregone conclusion.





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.





Junta repression deepens VI

22 08 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship seems to be in a panic. As we recently posted, some of this seems to be caused by Yingluck Shinawatra’s upcoming verdict. But there’s more going on.

The Criminal Court has “sentenced Watana Muangsook, a key Pheu Thai Party figure and former commerce minister, to one month in prison, suspended for one year, and fined him 500 baht for contempt of court after broadcasting via Facebook Live at the court.” He was also ordered to “delete the clip from his Facebook page.”

The report at the Bangkok Post states that the “sentence was handed down while he was waiting for the court’s decision on whether to detain him on charges of inciting public chaos, breaching Section 116 of the Criminal Code.” It adds that that “charge is in connection with a case involving the removal of a memorial plaque commemorating the 1932 Siamese Revolution.”

A charge related to the plaque is quite bizarre given that the state has not acknowledged that the plaque was stolen or officially removed. Yet complaining about this historical vandalism is considered sedition. That the removal coincided with the royalist ceremonies associated with the junta’s faux constitution is evidence of official efforts to blot out anything not royalist or military in political life and memory.

Watana points out that:

…[T]he Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on Monday submitted a request to detain the politician from Aug 21-Sept 1. Mr Watana was awaiting the ruling on that matter when he started filming in the court.

Earlier at the police station, Mr Watana acknowledged the charge of importing false information into a computer system in violation of the Computer Crime Act after he posted content relating to the plaque’s replacement on his Facebook page.

He was temporarily released on 200,000-baht bail for both charges.

He said it was not common for TCSD investigators to summon someone again after the person has already acknowledged the charges again him.

Mr Watana also said the detention request is intended to hinder him from giving moral support to former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the Supreme Court this Friday.

Then there are those academics and others who attended and organized the International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University. They have reported to police and been fingerprinted while denying charges brought against them.

Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University, met Chang Phuak police with Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai and Thiramon Bua-ngam after the summons had been issued for them on Aug 11, almost a month after the four-day 13th International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University ended on July 18.

They face charges of assembling of more than four for political activities, which is prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order.

As with the fit-ups of Pravit Rojanaphruk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa, Chayan is being fitted up. He had nothing much to do with those protesting the military’s surveillance of conference attendees. The other four are also being fitted up as there were others who held the signs and appeared in photos, and these persons have not been summoned by the police.