1932 will be erased

16 06 2017

Remember that plaque, commemorating the 1932 Revolution that, for the first time, reduced the absolute power of the monarchy? It was either stolen or semi-officially removed (in secret) at about the time that the junta and the king came up with the idea of making the junta’s constitution a royal constitution by proclaiming it in a royal ceremony on Chakkri Day.

The two events appear related, which seems appropriate as the removal of the plaque was a symbolic rejection of constitutionalism as law and people’s sovereignty and the junta’s constitution similarly rejects those principles.

With the anniversary of the 1932 Revolution coming up on 24 June, activists were planning to mark that event, as they had previously, at the site of the (now missing) plaque.

In anticipation, the police have “warned democracy activists … that they will be arrested if they gather to mark the upcoming anniversary of the revolution that ended absolute monarchy, a historical moment that has taken on renewed significance.”

In particular, police said “they would not tolerate any attempt to gather at spot on this year’s anniversary…”.

The police, who are remarkably dull and mainly focused on managing their own corrupt incomes, are probably acting at the direction of the junta.

One of their spokesmen “explained” the “thinking” behind the ban: “This year we will not allow activists to come to lay flowers at the Royal Plaza because this is palace ground and it violates the NCPO (junta) order banning gatherings for political purposes…”.

That is a perfect illustration of how the monarchy and military have been intertwined in opposing electoral democracy and popular sovereignty. It is a statement that acknowledges the rollback of politics to a royalist authoritarianism that seeks to establish a royalist political system that is anti-democratic.





Monopolizing the premiership

4 06 2017

A week ago we posted briefly on The Dictator’s “questions.” The point of our post was to note that political parties were panicked that General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cronies were likely to stay on longer and longer.

We commented that members of the political parties in calling for an “election” were neglecting that any “election,” they throw their support behind the junta’s constitution, its rules and its “election.” Our view was that they had been driven into a junta cul-de-sac from which they will find it difficult to break out once they have accepted the junta’s rules, procedures and illegitimate constitution.

The junta is continuing its campaign. The Bangkok Post reports that a campaign is underway to promote The Dictator and his (faux) questions.

His former boss in the army, General Anupong Paojinda, now Interior Minister, has been looking at a nationwide “campaign” so that “people can in two weeks’ time write their responses to four questions about future elections and governance posed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week to educate the public and help foster democracy.”

The Interior Ministry will control the propaganda exercise, using its minions fro governors to village heads, and ensuring that anyone providing a response is identified, presumably to prevent any dissent.

Gen Anupong also said “he trusted no state officials would distort the people’s answers during the opinion-gathering process.” He claimed, “There’s no reason to do such a thing…”.

Of course, these officials know who provides their rice, so they are likely to ensure a particular outcome, keep activists away and will keep The Dictator happy.

Prayuth has said that “the questions were designed to get people to think about the consequences of voting for the wrong candidates.” He’s done this before, when he told voters who they should and should not vote for in the 2011 election.

We have to admit that we don’t think there will be an election any time soon. Prayuth looks set to stay on and these ploys play into his dictatorial hands.





The Dictator’s questions

28 05 2017

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, seems to have thrown the existing political parties into something of a tizzy. On television, he asked four questions.

The Nation has these as:

1. Do you think the next election will get us a government with good governance?

2. If that is not the case, what will you do?

3. Elections are an integral part of democracy but are elections alone with no regard for the country’s future and others right or wrong?

4. Do you think bad politicians should be given a chance to come back, and if conflict re-emerges, who will solve it and by what means?

Interestingly, the parties have decided that Prayuth is suggesting that he and his junta will stay on. Frankly, what’s surprising is that they are reported as only “suspecting” this. We are sure that they have recognized the junta’s plans for longevity long ago.

Yet it also seems that Prayuth may be outwitting the political parties.

The parties desperately want an election. Any election. It is their bread-and-butter and they can only survive if they have positions, policies and supporters. Prayuth and his junta, even those in other factions, only want the election where the outcome is known and in their favor. They prefer no election until they can “manage” the right(ist) outcome.

Hence, when members of the political parties doubt an election is coming, they throw their support behind the constitution and an election. In other words, the junta’s constitution, its rules and its “election.”

They have been driven into a junta cul-de-sac from which they will find it difficult to break out once they have accepted the junta’s rules, procedures and illegitimate constitution.

That will also suit the king and the junta should the junta ever decide that the time for their election victory is upon them.





Further updated: Bombs, “elections” and anti-democrats

27 05 2017

No diehard anti-democrat wants the military junta to hold an “election,” even one that is fixed in a way that allows the military to continue to control politics for years to come.

At the Bangkok Post, Surasak Glahan admits to being

mystified by [anti-democrat] Suthep Thaugsuban’s plea last week for Prime Minister and NCPO [junta] head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to keep the top job for five more years without the need for elections. He must have drunk himself in oblivion, I thought, as critics and even some supporters of the regime started to voice their rebukes over its failure to deliver in key areas, from the economy to so-called national reform, security to happiness-making, as the NCPO marked its third anniversary on Monday.

But then, when trying to wear the hat of either the military or one of its No.1 cheerleaders like Mr Suthep, who led street protests in 2013-2014 that gave the pretext for the coup, I began to realise that the NCPO has delivered numerous achievements.

He goes on to list these “achievements”:

… there has been drastic political reform. A new constitution was drafted by accidental hero jurists, appointed by the military, and smoothly passed in the [rigged] referendum last year.

The new charter will entrench the military power for at least five more years, allowing it to select 250 senators who will be much more powerful than their predecessors.

Decentralisation has been compromised. Elections of local administrators have been frozen.

The charter and several NCPO orders have lurched Thailand backward into a political system applied four decades ago…. If you are nostalgic about the past, now it is your chance to live it.

… military-appointed lawmakers … know best what needs to be drafted to govern the ways we live without having to consult us or seek the nod from our representatives. Notably, they have invented and revised laws to save us from cyber crimes and other security threats. We just have to sacrifice our privacy and risk being branded as criminals.

The most outstanding … victory was its ability to successfully remove all the hurdles put up against the 36-billion-baht submarine procurement plans by previous elected governments.

The list is long and I have to stop here before feeling suffocated.

You get the picture. More and more military rule and political repression.

The prospect of the military staying in power for years also means that military factionalism is assured. Military factionalism is probably linked to recent bombings.

Yet the military is blaming others. So are the anti-democrats who see the bombing as an opportunity to extend military rule. For the military and the anti-democrats, as allied groups, the “natural” enemy is anyone considered Thaksin Shinawatra-related.

So Ko Tee or Wuthipong Kachathamakul is named. Naturally enough, he denies it and he “condemned those who were involved in the hospital explosion.” He adds that he “would have bombed Government House, not a hospital…”. His view is that the culprits are in the military.

That said, Ko Tee sought another opportunity to anger the bears in green, poking them with a claim that “he is mobilising resistance against the government.” He says these are “civilian warriors” training in the jungle. But, he says, his group is small and not yet ready to attack the “bandits [junta] out of the country…”.

**The other supposedly anti-regime “suspects” are a couple of former generals in their 70s and 80s, associated with Thaksin.

**Neither General Prayuth nor General Prawit Wongsuwan seem to have been particularly to be involved in cabinet discussions and considerations of the bombing. Indeed, that both have been away from Bangkok speaks louder than words.

Bombs might be about army factionalism yet the general interest of the anti-democrats and military is retained: no elections.

Update 1: We managed to garble a sentence or two and have rewritten and marked this with **.

Update 2: PPT was struck by a single line in an op-ed by Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey:

One has to consider who is the real beneficiary of these kinds of unrest. Is it the people who are looking forward to elections or is it the people who want to hold on to power?





ASEAN lawmakers on Thailand’s authoritarian path

22 05 2017

We reproduce this in full from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights:

ASEAN lawmakers: Thailand moving in the wrong direction three years on from coup

JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia warned today that Thailand is moving in the wrong direction three years after the country’s military overthrew the last democratically elected government.

On the third anniversary of the 2014 coup, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) reiterated concerns over arbitrary arrests, persecution of government critics, and restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The collective of regional lawmakers said that moves by the ruling junta have dealt lasting damage to Thailand’s long-term democratic prospects, and urged military leaders to return the country to elected, civilian rule as soon as possible.

“In the past year, this military regime has further strengthened its hold on institutions to the detriment of both democracy and the economic well-being of the country. Its actions since taking power appear aimed at systematically and permanently crippling any hope of democratic progress,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“To put it bluntly, Thailand is headed in the wrong direction. With the military firmly in the driver’s seat and a new constitution that guarantees it a central role in politics for years to come, Thailand appears further from a return to genuine democracy than at any point in recent memory. Meanwhile, investors are increasingly nervous about the control exerted by elites in managing the country. The damage incurred will have severe, long-lasting consequences that will not be easily undone.”

A new military-drafted constitution, officially promulgated on 6 April, contains anti-democratic clauses, including provisions for an unelected prime minister and a wholly appointed upper chamber of parliament. A version of the charter was approved by voters in a controversial August 2016 referendum, which APHR criticized at the time as “undemocratic.”

“With its new charter, the Thai junta has designed something akin to Myanmar’s ‘disciplined democracy,’ a flawed system where the generals still hold key levers of power and are able to pull the strings from behind the scenes,” said APHR Vice Chair Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the House of Representatives of Indonesia.

“This is a real concern for all those hoping that the Thai people will be able to enjoy democracy and prosperity in the future. In order for Thailand to truly return to democracy, the military needs to step aside, allow for genuine elections, and commit to remaining in the barracks, rather than meddling in politics.”

Since seizing power on 22 May 2014, the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has placed severe restrictions on political activities and arbitrarily arrested hundreds for speaking out against it. Journalists, human rights defenders, and former politicians have been among those subjected to arbitrary detention and mandatory “attitude adjustment” at military and police facilities.

“The situation for human rights in the country has deteriorated. In the past three years, we have witnessed steadily increasing repression and a clampdown on basic freedoms. These developments are especially concerning in the context of a broader erosion of democracy and rights protections across the ASEAN region,” said APHR Board Member Walden Bello, a former Congressman from the Philippines.

“After repeated delays to promised elections, it’s not clear that the generals who currently hold power have any intention of giving it up for real. There are also real concerns among the international community about the continued use of Article 44 and its implications for accountability and human rights,” he added.

Article 44 of Thailand’s interim constitution enables the NCPO chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to unilaterally make policy and override all other branches of government, and Prayuth has used this sweeping authority to restrict fundamental freedoms.

Political gatherings remain banned, a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly. Meanwhile, political parties are prohibited from holding meetings or undertaking any political activity.

The country has also witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of individuals arrested and charged under Article 112, Thailand’s harsh lèse-majesté statute, which outlaws criticism of the monarchy. Over 100 people have been arrested on such charges since the NCPO took power.

Press freedom has also come under attack. A new media bill, approved by the National Reform Steering Assembly, was repeatedly criticized by journalists and press freedom advocates. Though the final version of the bill forwarded to the cabinet earlier this month eliminated controversial proposed licensing requirements for media workers, it still includes provisions for government officials to sit on a regulatory body tasked with monitoring and accrediting media. This provision would undermine media freedom and constitute undue government interference into the affairs of the press, parliamentarians argued.

“The military government must recognize that a free, independent press is critical to a functioning democracy. It must also do a better job listening to civil society, including by ensuring adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders on all legislation,” Eva Sundari said.

“As Thailand moves into its fourth year under military rule, it is now more urgent than ever that concrete steps be taken to right the ship. Junta leaders need to understand that their actions, which fly in the face of international human rights norms and democratic standards, are no way to achieve a peaceful, prosperous future for Thailand,” Charles Santiago said.





The king’s political moves

14 05 2017

Should people be concerned that the king is accumulating power to his personal position? Obviously, unless one is a deaf, dumb and blind ultra-royalist, the answer is unquestionably affirmative.

Under the changes that were demanded by the king before he’d endorse the junta’s constitution, it might have been thought that the changes were mostly about the king’s powers over his domain in the palace, as well as sorting out any constitutional crisis.

Now, however, it is clear that the king is accumulating far broader powers than any king has had since 1932.

The Nation reports that a new royal decree, required by the changes to the constitution, was published in the Royal Gazette on 10 May.

It outlines the re-organization of the palace and the personnel associated with the administration of “agencies that work directly under … the [k]ing.”

According to the “Royal Decree on the Organisation and Personnel Administration of Agencies under the King, … there are three main agencies involved – the Privy Council, Royal Household Bureau, and Royal Security Command.”

The report continues:

Under this new law, privy councillors and civilian, military and police officers working in those agencies are considered officials under the King’s custody. They are not regarded as civil servants or state officials, although they retain the status of “competent officers” under the Penal Code.

According to the royal decree, the King may give military or police ranks to and remove those ranks from any of the officials under his custody at his pleasure.

Also, the legislation allows [the king]… to appoint, promote, transfer, demote and remove officials under the King’s custody at his pleasure. He may transfer officials working under him to other agencies and vice versa.

These are remarkable powers and allow for royal interference in every agency of government. Be very worried how they may be used by an unpredictable egoist.





Unconstitutional regime

7 05 2017

In a Prachatai report a day or so ago, and also reported at The Nation and elsewhere, activists have petitioned “Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, Chief of the Royal Thai Police, at the National Police Office in Bangkok” to “release Jatuphat ‘Pai Dao Din’ Boonpattararaksa, saying the court decision to repeatedly reject his bail requests is ‘unconstitutional’.” They refer to the 2017 constitution.

On 5 May 2017, Chalita Bundhuwong, a lecturer at Kasetsart University and political activist Nuttaa Mahattana submitted the letter to the police on behalf of Pai’s father Wiboon Boonpattararaksa. Pai has been detained at Khon Kaen Prison since December 2016 and repeatedly refused bail.

According to the report,

Under Article 34 of the 2017 Constitution, people are free to express their opinions by means of speaking, writing, publishing, and other means subject only to provisions of the laws enacted to protect national security, rights and liberties of other people, and public order, morals and health, the letter states.

It also urged that “Jatuphat should be freed in order to travel to South Korea to accept the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which will be awarded on 18 May in Gwangju, South Korea.”

Jatuphat is accused of violating Article 112 for sharing a BBC Thai article on the then new king on Facebook. Thousands of others shared the same post but he is singled out by the military dictatorship as an example to other activists of the punishment they can expect if they get too outspoken against the regime or monarchy.

Based on past complaints about the repeated unconstitutional actions by the courts in lese majeste cases, it seems doubtful that this unlawful military regime will take much notice.