Updated: Wissanu’s political onanism

23 08 2022

As we post this just before midnight GMT, its morning in Bangkok, on the 24th, the day that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha should constitutionally leave the prime ministership he took by force of arms in May 2014. We have no idea what he will do or what the royalist-military Constitutional Court may rule.

But we do know that the regime has been scheming. The legal plaything of the junta and its progeny, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, has said that if Gen Prayuth does step down as prime minister or is pushed out by the Court, he “may legally perform as defence minister, the post which he has concurrently assumed…”. The premiership would then fall to the corrupt, aged, and ill co-coup plotter Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

Wissanu said:

Prayut may practically hold onto the defence portfolio and attend cabinet meetings at Government House while leaving the top post of government to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan to perform as a caretaker one if the Constitutional Court orders him to immediately stop performing as prime minister until a court ruling on his eight-year rule maximumly provided by law has been delivered, .

Given the fact that no law prohibits a prime minister from concurrently performing in other capacities, Prayut could continue to run the defence portfolio though he may be immediately stopped by court from running the country as premier….

However, Wissanu is not convinced the Constitutional Court will abandon its bosses and allies in the regime.

But this scheming does suggest some cracks in the regime and the ruling class about Prayuth’s position and that some judges and others may be thinking of the political consequences of yet another regime-friendly ruling. Regime schemers and ultra-royalists worry that Prayuth as a politically dead man walking may gift Puea Thai and the opposition an electoral landslide.

Update: Bangkok Post reports:

The Constitutional Court has voted 5-4 in ordering Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suspended from duty.

The court’s order came after it ruled to accept the petition asking for a ruling on his eight-year tenure as prime minister.

We doubt the closeness of the vote is any cause for celebration given that the decision is only about suspending the general while the court takes its time considering a very straightforward case. Making the case anything other than straightforward is likely a measure of the Court seeking a way out constitutional requirements for Prayuth. Expect Wissanu’s above proposition to hold for the time that the Court is squirming.





Gotta love these young people

22 08 2022

On 21 August, at the Democracy Monument, around 38 activist groups from four regions called on illegitimate Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down on Wednesday, “when he completes eight years in power…”, under the conditions clearly set out in his own constitution. Only royalists and other anti-democrats can’t count to eight.

The event at the Democracy Monument was moved there from Sanam Luang where they being blocked by police. Sanam Luang now saeems to belong to the king, so the police “protect” his patch of dirt.

Clipped from Thai Newsroom

The groups were “led by Panusaya Sitthichirawattanakul, or Rung, from Thammasat Coalition and Assembly together with other prominent activists including Ms. Thanaphon Wichan, from the Labour Network for People’s Rights, Mr. Thatchapong Kaedam, or Boy, and Mr. Thanaphat Kapheng from Thalu Fah group, Ms. Natanit Duangmusit, or Bai Por, and Ms. Netiporn Sanehsangkhom, or Nong Bong, from the New Workers Union and representatives from the Dome Revolution Party at Thammasat University.”

They displayed banners with messages calling on Prayuth to go: “Let it end at eight years” and “Prayuth get out.” Rung read out their joint statement for the coalition of political groups:

She cited the 2017 constitution which in Section 158 paragraph 4 says that the Prime Minister may not hold the office for more than eight years regardless of whether consecutively or not but this does not include continuing to perform duties after stepping down.

Section 170, paragraph two of the 2017 Constitution also states that the premiership ends as stated in Section 158 paragraph 4.

The groups “also sent a message to the president of the Constitutional Court to issue a ruling on the prime minister’s tenure according to the 2017 constitution by Wednesday August 24. If not then the court should issue an order for Prayut to stop performing duties until the ruling is issued.”





8 years is too long

1 07 2022

Yesterday, we mentioned that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha seemed to be expressing doubts about continuing in office.

Now there’s another expression of doubt.

Deputy Prime Minister and usually the general’s reliable legal backers, Wissanu Krea-ngam saying he has doubts regarding his boss’s tenure and premier. He reportedly included himself among the “doubters” on the general’s 8-year term when he “encouraged those who may wonder whether … Prayut … will have spent a maximum of eight years in power by the upcoming August to call on the Constitutional Court for judgement.”

The court spins in the wind following the ruling elite’s wishes and usually supports the status quo. all members of which were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister. The report observes: “all members [of the court] … were handpicked by a coup junta under leadership of Prayut as army chief who then named himself prime minister.”

But, is the elite turning against the general?

Wissanu reportedly said that “Prayut’s eight-year tenure as maximally provided by law will almost certainly raise a bone of contention, thus prompting those who may have doubts about it to file a petition to the Constitutional Court to judge.”

He also said that “government agencies including the Council of State and the Secretariat to the Prime Minister as well as public attorneys may be told by the premier to find out an answer to this question so that he could get himself well-prepared.”

Prayut’s 8 years is up in August.

The constitution’s section 158 states: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term.” Seems clear enough.





Tenure trouble

4 01 2022

Bubbling away in the background of recent politics has been the very large question mark hanging over the regime’s plan to keep Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the premier’s seat for another 4 years following the next “election,” which the military-backed rulers think is already in the bag.

Yesterday the Bangkok Post had an editorial on the matter, observing that “a legal team [sic] from the House of Representatives claimed that he is entitled to serve as premier until 2027.”

That team reckons “Gen Prayut’s term technically began when his premiership received royal endorsement under the 2017 constitution on June 9, 2019.” They say this means his constitutionally-limited term could run another 4 years. How convenient!

This bunch “rejected the views of those who argue that Gen Prayut’s tenure began in 2014, when he took over in a coup as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order. Under this interpretation, his term would end in August this year.”

The 2017 constitution bars an individual from remaining in office for more than eight years: “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for more than eight years in total, whether or not holding consecutive term., regardless of whether the four-year terms are served back-to-back or not.”

The 2007 constitution simply stated: “The Prime Minister shall not serve in office more than eight years.”

There’s considerable guff in the editorial for it is perfectly clear that both constitutions limit the premiership to 8 years.

It seems likely that the question will go to the partisan Constitutional Court. Based on its previous capacity for fudging the constitution and supporting the regime, we can expect the coup master to be around until 2027.





Rolling back democracy from its birth II

14 12 2021

On the ironies of Constitution Day, PPT recommends consideration of an op-ed by Tim Newton at Thaiger. He begins with the report of Chuan Leekpai’s recent words on that day:

Words from the Thai Parliamentary president Chuan Leekpai urging, or willing, the Thai voters not to “become disheartened with the current state of Thai politics” and to have “confidence in the democratic system”.

From noom apicha

He rightly asks: “The democratic system?”

While some of the historical background is a bit scratchy, his observation that Chuan “must be secretly choking on the irony of his comments” is, we think, ignoring the way that people like Chuan buy into the whole palace propaganda version of Thai history. But Newton is right that “Thailand’s current constitution remains a blunt tool to keep the country’s military interests and a Bangkok ‘elite’ in power.” Chuan is part of that elite. Newton is too kind to Chuan, who also played a role in bringing on the 2014 coup.

The op-ed continues:

Whilst saying all the right things on a public holiday set aside to commemorate Thailand’s first constitutions, Chuan doesn’t need to look further than his parliament’s upper house of hand-picked Senators to realise that any true democracy in the Land of Smiles remains elusive.

Like the senators, the man who appointed them is unelected. He also trashed the previous constitution in an illegal coup and seized the premiership, which he continues to hold thanks to the senate, the military and the elite.





Dinosaurs or the living dead?

18 11 2021

Following last week’s absurd Constitutional Court ruling that seeks to prevent all criticism of the monarchy and to further pave the way to absolutism, the court has managed another decision that makes the judges look even more like the walking dead or dinosaurs reincarnate.

Yesterday, the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. In doing so, the court determined that Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which states “that a marriage can be held when a man and a woman are 17 years old…” did not infringe Sections 25, 26 and 27 (paragraphs 1,2 and 3) of the constitution.

Among those sections, the constitution actually states:

Section 26

The enactment of a law resulting in the restriction of rights or liberties of a person shall be in accordance with the conditions provided by the Constitution. In the case where the Constitution does not provide the conditions thereon, such law shall not be contrary to the rule of law, shall not unreasonably impose burden on or restrict the rights or liberties of a person and shall not affect the human dignity of a person, and the justification and necessity for the restriction of the rights or liberties shall also be specified.

Section 27

… Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic and social standing, religious belief, education, or political view which is not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, or on any other grounds shall not be permitted.

Any reasonable person living in the 21st century would interpret these provisions as being against discrimination based on gender/sex.

It used to be three strikes and your out, but this court of the undead has dozens of strikes against it. It is the court of the royalists, rightists, moralists, murderers and torturers.

Not surprisingly, this further descent into darkness came as the dinosaur senate, appointed by the undead military junta, joined with the military junta’s parties to vote down any amendment to the constitution.

Thailand’s political future looks bleaker now than at any time since the fake 2019 election.

 





Further updated: Absurd court reaffirms its royalist credentials

11 11 2021

Section 49 of the junta’s constitution states:

No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering
the cessation of such act.

In the case where the Attorney-General orders a refusal to proceed as petitioned or fails to proceed within fifteen days as from the date of receiving the petition, the person making the petition may submit the petition directly to the Constitutional Court.

The action under this section shall not prejudice the criminal prosecution against the person committing an act under paragraph one.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Constitutional Court surprised no one yesterday with its absurd decision that those calling for reform of the monarchy were seeking to overthrow the political system and the monarchy. Its ruling, following the first paragraph above, was all the more bizarre given that many of the reforms were a call for the status quo ante of the previous reign and of the post-1932 regime.

The Court ruled on a petition from Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman, who prompted the court to rule on whether “public statements, made by leaders of anti-establishment groups concerning the monarchy at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10th last year, amount to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Even among the deranged among royalists, Natthaporn stands out as quite mad. His earlier efforts with the Constitutional Court in 2019 involved a bizarre claim that the Future Forward Party was attempting to overthrow the same “democratic regime with the king as the head of state” under the very same Section 49. The lame lawyer claimed, among many odd things, that party members were “anti-monarchy and anti-religion, is that they are part of the Illuminati.” In other words, the FFP was a part of a (fictitious) global anti-monarchist conspiracy. Many mad monarchists believed this rubbish. That action failed, so he took the same nonsense to the Election Commission, claiming an “alleged violation of the Political Party Act.”

This time, the Constitutional Court, by majority (8-1) decision:

ruled that the calls for monarchy reform and monarchy-related activities organized by Anon Nampa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and associated organizations were, are and will be abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to ‘overthrow’ the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.

Remarkably, the court determined “hidden” intentions and “inferred” meanings:

The Court ruled that Anon’s speech and Panussaya’s statement at the 10 August 2020 protest, and their participation in the protests afterward and other symbolic actions have the hidden intention of overthrowing the regime, which would cause public disorder and unrest in society….

The word ‘overthrow’ can be inferred from actions that cause a serious threat to the constitution and regime in a decisive and irreversible manner that completely obliterates them.

The court considered the demand for the repeal of Section 6 of the constitution “which guarantees the monarch’s authority, as Head of State, which no one can accuse or violate is an explicit act with an intent to annihilate the monarchy.”

Rather, the demand was:

Abolish Article 6 of the constitution, which dictates that no one can make legal complaints about the king. Add an article to give the parliament power to perform checks and balances on the king, similar to the Khana Rasadon’s constitution.

This is a call to reform and a return to a previous status quo. As an op-ed at Thai Enquirer states: “If you carefully listen, what they are asking for is the modernization of the royal institution so that it can continue to peacefully exist along with the development of a democratic system.”

And the court objected to the tone of speeches:

To demand such changes and make such attacks in public, by claiming that it is an exercise of rights and freedoms according to the Constitution, not only is bad conduct, with rude words spoken, but also violates the rights and freedoms of other people who think differently….

For good measure, the court trotted out the palace and military propaganda line on the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s history. Essentially they accused the reform movement of being offensive to (ruling class) Thai culture.

The court also ordered the three respondents and others to end their movement: “The three respondents, other organisations and networks must cease their actions…”.

The ruling carried no penalty for the three respondents but it potentially unleashes a cascade of royalist repression and cases for the royalist courts that, the regime and palace appear convinced will be the end of the monarchy reform movement.

It is worth noting that, like the hurried and politicized dissolution of several parties in the 2008 judicial coup, the court dispensed with witnesses. As Prachatai explains:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that, despite a request by lawyers for the three activists for them to be summoned for an inquiry along with several other witnesses to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, the ruling was made without examining witnesses and based only on the complaint itself, the objection to the complaint, and documents that the Court requested from the Office of the Attorney General, Khlong Luang Police Station, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Office, the National Intelligence Agency, and Thammasat University.

The Court then ordered the inquiry concluded, claiming that it has enough evidence to issue a ruling.

TLHR also said that, in addition to the three activists themselves, they had requested that several academics be summoned as witnesses. They had planned to summon historians Nithi Eoseewong and Charnvit Kasetsiri to testify on Thai political history, and legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang to argue that the activists’ actions do not qualify as using their rights and liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.

They also planned to summon writer Sulak Sivarak to speak about the role of the monarchy in Thai politics and President of the 1997 Constitution Drafting Assembly Uthai Pimchaichon to speak on the intention of Section 49 of the Thai Constitution, which is modelled after the same section in the 1997 Constitution.

None of the aforementioned witnesses were given a chance to testify.

On the ruling, Natthaporn gloated: “The ruling today is a starter, that peace will finally be returned to society…”. He claimed the ruling bans all activities that might be construed to threaten the monarchy. His next target is the Move Forward Party: “He said the court’s decision would lead to the Election Commission deciding whether to move for the disbandment of the Move Forward Party. Mr Natthaporn claims the party supported the protests.”

In an interview cited by Prachatai, academic lawyer and former FFP member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul saw three impacts from the ruling:

Firstly, the ruling’s broad interpretation of the law has closed the door for those who want to reform the monarchy.

Secondly, the ruling prohibits many acts, both those which have been done and those not done. This will allow those who oppose proposals for monarchy reform to flood the courts with petitions similar to the one today. Civil society organizations and political parties that rally for the amendment or abolition of the royal defamation law might be affected by this.

Thirdly, this order to gag people will not bring about reconciliation between those who think differently. It will exacerbate tensions between the old and the new generations who have different ideas about the monarchy.

“If you don’t want to enter the red zone, then don’t do it. Don’t speak. Don’t touch. Don’t do anything. Then, you will be in the safe zone. Your party won’t be disbanded. Your MPs can stay. Criminal charges won’t touch you. In public rallies, you mustn’t speak about this. Just talk about ousting Prayut. Don’t speak about these [monarchy] issues and you will be safe.”

Indeed, this decision will, despite the wording of Section 49, will be used to lock up protest leaders and it will provide justification for a regime purge of those it can now say are anti-monarchists.

Finally in this absurdist “legal” world of the country’s protectors of the status quo, we must go back to the Thai Enquirer and its comments:

Asking for the amendment of the lese-majeste law is not treasonous in any way. Overthrowing an elected government by a military coup like what General Prayut Chan-ocha and his friends did in 2014 was.

It was also unconstitutional and unlawful. But the courts have regularly sanctioned military coups. The op-ed lists other unlawful acts sanctioned by courts:

Jailing and persecuting elected parliamentarians….

Arresting, cracking down, violently using force against unarmed protesters….

Shutting down public debate, installing an unelected senate, using the judiciary to go after dissidents….

Abducting and murdering political activists….

The op-ed concludes:

The verdict was almost like the final nail in the coffin of space for fair discussions in our society. And it was perpetrated by the same court system that has done nothing for the last six years but carry out the junta’s whim and reinforce the junta’s rule.

Update 1: Usefully, Prachatai has provided a translation of the Constitutional Court’s decision. Read it in all its bizarre detail.

Update 2:The Constitutional Court has defended not hearing evidence, saying it was too late and that the investigation was complete. Interestingly, in its decision, the court does not refer to any evidence that was not from the complainant or an official security agency.





The stench

11 11 2021

A couple of days ago, the Bangkok Post included a report that is a timely reminder that the junta’s 2017 constitution is a political defense of royalism and the role of the military in opposing meaningful and progressive political reform. It is a stench that hangs over the country.

The report is of the “defence permanent secretary and chiefs of the navy and the air force report[ing] for duty as newly appointed senators on Monday.” We are told:

Gen Worakiat Rattananont, Adm Somprasong Nilsamai and ACM Napadej Dhuphtemiya took the oath of office before starting their jobs, following the announcement of their appointments by Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai.

As the Post helpfully points out, the junta’s constitution mandates that”six of the Senate seats are reserved for the supreme commander, the army, navy and air force chiefs, the defence permanent secretary and the national police chief.”

This is just one aspect of the rigged constitution that was meant to ensure that the junta’s personnel, the coup makers of 2014, continued in power.

The swill that is the senate is stacked with scores of military and former military figures, along with a bunch of royalists and junta toadies.

Why anyone could even consider Thailand’s political system a crippled democracy is beyond us. As far as we can tell, the current government is now in a minority, with several Palang Pracharath MPs banned from parliament, but it just plows on.





Lawless cops

5 11 2021

In a post a day or so ago, PPT in discussing another unusual court ruling, we referred to Chapter III of the 2017 Constitution where the Rights and Liberties of Thais are set out. In commenting we noted that ” the regime is arguably in breach of almost all of the provisions in that chapter.”

A reader asked us for an example. Rather than going through past cases, we thought it better to refer to a case we had yet to comment on.

Prachatai reports on the arrest of two people “during a candle vigil for a dead protester at Din Daeng Police Station…”. The claim to have been subject to “beatings and death threats” in police custody. In other words, they were tortured.

Arguably, this arrest and torture breaches Articles 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.

But, as we know, the regime and its minions don’t give a fig about law and constitution, while the police are thugs, torturers and murderers. In this case, one of the men was arrested on 29 October. He was beaten and threatened:

… he and another protester were taken inside the police station where he was subjected to beatings in an effort to obtain information that he said he did not know. The police reportedly told him that if he died during the beatings, they would make his death look like an accident.

“A police officer senior to the others said ‘Let me have him. I want this one.’ Then he started the beating, asking me if I knew the shooter. I said I didn’t but he kept on hitting me.”

“They beat me a lot. They kicked me.  They punched me. They smacked my head into a wooden chair. They use a baton on to hit the ribs on my right  side. Then, they choked me to get my phone password… I told them but it was wrong.  I couldn’t remember. They squeezed my neck so hard that I almost fainted.”

He was released on 02.30.  Afterwards, he was subject to normal investigation procedures and charged with participating in a gathering and causing public disorder.

Another man who was arrested and beaten. He was

… taken to a solitary room and stripped down to his pants. Interrogators stomped on his genitals and stubbed out cigarettes on his lower stomach.

“It was very bad. I had to brace myself all the time because I didn’t know when they were going to hit me again…”.

All of this is now standard police practice.





Royal land, royal power

25 09 2021

PPT was intrigued by two recent stories about the king and about royal land. In case readers missed them, we link to them and summarize some points.

At The Nation, it is reported that the “Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that it has taken back more than 100,000 rai of land owned by the Royal Property Bureau and will redistribute it among prisons and low-income people.” This is somewhat vague, and even the short story is contradictory. Director-general Yutthana Yimkarun is reported as saying that “most of the 100,000-rai taken back from state agencies was either left unused or was being misused. The land will now be used for temporary prisons, inmate training sites and housing for low-income people.”

Usually, the Treasury Department looks after the business interests of the property it holds for others, including the Army, and ensures a reasonable return to the owner. So we assume the property remains owned by the monarch.

Self-crowned

The really interesting point is that the “Treasury Department currently oversees some 500,000 rai of royally owned land.” We would guess that, with other royal land, this confirms that the monarch is one of the country’s largest landowners, exceeding the earlier guestimates.

The second story comes from Prachatai. It states, perhaps playing on numbers, that:

Since 2017, King Rama X has issued at least 112 royal edicts appointing and demoting royal officials and the royal consort, bestowing royal decorations, appointing monks to the Sangha Supreme Council and expressing political views….

This comes about due to:

The Royal Service Administration Act enacted in March 2017 transferred 5 agencies that were formerly part of the government structure into royal agencies to be organized “at the royal pleasure”.

After the Act came into force royal edicts were issued appointing and demoting officials in the royal agencies with no countersignature from anyone in the government.

Prachatai goes on to list the categories of edicts issued.

We understand that it also relates to the changes the king demanded in the junta’s 2017 constitution. As Prachatai points out, “no one in a democratic system should be able to exercise political power without accountability.”

Thus it would seem that, as the king does exercise political power without oversight or accountability, ipso facto, Thailand cannot be a democracy.








%d bloggers like this: