Moving the country towards a dead end

25 09 2020

The king has come and gone and about the only notable thing seems to have been a meeting between the king, queen and Pojaman na Pombhejara (formerly Shinawatra), at least according to social media.

While the king and queen were doing their “duties,” constitutional change was front-and-center elsewhere.

A few demonstrators conducted an exorcism in front of the Army headquarters on Wednesday “to rid the country of senators chosen by the junta.” This was followed yesterday with a  mass rally outside outside parliament. The “pro-democracy group says the current charter was put in place by a military junta and is undemocratic. They are calling for amendments specifically to clauses which allow the military-appointed senate to vote for the prime minister.”

Inside parliament, the junta selected and appointed senators, “many of them generals and military officials, escaped from parliament on Thursday by boat and the back-exit rather than face angry pro-democracy demonstrators after they voted to postpone amending the constitution.”

The junta’s party, coalition and senators combined to vote 432 to 255 “to set up exploratory committees to study potential amendments to the military-drafted constitution instead of amending the charter on Thursday night.”

The opposition parties walked out of parliament “in protest with the leader of the Move Forward Party, Pita Limjaroenrat, calling the vote ‘a way to stall for time’ and said that parliament’s decision on Thursday was moving the country towards a dead end.”

In fact, the dead end was the junta and its constitution.

Getting out of that means more pressure: “Anon Numpha, a key protest leader, told reporters and protesters that now was the time to step up protests and called for more rallies in October.”





Conspiracists (denied)

23 09 2020

With the royalist Thai Pakdee claiming to have 130,000 signatures from people opposing any changes to the junta’s 2017 constitution and delivering these to parliament, we are reminded of their conspiracy claims by royalists.

They don’t deserve repeating as they are mad, but we note that a collection of them has recently been published by a long-serving journalist at the Asia Times Online. Exactly how many plots and “theories” can be squeezed into one longish article is mind-boggling. Thankfully, Thai Enquirer gives these claims little time and ridicules several of them.





Seeking to strangle protest I

4 08 2020

A couple of reports in Prachatai, both drawing on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, show how the regime is seeking to snuff out youth-led protest. We will have two posts on these reports.

According to TLHR, “there have been at least 75 announcements about plans to organize a protest and public activity in 44 provinces across the country to support the Free Youth group’s demands.”

It states that:

the rise of protests and political expressions in public has prompted interventions from state officials who tracked down, harassed, and suppressed protest leaders and participants in many places. Out of at least 76 planned activities, five could not be organized….

It notes the measures used by the authorities to harass and repress:

  • Before protests, officials including the police, Special Branch officers track down students and others “seeking information.” An aim of this is to gather intelligence and it is also meant o show that the authorities “know” who is involved, “warning, suppressing, and intimidating protest organizers, participants, and other related parties…”. In several cases, “plainclothes officers reportedly threatened to take some protest organizers to a police station without an official warrant.” This is meant to intimidate and demonstrate the state’s power while collecting intelligence.
  • At the protests, “state officials put up posters, handed out pamphlets, or made announcements using an amplifier to threaten the protestors that their activities might constitute a violation of the law.” In addition, police “take photos of the demonstrations.” They “target specific individuals during these recent flash mob rallies and tended to take pictures of those holding protest signs…”. In several cases, “military officers and officials from the Internal Security Operations Command in some provinces attended the protests to observe and record the activities.”
  • The authorities seek “to obstruct protestors in some provinces from using their intended venues by blocking them from those areas and causing them to move their activities elsewhere.”
  • Despite earlier claims/lies by Gen Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council that the emergency decree was not to “ban gatherings [he said] to prove our sincere intention for disease control,” the authorities have regularly used the decree against protesters. TLHR reports that: “Four university students who gave speeches during the #ChiangMaiWillNotTakeThisAnyMoreToo activity … were summonsed to Chiang Mai Provincial Police Station to acknowledge their charges under the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act.”
  • At protests, “authorities [have] … confiscated … protest signs during the demonstration. In some cases, they arrested the protestors, put their information in an ‘interrogative record,’ and seized the signs…”.
  • After protests and rallies, police and military have trailed “some protestors backed to their home, especially those who held up protest signs.” They tell the protestors to stop using the signs when they are considered to be “sensitive” – meaning being about the monarchy. Usually these officials “recorded the protestors’ personal information and took their photos.”
  • At schools and universities, administrators “took the lead to undertake measures for suppressing and threatening their students.” Several institutions “prevented the student protestors from using their campus ground as a protest venue and ordered their students to refrain from organizing or participating in a public assembly.” Schools and universities have also “prohibited their students from participating in any rally.” Administrators also collaborate with the authorities, [illegally] providing them with the personal information of their students.

TLHR concludes:

The attempts to suppress, pressure, and intimidate protestors constitute an attack on peaceful expressions of opinions and unarmed demonstrations, which are the rights enshrined in the 2017 Constitution. Several of these attempts had no legal basis; they merely exploited people’s gaps in knowledge to undermine the power of free expressions.





Double standards again and again

22 07 2020

Double standards are the politicized judiciary’s only standard. In another case of blatant double standards.

Khaosod reports that three men “who participated in a symbolic protest against the junta-sponsored charter referendum in 2016 were sentenced to four months in prison by a court on Tuesday.” The Criminal Court “found activists Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, Jirawat Ekakkaranuwat, and Songtum Kaewpanphreuk guilty for ripping a ballot paper in a polling station and posting a video of the protest on the internet.”

While the sentence was suspended, “the defendants were fined 4,000 baht each.”

Piyarat said: “My feelings today remain unchanged. It was civil disobedience that I have to receive the consequences of today…. If I could turn back time, I would do it all over again. I’ve never regretted doing it.”

It was Piyarat who declared: “Down with dictatorship, long live democracy!” as he ripped up the ballot.

Why do we say double standards? It is worth recalling that, back in 2010, in a case from the 2006 election, rightist and yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn was acquitted after he tore up ballot papers. The court found a technicality that meant it could let Chaiyan off the hook as he blatantly used the courts to highlight his anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaign.

And then there’s the issue that the charter was a junta scheme for prolonging its rule – as has proved the case. That draft charter was put to a bogus referendum. But even after that the junta changed several sections, demonstrating that it was bogus. The changes were mostly prompted by the king’s desire to live in Germany and to control his palace world.





Thammanat’s deep pockets

25 06 2020

We have had a few posts backed-up because of other things happening in neo-feudal Thailand and we’ll get to them over the next couple of days.

On story that caught PPT’s attention was a note at Thai PBS reporting that the Election Commission “has postponed the declaration of the official result of Sunday’s by-election, in the northern province of Lampang, until next week, due to allegations of vote buying.”

The Seri Ruam Thai party has “lodged a complaint of alleged election fraud, after the posting of a clip on social media, by former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, claiming voting buying [by Palang Pracharath] had taken place on Sunday.”

Given that the EC usually slithers and slides around the regime, we don’t expect much from the agency and would expect green-lighting rather than serious investigation. Back in the 2019 election, it was reported: “Vote-buying was rampant on the eve of Sunday’s general election, according to the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (P-Net), a non-governmental organisation focusing on strengthening democracy and electoral processes.” We don’t recall the EC doing much “investigating” then. Rather, it manipulated results and quotas to ensure the junta’s party was victorious. Still, the EC may yet surprise.

Of course, vote-buying is not unexpected. When there is a convicted heroin smuggler with bag loads of money running Palang Pracharath’s campaign, what else could be expected. Not the least because the whole formation of the party and its operations resembles the parties of the time when vote buying was especially rampant in the 1980s and 1990s. That period was, after all, something of a model for the junta when it designed a constitution that was meant to reduce the power of big parties and allow the negotiated construction of weak coalition governments, glued together by money and military power.

That’s exactly what we now have, with parties splitting and politicians coming and going, usually to the highest bidder. That is what makes Thammanat Prompao and the “generous” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan so important for the junta-designed regime.





Remembering 1932 in 2020

24 06 2020

24 June 1932 is an important day in Thailand. The palace, royalists and military have persistently worked to erase it from the national historical memory.

Back in 2009 on 24 June, PPT marked the 1932 Revolution by reprinting the first announcement of the khana ratsadon or People’s Party. The announcement is attributed to Pridi Banomyong. We do so again today.

On that day in 1932, the People’s Party (khana ratsadon) executed a well-planned Revolution to end the absolute power of the monarchy.

24 June is an important day for those who have long struggled to establish parliamentary democracy in the country only to see their efforts repeatedly crushed by military and monarchy.

Lopburi vandalism 1

Clipped from Khaosod

For anti-democrats and royalists, 24 June is a day they want to expunge. It recalls a thirst for democracy and is the essence of anti-monarchism in Thailand. The king has been working with the junta-cum-post-junta-regime (of crooks and generals) to destroy memorials and monuments to 1932. History books have been changed. Properties previously removed from the monarchy have reverted to the present monarch.

democracy in ruins

24 June used to be celebrated. Now, the event is barely officially noticed, except for the purposes of repression and preventing people from acknowledging the day and its events.

If royalists remember 24 June for anything it is to diminish the significance of the events of 1932 and declare that King Prajadiphok was the real democrat. Of course, he wasn’t, and he supported several efforts to overthrow the new regime before abdicating.

The 2017 constitution and the changes demanded by King Vajiralongkorn represent a further rolling back of the People’s Party notion of people’s sovereignty.

As we do each year, we invite readers to consider the People’s Party Announcement No. 1, which would probably be considered lese majeste if uttered or published today.

Overthrowing a royalist regime is as important in 2020 as it was in 1932.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY NO. 1 (1932)

Pridi

All the people

When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that he would govern protectively. But matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, taking bribes in government construction and purchasing, and seeking profits from changes in the price of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood (phuak chao) to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

The government of the king above the law is unable to find solutions and bring about recovery. This inability is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (some called phrai, some kha) and as animals. It has not considered them as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, rather it farms on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use each year. As for the people, they have to sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money, the government seizes their property or puts them on public works. But those of royal blood are still sleeping and eating happily. There is no country in the world that gives its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, in nations that have now overthrown their thrones.

The king’s government has governed in ways that are deceiving and not straightforward with the people. For example, it said it would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened. It has never done anything seriously. Further than that, it has insulted the people – those with the grace to pay taxes for royalty to use – that the people don’t know as much as those of royal blood. But this is not because the people are stupid, but because they lack the education which is reserved for royalty. They have not allowed the people to study fully, because they fear that if the people have education, they will know the evil that they do and may not let them farm on their backs.

You, all of the people, should know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who protected the independence of the country from enemy armies. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all this money come from? It came from the people because of that method of farming on the backs of the people! The country is experiencing hardships. Farmers and soldiers’ parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating them brings no benefit. The government does not help. The government is discharging people in floods. Students who have completed their study and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment. They have to go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law. It oppresses the minor government officials. Ordinary soldiers and clerks are discharged from employment, and no pension is given. In truth, government should use the money that has been amassed to manage the country to provide employment. This would be fitting to pay back the people who have been paying taxes to make royalty rich for a long time. But those of royal blood do nothing. They go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee while the country decays and people are left to go hungry. All this is certainly evil.

Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government, have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have seized power from the king’s government. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by an assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind.

As for the head of state of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives. The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the head of state will be an ordinary person appointed by parliament to hold the position for a fixed term.

By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way. Everyone will have employment, because our country is a country which has very abundant conditions. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood amass from farming on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The government which the People’s Party will set up will draw up projects based on principle, and not act like a blind man as the government which has the king above the law has done. The major principles which the People’s Party has laid out are:

1. must maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic, etc.;
2. must maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. must improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry
4. must provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. must provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. must provide the people with full education.

All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will last forever. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing so, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being serfs (phrai) and slaves (kha, that) of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood farm on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

Khana Ratsadon

[People’s Party]

24 June 1932





Monarchy and (more) repression

16 06 2020

With repression being deepened, the prime minister who seized power in the 2014 military coup and who remains in power through military might, his junta’s constitution and rigged elections, has issued a stern warning about anti-monarchism.

Of course, it is no coincidence that this warning comes after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalaerm Satsaksit, the piling on of lese majeste-like computer crimes charges for young social media figure “Niranam_” and ongoing protests in Europe against the king.

With a minion when the king was once in Thailand

As in the past, the regime imagines a plot and a movement led by some unnamed anonymous puppet-master.

Gen Prayuth lamented that what he thinks are “violations” of the lese majeste law “had increased since its use ceased 2-3 years ago.” He reportedly said the king “has … instructed me personally over the past two to three years to refrain from the use of the Law…”. While we already knew this from the king-supporting Sulak Sivaraksa, this is, we think, the first time an official has acknowledged this instruction.

(As an aside, we want to emphasize that under the previous king, royalists defended him on lese majeste by saying he was powerless to do anything about the law. Vajiralongkorn showed what a pile of buffalo manure that excuse was.)

The unelected PM saw anti-monarchism as doubly troubling as he believed that the king, by not using Article 112, had shown “mercy,” and this was being “abused.”

Gen Prayuth called for “unity” by which he means that royalists must defend the monarchy: “Everyone who loves the nation, religion, and monarchy must come together.” Oddly, he warned about the danger of “violent revolutions.” And, Reflecting a broader royalist concern, he worried that “anti-monarchists may use the upcoming anniversary [24 June] of the 1932 democratic revolution to defame the monarchy.”

And he warned that people should “disregard any messages that aim to harbor hatred in the society.” He means anti-monarchism. He added a pointed remark that PPT thinks is a threat:

Those who are operating from abroad should think about what they should or shouldn’t do, where else could if they faced problems in that country? I feel pity as they are Thai citizens.

In what appears as a coordinated warning, the Watchman, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said “security officials” – that usually means the military – were already “investigating those involved” in this alleged anti-monarchist plot.

He was warning: “Once we get the list of names, we’ll prosecute them” using lese majeste-like laws including computer crimes and sedition.

Prayuth seemed to want Article 112 back, complaining that “[t]here were no such problems when Section 112 was in use,” which is actually buffalo manure. When the junta came to power, it repeatedly claimed republican plotting and used the lese majeste law more than any other regime, ever.

He went on to pile on lies and threats:

As a Thai, you must not believe distorted information or news from hatemongers because it’s not true. You must look behind [their motive] and see what they really want. … Why would you become their tool?

Targeting the young, he “urged people not to disseminate such information or click to read it, referring to social media.” It is easy to see why the regime has targeted “Niranam_”. They are making an example of him as a way to (they hope) silence others.

There’s also a hint that the regime is coming under pressure from royalists and perhaps even the palace itself to do something about the protests in Europe and criticism from exiles:

Regarding exiled people in neighbouring countries and Europe, he said the government had already sent letters asking those countries to send them back to Thailand if they caused trouble. “But when they don’t send them back, what do you expect the government to do?”

It seems clear that enforced disappearance and torture and murder is one outcome of displeasure with these dissidents.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

One response to these warnings has been social media disdain for the regime and the generals. Another response came from former Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich who called for the lese majeste law to be abolished: “they should get rid of this section of the criminal code as the MPs of the Move Forward Party have been saying in Parliament…”. For good measure, she also called for the Computer Crimes Act be amended.





Updated: Liar challenged

27 05 2020

Now that Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Untruth and Buffalo Manure Thammanat Prompao has come out of self-isolation, he is being challenged by the opposition Move Forward Party.

It is staggering that a convicted heroin smuggler, a man who claims fake education qualifications and a serial liar can not just sit in the parliament but can be a minister. It is even more jaw-dropping that he’s a power broker in the regime’s Palang Pracharath Party and a minister.

Convicted heroin smuggler

(We acknowledge that politicians and their advisers the world over have contracted the lying virus at a rate far higher than the coronavirus but Thammanat’s lies began some time ago.)

Move Forward’s Natcha Boonchaiya-insawat “said the party’s MPs would submit a motion for the impeachment of … Thamanat to the House speaker on Wednesday afternoon.”

Natcha stated that “Section 98(10) of the constitution prohibited anyone found guilty of a narcotics trafficking offence from standing for election to parliament,” citing Thammanat’s heroin smuggling conviction in Australia.

Section 98 (10) of the junta’s constitution states:

(10) having been convicted by a final judgment of a court for committing wrongful conduct in official duties or justice affairs, or committing an offence under the law on the wrongful acts of officials in State organizations or State agencies, or an offence against property in bad faith according the Criminal Code, or an offence under the law on fraudulent acts related to loans of the people, or an offence of being producer, importer or exporter or trader under the narcotics law, an offence of being the owner or keeper of a gambling house under the law on gambling, or an offence of money laundering under the law on prevention and suppression of human trafficking or the law on prevention and suppression of money laundering;…

As Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has declared the heroin conviction a “small issue,” we could expect that the regime’s execrable Wissanu Krea-ngam will again claim that only Thai laws are covered by this section.

Update: In case readers are wondering why Thammanat is important to the regime, consider this report from The Nation:

The candidate for Pheu Thai … has dropped his plans to run in the Lampang by-election despite having a high… chance of beating Palang Pracharath Party.

Pheu Thai’s Phinit Chantharasurin was set to run in the by-election after his son Itthirat, who won … 42,984 votes in last year’s election, passed away. Palang Pracharath’s Wattana Sithiwang, who came in second with 30,368 votes last year, was set to be his No 1 opponent.

However, Phinit decided not to run because he said there was no benefit. He also seems to be leaning more towards Palang Pracharath Party, especially after Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao called on Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan to let Phinit apply for the post of chief executive of provincial administrative organisations.

In return, Phinit was asked to withdraw from the by-election and clear the path for Wattana to become a representative of Lampang.

Blatant, corrupt and devious. That’s why they love Thammanat.





Updated: Missing in (in)action

26 05 2020

For military leaders, parliament is unimportant as it has little influence over what the government does. That was one of the understandings of the junta’s constitution. While they gave themselves seats in the unelected Senate, the military brass almost never show up.

iLaw is cited in the Bangkok Post as it reports that “the leaders of the three armed forces have the worst track records when it comes to Senate voting…”.

and are the least involved senators in the military-appointed Upper House.

Out of 145 votes called by the Senate, Navy chief Adm Luechai Ruddit, missed all but one vote. Missing all of 143 was Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, while retired and incumbent air force chiefs ACM Chaipruek Dissayasarin and ACM Manaat Wongwat missed a stellar 143 votes.

But, they still collect their Senate salaries as a nice top-up to their military salaries and all the other payments they receive from the meetings attended and boards they sit on.

Defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said “the issue had not been raised during the Defence Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. We guess that means everything is just fine and dandy. In any case, Lt Gen Kongcheep reckons his bosses “could explain for themselves if asked…”. We guess they’d rather be investing in EEC projects, getting kickbacks and shooting.

Update: Readers short of a good belly laugh can read Defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep’s hilarious “defense” of his bosses in the Bangkok Post. It seems military intelligence was brought to bear on the problem and the combined IQ of 22 came up with the biggest pile of buffalo manure seen for some time. We particularly liked the claim that whenever the top brass was not in parliament – and that was almost all the time – they watched it on television.

Brilliant! What bright spark thought of that completely moronic line! Promote him to general and give him a set of golf clubs and a bag of ill-gotten money.





Why does the king prefer Germany?

9 05 2020

That’s the question asked by a recent article at an Australian outlet. It is a good question, and many Thais ponder it as well.

The article comments that:

Aside from the controversial decision to self-isolate in an entire hotel with a harem of women, King … Vajiralongkorn’s living arrangements continue to perplex the world.

And it mentions the recent protests against his loose “isolation” at the “Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, an alpine, luxury hotel in Germany’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen precinct…”.

There are royals who live outside their country, but they are usually in exile; Vajiralongkorn is in a kind of self-imposed exile.

The report’s answers to its question is somewhat shallow. It notes that he owns a villa in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg, suggesting that the “12 million euro” property is “away from prying eyes…”. It concludes that “the King’s property investments could be a key reason he so regularly resides in Germany.”

That seems unlikely. After all, the majority of his vast fortune is property in Bangkok. That certainly doesn’t keep him there. In addition, the villa in Tutzing is not particularly private and the town is small. But it is in a beautiful and quiet location, looking across the lake to the Alps.

Another claim is that Vajiralongkorn’s “complicated love life” is “possibly … a reason for [him] frequenting the European country.”

That, too, seems unlikely. His women are all from Thailand and he could easily fulfill his carnal desires and manage his women there. He’s done this before.

While the article speculates in these ways it fails to consider other possible possible reasons. For example, the king has had his son Dipangkorn Rasmijoti in school in Germany for some time. While no one speaks about it, it seems that the 15-year old has “learning difficulties.” His life in Germany is mostly private, although several videos of his life in Germany, with his father and friends have appeared.

Another consideration is the king’s health. There have long been rumors about his health. Yet he seems a fit 67-year old, regularly bicycling, exercising and skiing. We might guess that the king feels fitter and healthier in Europe. Most of his family in Bangkok seem sickly and unfit when compared with him. Being on a decade-long holiday in a pleasant Bavarian environment that is less polluted than Bangkok works wonders!

We do know that the king plans to continue to make Germany his home, having demanded changes to the junta’s 2017 constitution to allow him to operate as king remotely.