When the military is on top XII

19 01 2018

It is some time since our last post with this title. There’s a general air in the press and on social media that the political tide may be turning.

For example, commentator Thitinan Pongsudhirak says he can see “civil society noises, together with political parties, are now on rise and may build into a crescendo of opposition to the military government.” Others are pleased to see the detestable Abhisit Vejjaiva “damning” the military government with language that is advisory in tone on General Prawit Wongsuwan’s large collection of luxury watches. On social media, many have lauded the dropping of yet another lese majeste case against Sulak Sivaraksa.

While there is some cause for cheer, it might be noted that much of this criticism is coming from yellow shirts and anti-democrats, many of whom were strong supporters of the 2014 military coup. This suggests that that coalition of anti-democrats is unraveling as the junta seeks to embed its rule. The unanswered question is what they propose as an alternative to the junta. Do these critics propose using the junta’s rules and having a military-dominated administration post-“election” – a Thai-style democracy – but where that dominance is not as total as it is now. That is, a simple refusal to allow General Prayuth Chan-ocha to hang on as head of a selectorate regime? Nothing much that any of these “opponents” have proposed since 2005 has looked much like an open political system.

What we can also see, and this also deserves attention from those cheering these developments, is that the junta continues to crackdown on other opponents.  One case involves the National Anti-Corruption Commission, criticized on Prawit, but widely supported by anti-democrats in an action to “determine whether … 40 [elected and pro-Thaksin Shinawatra] politicians submitted the [amnesty] bill with ‘illegal’ intent” back in 2013. If found “guilty,” they would all be banned from the junta’s “election,” decimating the already weakened Puea Thai Party.

Even when criticizing Prawit’s horology obsession, some critics are tolerated and others not. For example, Abhisit and yellow-hued “activists” can criticize, but what about Akechai Hongkangwarn? He’s identified as an opponent, so when he was critical, “four police officers … turned up at [his]… home … to serve a summons.” The “charge” seems to be “posting obscene images online…”. An obscenely expensive watch perhaps?

Then there’s the warning to critics of the junta that there call for The Dictator’s use of Article 44 for to not be made into law. Maj Gen Piyapong Klinpan “who is also the commander of the 11th Military Circle, said the NCPO [junta] is monitoring the situation. He said the NCPO did not ban the gathering on Monday since it was held in an education institute where academics were present to share knowledge. The NCPO merely followed up the event and tried to make sure those present would not violate any laws.” In other words, watch out, you’re being watched. It’s a threat.

Amazingly, Maj Gen Piyapong then “explained” these political double standards:

Commenting about political activist Srisuwan Janya, who has criticised the regime, Maj Gen Piyapong said there is no need to invite the activist for talks as he still has done nothing wrong, but the junta will keep tabs on his movements. “Currently, there is still no movement which is a cause for concern,” Maj Gen Piyapong said.

And, finally, if you happen to be one of those unfortunates – a citizen in the way of military “progress” – you get threatened with guns. At the embattled Mahakan community, where a historical site is being demolished, Bangkok Metropolitan administrators called out the military to threaten the community. The deployment of troops was by the Internal Security Operations Command.





Updated: Anti-democrats united and Democrat Party disunited

2 06 2017

The moves against (anti-) Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva are gathering some pace as the anti-democrats in the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, described by The Nation as “supposedly defunct,” seeks to take control of the party leadership. The report states that “the party’s future is unclear as key players are split on whether Abhisit Vejjajiva should remain the party leader.”

PPT has said several times that Abhisit is tainted goods in terms of elections. He ordered the murderous crackdown in 2010 but has not been able to develop the relationship with the military and its dictatorship that marked the cooperation between the former deputy and PDRC leader, who takes responsibility for the bloody attack on red shirts, Suthep Thaugsuban.

Suthep is far happier to get into bed with the men in green and canoodle with them than Abhisit, who sees himself as being too “virtuous,” “good” and “great” for that kind of relationship.

Interestingly, The Nation and the Bangkok Post diverge in their reporting of a meeting between anti-democrats of the PDRC and the Democrat Party. The Post emphasizes the coming together of the groups while The Nation is focused on Abhisit’s tenuous position and differences.

PDRC core leader, Thaworn Senniam now claims that the Democrat Party members who joined the PDRC are still with the party or never left it, at least in spirit. He said:

he wanted to make it clear that in their fight against the “Thaksin regime”, nobody had resigned from the party, refuting reports that said “they were returning to Democrat Party again”.

“We have always been Democrats up to the present,” the former PDRC leader said. “We joined, also with the Democrat Party, the fight against the blanket Amnesty Bill and we won.”

Going forward, he said the PDRC and the Democrat Party were united. (We already knew that.) He observed that the anti-democrats would:

First, … remain united in following the road map towards an election. Second, they shared the same ambition of achieving reforms within one year after the Constitution was promulgated.

Where the radical anti-democrats differ is that they don’t want an election. Suthep has made that clear. He’d rather stay in bed with the military in a consummated relationship based on the fear of Thaksin Shinawatra and a hatred of people’s sovereignty.

Update: The Democrat Party is now consumed by internal disputes as the PDRCistas seek to take control of the party. Abhisit is likely to be seen out the door, not least because the PDRC’s allies in the junta want him out for an “election,” should they decide to hold one. That said, Abhisit has so few principles and such a desire for prestige and power that he could easily do a deal with all the devils.





Abhisit and the junta

27 03 2017

We at PPT don’t usually pay much attention to the self-promoting bantering of failed (anti)Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. He seems to do several interviews each year for the Bangkok Post and they aren’t usually riveting reading.

This time, however, there’s more interest. The main reason for this is that Abhisit indicates that he and his party are under pressure from the military junta. Before getting too much into that, a little on Abhisit’s self-important view of how he has never done anything wrong. (We do note that he was not asked about the 2010 events and his role in those murders.)

Abhisit criticizes the junta, saying “… I am not sure if they understand who was actually involved in the political conflict in the most recent years.” He reckons the junta has “been obsessed with the notion the political conflict occurred because (the Democrat Party) did not accept the result of the (previous) election.”

At least the junta got that right. But, of course, Abhisit has to dissemble because his preferred notion is that his party’s anti-democratic stance was not his fault. He blames the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s amnesty bill.

There’s no doubt that that move was ill-considered, but it was also a useful trigger for unrest that the Democrat Party had been seeking to foment from the time of their landslide defeat in 2011.

His view that the “Yingluck … government still manage[d] to stay on for more than two years without any of us doing anything to disrupt her government…” is a bald-faced lie.

Worse, he still won’t accept an election result in the future if it doesn’t suit him. He says: “No matter who wins or loses in the next election, if corruption still persists and if a political amnesty push is revived, the conflicts among people will become more severe…”.

Implicitly, he is also warning the junta about contemplating an amnesty.

On his own future, and rumors that others are working to oust him, he initially retorts that he is continuing “doing my job while political parties are banned from engaging in activities.” As we understand it, parties can’t officially meet, so he “safe” for the present. If he later gets ditched, he says he will accept this.

He then gets really dumb, saying: “If I lead my party to contest elections and fail to secure success, they won’t keep me.” As he was trounced in 2011, we can only wonder why he’s still there. Maybe he forgot this crushing defeat?

As he resumes his criticism of the junta, he says, the “Democrats as a political party were not established to satisfy anyone and any change of its leadership won’t bend to the will of those in authority.”

That’s historically incorrect as the party was formed as a royalist party that supported royalist militarists. That aside, he’s indicating the junta is pushing the party to be rid of him.

He says he, Chuan Leekpai and other failed leaders “share the view that we will not change the party’s stance so as to kowtow to people in authority in exchange for securing cabinet seats.”

He means the junta is going to offer the Democrat Party cabinet seats after the junta arranges an “election” victory at some time in the future. However, the party is expected to ditch the lame baggage of the unelectable Abhisit.

Abhisit declares that “[e]veryone knows that we think along the same lines, particularly Mr Banyat who among us is the most ardent critic of the military.” Funny, we haven’t heard much of this or seen him called in for days of re-education by the military dictators.

Abhisit then criticizes the junta for scrapping local elections and organizations, saying this “will adversely affect the decentralisation of power.” He adds: “What the NCPO is doing now is really a retrograde step.” He is right on this.

The junta is seeking a coalition that it will be comfortable joining when it decides to manage its “election,” and Abhisit seems unlikely to be a part of that, and the ever “pragmatic” anti-democrats will happily ditch him to get into bed with the military party.





Depressing and familiar

17 01 2017

Reading the Bangkok Post this morning seemed like a trip back in time.

One story at the Post has the The Judge Advocate-General’s Department “seeking a further extension to a deadline to challenge a court ruling that revoked the dismissal of former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the army reserve.” He allegedly used “fake documents when applying to join the army as a lecturer at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy in 1987. The job exempted him from military conscription and gave him the rank of acting sub-lieutenant.”

That story has been around for years now, and Abhisit has been cashiered once in 2012 and then the “Civil Court … ruled in 2015 that … Abhisit had used false documents when he applied for the job and that the Democrat [Party] leader had lacked the necessary qualifications.” An Appeals Court overturned the ruling last year and reinstated Abhisit.

It is a rather simple case that is important to Abhisit because it involves face and status. It is important to his opponents as an example of double standards.

Another Post story has General Prayuth Chan-ocha denying “a report stating the government will revamp the selection system of provincial governors by seeking experts, including those outside the Interior Ministry, to serve in the positions.”

This proposal was apparently recommended by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Somkid reckoned he wanted “governors who have vision …, expertise, strength, … and initiative.”

As a former Thaksin Shinawatra minister, when CEO governors were promoted, it is easy to see why The Dictator has had to quickly respond to a wildfire of yellow-tinged alarm, denying any plan to change the time-honored, elite-supported manner for controlling local populations.  No “vision” or “initiative” required when repressing and managing the dangerous masses.

A third Bangkok Post story is of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) “investigation” of Thawatchai Anukul’s mysterious death in custody on 29 August 2016. This is the former official said to have worked with members of the elite to acquire land – an “normal” enough thing in Thailand. He somehow ended up being investigated and taken into jail. He then died. A first “investigation” concluded “Thawatchai strangled himself by wrapping his socks around his neck and attaching them to a door hinge.” The problem was that the police’s Institute of Forensic Medicine “reported in its initial autopsy result that Thawatchai died of abdominal haemorrhaging and a ruptured liver from being hit with a solid, blunt object together with asphyxiation from hanging…”.

Now the family says it can’t get an autopsy report because “the findings could not be revealed now as they might affect people involved in the case.” Perhaps results will be available for a court hearing in a month or so.

You get the picture. Impunity, cover-ups and complete incompetence are “normal.”

Yet another Post report is of “reconciliation.” General Prawit Wongsuwan has decided that “political parties and pressure groups will be asked to sign ‘a memorandum of understanding on national reconciliation’ as part of government efforts to heal the political divide…”. At the same time, he scotched discussion of an amnesty.

“Reconciliation” has been on the political agenda since the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. The problem has been that “reconciliation” has not involved justice. This time around, Prawit wants ideas from “representatives from all political parties and groups will be invited to contribute ideas, including academics, legal experts, senior military soldiers, and police officers.” After this the junta will “establish a set of guidelines that will promote unity.”

That sounds like what might be expected for “reconciliation” run by a military junta. As Prawit “explained,” the military can play a role in “reconciliation” processes because the military is not viewed as a party to political conflict! Gen Prawit said: “The military never has enemies. It has no conflict with anyone.”

Democrat Party leader Abhisit declared “there was a need to determine the truth behind political unrest” before reconciliation. He means a truth that suits him.

Perhaps surprisingly, Puea Thai Party and official red shirts were sounding enthusiastic. But, then, they desperately need an election as soon as possible.

Interestingly Puea Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan, observed that “success in fostering unity rests on the sincerity of those in power.” She added: “Those in power must show sincerity and maintain impartiality, and must avoid getting themselves involved in conflict themselves. They must listen to all sides equally, rather than invited parties involved in conflict only as a token gesture as before…”.

Related, and at the Bangkok Post, former Thaksin aide Suranand Vejjajiva observes that the military “regime will find it hard to achieve meaningful reconciliation if it is not committed to a return to full democracy and applying the rule of law.” He points out that the military’s “reconciliation” is embedded in the authoritarian “roadmap to democracy” and “its true authoritarian agenda to manipulate political outcomes after a new general election is held either this year or the next.”

Nothing will change the roadmap to authoritarian tutoring over a further 20 years. He says the junta “has to realise that only democracy can pave the way for political reconciliation.”

Suranand’s democracy is not one the military comprehends. It is establishing a 1950s version of Thai-style democracy.

He predicts that “[a]ny future meetings on national reconciliation that Gen Prawit expects to call will end up as a series of shows for the media, if representatives of political parties show up at all.”

That’s been the pattern: impunity, PR and repression. It is depressingly all too familiar.





Amnesty on the junta’s agenda

9 01 2017

There have now been several reports that the military junta is considering a political amnesty. A report at Prachatai states that the the junta is “currently reviewing the recommendations of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand before it forms its official policies on promoting reconciliation.”

After that review, the National Reform Steering Assembly will “recommend to the junta that future political amnesties be inapplicable to those suspected or guilty of violating the country’s anti-corruption laws, as well as Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code — the lèse majesté law.” Political leaders will also be outside any amnesty and compensation will be available.

The exclusion of those accused of lese majeste and corruption continues a legal path where murderers and those involved in violence are considered less reprehensible than the “corrupt” and those who are anti-monarchists.

The NRSA is also likely to “recommend the establishment of a special committee tasked with deciding the merits of political amnesty on a case-by-case basis.” It will suggest that the amnesty be available for the period since 2004.

Amnesty has been a cause of political conflict, with an earlier amnesty bill – quickly withdrawn – under the Yingluck Shinawatra government sparking events that led to the 2014 military coup.

This version of amnesty is targeted to exclude the junta’s political opponents. Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra are excluded because of corruption charges. With lese majeste excluded, many of those politically charged and considered anti-junta activists will be outside “reconciliation.”

The exclusion of political leaders has no impact on Abhisit  Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban as the murder charges against them have all been dropped. Likewise, military criminals who have murdered and maimed continue to enjoy impunity. As for those leading the illegal coups of 2006 and 2014, they have already granted themselves amnesty.





Students vs. hirelings and anti-democrats

31 05 2016

The Nation recently had an “analysis” article on the student movements against the military junta. It refers to “student groups such as Dao Din, the New Democracy Movement (NDM) and the Liberal League of Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD)…”.

It says that “[a]t first, people barely noticed them.” But then, “[s]lowly people learned more about them, and realised that their rebellion was not merely against the coup, but embraced a wider range of policies and social issues that were of concern to everyone.” The report notes how these groups have been politically innovative. They have had to be as their main opponent is the military dictatorship which has massive coercive power.

The report quotes activist Rangsiman Rome who is a key member of the NDM and who observes that the “movement has been ignited by the coup…”. He says that “the students could not tolerate abuses of power – such as tearing apart the 2007 Constitution and allowing members of the junta to go unpunished.” At the same time, they “fight for what ‘should be’ rather than accept what ‘will be’…”.

The article acknowledges that these students have been “at great risk,” but have not hesitated to rally and challenge the junta.

It is sometimes forgotten that these students were active before the 2014 coup. As Rangsiman states, “In 2013 we protested against the amnesty bill proposed by the previous [Yingluck Shinawatra] government…”. Khon Kaen University’s Dao Din student activist Panupong Sritananuwat says his “group has worked with villagers for more than 12 years. Their activities involve environmental issues and educating people on their rights to protect the community.”

The student activists argue that “across the country [students] are increasingly aware of their roles as citizens…”, with Natthisa Patthamaphonphong of the Chulalongkorn Community for People (CCP), saying that “the students wanted to demonstrate they cared about the country.”

The students also “challenged emerging allegations that their activit[ies] are insincere after people questioned whether they were sponsored by particular political factions.”

The article then gets bizarre by going to the source of such claims, reporting academic prostitute (again, apologies to sex workers) and a yellow-shirted “former activist” who has been made an “academic” in a yellow-shirted “university,” even when he lacks the usual credentials associated with academics.

The first is the decidedly slimy Panitan Wattanayagorn, described as “a long-time security lecturer at Chulalongkorn University,” which is probably a reasonable description although he spends most of his time doing tricks as “national security adviser to Deputy Prime Minister [General] Prawit Wongsuwan…” and before that being the ventriloquist’s dummy for the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Panitan has probably never been an activist on anything. The best the article can do is say that he “has been close to a number of student activists…”. Perhaps he was the bagman for the military in this? We suppose that advocating the shooting down of civilian protesters counts as activism. As someone who has long been on the payroll of political masters, it is probably logical for him to declare that “it was inevitable for such questions to arise” about being “sponsored” by a political faction. Indeed, that is Panitan’s own position; he’s always sponsored by the military and right-wing royalists.

Panitan declares that “the public needed to keep an eye on youth-led movements to determine in the long run whether they are independent or not…”. He isn’t, and the public should watch him, for he’s dangerous through his connections with military thugs.

The other quotable “academic” is former People’s Alliance for Democracy co-leader Suriyasai Katasila, now transformed into a “deputy dean of Rangsit University’s College of Social Innovation…”. He isn’t a historian, erroneously comparing the students of 1973 and today’s students, saying “Today’s political condition is so complicated that students cannot straightforwardly do whatever they want, like students did in the past, in 1973…”. Clearly, he has no understanding of the conditions in 1973 that led to a corrupt military regime murdering students in the street.

We could go on, but what’s the point. These “commentators” have political axes to grind while being paternalist and denigrating the current student movements. Panitan blathered: “They should consider if their movements are appropriate and favourable for the society or not, otherwise the public will wonder about [the purpose of] the movements…”. We imagine there are no mirrors in the cheap Chula apartment he occupies.

The students in these groups have more mettle, more integrity and more principles than a herd of Panitans and Suriyasais.





WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.