It is still about Thaksin

22 11 2017

Yingluck Shinawatra has completely disappeared from public view. She was targeted by the military junta as one important Shinawatra clan member as the junta has sought to dismantle something it and other anti-democrats identify as the “Thaksin regime.” Of course, they have also gone after other members of the Shinawatra clan and their supporters, attempting to expunge their political pull. For the junta, an important target is the Shinawatra wealth, which the junta mistakenly considers the basis of their political attractiveness for voters. Another aim is to “demonstrate” that the Shinawatras have been criminals, with the “thinking” being that this shows voters that they are not “good people.”

So with Yingluck gone, the targeting has moved back to Thaksin. Armed with new laws passed by the puppet National Legislative Assembly, the junta has directed public prosecutors to “pursue two corruption cases against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra despite the fact that he’s outside the country.” This (again) means that new laws are applied retrospectively.

The puppet Office of the Attorney General claims, against all logic and belief, that the retrospective application of the new law “was not meant to target the 67-year-old tycoon…”. He lied: “This is in accordance with the law. It is the duty of the Office of the Attorney General…. There was no discrimination.” Of course, the truth is that the new law was passed expressly to target Thaksin.

The cases go back to the first term of the elected Thaksin government.

The junta is desperate to destroy Thaksin and his clan and almost everything the junta does is in the shadow of Thaksin and his influence and popularity.





Thailand’s future politics II

2 11 2017

In our previous post we looked at two articles considering possible futures for Thailand’s politics. Here we look at two more.

Christina Larson is a Beijing-based reporter who has written for the New Yorker, Foreign Policy and Bloomberg. Her guess that the “respect felt by most Thais for their monarchy” is “genuine” is married to an appopriate observation that this is “besmirched by the growing enforcement of the world’s strictest lèse-majesté law…”. She adds that ” use of the law has allowed the government to persecute critics and to create a widespread fear while maintaining a veneer of legality.”

She observes that the “fate of the law has been inextricably tied up with the image of Bhumibol himself.” That’s a point that others have often missed. At the same time, the increased use of the law and its justification has been “protecting the monarchy.” Larson notes that the image of the monarchy that is protected is of the ninth king and adds: “But the burnished image of the ‘People’s King’ — as a crusader for little people, a camera-toting investigator and promoter of public works – was shaped and reinforced by a supremely successful 70-year-propaganda campaign.”

It is that propaganda image that has been reinforced again and again over recent years – not least because the incumbent was mostly hidden in a hospital – and because that image was challenged. The funeral pushed the image again to supreme heights. But it is constructed:

According to Thailand’s constitution and school textbooks, the monarch is above politics, separate from the spheres of government and business. But nearly every public and private establishment in Bangkok was marking the official mourning period. Black-and-white memorial photos of Bhumibol in full royal regalia were on display at major airports, on highway billboards, at restaurants and hotels, even on the screens of ATMs. Liquor sales were prohibited during the cremation ceremonies, and the city’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens closed early on Thursday. That speaks to the power of the monarchy – and the fear of causing offense – that’s opened up a wide venue for persecution.

Larson quotes Benjamin Zawacki on the monarchy and lese majeste. (As a former representative of Amnesty International, he spent a lot of energy arguing that the reign of the dead king promoted human rights! He and AI neglected lese majeste in Thailand.)

Zawacki makes a rather odd comment: “If the cremation shows us nothing else, it is that the depth of respect and adoration for the monarchy in Thailand renders the lèse-majesté law redundant…”. Clearly it wasn’t, and the palace and military used it whenever there were political crises or whenever it saw threats to the grand concocted image of the monarchy.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak seems to contradict Zawacki, saying:

With the new reign, the enforcement of the [lèse-majesté] law will likely only increase, not decrease, for two reasons. The new monarch does not command as much love and respect as his father on an individual basis, and the monarchy will be under pressure to structurally adjust to new democratic norms.

Thitinan sees a continuation of the monarchy’s anti-democratic politics and a deepening of fear and intimidation. That seems entirely consistent with what we know of Vajiralongkorn and The Dictator. The symbiotic relationship mentioned in our previous post is important. At the same time, the  junta benefits enormously from the lese majeste law.

Kasit

The final article is an op-ed by the Democrat Party’s Kasit Piromya titled Thai political transformation needs ‘third force’. He believes an “alternative exists to military rule and entrenched political elite.”

Given that Kasit seems to have supported two military interventions throwing out elected governments, was a long-serving and senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, filled with members of the elite who are deeply royalist, we can only marvel at his idea of a “third force” and his call for “full-fledged democracy.”

He asks: “How much longer must Thai society accept the military’s involvement in politics?” Perhaps the answer is when persons like Kasit stop supporting those who are responsible for the coups.

He’s not keen on electoral politics, with PAD-like anti-democrat finger-pointing at the “dominance of vested interests in the political landscape led to countless numbers of abuses of power and corruption” along with “a power-hungry civilian political elite that engaged in rent-seeking with its majority rule.” He means the Thaksin regime.

And the “third force”? It is a PAD “solution” based on its usual false premises.

Kasit declares a pox on all houses (not his own): “One cannot rely on the military to voluntarily return to and remain in the barracks, nor on the political class to change its exploitative ways.”

The citizens must take the lead. But, of course, only after this “uneducate,” duped, misled and paid among them “educate themselves by gaining full access to information about government services and tasks, including how the national budget is spent, how decisions are made and how they can have input.” Does Kasit do this? We doubt it.

PADistas like Kasit believe that the citizenry is fodder for Thaksin-like politicians because they are “uneducate.”

Somehow the “Thai democratic citizenry” will be achieved “with the advent of modern telecommunications that enable convenient and fast connections with the public through mobile phones, social media and other internet-based vehicles.” Internet-based vehicles?? He’s making this up as he writes.

But what of the “third force”? Kasit reckons it “could consist of like-minded people” who come “together to agree on a course of action and draw up a list of priority issues so that a national consensus can be reached on taking Thailand forward.”

We think he’s serious, but who knows. When he calls the “get together” we’ll be sure to attend. Oh, but hang on… we are not “like-minded” with Kasit (thankfully!).

That said, he is right that when old ruling classes in some places have “reached a consensus with society at large to agree on a transitional approach toward democracy.”

In Thailand, however, the ruling class has repeatedly demonstrated that it will not compromise. Kasit can ramble on about a “third force” but the problem is the ruling class. They need to be overcome.





Thaksin denies lese majeste

10 10 2017

Lese majeste has become the military dictatorship’s weapon of political choice in attacking opponents. Because it has to do with monarchy, yellow shirts immediately jump on board and support the junta, no matter how absurd the allegations and charges (historical myths and events, the dead king’s dead dog, use against a juvenile, etc.). When this political charge is used against Thaksin Shinawatra, the gleefulness of junta and royalist supporters is palpable.

So when the military dictatorship reactivated a lese majeste accusation against Thaksin (one of many such charges and allegations), the yellow-hued royalists again clapped and cheered the military regime.

In this instance, Thaksin has responded.

Thaksin denied “that he has ever defamed the royal family and threatened to sue anyone who accuses him of the crime.” He took to Twitter to state that he was “emotionally troubled” by reports that “the new attorney general had vowed to prosecute him for the crime.”

He condemned the use of lese majeste against him and declared that he “will take all legal action against those who continue implicate him, regardless of whether he knew the person. He did not name names.”

The newly appointed attorney general Khemchai Chutiwong wants to prosecute Thaksin for a “crime” of stating, quite reasonably, of the 2014 military coup, that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Of course, as in many cases of lese majeste, this statement cannot possibly be lese majeste if any sane person reads Article 112. But like many of his ilk, Khemchai is insane when it comes to Thaksin and sees no problem in contorting an already absurd law to the political purpose of the anti-Thaksin coteries of royalists, coup-makers and anti-democrats.





Anti-Thaksinism, extradition and lese majeste

8 10 2017

The military junta continues to give the impression that it is really, really serious about “capturing” Yingluck Shinawatra. We don’t quite know why they do this. On the one hand, if Yingluck did simply stroll out of Thailand and into exile, the junta’s security operations are shown to be utterly hopeless. On the other hand, if the junta was part of a “deal” with Yingluck, then the junta has to show the yellowed anti-democrats that it really was incompetent – or at least those nasty and reddish police were conniving with her and duped the bosses in the junta.

The junta gives the impression that it is struggling to maintain its anti-democratic alliances and there are rumors of internal dissension, although such claims have been constant since the 2014 coup.

Whatever the cause of its actions, the military junta now claims to want to extradite Yingluck “regardless of whether she seeks or is granted asylum in the UK as some media have reported…”. They say that when the find her, they will spring into action. The current line is that she can’t get asylum anywhere because the junta didn’t take her to court on any political charge, so she’s not a political exile. When it comes to shoveling excrement, those associated with the justice system seem especially skilled.

Much of this is in line with The Dictator’s political campaigning, where he believes and hopes that all those who voted for “that woman” will see the light and realize that he’s good while all those Shinawatra and associated politicians and evil fugitives and criminals.

Beyond Yingluck, the junta and its justice system lackeys have, according to a Bangkok Post report, “public prosecutors have decided to indict former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on a lese majeste charge and vowed to revive pending criminal cases against him under a new organic law that allows for the trials of fugitive politicians to be held in absentia.”

Brand new Attorney-General Khemchai Chutiwong is taking the running on these actions. Khemchai is a loyal anti-democrat and a puppet-servant of the military dictatorship, having been rewarded with positions on the National Reform Council and state enterprise boards. He is one of those who thinks apply laws retrospectively is fine and dandy when going after political opponents.

The move against Thaksin years after the case was first made in May 2015, following an interview in South Korea on which PPT has a full report. Thaksin commented on the links between military and privy council in orchestrating the 2014 military coup. He stated that:

The military listened to the Privy Councilors…. When they didn’t want us to stay anymore, they made Suthep [Thaugsuban, leader of anti-government protests] come out, and then had the military help him. Some people from the palace circle also provided help, which made us powerless.

Khemchai declared that on the various cases against Thaksin, “the next step would be for state prosecutors to request the TCSC issue a warrant for Thaksin’s arrest. Extradition proceedings will be launched if his whereabouts can be confirmed…”.





Updated: Will it be 2019?

6 10 2017

Thailand’s military dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, presumably understood that in the U.S. he was signing a Joint Statement between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand that stated “Thailand’s commitment to the Roadmap, which, upon completion of relevant organic laws as stipulated by the Constitution, will lead to free and fair elections in 2018.”

Lying is a bit like eating and sleeping for The Dictator; it comes naturally. In any case, within days, General Prayuth has corrected “misconceptions” that using the date “2018” actually meant the year 2018 in the Gregorian calendar.

We didn’t believe the statement on this point – neither Trump nor Prayuth fully understand “truth” – and the latter has now, magician-like, revealed that 2018 means 2019.

This election rabbit has been pulled from a hat when meeting with junta-worshiping, posterior polishing Thais in the United States “that the election should take place in 2019,” with the report adding that this is “many months later than the junta-appointed legislators had predicted.”

Remember all the times that Prayuth promised and the reneged? Recall all the times he has said he’s sticking by the roadmap and then changed it? Now, the earliest Prayuth’s election can be held is probably April 2019. But he could easily change his mind again.

Perhaps the junta feels that this date is appropriate and it reckons its iron grip will be tight enough by then to allow its people to dominate the “election.” After all, five years after the coup (in 2019), the dinosaur coup-makers probably assume there won’t be much left of the Shinawatras and theirassociated political party and red shirts. Pesky pro-democracy activists have been more or less cowed. And, following a royal funeral and coronation, the military thugs probably think they’ll have the country tied up.

If The Dictator remains unsure of his “electoral” victory, expect further delays. The rabbit can go back in the hat to be revealed again. Prayuth has repeatedly babbled about not wanting to be premier but he sure seems to crave the power and prestige.

Update: The Bangkok Post headlines a story: “Meechai unravels Prayut’s poll quote.” The story is about one of Thailand’s most destructive of conservatives, Meechai Ruchupan. This old man has meddled in the writing of Thailand’s most conservative constitutions and laws. For his role in 1991 when he was also serving military putchists, we have a post. It seems this geriatric is somehow in a time warp – 1968.

Meechai is, quite simply, the military’s man, responsible for multiple illiberal reversions over several decades. He currently chairs the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee. The sub-heading is “Says premier only speculating on delay.” We doubt The Dictator will fancy being told he’s “speculating.” The Dictator is more likely to be telling Meechai what to do. In fact, baring some kind of uprising from within the military or from society, it is General Prayuth who will decide when he wants to hold his “election”; Meechai, as a pawn, will do what he’s told.





Coup learning

22 09 2017

PPT wishes to draw attention to two retrospective articles published by Prachatai. Both can be considered the 2014 military coup and the period of military dictatorship in a context of the “failures” of the 2006 coup to demolish the “Thaksin regime.”

The first, by Kornkritch Somjittranukit, claims that “[f]orming political alliances, securing military influence, creating extra-parliamentary mechanisms and establishing dominant ideology are things that the ruling junta has learnt from the 2006 wasted coup…”. The article details these “lessons,” learned by the current junta.

In our view, the regime and its anti-democratic supporters measure the junta’s “success” by its ability to destroy the Thaksin regime – its party, its red shirt support, its influence in the police, military and bureaucracy, its wealth and even individuals considered important to that “evil regime.” The current junta’s main key performance indicator is preventing the re-election of any Shinawatra, whether that is by “postponing” elections or rigging them.

The second, by Khon Kaen academic Siwach Sripokangkul, can be read as an account of the junta’s “reconciliation” as a means to exclude, discipline and destroy those considered oppositional. It highlights the broad double standards at work in a militarized Thai society.

Of course, The Dictator looms large: “In [General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s view, if someone does not think or see the world as he does, he or she lacks Thainess and is a danger to Thai society; he, Prayuth, is right and the other person is wrong.”





2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.