On the cheating campaign trail

17 02 2019

Thai PBS recently reported that The Dictator, in his role as prime minister “toured Bangkok’s … Chatuchak weekend market today (Saturday) and chatted with both vendors and shoppers.”

In fact, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was campaigning for his Palang Pracharath Party.

As the party’s prime ministerial candidate, he was “[a]ccompanied by Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwan, Interior Minister [Gen] Anupong Paochinda and Deputy Transport Minister Pairin Chuchotethavorn…”.

The campaign message is clear, with the current and future prime minister appearing with the two generals who were with him in defeating the red shirts and overthrowing the last elected government. The old team is united, loyal  and ready to rule for another four years.

The Dictator stated that “the current Pheu Thai- Palang Prachart conflict spurred him on.” That is, only the devil party can defeat the disloyal Thaksinites.

Election off

8 01 2019

Khaosod reports that Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda has confirmed an official memorandum telling officials to cease preparations for an “election.”

The leaked memo was sent to “voting officials in every province.” Noting that there was no Royal Decree on the election, the memo ordered that “all preparations for elections are hereby halted.”

“Let me confirm again that there will be an election, 1 million percent, no matter which day it would be, and whether it would be sooner or later than we expected,” Anupong said. “We haven’t seen the Royal Decree for this election yet, so we have to wait for clarity.”

Anupong seemed to blame the Election Commission, saying his ministry was ready to do all necessary work when the EC told him when the election was on.

The blame lies elsewhere and Anupong’s response suggests there might not be an election for a while.

All used up

8 11 2018

When the royalist establishment deemed it crucial that it oppose elected governments, it supported the creation of “movements” with allegedly “charismatic” leaders, using “civil society” to bring down those governments. Backing them were royalists from business, including the giant conglomerates, and the military.

First there was Sondhi Limthongkul and the People’s Alliance for Democracy. It drew on considerable middle class discontent with Thaksin Shinawatra and his regime but was driven by royalist ideology.

After a series of false starts, the second great “movement” was the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by the royalist anti-democrats of the Democrat Party and fronted by Suthep Thaugsuban.

Of course, neither movement was able to bring down the elected governments. That required military coups in 2006 and 2014.

When they had done their work, the fact of their invention by the royalist strategists of the military, business and palace was seen in the manner in which the “movements” vaporized once their usefulness was over.

And, look at the leaders. Both had a capacity to mobilize supporters and this worried many in the military. At the same time, the military knew that it “deserved” to be on top and that the upstarts they created had to know their place.

Sondhi was targeted for what was either an assassination bid or a brutal warning to know his place. No one was ever charged, but it is interesting that the media at the time suggested that both Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda were considered “suspects” in the Sondhi shooting.

Suthep thought he was a “star” and “popular,” but the military put him in his place following the 2014 coup, having to enter the monkhood. While Suthep is back and campaigning for his Action Coalition for Thailand (ACT) Party, it seems his “movement” has evaporated and his capacity for garnering the political limelight has been lost under the military junta. Interestingly, this return is a backflip and, according to one op-ed, not popular with his former PDRC supporters (and presumably its backers).

The op-ed continues: “… Suthep seems to have overestimated his popularity, thinking it could be on par with the backing he received from PDRC supporters during the time he led the street protests.” He was disappointed: “his recent jaunts in several areas to recruit members for the party have apparently received a cold response.” This caused “core PDRC supporter Arthit Ourairat … calling for Mr Suthep and other PDRC leaders who have joined ACT to stop their political activities.” Arthit might have poured money into the PDRC but is an ardent anti-democrat and probably is 100% behind The Dictator’s bid for extended power. Tellingly, the man who funded and funneled money to Suthep and PDRC reckons that “people ‘no longer believed them’.”

Anti-democrats want a military-dominated regime and Suthep’s usefulness, like Sondhi’s before him, is over. Suthep’s response will be interesting as his face, position and wealth depend on state links.

GT200 conviction and the cover-up continues

11 10 2018

Not that long ago we had some posts on the ongoing GT200 corruption scandal.

As a follow-up, Khaosod reports that the military’s middleman on all these deals has been convicted again:

Sutthiwat Wattanakij and his company Ava Satcom Ltd. were guilty of fraud for selling the so-called GT200 devices worth 6.8 million baht to the ministry’s Central Institute of Forensic Science from 2007 to 2009.

The ruling came two weeks after he was handed down the same sentence for selling the devices to the Royal Thai Aide-De-Camp Department in 2008.

Again, no official seems to have been investigated.

We recall that back in 2010, we posted on a story by Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation who suggested that “superstition trumps logic in this country.” He asked:

How else can one explain Army chief General Anupong Paochinda and forensics department chief Pornthip Rojanasunand insisting on using the so-called bomb detectors even though a Science Ministry test had proved that they are basically useless?

We also recall that Pornthip is always claimed to be Thailand’s leading forensic scientist and that her support for the GT200 was enthusiastic.

At the time we suggested that corruption was a better answer to Pravit’s question.It still is, but because all three of the most senior junta generals – Gen Prayuth, Gen Prawit and Gen Anupong – were involved, there’s no investigation.

Doubling down on double standards V

11 10 2018

The Revenue Department has recently decided that it should allow “tax deductions for contributions to political parties, with a cap of 10,000 baht for individual taxpayers and 50,000 baht for companies.” A report states:

The amended Revenue Code, which is currently having a public hearing running through Oct 15, is to comply with Section 70 of the 2017 charter, stipulating that those who contribute to political parties can deduct income tax.

The department considered it appropriate to permit both individuals and corporate taxpayers to claim political contributions and donations as expenses for income tax deductions, the source said.

Yet, the junta’s Election Commission has warned ” about receiving donations as the act is still prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).”

EC secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said that the ban on parties that still exists prevents “political activities, including fundraising for political purposes…”.

Double standards, You bet. The junta is doing all it can to win its rigged election.

Campaigning not oppressing

5 10 2018

Prior to campaigning internationally and building his profile as a “real leader,” The Dictator has been campaigning in Bangkok.

Honing his populist skills, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha took the subway and a passenger boat on the Phadung Krungkasem Canal. His minders giggled and explained this was so The Dictator could “get first-hand experience of commuting in the capital.” It was really for the former Army boss and coup leader to be seen as a “politician” with the people rather than a thug repressing and oppressing them.

Declaring “he was not campaigning for votes but had to meet Bangkokians after seeing people in other provinces,” The Dictator campaigned at Lumpini Park (we’ll skip the hia references), Hua Lamphong railway station and several other places, playing at being the people’s politician.

The Dictator was joined by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat and Bangkok’s junta-appointed governor Pol Gen Aswin Khwanmuang.

He made sure to order various things be done.

He did not sit down in shopping centers or markets to recruit members for his party as he maintains the fiction that he’s not the unofficial boss of the Palang Pracharath Party.

Doubling down on double standards IV

2 10 2018

We have posted a lot on the GT200 debacle. Even so, the Bangkok Post’s recent editorial on the military brass and their impunity deserves attention.

It points out that the retailer of the useless non-devices to the military and other government agencies has twice been found guilty for selling the lumps of plastic. With just two employees, his AVA Satcom Co Ltd. managed to sell large quantities of the junk to the government and military.

(Reminds us that this is not unusual. The non-flying waste of money Sky Dragon was sold to the same military brass by a penny company in the USA. It’s now more than a year since that “investigation” was begun and nothing’s been heard that we know of.)

The Post states that the “military men involved in this shameful saga more than 10 years ago have never been brought to justice.” Why not? The Post “answers”: “They include several of those in high positions in the military regime and National Council for Peace and Order.” (So does the Sky Dragon non-case.)

More than this, Sutthiwat lawyer “claims that Sutthiwat only imported the GT200 … because the army told him to do so.” And more: “Credibly he claims army officers approached his client with instructions, and specific specifications to buy, import and resell the items to the army.”

If it wasn’t a theft of taxpayer funds, this would be funny. It is corruption, managed and directed by senior military officers. And to repeat, as the Post said: “They include several of those in high positions in the military regime and National Council for Peace and Order.”

The Post makes it clear that the “lawyer’s claim is credible because this is the way the Royal Thai Armed Forces do their foreign buying.”

A total of 535 sets of the useless GT200 were purchased by the Army, costing the taxpayer 642 million baht, with”four army commanders in a row spoke glowingly and positively of their effectiveness.” That’s Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who led the 2006 coup and Gen Anupong Paojinda, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan who all led the 2014 coup and now lead the military junta.

Double standards define the military junta.