Setting the rigging II

20 11 2018

When the Army chief defends the use of Article 44 by the military junta it does little more than confirm the worst fears many have about efforts to rig election boundaries. When the puppet Election Commission babbles incoherently about the reasons for the delay/extension/non-delay, the fears appear justified.

Gen Apirat Kongsompong is reported to have somewhat angrily “affirmed that the regime’s latest order allowing the Election Commission (EC) to make changes to constituency boundaries until Dec 11 will not affect the proposed Feb 24 poll date.”

What the general didn’t do was explain why the order was necessary when “a few days before it was issued, the EC said it had already completed the redrawing and was preparing to announce the new boundaries.”

Gen Apirat insisted “that the order is intended to give the EC enough time to come up with an electoral boundary map which suits both voters and parties.”

What the general didn’t do was explain why the order reportedly eliminated public and party consultation on the proposed boundaries.

More confusing is the claim by the junta that the use of Article 44 was “a response to growing criticism that the redrawing of constituencies has failed to take public input into account.”

As all of this was going on, EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong was forced to admit that “the EC had earlier issued a regulation on redrawing constituency boundaries, requiring it to announce the new constituencies in the Royal Gazette by Nov 10.” He also “admitted that the EC had, in fact, finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

So what happened?

Unconvincingly, the EC President has been reported as claiming Article 44 was needed as his EC suddenly got derailed because he “had to have an eye surgery…”. He added: “Therefore, the announcement had to be delayed…”.

What the EC President did not explain was why his personal problem became an unsolvable national political problem. He’s not the only person in the EC. It is a bureaucratic agency based on a hierarchy, with some very senior people working there. There’s more below on this.

If it all smells fishy based on his “explanation,” it gets worse.

After conjuring up this unconvincing “explanation,” Ittiporn added: “We’ll comply with related laws and will finish the job by the deadline [Dec 11]. After all, the NCPO’s new order explicitly says the EC has to do the job by the criteria defined in the law.”

He must have forgotten that he’d already said the EC had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

Getting in on this charade, “Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said … the NCPO’s new order was issued to protect the EC from accusations of malfeasance surrounding the delay.”

What Wissanu fails to explain is why more time is needed if the EC President is being truthful when he says the agency had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

Ittiporn more or less confirmed the assumptions that the junta is fiddling with boundaries when he “declined to answer whether the nearly-finished constituency map had to be redone or to comment on the NCPO order…”.

The whole thing gets about as clear as mud when Wissanu admits that not all was well in the EC: “the EC president was not well and other commissioners had different opinions on the redrawn map, further delaying the process…”. Further delaying? But the EC had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.” But what of “different opinions”? What’s going on there if the EC had “finished redrawing the constituency boundaries on Nov, 5.”

Just adding to this mix of contradictory babble, The Dictator claims that he “used his special powers to issue the order on Friday, giving the EC the mandate to do what is necessary, including ruling on complaints arising from public hearings, to make sure the redrawing of all 350 constituencies is done before Dec 11.”

What Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha doesn’t explain is when there will be public hearings. As we understand it, the EC can now decide the boundaries without public hearings.

Things are likely to get even more confused as the junta seeks to muddy the waters as much as possible as it rigs its “election.”





More army “election” intervention

14 11 2018

The military is becoming more deeply involved in making sure that people “elect” the junta’s favored parties.

A Bangkok Post report explains that the Army is establishing mobile teams to “visit villages in the provinces to educate local communities about election law and the poll roadmap…”.

We guess that this propaganda and pressure unit is being formed because the Army’s polling is still showing the junta’s parties trailing in many rural areas.

The junta’s secretary-general, Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has ordered the mobile teams to “listen to people’s problems in their communities…”. While doing this, the team of soldier-thugs will “educate people about the basic features of the organic law on the election of MPs, which will come into effect on Dec 12.”

What they mean is propagandize for the military junta’s parties.

We get the feeling that this effort to “educate” comes from the essential anti-democrat view that villagers are “uneducate.” So the response is that the Army should indoctrinate them.

Having military thugs stomping about in villages and communities and telling potential voters what they should do is just one new effort by the junta to rig its “election.”





All that corruption

7 11 2018

We were interested in a couple of recent stories about corruption and the implications of conflicts of interest.

One was the story about an odd admission of corruption and drug dealing in the military’s Internal Security Operations Command. In it, “Army chief Apirat Kongsompong vows to dismiss Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) officers found guilty of drug offences.” Grumbling that anti-drugs campaigns were failing, the new Army boss stated:

There is a need to also look at the command, which is a key agency in the state’s anti-drug campaign, and find flaws in the implementation of drug busting measures, for which some Isoc officers are to blame.

That’s quite an admission not least because ISOC has a role in fighting corruption. Based on Gen Apirat’s sudden revelation, that role is a bit like putting Billy Bunter in control of a bakery.

But what really caused us confusion is the fact that ISOC is critical for the stealing for the junta’s “election.” Does this mean that Gen Apirat is working against the junta?

A second story relates to the indigestion of state officials regarding the so-called controversy about a new regulation announced by hopeless puppet National Anti-Corruption Commission “that requires senior civil servants to declare their assets and liabilities…”.

It is well-known that senior civil servants are generally on the take, so we can understand their fright. But, then again, the NACC doesn’t go after unusually rich so long as they are loyal to the junta. Just think of all those self-declared unusually rich in the National Legislative Assembly or the Deputy Dictator and all his luxury watches.

The thing that caught PPT’s eye was the note that the “immediate concern is that university council members affected by the new rule are set to quit their jobs…”. It seems that universities “fear it will lead to university council members leaving their positions in droves.”

Why’s that? It is revealed that “[m]any people from the private sector sit on university councils and are reluctant to declare their assets.”

Okay, that makes sense. Of course, unlike the self-declaring unusually wealthy, business people don’t want anyone to know how wealthy they are, how much tax they avoid and how many bribes they pay for police, military and civil servants.





Treasonous military

24 10 2018

The military junta has charged countless persons with treason or sedition over the more than four years since it illegally seized power by way of the 2014 military coup.

But when two pro-democracy and anti-junta activists filed a police complaint against new army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong for his statement in support of military coups and the planning for one after the junta’s “election,” if required, it is they who now face charges.

Akechai Hongkangwarn and Chokechai Paiboonratchata quite correctly accused Gen Apirat of treason as defined by the junta’s own constitution. Section 49 states: “No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.” Indeed, Section 50 adds that Thais have a duty to to protect and uphold various things including “the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”

In fact, Akechai and Chokechai filed a “complaint on grounds that Apirat violated Article 113 of the penal code, which criminalizes treason.”

But that military junta ignores the law and its constitution has a ton of sections that the junta simply ignores.

So, in this case, Akechai and Chokechai are to be charges “for allegedly filing a false police complaint…”.





The rigged election and the coup

23 10 2018

Atiya Achakulwisut at the Bangkok Post asks the obvious question: “What is the point of holding a general election when a military coup is lurking just around the corner?”

Army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong making headlines by “saying another coup is possible if political unrest returns” is topic of the week, as the junta expected and wanted.

Atiya says Gen Apirat’s threat “has dimmed the light of a return to democracy after four years under military rule but because it suggested that authoritarianism will always be the answer for Thai society.”

We get the point, but anyone who reads anything about Thailand’s politics knows that the military has long been the enemy of electoral democracy.

Gen Apirat’s statement is only a little more threatening than Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s exhortation just prior to the 2011 election for voters to reject Yingluck Shinawatra and the Puea Thai Party. The implication of his “advice” to voters was that if they didn’t elect the other side, then expect the military to eventually intervene. And so he did via the creation of the anti-democrat movement.

Atiya suggests that the “new army chief made the coup threat public to send a message to politicians not to stray so far as to instigate violence ahead of the poll.” That’s wrong. His threat is to voters, just as Prayuth’s threat was to voters.

When Atiya says that “hopes are still high that the next election will be free and fair and the results will be accepted by all sides,” she’s grasping at straws and misreading what the junta means the “election” to be.

She’s right on a lot more about the nature of the military dictatorship. What matters for the junta is keeping political power in the hands of the anti-democrats, whether by rigged election or military coup.





Military planning, the rigged election and the next coup

22 10 2018

According to Wassana Nanuam at the Bangkok Post, the military under new boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong has a plan for defeating Puea Thai in an “election.” If that doesn’t work, the Army will control the new government. And, if that fails, the Army will arrange yet another military coup.

That’s why he has refused “to rule out another coup…”.

Wassana reports that it “is widely speculated that a new administration led by Pheu Thai could face military retaliation if it attempts to remove generals appointed by the regime [the junta].” A source tells her: “Pheu Thai is likely to have a hard time running the country and may face another round of street protests that could enable the military to justify a coup…”.

How’s that for a plan! Even before the rigged election is held or a single vote counted, it is being made clear that a Puea Thai government is unacceptable and will be destabilized.

First, however, the the military junta and the Army “will opt for the ‘less extreme’ tactic of preventing Pheu Thai taking the reins in the first place…”. This involves “managing” coalition building that excludes Puea Thai.

The source adds that Gen Apirat’s coup stance is significant “because few are convinced the Palang Pracharath Party, known to be a vehicle to support Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as the premier if he wishes, can win the election outright.” Military might may well be required again.

The contingency plans are already in place.





Army and monarchy entwined

18 10 2018

Khaosod has a story that should be read.

While there’s much talk about lese majeste being (perhaps) rolled back and dependent on royal whim, the long mutual relationship between the monarchy and the top military brass is stronger than ever.

Gen Apirat Kongsompong reportedly:

“lashed out at those behind a recent bid to petition King Vajiralongkorn to remove the military junta, calling them “mentally insane”… A majority of those who slander the monarchy are mentally insane, and those who are not insane have strange ideas….

He continued, saying “the army should remember its loyalty lies with … the King.” Gen Apirat worrried that:

… [s]ome soldiers might have forgotten this, so let me remind them their supreme commander is the monarch…. The army is a servant whose duty and heart are for protecting the monarchy … the army will use every one of its capabilities and capacity to defend the monarchy.

Like several army thugs before him, Gen Apirat observed:

Governments change, but the monarch must always exist side by side with the Thai nation. This is the duty of the army, and I will protect the monarchy with everything I have….

The Nation worried that these statements might mean that republicans could find themselves in a mental hospital. Pointing out that this was Gen Apirat’s first press conference since taking his post.

In its report, The Nation adds that Apirat, like his boss The Dictator, wondered if anti-monarchists were real Thais:

These people can’t be in Thailand…. We have always been protected by the monarchy, since the time of our ancestors. Why can’t they [the anti-monarchists] be grateful for that? Everybody is patriotic here.

Despite the royalist mouthpiece’s claims, the “change” on lese majeste remains unclear and is yet to be fully tested.