Shaky regime

17 06 2019

Facing legal challenges that can only be pushed aside if remarkable double standards are applied in the judicial system, the junta-spawned government-to-be is in a spot of bother that could become a major threat to the regime the junta is trying to put in place.

Of course, legal double standards have been the norm for much of the time since the 2006 military coup, so nothing can be ruled out. However, if the 41 MPs currently being challenged for media shareholdings on which the Election Commission and Constitutional Court moved with lightening speed when Future Forward members were involved, are laundered by those institutions, then the junta’s regime-in-the-making will be in serious trouble (except with the rusted-on yellow shirts and other anti-democrats).

A point to note, as pointed out by the linked story is that these cases should not be compared with that of Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (except perhaps on the speed with which his case was processed). Rather, the comparison should be with disqualified candidate Phubet Henlod, a Future Forward candidate in Sakhon Nakhon’s Constituency 2. His candidacy was withdrawn by an order of the Supreme Court’s Electoral Affairs Division on March 19 because he was a partner-manager of a company, Mars Engineering and Service, which registered as perhaps, one day, having an interest in the media business.

If, as Wan Noor claims, the junta’s regime is in trouble, what might happen. Readers will know that PPT doesn’t engage much in crystal-balling, but there is another story that offers some things to consider.

Gen Apirat

It will come as no surprise that a source said to be close to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha states that The Dictator will “rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him.” If Gen Prayuth does become Defense Minister, then he will work closely with rabid royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

The anonymous source, reckons that Gen Prayuth “is highly unlikely to face any coups.” Not only has Gen Apirat been a member of the junta, but his  “allegiance and support for Gen Prayut” has been strong. The source also mentions that “internal structural changes — in which key units for coup-making are transferred — [mean] any military intervention is almost ruled out.”

For PPT, that last point is unlikel;y to prevent a coup if the Army commander ordered it. But all of this seems beside the point. What is more likely is a coup in support of Gen Prayuth if his government is unstable and unable to work as if it is a junta.

The story continues and observes that Prayuth’s “civilian” government “will depend on the army’s Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), which has the resources and the Internal Security Act to enable it to continue the kind of repression that has gone on over the past five years. The source added that “military tactics will be deployed to make the Prayut administration stay in power as long as possible and help him prepare for the next round of elections.”

We are already seeing that thuggishness used against opponents.

To keep his government in place via parliament, “[c]abinet reshuffles, money and lawsuits are also on the table.” Don’t rule out military threats; these have been used extensively in the past, including during Gen Prem Tinsulanonda’s government, when senior politicians like Kukrit Pramoj were intimidated.

What’s missing in this discussion – of course! – is any consideration of the palace. Gen Prayuth must work especially hard to satisfy and satiate King Vajiralongkorn. If he fails in this, he’s dead and so is his government (if he ever forms it).

A game of chance

16 06 2019

Readers may have noticed that some 10 days ago, Thaksin Shinawatra was sentenced to two years in prison “over his handling of a state lottery scheme he launched while in office more than a decade ago.”

It was in 2008 that a body of post-2006 coup, army-appointed “graftbusters filed … charges against Thaksin, accusing him and 46 cabinet ministers and other top officials of illegal use of funds from a state lottery, wrongly approving and operating the lottery from 2003 to 2006.”

In sentencing Thaksin, the court stated:

government lotteries were aimed at generating income for the country and the digit lotteries put the country at risk.

Despite opposition, Thaksin ordered a then deputy finance minister and director of the Government Lottery Office to launch the two- and three-digit lotteries without a law supporting it or measure to prevent financial risks of the state as the GLO [Government Lottery Office] usually did.

While the lottery scheme brought 123.34 billion baht to state coffers, not all draws were profitable, with seven incurring losses totalling 1.67 billion baht, according to the ruling….

Despite the large flow of funds to the state, Patanapong Chanpetpul, director of the NACC’s Bureau of Legal Affairs, said [that]… by law the Finance Ministry, which supervised the GLO, could demand compensation for the damage.” Work that one out.

Fast forward to the 2014 coup. When Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha used Article 44 to put now Army commander Apirat Kongsompong in charge of the GLO. His task was “to solve chronic problems of overpriced tickets.”This move was seen as a quick-win move that would “return happiness to the people”, as the junta had promised. A Bangkok Post report continues:

The board fixed the price of lottery ticket pairs at 80 baht apiece, revised quotas for vendor groups, banned bundled sales by popular numbers and increased printing of tickets to 90 million each fortnight from 37 million in 2014.

Five years on, lottery tickets are still selling at 90-100 baht, just as they did before the coup, and tickets are still bundled to fetch higher prices.

So Gen Apirat failed on that, with no return of happiness to the people, and overpricing remains a problem.He left the GLO to become an appointed member of the Senate.

Gen Apirat, now the army chief, stepped down from the GLO last month to join the Senate.

In his term, he probably kept the junta happy for it is reported that “the GLO has emerged as the largest contributor to state coffers, bringing in 40.8 billion baht in fiscal 2018, up from 15.3 billion in fiscal 2014.” We think “largest contributor” means from state organizations. After all, VAT brings in far, far more. Even so, you see that Gen Apirat has done a job for the junta. Thaksin got two years in jail for raising that kind of revenue for the state.

Updated: Crazed MP uses lese majeste

10 06 2019

Khaosod reports further on the crazed campaign by Parina Kraikup of the junta-spawned Phalang Pracharath Party. For the background, see the following stories:

Pantsuit-Gate II: Pro-Prayuth MP Piles on Rival’s Fashion

Pantsuit-Gate: Future Forward MP Criticized for Not Wearing All Black

Pro-Junta MP Files Cybercrime Case Against Netizens

Army Revokes Order to Broadcast ‘Red Scare’ Song

#Chitpas1700 : Netizens Squint at Democrat’s Unlikely Victory

Parina has been slagging off Future Forward MP Pannika Wanich for a while now. Much of it has been silly and all of it has been decidedly childish.

Parina has become increasingly hysterical and has quickly gone nuclear, accusing Pannika of lese majeste. The mad claim goes back to “a 2010 graduation photo which shows her [Pannika] looking at a photo of King Rama IX while a classmate points at him.”

Complaining (clipped from Khaosod)

Parina went berserk, writing on Facebook that Pannika was a “fucking bitch and the scum of the earth.” The latter channels an “anti-Communist song of the same name [and] … is associated with the massacre of Thammasat University” on 6 October 1976. That was also recently used by Gen Apirat Kongsompong while attacking Future Forward and other anti-junta parties.

Parina ranted that the photo was “a clear violation of the 112 law…the officials must prosecute her…”.

Pannika defended herself but still felt the need to kowtow:

I deeply apologize to any citizens who are uncomfortable with the photo. But I hope everyone understands that youths are now growing up with questions about using the monarchy as a political tool…my friends and I believe in the system of a democratic government with the king as the head of state.

But in a Sunday interview, Parina said she didn’t buy her rival’s explanation. She was strongly supported by the usual crowd of fascists and anti-democrats who have been unleashed.

Along with assaults and murders, this use of lese majeste to destroy political opponents is likely to be defining of the way the junta-cum-Palang Pracharath plans to “manage” its regime.

Updated: As expected, within hours of the puerile Parina’s pathetic claims, the police have begun investigations. The royalist desire to damage and dispose of Future Forward is quite remarkable. Not one but “[s]everal police units will investigate if Future Forward Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, nicknamed Chor, violated any laws in an online post of an old photo showing her gesturing towards a portrait of King Rama IX.”

It is reported that:

Assistant national police chief Pol Lt Gen Piya Uthayo said on Monday that the Thailand’s Action Taskforce for Information Technology Crime Suppression (Tactics) under the Royal Thai Police Office had ordered the Technology Crime Suppression Division, the Legal Affairs Division and the Special Branch Division of the Royal Thai Police Office to conduct the investigation.

Not only Pannika is in strife, but all those in the photos with her.

Also piling on is the royalist “activist”-complainer Srisuwan Janya who is running to the National Anti-Corruption Commission “to probe if Ms Pannika, a list MP of the Future Forward Party, violated the ethics required of holders of political positions” on the basis that “MPs must protect the royal institution and the constitutional monarchy and not take any action that would tarnish the honour of MPs…” Of course, she wasn’t an MP when the photos were taken, but that doesn’t bother the slavish royalists.

Blood on their hands: remembering 2010

19 05 2019

19 May 2010 is remembered as marking the end of the Battle for Bangkok.

April and May 2010 are remembered for the utter brutality of a military that still views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. Several of these men, blood on their hands, will be at the center of yet another military-backed regime for the next few years.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible.

On stealing the election VIII

12 04 2019

Again, with apologies to the publisher, we need to reproduce, in full, The Economist on stealing the “election”:

HE TURNED TO the crowd outside the police station, lifted his eyes to the heavens and raised three fingers. This salute, a sign of resistance to tyranny in “The Hunger Games”, a dystopian series of novels and films, is the kind of gesture that has made Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of Future Forward, a political party he founded last year, wildly popular with young Thai voters. Inside the station, Mr Thanathorn was charged with sedition, assisting criminals and taking part in an illegal assembly.

The rap sheet relates to a protest in 2015 against the military junta which, in theory, is now on the verge of returning Thailand to civilian rule. The authorities say Mr Thanathorn helped to arrange the protest, which was illegal only under the extremely restrictive rules the junta placed on all political activity. If convicted he could face seven years in prison and a ban from politics. It is his second criminal case. Last year he was charged with computer crimes for critical comments about the junta he made in videos streamed on Facebook. He denies wrongdoing. Future Forward came third in last month’s election; the junta says the charges are “entirely unrelated to current political events”.

Thus continues the generals’ blundering campaign to keep control of the country. Since seizing power in a coup almost five years ago, they have schemed to keep allies of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a prior coup, out of power. They pushed through a new constitution which skewed the electoral system and gave them the power to appoint a third of the members of parliament. Intimidating and imprisoning critics like Mr Thanathorn was supposed to help smooth their allies’ path to power.

Since the vote on March 24th, however, things have not been going smoothly for the junta. Although the party set up to back it got more votes than any other, a coalition of seven parties opposed to the generals, including Future Forward, claimed to have won a majority in the lower house of parliament. That is not enough to prevent Prayuth Chan-ocha, the junta leader and prime minister, from keeping his job, since he can rely on the votes of the appointed upper house. But it is an embarrassment, and will make it hard for him to govern.

Hence a series of measures intended to undermine the democratic coalition. Even before polling day the Election Commission had helped the junta by excluding a party linked to Mr Thaksin. On the day itself inconsistent vote tallies and unexpected delays did little to inspire confidence. The commission’s latest act of meddling concerns the 150 seats in the lower house that are awarded under an obscure system of proportional representation. It seems, in effect, to be setting a lower threshold for tiny parties to win seats than bigger ones, fracturing parliament and imperilling the democratic front’s majority.

Little is clear, since the commission has not yet announced how it is distributing the seats. It has until May 9th to issue the final results. Those will change further if it disqualifies any winners of the 350 seats awarded to the candidate with the most votes in each constituency. Its rules on campaigning appeared designed to trip up politicians by, among other things, forbidding candidates from mentioning the royal family, severely limiting the use of social media and specifying how big certain placards could be. The commission has announced that it will investigate 66 victorious candidates, without specifying which ones. The junta, meanwhile, is trying to quell criticism of the commission, charging activists who have documented its bias with libel.

The continuing manipulation of the election could drag Thailand into turmoil. Political deadlock might even give the army an excuse to call off the restoration of democracy. Apirat Kongsompong, the army chief (Mr Prayuth surrendered the post a few months after the coup) is non-committal. Earlier this month he told journalists, “Staging a coup isn’t easy. It depends on the situation. Right now, it looks like things are going well.”

Reacting to thugs

4 04 2019

Ongoing efforts to work over Future Foward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and to force a particular “election” outcome, there have been some interesting responses.

Surasak Glahan, who is deputy op-ed editor at the Bangkok Post, writes of Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong, accusing him of “hate speech.”

He rightly blames Gen Apirat’s “controversial remarks” as exacerbating “political crusades on social media against the two key leaders of the pro-democracy Future Forward Party (FFP) — Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.”

Surasak also calls out the campaign – most of it waged by people associated with yellow-shirted anti-democracy movements – that was waged before the election but which has become more frenzied since Future Forward did well in the election.

As has happened hundreds of times since 2006 as the military and political elites have crushed elected governments and red shirts, Piyabutr has been accused of posing an “imminent threat” to “the institution” (the latter is a pecularly rightist term used to refer to the monarchy.

The king’s own interventions have fanned this hatred of mild-mannered middle and upper class reformists.

Hopefully, Surasak doesn’t find his car burnt by unknown assailants or worse.

Thanathorn has responded to the efforts to crush him and his party:

“When the dark power refuses to loosen its grip on the Future Forward [Party], it becomes clear that the old-fashioned political game hasn’t stopped,” he wrote.

“It has instead intensified because they are afraid of our unexpected victory and the voice of the people.”

Thanathorn has also said he wanted “democracy to return, human rights to be respected and for the impartial enforcement of the law.”

Such notions strike fear into the hearts of all men in uniform and their anti-democrat supporters.

Thanathorn correctly pointed out that the monarchy “is being used as a political tool by the regime to breed hatred and drive a wedge between the people.” He went further:

When the people are divided, dictators will use it as a pretext to assume control of the state…. The divisions in our society aren’t caused by the FFP — they are caused by the armed forces trying to cling on to power.

Thanathorn declares:

I and party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul are prepared and know that we will be targeted…. But we will move forward firmly. The party has no prisons, no tanks. The party only has itself as a weapon to fight against the military dictatorship.

And he was pointed and unafraid in being truthful: “the military is the actual threat to the country — not the FFP, himself, or Mr Piyabutr.”

That is pouring fuel on the flames of the military’s hatred. Gen Apirat and The Dictator will be livid. And when they are roused, military thugs are dangerous.

Updated: On stealing the election I

3 04 2019

A couple of hours ago social media lit up after Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has been summoned by  the junta to answer a charge of sedition.

Having got the military ducks into line – an ugly rant by Gen Apirat Kongsompong – the junta has lost no time in seeking to smash Future Forward and destroy Thanathorn.

This is all as brazen as can be. The junta is stealing the election. And this is the election that it rigged and then cheated.

When the puppet Election Commission finally releases the results, we get the feeling that it will count for nought. The result won’t matter. The final counts won’t matter. Nothing will have changed very much at all.

Can they get away with it?

Thanathorn at least hopes that they won’t be able to erase him and his party.

He’s been ordered “to report to Pathumwan police station at 10am on Saturday.”

Tellingly, the complaint against him is from Col Burin Thongprapai, who works on legal matters for the junta.

That is outrageous enough, but several reports say that Thanathorn is charged with sedition but that no instance of the alleged “sedition” is mentioned in the summons. Presumably the junta is still concocting that.

Thanathorn wrote on Facebook:

It is clear that an old-fashioned political game not only refuses to stop after the election but also intensifies, because they are afraid of Future Forward and the unexpected victory of so many people….

He said he “believed millions of people would support him and would not bow to the ‘dark power’ that wanted to destroy his party.”

Update: The junta has now said that Thanathorn is summonsed for alleged sedition for events on on 24 June 2015. He’s seemingly accused of helping a few protesters escape arrest. Like most people, we don’t understand how this constitutes sedition. But we do understand how it is that the junta and its thugs have suddenly decided to use these allegations against Thanathorn. Obviously they want rid of him and his party.