HRW on Thailand’s human rights decline

16 01 2021

When you are near the bottom, going deeper requires particular skills in dark arts.

Human Rights Watch has recently released its World Report 2021. The summary on Thailand makes for depressing reading, even after more than six years of military junta and now a barely distinguishable post-junta regime.

The full report on Thailand begins:

Thailand faced a serious human rights crisis in 2020. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s government imposed restrictions on civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression, arbitrarily arrested democracy activists, engineered the dissolution of a major opposition political party on politically motivated grounds, and enforced a nationwide state of emergency, using the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext.

And the rest of the report is pretty much a litany of repression. There’s discussion of the State of Emergency, restrictions on freedom of expression, torture, enforced disappearance, impunity on state-sponsored rights violations, the persecution of human rights defenders, a continuation of human rights violations in the south, mistreatment of migrants and refugees, and more. Surprisingly, there’s only a paragraph on lese majeste, which is now the regime’s main weapon in silencing dissent.

Readers of PPT will know all of the sordid details of the regime’s efforts to stifle criticism, but read the report to be reminded of how dark things have remained despite the rigged election and the existence of a parliament. The latter has, in 2020, been pretty much supine as the regime has used its ill-gotten majority and its unelected Senate to stifle the parliaments scrutiny of the regime.





A junta win

28 12 2020

One of the main aims of the long period of junta rule was to produce rules and manage politics in a manner that wound back the clock to a pre-1997 era of electoral politics.

Their efforts meant that the post-junta regime could finagle a national election “victory” and make use of the junta-appointed Senate to ensure that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha could continue as prime minister. At the same time, the regime had delayed and delayed local elections so that it could ensure that it had measures in place that prevented national election-like “surprises.” Of course, it also used the Army and ISOC to control civilian administration and arranged for the Future Forward Party to be dissolved.

When the post-junta regime got around to local elections, the result provided evidence that the electoral wind back had been successful.

While initial commentary focused on the “failure” of Move Forward. In fact, while the party didn’t win any Provincial Administrative Organization chair positions, its candidates took more then 50 PAO seats and received 2.67 million votes.  This was on a voter turnout of just over 62% – low compared to the national election.

As time has gone on, commentators have become more incisive in assessing the results. Thai Enquirer wrote of a return to old-style politics, with political dynasties controlling local politics. A Bangkok Post editorial also focused on these factors, commenting: “About 40% of the winners of the PAO elections, Thailand’s first local elections in some seven years, are old faces, with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party making a big sweep in more than 20 provinces, followed by Bhumjaithai, almost 10, and Pheu Thai, nine.”

Recently, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa is Dean, College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University writing at the Bangkok Post, has explained the big picture. He asks: “Are these elections really meaningful?” He concludes: “The net result is business as usual for PAOs, and Thailand will still be the prisoner of a highly centralised local administration.”

Helpfully, Peerasit lists the reasons for the failure of local democracy, all of them focused on junta/post-junta efforts to turn the clock back. He observes that the junta/post-junta has co-opted “local governments to become agents of the central government…”. He explains:

Following the 2014 coup, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), under then-army chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha upended a foundation of Thai democracy by issuing an order to suspend local elections. The politically powerful junta then began to co-opt all locally elected politicians and local government officials to become centrally appointed representatives of the central government.

This process began with NCPO’s Order Number 1/2557, in which one prescribed role of the locally elected leaders was to become partners of the military junta in restoring peace and order to the country. This made them complicit in undermining local governments in exchange for being able to legitimately keep their positions for an unspecified period of time without having to undergo the process of competing with other local candidates to secure the consent of the local citizens to allow them to serve. In other words, if they played ball with the junta, they would not need to face elections.

This “co-optation was then delegated to the Interior Ministry. This change obligated the leaders and the executives of all local governments to be accountable to the central government, thus becoming de facto representatives of the central government. Consequently, local leaders then had an allegiance to the powers in the central government.”

His view is that a promising decentralization has been destroyed: “In effect, the central government is — and has been — committed to failure from the beginning, by creating weak local government organisations.”

The people are not fooled and he reports data that “revealed that, when compared to other types of local governments, the PAOs were perceived as less beneficial than all other types of local governments within the surveyed provinces.” PAO level government is a processing terminal for the regime:

… PAO’s primary function has remained: serving as a conduit of budget allocation to be “authorised” by the provincial governor. This budgetary control by the governor is actually a smokescreen for influence by the central government of 76 provincial budgets, accounting for a very large amount of funding.

While yet another decline in Thailand’s democracy can be lamented, the fact remains that this is exactly what the junta wanted when it seized power in 2014.

 





With 3 updates: Gen Prayuth’s court let him off

2 12 2020

In a move that was never in doubt – forget the rumors of the last few days – the politicized Constitutional Court, with double standards in neon lights, let The Dictator off.

The Constitutional Court was never going to find Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha of malfeasance for having violated the constitution by staying on in his Army residence long after he officially retired from the Army.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Nation reports that the court “ruled that military regulations allow former officers to remain in their Army residence after retirement.”

The opposition had “accused Prayut of breaching the Constitution by staying on at an official Army residence in the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards … after his military retirement at the end of September 2014.”

He stood “accused of violating Sections 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a government minister from ‘receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise…’.” It is clear that such free accommodation violates these  articles.

But the Constitutional Court has regularly ignored the constitution. We can recall then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej being ousted by the court for “expenses” totaling about $2,350 for appearing on his long-running television show a “Tasting and Complaining.” Gen Prayuth’s gains far exceed that paltry amount. Free rent, free services, free servants, etc. etc.

The Army “informed the court that the residence was provided to Prayut because he is PM and deserves the honour and security it provides.” It added that “[s]imilar housing has been provided to other former Army chiefs who are members of the Cabinet, the Privy Council and Parliament…”. In other words, the Army rewards its generals who serve as privy councilors, ministers – like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Gen Anupong Paojinda – and appointed senators. It is a corrupt cabal, with the Army ensuring its people are never “tainted” by regular society.

The Army, the Constitutional Court and the regime are corrupt.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post failed to produce an editorial on this story. We can only guess that the editor’s desk is having to get their editorials approved by the owners. How else could they have missed this? We’ll look again tomorrow. The story it has on Gen Prayuth’s free pass from his court summarizes the Constitutional Court’s “reasoning,” resulting in a unanimous decision by this sad group of judges:

His occupancy was allowed under a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on base after they retire if they continue to serve the country well, according to the unanimous ruling read out at the court in Bangkok on Wednesday afternoon.

The court said the regulation had come into effect before Gen Prayut was the army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

The court said Gen Prayut served the country well as army chief, and the army regulation allowed its former commanders to use such houses, and subsidised utility bills.

“When he became prime minister on Aug 24, 2014, the complainee [Gen Prayut] was also the army chief in active duty. He was therefore qualified to stay in the house in his capacity as the army chief. When he retired on Sept 30, 2014, he was still qualified to stay as a former army chief. A prime minister who had not been army chief could not have stayed at the house,” the court said in its ruling.

Being a prime minister is an important position and security for him and his family is important. The state must provide appropriate security and an accommodation that is safe and offers privacy enables him to perform his duties for public benefits. It is therefore necessary to prepare accommodation for the country’s leader when Baan Phitsanulok is not ready, the court said.

The free utilities also do not constitute a conflict of interest since they are part of the welfare that comes with the housing.

In other words, the Court accepted every major point made by Gen Prayuth and the Army. It is easy to see who is the master and who is the pet poodle.

Just for interest, this is what Sections 184(3) and 186 of the constitution state:

183. A Member of the House of Representatives and Senator shall not:

… (c) receive any special money or benefit from a government agency, State agency or State enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, State agency or State enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business;…

186. The provisions in section 184 shall also apply to Ministers mutatis mutandis, except for the following cases:

1. holding positions or carrying out acts provided by the law to be the duties or powers of the Minister;

2. carrying out acts pursuant to the duties and powers in the administration of State affairs, or pursuant to the policies stated to the National Assembly, or as provided by law….

Compare that to the “reasoning” summarized by the Post and it is easy to see that the court has made yet another political decision for the regime and the social order it maintains.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post has now produced an editorial. It actually says things that could easily have been made a day ago, but we guess lawyers and owners had to have their say. It notes:

Many observers have said the ruling did not surprise them in the least. This is not the first time the court, appointed by the military regime in accordance with the 2017 charter, and endorsed by the military-leaning Senate, has cleared up political trouble for the prime minister. Before this, there was the incomplete oath-taking case and the ruling that Gen Prayut, while serving as premier after the 2014 coup, was not a “state official.”

And on this verdict makes – as others have – the point that should never be forgotten:

In its not-guilty verdict regarding the welfare house, the court judges cited a 2005 army regulation, which lets army chiefs stay on at a base after they retire “if they continue to serve the country well”. The court said the regulation came into effect before Gen Prayut was army chief, and other former army commanders have also received the same benefits.

However, the court stopped short of explaining why a military regulation can overrule the country’s supreme law.

Constitutional Court judges make a ruling

The explanation has to do with the nature of the court – politicized – the nature of “justice” – double standards – and the power of the military (in alignment with the monarchy).

Update 3: As night follows day, the Constitutional Court has assigned Pol Cpl [a corporal? really? why keep that moniker with one’s name?] Montri Daengsri, the director of the Constitutional Court’s litigation office, to file charges with the Technology Crime Suppression Division against Parit Chiwarak for Facebook posts that the court considers “contempt of court.” Parit condemned their ridiculous legal contortions.

Cpl Montri also stated that Parit’s speech at the protest rally after the verdict was “defamatory in nature and violated the Criminal Code…. Police investigators were looking to see what charges would be pressed…”.

The court’s litigation office was also “looking into a stage play allegedly poking fun at the court over its ruling at the rally site.” No sense of humor as well as dullards and sham “judges.”





No regime compromise

19 11 2020

The regime has delivered its verdict on the waves of demonstrations and calls for constitutional reform. There won’t be any substantive reform and the diddling around the edges will be at the pleasure of the regime.

The Bangkok Post reports that the most democratic iLaw proposal, supported by almost 100,000 and reflecting the core of the protesters’ demands has been dumped, with almost unanimous support of the junta-appointed senators and of the military spawn party Palang Pracharath.

The same unelected senators and regime flunkies “overwhelmingly backed the government-sponsored versions” of (non)reform. The two versions that passed the first reading were the government draft that “would set up a committee of elected and appointed members to write a new charter within 120 days, leaving Chapters 1 and 2 concerning the monarchy untouched,” while the “opposition” version “requires an elected charter-drafting committee to write a new charter within 240 days, also leaving Chapters 1 and 2 untouched.”

The result of the vote is that “a 45-member committee was set up to scrutinise the drafts before their second and third readings.” While iLaw manager Yingcheep Atchanont expressed some optimism that the “door for charter amendments has been cracked open…”, it seems pretty clear that the government’s version will be approved unless something massive happens.

Pro-democracy demonstrators had arrived “in their thousands again on Wednesday at Ratchaprasong Intersection, where they besieged Royal Thai Police Headquarters and splashed paint all over its walls.” It was clear that the protesters “were expressing their anger at police for using water cannon and tear gas on protesters outside Parliament on Tuesday while failing to prevent clashes with royalist counter-protesters. The violence left at least 55 injured, six with gunshot wounds.”

The Bangkok Post reports the protesters’ anger was heightened by “the rejection of the so-called ‘people’s draft’ of amendments to the constitution.” Even so, they avoided direct confrontation with the police, daubing paint and slogans across the wall of the police headquarters.

Another Bangkok Post report is that protest leader Jatuphat Boonpattarasaksa declared that the rejection of the “people’s constitution amendment draft has left anti-government protesters with no other choice but to press on with their street protests to achieve their goals…”. He added that “Wednesday’s decision by parliament was the last chance at compromise.”

His compatriots at Free Youth “posted on its Facebook page accusations of most MPs and senators serving the dictator [inverted commas removed] and ignoring calls by the people.” They added that refusing to deal with the reform of the monarchy, “any new constitution that was drafted would not really serve the people…”.

Ending the rally on Wednesday evening, it was “announced they will hold another rally at the Crown Property Bureau on Nov 25.”

Clearly, as Thisrupt notices, protestors are well aware that the regime is “dragging its feet, using delaying tactics to exhaust the movement.” That means that the “heart of Thailand’s political conflict is the monarchy question.”

The speeches by rally leaders are now “addressed directly to … Rama 10 by his first name, Vajiralongkorn, and openly mock … his rule,” his lifestyle and his wealth.

At the parliament rally, “”[p]rotestors launched red balloons into the air. The words written on them were, ‘I order you to be under the constitution’.” Strikingly, the “derogatory กู (gu) [w]as the pronoun for ‘I’ and มึง (mueng) as ‘you’.”

As never before, discussion of monarchy reform is now widespread across society.

Thisrupt predicted that the regime may crack down harder.

Today, The Dictator has responded. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha lamented that the “situation is not easing in a good direction and there is a tendency for conflict to escalate into more violence. If not addressed, this could cause damage to the country and the beloved institution [he means the monarchy], as well as to peace and the safety of people’s lives and property…”. As a result, he declared that “the government and security agencies [will] … intensify their actions by using all laws and all articles to take action against demonstrators who break the law…”.

No compromise, no stepping back. More of the same and intensified arrests and repression.





With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





Thinking about the ruling class II

1 11 2020

Doyen of Thailand’s conservative ruling class, former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun has descended from his throne to offer his advice on how to deal with anti-regime/anti-monarchy protesters. An aged former prime minister who served a military junta and then was put in place by the then king in an arguably unconstitutional move should add to considerable doubt about his credentials for commenting on monarchy and constitution. But he does.

According to Thai PBS, he “blamed Section 272 of the Constitution, which enables senators to vote in the election of the Prime Minister, as the source of today’s political conflict.” He doesn’t think that the charter needs too much change. Anand added “that lèse majesté, or Section 112 of the country’s Criminal Code, should be decriminalized, subjecting offenders to civil liability only with fines commensurate with the act committed.”

Anand

He reckons that the current round of protests is “a conflict between generations.” His view suggests that the young are misled: “There is a generation that depends on various Internet platforms for communication, which leads to misunderstanding, unlike face-to-face dialogue.”

In his pontification, Anand said that, “unlike people who view it as a crisis, he thinks it is not unusual, saying that Thailand has been down this path countless times during the past 88 years of democratic governance,” referring to the “vicious cycle” that leads to a military coup.

To PPT what we hear from Anand is classic ruling class – fiddling around the edges without dealing with the problems. Lese majeste is an issue but not the monarchy problem. The problem is that the monarchy has aggregated economic and political power that means it operates in a quasi-absolutist manner. The demonstrators want the monarchy brought under a (new, democratic) constitution. And the appointed Senate is an issue but not the problem. The problem is a rigged constitution and a rigged electoral process, all backed by the military.

Anand does get it closer to right when he “warned that using laws and regulations to deal with young people will not solve anything…”. But he’s supported the politicization of the judiciary for years, since his dislike for Thaksin Shinawatra manifested itself and had Anand supporting a coup.

Indeed, Wikileaks tells us that Anand supported the 2006 coup and the ousting of Samak Sundaravej. In 2014 he (repeatedly) supported anti-democrats, including boosting Suthep Thaugsuban. This was in a context where he also rejected Yingluck Shinawatra and here earlier attempts at reconciliation and repeatedly attacked her government. We have little doubt that, based on his record, Anand had a role in encouraging the most recent coup.

In all of this advice-giving, Anand sounds a bit like a broken record.

Thai PBS reports that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha responds to Anand, saying he is “listening to the voices of anti-government protesters…”. The question is what has he been hearing. Like Anand, he babbles about “mutual understanding” as his minions arrest and jail anti-regime protesters by the score. His other response is to use his illegitimate majority in parliament to “manage” and delay dealing with anything other than seeing the protesters off.

Interestingly, as the Thai Enquirer reports, it was royalists who pointed out Anand’s effort to avoid monarchy reform. The mad monarchist Warong Dechgitvigrom commented: “You can hear the mob when they are calling for the PM to resign but do you hear or see when they are insulting the King?” Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, a Palang Pracharath Party MP said: “The true target of the protestors is not in the change of PM but to change something that is higher than the PM, therefore, the resignation of the PM will not fix the problem…”.

Different monarchists see different ways of resolving the “crisis.” The conservative Anand throws the protesters a bone while the mad monarchists want to kill the “dog.”





Military party, Junta’s Senate

24 07 2019

Everyone knows that the appointed Senate is a creation of the military junta and that it will do the military-backed government’s bidding.

But even so, it is a bit rich for the Senate to be publicizing the coaching senators are receiving for their role during the “debate” on the “new” regime’s policy statement.

It is called a “seminar,” so we guess the senators, all appointed by the junta, get a meeting allowance. In other words, the taxpayer is funding the coaching.

Showing its position, the Senate is reported to have “called on legislators to debate issues related to the policies, not individuals.” That means the junta’s Senate does not want its boss, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha or any of the junta’s former members now “new” ministers being grilled. The report states:

The Secretariat of the Senate organized the seminar for the senators to receive information about the guidelines of the cabinet ministers to ensure that the policy debates are held smoothly and yield optimal benefits [PPT: for the government].

The Senate

Showing that the Senate is really the regime’s house and its parliamentary policeman and enforcer, the report states that:

The Senate and the government will each have five hours of debate, while the opposition will be given 13 hours and 30 minutes. However, this does not cover the delivery of the policy statement by the Prime Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as issues to be raised by legislators during the meeting. The senators will make sure that the opposition only debates issues related to the policies of the government.

Meanwhile, appointed senator Gen. Worapong Sanganet, a former supreme commander and junta tool reckons that the opposition can’t complain about anything. He says”the draft policy statement is beneficial since it covers all issues.” Done and dusted!

It is a farce.





Updated: Shaky regime III

20 06 2019

As the junta’s post-junta regime is put together, its foundations are already being undermined, and its moving to shore up those foundations, mainly be preventing scrutiny. That is a strategy that can’t hold for long.

A day or so ago, opposition politicians gave notice that they “plan to file a motion urging the House Speaker to scrutinize the criteria used by the junta to select the 250 senators.” Puea Thai MP Suthin Klangsaeng wants “Parliament to convene a special house committee tasked with looking into the selection procedure, which they fear could have been fraught with favoritism.” He added: ““So far, the process hasn’t been revealed…”.

Almost immediately, it was reported that Senate Speaker and junta puppet Pornpetch Wichitcholchai “insisted on Wednesday the House of Representatives has no authority to probe the qualifications of senators.” As far as we can tell, that’s not the issue; rather it’s the process. But you get the picture.

Taking another tack, “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party, on Wednesday lodged a petition with the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) asking it to seek a Constitutional Court ruling on the Senate selection process.” We’d expect both the A-G and the Constitutional Court to back the junta.

Meanwhile, trying to protect its shaky foundations, the puppet Palang Pracharath Party “will next week lodge a petition with the Constitutional Court asking it not to temporarily suspend its MPs accused of violating media share-holding rules.” Of course, the Court has already disqualified a Future Forward candidate before the election for the same “crime,” not even allowing him to stand. Expect the Court to drag its feet.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the junta proxy party has “asked the Constitutional Court to drop a case against its 27 MPs for allegedly holding media shares on a technicality.” Grasping for all legal straws, Palang Pracharath’s “lawyer Tossapol Pengsom said on Thursday the 66 FFP [Future Forward] MPs who signed the document submitted it as a letter, not as a petition as prescribed by law.” He said: “We view the submission was not done correctly so the case should be dropped…”.





Cheating cheats II

14 06 2019

Following the announcement of the cheating cheats Senator Selection Committee, the Bangkok Post reports the “Pheu Thai Party is seeking a legal channel to challenge the senator selection process, saying the selection committee’s members were not politically neutral.” Well, they never were going to be but that point of requiring “neutrality” is a requirement. But before getting to that, there’s a little more of interest. Section 107 has this:

The Senate consists of two hundred members installed from a selection by and among persons having the knowledge, expertise, experience, profession, or characteristics or common interests or working or having worked in varied areas of the society.

It later uses words like “honestly and justly,” while section 113 states: “A Senator shall not align with or yield to the mandate of any political party.” Section 114 states: “Members of the House of Representatives and Senators are representatives of the Thai people and free from any mandate, commitment, or control.”

Any reasonable person would consider that the current Senate voids most of those principles. But then section 269 requires:

During the initial period, the Senate shall consist of two hundred and fifty members appointed by the King upon the advice of the National Council for Peace and Order.

And then has this:

There shall be one Senator Selection Committee consisting of not fewer than nine but not exceeding twelve persons, appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order from persons with knowledge and experience in various areas who are politically impartial, having the duties of nominating suitable persons for appointment as Senators.

It seems improbable that the junta’s Senator Selection Committee meets this requirement or any of the other requirements listed or the “spirit” of the junta’s own constitution. The sad thing is that the bodies that would oversee these requirements are all controlled by the junta, meaning that the improbable is often run-of-the-mill for the junta’s Thailand.





Crony senate

14 05 2019

As simply everyone expected, a Senate has been unveiled by the military junta that is packed full of junta supporters, backers and lackeys:

Khaosod reports: “Military top brass and the junta’s inner circle dominate the full list of 250 appointed senators unveiled to the public on Monday, ending months of secrecy.”

The Nation states: “Many of the newly appointed senators are from the ruling junta and people close to its key figures.”

The Bangkok Post: “The Royal Gazette on Tuesday published an announcement on the royally-approved list of 250 senators, including 66 army generals…. The Senate list includes the names of 105 people with ranks in the military or police….

None of this is a surprise. Perhaps some hoped that the members of the junta might demonstrate at least a pinch of political decorum, but that is misplaced as the military junta has repeatedly demonstrated that is has no shame at all.

Some other quotes from the reporting linked above are worth preserving here, demonstrating that the junta is a chip off the 1991 coup group and operates as a representative of yellow-shirt interests. (Those who imagined that the red-yellow divide was gone should look more carefully at the manner of the junta’s operations.):

The list – mostly handpicked by junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha – includes generals, loyal government technocrats, 15 ex-ministers who served under Prayuth until their resignation last week, and even a younger brother of the junta leader.

Hardline critics of ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains a popular figure among opposition voters, also made it to the final cut. They include poet and activist Nawarat Pongpaiboon, former anti-corruption chief Klanarong Chanthik, and royalist law scholar Kamnoon Sitthisamarn….

The announcement dated on Saturday included Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, younger brother of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Adm Sitthawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Klanarong Chantik, former secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), former deputy prime minister Chatchai Sarikulya, former national reform member Khamnoon Sitthisaman, former foreign trade director-general Duangporn Rodphaya, and former national security council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri.

Among other senators were Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, former president of the National Legislative Assembly, former NACC chairman Panthep Klanarongran, forensic expert Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, former deputy agriculture minister Luck Wajananawat, and former tourism and sports minister Weerasak Kowsurat.

More than a third of  the newly appointed senators have military or police backgrounds….

But one surprise is this for the conflict of interest and nepotism it involves:

Some of the new Senate’s members sat in the committee tasked with nominating senatorial candidates to be selected by the National Council for Peace and Order.

More than 100 of them are retired or active high-ranking officers from the armed forces and the police, including 70 from the Army, 12 from the Navy, eight from the Air Force and 12 from the Royal Thai Police.

Many new senators are family members of people in power.

These include General Preecha Chan-o-cha, who is the younger brother of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha; Air Vice Marshal Chalermchai Krea-ngam, who is the younger brother of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam; Admiral Sitsawat Wongsuwan, who is the younger brother of Deputy Premier and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan; and Som Jatusripitak, who is the elder brother of Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.

Nothing more or less can be expected from the military junta. Be prepared for this kind of cronyism to breed deeper corruption. After all, that’s the pattern of past military-dominated regimes.